Monday, July 26, 2010

News That Matters - Monday, July 26, 2010

News That Matters

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

Good Monday Morning,

A hearty welcome to our new readers this morning and our new friends in the press. Now they know where stories are broken, who leads the fights around here and where to come for quotes that never use the word "sham".

Congratulations to Paul Gallay for his new position with Riverkeeper.

Guess who the single largest local recipient of Albany Pork was so far this year? Come on, guess! It was the Putnam Community Foundation and Senator Leibell brought them a tax funded check for $50,000. The next largest was the Hudson Valley Trust who garnered $22,500 from Unca Vinnie.
Let's go back to the 2008-2009 session... the three largest receivers of pork were municipalities followed by (drum roll please...) The Putnam Community Foundation with $150,000, then the Hudson Valley Trust at $100,000. Do you all see a pattern here or is it just me?
Some poor schlub in Ossining received thirteen pounds of marijuana in the mail and was charged with 1st degree possession, a felony. Thirteen Pounds! I can't even imagine what kind of a box that comes in.
For that 'crime' New York state is prepared to spend near $1,000,000 to charge, prosecute and imprison this guy for fifteen years. This does not include other costs such as lost income for his family (we'll assume distribution was a sideline) and all that goes along with it. Tell me, is it really worth it? Look, we've got the highest prison population in the world and no where near the lowest crime rate. It's apparent we're not doing something right and man, is that ever expensive!
Those of you who have college aged children only have two more weeks of slothful behavior, picking up after them, cleaning the bathrooms twice a day and putting up with nag champa to cover the marijuana smoke before they go back to school. A full night's sleep without Crass or Godspeed, You Black Emperor! is coming...

New York State has a proposal to cut the population of Canada Geese by two thirds. Geese would be rounded up and placed alive in commercial turkey crates, moved to a secure location and euthanized... Jews would be rounded up and placed alive in railroad cars, moved to a secure location and euthanized.... Ouch.

A TEA Party On the Hill

Saturday was a hot and muggy day with health warnings for a heat index well into the low 100s. Cars turned into the Northridge farm on Route 311 one at a time until the hill at the top of the rise was filled with roughly 250 people at around 10:45 AM, well into the beginning of the rally being held there.

Those attending for the promise of "Free BBQ" found that free meant $10 plus the cost of tickets to purchase food items so even at a TEA party rally "free" isn't "free". Being with the media I was given a VIP wrist band which earned me access to the entire event including a tent with catered food, red and white wine and bottles of "Stars and Stripes" soda, and to those who believed enough to shell out $100 a person ($175 a couple) for the privilege.

For the past several weeks the region had been bombarded by an ever-increasing barrage of signs, snail mails, emails and robocalls announcing an event that was either a "RibFest!", a People's Convention, a Free BBQ or a rally for Greg Ball and Steve Katz... it all depended on which signs you saw or which advert you read or which phone call you got as they all had slightly different information and I reported on this confusion several days ago. But that didn't seem to bother the 300 people who attended on Saturday.

In contrast to the 800 TEA baggers who rallied at the county courthouse a few months back, this one was thankfully and mostly free of the overt racism that pervaded that former event. And though there were head-nods to illegal immigrants and keeping America "safe" from terrorists (don't even get me started) and "overthrowing" Obamacare, the main thrust of the anger of this entirely white, late 40's, solidly middle class crowd was... the Republican Party.

Yes, you heard that right. TEA Baggers, at least in this crowd, are pretty pissed off at the mainstream Republican party. See, the party claims it's the party of lower taxes, fewer regulations and smaller government and though these folks get their news almost exclusively from the dolts at FOX and its affiliates in print, whose disinformation campaigns passing as "news" would be illegal if the FCC had balls, had at least for this one issue, been able to see that Republicans are not the bearers of any of the truths they claim.

This was the common theme I kept hearing as I interviewed people and chatted with others. Democrats weren't even worth mentioning. But Republican leadership was the direct enemy and we're seeing that in primary challenges across the nation and right here in Putnam County. There was no enthusiasm for mainstream Republican candidates such as Nan Hayworth, Jim Borkowski, Mary Beth Murphy and especially none for Senator Leibell who, virtually to a man, stated that he had too much power and that his failed tenure in Albany should not be rewarded with the county executive's office.

County Legislator and candidate for County Executive Mary Ellen Odell spoke to the crowd to a generous ovation but before she did I had a chance to speak with her for a bit.

Right off the bat Ms. Odell spoke about how she believed her race was about the 'people's will rather than the political will', in an obvious swipe at the hegemonic power of her adversary for the county executive seat.

In order to bring county spending under control, she feels that staffing cuts can be made via attrition, through working from the top down with management and unions to avoid unnecessary layoffs and that 'progressive approaches', her words, need to be used in order to find the best way to run the county differently and more efficiently than is either being done now or will be done under a Leibell administration. Getting our energy costs under control was important as was taking a look at our  aging county infrastructure and seeking ways to make it more efficient thus warding off huge bills in the future. Her enthusiasm was palpable as she claimed that people were "looking for the real deal" in her race.
She had a lot to ask about her opponent, questions that she was not alone in asking but that were common among those I interviewed and spoke with. What is the Senator doing to close the state budget gap? How, under his leadership, did we even get in to this mess? If his Party was the party of small government how is it that the government has become so bloated and all-powerful? And while no one accused the Senator of direct wrongdoing, they felt that he - and his party - had failed them and would continue to do so.
Shortly after my interview with Ms. Odell ended Ed Ciffione, president of the United Taxpayers of Yorktown, was introduced - to wild applause - as the Glenn Beck of Putnam County. 'nuff said on that. Praise the lord! He did not have a chalk board.

I spoke to T___ from Brewster (who preferred his name not be used.) He said he had come to the event because the Party needs the numbers. A resident of Putnam County for 15 years he says he likes it here but doesn't like driving down Main Street in Brewster for the Hispanics.

He voted for the current Mayor of that town and for the Southeast Supervisor for their promise to "fix the problem". He's been dispirited for in his perception nothing has been done. T_____ was also mostly unaware of any local issues (aside from the aforementioned), didn't know anything about the county government and was short on knowledge of state and national affairs.But he supports the TEA party and its perceived ideals. T____'s lack of direct information on local, state and national affairs was not an isolated incident at this event as raw emotion seemed to be the motivator for involvement.
I asked if he had voted for Greg Ball in the past. He didn't seem to remember the vote four years ago but does know he voted for Greg two years back. This time, he said, he's concerned about the allegations that are coming out about the Assemblyman and thus was not at the event to support Greg but to support the TEA Party movement itself. The same feeling was common in the crowd: they had come for the movement and not for Greg even though his signs were plastered on every available space. And when space wasn't available, strings were strung and his name and face were hung from them with clothespins.
The speeches took a thankful break with local rocker Chris Cassone who has been making a name for himself and enjoying a resurgence of his career as the musical voice of the 'bagger movement. He led the audience in "Take Our Country Back" a song with so many allusions I was confused as to what was being taken back and from whom.

I woke up today like I was still dreaming

It seems our country has begun to disappear

Our enemies they’re constantly scheming

Principles are hardly seen

Especially by those who lead


Day after day I feel a little more helpless

To these changes happening right before our eyes

Our Bill of Rights is moving faster to the left

Soon they’ll try to take away the only voices left that say the truth

What does that mean, "Our Bill of Rights is moving faster to the left"? Is it something we can refudiate?

But he said two things that troubled: 1) That Andrew Breitbart was "an American Hero", which is fine if you idolize manipulators and liars and 2) that 1.7 million people attended the 'bagger march on September 12 last year in Washington DC and the only reason no one knew that so many people were there was because of the 'liberal' media. He claimed that the "liberal" media didn't want anyone to know of the vast power of the movement and hence buried the true attendance numbers. What was worse, the crowd cheered and had I not been wearing my Clark Kent disguise I would have lost it and gone postal.
Look, I've been to my share of rallies and demonstrations including the nation's largest, the one million who attended the No Nukes march and rally in NYC back in the 80's. I've marched with 250,000 against the Iraq war - twice. If 1.7 million people had gathered in Washington that day I cannot imagine how the media - "liberal" or otherwise - could have hidden them.
Speaking to the crowd from the podium was Bill Gouldman who is running against Sandy Galef for her seat in the New York State Assembly. An affable and amiable man, Mr. Gouldman certainly has the energy to make this an interesting race.
Contrary to widely accepted evidence he believes that hydrogen fuel cells are the answer to Indian Point, but sees no need to close the plant nor views the plant itself as a safety issue. He has taken Ms. Galef to task over property taxes claiming that she's not used her position as Chair of a committee on taxation to effectively deal with that issue. I asked him about Kevin Cahill's Quality in Education bill but he knew nothing about it. If he should win we need to get him up to speed on that pretty quickly.
Tony Melé, Republican candidate for Congress in the 17th district also addressed those gathered. I had a chance to speak with Mr. Melé after his speech inside the VIP tent. He, too, is an interesting, energetic and affable man from Rockland county with more energy than a human should have. Being Hispanic, he feels that he will do well in the general election against Eliot Engel and pointed to the Hispanic vote in the Bronx which is part of the district and his native Rocklanders as sources for his support. But before he can get there he needs to win the primary and he, like virtually everyone else I spoke with, is fighting the mainstream Republican machine to get there.

Some notes:

For your $100 donation to the VIP tent you were promised a catered affair. The catering consisted of clams of some sort, pasta shells, pulled pork (I guess that was the BBQ part of the BBQ?) and spiced corn on the cob which was tough and dry. There was a table laden with cakes and pies including a sheet cake with "Greg Ball" written across it but by the time I left it remained in its box, uncut, uneaten and, like the candidate that day, largely unloved.

Dan Branda is the man. This friendly kid from Hopewell who probably doesn't weigh 100 lbs soaking wet, was soaked with sweat, running around like a mad man in the +90 degree heat, clipboard in hand, trying to keep the whole thing together. He was the only contact I had and had reached out to me last week offering press creds to attend. Overseeing  50 volunteers, he was responsible for the organization of the event and succeeded quite well as everything ran smoothly and seemed to go off without a hitch.

The crowd of 300 was in a good mood. They had come out to support candidates running against the Republican machine whom they perceive - right or wrong as the enemy - to getting the nation back on track.

Recycling. During the morning, smiling, amiable staff were handing out bottled water which was much appreciated by the hot and sweaty crowd. When I was done drinking mine I naturally went looking for the recycling bins which I never found because there weren't any. None. Hundreds of recyclable bottles ended their lives in the trash stream.

The numbers: A friend, Dan, and I both counted. He by head, me by head and then reconfirmed via photographs of the crowd during the height of the rally. Dan came up with 250. I came up with 300 but included those I watched come in during the morning. Many, I am sure, were drawn by the promise of "Free BBQ" which may have been out there somewhere but I didn't see it. An attendee in the VIP tent claimed later in the day that 750 people had attended and while that would have been a more impressive showing that number would be a dream. The Midhudson news' headline read, "Latest Tea Party draws large crowd" but here the word "large" is subjective.

There was no report in the online version of the JN yesterday but we'll see if they cover the event in today's paper. The Examiner was there, a camera crew from News12 and from FOX, as was the FOX Courier, who now claims to be the "only real journalism in Putnam County" a claim so laughable that it defies common sense. Running the Federalist papers, week after week is not journalism. Claiming Paul Camarda paid for Camarda Park is certainly not journalism.

To sum up, everyone at the rally had a really nice time and it was a lot more comfortable to be there without the overt racism and bigotry that mars the movement. The party, seeing that they wear the racist tag, is trying to get those factions under control and has thrown out the most egregious of them but that taste is still in our mouths and rests just below the surface of the movement most of the time. But not this past weekend. This weekend was cool.

But like I said, the focus of this event was not the dark skinned of any race but the dark men who run the mainstream Republican party and their local political machines. They can try to co-opt the 'baggers - and they have - but they're not finding success for doing so would require them to actually practice what they preach. Smaller government and lower taxes.

I do have one question: has anyone seen Greg Ball's birth certificate?

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