Monday, April 11, 2011

News That Matters - Monday, April 11, 2011

News That Matters

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Good Monday Morning,

This is a Wordie (tm) graphical representation of the frequency of words used in today's edition of News That Matters.

An unintenshunal speeling eror on Friday: Didn't anyone catch it? Okay, here's a hint: there are no angles on the head of a pin. If this were the NY Times 87 of you would have sent corrections.

Forks and Fiddles

Saturday was quite a day here at News That Matters and started off with a hike at the old Camp Alamar, now a DEP property that, combined with their facility on Dean Road stretches from Route 52 in Stormville all the way down to White Pond in Kent.

Later in the afternoon I headed over to the Sheetmetal Worker's Hall in Brewster to attend the Putnam County Land Trust's 42nd Annual Awards Dinner with this year's top awards going to Jack Gress of Brewster and David Amram of Putnam Valley for their service to the environmental community over the years.

The dinner is a gathering of (mostly) eastern Putnam County friends of the Land Trust and politicos who come in to up their enviro-cred. The Village of Brewster was well represented with mayor Jim Schoenig, trustee Teresa Stockburger and clerk Peter Hansen in attendance. Patterson Supervisor Mike Griffin and Kent Supervisor Kathy Doherty are regular attendees. But I did not see Teabagger Assemblyman Steven Katz or The Senator Who Shall Not Be Named or County Executive Paul Eldridge though Legislator Dan Birmingham was there, as he always is.

(Note to Billy Noel: I didn't say those folk weren't there, just that I did not see them and there were other notable names who were but I didn't mention for no other reason than I'm not the Book of Numbers pulling a god-inspired census, so chill out.)

I had to leave at 6:30, just as Congresswoman Nan Hayworth was making her appearance, (a good thing as our last public meeting was rather raucous), to race over to Hopewell Junction for a house concert for fiddler Harry Bolick and banjo player Brian Slattery's new album, "Come On and See Us Sometime", an examination of original music from Mississippi's Carroll County, specifically the 1920s recordings of Willie T. Narmour and Shell W. Smith, both friends of "Mississippi" John Hurt.

More than 40 musicians and friends gathered, some earlier in the afternoon for an informal jam session and a pot luck dinner, and then for the show which began at 7PM and lasted until near 10PM that evening.

It was great to see my old friend John Allen, a locally noted Cajun musician, and to talk with a woman from near Berea County, Kentucky and a man who worked as an AP reporter in southern West Virginia during the years I lived there. That gave me an opportunity to reminisce about the old days with someone who knew the places and players and traditional Appalachian music as I had learned it back in the mid-1970s.

Kudos go out to Harry and his wife Pat Schories for their wonderful hospitality. Look for more about Harry and Pat in these pages in the near future.

Where's Nan? III

All I See Is The Air That I Breathe

Last week Congresswoman Nan Hayworth voted along with 254 of her colleagues to pass the "Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011" which "amends the Clean Air Act to prohibit the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from promulgating any regulation concerning, taking action relating to, or taking into consideration the emission of a greenhouse gas to address climate change."

Yes, you read the right: The Congress of the United States voted to leave your grandchildren a world in much worse shape than we have now and did so mainly along party lines.

Two-Hundred and fifty-five members of Congress chose to ignore overwhelming scientific evidence that our burning of fossil fuels at the rate we're burning them is over-heating the atmosphere and leading to a climate imbalance that is raising the overall temperature of the planet and all in an effort to increase profits for, well, you guessed it, the profiteers and shareholders of the very companies that are slowly killing us and destroying the planet.

Those who voted in favor of this bill will tell you that the $57 million "saved" is essential to the prosperity of the nation. But we're still spending hundreds of millions more to subsidize the non-renewable energy industry. It's "Drill! Baby! Drill!" and it's on your dime.

And why? Shall we take A long, hard look at the donations that pour forth from the belly of the earth and into the pockets of 236 Republicans and 19 Democrats? Nah, that would be too much work for the average voter. Shall we consider immediate profits for the corporations and their shareholders who hope against hope that by the time the climate shit really hits the fan they'll be dead and gone?

If you happen to run into Ms. Hayworth at a party or a function or in the supermarket, thank her for screwing you and your children out of a safe, healthful future. And then, vote for her in 2012 because I know you will.

Americans seem to relish the opportunity to vote against their own best interests. And me? I just don't get it.

If there's anyone out there with a logical explanation for this particular vote please send it along. Incredulous minds want need to know.

I'm watching this video Congresswoman Hayworth made on Saturday morning and I have no idea what reality she is in. I mean, if you understand string theory there are something like 11 different dimensions out there and it's going to take Stephen Hawking to find out which one she's in.

In the video she repeatedly refers to reviving the economy and creating jobs. Yet she has done precious little to do either. But hamstringing environmental regulations, continuing subsidies to oil companies and making you-tube videos about what a great job they're doing reviving the economy and creating jobs seems to be more important.

By the way, if you try to leave a comment on the video you're reminded:

Adding comments has been disabled for this video.

Apparently to Ms. Hayworth, the people she's been elected to represent have opinions that don't count.

Thus Sayeth Ruth:

'Entreat me not to leave thee...' Book of Ruth, 1:16

And so it goes that Ruth Mazzei has been beset and besotted and all that other biblical stuff once again. It's not enough that she once charged Southeast resident Lynne Eckardt with libel (or was it defamation of character?) even after she admitted in court that she does, in fact, pick and choose (hence: fabricate) what goes in the town's minutes. Now she's taking leave because of an uncomfortable work environment. Because of the "continuous harassment and intimidation", she told a Journal News reporter, at the hands of Southeast Supervisor Michael Rights and Councilman Dwight Yee.

HYH Does Not Stand for "Hell Yeah, Honey!"

One of the most beautiful parcels of remaining open space land in Putnam County is about to be carved up into 15 lots and paved over with residential properties.

The HYH tract consists of 225 acres of spectacular rocky bluffs interspersed with wetlands, deep pine and hemlock forests, is off Pudding Street in Putnam Valley and adjoins the California Hill State Forest.One cannot estimate the amount of blasting, bulldozing and grading that will have to take place in order to get a mail truck up the mountain let alone construction vehicles or those shiny new SUV's.

Let's do a little math: Let's say each new home will generate $7,000 in school property taxes for a total of ~$105,000. Let's say that the homes average 1.6 school aged children that are new to the district and that it costs $15,000 a year to educate each one. That's a total of $360,000 in education costs leaving a balance of $255,000 the community has to pick up - each year. And then there's snow plowing up that ridge, police, fire and ambulance, none of which are needed now as the land lays covered in luscious forest, pumping out life-giving oxygen and providing habitat for the critters forced out of other places.

The Putnam Valley Planning Board will further review this issue at their meeting tonight which begins at 6PM.

“The use of the word ‘apartheid’ by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) in its characterization of Israel is patently false and deeply offensive to all who feel a connection to the state of Israel. Your organization’s campaign against Israel is spreading misinformation about its policies, fostering bias in the media and jeopardizing prospects for a timely resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Such irresponsibility is a blemish on your efforts.” - Vanguard Leadership Group in a published letter to SJP.

And now, the News:
  1. Senator Ball’s abuse of power
  2. Modest Crowd Gathers to Protest Draft Weapons Law
  3. The Prosecution Rests, but I Can’t
  4. Malls Face Surge in Vacancies
  5. A National List of Top Teardown Prospects

Senator Ball’s abuse of power

Today’s editorial: The state Senate should not be a platform for bigotry.

Like any bad politician, state Sen. Greg Ball knows that sometimes the easiest way to get noticed is to do it at someone else’s expense.

In Mr. Ball’s time as an assemblyman and, now, as a senator, illegal immigrants have been his political prop of choice. The Putnam County Republican has cited them in opposing Rockefeller Drug Law Reform and affordable housing. He called for the dissolution of the village of Brewster after an employee was accused of selling identification to illegal aliens. He proposed an Arizona-style law to get New York into the business of deporting them.

Until now, Mr. Ball’s antics have been mostly a sideshow. As a member of the Assembly’s Republican minority, he was relatively powerless and harmless, more an embarrassment to his conference than to the state.

Until now.

Read More

Modest Crowd Gathers to Protest Draft Weapons Law

By Kevin Foley for

A restrained and orderly group of approximately 75 people stood outside the Philipstown Town Hall Thursday evening (April 7) to protest the idea of Town Board adoption of a law banning weapons from town property. The size of the group, although relatively large for Philipstown issues, was less than organizer predictions of several hundred. Organizers, which included the Philipstown Republican Committee and the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, had expected a Thursday vote on a weapons ban law first proposed by Town Supervisor Richard Shea. But the proposal was not on the agenda, and Shea had previously indicated to his intention to pursue various ways to reach his goal, including discussions with all parties.     

Read More

The Prosecution Rests, but I Can’t

by JOHN THOMPSON - Op-Ed Contributor to the NY Times

I SPENT 18 years in prison for robbery and murder, 14 of them on death row. I’ve been free since 2003, exonerated after evidence covered up by prosecutors surfaced just weeks before my execution date. Those prosecutors were never punished. Last month, the Supreme Court decided 5-41 to overturn a case I’d won against them and the district attorney who oversaw my case, ruling that they were not liable for the failure to turn over that evidence — which included proof that blood at the robbery scene wasn’t mine.

"The same day that my lawyers visited, an investigator they had hired to look through the evidence one last time found, on some forgotten microfiche, a report sent to the prosecutors on the blood type of the perpetrator of the armed robbery. It didn’t match mine; the report, hidden for 15 years, had never been turned over to my lawyers"

Because of that, prosecutors are free to do the same thing to someone else today.

I was arrested in January 1985 in New Orleans. I remember the police coming to my grandmother’s house — we all knew it was the cops because of how hard they banged on the door before kicking it in. My grandmother and my mom were there, along with my little brother and sister, my two sons — John Jr., 4, and Dedric, 6 — my girlfriend and me. The officers had guns drawn and were yelling. I guess they thought they were coming for a murderer. All the children were scared and crying. I was 22.

They took me to the homicide division, and played a cassette tape on which a man I knew named Kevin Freeman accused me of shooting a man. He had also been arrested as a suspect in the murder. A few weeks earlier he had sold me a ring and a gun; it turned out that the ring belonged to the victim and the gun was the murder weapon.

My picture was on the news, and a man called in to report that I looked like someone who had recently tried to rob his children. Suddenly I was accused of that crime, too. I was tried for the robbery first. My lawyers never knew there was blood evidence at the scene, and I was convicted based on the victims’ identification.

Read More

Malls Face Surge in Vacancies

Fallout From Boom and Downturn, Change in Habits, Hit Local Shopping Areas

By KRIS HUDSON And MIGUEL BUSTILLO for the Wall Street Journal

Even as the economy picks up steam, many of the nation's malls and shopping centers are suffering a hangover due to changing consumer habits and the fallout from a massive building boom.

Mall vacancies hit their highest level in at least 11 years in the first quarter, new figures from real-estate research company Reis Inc. showed. In the top 80 U.S. markets, the average vacancy rate was 9.1%, up from 8.7%.

The outlook is especially bad for strip malls and other neighborhood shopping centers. Their vacancy rate is expected to top 11.1% later this year, up from 10.9%, Reis predicts. That would be the highest level since 1990.

In 2005, the mall-vacancy rate hit a low of 5.1%. For strip centers the boom-time low vacancy rate was 6.7% that same year.

Read More

A National List of Top Teardown Prospects

The “Freeways Without Futures” list recognizes the top-ten locations in North America where the opportunity is greatest to stimulate valuable revitalization by replacing aging urban highways with boulevards and other cost-saving urban alternatives. The list was generated from an open call for nominations and prioritized based on factors including the age of the structure, redevelopment potential, potential cost savings, ability to improve both overall mobility and local access, existence of pending infrastructure decisions, and local support.

Cities around the world are replacing urban highways with surface streets, saving billions of dollars on transportation infrastructure and revitalizing adjacent land with walkable, compact development. Transportation models that support connected street grids, improved transit, and revitalized urbanism will make reducing gasoline dependency and greenhouse gas emissions that much more convenient. It pays to consider them as cities evaluate their renewal strategies — and as the U.S. evaluates its federal transportation and climate policy.

Learn more about the Highways to Boulevards Initiative1 from CNU and the Center for Neighborhood Technology and explore the current campaigns that residents and inspired public officials are leading in Seattle and Buffalo.

Read More
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