"It's time for the human race to enter the solar system." - Dan Quayle
Good Thursday Morning,
The weather folk are promising a hot and humid 88º today with a 50% chance of showers or thunderstorms later in the afternoon.
The blueberries are winding down just in time for the goldenrod to start blooming. The ironweed, touch-me-nots, black eyed susans, birdfoot trefoil and toadflax ("butter and eggs") are coming along nicely, dotting the field with yellow and orange and signifying the late-summer season.
Today in 1498, Christopher Columbus discovered Trinidad. Apparently the island just suddenly appeared and the folk living there were only "virtual" people. It was shortly thereafter the Carib people became "actual", were enslaved by Spain, forced under torture to convert to Catholicism - and then exterminated.
On our energy issue, NtM reader Bob Montwillo had this to offer:
1: Put up a close line to dry your clothes. We consider our dryer to be an emergency device. You will love the smell of your laundry as opposed to those chemical sheets put in your dryer. Yes, clothes will dry in the winter with 10ºF temps and some sun shine, just wear some gloves to keep your hands warm. If the wind is strong your clothes will be soft. If there is no wind your towels will be rough, but invigorating when you use them. Snobby communities that prohibit clothes lines should be legislated against.
2: The next time you need a washing machine, get a front loader. They use way less energy and water. Not only that, they don’t beat up your clothes like agitator machines do. I forgot to empty my pockets once, and a napkin came out in one piece, try that trick in your agitator. They also use less detergent. Then there is the bogus advice to use warm water during the wash cycle. Try cold, it really works with a liquid detergent. What have you got to loose but your electric or oil bill?
Reader Joe Montouri writes:
I’m biased toward promoting renewables, but on a practical level, I think your idea about improving mass transit, such as buses to train stations will help a lot more folks, and could gain a wider audience for other practical ideas (like solar on schools that will save taxpayers’ money in the long run).
Reader Barbara DelDuca writes:
They are all good. I think the wind and solar are need to do now most though.
With the state facing a $6 billion deficit, Governor Paterson announced yesterday he'll be selling the city of Buffalo to Ontario and the City of New York to New Jersey.
Congressional candidate Michael Kieran Lalor is still pushing for increased oil drilling off our shores and in our natural areas. He's referring to a CNN poll to support his position but he'd better hurry up because support is declining. In June, 73% were in favor but by July that number had dropped to 69%. More interesting, and evidence of the national psychological dichotomy that drives me insane, only 51% of those who were in favor thought increased oil drilling would affect gasoline prices. The CNN story also notes that it could be 15 years before any of that oil reaches your gas tank.
The only other issue Mr. Lalor brings to the table is that of veteran affairs and even there he's barking up an empty tree. For all his blathering about the issue, and whether he likes it or not, Congressman Hall has been a leader in providing services for veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and cleaning up the mess the VA had become over the years. I really wish Lalor had an issue worthy of attention other than his illegally posting campaign signs all over the district.
Presidential candidate Barack Obama is having trouble finding a running mate. He needs a southerner or someone from out west to balance the ticket. John McCain is having trouble finding a running mate. He needs a northerner or someone from out east to balance the ticket. An Obama/McCain ticket would solve the problem and save us from another three months of constant political doggerel and bickering.
The Christian Science Monitor reports today that 1.3 million undocumented workers have left the United States over the past few months since the US economy took a downturn. This has nothing to do with the increase in the price of produce at your local market. Nope. Nothing at all.
The UPI reports today that State Assemblyman Dov Hikind of Brooklyn completed a survey of 18 bathrooms in the NYC subway system. He found 10 were closed, 4 had no toilet paper and the remaining 4 had US Senator Larry Craig's phone number on them.
And here are just a few other odds and ends that might matter:
Salt Lake City to Offer Incentives for Green Homes
City Targets Green Building Developers
Salt Lake City mayor Ralph Becker is putting together an executive order to fast-track permits for area developers who agree to construct green buildings, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
The paper reports that projects that qualify for the EPA's Energy Star program for full-house energy efficiency are being targeted, as well as dwellings that meet or exceed the "silver" level from the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.
The streamlined permitting process is hoped to lure developers with the promise of faster turnarounds -- which translates to money in that line of work (as well as decreased headaches). It is also hoped that the goosing of the local market for green building, which is at little cost to taxpayers, will lead to greater awareness among homebuyers. In a time of rising fossil fuel prices, more and more consumers are in fact looking for lower energy bills, and who doesn't want to surround themselves with healthier indoor environments?
Washington, DC American Rivers praised Secretary Ed Schafer and the U.S. Department of Agriculture today for continuing to protect sensitive lands under the Conservation Reserve Program, a decision that will benefit natural flood protection, help safeguard river communities, and ensure continued benefits for hunting and fishing.
Following the devastating Midwest floods in June, American Rivers released an eight-point plan to overhaul the nation’s flood response. Honoring commitments to farm land conservation programs is a key part of the plan, as these lands help absorb flood waters.
WASHINGTON - Beaches continue to suffer from pollution problems, and this year is no different.
"Rivers suffer really from this perfect storm of crumbling, old pipes and infrastructure and lack of money. Now this really intense population growth -- all of this is combining to make it so we have a lot of polluted runoff and sewage in our waters," Kathryn Baer, senior director for clean water at American Rivers, tells WTOP.
Every year, stormwater and sewage spills wash pollution into the waterways from those old pipes.
In 2007, U.S. beaches saw the second highest number of closings and advisory days, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Now that their feud is up in smoke, Cheech and Chong are high on plans to reunite for their first comedy tour in more than 25 years.
Cheech Marin told AP Radio that he and Tommy Chong ``looked at each other going, `If we're ever going to do something it has to be now because you're not getting any younger and neither am I.'''
They tossed around some ideas and figured a comedy tour would be ``the most fun'' and ``the least hassle,'' the 62-year-old Marin said.
Marin and Chong, who broke up amid creative differences, have tried to reunite before, but have always fought too much. Marin laughed and said: ``It takes about 3 minutes for that to happen. There's this veiled hatred.'' But he added: ``We've kind of resolved that.''
There's an air pollution alert posted for today with an Air Quality Index (AQI) of 120 for ozone pollution. Those who are sensitive should be aware, stay indoors and lay low for a while. Like it or not, summer will be over soon.
Governor Paterson said yesterday that NY State is going to have some serious financial problems coming in to next year with a growing state deficit.
State politicians are heading up to Albany to pass a property tax cap bill that would limit school finding increases to 4% each year. You all know what I think about this... it's a politically palatable way of getting you to believe they're offering you a break. But neither caps nor the infamous circuit breaker is going to help. The only thing that will is to shift education funding away from property taxes and on to income, something Albany simply does not have the chutzpah to do. Why? Because the super-rich in this state have, for the past 20 years, paid an income tax rate that is pretty much the same as yours. In other words, whether you earn $35,000 a year or $3,500,000 you pay just about the same income tax rate. That's not a fair system and we only have it because money talks when it comes to these things and you simply cannot afford to buy politicians like the rich can.
This is one battle I believe we've lost in spite of how hard people have tried. Albany is poised to do the wrong thing by taxpayers again but it gives them the ability to say to you, "we're doing something". But maintaining the status quo is not doing anything at all. Come election day I urge you to keep this in mind. If no one running in your district supports full state education funding and a return to a graduated income tax, write someone in who does. Use the power of your vote - something the powers that be in Albany have been trying to take away from you for years and, due largely too voter apathy, have succeeded at.
Tasers have killed another American, this one an alleged shoplifter in Statesville, Georgia. The only reason I bring this up is because they are becoming increasingly popular with local police departments and their use, regardless of what the police or the manufacturer says, can be fatal. But even when it's not fatal, it's often used as a sadistic method of control and intimidation as this video shows.
If you've a desire for local produce, the Putnam Valley Farmer's Market runs today in the Grange Hall at Adams Corners. (Mill Street and Peekskill Hollow Road.)
From the Brewster Theater Company:
Would you enjoy an evening out of the house? Interested in theatre but you don’t have the time to commit to a production? Come join other interested people having fun once per month (and find out what is happening in our local theatre company). The BTC play reading group meet at the Brewster Library at 7:00 pm. Dates are tentatively scheduled as:
July 30th, August 27th, September 24th, October 29th and November 19th.
This group is open to both members of BTC and non-members. It is not necessary to commitment to attend each month. Interested? Sign up to volunteer for our play reading group by emailing Elizabeth Joyce at firstname.lastname@example.org
From Arts On The Lake:
Rock Concert - Saturday, August 2 at 6:45 pm (to 10 pm). In a safe, alcohol free environment
Bands scheduled to appear: Savoir Adore, French Horn Rebellion, Adam and the Animals, Locomotive Espada, Aspheradora, The Parthanon (Organized by AotL’s Youth Committee) $6 ($5 for members)
From the Palisades Interstate Park Commission:
Sunday, August 3, 2008 - 2:00 PM
The special program "A Spy for Washington" will offer a look into the clandestine world of 18th Century spies during the War of Independence. Hear how Irish-born tailor Hercules Mulligan, while working in occupied New York, overheard a plot against General Washington. Discover the fate of little known patriot spy John Honeyman during the early years of the War. Try your hand at coding and decoding a secret message in a class conducted by our very own cryptographer, "Mr. Rivington."
This program is FREE with Museum admission of $4.00 for adults, $3.00 for seniors/students; children 12 and under are free. Washington's Headquarters is located at the corner of Liberty and Washington Streets in Newburgh, with free on site parking at the foot of Lafayette Street. For more information, please telephone the site office at 845-562-1195.
From The Hudson River Improvement Fund:
HUDSON RIVER IMPROVEMENT FUND ANNOUNCES ITS 2008 CALL FOR PROPOSALS CELEBRATING THE QUADRICENTENNIAL
Application Deadline: Tuesday, September 2, 2008.
In 2009, in commemoration of the voyages of exploration of Henry Hudson and Samuel de Champlain in 1609 and the historic 1807 voyage of Robert Fulton's "Clermont," the Hudson Valley will be the setting for celebration and commitment to protecting and reclaiming the river and its shores.
The Hudson River Improvement Fund invites proposals for projects that confirm that commitment while enhancing public use and enjoyment of the Hudson's natural, scenic and cultural resources.
Putnam Valley Residents Press for Public Comment Ability During Town Meetings
by Edward Paul Greiff
During the public comment period at the Putnam Valley Town Board meeting held July 16, 2008, John Cohen stood at the podium and directed his remarks towards Supervisor Bob Tendy saying that if he was not going to allow people to speak during the meeting when issues are being discussed, then perhaps they should have another meeting just for public comment where people can speak. "What's the sense of coming to a meeting if you can't say something," said Mr. Cohen. He stood there waiting for a reply, and then he asked, "What's the next step?"
Mr. Cohen's comment stemmed from an incident at the Town Board's July 9 work session when Dawn Powell, who was sitting in the audience, tried to comment about a topic being discussed. At that time Supervisor Tendy quickly told her, "This is a work session and public comments are not permitted."
At that same work session Councilwoman Wendy Whetsel read into the record a letter written by Councilwoman Priscilla Keresey. In the letter Councilwoman Keresey expressed her objections to Supervisor Tendy using his opening comments portion of the meeting to express his personal political viewpoints. Keresey wrote that Tendy inferred that his viewpoints were also the opinions of the Town Board.
To the Editor: I've always found it annoying that film studios are allowed to use excerpts of reviews totally out of context. The reviewer might say "This is not a fabulous film," and the ad says the reviewer said "...fabulous film." It's so utterly disingenuous. Sadly, Assemblywoman Galef used a similar tack recently. I was watching public access television. Ms Galef was broadcasting the meeting she had hosted with Nassau County Executive Suozzi. I thought that was a very good thing to do. But then she cut it off after the first person from the public voiced his opinion. He was very full of praise for what Galef and Suozzi presented. But what she cut were all the people who followed, many of whom had serious questions and criticisms. It ended up being an advertisement instead of an educational broadcast. I think it was a real distortion of what occurred that night, and unfair to Ms Galef's constituents. Because of her consistent honesty and accessibility, I expect better from her.
Wetlands shrink, frog species living in them also shrinking
“In a normal, natural wetland, we would find anywhere between five and six species of frog. Here there are only two.” That’s what Edmonton biologist Brett Scheffers is observing, per this report in PHYSORG.COM.
Man-made wetlands in Edmonton’s new neighborhoods may look good, but do they adequately sustain life?
In the International Year of the Frog, that’s the question Brett Scheffers wants to answer as part of his master’s project in biological sciences. He’s monitoring frogs, salamanders and snakes living in urban wetlands to see how well they’re surviving. The plight of amphibians worldwide has been a huge concern of late. The World Conservation Union recently reported that at least one third of known amphibian species are threatened with extinction, largely because of the rapid spread of an infectious fungal disease.
And as far as Sheffer’s research is concerned, all is not well.
When the July employment report comes out Friday, U.S. payrolls are likely to shrink by an additional 68,000, according to economists. But a substantial number of those who lose their jobs won't get unemployment benefits -- even though Congress recently took steps to bolster the program.
Only 37% of the country's unemployed received benefits in 2007, down from 55% in 1958 and 44% in 2001, according to the Labor Department. The others have exhausted their benefits, haven't applied or don't qualify.
Those who don't qualify include many part-time workers, people who quit or were fired, and workers who didn't earn enough money in a one-year "base period" that often excludes the most recent three to six months. Worker advocates say the New Deal-era system hasn't been updated enough to reflect an age of more-frequent job changes, more part-time work and falling union membership.
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Starbucks Corp said on Tuesday it is cutting 1,000 support jobs and eliminating the post of chief operating officer in a move to give founder and CEO Howard Schultz "a direct line of sight" into the company's business.
The shake-up also includes the departure of the one-time head of Starbucks ailing U.S. business.
Starbucks shares rose more than 5 percent on Nasdaq amid a broad rally in U.S. restaurant stocks.
The management changes are the latest in a series of moves at the coffee chain operator, which has seen profits hit and traffic at U.S. stores lag as cash-strapped consumers cut back on everyday luxuries like coffee drinks that sell for $3 to $5.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Restaurant chains Bennigan's and Steak & Ale have filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection and stores owned by its parent company will shut their doors.
The companies owned by privately held Metromedia Restaurant Group of Plano, Texas, today filed for bankruptcy protection.
In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing, a company seeks to liquidate its assets and shut down.
Locations owned by franchisees were not part of the bankruptcy filing and will not be shut down, according to the president of the Bennigan's Franchise Operator Association. He said there are about 160 domestic and international franchise locations and about 150 company-owned Bennigan's restaurants.
Neither Bennigan's nor the Metromedia Restaurant Group returned calls for comment.
14 Big Questions on Hydrogen, Hybrids and More for VW’s Alt-Fuel Chief
VW’s fuel cell-equipped Tiguan is part of a larger hydrogen plan for the company, says the head of its U.S. advanced powertrain team.
SAN FRANCISCO— As fuel prices head frighteningly close to the $5 per gallon mark—even past it in some states—the question from many consumers has become a simple one: What’s next? For Volkswagen, it’s certainly clean diesel, as dealerships are ramping up to receive the 2009 VW Jetta TDI and its 50 miles per gallon. Two weeks ago today, VW took a step even further ahead by announcing the 2010 Golf Twin Drive Concept, a plug-in hybrid with a diesel range extender to boot. But what’s beyond Twin Drive? Is Volkswagen ready for a hydrogen economy? We sat down with John Tilman, program manager for VW of America’s advanced powertrain research program, and got the inside scoop on the real future of driving. —Basem Wasef
Many manufacturers have been working on hydrogen fuel cells. How’s the VW program going? Let’s say that compared to some of the other OEMs, we’re not as near term as some in terms of bringing something to market. We want to bring a vehicle to market when the infrastructure is there, which is a really big issue. Also, we absolutely need it to be dependable and durable, so consumers can drive and not feel that it’s a (too) new technology, that’s not comfortable for them. We want to make certain that when that car hits the market, consumer is ready and understands what it is, understands if there are any limitations with what they’re getting. We want to make certain that we have the best solution that’s well timed in the market.
Coming in August is the Daniel Nimham Intertribal Pow Wow. This event, one of the largest events in the county, runs over two days and attracts thousands of visitors from across the region. Organized and run by volunteers led by Gil Tarbox of Kent and his Nimham Mountain Singers, this event is a notable bright spot during the late summer season and has helped put Putnam County on the regional tourist map. The pow wow is also one of the few events that actually earns money for the county through fees charged to vendors at the event.
Putnam County used to be a bit more helpful with the Pow Wow but with budget cuts and an apparent shift away from cultural events and towards sporting events instead, that support has lagged over the years and the pow wow finds itself in need of a little financial assistance this year. A donation to their efforts would be helpful and is tax deductible. If you can help them - and I hope you can - please contact Gil Tarbox at email@example.com
My article yesterday about Energy Policy hit a positive nerve with a lot of people writing to say they agreed. So, let's get the ball rolling! I'll leave the floor open for your suggestions as to which aspect of energy conservation we should tackle first and then we'll get to it. Should we focus on bringing local agriculture to market or try to get the Town of Kent to put solar panels in front of their new Town Center? Should we get the county to commission a wind survey or a needs assessment for mass transit? Any and all ideas are welcome. Just write me offline to keep the clutter down.
The image to the right is one taken in the Town of Southeast. As you can see, stormwater management issues there have been dragging. It's not like this is a new situation since the sender, Brian Alberghini has been posting pictures of this pond for 6 years and it's just not getting any better. Brian writes:
"Well after leaving the 4-H Fair I arrived to home sweet home. After the rain stopped I saw this. The amazing thing is that I started sending out photos of this back in 2001. SO as you can see the storm water management efforts in Southeast have come a long way. This is what happens when uncontrolled development happens on excessive slopes with out the proper management techniques. It is also what happens when no one cares. So please forward this on to your local politicians, I am sure that those of you who receive this have more friends in higher places than I have. Maybe someone has the email addy of someone in Washington and wouldn't mind sending this on. Or maybe I just need to contact the EPA directly and show them the 6 years of mud in the pond. Oh and by the way to the Southeast officials reading this keep in mind that once this pond is completely filled with sediment and there is no place else for the water to go, the road will go next. You see the hydraulic pressure on the culvert is enough to cause a whirlpool, you have seen the photos before, and that will eventually erode the road bed and then undercut the road. You already repaved the road within the last two years do you want to do it again? Just a thought. It might be cheaper to just clean out the pond which is filled by sediment from property other than mine and the Town has used this as a storm water retention pond."
Cornell Cooperative Extension of Dutchess County will be hosting a seminar on the invasive mile-a-minute vine this evening. The program begins at 7PM at the East Fishkill Town Hall, 330 Route 376, just before you enter Hopewell Junction.
The Putnam Valley Planning Board meets tonight at the Town Hall on Oscawana Road at 6PM after a 5:30 PM work session.
The New York Times reports that Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has signed a bill that officials say will make the state a leader in the production and use of biofuels. The law requires that all diesel and home heating oil sold in the state contain at least 5 percent biofuel by 2013. In a first-in-the-nation provision, the state will also waive its 23-cents-per-gallon gasoline tax on fuel made from cellulosic ethanol, which is derived from woodchips and other biomass but not corn. That fuel is not yet commercially available.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy has released another report warning people that the marijuana you're smoking today is more powerful, and hence more "dangerous", than that you smoked when you were younger. Whenever the ONDCP feels it's being ignored (and especially around budget time,) it releases a report like this but rather than be taken as a warning it serves instead as a billboard - "Get A Better High - Today!" They're still hard pressed to prove anyone has died from smoking the new nuclear weed because no one has, nor has anyone been injured in a manner say, similar to a heart attack from red meat or an addiction to prescribed pharmaceuticals, or have their livers rot out from ingestion of legal drugs like alcohol.
And lastly, The White House is projecting a $500,000,000,000 debt for 2009. I'd say, get high and let your grandchildren worry about it.
July 28, 2008) — Would you be surprised to learn that nine people died last year on the highway you take to work everyday? Or would you be shocked to see that six teenagers died within five miles of your home in fatal car accidents? With the help of the interactive maps developed by University of Minnesota researchers, you can learn those facts and more by simply typing in your address.
Researchers in the Center for Excellence in Rural Safety (CERS) have mapped out every fatality in the nation with details on each death, so now you can see the "dead man's curve" on your commute or the "devil's triangle" in your backyard.
"When drivers type in their most common routes, they're shocked how much blood is being shed on it," said Tom Horan, research director for CERS. "When it's the route you or your loved ones use, the need to buckle up, slow down and avoid distractions and drinking suddenly becomes much more personal and urgent."
The researchers will unveil the interactive maps on Monday, July 28th at the Hilton Sonoma, 3555 Round Barn Blvd., Santa Rosa, Calif., as part of their annual conference on rural safety.
Enter your address at http://www.saferoadmaps.org and you will see a map or satellite image of all of the road fatalities that have occurred in the area. Plus, users have the ability to narrow down their search to see the age of the driver, whether speeding or drinking was a factor, and if the driver was wearing a seatbelt.
WASHINGTON — The White House has increased its estimate for next year's deficit to nearly $490 billion, a record figure that will saddle the next president with deepening budget problems in his first year in office, a report due out Monday shows.
The projected deficit for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 is being driven higher by the continuing economic slowdown and larger-than-anticipated costs of the two-year, $168 billion fiscal stimulus package passed by Congress, said two senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the report. In February, President Bush predicted the 2009 deficit would be $407 billion.
The budget update shows this year's deficit headed under $400 billion, at least $10 billion less than projected, according to the two officials. That's partly because tax revenue held up reasonably well despite the weaker economy.
The rising deficit for 2009 marks a sharp turnaround for Bush's fiscal legacy. He inherited a $128 billion surplus when he came into office in 2001. It soon turned to red ink because of a recession, the Sept. 11 attacks and the war on terrorism.
Does the First Amendment allow you to call someone a "fascist"?
An administrator at the Town of Greenburgh Recreational Facility (Westchester County) kicked a patron out this public building after being called a "fascist" and "junior Mussolini." Does that give the patron a First Amendment claim? Yes, and no. The speech is protected under the First Amendment, but the patron loses for other reasons.
The case is Williams v. Town of Greenburgh, decided on July 22. I wrote about the due process holding in Williams here. (I also represented the plaintiff in the district court and on appeal). Williams also plead a First Amendment claim because he was thrown out of the facility after calling the administrator these names and generally commenting on the administrator's management of the facility.
As Drivers Cut Gasoline Use By CHRISTOPHER CONKEY July 28, 2008; Page A1
An unprecedented cutback in driving is slashing the funds available to rebuild the nation's aging highway system and expand mass-transit options, underscoring the economic impact of high gasoline prices. The resulting financial strain is touching off a political battle over government priorities in a new era of expensive oil.
A report to be released Monday by the Transportation Department shows that over the past seven months, Americans have reduced their driving by more than 40 billion miles. Because of high gasoline prices, they drove 3.7% fewer miles in May than they did a year earlier, the report says, more than double the 1.8% drop-off seen in April.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency is telling its pollution enforcement officials not to talk with congressional investigators, reporters and even the agency's own inspector general, according to an internal e-mail provided to The Associated Press.
The June 16 e-mail tells 11 managers in the EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, the branch of the agency charged with making sure environmental laws are followed, to remind staff to keep quiet.
"If you are contacted directly by the IG's office or GAO requesting information of any kind...please do not respond to questions or make any statements," reads the e-mail sent by Robbi Farrell, the division's chief of staff. Instead, staff should forward inquires to a designated representative.
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility obtained the e-mail and provided it to the AP. The group is a nonprofit alliance of local, state and federal professionals dedicated to upholding environmental laws and values.
Gov’t Report: Political Meddling Worsened Immigration Backlog
by Paul Kiel - July 28, 2008 5:40 pm EDT
Today’s Justice Department report is clear and damning: A number of former department officials, including then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' chief of staff, "committed misconduct" and broke the law in using a political filter to fill non-political positions. Kyle Sampson, Gonzales' former right-hand man, and Monica Goodling, formerly the White House liaison at the department, get the brunt of the criticism, and though investigators are clear that the scope of the behavior was wide, they say the most serious impact was on the country's immigration courts.
The report is the second of an ongoing series by the Justice Department's inspector general and Office of Professional Responsibility in response to the U.S. Attorney firings scandal. Investigators interviewed more than 85 individuals and reviewed thousands of documents as part of the investigation.
"To be great is to be misunderstood." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Good Monday Morning,
My apologies for being late this morning but an NtM fan took me out for breakfast this morning. My schedule is open for those also inclined.
If you've noticed, gasoline prices have dropped a bit now that all this attention is focused on speculators and oil company profits (read: government encouraged price gouging). Congress is tied up in knots over offshore drilling and pretty much every politician from Albany, NY to Xenia, Ohio is pushing for increased domestic petro-production but notably few are calling for conservation and fewer still for an immediate improvement in energy efficiency. Oh, we'll get to that, once the oceans are spoiled, mountains are leveled and the future bankrupt but, as the Vice President once said, the American lifestyle is non-negotiable and thus we're not going to have to make any sacrifices. Somehow, some magical, mystical force will keep your SUV's running and your homes heated.
Here's the truth: what's going to save this nation is sacrifice on our part as individuals and as communities. Even if we were to allow drilling on our coasts tomorrow morning and drilled right into the bottom of Lake Gleneida, you won't see any benefits and the sh*t will still hit the energy fan. And by that time the politicians you voted for today, those who promise an oil-rich future, will have garnered their wealth and power and retired safely able to blame someone else.
Both candidates for the 19th Congressional district have taken the wrong position on this issue. Mr. Lalor following the national Republican mantra, believes we can drill our way out of the energy crunch and Mr. Hall, following the Democrat line, wants additional flows of national reserves to help stabilize prices. But as I wrote the other day, you can flow all the oil you want but we do not have the refining capacity to put additional supplies into the distribution network and so the only people who will benefit from either approach will be the oil companies.
There are manufactured goods we depend on which make our lives livable and comfortable, items that with current technology cannot be made using any other source but petroleum products. Do we empty the earth to move our cars today or do we keep that oil in the ground for the future to use? In other words, do we satisfy an immediate political need or can we be mature enough as a society to resist temptation and look to the future instead? If we use that oil today to lower the cost of gasoline a dime or so - 4 years from now assuming consumption stays the same - what will our children be left with?
If you want to see a reduction in the cost of fuel, use less of it. It's that simple.
We have a choice to make:
Should national energy policy be to enrich the oil companies and garner votes with the promise of continuing a non-sustainable lifestyle or should we push the nation into a crash program of energy independence and make some sacrifices along the way?
If you remember back to the oil crisis of the 1970's we took the latter approach and built the economy while using less - dramatically less - fossil fuels. That should serve as a model for where we need to be today.
There are things we can do right here at home to help. The county, rather than looking for developers to build shopping malls, should be designating land and encouraging investors to build wind turbines on county, municipal and private lands. Local zoning and planning boards should create regulations to allow and encourage the use of personal wind turbines and require that all new construction provide a minimum of %75 of its energy needs from on-site sources. This can be as simple as using passive solar to heat homes and hot water, green-roofing or requiring super-insulation (18" thick outside walls) as part of local building codes. While there are some added costs to initial construction, those costs are recovered the very first time you realize you heated your home for the winter on 50 gallons - or less - of oil. You might have to forgo the "bonus room" or that 4th bathroom, but the benefits for you - and for the community - would be more than measurable and continue on year after year.
None of this is rocket science and all is available as proven, affordable technology that keeps getting better with each iteration.
We should be looking to the Hudson River as a source of power generated by its twice a day tides. We should be expanding the availability of mass transit by scheduling PART buses to run at convenient times to deliver - and pick up - commuters to and from our several Metro North stations. And the cost of mass transit into and out of NYC should be affordable - it is not so now. It should be cheaper to take the train than to drive. In fact, several European capitols are experimenting with free or near free mass transit.
As a matter of regional policy, we should be encouraging what's left of our local farms to grow consumer crops and make monies available for hydroponics and other advances in local agriculture rather than giving those dollars to out-of-county developers to build housing, hotels and shopping malls. When properties in the Ag District come up for renewal, we should require they be growing produce for local delivery for continued inclusion. Previously cleared open space lands should be producing food.
And I've said it before but will again, the county should be working Tilly Foster Farm to provide both cellulosic ethanol and bio-diesel to power the county trucking fleet. Solar panels should cover the Putnam National and Centennial golf courses to take those facilities off the grid and the open space in front of the Kent Town Center should likewise be used. There is no logical reason not to do this. If the county and towns cry "we don't have the money!" let them take a look at their electricity bills and do the math. We cannot afford NOT to do this.
Why we cannot get elected officials nor their competitor-hopefuls to take any of this seriously is not their fault, it's ours. We have become energy fat and lazy and complacent and expect government to give us what we want when we want it even if we know it's not practical. Feed me today and we'll worry about tomorrow... tomorrow. We will vote for the guy that promises us no pain - even though we know he cannot deliver - and then complain when it hurts anyway.
The rest of the industrialized world is taking all of this pretty seriously. In Germany and Spain any new construction needs to meet energy efficiency standards that are unknown in the United States. Both Sweden and Norway are working towards the removal of fossil fuels from their lives. Even Arab nations are light-years ahead of the United States on weaning themselves off fossil fuels. And, if they're doing it don't you think there's something we're not completely understanding? Yes, they are running out of oil and are preparing themselves for the near future and they're doing it on *your* petro-dollars. Why aren't we doing it on our petro-dollars?
We need to make a dramatic change in the way we think, work, build our communities and live our lives and we cannot look to Washington for help. The National government will only assist the oil industry in consolidating profits and will not work to see us through the coming energy crunch. This is something we're going to have to do without their help and will have to, (as federal policies keep changing to thwart alternative energy competition), fight against our own government to ensure a successful future.
Get active today. Call your Town Hall, call the County Legislature and pressure Albany to do the right thing energy-wise. And please, don't fall for the charlatans who tell you that we can drill our way out of this for they're lying to you and you know it. Deep down inside you know it to be the truth. Be brave for the future is scarier than you think and there's no one in Washington who is going to help us.
This is something we need to do on our own. Let's get to it.
It is always sweet to be awakened in the morning by a thunderstorm. You hear the thunder at the far edges of your consciousness, slowly awakening to the roars and booms and the calming white noise of the rain. Unless you're like me and realize you've left the windows open on your car...
The National Archives has released a new web interface to a portion of their collection. Digital Vaults premiered recently and if you're on a high speed line and have a little time on your hands, point your browser there and enjoy.
There are more images from the 4-H Fair currently ongoing at the County Park in Kent, this set is without politicians doing the politician thing, but instead, images from some of the events and the general things folk do there. The Fair returns again today from 10AM until 5. Be there.
Be sure to stop by the Town of Kent's Stormwater tent. It's on your right, directly across from the first barn you see upon entering the fairgrounds.
And, as you might guess, I have some suggestions to make the Fair a more enjoyable experience, some of which are a repeat from last year that were not taken up by CCE.
1) Recycle. There are garbage cans all over the place yet the fair sells bottled water and people carry recyclable and returnable containers in with them. They also throw away a lot of paper. While the water bottles themselves are not deposit bottles, thanks to general dorkiness in Albany, these bottles can still be recycled. Why aren't there any receptacles for them?
Next year we should see recycle bins next to each garbage can with a printed list on what can be recycled and what cannot. I cannot think of a valid reason why this isn't done. One for garbage, one for cans and bottles, one for plastic, one for paper, one for non-meat food scraps (see #2 below) If you've ever been to Clearwater's Hudson River Revival at Croton Point Park you'll know what I'm talking about - everything that can come out of the garbage stream does so and everything that can be recycled, is. It's pretty amazing. As it was, Walt Thompson of Keep Putnam Beautiful was asking passersby for their empty bottles at his display. CCE should be doing this as matter of course.
2) Composting. Right near the entrance, one of the more popular things people do is to buy roasted corn on the cob. You see people walking and munching those cobs and when they're done they toss them in the garbage. What's with that? Corn cobs are a compostable item and/or can be used to feed livestock.
Next to each garbage can and recycling bin there should be a receptacle for composting. All food items minus bones and meat, pretty much. Either the Master Gardeners could take up the cause, or CCE itself. Again, I cannot think of a reason this can't be done and would add to the visitors learning experience.
3) Better Spacing of (loud) Entertainment. Each year CCE provides entertainment at a stage near the entrance of the Fair. It's usually pretty good though very few people sit down there to watch. Still, one can hear the music almost to the top of the hill, providing another active backdrop to everything else going on and I've no doubt it adds positive vibes, subconsciously, to the visitor experience. Performers should know that even if they're playing to empty seats that hundreds of people are aware and enjoying what they're offering.
However, this year the organizers placed the UMAC folk (United Martial Arts Center) nearby and twice, once at noon and again at 2PM UMAC does a pretty exciting exhibition (see the posted images). But this exhibition uses loud music which completely overshadows - by many decibels - the music coming from the stage thus the guitarist who came on at noon had to compete for 20 minutes with disco and rock blared from speakers. That's really not acceptable to the performer nor to visitors. Next year, either schedule the performances so there is no musical competition or move groups like UMAC to the very top of the hill where the two musical events will not compete one with the other for the crowds attention.
4) Judging. This year this was done in a tent behind the main livestock area and if you weren't curious enough to wander back there to see what was going on you would have missed it. Is the judging a secret? Next year, move this front and center since this should be the heart and main focus of the event. The 4-H kids spend a lot of time and effort raising the best animals and produce they can and their reward should be the primary focus of the fair. It's their efforts the fair is all about.
5) Better Food. Fried this and fried that. Cheap red meat all over the place along with $2.50 hot dogs and gawd knows what's in 'em. Though there's an anti-smoking booth prominently displayed, it's red meat that's the Number one Killer of Americans today. Did I mention raw and spun sugar? You want your kids to be chomping on that? Perhaps next year 4-H might take the plunge and focus on local produce and healthier meals?
Look, I know I'm going to receive a few emails saying, "Jeff, 4-H is an excellent program. Why are you picking on them?" My response will be this.
The 4-H pledge is as follows:
"I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service and my health to better living, for my club, my community, my country, and my world."
So, let's get these kids, as examples for their parents, on with the process of healthier living, clearer thinking about the world, loyalty to the earth that sustains them and service to the greater agricultural community. We've got thousands of acres of productive farmland within 100 miles of Putnam County and the bounty from those lands should be at the forefront of Fairs like the 4H, not heart-attack inducing red meat from Colorado. Hey, I enjoy a juicy burger like anyone else, but I don't think it's wrong to expect locally produced - and healthier foods - at a place like the 4H Fair. Rather than the Carmel PD's jetski, and WHUD, how about local farmer's markets and food stands? Isn't that more in line with what 4-H is all about?
In other words, let's focus on agriculture and the healthful bounty it can provide.
I know that others have attempted to make inroads with some of these efforts over the years and I also know they have failed. Perhaps it's time to change management at CCE and replace the current State employees with newer, younger, (or at least more environmentally and agriculturally aggressive) crew? I'd say so and the time is now. There will be resistance from CCE about this and it should be met with stoic determination on our part.
People whose lifestyles have been crimped by this year's dramatic rise in gasoline prices are probably going to get hit hard again when they heat their homes next winter.
The average cost of a gallon of home heating oil across the nation will average $4.48 this month, 68 percent more than last July's average of $2.67, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Dealers say the average house in Westchester County uses about 1,200 gallons to get through a winter. At the July prices, the average homeowner would spend an extra $2,172 this year.
To put that in its grizzly perspective, think of it this way. Regular unleaded gasoline has risen $1.11 a gallon the past year. A person who drives 400 miles a week in a car that gets 27 miles a gallon would pay an extra $855.57 a year.
And if the government's projections are accurate, it's going to get worse. The EIA predicts home heating oil will rise to $4.68 a gallon by December.
Watersheds are areas of land that drains into bodies of water. Whether we are walking down the street, hiking on a trail or fishing on a boat, we are always in a watershed. Watersheds connect us all.
Three primary threats to Hudson Valley watershed health are:
- Pollution, in the form of high levels of bacteria, nutrients, salinity, heavy metals and litter.
- Loss of riparian (or streamside) buffers.
- Increases in impervious surfaces. These are serious problems that affect us all and our quality of life. But there are things you can do to help.
Do not mow your lawn to the edge of the creek - While it looks nice, it is one of the worst things for water quality. Anything on your lawn - fertilizers, pesticides, pet waste - will run into the creek when it rains without an adequate buffer to stop it. Unfortunately a mowed lawn is not an adequate buffer. So let the grass grow. A 5-foot-wide buffer will help filter pollutants before they get to the stream. It will cut down on the amount of lawn you have to mow, save you money on gas for your mower and stop all those expensive fertilizers and pesticides from washing away. Better yet, reduce the amount of fertilizers and pesticides you use. Apply fertilizers in the fall when they are used more efficiently by grasses and look for alternatives to chemicals.
It wasn’t the kind of bill to set metropolitan toes to tapping — a measure to extend New York State’s uniform well spacing system to allow additional gas wells and energy production, including intensive horizontal drilling.
But when Gov. David A. Paterson signed a measure on Wednesday essentially ushering in a new era of energy production upstate, it was hard to be sure what mattered more, the green light or the yellow one he added. Either way, the quandary was the same: the economic rewards from thousands of new gas wells, or the risk that they could be drilled in some of the most scenic parts of the state and at the doorstep of New York City’s water supply.
Sometimes big issues coalesce with people barely seeing them. That’s exactly what has happened over the past six months as an upstate land rush, important new legislation and belated environmental awareness converged at the same time over the prospects of extensive gas drilling upstate.
“This new law will ensure greater efficiency in the processing of requests to permit oil and gas wells, while maintaining environmental and public health safeguards,” Mr. Paterson said in a statement.
Or, as his deputy secretary for the environment, Judith Enck, said later: “We’re not Wyoming, no offense to Wyoming.”
Which is to say that New York can tap into trillions of cubic feet of natural gas in the Catskills and the state’s Southern Tier without suffering some of the environmental degradation you find out West, or in Louisiana or even next door in Pennsylvania. We shall see.
As you may or may not know, I've taken a job with Health Care for America Now, an issue advocacy groups dedicated to winning real health care reform in 2009. Jerome has been kind enough to allow me to continue to post here on weekends on the topic of health care reform in America. Here's my pitch for the importance of this campaign.
$217 million per hour.
That's how much Americans spend on health care according to testimony in front of Congress' Joint Economic Committee by experts from the American Human Development Project.
24 hours a day. 365 days a year. For a total of almost $2 trillion spent every year, 16% of our GDP - more than any other nation on earth. And for what?
According to the World Health Organization, America ranks 37th in the world for best health care systems, behind countries we'd expect like France, Japan, and Norway, and also countries that might surprise you, like Colombia, Saudi Arabia, and Chile.
In the latest instance of the military's uneasy relationship in Iraq with the news media, U.S. Marine commanders expelled an embedded photojournalist for doing something they considered unforgivable -- snapping grisly photos of dead Marines, and posting them on his website.
The case of photojournalist Zoriah Miller, a 32-year-old American freelancer, has roiled U.S. Marines in Western Iraq for more than a month. Yet the mainstream media has largely ignored the controversy - until that is, a lengthy article in Saturday's New York Times, "4,000 U.S. Deaths and Just a Handful of Public Images ." While it strove to be circumspect about the issues at play, the Times failed to answer an important question: Who is Zoriah Miller?
The answer explains much about why America's military leaders are not interested in returning to the anything-goes days of media coverage that existed during the Vietnam War. And it explains why Marine commanders in Iraq do not relish the idea of Miller ever again accompanying American troops anywhere in the world.
Miller, a freelancer who uses his first name professionally, had been in Iraq nearly one year when he was expelled. He ran afoul of Marine commanders because of two photos of three dead Marines he published on his website. Initially, Marine commanders ordered Miller to remove the photos. He invited their full wrath with his response.