Wednesday, December 29, 2010

News That Matters - Wednesday, December 29, 2010

News That Matters

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

Good Wednesday Morning,

We had our first major snow of the season the other day. Here's the map from Monday morning showing snow-depth for our area. As you can see the Highlands got a good amount, between 12" - 24". Luckily it was light and dry and easy to shovel, plow and walk through. But the drifts were out of control and comparable to the February storm earlier this year when Lake Carmel got 5" and out here in the Free State we had 3.5' drifts of heavy, wet snow, so wet it was almost slushy.

Here's a nifty video from New Jersey which shows the blizzard using time-lapse photography, condensing 20 hours into 40 seconds.

The kids are home and they're bored. They won't go out and they're done playing with the Christmas and Hanukkah presents you bought them and if they don't get out of your hair you will kill one of them... then other - so (s)he can't tell the cops who did it.
What to do, what to do?
Well, you can engage them in a home project that might be fun like making soap crayons. Not from lye, though that would be exciting, but from left over pieces of soap that every household gathers. Click here to find out how. There. I just saved a few lives.
Here's another home kiddie project to reuse crayon stubs that are too small for their little fingers.

Or, you could hit the Home Depot and come home with the supplies you need to build a pneumatic potato gun which could be much more fun that crayons.

Did John Wilkes Booth get away? That's the theory some hold and it's been around for a long time. But now, according to an article in CNN, we're about to find out for certain. Read more here.

We're Being Taxed To Death

Well, actually no we're not. But before you slam your fist on the desk upsetting your cup of non fair-trade coffee splashing it into your Chinese made keyboard causing it to short circuit, take a deep breath... there ya go!
The truth is US Federal and State taxes account for some 26.9% of our gross domestic product which places us in 28th place when compared to other nations around the world. Denmark comes in first place with 48.3%. And, for the record, the nations with higher taxes also have a higher literacy rate, a longer life-span, a lower heart and lung disease rate and a lower child death rate and higher productivity in their workforce. I'm just sayin'.

Protest Sign of the week:

Putnam County: "As the stomach churns"

The County Legislature has finally approved their version of a term limits bill. Voters, feeling unable to rise to the task of voting in their best interests, have turned to the legislature for redress and they were only too happy to put another nail in the coffin of our democracy.

On Saturday the county legislature will select someone to fill the spot of County Executive. You can be sure whomever they select will do what they want him/her to do over the next year.
What's going on this county right now is this: the county Republican organization, reeling from years of internecine battles and bloodless coups, is busy realigning itself under a new rubric where the power vacuum left as Unca Vinnie steps out of the picture needs to be filled. It doesn't, but that's another story.
Past party chair Anthony Scannapieco and Sheriff Don Smith feel Maryellen Odell should be the next county executive for their own political benefit as those two have been on the outside looking in while the Senator was running things. Now that he's gone there's some leveling up they feel needs to be done. As well, other factions within the party are scrambling to hold on to the power they once had but are finding it difficult to do so.

Even the opposition factions are split into two camps each finding it difficult to gain any traction though the MEO/Ball faction will probably come out on top in the end especially if either Odell or Smith should run for County Executive come next November.

What this means for Putnam County is not all that uncertain nor unclear. As there is no effective opposition and as all things Putnam are all things Republican, for the average resident nothing will change. The county will continue to be run by factions of the party in power for the sole purpose of their clan and for all their protestations otherwise we know this will the truth.

A reader suggested I spend more time on solutions than I do laying out the scene and they may correct about that. But in this case I see no solution, at least none that presents themselves as viable options. Perhaps the party will be racked by a few more scandals. Perhaps the Democrats will grow cajones. Perhaps Canadian terrorists will take over the Villa Barrone during the next Republican party event, forcing attendees to swear allegiance to the Queen. Honestly, I don't know.

But come January 1, this coming Saturday, we'll have a clearer picture of where things are headed. Keep in mind that one of the requirements for selection to the CE seat for the year is that the person selected can not run for public office next year. Yet, voters tend to have a very short memory so let's see if we can remember at least that far.

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My heartfelt thanks go out to those readers who have helped out!

And now, The News:

Rockefeller Christmas tree lumber to build Newburgh home

NEWBURGH – Lumber from the 88 foot spruce Christmas tree that stands at Rockefeller Center in Manhattan is going to be used by Newburgh Habitat for Humanity to frame a new house.

Habitat for Humanity International each year arranges for the tree to be milled and used for home building at an affiliate near where the tree was grown in this case it was harvested from Mahopac.

Newburgh Habitat was chosen as the recipient of the lumber for a specific reason, said International Senior Vice President Chris Clarke.

Read More

My Week of Eating Nothing But Candy

By Robb Posch

Halloween gets all the credit for being the holiday of candy, but Christmas is in it for the long haul. With Halloween, you have candy a couple days before, and a couple days after. With Christmas, you start eating candy on Black Friday, and don't stop until you go into insulin shock on New Year's Day.

Which got me thinking: how far could I stretch my candy intake? (Side note: Dentists, stop reading now to avoid potential stress aneurysms.)

While a month of eating nothing but candy seemed like an exciting feat, I assumed it would end in something less exciting: my death. So I thought a week of eating exclusively Christmas candy would be a great excuse to test my sugar endurance, and eat pounds and pounds of candy, which I love. Plus: probably no death. Bonus!

Read More

LaGrange to preserve 174 acres at Pierson farm

By John Davis for the Poughkeepsie Journal

FREEDOM PLAINS —The Town of LaGrange is set to purchase the development rights on the 174-acre Pierson farm at the crossroads of Skidmore and Mountain roads.

Town officials plan to both borrow the money — $692,300 — and close on the purchase this morning in making LaGrange's first investment to preserve open space.

"Open space is priceless to preserve," said town Councilman Ed Jessup, a Republican.

The purchase of the development rights on the scenic Pierson farm will be the culmination of several years of work by town officials in seeking to protect the farm from development.

The Town Board adopted an open space plan in 2007, which recommends purchasing development rights on farms as one measure for preserving open space and water quality. The town's interest in making the Pierson farm its first open space investment was enhanced in 2006 by its qualification for a $100,000 grant from the New York state Department of Environmental Conservation Estuary Program.

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Roofs that work for a living

Michael Appleton for The New York Times

The green roof at One Irving Place sits atop a branch of Beth Israel Medical Center and is bookended by the four condo towers of the Zeckendorf complex

THERE are green roofs, and then there are green roofs.

So when residents of Zeckendorf Towers, the condominium complex at One Irving Place on the east side of Union Square, voted to replace an aging conventional roof with an environmentally friendly one, they decided that a basic installation at $10 square foot — essentially sod and unlandscaped greenery — would not do. Instead, they chose elaborate landscaping with small hills, a wide variety of vegetation, pathways with paving stones and dramatic lighting.

The result is what the condo board believes is the city’s largest green roof, at 14,000 square feet. Installation of the seventh-floor rooftop, over a branch of Beth Israel Medical Center and bookended by four 29-story condo towers, began in April and was finished in October.

Read More

Gas Price Shooting To $3.75/gallon

Being a Twitter feed, no reason for the predicted jump in prices was given - just that we are headed there.

"The national average retail price for regular unleaded held overnight at $2.98 a gallon, while the Houston average rose a fraction of a cent to $2.80 a gallon, according to AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report.

Pump prices nationwide for regular unleaded could hit an average of $3.25 to $3.75 a gallon early next year on higher crude oil prices and a seasonal rise in gasoline demand, Tom Kloza, senior oil analyst with the Oil Price Information Service predicts."

From NPR via WGBH: Highest Gas Prices EVER Recorded for a December.

"That is the highest price ever recorded in any December. It is much more common for gas to soar around the Fourth of July. NPR's Sonari Glinton looks at what current gas prices may mean for holiday shoppers." She interviews Mr. Toy Green of AAA.

Read More

What the Tax Bill Means For You?

With the clock winding down on 2010, one of the most biggest news stories about the lame duck session of Congress was whether we'd get a resolution to the issue of income taxes. With tax rates set to increase in 2011 after the sunset of the Bush era tax cuts, which the name given to the tax cuts in the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 and the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003, Congress passed the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010.

There were two big changes that affected most Americans. First, there was a two year extension to the "Bush era tax cuts" signed into law in 2001 and 2003 that maintains the current tax brackets. They were set to revert back to higher rates but now they will remain the same for the next two years when they can become a proper election year topic.

The other major change was a payroll tax holiday, which effectively gives everyone a 2% raise. If you have a job, take a look at your most recent paycheck. You'll see a contribution to Social Security and Medicare - sometimes it's rolled up into one line as FICA. For 2011, there will be a 2% reduction in the amount you pay towards Social Security which can result in up to $2,136.

Read More

Top Ten Ways the Right Will Wreck the Recovery

Conservatives have a legislative agenda for 2011 that will hurt your ability to get or keep a job, your neighborhood's ability to recover from the recession and this country's ability to regain its footing in the global economy.

To keep conservatives from enacting policies that will kill a nascent economic recovery, progressives will have to organize against these top 10 economy killers.

Read More

Federal District Court Strikes Down Sign Regulation as Content-Based

The plaintiff and city engaged in an extended dispute after the city widened a street adjacent to his home. The plaintiff contended the road project devalued his property and caused flooding problems. The city made a number of improvements to address drainage issues, but refused the plaintiff’s demand that his lot be purchased for 130 percent of its tax value. In response the plaintiff had “Screwed by the Town of Cary” painted in large letters across the front of his home. The city cited him for a violation of its sign ordinance, primarily on the grounds that the “sign” was approximately 48 sq. ft., well in excess of the maximum five sq. ft. allowed in this residential zoning district.

The court held the sign regulation violated the First Amendment and enjoined the town from its enforcement. The regulation exempted several types of signs from its coverage or this size limit. The exemptions included holiday decorations (the court noting that a sign of the same size reading “Merry Christmas to the Town of Cary” would be exempt), public art, and temporary signs advertising town-recognized events. The court held this made the ordinance content-based rather than content-neutral. The court noted that even though there was no intent on the part of the town to suppress content and the town’s objectives (aesthetics and traffic safety) were content neutral, the ordinance required a “searching inquiry” to determine if it was regulated. The ordinance distinguished its regulatory coverage based on that inquiry, thus making it content based. The court therefore applied strict scrutiny and invalided the regulation as not supporting compelling governmental interests and not being narrowly drawn (noting as an example, that a giant flashing Christmas sign that would be more distracting to motorists would be exempt).

Read More

Obama "Has Been as Aggressive, if Not More Aggressive in Pursuing" Terrorists

For the past two years, conservatives have repeatedly attacked President Obama for supposedly endangering American lives by not being aggressive enough in going after terrorists. But a year after the failed bombing attempt on Christmas Day for which Obama received immense criticism from the right, a key Bush intelligence official refuted these right-wing attacks today on CNN’s State of the Union with Candy Crowley. Retired Vice Admiral Mike McConnell, who served as the Director of National Intelligence under President Bush, said the Obama “administration has been as aggressive, if not more aggressive in pursuing” terror threats:

Read More

Portugal's Drug Decriminalization Policy is a Resounding Success

By Rhonda Winter

Ten years ago Portugal decriminalized the use of all drugs in the country. The laws were changed so that addicts were sent to drug treatment, therapy and counseling, instead of prison. The progressive shift in ideology treats drug use as a public health problem, not something to be channeled through the courts and criminal justice system.

Last year Glenn Greenwald explained in the weekly magazine Time that, judging by every metric, the country’s policy change was a resounding success:

    “It has enabled the Portuguese government to manage and control the drug problem far better than virtually every other Western country does.”

    Compared to the European Union and the U.S., Portugal’s drug use numbers are impressive. Following decriminalization, Portugal had the lowest rate of lifetime marijuana use in people over 15 in the E.U.: 10%. The most comparable figure in America is in people over 12: 39.8%. Proportionally, more Americans have used cocaine than Portuguese have used marijuana.

A decade after the changes have been made in Portugal, the numbers do seem to indicate that the progressive drug decriminalization policy is working. Addiction rates, teenage drug use and HIV infections are down, and requests for treatment have increased. The Raw Story reported details on what has happened in the country between 2000 and 2008:

Read More
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