Saturday, January 31, 2009

Legislative Breakfast

I'm off to moderate a session at our annual legislative breakfast, where we annually rant at our state legislators about unfunded mandates and the governor's budget. It's a little awkward for me this year, because although I find our legislators' pet unfunded mandates particularly egregious this year, I'm quite sure the money isn't there to recoup much of anything from the governor's budget without impacting roads, hospitals, zoos, etc.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


I was never a fan of the Rabbit or Eastwick books, but I did love many of his short stories, especially the collection from which I borrowed the title to write a song with Phillip Johnston, a song whose only claim to fame is that it was used in a Doris Dorrie film that went straight to video.

Politics Not as Usual

The IJ has an editorial today calling for the dissolution of caucuses in the county legislature, a point of view with which I heartily concur.

Meanwhile, we have a full slate of candidates for March's village election: Wendy Martin (founder of the Dryden Community Center Cafe) for mayor, and Lisa Valentinelli and Mary Ellen Bossack for trustees. This seems to have scared the current mayor out of running for a seventh term. Fun!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

BOE Meeting

Stacey Shackford gives a pretty good recap of our BOE meeting. People were appropriately serious in their responses and asked good questions. The bottom line is that with a rollover including salary increases, the levy approaches 15% with the governor's budget. I should note that despite the reader comment, we do not have a lacrosse team--we have what's called an "unfunded sport" called lacrosse, whose patrons have come to us requesting varsity "funded" status. (No unfunded sport is truly unfunded; there are always costs associated with having players and coaches on our property.) We're headed back to a 3Rs approach to education, if only we can get out from under the mandates that pile on to that basic approach.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Job Losses

A quick skim of today's news: Caterpillar lays off 5,000. Sprint lays off 8,000. Home Depot lays off 7,000. ING lays off 7,000. It's enough to make you nervous.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Mr. Reeves, Sadie's favorite nemesis, died this weekend. Cold? Old age? Who knows. It does mean that we can now get some male ringnecks and expect them to survive.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Monday's BOE

From the IJ via our press release:

At Dryden's next Board of Education meeting, scheduled for 7:15 p.m. Monday, Jan. 26, Superintendent Sandy Sherwood and Business Manager Teresa Carnrike will present a short talk titled "How New York State's Fiscal Crisis will Affect Dryden," in Room C-13 in Dryden Middle School/High School.

Using the governor's proposed budget plan, the administrators will go through several scenarios, including the effect on local property taxes should Dryden retain all current programs and the effect on district programs should Dryden attempt to hold the tax levy to a typical 4 percent or below. All district residents are encouraged to attend. The superintendent's presentation will be first on the agenda.

The first public review of the proposed Dryden budget will be two weeks later, Feb. 9, at the middle school/high school library.
This meeting will be critical to residents' understanding of the facts surrounding this year's budget. I'd encourage folks to attend.

And the Winner Is. . .

A blue-dog Democrat, an upstater only by ambitious design. But she's blonde and female, and I guess that was the demographic we were looking for as a replacement for HRC.

Although governors have the power to replace Senators, they do not have that same power for Representatives. As far as I can determine, the only way to replace Gillibrand is via a special election.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Caroline, We Hardly Knew Ye

It's pretty clear by now that she wasn't going to get it anyway, so to avoid the embarrassment to the guv and her family, Caroline Kennedy has withdrawn from the Senate "race." Sadly, that leaves Cuomo the front-runner. Out of the list that's left, I prefer downstaters Suozzi and Maloney.

Free Lunch

The IJ reports on new applications for free and reduced lunches at Dryden and other schools. The article doesn't mention it, but this fact, although devastating for the newly laid-off parents, is great for the district, since free-and-reduced numbers dictate the percentage of everything from e-rates to state funding.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hope over Fear

Today begins the new millenium in earnest.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Backyard Visitor

Sadie was out on the back porch with her squirrelsicle when this guy appeared.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Perspectives on Gaza

Mark sent me this website, which features a certain perspective toward the "war on terror." I found this post by a British member of Parliament especially striking.
I have known most of the Prime Ministers of Israel, starting with the founding Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. Golda Meir was my friend, as was Yigal Allon, Deputy Prime Minister, who, as a general, won the Negev for Israel in the 1948 war of independence.

My parents came to Britain as refugees from Poland. Most of their families were subsequently murdered by the Nazis in the Holocaust. My grandmother was ill in bed when the Nazis came to her home town of Staszow. A German soldier shot her dead in her bed.

My grandmother did not die to provide cover for Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza. The current Israeli Government ruthlessly and cynically exploit the continuing guilt among gentiles over the slaughter of Jews in the holocaust as justification for their murder of Palestinians. The implication is that Jewish lives are precious, but the lives of Palestinians do not count.
It's worth reading the whole piece. The comments are interesting, too.

Required Reading

I like this piece from the NYT today, in which the editors asked people who had lived in the various places Obama lived, at the same times, to comment on what those places and times might have done to prepare him for the life he leads now. Since I lived in two of them, but only one (NYC) at the same time as Obama, it was food for thought.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Saved from the Axe

The axe may be falling on people we know, but the pheasants are granted a stay by the governor! Thanks to Mike for sending this from the Albany Times-Union. I think Paul's letter-writing campaign had at least a bit to do with this.


Global Warming All Around, and I Can't Start a Fire

Well, it was negative 4 when I got up. We have the usual Internet blather from people who see cold weather as belying global warming. And I've reached the part of Friedman's book that is most important, where he talks about the Energy Internet and what it would take for us to get there. It's important reading, especially for anyone involved in local, state, or national government, because it seems quite clear to him (and I guess I agree) that none of it can happen without massive regulation and incentive programs. He talks very convincingly about how ridiculously patchwork our electric system is and how its old-fashioned forms of billing have, in part, led us to the mess we're in today--and how changing the way we pay for electricity will help to fix things. He has a wonderful, long passage that shows what that would look like--if all of us had "smart" appliances and vehicles, and no new buildings could be constructed unless they were net-zero energy use. Perhaps the most important point he makes is that our current analogy for energy policy to the Apollo program or Manhattan Project is fundamentally flawed. He quotes a physicist:
Those programs were to create unique noncommercial products for a specialized customer with an unlimited budget. Throwing money at the problem was an obvious approach. To save a livable climate we need to create mass-market commercial products for lots of different customers who have limited budgets.
The point is that to do the right thing vis-a-vis clean energy, the country must establish a correctly shaped market that makes that kind of energy worth purchasing. That's where government comes in. It's a smart and convincing argument.

Along the way, he has all kinds of fascinating stats:
We impose a 54-cent-per gallon tariff on sugarcane ethanol from Brazil, an ally, but a 1.25-cent-per-gallon tariff on crude oil from Saudi Arabia. Imported bottled water costs about $180/barrel, milk costs about $150/barrel--shouldn't oil cost more than either of these? Our world population is expected to grow by 1 billion in the next 12 years. If you gave each of those people one light bulb and allowed him or her to use it just 4 hours a day, we'd need about 20 new coal-burning power plants just to run those bulbs. Etc.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Many Strokes Though with a Little Axe

PZ's budget woes made it to the Ithaca Journal today. Meanwhile, I am beginning to know people who are being laid off, not just cut back.

And yesterday we received our BOE budget packets, complete with varying scenarios--what local taxes look like if we maintain programs and the governor's budget passes, what programs look like if we aim for a 4% levy increase, etc. We just laughed, nauseatedly. It's beyond bleak.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Queen of the Castle

The Opposite of a Free Press

It isn't necessarily no press at all, based on an offhand comment on NPR this morning. Because Israel is not allowing press into Gaza, the photos and reportage coming out are courtesy of Al-Jazeera. Does that really sound like a good idea to the Israelis?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Reading List

I'm slogging through Tom Friedman's latest, which I got from SAZ for the holidays. It's not dull; it's just a lot to absorb in one sitting. So far, my favorite part is where he talks about upcoming issues of water (something I wrote about in my book on the Assads--I think it is the number one issue of the 21st century and will surpass oil and other energy issues) and mentions in passing that the word rival derives from "those who must share a river." I love that and will probably steal it and use it often. I also like his put down of "green revolution" as a concept; his take is that we're barely in a "green party"--a revolution means that people get hurt, and we're merely dancing around pretending to be green. It makes my Wegman's bags and composter seem fairly irrelevant.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Loving that P.T.

Dave blogged about his massage, so I thought I'd give a shout out to my physical therapist. I've been going to Dryden Sport & Spine for about six weeks now to unstick a frozen shoulder and deal with bursitis in my hip. It's all on my right side, making me truly lopsided, and it's all months to years old. I've resisted P.T. for years--why can't I do my own yoga exercises and fix what ails me?--but now I'm a believer. My hip is totally cured, and my range of motion is 80 percent back in my shoulder.

Of course, I just undid weeks of therapy trying unsuccessfully to dig my car out of a snowbank. Now everything hurts.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

What a Mess

I wrote about the challenge for chair of the county legislature, but I haven't followed up because what happened next was such a comedy of errors that it defies description. Martha was interested in a challenge to Mike but not committed to one. Whoever leaked the story led the Democratic caucus to issue a compromise: If Martha wouldn't challenge, she would become Vice Chair. That meant that current Vice Chair Leslyn McBean Clairborne would step aside. Everything would be pleasant and not divisive.

Well, that's not what happened. Yes, all of the Dems voted for Mike as Chair. Then the vote for Vice Chair happened, and Mike first voted for Leslyn and then voted for Martha, making the votes 8 to 8, which exceeded the number of legislators. He then switched somehow to vote for Leslyn, at which point the deal appeared to be off. Then Dooley, apparently irked at not getting the deal she had approved earlier, asked to switch her vote for Chair, presumably to vote for Martha. That led to a recess, during which the IJ reporter saw and reported on seeing Martha and Mike talking animatedly in the corridor. (I can imagine!) Then they reconvened, and Mike declared that his vote was for Martha, making it 8 to 7.

Now this has led to a challenge from the Republicans, possible legal follow up, and all kinds of ill will.

I guess if there's a moral, it is: If you want to run against the Chair, do so. I can't help thinking that Martha might have had the votes to win. Now she may end up with no Vice Chair position; Mike is tainted as racist, which is certainly not his particular flaw; and The People are angry. No winners.

Required Reading

Another party heard from: Rashid Khaladi on Gaza.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


DZ points out that half their snowstorms over the past three years are really ice storms, and she attributes it to global warming. I think it's true here, too. Our driveway is a rink, it's snow/raining, and I'm too chicken to go to the woodpile without crawling on my hands and knees.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Monday, January 5, 2009

What If They Gave a War, and Nobody Cared?

I can characterize most people's reactions to what's happening in Gaza in two words: "What, again?" Of course there are exceptions--we know one person who's in the American version of the Israeli reserves. He's rather committed to that side. But for the rest, it's a version of Middle East Burnout, I think.

I'm intrigued by the semantics. If Hamas is indeed the duly elected government of Gaza, shouldn't the dudes firing rockets be called "soldiers" instead of "militants"? At what point is a terrorist a "freedom fighter" or terrorism "armed resistance"?

I don't love Hamas. They grew out of the Muslim Brotherhood, and those guys are nuts. They make Arafat's Fatah look like the Cub Scouts. But a 100-to-1 mortality rate isn't much of a battle, is it? I can't find any similar rates in this list of battle death statistics; he tends to lump such incongruous ratios under "massacres."

How We Hire Teachers

In this fascinating New Yorker article (thanks, Mark), Malcolm Gladwell explores what's wrong with the way we hire teachers.
A group of researchers—Thomas J. Kane, an economist at Harvard’s school of education; Douglas Staiger, an economist at Dartmouth; and Robert Gordon, a policy analyst at the Center for American Progress—have investigated whether it helps to have a teacher who has earned a teaching certification or a master’s degree. Both are expensive, time-consuming credentials that almost every district expects teachers to acquire; neither makes a difference in the classroom.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Oh, Too Bad.

DZ and I are getting our jollies at the fact that our recent publisher, Lerner, was one of two scammed by the Fake Holocaust Couple. Lerner's book was a children's version of the tale. Lerner's website now has a disclaimer and offer of a refund.

I shouldn't make too much fun, since I've had a good time working for Lerner (for pfennigs, but the job has been educational).

I should also point out that DZ herself has a brand-new website, now that she's a soon-to-be ridiculously successful HarperCollins author.

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Kennedy Flap

I haven't weighed in yet on our soon-to-be open Senate seat, mostly because I think it's a tiresome situation that won't be resolved by the rest of us flapping our gums. However, now that Shelly Silver has announced that he'll support Caroline Kennedy, albeit unhappily (will someone please make that man irrelevant?), I will put in my two cents. I don't think she's a bad pick. Like HRC, she gains NY immediate clout through her personal fame. Is that what we need in a senator? Well, it can't hurt. I have no reason to think she won't work hard, and I am sure that she'll have the ear of other senators in a way that other potential candidates won't. Is that fair? Who cares. Has she earned it? I don't know, shall we talk about Al Franken for a minute? Does she understand upstate? No. Do I? Does anyone? Should we vet our senators based on who has eaten blooming onions at the State Fair?

There's absolutely no indication that Andrew Cuomo would be better. Naked ambition in a nice suit is all I get from him (Schumer is a similar case, minus the suit), and his cadre of henchman frankly scares the bejesus out of me. (Say what you will about HRC, she was never one of those people who, in a conversation, constantly looks behind you to see whether there's someone more important back there. Chuck and Andy are EXACTLY one of those people.) There's also the barely-mentioned issue of Andy's connection to predatory lending and subprime mortgages as director of HUD. He's not Mario, that's for sure.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year

Thank goodness, 2008 is over, and we're into a brand new year. And we begin with an interesting challenge on the county legislature between two potential chairs. Although I think it's fair to say they share a left-leaning vision, Martha would certainly be my choice for someone who has the work ethic to power important changes through. However, in a legislature of 15, where 4 votes are automatically given to (probably) Frank Proto, I'm not sure either Mike or Martha can come up with the 8 votes needed to chair. But I'm guessing that Martha would not mount a public challenge if she didn't think she had the numbers. I do wonder who leaked the story to the Journal. Fun!