Wednesday, February 10, 2010

News That Matters - February 10, 2010

News That Matters

News That Matters
Brought to you (Almost Daily) by PlanPutnam.Org

Good Wednesday Morning,

Lilac budsEven though there's snow on the ground this morning spring is most certainly in the air. This image of a budding lilac bush was taken at the Asylum yesterday afternoon. If you notice, the maples are starting to bud and the crocuses (crocii?) cannot be far behind. Another tell-tale sign of spring is that though I still awake in the dark, while I'm working at my desk the sun has now moved northward enough in the sky to start peeking in the window again.

There are many stories posted to the PlanPutnam/News That Matters website during the course of the week which never appear in the column you're reading now.
For example, this past Monday afternoon I posted the agenda for the Town Board meeting in Kent taking place that evening, but there is an easy way to stay up-to-date:
In the bar just above there's a link called "RSS Feed". Click on that (or this) and most modern email programs and/or web browsers will know what to do. Once done, each time something is posted to the site it will appear 'auto-magically' in your reader.
Another thing you can do is to participate more by commenting on posts you read and that's also done at the website. Head on over, read something, and find the comment box at the bottom of the article's page. As usual and to maintain propriety, anything nasty will be removed at the editor's (that's me!) discretion. However, if you're looking for a free-wheeling no-holds-barred blog, try the LoHud at the Journal News where it seems the nastiest of the nasty must spend their days coming up with horrid things to write about each other. We're not like that here so keep that in mind.

Quick Poll:
During the campaign last fall I consistently asked the question: "Which services would you be willing to do without in order to cut municipal budgets?" and I consistently got the same answer: "Cut the fat." But the truth of the matter is that in most town budgets there is no fat anymore and if there is it doesn't even make a blip on the budget screen. Cutting and/or removing services is the only way to make substantive changes that you will feel in your pocketbook.
To that end we're going to run a quick unscientific poll asking just that question. Click here to participate.

Would whoever sent me an envelope filled with copies of a legal document recently filed in the Supreme Court here in Putnam County, but with no return address, please contact me? We need to talk.

Just before the new year a couple from Yorktown walking their golden retriever, Mugsy, were separated from him during a hike in Fahnestock State Park. They spent hours combing the trails near where they last saw him but as the day wore on and the sun began to set they headed for home hoping against hope the dog would find his way to safety.
MugsyThe next day they literally plastered the area with signs and continued their search. Every day for more than a week they'd come home from work or skip work and hit the park calling his name but he never answered. The night-time temperatures reached the single digits and snow fell but they found nothing. No prints, no answering barks, no tinkle of tags on collar and they slowly began to loose hope. They even turned to Garrison resident John Funck, owner/operator of Bow Wow Haus, and one of our county's best respected animal rescue experts, who organized searches and got the word out. But nothing. There was no sign of Mugsy to be found.
After spending 11 days in the wild fending for himself, Mugsy managed to hook up with a group out on a hike who, realizing he was lost, contacted the number on his collar and that very day the family was reunited.

Mugsy's owner told me during a recent phone call that it took a few days for him to reintegrate with the family but I'm just guessing his Carusoesque adventure gave him a sense of independence. Where he spent the nights and how he stayed warm, what he ate and how he spent his days will never be known but he was a resourceful guy.... and they all lived happily ever after.

Last week the Danbury News Times reported on a grisly discovery: 78 year old Jane Wild was found dead in her home in Chappaqua, apparently there for several months before her body was discovered. I'm only posting this story to underscore what I frequently say at the top of this column: Check on your neighbors. So I'll say it again:
Check on your neighbors when the weather is going to be very cold or very hot or if the power is likely to go out or if you just haven't seen them participate in a daily routine. Knocking on the door to ask, "Are you all right?" is not prying nor is it an invasion of privacy: it's the right thing to do.

It doesn't matter if your neighbor is an elderly woman like Ms. Wild, or if he's a 35 year-old ex-football player who now works for the NY City fire department or a middle-aged couple with children. Anything can happen to anyone regardless of their outward appearance.

It used to be that we knew our neighbors, their comings and goings, their children's names and birthdates, what they did for work, their personal trials and tribulations - and that was back in a day when there was physical distance between our homes. Nowadays, even in tightly packed communities we don't even know who lives next door to us anymore and that is a tragic loss of community and caring and personal spirituality.

So do me a favor: get to know who your neighbors are. Bring them a cake, invite them by for dinner. If you see anything out of the ordinary, (or if you don't see anything at all!) say something, do something: for chrissake's, care. Don't call the police, do it yourself. Be involved. It's not prying. Be a neighbor.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania were curious what kind of newspaper articles people forwarded to each other. They studied the list of most emailed articles at the NY Times for 6 months, checking every 15 minutes, and the results were rather surprising. NY Times Reporter John Tierney wrote:
"Perhaps most of all, readers wanted to share articles that inspired awe, an emotion that the researchers investigated after noticing how many science articles made the list. In general, they found, 20 percent of articles that appeared on the Times home page made the list, but the rate rose to 30 percent for science articles, including ones with headlines like “The Promise and Power of RNA.”

You can read the full article here.
What happens when you're a nurse and a doctor you are working with appears to be engaged in a long string of questionable medical practices? You write a letter to the state medical board and people go, "Wow! It's great that she stood up for her patients!" Well, not if you're in Texas where ratting out a bad doctor is a third-degree felony, "misuse of official information", and can land you in jail for ten years. This is what's happening to 52 year old Anne Mitchell and you can read more about it here.

New York State Governor David Paterson is under the gun according to a report in the NY Post. Drugs, sex, rock and roll, marital infidelities. I don't know what's news about finding that someone is perfectly normal.
We got the same with Governor Spitzer whom the Wall Street Mob and their friends in the Bush White House had been after for years. The mistake Mr. Spitzer made was by not answering questions about his 'scandal' with the words, "My personal life is really none of your f**king business. Are there any other questions?"

I'm pretty sure your boss isn't poking around into who you're sleeping with or how you spend your money so why would you ever do that to someone else?
With President Obama doing what he can - against significant Republican opposition - to get Wall Street under control, Chase bank just sent the national Republican party a check for $30,000 as a warning to the President and Democrats in Congress: Hands Off Wall Street.
Considering that Wall Street's ways were the cause for the recession, deep unemployment and the financial crisis in general, I wonder which side the Tea-Baggers are going to take on this one. If fiscal responsibility is their cry they should be backing the President's efforts. If, as I suspect is more the truth, they're naught but a shill for the Republican Party, they'll be backing a continuation of the Wall Street's practices which got us into this mess in the first place. Keep your eyes open on this one.

The Photo we'll probably never see:
Sad Man
Wall Street Stock Broker after finding out that Congress finally grew a pair.

Sarah Palin used a "palmprompter" the other day, writing notes in the palm of her hand to remind her if what she had to say. That's fine. In fact, I spent some time defending her yesterday. But FOXNews reporters are saying she did so on purpose to make fun of Obama's use of a teleprompter.
PalmprompterCARLSON: "I think she did it on purpose. I think she did it on purpose, yeah. Because it’s an exact opposite of reading off the teleprompter with a script written for you with every word in a sentence and here’s she’s just taking crib notes on her hand. It makes her look like she can just talk off the cuff and she just jotted down a few couple notes before she went out to give a big long speech."
" off the cuff". I'll give FOXNews credit for the pun on this. The accuracy of their "news" is another matter altogether.

A bogsite called NewsCopy New York had this posted the other day about Congressman John Hall's bill that would restrict foreign corporations from direct financial access to the American political system;
"The truth is that [John] Hall wants to penalize foreignors [sic] who believe in capitalism and America's form of government. The two-term Democrat is just reaching for this xenophobic excuse to knock down American corporations.

He doesn't care one bit where the money comes from.

Next, Rep. Hall will start singing The Internationale ..."

As for the Internationale, let's take a look at that. Each nation has their own localized version. England's says,
No saviour from on high delivers
No faith have we in prince or peer
Our own right hand the chains must shiver
Chains of hatred, greed and fear
E'er the thieves will out with their booty
And give to all a happier lot.
Each at the forge must do their duty
And we'll strike while the iron is hot.
Rocker Billy Bragg wrote his own that says,
Stand up, all victims of oppression
For the tyrants fear your might
Don't cling so hard to your possessions
For you have nothing, if you have no rights
Let racist ignorance be ended
For respect makes the empires fall
Freedom is merely privilege extended
Unless enjoyed by one and all
"Freedom is merely privilege extended, Unless enjoyed by one and all."

There are actually people out there who don't believe that freedom "enjoyed by one and all" is a good thing?

Take three minutes for this video of Alastair Hulett, who passed away just last week, singing the Internationale. I simply cannot believe there is a thinking person who would deny the desire for unity, freedom and positive self-worth.

Yesterday evening Senator Leibell sent yet another email asking that the upcoming "terror" trials be moved from NYC due, apparently, to the cost. This was my response:
Dear Senator Leibell,

It seems to me that a nation of laws would be proud to hold a trial such as this in what most would consider the capitol of the world and that "cost" would not be a factor. But it pains me as it should any American, to see these trials pushed into the darkness of a military tribunal. Its the nations who do not trust their system of justice that do these things and history is filled with the detritus of their passing, usually over the bodies of their vanquished.

I had hoped this nation would be able to rise above that but I see, thanks to you and your fellows, that my nation has failed to be what it claims to be.

And now, The News:
  1. Governor Paterson Announces Proposed Improvements to MTA Mobility Tax
  2. Seeing How Far $100 Can Go
  3. Hall announces new funds for veterans benefits
  4. Recession’s Emerging Credo - Do More, Buy Less
  5. Palin says Obama voted "present" in U.S. Senate "quite often"
  6. America Is Not Yet Lost
  7. Six Questions for Dr. Michael Baden: The Guantánamo autopsies

Governor Paterson Announces Proposed Improvements to MTA Mobility Tax

ALBANY, NY (02/08/2010) Governor David A. Paterson today announced that he will put forward proposed improvements to the MTA mobility tax in his 21-day amendments to the 2010-11 Executive Budget that will help preserve that transit system as the economic lifeblood of the metropolitan region. This revised proposal would ensure that the MTA will receive previously projected mobility tax revenues in 2010 and in future years in order to help mitigate the impact of the authority's budget difficulties on straphangers; improve regional equity by introducing a two-tiered tax rate that brings tax collections more in line with local ridership; and deliver substantial additional tax relief for small businesses during the current economic downturn.

"The new proposal I am putting forward will provide relief to straphangers, as the MTA makes the difficult decisions necessary to balance its budget during an historic fiscal crisis that is significantly impacting all levels of government," Governor Paterson said. "In addition, it also makes key improvements to the current tax structure, promoting regional equity and delivering relief to small businesses."

The amended proposal eliminates the current flat Mobility Tax structure (0.34 percent of payroll for all MCTD counties). It increases the tax rate for New York City businesses to 0.54 percent of payroll. It also cuts the tax rate in half for businesses outside of New York City in the Metropolitan Commuter Transportation District (MCTD) to 0.17 percent. Under the new proposal, New York City businesses would now contribute 88 percent of all mobility tax revenues, up from 70 percent. This will ensure a more equitable distribution of tax liability in line with the fact that New York City is the destination for over 90 percent of weekday ridership.

Read More

Seeing How Far $100 Can Go


Amy Coenen placed 20 $5 bills, each inscribed with quotations on the theme of giving, in places around the city — the straw container at a Starbucks, the floor of an apartment building lobby — where they might be found and inspire generosity.

And Helen Coster slipped the whole $100 into a thank-you card and asked a friend to hand it to the clerk at Duane Reade who regularly cheers her up.

As acts of philanthropy go, none of the above would rate particularly high on any measure of effectiveness. They do get points for creativity, however, which, to Courtney Martin, the 30-year-old minor-league benefactor who spawned them, is an undervalued aspect of charitable giving. “Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted,” she likes to say, quoting a fellow maladjust, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Ms. Martin is not a civil rights leader. She’s a Brooklyn-based writer who, five years ago, was shocked to find herself in possession of a six-figure book advance. She wanted to give a chunk of it away, but was not sure how. So she decided she would make it someone else’s problem — nine other people’s problems. She chose nine thoughtful friends, gave them each $100, and told them they would be expected to account for what they had done with it at a gathering a month later.

Read More

Hall announces new funds for veterans benefits

GOSHEN - U.S. Rep. John Hall (D-Dover) and Orange County Veterans Service Agency Director Tony Zippo announced major new funds for the VA that will help clear the growing claims backlog at regional VA offices in New York.

The president’s budget makes a 27 percent increase for the Veterans Benefits Administration. The $460 million increase will be used to hire and train approximately 2,000 additional claims processors to deal with the influx of claims coming from returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, as well as to reduce the VBA’s claims backlog that is approaching one million claims.

During news conferences in Poughkeepsie and Goshen, today, Hall said the increased funding will help not only current service people as they migrate to veteran status, but will also help the elderly veteran, as well.

Read More

Recession’s Emerging Credo - Do More, Buy Less

MIAMI — Rosario and Igor Montoya used to buy, buy, buy for themselves and their two children without a second thought. Expensive sneakers, a new laptop, Legos — they all got what they wanted. But with the recession slashing the Montoyas’ workload and income by more than half, their priorities have shifted from products to activities.

After school and on weekends, the family now hops into a pink canoe they bought secondhand. They paddle through Biscayne Bay to nearby islands, naming each, sometimes making boats out of sticks and leaves.

“I’m trying to teach the kids that you don’t need to have expensive toys to have fun,” said Mr. Montoya, 47, an artist and freelance art director in advertising. “You can make it fun, from anything.”

Quietly but noticeably over the past year, Americans have rejiggered their lives to elevate experiences over things. Because of the Great Recession, a recent New York Times/CBS News poll has found, nearly half of Americans said they were spending less time buying nonessentials, and more than half are spending less money in stores and online.

But Americans are not just getting by with less. They are also doing more.

Read More

Palin says Obama voted "present" in U.S. Senate "quite often"

In an interview with at the National Tea Party Convention on Feb. 6, 2010, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin reprised a Republican talking point from the 2008 presidential campaign by criticizing President Barack Obama for his lack of executive experience.

Asked by's Judd Berger whether she thought she's "more qualified to be president than President Obama," Palin referred to the debate over "experience" from the 2008 contest between Obama and her running mate, Arizona Sen. John McCain:

"The whole qualification issue still perplexes me, because in the campaign we tried to bring attention to the fact that Obama had really not a lot of experience. And I do say that my executive experience, as an administrator, as a team manager if you will was, and so was John McCain's as a matter of fact, was stronger and we had more experience than Barack Obama did in terms of managing huge multibillion dollar budgets and thousands of employees that I had just come from a position of that and that hasn't changed."

When Berger asked Palin, "But without McCain?" -- a long-serving Arizona senator -- Palin responded:

Read More

America Is Not Yet Lost


We’ve always known that America’s reign as the world’s greatest nation would eventually end. But most of us imagined that our downfall, when it came, would be something grand and tragic.

What we’re getting instead is less a tragedy than a deadly farce. Instead of fraying under the strain of imperial overstretch, we’re paralyzed by procedure. Instead of re-enacting the decline and fall of Rome, we’re re-enacting the dissolution of 18th-century Poland.

A brief history lesson: In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Polish legislature, the Sejm, operated on the unanimity principle: any member could nullify legislation by shouting “I do not allow!” This made the nation largely ungovernable, and neighboring regimes began hacking off pieces of its territory. By 1795 Poland had disappeared, not to re-emerge for more than a century.

Today, the U.S. Senate seems determined to make the Sejm look good by comparison.

Read More

Six Questions for Dr. Michael Baden: The Guantánamo autopsies

Harper's Magazine
By Scott Horton

Dr. Michael Baden, the former chief medical examiner for New York City, was host of the HBO series Autopsy and is the forensic science contributor to Fox News. I furnished Baden copies of the official autopsy reports for the three Guantánamo prisoners who died under mysterious circumstances in 2006, as well as information about secondary autopsies arranged by the families of the deceased.

1. When the U.S. government released its autopsy reports, it redacted the names of the pathologists and observers involved in preparing the report. It suggests that this was done to protect their privacy. Is this a normal practice?

Redacting the names of pathologists is not normal in either civilian or military practice. It is necessary to know the pathologists’ names to be able to evaluate their qualifications, certifications, and experience. This may also help the family assess whether a second autopsy should be done. Mistakes can be made. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, in a recent decision establishing a right to cross-examine forensic experts, wrote that “A forensic analyst responding to a request from a law enforcement official may feel pressure—or have an incentive—to alter the evidence in a manner favorable to the prosecution.” Science must remain independent of politics. It is necessary that names of the pathologists be known to the family for accountability purposes.

Read More

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