Monday, May 17, 2010

News That Matters - Monday, May 17, 2010

News That Matters

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

"The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism - ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power."   - Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Good Monday Morning,

School Board and budget elections are tomorrow. Unless there's a candidate who has made consolidation a key component of their campaign, write in someone instead of voting for the guys/gals on the ballot. You're not wasting your vote, you'd be stating your opinion and that's what elections are all about. Who to write in? Me. Matt Damon. Clarance Darrow. Jerry Garcia. It matters not. But please, do go to the polls. School district costs represent, by far, the largest portion of your property tax bills and since no one seems to care much about changing the way we pay for education (see A6009 as the only viable solution) you need to make your voices heard.

Only four of you have voted in our latest poll on what you like to do on weekends. I'm willing to bet had the poll question been, "Which Putnam County Politician Would You Most Like to See Naked" we'd have more than four votes. Go vote.

If you're heading down to the city today, note that several trains no longer exist due to cost cutting by the MTA. Check the schedules carefully.

It was quite a weekend here in Putnam County. The weather was stellar and there were so many events to pick and choose from it made planning difficult. But in the end, on Saturday we stopped in at the CCE Master Gardener's plant sale at Tilly Foster Farm:

Then at the new Farmer's Market in Kent where I got some olive-rosemary bread that might actually last until tomorrow night's dinner:

Yesterday we were at the Chuang Yen Monastery in the Free State of Kent Cliffs celebrating, with hundreds and hundreds of others, the birthday of the Buddha. There's additional pictures posted at my Facebook page.

Have You Ever Milked a Goat?

Back in the summer of 2008 during a floor debate on an equal work for equal pay bill, part time Assemblyman Greg Ball had this exchange with Assembly Labor Committee Chair Susan John:
Milking Goats at Apple Pond Farm, Sullivan County, NY. Photo by Jeff Green
Speaker: Mr. Ball.

Mr. Ball: Will the sponsor yield for some questions?

Speaker: Will you yield Ms. John?

Ms. John: Certainly Madam Speaker.

Mr. Ball: Hello Ma'am, how are you? I have a question, just to clarify, I'm a little bit slow. Uh, so if you could just help me. What exactly are the new mandates and regulations that will be required by small business owners? I was just hoping you could spell those out.

Ms. John: The legislation requires that an employer will provide to an employee a written statement of the job title and the wage rate. It also requires that the employer, pursuant to regulations developed by the State Department of Labor, provide that information to the Department of Labor.

Mr. Ball: When you're specifically talking about this piece of legislation, where is the efficiency argument? Where does efficiency come in? Because, you could conceivably have two people doing the same job, the same number of hours, and there has been a lot of emphasis as I listen to the debate in the amount of hours somebody worked. For instance, I grew up on a farm, have you ever milked goat?

Ms. John: No, I haven't.

Mr. Ball: Well I would suggest that if we were both on a farm, that if you allowed me four hours, and you four hours, in an agricultural setting, I'd work you under the table. And, you being a female and me being a male, uh, I may command a higher wage in that particular setting. So, in that instance, are small business owners... are they protected? Is efficiency... does that ever become part of the argument or is that too capitalist?
For the record, Ball voted for the bill in the end. Thanks to the Albany Project for reminding me of all this.

In the meantime, the Ballster's State Senate campaign website claims he's a champion of woman's rights. I'm assuming he means the right to remain barefoot, the right to remain pregnant and the right to remain in the kitchen, but not the right to be barefoot and pregnant and milking goats in the barn.

Schlepping Off to Gaza

My friends over there on the Left are undertaking a campaign to bring 8 ships into Israeli waters in an attempt to break the sea embargo that Gaza is currently experiencing which was put into place by the PLA to stop the flow of weapons into the territory. Four of the ships will be carrying goods while the other four will be laden with passengers, allegedly to be used as human shields. Cripes, even Egypt won't allow anything to cross its border with Gaza that has not come from a registered agency.
There is nothing stopping material goods from entering Gaza if brought in by legal means, and tons of such goods have come in since Hamas got their asses handed to them a while back. In April of this year, 12,000 tons of humanitarian aid and 200,000 gallons of diesel fuel arrived in Gaza and product destined for market in Europe came out. Also in April, Hamas launched 31 rockets into Israel as their way of saying, "thanks!" for the help.

The last time my friends tried this they failed. One of the ships was confiscated and its passengers arrested - and then deported. Another was rammed by a navy cruiser and sank after returning to port in Lebanon. What they don't want you to know is that the supplies aboard the confiscated ship were later trucked to Gaza by Israeli authorities after being checked for weaponry. Follow the rules and your material aid makes it to its intended destination. Attempt to run a naval blockade and odds are you could die.

What they also don't realize, or perhaps they do, is that Israel has intercepted several vessels carrying military supplies destined for Hamas in violation of UN Resolution 1747, and all coming from Iran. And just this week, Hamas destroyed the homes of 40 Gazan families along the Egyptian border at Rafah, allegedly to aid the construction of tunnels which are used to smuggle weapons into the territory.

And while I'm the first on the block to defend liberation struggles, I'm also realistic enough to know what my friends either don't know or don't care to know: Hamas, the governing body of Gaza, wants the middle east wiped clean of Jews. Every last one of them.

Here are some clips from their Charter:

    "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it." (The Martyr, Imam Hassan al-Banna, of blessed memory).

    "The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Muslim generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up. "

    "There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors."

    "After Palestine, the Zionists aspire to expand from the Nile to the Euphrates. When they will have digested the region they overtook, they will aspire to further expansion, and so on. Their plan is embodied in the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion", and their present conduct is the best proof of what we are saying."
Their belief in the "Protocols" says it all.

So, my Lefitst, wayward friends, spend your time and efforts setting Hamas on the path to peace and you won't have to worry about blockades. And to Hamas and their supporters I say, Never Again.

England has once again closed its airspace due to the volcano in Iceland that no one can pronounce or even spell. The airline industry says the closure is extreme and unnecessary but I'm willing to bet, scones to haggis, that if one of those planes go down the government will end up paying the bills. Whatever happened to the days when corporations took financial risks and the responsibility that goes along with it? Oh yea, now I remember! That ended the day they bought the government. Please fasten your safety belts....

And now, The News:

People need a greater say in protecting resources

By Ned Sullivan

The state Senate recently missed a golden opportunity to restore the right of all New Yorkers to have a stronger voice in environmental decisions that could seriously impact our health, safety and prosperity.

By voting down the Environmental Access to Justice Act, the legislators refused to reinstate the balance originally intended in the State Environmental Quality Review Act — the chief means of ensuring that developments won't have adverse consequences for our air, water and land. In essence, they've cut out a large segment of the population when it comes to speaking out about the pros and cons of residential or industrial projects.

At issue is "standing," an outgrowth of Scenic Hudson's 17-year fight to halt a massive hydroelectric project from defacing Storm King Mountain, a Hudson River landmark. In 1965, the group won its first major victory when the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that Scenic Hudson had standing — the right to present evidence in court that the project would be an environmental albatross.

Read More

Ossining student wins prestigious award for sturgeon study

Sean Maiorano, 18, an Ossining High School senior, won the Young Naturalist Award from the American Museum of Natural History. He submitted a paper based on his research on the sturgeon population in the Hudson River. The sturgeon was declared off-limits to commercial fishing in 1996. The Ossining student worked with scientists from the state Department of Environmental Conservation, primarily in the Haverstraw Bay section of the river. Maiorano is set to attend Roger Williams University in Rhode Island this fall, looking to study marine biology. Maiorano also took part in this year's Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in San Jose, Calif.

Q: Why are the sturgeon an important species and why are they worth studying?

A: The sturgeon used to be called Albany beef. They used to eat the meat, smoked, and its roe, the eggs. They'd cut it open and take the eggs out. They've been known to grow 14 feet.

They're rare now. Sturgeon takes 14 years to mature, when they can begin to spawn.

Q: What did your research project entail?

Read More

The Genetically Modified Fabric of our Lives

Cotton farmers in China are reporting that a genetically-engineered version of cotton designed to combat the prevalent bollworm pest is now turning other, once minor, cotton pests into destructive ones.

Bt cotton is a cotton seed injected with Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), a bacterium that is toxic to the bollworm (and other insects), which releases this toxin and wipes out the pests, thereby reducing the need for cotton farmers to spray pesticides on their cotton crops.

The only problem is that the lack of spraying is allowing the populations of other once minor pests to boom and to spread to other fields.  While Bt cotton reduced the amount of pesticide usage significantly when it was introduced in the 90's, now farmers are back to spraying roughly the same amount as they were, and using a genetically engineered seed that they must purchase year after year instead of saving their own.

Just another example of the GM merry-go-round that harms both the environment and farmers by making them dependent on corporations.  Farmers begin spraying for the bollworm, seed companies create a genetically engineered seed that is bollworm resistant, it has some unforeseen effect that eclipses its benefits, so farmers find themselves in a place that is worse than where they started, until the seed companies invent something else for the farmers to buy from them.

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Curbing kilowatts in private buildings

By Jim Redden

Jeremy Wijer, who recently opened the Portland [Oregon] Thai Boxing gym in an old Northeast Portland warehouse, insisted the owner install energy-efficiency building upgrades.

With their reputation for punishing opponents in the ring, mixed martial artists might not seem the most likely advocates for energy-efficiency building upgrades.

But Jeremy Wijer, owner of the Portland Thai Boxing gym, sounds like a lifelong environmentalist when he talks about the benefits of saving energy.

“Energy efficiency is good for everybody. It saves money, it reduces pollution and it’s good for the power grid,” says Wijer, who picked up his earth-friendly ethos growing up in Eugene.

So when Wijer recently looked at opening his gym in an old warehouse, he knew the old metal cone lights had to go. Not only was the quality of light poor, but Wijer knew they would cost a fortune to operate.

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A history of false starts for US energy independence

Billionaire financier and philanthropist Michael Milken recently held a global conference on “America’s Energy Future.”

Today, The Money Game highlighted Milken’s opening presentation. It included eight broken campaign pledges to work toward energy independence since the 1960s.

From The Money Game:

    * In 1974 with 36.1% of oil from foreign sources, President Richard Nixon said, “At the end of this decade, in the year 1980, the United States will not be dependent on any other country for the energy we need.”

    * In 1975 with 36.1% of oil from foreign sources, President Gerald Ford said, “We must reduce oil imports by one million barrels per day by the end of this year and by two million barrels per day by the end of 1977.”

Read More

Congress may override efforts by Secretary Gates to cut defense spending

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has vowed to impose fiscal austerity at the Pentagon, but his biggest challenge may be persuading Congress to go along.

Lawmakers from both parties are poised to override Gates and fund the C-17 cargo plane and an alternative engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter -- two weapons systems the defense secretary has been trying to cut from next year's budget. They have also made clear they will ignore Gates's pleas to hold the line on military pay raises and health-care costs, arguing that now is no time to skimp on pay and benefits for troops who have been fighting two drawn-out wars.

The competing agendas could lead to a major clash between Congress and the Obama administration this summer. Gates has repeatedly said he will urge President Obama to veto any defense spending bills that include money for the F-35's extra engine or the C-17, both of which he tried unsuccessfully to eliminate last year.

"Secretary Gates is a very deliberate and careful man," said his press secretary, Geoff Morrell. "He does not make idle threats."

Gates is hardly the first defense secretary to try to kill expensive weapons systems, only to have them spring back to life on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers are reluctant to cut programs that provide jobs in their legislative districts, even if the programs' military usefulness is marginal.

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Health Insurance Companies Talk Sh*t

If you were a regulator interpreting the new requirement that health insurers use at least 80 or 85 percent of their premium dollars to pay medical bills or otherwise improve consumers' health, which of the following expenses would you count toward the quota:

1. Combating fraud and other overbilling by doctors and hospitals.

2. Running "utilization review" or "pre-certification" departments to determine whether the insurer should cover treatment that doctors have proposed.

3. Conducting internal or external reviews when patients appeal an insurance company's decision to deny coverage.

Insurers have urged regulators to give them credit for all of the above.

Read More

The Crying Conservative: How Glenn Beck Taught His Feminine Side To Turn Tricks

By Alexander Zaitchik

If people know one thing about Glenn Beck, it is that he cries. He is the Crying Conservative. Alone among cable news and talk-radio personalities, he frequently chokes up, his lips quiver, he wipes his eye, and he holds tortured misty pauses until he can hold them no more. For more than a decade, Beck has been crying on the radio, on television, on stage, in interviews, and even in scripted commercials. Sometimes the tears are implied; at other times, such as during a 2009 stage performance, he gets into a fetal position on the floor and bawls. But whatever the gradation, he owns the scale. It defines him like nothing else.

This is not an accident. As they were always intended to do, Beck’s tears have become a distinctive corporate-brand handle. They mark him clearly from everyone else in the broadcasting industry. When Beck began his career in conservative commentary, the field was thick with tough-guy know-it-alls—from the lace-curtain boor O’Reilly to the cigar-chomping blowhard Limbaugh.

But the cast of the late 1990s was incomplete. It contained no emotional Nancy, no repentant prodigal son, and no needy Twelve Stepper. Beck, a careful student of positional marketing theory since his days as a morning-zoo deejay in the 1980s and ’90s, identified and exploited the open niche. He began practicing the act during his transition from Top 40 to talk radio in the late 1990s. According to his Connecticut colleagues, he was known for being both genuinely emotional and able and willing to fake cry on cue.

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