Monday, August 10, 2009

News That Matters - August 10, 2009

News That Matters
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Good Monday Morning,

It's back to school time in the area and the Putnam Community Action Program is seeking donations of supplies for its distribution network. Visit their website here for more information.

The Town of New Castle is considering hiring a municipal administrator to take over many of the duties of the Supervisor and some of the town board's. The concept is supported by outgoing Supervisor Reese Berman who feels that hiring an expert on municipal matters would be a good thing. But the idea is opposed by the two running for her position this year. No surprise there.

It seems that one too many national chain pharmacies has opened in Putnam County, what with the owners of the now defunct Mahopac Pharmacy directing customers to the CVS down the road. Great planning, huh?

Tomorrow night (Tuesday) the League of Women Voters will host a Meet the Candidates forum for Carmel Town offices and the Sheriff's race. That starts at 7PM at the VFW Hall on Route 52 in the Hamlet.

The National Association of Counties has completed a study of counties across the nation that have successfully done more with less. In particular their concern were counties that have moved themselves into the digital world. Dutchess County ranked #2 for counties between 250,000 and 499,000 people. Since carrier pigeons are no longer available I wasn't able to contact Putnam County for a comment for this article.

Assemblyman Greg Ball was in Texas last week touring the border that separates the United States from Mexico complaining that a wall between the two nations is only partially constructed. I keep looking at the map and for the life of me I cannot find anywhere the 99th Assembly district touches Texas.

According to reports, US banks have collected $38.5 BILLION in overdraft fees so far this year, a doubling of that collected in 2000.

The national debate on the future of health care in this nation has taken on an ugly tone as commentators such as Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh and some local political organizations have upped the ante by encouraging unruly behavior that has sometimes become violent.
In Tampa, Florida, a meeting held at a Children's health center ended early when protesters bussed in from outside the district shouted down Congresswoman Kathy Castor, refusing to allow her to speak. Guns were flashed, posters were held of the President mashed out as the Joker and the building was surrounded by members of organizations like FreedomwWorks, a dangerous right-wing organization formed specifically to thwart positive change. From Tampa Bay Online:
"You need to rock-the-boat early in the Rep's presentation," said one e-mail memo from a Connecticut activist and member of the Tea Party Patriots organization. "Watch for an opportunity to yell out and challenge the Rep's statements early."
At a meeting in Texas organized by Congressman Gene Green, an audience supporter of health care reform asked those protesting to raise their hands if they did not currently have insurance.... only one person raised their hand.

Representative Brad Miller of North Carolina won't be holding town hall meetings during this recess because his office has received telephoned death threats according to police and his communications chief, LuAnn Canipe. The congressman will be meeting with constituents one-on-one instead.
I'll be performing in "Shakespeare @ The Bar" tonight at 7PM at the old West End Theater Bar now, Havana Central, at 2911 Broadway (at 113th) near Columbia U in this annual production directed and produced by Poughkeepsie's Roger Hendricks Simon. Appearing with me in the cast of 37 will be Lake Carmel's Zulie Lozada, Lake Sagamore's Kathy Freston and former Kent/Putnam Valley resident Lora Lee Ecobelli. We'll be acting a scene from "A Midsummer Night's Dream" as well as leading the finale, an original song about Hamlet's mom, Ophelia.
Tickets are $10. If you miss tonight, the Lake Carmel Cultural Center will be hosting this event come February - for the second time. (The image here is from this past February's show.)

You have no idea how much fun this is and trust me, you need not know anything about William Shakespeare in order to thoroughly enjoy this  mashup of verse, song and fun.

And now The News:
  1. Board’s Denial of Access Road Needed for Senior Housing Development on Abutting Parcel Upheld
  2. Obama Has Cut Taxes for 98.6 Percent of Working Households
  3. World War Two vegetable comes back as 'superfood'
  4. Note To Seniors: Proposed Medicare Reform Does Not Include Plans To Kill You
  5. The Town Hall Mob
  6. A Homespun Safety Net
  7. Coffee Talk

Board’s Denial of Access Road Needed for Senior Housing Development on Abutting Parcel Upheld

Petitioner, BBJ Associates, LLC, owns land that straddles the municipal border between the Towns of Kent and Carmel. It plans to build a multi-family senior citizens’ development on a portion of its land located in the Town of Carmel. To that end, it sought to build an access road running through both towns which would connect the development to State Route 52. This road would run through property located Kent which is zoned for commercial and single-family residential use. In October 2006, the Town of Kent Building Inspector issued a letter to the Town of Kent Planning Board noting that “the entranceway is an accessory use to a principal use and we do not have a principal use.” The Planning Board would not continue site plan review until the issue was resolved. In November 2006, petitioner applied to the Zoning Board for an interpretation of the October letter. Petitioner argued that the access road was not an “accessory use” but rather an “infrastructure improvement” pursuant to Town of Kent Zoning Code former §77-6(F).  While the Zoning Board agreed with petitioner that the proposed road was an infrastructure improvement, it ultimately concluded that since the Town road would be constructed in the Town of Kent zoned for commercial use and for single-family residential use, it was not a permitted use.

Petitioners challenged the Board’s decision that the access road was not a permitted use and the trial court determined that the Board acted in bad faith by raising objections after years of its environmental review of the project without objection. The Appellate Court, however, agreed with the Zoning Board’s conclusion that the Town could prohibit the proposed road over the property that was zoned for commercial and single family use when the road was intended to serve a multi-family use on an abutting parcel. Further, the Court noted that public ways include mapped streets which have not been improved, however, since the proposed road is not a mapped street, the court concluded that it is not a public way and the Board therefore had the right to regulate the use of the land pursuant to its zoning regulations. 

BBJ Assocs., LLC v. Zoning Bd. of Appeals of Town of Kent, 2009 WL 1796547 (N.Y.A.D. 2 Dept. 6/23/2009).

The opinion can be accessed at:

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Obama Has Cut Taxes for 98.6 Percent of Working Households

by Nate Silver

One thing I don’t quite get has been the White House’s reluctance to highlight the non-infrastructure parts of the stimulus package. Oh sure, people wanted more investment in roads and trains and energy grids and all that good stuff – I did too, and thought the stimulus package spent an inadequate amount of money on them. But you’re left with the impression that the rest of the stimulus was just thrown down a well somewhere. In fact, it was not. The extension in unemployment benefits that the government provided under the stimulus, for instance, is turning out to be highly useful to a lot of people. I don’t necessarily expect the people receiving extended unemployment insurance to turn around and write Obama a thank-you note – but the White House might want to at least occasionally make the point it’s their initiative that is helping them to keep putting food on the table.

Likewise with the tax reductions in the stimulus – which collectively made up $288 billion, or about 37 percent of the package. Most of those tax cuts are targeted at individuals. And while the they aren’t terribly deep, they are impressively broad.

The broadest tax cut in the stimulus package is the “Making Work Pay” tax credit, worth about $116.2 billion (see the Urban Brookings Tax Policy Center for this and other figures) and applicable to the vast majority of working Americans. Indeed, all single filers making less than $95,000 and all joint filers making less than $190,000 are eligible for this tax cut. Most of them, in fact, are already receiving it in the form of lower withholding on their paychecks.

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World War Two vegetable comes back as 'superfood'

A green that helped sustain the nation through the dark years of World War II is making a comeback as a fashionable superfood.

Kale was included in the Dig for Victory campaign as a vegetable that was easy to grow and provided important nutrients to supplement meagre diets during rationing.

A relative of the cabbage, it faded from the meal table and recipe books after the war, not least because of its somewhat metallic taste and the fact that it turned into an unappealing green mush when boiled.

Sixty years on, however, kale is being relaunched following the development of a sweeter, more attractive variety.

Read More

Note To Seniors: Proposed Medicare Reform Does Not Include Plans To Kill You

By Chris Walters, 10:14 AM on Wed Aug 5 2009

Yesterday, Consumer Reports noted that an anti-health reform politician is trying to convince senior citizens that they'll be required to take lessons in euthanasia if any reform is passed. Regardless of what side you come down on with health care reform, this is flat out wrong. We care about this lie, which is still bouncing around the media, because it might interfere with the very real and useful tasks of setting up living wills and determining health care proxies—things that matter to both the elderly and the terminally ill.

Here's how it started: A few weeks ago, Betsy McCaughey, a former Lieutenant Governor of New York and the current chair of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths, said into a microphone, so she knew it was going out to the public,
"Congress would make it mandatory - absolutely require - that every five years people in Medicare have a required counseling session that will tell them how to end their life sooner [...] The bill expressly says if you get sick somewhere in that five-year period, you have to go through that session again - all to do what is in society's best interest or your family's best interest and cut your life short."
Betsy McCaughey is either stupid like a farm chicken or a very mean person, because either she truly misread the proposal (which makes her sort of unfit to be in any position of leadership, especially one concerning health care) or she is deliberately misreading it in order to terrify senior citizens for political purposes, by trying to convince them that we live in some sci-fi future where they'll be killed by an army of Obama clones. To be clear, the sci-future we do live in has cool smartphones and corporations that use the government to take advantage of private citizens, but it's not Logan's Run. If it were, I'd have already pried out my palm gems and sold them to buy more smartphones.

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The Town Hall Mob


There’s a famous Norman Rockwell painting titled “Freedom of Speech,” depicting an idealized American town meeting. The painting, part of a series illustrating F.D.R.’s “Four Freedoms,” shows an ordinary citizen expressing an unpopular opinion. His neighbors obviously don’t like what he’s saying, but they’re letting him speak his mind.

That’s a far cry from what has been happening at recent town halls, where angry protesters — some of them, with no apparent sense of irony, shouting “This is America!” — have been drowning out, and in some cases threatening, members of Congress trying to talk about health reform.

Some commentators have tried to play down the mob aspect of these scenes, likening the campaign against health reform to the campaign against Social Security privatization back in 2005. But there’s no comparison. I’ve gone through many news reports from 2005, and while anti-privatization activists were sometimes raucous and rude, I can’t find any examples of congressmen shouted down, congressmen hanged in effigy, congressmen surrounded and followed by taunting crowds.

And I can’t find any counterpart to the death threats at least one congressman has received.

So this is something new and ugly. What’s behind it?

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A Homespun Safety Net


IF nothing else, the recession is serving as a stress test for the American safety net. How prepared have we been for sudden and violent economic dislocations of the kind that leave millions homeless and jobless? So far, despite some temporary expansions of food stamps and unemployment benefits by the Obama administration, the recession has done for the government safety net pretty much what Hurricane Katrina did for the Federal Emergency Management Agency: it’s demonstrated that you can be clinging to your roof with the water rising, and no one may come to helicopter you out.

Take the case of Kristen and Joe Parente, Delaware residents who had always imagined that people turned to government for help only if “they didn’t want to work.” Their troubles began well before the recession, when Joe, a fourth-generation pipe fitter, sustained a back injury that left him unfit for even light lifting. He fell into depression for several months, then rallied to ace a state-sponsored retraining course in computer repairs — only to find those skills no longer in demand. The obvious fallback was disability benefits, but — Catch-22 — when Joe applied he was told he could not qualify without presenting a recent M.R.I. scan. This would cost $800 to $900, which the Parentes do not have, nor has Joe, unlike the rest of the family, been able to qualify for Medicaid.

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Coffee Talk

Which chain brews the best cup? Starbucks, McDonald's, or Dunkin'?
By Nathan Heller - Slate

"Many people claim coffee inspires them, but, as everybody knows, coffee only makes boring people even more boring," Balzac once observed. He might as well have been describing me. To talk about the subtleties of macchiato, wince at a friend's homemade brew, come late to an appointment because of long lines at the siphon bar—all things I've done in recent months—will guarantee you'll have a place in coffee heaven and be totally insufferable on Earth. The good news is that even sanctimonious coffee bores must lapse: The flesh is weak, the day is full, and Starbucks is just half a block away.

Recently, some unusual parties have stepped in to indulge the nation's fallen (or just time-pressed) gourmets. Dunkin' Donuts, a chain more closely associated with psychedelic frosting and the intriguing "glazed cake stick" than with fancy coffee, has been trying for years to woo caffeine fiends with downscale prices. Now is its moment. To gain a toehold in the tight recession market, Dunkin' offered, for a time, what seemed to be the cheapest latte anywhere. McDonald's, meanwhile, has unveiled its McCafé line of elaborate drinks, supposedly its biggest launch since the game-changing Egg McMuffin in 1977. The two chains' leading competition, and the target market share, is Starbucks, which first showed the world that sheer ubiquity—along with caffeine, sugar, and colored aprons—could generate its own commercial mandate.

Which coffee is best? Where should the time-constrained gourmet head in a pinch? To answer this question and others, I recently convened a congress of six Slate staffers, all notorious coffee addicts, for a private taste test. Gathered in our conference room, we tore through a slew of samples from Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts, and McDonald's and, together, found a winning brew.

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