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Today is World AIDS Day.
Fifty-five years ago today, Ms. Rosa Parks decided she liked the seat she was sitting in.
Wow. Pretty much anyone in government and those who love them are upset over the leak of 250,000 "secret" diplomatic cables over the weekend. Calls of treason coming from right-wingers are getting silly already but I'll bet they'd shut up pretty quick if Wikileaks released Obama's birth certificate proving that he is, in fact, the Manchurian Candidate and the illegitimate son of Kenyan sheep farmers they claim he is.
All this talk from the Obama administration also rings hollow since most agree that the US looks pretty good after all was said and done. For instance, there isn't a hint of us overthrowing a duly elected government we don't like - quite a change from past US administrations - and Obama has had a great deal more success isolating Iran than did Bush. In fact, all the opposition noise about the President not being able to handle national security and foreign affairs is about to go the way of the whale-bone corset. After reading through scores of documents even I have to admit the guy has his shit together... at least when it comes to foreign policy.
Tonight begins Hanukkah
Tonight begins Hanukkah.
I went to the Shop Rite last night looking for Hanukkah candles and though everyone was very nice about it they don't have any. They might have had some, they're not sure, but no one I spoke with could even recognize what they were and a very nice girl brought me shabbas candles instead. I pointed to the HUGE GIANT Hanukkah poster they had in the window and said that the candles looked just like those, only smaller. But she just shrugged her shoulders. It's all Troy's fault and I told him I'd say so.
One we can celebrate is to answer this question:
While we're talking about December holidays, the next BIG holiday is my birthday on the 22nd and if I live that long I should hit 53, I think. Stores have been getting ready, some since September(!) what with trees and lights and festive music. The day before is the winter solstice. Three days after my birthday is Christmas and eight days after that is the Feast of the Circumcision, a most interesting name for a holiday. December is a busy month.
Developing Our Way
“We actually have some opportunities to develop a way out of this faster than in many other parts of the state.” So said Peter Bardunias, the guy who runs the Mahopac Chamber of Commerce. I'm guessing he's just not seen the actual numbers about development and taxes (not the *promised* taxes but the actual intake vs what it costs to build infrastructure and support it kind of taxes). So if you live in Carmel or Mahopac get ready! If Peter has his way you won't have to rake leaves anymore because if you want a tree you'll have to buy one from the mall.
Killing Me Softly
On average, 26 Americans die in a terrorist attack each year. Meanwhile, 400,000 will die from poor diet and physical inactivity, 200,000 will die from mistakes by doctors and/or hospitals including legal prescription drug interactions and 85,000 will die from alcohol consumption and related diseases. I'm willing to bet if we spent the resources on the health and welfare of the population that we do to prevent the loss of property from outsiders, those numbers might be very, very different. It's like it's okay to have our own establishments do the killing - even in mass numbers - but if anyone outside tries it we declare it a national emergency. Am I the only one who sees this?
Oh Honey, you look so good in that uniform!
The Pentagon released findings of their poll on whether or not the troops can handle the ending of Don't Ask Don't Tell. I read the findings and they can be summed up like this:
The majority of troops think they've already worked with someone gay or lesbian and most thought, "Eh, so what?" There is a core of about 30% of respondents who are so unnerved by the prospect of
And now, The news:
This week's lame-duck session of the state Legislature, while as useless as a "Top Secret" stamp at the State Department, actually yielded one result that should cheer New Yorkers who care about the environment.
The Assembly gave final legislative approval for a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, the controversial, little-understood method for extracting natural gas from deep underground. The Assembly measure, approved 93-43, would halt all drilling until May 15, allowing time for an important, long-overdue state inquiry into "fracking" to conclude. The federal government has launched its own review, albeit belatedly: A 2005 vote by Congress exempted fracking from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act — an act of willful ignorance too costly to abide.
First, they took on the political establishment in Congress. Now, tea partiers have trained their sights on a new and insidious target: local planning and zoning commissions, which activists believe are carrying out a global conspiracy to trample American liberties and force citizens into Orwellian "human habitation zones."
At the root of this plot is the admittedly sinister-sounding Agenda 21, an 18-year-old UN plan to encourage countries to consider the environmental impacts of human development. Tea partiers see Agenda 21 behind everything from a septic tank inspection law in Florida to a plan in Maine to reduce traffic on Route 1. The issue even flared up briefly during the midterms, when Colorado Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes accused his Democratic opponent of using a bike-sharing program to convert Denver into a "United Nations Community."
In the tea partiers’ dystopian vision, the increased density favored by planners to allow for better mass transit becomes compulsory "human habitation zones."
Agenda 21 paranoia has swept the tea party scene, driving activists around the country to delve into the minutiae of local governance. And now that the midterm elections are over, they're descending on planning meetings and transit debates, wielding PowerPoints about Agenda 21, and generally freaking out low-level bureaucrats with accusations about their roles in a supposed international conspiracy.
Tough times present everyone with tough choices, and unfortunately not every tough choice is a smart choice. When there is not enough money to go around, where does one make the extra sacrifice for the sake of a better future? We hear inspiring stories all the time about parents who took on second or third jobs so they could save for their children's education. Or the spouse who sells the car and bikes to work to pay for a spouse's essential medicine. The hope and realization in these cases is that some things are definitely worth the short-term sacrifice given the overriding value of the long-term benefits. In town budgets, however, there are so many things of importance to consider — education, social services, emergency services — sometimes we end up making tough choices that in the long run will harm the very things we are trying to accommodate. Such is Newtown's choice on open space preservation.
In 2005, Newtown established a fund for the acquisition of open space, allocating $10 million over a five-year span as a means to balance residential and commercial development with the preservation of existing natural resources that have played such a large part in making the town so attractive to development in the first place. In addition, the town sought to improve its processes for identifying, reviewing, underwriting, and formally acquiring properties. In 2002, about 1,350 acres of open space had been preserved in Newtown. Today, open space holdings have increased to 1,850 acres.
Recent battles over expenditures and property taxes, however, have focused local budgetmakers on savings, and one easy target was open space funding. Consequently, the 2010 version of the capital improvement plan cut back open space funding by 20 percent, or $2 million, for the next five years — a decision that has the potential to cost the town many millions more.
Ken Buyer, a spokesman with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said the Wooster Heights Road property was selected as the location for the training facility earlier this month and a purchase agreement was signed with the landowner Thursday.
The total acreage involved in the deal and the final purchase price were not immediately available.
Federal officials said in the past that they were interested in about 25 acres of the property, which totals more than 300 acres.
The news sparked outrage among local officials and residents who objected to the center being located on the Lee Farm property -- possibly the last large tract of undeveloped land in the city's downtown.
Compared to the kind of secret cables that WikiLeaks has just shared with the world, everyday public statements from government officials are exercises in make-believe.
In a democracy, people have a right to know what their government is actually doing. In a pseudo-democracy, a bunch of fairy tales from high places will do the trick.
Diplomatic facades routinely masquerade as realities. But sometimes the mask slips -- for all the world to see -- and that's what just happened with the humongous leak of State Department cables.
"Every government is run by liars," independent journalist I.F. Stone observed, "and nothing they say should be believed." The extent and gravity of the lying varies from one government to another -- but no pronouncements from world capitals should be taken on faith.
By its own account, the U.S. government has been at war for more than nine years now and there's no end in sight. Like the Pentagon, the State Department is serving the overall priorities of the warfare state. The nation's military and diplomacy are moving parts of the same vast war machinery.
The Troubled Assets Relief Program, which was widely reviled as a $700 billion bailout for Wall Street titans, is now expected to cost the federal government a mere $25 billion - the equivalent of less than six months of emergency jobless benefits.
A new report released Monday by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that the cost of TARP has plummeted since its passage in October 2008, when policymakers thought that the world stood on the brink of an economic meltdown.
"Clearly, it was not apparent when the TARP was created two years ago that the cost would turn out to be this low," the CBO report says. "The transactions envisioned and ultimately undertaken through the TARP engendered substantial financial risk for the federal government."
However, it says, "because the financial system stabilized and then improved, the amount of funds used by the TARP was well below the $700 billion initially authorized, and the outcomes of most transactions made through TARP were favorable for the federal government."
The midterm elections were highly contentious. Clearly voters are deeply worried about the economy. After all, 15 million Americans are unemployed and 50 million Americans have lost their homes or are struggling to pay off mortgages. Mounting budget deficits have forced curtailment of many public services, including the closure of schools, libraries and even firehouses.
Many candidates, politicians and media have blamed the economic upheaval on out-of-control spending by the government. But few have mentioned the fatal cost of ongoing war.
The long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have already drained our national treasury of $1.1 trillion. The share of the economic burden for each Westchester family is $22,000 so far; in Rockland County, the wars' cost per family is $23,000.
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