Wednesday, February 24, 2010

News That Matters - February 24, 2010

News That Matters

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

Good Wednesday Morning,

The results from our recent poll on the open spaces we use
are posted to the PlanPutnam website. Follow this link.
In short, here are the winners in each category:
Other Lands: Tie: Putnam County Land Trust Preserves
Town/Municipal Parks
DEP Properties: White Pond
DEC Properties: Mt. Nimham
County Properties: Putnam County Trailway
State Parks: Fahnestock State Park
The overall winners, based on percentages in each category were, in order:
Other: Tie - Putnam County Land Trust Preserves, Town/Municipal Parks
State Parks: Fahnestock State Park,
Municipal: Putnam County Trailway,
DEC: Mt. Nimham,
DEP: White Pond.

The highest percentage for any facility was for Fahnestock State Park.
I will admit that in the results people may have been confused at the difference between the White Pond MUA and DEP's White Pond Unit and may have selected one and/or the other in the poll. The same holds true for the Mt. Nimham State Forest and DEP's Mt Nimham Unit. Another reader said he used Lake Waywayanda but that's part of the California Hill State Forest which used to be the Pudding Street MUA. But heck we're here for the fun of it and that's what we're doing. Still, the results do tell a story that land use managers should heed. Oh, and Tilly Foster had just one write-in vote.

Snowy Morning

Kent Cliffs, NY February 24, 2010
Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy has proposed that corporations be allowed to sponsor state parks in order to keep them open in the coming year(s). How does "Camarda's Wonder Lake State Park" sound? Or, does "Brewster Dodge Great Swamp Wildlife Management Area" roll off the tongue nicely? A local favorite could be the "Putnam Septic State Forest".

Those in Patterson fighting against a commercial development project on Route 22 near Route 164, have posted a website to effect their charge. But we don't know who posted the site as it's being hosted through Canada and ownership is hidden behind a privacy wall. Supervisor Mike Griffin, who has taken a positive position on a commercial project on the other side of his town, appears to be against the one at Route 22 and we have to wonder if proximity to his home is a factor.

Westchester county Legislator Gordon Burrows was charged with cocaine possession in upstate NY a while back and a NYJN editorial called for him to resign his seat. Hogwash.
Politicians are people too. And they have foibles just like you and me because they *are* people. Their feet smell and they fart and they put their pants on just like we do and they roll through stop signs and they put mustard on their hotdogs and some drink and others smoke and each has a need to be hugged once in a while.

And because we have decided that those we elect must be capable of walking on water, leaping tall buildings in a single bound and sit at the right hand of god, we end up with a government not full of you's and me's but a government filled with those best able to hide the fact they are naught but humans through devious methods and means. We reward these people and chastise those cut from the same cloth as us. It is our collective desire to make believe we are better than we are and it's destroying us.

Citibank, America's third largest bank, sent a message to its customers the other day saying that beginning on April 1, 2010 it may require a seven day notice before you can withdraw money from your account. Not that they're doing that now, they say, but they reserve the right to do that in the future. I sure hope they don't know something we don't know about.

Wall Streets bonuses are up 17% to over $20 billion this year.

In poll after poll across the nation the public resoundingly supports a Public Option as part of health care reform yet the President, citing Republican reluctance, did not include such as part of his latest proposal. Congressman John Hall who once claimed he wouldn't vote for a bill that didn't have a "robust public option" has now apparently backed away from that position for fear of losing the election this coming November. It's enough to give you a headache. Dems are most likely going to lose control of the Congress this November anyway so Mr. Hall and the President ought to - at the very least - go out on a progressive note.

Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the man who offered Rudy Giuliani a check for $10 million as a donation to the city for the 9/11 event and then went on to blame US support of Israel as the cause, and who in 2002 donated $27 million to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers ("new-speaked" by Dick Cheney as "homicide bombers" which was repeated ad nauseam by FOXNews) is now the 4th largest investor in the FOXNews network. At the time, FOX's 'reporters' decried the attempted gift as blood money. But now that he's their boss I'm willing to bet all be quiet on the FOXNews front.

Below is a list of the top ten Congressmen who really brought home the bacon in the current Federal Budget:

Young, Bill (R-FL-10th) $128,573,000
Pomeroy (D-ND-At Large) $121,740,350
Hirono (D-HI-2nd) $116,633,900
Moran, James (D-VA-8th) $107,440,000
Rehberg (R-MT-At Large) $103,514,200
Abercrombie (D-HI-1st) $102,660,400
Harper (R-MS-3rd) $101,267,000
Lewis, Jerry (R-CA-41st) $97,583,200
Bishop, Rob (R-UT-1st) $93,980,000
Rogers, Harold (R-KY-5th) $93,408,000
For the record, John Hall brought in a measly $10,926,200.

Six Republicans and Four Democrats. Hmmm... The Democrats may be tax and spend (except for most of them) but the Republicans sure seem to have a talent for bringing the money back home. If they want smaller government they'd best start with themselves.
Defense received a little more than $9.5 billion in earmakrs, an increase of nearly $2 billion over FY2007. Now, keep in mind, those dollars aren't part of the actual defense budget - this is bonus money. Like Wall Street! Like Susan B's from heaven!

Another Tea Bag Moment:

Orly Taitz, the woman who has made it her life's passion to prove that Barack Obama is not an American,
has asked the United Nations for protection against, what she calls, "persecution" in the United States for her efforts. That this most arch of conservatives has begged assistance from the one organization most arch-conservatives fear the most, drips with sweet, sweet irony.

And the Kicker?

Teddy!Glenn Beck
brought the house down at the CPAC convention Saturday night with his sweeping condemnation of what he calls "progressivism". He called it a 'cancer that must be cut out' of our system.
Well, I hope he can look Teddy Roosevelt straight in the eye and say the same thing as TR is himself the 'birther' of progressivism and the progressive movement in the United States.

It all happened way back in 1912 when a split within the Republican party between Mr. Roosevelt's and William Howard Taft's factions caused the old rough rider to set his own course, one that would endear him and the progressive movement with a permanent, stone-faced impression on the hills of South Dakota along with Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln.

What did Teddy say that launched the progressive movement Mr. Beck believes is a cancer?
"To destroy this invisible Government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day."

Author Samuel Haber, writing about the movement at the time said, "Progressives shared a common belief in the ability of science, technology and disinterested expertise to identify problems and come up with the best solution."

Maybe Beck and the CPAC folks who you seem to want to run this nation have no sense of our collective American experience or maybe they're simply re-writing history to fit their own belief system and the truth be damned. That they would do this is not unexpected. That the American people would fall for it is a sad testimony to our nation. We do get the government we deserve ... and it's coming.

Richie was sure that 2010 would be a good year but so far it's not exactly turned out that way. A carpenter I work with occasionally said last week that his workload was way down, that he spent more time trying to find work than actually working and that keeping his business insurance may have to go the way of feeding his family and paying the mortgage which would mean that he can no longer work in Putnam County. I know how he feels. With the county mandated $250 license "fee" looming for me in April, I just don't see how it's going to be made. When I complained about the fee one county legislator said that if I couldn't afford it I shouldn't be in business.
I'm selling the name for $250, if you're interested.
Unemployment in the trades now stands at 24.7%
So far this year has been dismal. It's not just a lack of work, but customers putting work off until next week, then putting it off until the following week. And then again until next month. But the banks don't wait and the landlord/mortgage company wants to be paid and Verizon doesn't care and neither does NYSEG. And you still have to eat. Beans and rice and a ten pound bag of flour only go so far.
Another friend I know, a white collar professional, has found his hours cut to the point where he's no longer covered by his company's health insurance and with a young family he now has to make a choice between the mortgage and keeping his insurance - there isn't enough money to do both. And still another friend, a long-time businessman who makes his money selling services in what anyone would assume is a safe business, is facing foreclosure on his modest home in Mahopac where he's been for 18 years.

Those self-employed in the trades are usually not eligible for unemployment insurance and have zero income for weeks or months at a time.
These stories are being repeated across our county and the mid-Hudson valley. The foreclosure notices in the papers far outweigh government notices in column inches and the President's recovery attempts, though well meant, just aren't reaching down to the level that makes a difference for those of us this economy has hurt most.

Rental unit occupancy rates are down as are rents as fewer are able to afford the high cost of local residency. Brewster has so many apartments for rent they don't know what to do and the homeless population is rising across the nation as people are forced out of their homes and apartments for their inability to cover their monthly payments. The national suicide rate has also steadily increased as people find themselves buried under a growing mountain of debt - not from credit cards mind you, but from the day-to-day bills that can no longer being met and who see no light at the end of the tunnel.

When the bill collectors call every day, 6 days a week, morning and night, there's only so much a person can take. If we were millionaires we'd have recourse, for the politicians we'd own would bail us out. But living in the middle classes apparently doesn't cut it and there's no help for us.
There will not be a News That Matters on Friday. Take care and enjoy.

And now, The News:
  1. New City women preserve land 'forever'
  2. Finding a solution to fund state's parks
  3. Gas Drillers Plead Guilty to Felony Dumping Violations
  4. Millions of Unemployed Face Years Without Jobs
  5. Where Do The Children Play?
  6. 6-year-old handcuffed at PSL school, sent to mental facility after temper tantrums
  7. The Pope Does Not Bless Airport Body Scanners
  8. What Changes Should You Expect From The CARD Act?
  9. Patriot Games | Mother Jones

New City women preserve land 'forever'

NEW CITY — Two women have decided they prefer to protect open space rather than allow their properties to be further developed.

By doing so, Joanna Galdone and Katrina Maxtone-Graham continue a practice that stretches back to the founding days of the American conservation movement.

Galdone and Maxtone-Graham have both opted to sign onto conservation easements that allow them to maintain ownership of their properties, but prohibit additional construction or the subdividing of their lots.

The easements essentially turn over development rights to the West Branch Conservation Association. Both women are members of the organization.

"My motive was to preserve the land," Galdone said.

Read More

Finding a solution to fund state's parks

"Something has to be done that's dramatic," said Bob Hansen of the Save the Redwoods League, former director of the Yosemite Fund. "We're writing a new vision and plan for state parks to get them beyond funding, to get them back to when they were the best state parks system in country."

Hansen noted that Arizona, which faces a budget crunch similar to California's, closed 18 of its 30 parks last month. Last year in California, the governor's office proposed closing 220 state parks, then last fall reduced that number to about 100 before Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger played the shell game with the budget to keep them open.

Although operating plans have been written and filed before, this effort is different because of scope, power and past success of the people who are involved, like Hansen. They want results, not meetings.

The approach centers on three areas:

-- Money: Create consistent funding that puts the rug back under the feet of state parks.

-- What works: Identify programs elsewhere that work and use the same strategies.

-- Outreach: State park employees' attitudes and examples can transform the public's experience, especially for urban users who might feel disconnected from the parks and the outdoors.

Read More

Gas Drillers Plead Guilty to Felony Dumping Violations

Since a gas drilling boom in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale began in 2008, companies have been fined regularly for environmental accidents — $23,500 here for spilling 5,000 gallons of waste, $15,557 there for spilling 295 gallons of hydrochloric acid. The fines often amount to slaps on the wrist for companies that stand to make hefty profits from their wells.

But the penalties just got a lot more serious for an owner of Kansas-based Swamp Angel Energy and for the company’s site supervisor, who pleaded guilty last week to felony violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

As part of a plea agreement with the U.S. attorney for western Pennsylvania, part-owner Michael Evans, 66, of La Quinta, Calif., and John Morgan, 54, of Sheffield, Penn., admitted dumping 200,000 gallons of brine – salty wastewater that’s created in the drilling process – down an abandoned oil well. The maximum penalty for both Evans and Morgan is three years in prison, a fine of $250,000, or both. Sentencing will be June 24. Attorneys for both men declined to comment.

Read More

Millions of Unemployed Face Years Without Jobs

Long term unemployedBy PETER S. GOODMAN

BUENA PARK, Calif. — Even as the American economy shows tentative signs of a rebound, the human toll of the recession continues to mount, with millions of Americans remaining out of work, out of savings and nearing the end of their unemployment benefits.

Economists fear that the nascent recovery will leave more people behind than in past recessions, failing to create jobs in sufficient numbers to absorb the record-setting ranks of the long-term unemployed.

Call them the new poor: people long accustomed to the comforts of middle-class life who are now relying on public assistance for the first time in their lives — potentially for years to come.

Yet the social safety net is already showing severe strains. Roughly 2.7 million jobless people will lose their unemployment check before the end of April unless Congress approves the Obama administration’s proposal to extend the payments, according to the Labor Department.

Read More

Where Do The Children Play?

A Documentary for Michigan Public Television

Where Do the Children Play? is a one-hour documentary for public television that examines how restrictive patterns of sprawl, congestion, and endless suburban development across America are impacting children's mental and physical health and development.

Using the adage that children represent 20 percent of the world's population but 100 percent of its future, the film opens by examining differences between growing up today, with all its inherent obstacles and temptations, and childhood as it was lived 50 years ago.

To understand today’s children more acutely, the film team first visited Beaver Island where there are no McDonald’s, Burger Kings, Targets or Walmarts. There, children congregate by bike in the downtown area to play. All 85 students in grades one to twelve attend the only school on the island. Most use the computer as a tool for homework, but not for communication. And while they miss a lot of what their counterparts have on the mainland, Beaver Island children are keenly aware of nature and its importance to their lives and their well-being.

Read More

6-year-old handcuffed at PSL school, sent to mental facility after temper tantrums

PORT ST. LUCIE - Kathy Franklin sits with her 6-year-old daughter Haley at a bench inside the Whispering Pines Park playground area, while talking about how she is upset with what happened to her daughter while being disciplined at Parkway Elementary School last week. According to a St. Lucie County Sheriff's report, her daughter Haley was handcuffed to bring her under control while being disruptive in her first-grade class and a few days later, after another disruption in class, was taken to a mental facility for an evaluation. "Now they have my daughter scared to go back to school" Franklin said.

PORT ST. LUCIE — Kathy Franklin says she wants to get her daughters back in school. But after her 6-year-old was handcuffed and then sent to a mental health facility, she no longer feels her children are safe at Parkway Elementary.

“These people are going to the extreme,” Franklin said. “She is so tiny. They didn’t have to use force on her.”

Read More

The Pope Does Not Bless Airport Body Scanners

First there was a fatwa from Muslim clerics about them. Now the Pope for Catholics. Any other religion’s leaders want to object? Atheists will have to object individually. All of which means no one uses the machines, everyone gets a pat down, slowing the checkpoints to a crawl.

BTW, I flew home out of Green Bay, WI on Saturday where I got the explosives hand swab. For some reason, the machine was across the room so he had to carry the pad there to test it and I had to wait. Even if the machine is right next to them, it still takes 10 seconds to report. Green Bay is small airport, so short lines, but if this was Vegas with hundreds in line at a time?

Can anyone seriously debate that on one level at least, the terrorists have won? And those who would use terrorism as an excuse to tighten control on us?

Read More

What Changes Should You Expect From The CARD Act?

After several months of waiting (during which, banks have had plenty of time to jack up your interest rates and cut your credit limits), the Credit CARD Act of 2009 has finally kicked in. If you haven't been following the news, here's a quick run-down of what's changed and what hasn't.
  • No more retroactive rate hikes. Credit card companies can no longer apply the higher interest rate to previously held balances.
  • No more universal default; one credit card can't raise your rate simply because you've missed a payment on a different card.
  • Your credit card statements must be mailed to you 21 days before payment due date and payment due dates can't suddenly change. Be warned that there may be an increase in banks mailing out statements in unfamiliar or unmarked envelopes so as to confuse account holders.
Read More

Patriot Games | Mother Jones

IN THE FALL of 1964, not long after Barry Goldwater had clinched the Republican nomination for president, historian Richard Hofstadter penned an essay for Harper's called "The Paranoid Style in American Politics." It was an instant classic—not because it was so elegantly written, but because in just a few pages it described with deadly accuracy one of the major strains of our national dialogue.

"The paranoid spokesman," Hofstadter wrote, "is always manning the barricades of civilization...Like religious millennialists he expresses the anxiety of those who are living through the last days and he is sometimes disposed to set a date for the apocalypse...He does not see social conflict as something to be mediated and compromised...Since what is at stake is always a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, what is necessary is not compromise but the will to fight things out to a finish."

Oath Keepers, the group featured in our cover story, would seem the classic case in point. Its members are cops, sheriffs, and military men and women determined to resist the tyrannical orders they believe are imminent from the Obama administration. The fantasies they spin—a "globalist" leadership intent on declaring martial law, putting God-fearing Americans in detention camps, and asking UN blue helmets to keep order while it imposes health care reform and who knows what else—replicate almost exactly the fears far-right cranks have peddled for generations. Replace "socialism" with "communism" and you are pretty much back to 1964 (or 1934 or 1884, for that matter).

Read More

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