Thursday, October 23, 2008

News That Matters - October 23, 2008

News That Matters
Brought to you by PlanPutnam.Org

Good Thursday Morning,

First, a correction: This event,

Tomorrow evening at 7PM you can hear Democracy Now!'s Amy Goodman, journalism columnist Greg Palast and FAIR founder Jeff Cohen give a talk about campaign finance laws in Lecture Center 100 on the SUNY New Paltz campus at 7PM. The event is sponsored by the New Paltz Greens.

The event is not tonight, as indicated, it's NEXT Thursday, October 30th. My apologies. Thanks to readers who pointed this out.

The President signed the Veterans Assistance bill into law which Congressman John Hall shepherded through the House. I'm wondering if Hall's opponent, the man who has placed the words "Iraq Vet" on all his campaign signs, will take a moment to thank John for his work on his behalf?

Tomorrow (Friday) is our weekly, Things To Do Edition so if you have an event this weekend please get it to me before this evening so I can have it included. Then, come election night click here and Google Maps will run an up-to-the-minute summary of how the votes are tallying. Right now if you go there you'll see results from current polls (but be aware polls are notoriously wrong) as well as results from Presidential elections going back to 1932.

Next Tuesday, October 28th, will be the 10th anniversary of my residency in Putnam County and I'm looking for an appropriate way to celebrate. I don't think Bob Bondi, Vinnie Leibell or Paul Camarda will be taking me out for drinks, though they should, as I keep their names in the papers on a pretty regular basis. However, if they do take me out I'm wondering if I'll come back... Anyway, I'm open for ideas.

If you're unsure where to vote Google Maps can now help. Go to this link, enter your home address and the application will show you your voting location.

There are only 63 shopping days left until Christmas and with the economy in the tank and money short all around, you can do your part to help set things straight. It's going to be hard, but here's the deal - if you missed the Holiday Buying Guide from yesterday you can find it here.

One reader wrote to say in part;

"Christmas/Chanukah presents almost always - and this included favorite teachers, consisted of homemade breads, mini-cakes and cookies in a basket, adding some small (bought) jams to go with the breads. And yes, the girls helped with all the baking; a great family project.  Also, for family members/close friends, homemade socks, mittens, hats, gloves and - immediate family, sweaters and shawls. Just a few ideas to share if you compile a new listing of holiday gift ideas that can bring family members closer and not break the bank.  I expect you may get some groans from some members on this.... when Sam was at college and I was knitting her socks on my lunchbreak, a new guidance counselor asked what I was doing.  I replied that I was knitting my daughter socks.  She replied, "when MY daughters need socks, I go to Walmart's!"  (I was told by other people present that my facial expression said "yeah, and it shows'.)"

The unemployment rate in Putnam County is sure to rise at the end of the year when Linen's & Things closes its doors at the Highland's Mall in Southeast. 50 employees will loose their jobs and a huge, empty building will mar the landscape. Once they're gone, Kohl's will feel the pressure of an empty parking lot and may suffer a loss of business as well.

But don't fret! Patterson Crossing will be erecting more than 300,000 sq ft of new big box stores to compete with the empty ones in Southeast! ...or maybe not?

On our Presidential Poll:

Charles O. Baldwin, Constitution Party  0%
Bob Barr, Libertarian  0%
John McCain, Republican  13%
Cynthia McKinney, Green  8%
Ralph Nader, Independent  13%
Barack Obama, Democrat  67%

Though it's clear that NtM readers are not a fair cross-section of the electorate it's still an interesting outcome especially in that a fifth of you are unsatisfied with the choices the Corporate backed parties have given us. Maybe it's time to create an independent party right here in Putnam County? I like the idea.

While we're talking about Senator McCain, he apparently spent the night accidentally locked in his campaign bus. Here's a video report on that story.

And now, the News

  1. President signs Hall veterans’ benefits bill into law
  2. City Hall’s roof greenery flourishes five years later
  3. Report: Stormwater runoff fouls rivers
  4. The greywater revolution
  5. Conserve water, don't build new dams
  6. New York Voter Rolls Drop 1.6 Million Names
  7. Why are Docs From the Bailout Being Redacted?
  8. RNC shells out $150K for Palin fashion

President signs Hall veterans’ benefits bill into law

WASHINGTON – President Bush has signed into law Congressman John Hall’s veterans’ benefits bill that includes an overhaul of the VA’s disability claims bureaucracy.

Hall said the new law will help the VA “become a 21st century, world-class entity” that serves veterans, their families and survivors.

‘I think this is the beginning of solving a lot of problems for our veterans in terms of the backlog, in terms of the scandalously long times they have to wait to have the compensation paid for their injuries,” he said.

Read More

City Hall’s roof greenery flourishes five years later

By Richard Halicks

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Sunday, October 19, 2008

You can’t fight City Hall, but you can grow stuff on the roof.

Atlanta City Hall’s large-scale “green roof,” installed on the patio outside the building’s cafeteria in 2003, is flourishing.

Bill Brigham, the city’s landscape architect who designed the project, said the planting has survived high winds, extended drought and the once-a-decade effort to pressure wash the building.

“The roof is a utility area. These things are going to happen,” Brigham said philosophically.

The xeriscaped garden contains about 2,800 plants representing 31 species. Brigham said he has had to spot-water it maybe 10 times in the five years since it was installed.

City Hall’s green roof is a demonstration project, intended to show the way for others, but Brigham said he has learned a great deal from it.

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Report: Stormwater runoff fouls rivers

The Capital Times  —  10/17/2008 11:22 am

Stormwater is to blame for fouling rivers and streams in America, thanks to oily, dirty runoff from hard surfaces such as parking lots and rooftops, according to a report released Thursday by two environmental groups.

Since runoff is a local problem, the two groups, American Rivers and Midwest Environmental Advocates, are encouraging local governments to be vigilant and enact zoning ordinances and comprehensive plans to reduce the impact of dirty stormwater on our nations waterways.

"Polluted stormwater is a huge problem nationally, degrading America's rivers and streams," said Gary Belan, American Rivers clean water program director. "It's a problem that can be solved at the local level by citizens and community leaders."

Hard surfaces prevent rainwater from soaking into the ground, running off into streets, picking up pollution before draining into storm sewers and waterways.

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The greywater revolution

by Forrest Linebarger
In the last five years a quiet revolution has been going on in green building: greywater.

This movement has been spearheaded by a media-savvy Oakland group called the Greywater Guerrillas. They have been installing illegal greywater systems in open defiance to California's laws. What exactly is their crime? They are piping drain water from sinks and showers out to their plants.

Greywater systems filter sink, shower and laundry water (but not toilet water) through gravel, mulch or plant roots and use the resulting water for outdoor irrigation. With California suffering through yet another drought year and state officials predicting that "2009 could be the worst drought in California history," the fact that this precious resource cannot be reused has been a pet peeve of environmentalists statewide.

That water could go to waste in drought-ridden California is a far greater crime than the activities of the Guerrillas. So in 2007 California passed new codes that for the first time specifically allowed the construction of greywater systems. But what at first seemed like a Robin Hood success story turned into a Kafkaesque defeat as folks realized the regulations were so burdensome that no one could navigate their regulatory maze.

Read More

Conserve water, don't build new dams

Associated Press Writer
Four Southeastern cities could save millions of gallons of water a day by repairing leaks, replacing fixtures and raising water prices, according to a report released Wednesday by an advocacy group to protect rivers.

Conservation is a less expensive and more practical solution to the region's water problems than building dams to create new reservoirs, American Rivers concluded in its report, "Hidden Reservoir."

"We're sitting on top of a forgotten water supply. It's in our kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms; in our yards and gardens," said Gerrit Jobis, Southeast regional director for the group.

The report estimates conservation could save up to 210 million gallons of water a day in Atlanta; 47 million gallons a day in Charlotte, N.C.; 20 million gallons a day in Raleigh, N.C.; and 27 million gallons a day in Columbia.

Read More

New York Voter Rolls Drop 1.6 Million Names

Tuesday 21 October 2008
by: Rick Karlin, The Times Union

    Albany - Jokes about people voting early and often aside, some 1.6 million names are being removed from New York's voting rolls by Election Day - a loss of 14 percent of the state's previous tally of 12 million voters.

    The removals, in which people are purged because they've died or moved from their listed address or simply become inactive, may be the largest sweep of registration records in recent memory, according to an elections watchdog.

    "There's really for the first time a wholesale statewide effort going on to remove voters from the rolls," said Bo Lipari, director of New Yorkers for Verified Voting, a group which is policing the state's halting efforts to modernize voting machines.

    Lipari stressed that the effort is legitimate, since people who have died or relocated shouldn't be registered to vote in their old districts.

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Why are Docs From the Bailout Being Redacted?

by Ben Protess , ProPublica - October 22, 2008 4:56 pm EDT

The U.S. Treasury Department has decided against publicly releasing key details of the contract it awarded Bank of New York Mellon to keep the books for the government’s purchase of toxic securities. In a publicly released copy of the contract, the Treasury blacked out how much it will pay the bank for its role in the government's $700 billion taxpayer-funded bailout.

The Washington Post first briefly noticed the redactions. Meanwhile, Bailoutsleuth, a site created by Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, has been tracking the redactions and flagging more examples.

The government’s justification for blacking out the monthly fees set in the publicly bid contract aren’t clear.

“It looks like a reflexive, ‘we don’t want to tell you,’” said Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists. “I just don’t see the rationale.”

Aftergood explained that the Freedom of Information Act allows the government to redact information for reasons including privacy and proprietary concerns, neither of which apparently applies in this case, he said.

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RNC shells out $150K for Palin fashion

By: Jeanne Cummings
October 22, 2008 05:47 PM EST

The Republican National Committee has spent more than $150,000 to clothe and accessorize vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and her family since her surprise pick by John McCain in late August.

According to financial disclosure records, the accessorizing began in early September and included bills from Saks Fifth Avenue in St. Louis and New York for a combined $49,425.74.

The records also document a couple of big-time shopping trips to Neiman Marcus in Minneapolis, including one $75,062.63 spree in early September.

The RNC also spent $4,716.49 on hair and makeup through September after reporting no such costs in August.

The cash expenditures immediately raised questions among campaign finance experts about their legality under the Federal Election Commission's long-standing advisory opinions on using campaign cash to purchase items for personal use.

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