Monday, November 3, 2008

News That Matters - November 3, 2008

News That Matters
Brought to you by PlanPutnam.Org

Good Monday Morning,

News That Matters welcomes its new readers.

R.I.P. Opus

Exxon has racked up another historical marker - $14,830,000,000 in profit for one quarter of this year. Let's take a look at something which might be germane to who really runs things in Washington, D.C.:

In recent years ExxonMobil has donated more than $440,000 to Republicans and nearly $200,000 to Democrats... and that's just what their employees have given. In 2004, EM spent some $7.56 million on lobbying. In 2005 they dropped $7.14 million but that's a second place finish to Chevron $2.8 million and Shell's, $1.4 million.

Between 1988 and 2005 Shell Oil spent, $28 million, BP Amoco spent $29 million, ExxonMobil $66 million, Marathon Oil $33 million and Chevron $41 million... all in lobbying Congress.

Now, tell me who controls things around here?

While the price of groceries, durable goods and services has increased dramatically due to increased costs for transportation you would assume those dollars were going to the people who hate us (yet happily sell us their oil). Yet it seems those dollars went instead to ExxonMobil.

For you pure capitalists out there, thanks for the national pain. To Congress, thanks for not taxing windfall profits. To consumers who are making the choice between bread and heat this winter, thanks for being the sheep you are. It is much appreciated.

There's a post over in the blog from Patty Villanova about a lawsuit filed against the Town of Putnam Valley.

"During the month of October, two legal documents were filed in the state and federal courthouses in White Plains, both of which reflect the profound disconnect between Putnam Valley's land use laws and the administration and enforcement of same. Both cases are rooted in the same cause of action, that is, the decision of the Putnam Valley ZBA to allow Raymond Hilyer to use his property as the base of operations for a full service oil tank testing and remediation business as well as a “small home heating oil service company."

Read the full post and comment on it here.
Nearly one in five U.S. mortgage borrowers owe more to lenders than their homes are worth, and the rate may soon approach one in four as housing prices fall and the economy weakens, a report on Friday shows.
About 7.63 million properties, or 18 percent, had negative equity in September, and another 2.1 million will follow if home prices fall another 5 percent, according to a report by First American CoreLogic. Read this Reuters article here.
The North County News, the peripatetic sheet which covers a bit of Putnam and northwestern Westchester, endorsed John Hall *and* Greg Ball. Editor Bruce Apar's endorsement of Ball comes with these tidbits:
"However, our endorsement comes grudgingly, and with a huge caveat."
"Assemblyman Ball’s campaign tactics were often churlish and puerile."
"...we found Ball’s robo-call tactic disturbing because it seemed so oddly immature."
"However, if he truly wants to accomplish something, Assemblyman Ball must learn to do something more than provoke his colleagues."
The only thing he could find wrong with Mr. Degnan however was that in an interview, Apar writes, "Degnan did not present a clear vision for the future." I'm guessing that since Mr. A doesn't live over in this neck of the woods he failed to witness the race-baiting and homophobia nor the misinformation and deceit the Ball campaign spewed over the past 3 years. Nor, I suppose the quasi-legal activities with early fund raising efforts. You can read the endorsement in full here. I'm wondering if he has spoken to Republican Assembly members who honestly claim  they can work with Ball? I'm guessing not.

Kent Fiscal Watch has a fair write-up of the candidates forum held a week back at the Sedgewood Club in Kent that's worth a read. If you've not yet made up your mind whom to vote for, give it a looksee.

A friend in Orange County sent me this the other day.

While politics here in Putnam County haven't resorted to these types of tactics it does bring up the thread that ran here (which should have been here instead) about stolen campaign signs.

Each year people write about this juvenile tactic and each year those responsible just laugh at us and keep on going.

I've noticed, as I drive around the county, that John Hall's and Sandy Galef's  signs are still plentiful while signs for other Democrats, namely John Degnan, have gone missing. My guess then is that Putnam Republicans like Mr. Hall and Ms. Galef or that some other forces are at play... for it was the Obama signs that disappeared - virtually overnight - to be replaced by McCain signs.

So, was it a game Scannapieco is playing to get the name of his candidate out, as if we didn't already know who he is, or was some other motive involved? Until those responsible are caught we're free to surmise anything we want.

Still, removal of campaign signs is a silly, stupid and sophomoric act. And while the police are busy busting kids for that marijuana seed buried under the carpet of the back seat of the car, this assault, more important in many ways than other "crimes", goes largely ignored and that's a shame.

In 36 hours this will all be over. But I'm going to urge readers to take the next few months to do two things: One, follow Kent's example in controlling where and when these signs can be posted. That town's code says that the signs can go up 30 days prior to an election - and that they be gone by the Sunday after. Secondly, whether it be town or village code or a county ordinance that's required, the penalty for the illegal removal of campaign signs is theft and should be treated as such. If the cops find 10 signs in your trunk and your fingerprints are on them, then... it's going to be bad for you... that is if the cops ever bother to look.

Let's be honest here: it isn't roving bands of kids driving around at 2AM pulling signs down. It's adults who know exactly what they're doing - and who think it's all just good fun. They are, to steal a word, assholes. And, that Obama's signs came down while those for other Dems running for office have largely remained, I can't shake the thought that there's racism involved and if that's the case, this isn't the Putnam County I thought I knew.

Carl Bernstein is already blaming Ralph Nader in case Obama should loose tomorrow. What Mr. Bernstein should be doing is supporting, not subverting, democracy and urge Senator Obama to support positions which would woo voters away from Mr. Nader and into Senator Obama's camp. That Senator Obama will not do this (nor Messrs Kerry nor Gore before him) is not Mr. Nader's problem nor his fault. To blame the loss of an election on a candidate not your own is political bigotry plain and simple. Will Republicans "blame" Mr. Barr or Mr. Baldwin, or is it only Democrats who believe they "deserve" the votes of those not voting for Republicans? Someone tell me, please!

Look folks, if a candidate does not support the majority of your positions, vote for someone else. It's that simple. If you won't because you're afraid "the other guy" will win then you're assisting in the subversion of democracy. If you actually voted your conscience our national political landscape would be very, very different.

In allegedly private conversations, national Republicans are already bemoaning John McCain's loss tomorrow. How they can say at this point is rather silly since opinion polls are notoriously wrong and exit polls even worse. Keep the faith, gents: It's not over until the weight-challenged female sings.

The Election Protection Coalition has received over 80,000 complaints since 'early voting' began a few days ago. Trends about misinformation are beginning to emerge in Florida, Ohio and Missouri while New York, New Jersey, Georgia and California are leading the way in registration problems. If you get to the polls tomorrow and there's a problem, don't get upset! Call the Board of Elections (there will be a hotline number) and get it worked out. Main Office: 845-278-6970 Support: 845-278-6970 Ext. 2102 or 2108

And now, the News:

  1. A walk through nature and history in Carmel
  2. The Conservative Case for Urbanism
  3. $30 Million Solar Investment Defies Financial Crisis
  4. Wilderness Within Reach
  5. How to Keep Waste Oil Out of the Water Supply
  6. MillionTreesNYC Initiative Exceeds Yearly Goal
  7. Wal-Mart Watch and Sprawl-Busters Declare Victory as Wal-Mart Slows Growth
  8. Farm sprawl: Farming high rises
  9. A Proven Enlightened Counter-measure
  10. Army historian says war records 'just not kept'

A walk through nature and history in Carmel

Anne Schruth
Special to The Journal News

CARMEL - It was a day of environmental exploration, historical storytelling and scenic wonder as participants gathered for the History Hike nature walk through the Fred Dill Wildlife Sanctuary and Outdoor Education Center yesterday.

Organized by Beth Herr, 57, and Judy Terlizzi, 68, of the Putnam County Land Trust, the hike was led by Lynne Greenwood, 71, historian, hunter and columnist for the Putnam County Courier.

Greenwood guided participants to various sites that had historical and personal significance. A lifelong resident of Carmel, living in the same house that he grew up in, Greenwood shared memories about spending much of his childhood in the woods of what is now the Dill Sanctuary.

Read More

The Conservative Case for Urbanism

Republicans may have an uneasy relationship to global warming, but some are finding reasons to embrace government projects close to environmentalists' hearts -- like public transit.  

Although John McCain believes in global warming and has promised to combat it, it is no great surprise that the Republican National Convention is swarming with people who say climate change is unrelated to human activity. Like evolution, many social conservatives will tell you, global warming is "just a theory" advanced by secular intellectuals, and so requires no urgent action. One of the biggest applause lines of the convention thus far was a dig at Al Gore, the patron saint of global warming activism.

"I have one more recommendation for energy conservation," Mitt Romney said Wednesday night after delivering the expected line in favor of offshore drilling, a policy that will do nothing to decrease the United States' carbon footprint. "Let's keep Al Gore's private jet on the ground!"

With folks like that across the aisle, concerned liberals and independents might despair of ever finding a serious bipartisan solution to the energy crisis. But what if solving global warming doesn't require believing it is a crisis in the first place?

Read More

$30 Million Solar Investment Defies Financial Crisis

Innovative Home Solar Panel Leasing Program to Expand Into 10 New States

An innovative California firm whose leasing program allows homeowners to install solar panels at almost no upfront cost has just won a $30 million investment -- defying trends across all U.S. industries during the financial crisis.

And that investment means renewable energy could be coming to rooftops in your state soon. Now operating in just three Western states, SolarCity will expand into as many as 10 more, including some on the East Coast, according to the Los Angeles Times, which calls the company one of the largest installers of residential solar energy systems in the nation.

First Solar, which makes thin-film photovoltaic equipment, is the biggest investor in the company. Thin-film solar has been a breakthrough technology, reducing the cost of manufacturing solar energy technology and making it more affordable. It is just bringing its technology to the residential market.

Read More

Wilderness Within Reach

It looks increasingly likely that both the Senate and the House will return to Washington after the election to address the economy and, possibly, to pass a new stimulus bill. If they do, we urge them to find time for one other piece of business — a public lands bill that, at modest expense, could add nearly two million acres to the nation’s store of permanently protected wilderness.

The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, has promised to consider the bill. A similar commitment is now required from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose home state of California stands to benefit greatly.

The bill consists of more than 140 separate public land proposals, including 15 wilderness measures that would forever protect wild lands in eight states — including 517,000 acres in Idaho’s Canyonlands, 470,000 acres in California’s Eastern Sierra and San Gabriel Mountains, and 11,700 acres of Lake Superior shoreline in northern Michigan.

Read More

How to Keep Waste Oil Out of the Water Supply

Used motor oil is a big contributor to the pollution in our waterways

Dear EarthTalk: Used motor oil is a big contributor to the pollution in our waterways and drinking water. How can I make sure I am not contributing to this problem?
-- John Eckerle, Jupiter, FL

Motor oil leaked from individual vehicles—or outright dumped by homeowners and commercial garages—constitutes a significant chunk of storm water runoff, the fallen precipitation that runs off of roads and parking lots and inevitably finds its way into local water bodies.

These pollutants include not only leaked motor oil—which may contain toxic substances like lead, benzene, zinc or magnesium—but also fertilizers, insecticides, plastic debris, cigarette butts, paints, solvents, sediments and other hazardous waste. Topsoil and natural vegetation would ordinarily filter many of these pollutants out, but the impermeable pavement that covers much of the surface where these pollutants originate carries it right into storm drains and into streams, rivers, lakes and the ocean where it can poison marine life—which we might eat—as well as entire riparian or coastal ecosystems.

Read More

MillionTreesNYC Initiative Exceeds Yearly Goal

NEW YORK (AP)  -- New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and entertainer Bette Midler have planted the 111,111 tree in the city to mark the one-year anniversary of MillionTreesNYC.

The public-private campaign's goal is to plant and care for a million trees citywide by 2017.

At Wednesday's ceremony in East Harlem, the mayor said that civic and community response had resulted in MillionTreesNYC exceeding its first year's goal by nearly 20 percent.

Read More

Wal-Mart Watch and Sprawl-Busters Declare Victory as Wal-Mart Slows Growth

Last update: 3:55 p.m. EDT Oct. 29, 2008

WASHINGTON, Oct 29, 2008 /PRNewswire-USNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Americans across the country are defeating Wal-Mart's super-sized plans for their communities in record numbers
Wal-Mart Watch and Sprawl-Busters today declared a victory as Wal-Mart announced plans to slow its growth in the U.S. and focus its business on existing stores. While the company claims a weak economy is the reason for reducing capital expenditures, Wal-Mart Watch and Sprawl-Busters also cite increasing opposition from local communities -- which have fought and defeated Wal-Mart plans in record numbers this year -- as another impetus for the change.

>From big cities to rural townships, communities across the country have rejected Wal-Mart. Chicago may have been the most high profile defeat for Wal-Mart when in May of this year the city ended talks with the company once and for all after it refused to budge on its low-wage, low-benefit policy for employees.

In Monsey, New York, a local orthodox Jewish population made national headlines when they fought and defeated a proposed Wal-Mart to preserve their local business and small-town way of life. Only a week ago, Cordova, Tennessee rejected a controversial Wal-Mart plan after hundreds of residents spoke out against the traffic and other problems that the store would bring to their community.

Read More

Farm sprawl: Farming high rises

When Dickson Despommier, a Microbiologist and professor at Columbia University in New York, first thought up "vertical farming" the concept of indoor farming wasn't new. He'd been working on a rooftop gardening project, which over eight years spun into a full building venture. With the world's rapidly decreasing good farm soil on the horizon, Despommier and his crew took the statistic that 80 percent of the world by 2050 would be living in urban dwellings and turned it on its head by having the country come to the city. Vertical farming isn't just a play on words, the idea is to create skyscrapers that are literally farms of produce from strawberries to corn on each floor, and in the middle of town centers. According to the group's website, "If successfully implemented, they offer the promise of urban renewal, sustainable production of a safe and varied food supply (year round crop production), and the eventual repair of ecosystems that have been sacrificed for horizontal farming."

By letting the land lay low for a while, Despommier and his Vertical Farm team of architecture and environmental health students, from not just Columbia but other schools like the University of Illinois at Champaign/Urbana, believe the earth can begin to repair itself without allowing billions of people to go hungry, as class four and five hurricanes ravage ocean fronts and floods take their tolls. With a checklist of must-haves and a list of dos and don'ts, Vertical Farming may be the way of the future.

Read More

A Proven Enlightened Counter-measure

The Department of Defense is responsible for protecting the US, and is obligated to thoroughly examine realistic, scientifically-proven methods for ending war and terrorism, says David Leffler.
Attention: Secretary Gates

"Enlightened counter-measures we take today will bolster the internal strength of vulnerable states so they will not harbor violent networks seeking to launch the next attack," DoD Secretary Gates said during a speech at the US Institute of Peace. Gates is right. However, rather than start from scratch during these dangerous times a proven scientifically validated counter-measure is needed.

Despite its advanced technology and valiant efforts, the DoD and its allies struggle to eliminate violent extremism. Violent extremism is a human problem requiring human solutions. The underlying cause of extremist social violence is accumulated social stress.

Therefore, to eliminate such social problems, the DoD and its allies need to reduce collective societal stress.

Read More

Army historian says war records 'just not kept'

An Army historian today told a government declassification group that the Army is not enforcing its record-keeping policies and that it is not receiving adequate records from military units in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"Records are just not kept," Dr. Richard Davis of the U.S. Army Center of Military History told the Public Interest Declassification Board at its third open meeting of the year. "As of October 2005, not one Army unit returned one record."

Davis said the units often "wipe" their hard drives when they return to the U.S. leaving little to no record of what occurred and making it difficult and sometimes impossible to write an operational history of events. He said the Army needs to stop relying on the units to provide the records and must instead go and pull records -- he said they have deployed records collectors to Iraq and Afghanistan to begin gathering records.

So it sounds like the problem isn't that the Army needs better record-keeping rules, it's that it needs to bother enforcing them. To give unit leaders carte blanche to simply erase entire histories of their tours without consequence or recourse -- as Davis suggested -- is mind boggling. How will Americans ever know what has occurred during this time of war? Is that the point? Somebody upstairs needs to take a look at this.

Read More

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