Friday, April 30, 2010

Deceit in aisle nine!

I was in a local convenience store when I noticed several of the two liter bottles of soda carried a tag made by the convenience store. They read something like: "Gov. Paterson wants you to pay 68 cents more tax on this bottle of soda" and then encouraged customers to go to a website to lobby the "part-time" state legislature (with its full-time salary) against this tax. The tag was found on bottles of Pepsi, Mountain Dew and Diet Pepsi. I removed the tag from the bottle of Diet Pepsi because it's simply not true. The 'fat tax' advocated by the governor and his health commissioner would add a penny per ounce tax to sugared sodas. Diet Pepsi is not a sugared soda.

I've stated before that the 'fat tax' is a poor and ineffective way to advance the public policy goal of reducing costly obesity; a more rational system of farm subsidies and food production would be much better. But case can be made without invoking the lie that the governor wants to tax diet soda.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

'Economic development' entities: useful tools or patronage factories?

I'd love to know why the city of Glens Falls (GF) spends so much money on so many different "economic development"-type entities. In addition to the Urban Renewal Agency (which may have a distinct purpose), the city also has:

-The Greater GF Local Development Corporation
-The GF Industrial Development Agency

... which largely duplicate the following county-level organizations...

-The Warren County Economic Development Corporation
-The Warren/Washington County Industrial Development Agency

... in addition to several economic development related positions inside City Hall itself...

-An economic/community development director (held by former mayor Ed Bartholomew)
-An economic development consultant (was Ken Green until he resigned following to DWI charges)

The city used to have a tourism coordinator (which itself mimicked the county tourism office) and a downtown events' coordinator as well, though I'm not sure if those positions are still filled.

Is all the money being spent by taxpayers of this small city on this plethora of unelected, unaccountable agencies, directors, consultants and coordinators really recouped by the work they do? Why can't all the City Hall functions be consolidated into a single position and the quasi-public agencies folded into their county counterparts? Do any business owners know what these entities are doing to validate their existence? In the midst of this economic tumult in a city with already high property taxes, I'd love to see hard economic numbers justifying all this apparent duplication.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The triumph of rhetoric

"When I give food to the poor, I'm called a saint. When I ask why they are poor, I'm called a communist." -Archbishop Dom Helder Camara.

North Country Public Radio did a news report on a northern New York meeting of fiscally conservative Republicans.

It was a seemingly ordinary piece that brought to light the complete intellectual bankruptcy of most of those (non-libertarians) who espouse fiscal conservatives.

All the interviewees preached the standard mantra of less spending, lower taxes and smaller government... all stuff that sounds great in theory. But when pushed for specifics to translate that theory into reality, it was one giant #fail, as Tweeters might say.

The self-described fiscal conservatives talked a good game until it was pointed out that the politically conservative region is heavily dependent on taxpayer money, particularly from Albany and Washington. With the Fort Drum military bases, universities, school teachers, park rangers and prison guards, NNY's economy is very heavily based on jobs in the public sector or that are funded by public money.

When challenged with this fact, the small-government types reassured their potential supporters that this reality was no impediment to their ideology. It would be no problem preserving the taxpayer spigot to NNY; they could just make other regions suffer the budget cuts instead.

One interviewee pretended to sound specific by suggesting that Medicaid spending be slashed. When asked what particular Medicaid programs she'd want to cut, she said she didn't know.

I didn't hear one thing in this piece that showed that these so-called fiscal conservatives were the tiniest bit serious. Cheap NIMBY rhetoric is good for the fantasy world of rabble rousing, not for the real world of governance.

A rational system of funding education

Unfortunately I can't post these thoughts on The Post-Star's website because technical difficulties with comments appear to linger, contrary to what Managing Editor Ken Tingley's blog states but...

It's little secret that I strongly disagree with Post-Star projects' editor Will Doolittle's opinion of green groups and their alleged relationship with the state of New York. However, he tends to be pretty sensible on most other issues.

Take this column on the dysfunctional system of education funding in New York.

New York is responsible for educating its kids. The state should cover that cost the same way it pays for other state operations, through the state income tax. Education's price tag won't go down, but the tax burden will be distributed more fairly - among districts and among individuals.

He echoes what I've been saying for years.

Anything mandated by the state should be paid for in full by Albany. Anything mandated by the feds should be paid for in full by Washington. The only things that should be funded locally are things that the local school boards voluntarily choose to offer (e.g.: sports, music, extracurriculars).

Right now, there is tension in many communities between property owners and school teachers. Property owners claim that regressive school taxes are too high. Teachers claim that they are required to have strenuous (and expensive) academic qualifications for their job and deserve to be compensated accordingly.

Doolittle, like myself, recognizes that BOTH sides are right. Teachers do deserve to be fairly compensated for their required qualifications. And property owners in New York state DO face a crushing tax burden.

He deserves praise for advocating a fundamental overhaul of this irrational funding structure, for advocating an actual solution, a fair solution, rather than throwing out cheap populism.

The current system creates unnecessary tension between two of the main stakeholders in education.

Doolittle wisely takes enough of a long view to recognize this. His short-sighted colleague Tingley does not.

The Managing Editor wrote a column blasting the Glens Falls teachers' union for, in his view, undermining quality education in the city district.

Now, I'm a bit skeptical the union made the right decision for its members regarding a temporary pay freeze (or deferral, depending on whom you ask). But Tingley's harsh rhetoric demonstrates a complete lack of perspective. The teachers are not the problem.

Unlike Doolittle, Tingley fails to see the forest for the trees. Tingley and the rest of the daily's editorial board should read Doolittle's column, re-read it and keep reading it until they get it. Rather than bashing the professionals who educate the children he piously claims to care about, the managing editor (along with the editorial board) should instead be thumping their chests to demand a sane, rational method of funding education in New York state. Rather than playing to community divisions, leaders should be trying to unite people.

THAT, not cheap populism and union-bashing, is the only way to ensure the quality education Tingley claims to care about.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Fat tax vs rational farm policy

North Country Public Radio's In Box blog has an interesting discussion on 'Who's responsibility is it to protect kids from bad food?'

The essay is within the context of a controversial proposal strongly pushed by New York state's health commissioner to tax, among other things, sugary sodas, generally referred to as the 'fat tax.'

Nearly all commenters agreed it was the parents' responsibility to protect kids from bad food. This ignores the fact that parents can't control their kids every movement. If 15 year old with a few bucks wants a bag of potato chips and a Rice Krispies treat for lunch and his school cafeteria has a vending machine that sells those things, that's what he's going to eat.

But more broadly, it's hard to argue with the 'take responsibility for you and your kids' mantra. Parents DO have a critical role in shaping the nutritional habits of their children, especially when they're younger.

After all, no one wants the state stick its nose in personal decisions unnecessarily.

Except the state is already distorting these decisions via public policy... via public policy that favors BAD food.

When I was a Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa, processed and fast food was relatively much more expensive than fresh food. Upon returning to the US, I was struck by how the situation was totally the opposite in this country. A head of lettuce at the supermarket might cost you more than two double cheeseburgers at McDonald's.

Not coincidentally, I noticed something else. In West Africa, relatively obese people were almost inevitably businessmen and bureaucrats, people from the small upper middle class. These are people on the high end of the income scale and can more easily afford processed food.

In the United States, it's the poor people who are disproportionately affected by obesity. They can't easily afford fresh fruits and vegetables and often don't have much access to them even if they could. They also can't afford things like gym memberships and are too busy working three crappy jobs anyway. But spending $4 on two double cheesburgers, an order of fries and a Mountain Dew at the Golden Arches is much more within their budget.

I wondered why it was that bad food in the US was so much cheaper than good food. Then I noticed this graphic from Andrew Sullivan's blog on

According to nutritionists, meat and dairy are supposed to be 24% of our diet and yet they gorge on nearly 74% of public farm subsidies.

By contrast, fruits and vegetables are supposed to be 36% of our diet and yet starve on not even 0.4% of subsidies.

Sugar, oil, starch and alcohol receive nearly 30 times more subsidies than fruits and vegetables.

No wonder the pricing structure of food is so irrational.

Instead of punishing people for bad behaviors (that don't harm other people), public policy should be used to encourage people to practice desirable behaviors.

The fat tax gets it backwards. It raises the price of bad food but does nothing to make more affordable the price of good food.

We offer massive public subsidies to farm products used to create unhealthy products. We should re-jigger those subsidies so they're used to support products that are good for us, including organic.

Obviously, subsidies are more about politics than health and nutrition. Meat and dairy gets most of the subsidies because meat and dairy state legislators are very powerful.

Making bad food more expensive makes everyone resentful because people still have to spend a lot on the good food to replace it. You can know something is good for you but if you can't afford it, so what?

Making our system of subsidies more sane is much better than a fat tax. It will do more than discourage people from bad food; it will encourage them toward good food.

In short, we should use less stick and more carrot (and lettuce and tomato...).

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Espada to enter Albany's Pantheon of convicts?

State Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada, of coup infamy, is reported under investigation for alleged corruption. According to The New York Times, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo alleged that that Mr. Espada, his family and his political aides had siphoned more than $14 million from a health care nonprofit he founded to pay for meals, vacations and campaign expenses.

The organization's board approved a $9 million severance package for Espada, reported the NYT.

The not-for-profit, surprise surprise, receives the 'vast majority' of its funding from taxpayers.

If convicted, Espada would join a long list of high-ranking New York leaders in recent times to be forced out of office due to criminal activity.

-Assembly Speaker Mel Miller (convicted of fraud, 1991)

-Chief Judge Sol Wachtler (convicted of intimidation and attempted kidnapping, 1993)

-Comptroller Alan Hevesi (convicted of defrauding the government, 2006)

-Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (convicted of corruption and mail fraud, 2009) (note: he resigned during the investigation but before the indictment)

-Governor Eliot Spitzer (we all know that story)

This list does not even include lower level dregs like convicted domestic abuser and expelled senator Hiram Monserrate.

Update: Commenter Bob from Planet Albany blog points out that during the current legislative session, all 62 members of the Senate has voted to make Espada either president pro temp (and thus at the time acting lieutenant governor) or majority leader.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Further de-bunking of the hit job against The Nature Conservancy

Another follow up to my original piece about The New York Post state editor Fred Dicker's smear on the Nature Conservancy (TNC)...

The Adirondack Daily Enterprise's editorial page, a venue not typically sympathetic to environmentalists, blasted Dicker's hit job.

Additionally, North Country Public Radio's Brian Mann filed a report noting that it appears that the land sale included a series of checks and balances designed to insure a fair deal.

The report also pointed out that (shock!) Dicker's trash omitted several key facts. It noted, for example, that the state used five separate appraisals before agreeing a sale price.

When asked by NCPR if he had concrete proof of an unethical working relationship between TNC and the state, Warren County Board of Supervisors Chairman Fred Monroe (Dicker's main source) admitted, "Do I have any evidence? No."

So much like The Post-Star's Will Doolittle, The Post's Dicker parroted serious allegations of (likely criminal) collusion between the state and TNC without insisting that the accusers offer a single shred of evidence. To call this merely irresponsible would be a huge understatement. I'm surprised TNC hasn't filed a lawsuit.

And journalistic big wigs think that you have to be a Fox- or MSNBC-loving ideologue mistrust the mainstream news media.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

News and observations

News item: Study: Insurance companies hold billions in fast food stock (CNN)

Observation: This is a bit like mining companies taking out life insurance on their employees


News item: Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's hard right turn (Maclean's)

Observation: It's too bad that America's noxious mix of religion and politics (which inevitably corrupts both) has drifted northward.


Comment [verbatim]: "Since we seem to be the worlds policeman. The US should be paid for it. If we are going to be in the Pursian Gulf , Pursia needs to pay the US (I think they can afford it." (seen on an NCPR blog entry)

Observation: "There's nothing scarier than ignorance in action." -Tom Smothers

Further observation: "The argument against democracy is to spend 5 minutes with the average voter." -My old high school friend Dan


Article: The Return of Christian Terrorism:Threats of right-wing violence have doubled in the past year. What is behind the latest upsurge in the movement to create a Christian theocratic state? (Alternet)

Observation: Probably the arrival of a president who, though religious, doesn't shove his religion down people's throats at every waking instant. This is seen by Christian theocrats as "secularism."


Article: How the FCC Can Protect the Internet from Pro-Corporate Judges and Greedy Telecoms (Alternet)

Observation: If you don't want your internet provider to routinely block your favorite website (whether, or anything in between), you should support net neutrality.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Follow up to Nature Conservancy land deal story

Further info on my earlier piece on The New York Post state editor Fred Dicker's hit job against the Nature Conservancy...

Adirondack Almanack's Phil Brown did an excellent analysis of the deal. It's definitely worth a read.

Sarah Palin's contempt for human life

"When I give food to the poor, I'm called a saint. When I ask why they are poor, I'm called a communist." -Archbishop Dom Helder Camara.

Leaving aside the pomposity and shameless nationalist pandering of the Sarah Palin's other remarks, the conservative diva and Tea Party darling claimed, "I would hope that our leaders in Washington, D.C., understand we like to be a dominant superpower."

For a woman who equated geographic proximity to Russia to foreign policy knowledge, it should be to no one's surprise that she has no clue that geopolitics is an Xbox game.

The lives lost are those of real humans beings. The lives lost are those of the sons and daughters of real Americans... as well as many of Palin's loathed "fake Americans" from places like Vermont and California.

Oh yea, some humans from the countries who Palin is happy for us to aggress are slightly impacted by all this too.

For her to be so flippant and casual about human life should automatically disqualify from ever being near the White House.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Afghanistan's Guantanamo

The conservative Times of London has a story on Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, which is increasingly serving the same Gulag-like function as the infamous Guantanamo Bay. It features the case of on UK man who was kidnapped (via the process euphemistically referred "rendition") and shipped to Bagram, whose mother and a human rights organization trying to force the British government to confirm his kidnapping.

The BBC also has a story on alleged abuses at Bagram.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Rep. Murphy will pay for the vote he hasn't cast yet on the bill that's nowhere close to being finalized

A look at today's letters to the editor in The Post-Star (unavailable online except to people willing to pay extra for their pdf version) gives a good hint about why it's so hard to be an elected official today. There were several letters excoriating local Congressman Scott Murphy for supporting the health insurance bill that recently passed Congress, all from the right. That's to be expected.

It was a poor bill, one that did a little good and a lot of bad. And much like the Wall St. bailout, the health insurance bill DID represent socialism, just not in the way that the Tea Party types mean. The bill was a giant giveaway to health insurance conglomerates, which is why I refer to it as the health insurance bill not the health care bill. It is also why that industry supported the bill. The health insurance bill represents corporatism, which is corporate socialism. Maybe the Tea Party types will realize that the fundamental problem crippling our democracy isn't progressives supporting gay marriage but a government run on behalf of corporations and a Supreme Court validating this perverse notion... though I'm not holding my breath.

Criticisms of Murphy's vote on the health insurance bill are legitimate, if a bit misguided. But what's really infuriating is that at least three of the letters criticized Murphy for votes HE HADN'T EVEN TAKEN YET. They criticized him for the climate bill. They criticized him for cap and trade. They criticized him for citizenship for illegal immigrants. I don't believe he's taken firm positions on these issues and he absolutely hasn't voted one way or the other on them.

Fury and paranoia at living under a corporate Democratic administration (who replaced the corporate Republican administration) has made some people so unhinged that they'll attack a politician for things he hasn't done or even talked about doing yet. It shows how debased, how completely insane our political culture has become.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I certainly understand your frustration which is why I'm going to continue ignoring you

Dear customer dis-service hacks,

If I say "My problem is x. I've tried to fix it by doing y and z" and your so-called answer is "Try doing y or z," it means you're only adding to my fury not assuaging it... no matter how many times your script tells you to say that you "certainly understand my frustration."

Because if you really understand my frustration, then why don't you... I don't know... READ WHAT I (expletives deleted) WRITE!!!

And while you're at it, don't spend 10 minutes keeping me on hold assuring me "how important (my) call is to (you)."

If it's that important, answer the damn call. Rubbing it in my face that I'm still on hold because of your useless customer service only makes it worse.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Ayatollah Huckster riffs on 'less than ideal' gays

Social conservative Mike Huckabee recently likened gay marriage to incest and polygamy. Unlike some bigots, his argument was (only slightly) less absurd by his gracious omission of bestiality, pedophilia and necrophilia.

In earlier comments, the former and presumably future GOP presidential candidate declared, "Marriage doesn't mean any and everything we want it to mean. In all the recorded years of human history it has only meant one thing."

Huckabee's misrepresentation of history is either deceitful or a manifestation of shocking ignorance.

For many years, humans in some parts of this country defined civil marriage as the union of two people of the same 'race' (skin color) while humans in other parts of this country did not.

In this country at this time (though not necessarily in the past), the idea of a man marrying a 9-year old girl is generally considered repulsive; it other societies, it's accepted practice.

Civil marriage is an institution of man (ie: humans), by man and for man and can be changed by man at his whim.

Civil marriage means exactly what we the citizens want it to mean which is why it's defined by man's law.

And in all the recorded years of human history, acceptable norms of marriage have changed countless times and, to this day, remain very different across different societies.

According to many people, 'God's law' may have a very different notion of marriage. But Huckabee would do well to remember that since we're not a theocracy, the United States of America is governed by the laws of man not the laws of his or anyone else's deity.

I've read that every species of mammal has been observed to exhibit homosexual tendencies except pigs. So basically what the Ayatollah Hucksters of this country want is for humans to act more like... swine. And I thought man did a pretty good job of that already.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Another anti-green group hit job debunked (corrected)

Earlier this year, The Post-Star's anti-Adirondack Park Agency journalist Will Doolittle did a controversial pair of stories on the workings of the APA which uncritically relayed alleged, but completely unsubstantiated, collusion between the Agency and the non-profit Nature Conservancy.

The story was later accused of having many holes in it on the basis of some excellent follow up reporting by North Country Public Radio's Brian Mann. But that didn't stop The Post-Star from editorializing for the abolition of the Agency the day after the series ended.

It seems to be Groundhog Day.

Earlier this week, outspoken conservative New York Post state editor Fred Dicker ran a story claiming that the DEC "gave environmental org. [the Nature Conservancy] absurd $3.7M profit for forest."

The little-noticed green giveaway of taxpayer cash occurred in October 2008, as the state Department of Environmental Conservation paid The Nature Conservancy nearly $10 million for 20,000 acres of Adirondack wilderness that the group purchased for $6.3 million just a few years earlier, reported Dicker in The Post.

The article quoted Fred Monroe, chairman of the Warren County Board of Supervisors, Executive Director of the Adirondack Park Local Review Board and loud critic of all things related to environmental conservation.

As with the Doolittle story, it was left to NCPR's Mann, who doesn't seem to have an agenda except one of fair journalism, to provide the rest of the story.

In this piece, Mann pointed out that the appraiser quoted in Dicker's story claimed he was quoted out of context and that the appraiser said up front that he hadn't done any investigation into the specific case.

The New York Post quoted someone out of context? Shocking!

Further, NCPR's Mann points out that Dicker, like Doolittle, has been very critical of green groups and the state's management of Adirondack Park land. Crucially, Mann also notes that: The Post article also appears to confuse the collapse of the national housing and real estate market with the very different market for timber tracts.

I think it's a black mark that the Glens Falls' daily can be mentioned in the same breath as Rupert Murdoch's temple of yellow journalism.

We are very fortunate to have a responsible, play-it-straight journalist like Brian Mann who is willing to further examine these dubiously constructed stories and set the record straight where needed. This is why I continue to support NCPR and encourage others to do the same.

Note: Another myth debunked by NCPR reporting: the one that claims that the Adirondacks would see an economic boom if not for the 'fascist' regulations of state agencies. It cites statistics showing that counties in the Adirondack Park have comparable employment and poverty rates, household incomes, housing values and so on when compared to the rest of rural New York.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

When 'Never Again' happened again

This essay is part of an occasional feature on this blog that presents compelling stories from elsewhere in the world, particularly Africa, that are little reported in the American media. It's part of my campaign to get people to realize there is a lot going on in the world outside the US, IsraelStine and the Trumped Up Enemy of the Month. A list of all pieces in this series can be found found here..

Earlier this week marked the 16th anniversary of the beginning of the Rwandan genocide during which at least 800,000 people were murdered. It was one of the world's worst atrocities of the century and certainly the worst to be covered during the age of cable news television. It occurred a year, almost to the week, after politicians and dignitaries in Washington solemnly promised 'Never again' while inaugurating the Holocaust Memorial Museum.

In 2004, I wrote a long series of essays on the occasion of the 10th anniversary which gave a lot of information and background about the genocide.

They are as follows (yes, I know the images do not work):

-Ten years later (an intro)
-Pre-genocide history
-How the genocide unfolded
-Myths and realities about the genocide (Part 1)
-Myths and realities about the genocide (Part 2)
-The genocide's orphans
-Hate media and their role in the genocide
-International law and American law on genocide
-Post-genocide justice
-The post-genocide government
-Lessons and conclusions

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

"CYOA" military provokes press freedom crisis in "Middle East's only democracy"

The Israeli right and its American apologists often refer to the country as the Middle East's only democracy as a sort of inoculation against the slightest suggestion that the actions of Jewish state's government are in any way less than perfect.

(e.g.: It's okay for Israel to commit war crimes or crimes against humanity because it's "the only democracy in the Middle East," just as it's okay for the US to do the same because it's the self-proclaimed "leader of the free world.")

Like the US, Israel is often caricatured as a monolithic state where everyone subscribes to the prevailing militaristic orthodoxy. However in both countries, the reality is much more nuanced. While they don't scream hysterically non-stop like the settlers and others on the far right, there is a not-insignificant percentage of civilized Israelis that support a rational, sensible path toward peace that acknowledges Palestinians as humans, a path that, unlike militarism, might actually have a chance to work.

This group of civilized Israelis is trying to do something controversial: hold the country's security establishment accountable. The establishment has responded by provoking a freedom of the press crisis in "the Middle East's only democracy."

Alternet has a remarkable story on the scandal.

Anat Kam is a 23-year-old Israeli journalist who allegedly procured confidential documents while she worked in an Israeli Army general’s office during her mandatory military service. The documents revealed that in 2007, Israeli Army forces assassinated a Palestinian Islamic Jihad member in direct contravention of a Supreme Court order that banned the killing of wanted militants if there was a reasonable chance to arrest them first. Two top Israeli military officials, former Central Command Chief Major General Yair Naveh, Operations Directorate Head Major General Tal Russo, and Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, who directed the assault on Gaza in 2008 and 09, are said to have been incriminated in the documents.

Kam allegedly photocopied the documents and passed them along to the security reporter for Haaretz, one of Israel's leading daily newspapers, which published an article based on them.

This aroused the ire of the Israeli military, which since 1988 has demanded that journalists submit all "material relevant to the security of the state" to the military censor for review, and which compels all journalists seeking an official Israeli press card (GPO card) to sign on to the censorship policy. By all accounts, Blau submitted his article for review to the censor and was cleared for publication.

Kam was detained and placed under house arrest last year, though news of this only started coming out in the last few weeks. She is now on trial for treason and espionage and faces up to 14 years in prison.

Meanwhile, the journalist who published the article is hiding in London. He is terrified to return to Israel. His hard-hitting reports on Israeli Army abuses in the occupied West Bank have made him the bane of the military establishment. "At least ten journalists inside Israel have told me [Blau] is the real target," a reporter working in Israel and Palestine told me. "And everyone is saying they’re simply prosecuting Kam to make an example out of her."

The Israeli Shin Bet security service secured a gag order on the media from an apparent rubber stamp judge who had spent almost her entire career in military courts. The order, issued in January, forbade journalists and bloggers in Israel not only from reporting on the details of Kam’s prosecution, but from even acknowledging that she had been detained. A reporter I spoke to was publishing stories on the scandal under an anonymous byline. The New York Times has done the same, meaning even Ethan Bronner might be afraid of the Shin Bet.

The gag order was so secret that even the Speaker of the Knesset was reportedly not allowed to see it.

Perhaps this is the "Middle East's only democracy"'s own ironic way to mark the 40th anniversary of the US Pentagon Papers.

Note: Please see the Alternet story, which links to a number of other relevant places.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Safety claims of hydraulic fracking called into question

Many people in southern New York are concerned about a new natural gas drilling project in the Marcellus Shale which involves the controversial procedure known as hydraulic fracking. It's controversial because critics claim that it threatens the drinking water supply. The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation claims that very few problems are associated with fracking but a good investigative piece in the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin seriously calls those claims into question.

Monday, April 05, 2010

MLS website disaster

For a league run almost entirely by PR hacks, it's little surprise that Major League Soccer tries to spin and control information more tightly than the Kremlin. In that context, the recent launch of its new website was a PR catastrophe for a league hoping to capitalize on a World Cup year. The Fake Sigi blog has a revealing analysis of the clusterf**k. Perhaps the most revealing thing of all is that despite the length of the piece, there were still screwups he left out.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Fools to the left of me, jokers to the right

Facing a gargantuan $9 billion deficit and a budget due today, legislative misleaders have decided to send their members on a week-and-a-half vacation.

Senate Democratic boss John Sampson pooh-poohed critics with the same excuse legislative misleaders proffer every year: better to have a good, late budget than a bad, on-time budget. I guess it never occurred to these April Fools that it's their JOB to give us a budget that's both responsible AND on-time.

I nearly snorted soda out of my nose laughing at Sampson's excuse. The budget's always late but when was the last time the legislature gave us a good budget? If we'd actually been given these mythical "good, but late" budgets in the past, we wouldn't be in quite the fiscal mess we're in now.

By being the latest misleader to pose the false choice between a responsible budget and an on-time budget, Sen. Sampson and his colleagues don't seem to be aware of the responsibilities of the job, so let me enlighten him.

Maybe if the legislature had focused more on making tough budgetary decisions in the last few months, rather than micromanaging restaurant chefs' use of that dangerous toxin table salt, April Fools like Sampson wouldn't have to continually offer us the false choice between a responsible budget and on-time one. Real leaders would be capable of doing both.

But since Sen. Sampson is so blase about deadlines, perhaps he and the rest of NYS government won't mind if I wait until April 20 or May 10 or whenever the legislature gets around to doing its job and pass a budget before I send in my tax return.

It seems a cruel irony that New York's budget is due on April Fools' Day. Year after year, the joke's on us.