Thursday, January 29, 2009

News That Matters - January 29, 2009

News That Matters
Brought to you by PlanPutnam.Org

"A healthy male adult bore consumes each year one and a half times his own weight in other people's patience."  - John Updike

Good Thursday Morning,

What's in the News?

  1. John Updike, a Lyrical Writer of the Middle-Class Man, Dies at 76
  2. Hinchey Helps Create New Sustainable Energy & Environment Coalition
  3. Elevating Science, Elevating Democracy
  4. Putnam, deputies agree on long-delayed contract plan
  5. Cantor distorts CBO data on stimulus package
  6. 93-Year-Old Freezes To Death Inside His Home
  7. Farewell to All That: An Oral History of the Bush White House

Tomorrow is our weekly Things To Do Edition. If you or your organization has something going on you'd like announced, please make sure it's in by this afternoon or, post it all by yourself at the blog site.

It snowed. It rained. It iced. You've got to love this winter or you'll go crazy. But spring is just around the corner and if you're up early enough you'll hear the birds taking a few tentative practice-notes of their spring songs. Since the ground has been snow and ice covered for quite some time make sure your feeders are filled with high energy snacks for those guys.

Over at the blog, the Tilly Foster contract and Putnam Valley issues still take the lead in reads and yesterday 132 visitors stopped in to have a look. If you weren't one of those 132, you should be.

The Tilly Foster lease agreement is still in negotiations and thanks to your input the county has made some changes though they're not nearly enough to satisfy standard governmental protections and the AG's office will, I think, find it of interest if it passes through in anything close to its present form. At the last physical services committee meeting, Legislator Tony Hay mentioned that the public had deluged the county with comments and suggestions yet few, if any, made it into the latest version of that lease. If you wrote before you'll need to write again. If you haven't, it's time to do so. You can send your letters to You can get more information on that contract here, here, here and here.

I've got the horse right here: County Finance Commissioner William Carlin reports that OTB revenues are down once again. From a high of $1.9 million taken in 2001 the county took in just about $518,000 in 2008 which was $139,000 less than in 2007.

New York State has lost a billion dollars in revenue due to the collapse of Wall Street firms and we're still not one inch closer to prosecuting those who ran their businesses into the ground, caused massive social and financial upheaval and engineered the largest transfer of wealth from the working classes to the rich in history and still took home $18.4 billion in bonuses. Admittedly, those bonuses were lower than in previous years as in 2007 bonuses amounted to $33 billion. The income disparity between rich and poor is greater than it has been since the 1920s and you know what financial conditions followed that. It's not a pretty picture no matter how you spin it unless you're a corporate recipient of taxpayer largess. Capitalism, American Style.

Vanity Fair has done it again. This time there's a deeply detailed oral history of the Bush administration which kept me occupied for the better part of an hour during yesterday's snow and ice storm. Get yourself a mug of tea and be prepared to be shocked, tickled and awed by what we just went through as a nation. There's a link to the article below the fold.

And now, the News:

  1. John Updike, a Lyrical Writer of the Middle-Class Man, Dies at 76
  2. Hinchey Helps Create New Sustainable Energy & Environment Coalition
  3. Elevating Science, Elevating Democracy
  4. Putnam, deputies agree on long-delayed contract plan
  5. Cantor distorts CBO data on stimulus package
  6. 93-Year-Old Freezes To Death Inside His Home
  7. Farewell to All That: An Oral History of the Bush White House

John Updike, a Lyrical Writer of the Middle-Class Man, Dies at 76

John Updike, the kaleidoscopically gifted writer whose quartet of Rabbit novels highlighted a body of fiction, verse, essays and criticism so vast, protean and lyrical as to place him in the first rank of American authors, died on Tuesday in Danvers, Mass. He was 76 and lived in Beverly Farms, Mass.

The cause was lung cancer, according to a statement by Knopf, his publisher. A spokesman said Mr. Updike had died at the Hospice of the North Shore in Danvers.

Of Mr. Updike’s dozens of books, perhaps none captured the imagination of the book-reading public like those about ordinary citizens in small-town and urban settings. His best-known protagonist, Harry Rabbit Angstrom, first appears as a former high-school basketball star trapped in a loveless marriage and a sales job he hates. Through the four novels whose titles bear his nickname — “Rabbit, Run,” “Rabbit Redux,” “Rabbit Is Rich” and “Rabbit at Rest” — the author traces the funny, restless and questing life of this middle-American against the background of the last half-century’s major events.

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Hinchey Helps Create New Sustainable Energy & Environment Coalition

Washington, DC - Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) today announced that he has helped establish the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition (SEEC) -- a new focused, action-based caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives committed to advancing a legislative agenda that will bring about dramatic progressive change in energy and environmental policy while helping to grow the economy.  The group, which was founded by Congressman Jay Inslee (D-WA) and Congressman Steve Israel (D-NY) recently met with Assistant to the President Carol Browner to discuss energy and climate policy.  Additionally, the SEEC has been working to strengthen green technology provisions in the economic recovery bill currently being debated in Congress.

The stated purpose of the SEEC is “to advance policies that promote clean energy technology innovation and domestic manufacturing, develop renewable energy resources, create green collar jobs throughout the product supply-chain, help arrest global warming and protect our nation’s clean air, water and natural environment.” 

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Elevating Science, Elevating Democracy


All right, I was weeping too.

To be honest, the restoration of science was the least of it, but when Barack Obama proclaimed during his Inaugural Address that he would “restore science to its rightful place,” you could feel a dark cloud lifting like a sigh from the shoulders of the scientific community in this country.

When the new president went on vowing to harness the sun, the wind and the soil, and to “wield technology’s wonders,” I felt the glow of a spring sunrise washing my cheeks, and I could almost imagine I heard the music of swords being hammered into plowshares.

Wow. My first reaction was to worry that scientists were now in the awkward position of being expected to save the world. As they say, be careful what you wish for.

My second reaction was to wonder what the “rightful place” of science in our society really is.

The answer, I would argue, is On a Pedestal — but not for the reasons you might think.

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Putnam, deputies agree on long-delayed contract plan

Susan Elan
The Journal News

After years of stalled negotiations and bitter rhetoric, Putnam sheriff's deputies and County Executive Robert Bondi's administration have reached an agreement that would carry them through 2011.

"There have been many years of frustrating negotiations, but the positive fact is we are getting reasonable increases in our standard of living," Deputy William Meyer said yesterday. Meyer is president of the 75-member Putnam County Sheriff's Department Police Benevolent Association.

The proposed contract would cover Jan. 1, 2005, through Dec. 31, 2011, and would result in a total 25.9 percent wage increase. The union's last contract ended Dec. 31, 2002. Contract years 2003 and 2004 were settled through arbitration.

"It's long overdue," county personnel director Paul Eldridge said Tuesday. "Intransigent positions on both sides led to the logjam. But now there was a desire to get this done."

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Cantor distorts CBO data on stimulus package

In the debate over how best to provide economic stimulus, put U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor, the Republican Whip, in the camp that thinks more tax cuts and less government spending is the way to go.

Fair enough. But in a Jan. 21, 2009, interview on Fox News, Cantor cited a recent report from the Congressional Budget Office to back up his argument.

"We have a list of ideas very focused on small businesses, the self-employed, entrepreneurs and families, because we believe very much you provide tax relief to those individuals that we will see an economy that bounces back," Cantor said.

"Unfortunately, here on the Hill, what we're seeing now is the congressional Democrats proposed massive amounts of spending; that in fact today the Congressional Budget Office came out with a report -- said that it's just not stimulus. It won't help the economy grow."

That seemed odd, given that the CBO is supposed to be an objective, nonpartisan fiscal research arm for Congress. So we decided to check it out.

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93-Year-Old Freezes To Death Inside His Home

Last Update: 1/27 10:38 am 

The 93-year-old man froze to death inside his home in Bay City, Michigan. (Associated Press) BAY CITY, Mich. – A 93-year-old man froze to death inside his home just days after the municipal power company restricted his use of electricity because of unpaid bills, officials said.

Marvin E. Schur died "a slow, painful death," said Kanu Virani, Oakland County's deputy chief medical examiner, who performed the autopsy.

Neighbors discovered Schur's body on Jan. 17. They said the indoor temperature was below 32 degrees at the time, The Bay City Times reported Monday.

"Hypothermia shuts the whole system down, slowly," Virani said. "It's not easy to die from hypothermia without first realizing your fingers and toes feel like they're burning."

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Farewell to All That: An Oral History of the Bush White House

The threat of 9/11 ignored. The threat of Iraq hyped and manipulated. Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib. Hurricane Katrina. The shredding of civil liberties. The rise of Iran. Global warming. Economic disaster. How did one two-term presidency go so wrong? A sweeping draft of history—distilled from scores of interviews—offers fresh insight into the roles of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and other key players.

By Cullen Murphy and Todd S. Purdum February 2009
With assistance from Philippe Sands.

January 20, 2001 After a disputed election and bitter recount battle in Florida whose outcome is effectively decided by the Supreme Court, George W. Bush is sworn in as the 43rd president of the United States. In foreign affairs he promises an approach that will depart from the perceived adventurism of his predecessor, Bill Clinton, in places such as Kosovo and Somalia. (“I think the United States must be humble,” Bush said in a debate with his opponent, Al Gore.) In domestic affairs Bush pledges to cut taxes and improve education. He promises to govern as a “compassionate conservative” and to be “a uniter, not a divider.” He comes into office with a $237 billion budget surplus.

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