Monday, February 7, 2011

News That Matters - Monday, February 7, 2011

News That Matters

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

Telling it like it is for 10 years and counting...

"As you probably know by now, many of the conservatives in high dudgeon about the individual mandate had no problem with it when it was a staple of Republican health care proposals. Several, including Senate Finance Chairman Charles Grassley, actually endorsed it as a reasonable demand for personal responsibility and essential component of universal coverage. Only after President Obama endorsed the mandate did they decide it was not just bad policy but an act of full-blown tyranny." - Jonathan Cohn

Good Monday Morning,

Spring *is* coming, trust me on this. The non storm we had over the weekend was one of the last great gasps of the northern atmosphere unevenly heated by global warming. Temperatures are starting to moderate, the days are longer, the maple sap is running and just the other day I heard a robin practicing a spring call. So dig out those peat pots, get those seeds planted and plan out the garden for warmer days are nigh. You'll have radishes in the ground before you know it. (Once you can find the ground.)

As a result of all the snow and ice this winter many homes have experienced water damage from the 'ice dams' that built up on their eaves. Those incredibly huge icicles were quite beautiful but they were also a sign of possible damage to your home. I've spoken to several people who have had water running down their interior walls and it happened here at the Asylum last week as well.

Once the weather breaks and the ice has melted you're going to want to fix the roof and paint the walls in your house and you're probably going to want to take care of it before the family comes over for Easter or Passover. And I know just the guy to do it. Great prices, excellent work and a Putnam County resident.
And let me just add that once the warmer weather kicks in prices go up so book now while it's affordable!

Special Report:

Just When You Thought County Government Couldn't Top Itself:

Ed note: A modified version of this report appeared on the Brewster and Patterson listserves over the weekend.

This coming Thursday the Putnam County Legislature will vote to recommend (Agenda Item 6e) that we continue collecting an extra 1% sales tax (on top of the extra 1/4% that runs out soon) on all purchases made in the county. This extra tax runs out later in the year.
When discussion of the 1/4% tax came up recently, County Executive Paul Eldridge said that without the extension of the 1/4% that sits on top of the extra 1% the county would lose $11 million in revenue with the result that property taxes would likely increase. But what CE Eldridge, or county legislative chair Vinnie Tamagna, did not say was that either had a plan to cut $11 million from the county budget thus averting the continuance of why it's cheaper to leave the county to shop.

The county generates more than forty-million dollars via sales taxes each year, an unreliable and volatile basis for county funds and the bulk of the county budget.

We're also told by Mr. Eldridge and Mr. Tamagna that some of this increase in sales taxes is paid by people from outside Putnam County. And while that may be true at a few places down in Mahopac, at the Highlands Center in Southeast, the A&P/Tractor Supply in Patterson and by weekenders in Cold Spring, I'm willing to bet that 85% of the sales made are to Putnam County residents and thus is a tax increase passed off as essential because county government doesn't have a plan to reduce either  government spending or its reach into our lives.

(Note: Over in Orange County the legislature laid off 16 county workers and eliminated 32 vacant positions.)

We just came off two and a half years of an orchestrated campaign by national Republicans to lower government spending and cut taxes. Yet the Eldridge administration and the county Legislature, all Republicans save for one, are hell bent on continuing the sales tax increase and just as hell bent on their refusal to cut spending, lower the cost of living for Putnam County residents and redesign the way county government does business.

If they're not shaking down contractors, (who generate $300,000+ for the county general fund (which you pay in higher costs) yet get nothing in return except the right to work) they're raising your sales taxes and hoping you don't realize it. If they're blaming Medicaid for breaking the budget they're also building "Senior housing" at an alarming rate, 25% of whose residents will one day be feeding at the Medicaid teat. If they're not laying off $80K a year secretaries, they're (still!) paying the utilities bills at Tilly Foster Farm.

In other words, Putnam County government is bereft of a single progressive idea nor do they have any desire whatsoever to make county government smaller, less intrusive in our lives and cut spending to make life more bearable for the 100,000 people who live here. In other, other words, they just don't get it.

If you're as outraged as I am I encourage you to write the county Legislature (click here) and to County Executive Eldridge (click here) and remind them that the moniker, "Tax And Spend Republicans" has a nice ring and you appreciate that they're living up to it.

This appeared in the Corrections for the NY Times on February 5th:

An article on Jan. 16 about drilling for oil off the coast of Angola erroneously reported a story about cows falling from planes, as an example of risks in any engineering endeavor. No cows, smuggled or otherwise, ever fell from a plane into a Japanese fishing rig. The story is an urban legend, and versions of it have been reported in Scotland, Germany, Russia and other locations.

Suppose China decided not to negotiate with the United States on trade and security issues because the Democratic party wasn't anti-slavery in 1861. This is akin to the Obama administration saying that the Muslim Brotherhood cannot be part of a future Egyptian government. Democrats of today are not the Democrats of 1861 in the same way the Muslim Brotherhood today isn't the Muslim Brotherhood of 1967.
Egged on by the likes of Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, the president is missing an opportunity to alter the view of the United States in the eyes of the Arab Street, a more potent political force and more important to peace in the middle east than our backing of totalitarian regimes. The Street will be around forever while these regimes we support will fall.

A United States government squarely behind democratic movements in the Middle East is an opportunity that should not be squandered and yet the President, for fear of his right-wing adversaries, is letting that opportunity slip through his fingers.

Remembering Reagan:

Once upon a time if you were Black and lived in New Jersey you were a minority as far as White's were concerned but there were others who were minority to you. But now if you're Black and still in New Jersey you're a double-minority for along come Hispanics who now, according to the latest census information, make up the second largest minority in the Garden State.

A very lucky 16 year-old from Kent is at the center of a brouhaha over his ongoing consensual sexual relationship with a 23 year old Brewster woman who has been charged with statutory rape. Being 16 he's not legally capable of consenting to having sex even though his hormones certainly are. The woman should have waited until his 17th birthday when all-on-a-sudden the state determines he is old enough.
It's funny though, had this boy murdered or violently assaulted someone the law would say he was legally old enough to stand trial as an adult.

Apparently at 16 you can consent to committing murder but you cannot consent to have sex.

"We do not see things as they are. We see them as we are." - The Talmud

The winner of this week's contest is: Arlene Frangelli.

And now, The News:

Hard-working state employees don't deserve condemnation

NYJN Letter to the Editor

By Susan P. Casadone • February 7, 2011

Does anyone really believe that scrapping the state employee pension system is a cure to the ills New York state faces? Is there room in the system for improvement? Absolutely. Does taking a benefit away from one group make others who don't have that benefit any better off? No.

The majority of the jobs performed by state employees now collecting their pension were positions that most "white collar" workers would shun. They are the guys who carry away your smelly garbage in the middle of July. They are the guys who spend all night plowing snow. They are the guys who brave the bitter cold repairing a water main break so that you can take your hot shower before you climb into your nice warm bed.

It is their efforts that allow others to get to their office job in the morning safely. The pay for these jobs has improved over the years but without the incentive of a secure retirement, many would choose to find a position that would not include the aspects mentioned here. So, everyone who wants to pick up the garbage, stay up all night, labor outside in a hole in the freezing ground and do so without a defined-benefit pension, raise your hand. The Journal News has done a terrible disservice to the public by painting the "blue collar" worker who toils at the tasks that make the "white collar" worker's life bearable as the villain here.

Read More

Like Many Districts, Loving Earmarks, and About to Lose Them

Andrew Sullivan for The New York Times

Ryan Courtien, the supervisor in Dover, N.Y., received $250,000 to repair a bridge. He questions a ban on earmarks.

In the villages, towns and cities of the 19th Congressional District north of New York City, the signs of federal largess are all over: money for a library in South Salem, road improvements in Peekskill, renovations on a 100-year-old bridge in Dover and a state-of-the-art communications network for the Police Department in Tuxedo.

The projects have drawn strong support from community activists, business leaders and local politicians of both major parties. But the stream of federal money that has long financed such projects, in this Hudson Valley district and elsewhere in the nation, is about to dry up.

And some residents of the district may be surprised to learn who one of the main instigators is: Nan Hayworth, the district’s new representative, who was swept into office last fall along with other Tea Party-backed candidates bent on changing Washington’s ways.

Congress, prodded by outspoken newcomers like Ms. Hayworth, this week essentially imposed a temporary ban on earmarks, money for projects that individual lawmakers slip into major Congressional budget bills to cater to local demands. The criticism that she and her colleagues level at earmarking is not new: that some of the projects are silly and the process is rife with waste and abuse, partly because lawmakers do not typically have to justify their requests in grant proposals, hearings and the like.

Read More

DEP says Lower Esopus is clear of turbidity


DEP provided this photo to show the clarity of
the water in the Ashokan waste channel

KINGSTON – The turbidity of the water in the Lower Esopus Creek in Ulster County is now at acceptable levels after clear water releases were completed, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection announced Thursday.

Follow-up samples were taken in three locations to ensure the water quality had returned to normal levels – two spots along the Lower Esopus, Marbletown Recreation Park and Saugerties Beach.

“While I am pleased to see that the DEP has taken measures to improve the water quality of the Lower Esopus creek, I continue to call for an independent evaluation of the damage caused by their highly turbid releases,” said Ulster County Executive Michael Hein, who pushed the DEP to clean up the water.

Riverkeeper Paul Gallay, who was involved in the issue, said lowering the turbidity was a major step forward, but he has concerns about the lack of study into what happened to the creek bed, which he said may be heavily silted, and the Hudson River is now receiving the turbid water, he said.

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10 U.S. cities with the worst drinking water

Unknown to most Americans, a surprising number of U.S. cities have drinking water with unhealthy levels of chemicals and contaminants.

In fact, some organizations and state environmental agencies that collect and analyze water data say the level of chemicals in some Americans' drinking water not only exceeds recommended health guideline but the pollutants even exceed the limits set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the national legal authority in these matters.

The website 24/7 Wall St examined the quality of water supplies in most major America cities, using data collected from multiple sources for five years (ending in 2009) by Environmental Working Group (EWG), based in Washington, D.C. The fact that the data covered a half-decade is important because it shows that the presence of certain chemicals is persistent.

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Demolishing Density in Detroit: Can Farming Save the Motor City?

So it's come to this: Unable to provide basic services for all of his constituents, Detroit mayor Dave Bing is drafting plans starve his city down to a manageable size. Using proprietary data and a survey released by Data Driven Detroit, Bing and his staff will pick "winners and losers" amongst the city's neighborhoods and seek to resettle residents from the losers, those deemed most unlivable. With Detroit's tax base withering from the implosion of two-thirds of the Big Three, the housing crisis, and an ongoing exodus, Bing believes he has no other choice.

"If we don't do it, you know this whole city is going to go down," he told a local radio station last month. "I'm hopeful people will understand that. If we can incentivize some of those folks that are in those desolate areas, they can get a better situation" in one of the remaining neighborhoods with schools and buses.

Can Detroit really shrink its way back to greatness (or at least stop the bleeding)? Part of the problem is that it's been hollowing out for decades. A city of 1.85 million residents in 1950, Detroit had just 951,270 as of the last national census a decade ago, and the next--which is key to obtaining millions of dollars in federal funding--is expected to turn up only 800,000 this year. Some believe it might eventually slide to 700,000 before all is said and done. A quarter of the city is nothing more than vacant lots--40 square miles of "urban prairie." Bing plans to shrink the occupied portions further by tearing down another 10,000 buildings. That should earn praise from economists like Harvard's Ed Glaeser, who's suggested similar policies for other Rust Belt cities. And what will Bing do with all of that empty space? Turn over as many as 10,000 acres to John Hantz to farm.

The owner of an eponymous financial services firm, Hantz is prepared to sink $30 million of his personal fortune into coaxing peaches, plums, lettuce, and heirloom tomatoes from the ground (or in hydroponic greenhouses). In exchange, all he's asking for is free tax-delinquent land and tax breaks on agriculture. The city is considering giving him both. Hantz told Fortune he's aiming for an average cost of $3,000 per acre, valuing it no differently than outlying farmland. But he also promises to create hundreds of green jobs, grow a surplus of fresh produce for residents, attract tourists, and "reintroduce Detroiters to the beauty of nature."

Read More

Summertime ... and the livin’ ain’t necessarily easy

By Bob Seidensten
The Adirondack Daily Enterprise

A week ago, when the mercury hit 36 below zero and we hit the national news, I steeled myself for the inevitable. It wasn't about the weather. Instead, it was the onslaught of e-mails from everyone I know in the South.

Almost every e-mail was the same - some form of warm weather I-told-you-so, like, "Hey, I'd just like to let you know that while you're up there freezing your dupa, I'm on the deck in t-shirt and shorts, sippin' a strawberry daiquiri."

The Floridians are the worst. Generally, their meteorological snottiness aspires to witty irony (and fails). An typical example: "Don't know if you know, but we're having a terrible freeze down here. It never got above 70 today and tomorrow's supposed to be in the low 60s. Brrrr!"

But here's what never dawns on them: There are people who, not only don't hate cold weather, but actually like it. I'm one of them.

Let's face it, even in the middle of the worst cold snap, the world presents a stark beauty that can't be found any other time. The mountains stand out in stark relief - something they do in no other season. The lakes present their own "landscape" and the chimney smoke going straight up to the heavens seems like it was painted by Currier and Ives.

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Senator Manchin (D-WV) claims coal “doesn’t get a penny of subsidies”

In fact, the industry gets trillions of pennies
February 4, 2011

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), the newest member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, claimed today that the coal industry doesn’t receive any government subsidies, unlike every other form of energy.  Brad Johnson debunks this absurd claim.

The former governor of coal-state West Virginia, who famously fired a rifle at clean energy legislation in a campaign ad, argued that the Obama administration has “villainized” coal. In a hearing on energy markets, Manchin went on to criticize the Environmental Protection Agency — which has issued regulations to limit the catastrophic impact of mountaintop removal mining and the existential threat of global warming pollution — for putting up “roadblocks” on the “greatest source” of energy in the nation:

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67 Percent Of Americans Are Dissatisfied With Major Corporations

The American people are becoming increasingly angry about the extraordinary amount of power and influence that corporations have in the United States today.  A new Gallup poll found that 67 percent of Americans are dissatisfied with the size and influence of major corporations in the United States today.  Not only that, the most recent Chicago Booth/Kellogg School Financial Trust Index found that only 26 percent of Americans trust our financial system at this point.  The mainstream media is acting as if this is a new phenomenon, but the truth is that a dislike of giant corporations goes all the way back to the founding of this nation.  Our founders held a deep distrust for all big concentrations of power, and they intended to set up a nation where no one person or no one institution could become too powerful.

Unfortunately, we have very much strayed from those principles.  In the United States today, the federal government completely dominates all other levels of government and mammoth international corporations completely dominate our economy.

If our founding fathers could see what is going on today they would probably roll over in their graves.

The history of the corporation can be traced back to the early part of the 17th century when Queen Elizabeth I established the East India Trading Company.

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Sniffer mice have a nose for explosives

ONE day, there may be more than X-ray machines and full-body scanners awaiting you at the airport. Listen out for the snuffling of sniffer mice as you pass through security.

The critters will not be angling for a snack, though. They are part of a bomb-detecting unit created by Israeli start-up company BioExplorers, based in Herzeliya, which claims that trained mice can be better than full-body scanners and intrusive pat-downs at telling a bona fide passenger from a terrorist carrying explosives.

Eran Lumbroso conceived the mouse-based explosives detector while serving as a major in the Israeli navy. Along with his brother, Alon, he founded the company and built a device that looks much like an average airport metal detector or full-body scanner.

Along one side of an archway, a detection unit contains three concealed cartridges, each of which houses eight mice. During their 4-hour shifts in the detector, the mice mill about in a common area in each cartridge as air is passed over people paused in the archway and through the cartridge. When the mice sniff traces of any of eight key explosives in the air, they are conditioned to avoid the scent and flee to a side chamber, triggering an alarm. To avoid false positives, more than one mouse must enter the room at the same time.

Read More

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