Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

A brief look back at 2010 as seen from our back yard.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

R.I.P.

He'll be remembered for his economic theories, which I don't think were terribly successful--but I'll remember his brilliant portrayal of a variety of Gilbert & Sullivan characters in the Savoyards productions of my childhood.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Required Reading

Charles Blow on Britain's successful fight against child poverty.
If we can rise above the impulse to punish parents and focus on protecting children, we might replicate Britain’s success.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tax Cap Gun to Our Heads

Cuomo's proposed tax cap solves nothing, says the NYT in a smart editorial today.

If you think, as I do, that the problem most likely to hobble the US is the increasing disparity between rich and poor, you cannot love the tax cap, especially when it can be overridden by the voters. Rich districts will override; poor districts will sit at 2 percent no matter what. And 2 percent of an already insufficient amount is smaller than 2 or 3 or 5 percent of a really big amount, so the rich will get richer, and the poor will do what they always do (including producing high school graduates who can't even pass the Army entrance exam).

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Required Reading

Larry David thanks everyone for the tax cut.
Life was good, and now it’s even better. Thank you, Republicans. And a special thank you to President Obama and the Democrats. I didn’t know you cared.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Bad Boyfriend

He told you he couldn't be faithful, but you chose to hear what you wanted to hear. Don't blame the guy for being something other than what you invented; he never lied to you.

Do you remember stories like this one back in 2008? Did you choose to listen to the right-wingers who defined him as a socialist-progressive-liberal, or did you take the time to read his own writings or look at his record or listen to his words?

Maybe you thought you could change him once you had him in your grip. When will you learn? That sh*t never works.

So now you want to break up with him. You regret falling for that voice, that smile, those eyes. You almost, maybe, possibly regret choosing him over some of your other options. Go ahead, dump him. Do you think you can do better? Have you seen what's out there? Are you ready to go through the whole courtship thing all over again?

Expect to stay partnerless for a long, long time. Years, even. And next time, try following your head and not your heart.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Dime a Dozen

This one resonates with most freelancers I know. I've been lucky (or choosy)--I now work only for companies that pay me within a month at the most--but I did write off a couple of thou owed to me by the notorious Inkwell, a company now in litigation with a fairly large group of freelancers in a class action suit. I suppose I could join the suit, but the thought makes me tired.

I have, a couple of years ago, gotten into a fight with a company that refused to accept my invoices because they have a (non-binding) line at the bottom that says "Please add 5% to bills not paid within 30 days." Apparently, using a line typical of plumbers and electricians is hurtful to publishers and their middlemen; I was told in no uncertain terms that my services were not needed and that the company, built from the bottom up by the speaker and her husband, "takes care of our freelancers." Much the way, I'm sure, that plantations once took care of their field hands.

The suggestion that freelance writers are a dime a dozen and that thousands are champing at the bit to take one's place on whatever measly project might be dangled in one's peripheral vision is an implication that publishers have perpetrated for years. When folks complain that American education isn't what it used to be, they might consider that you get what you pay for. If the best of us are turning down crap wages and refusing to work for companies that are nonchalant about on-time payment--as my listserve suggests that we are--the people writing many of the nation's textbooks are what's left--first-timers, untrained writers with no experience in the classroom, and hacks.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Required Reading

Gail Collins on the sexism that haunts women who cry in public compared to, say, our new Speaker of the House, who's a veritable faucet.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Bill Gates Tells You How You're Doing

Great Schools is now working with the Gates Foundation to provide ever-so-much-moreso information on local schools. Here's Dryden High School, as an example. You can search for your own local school and see how it stacks up. It's a little misleading, since it appears to be quite up-to-date, but digging into the data shows that the test scores are from 2008-2009. Nevertheless, the "What Can I Do?" feature is nice, and the comparison of nations is inspiring/depressing.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Weather

The question of the day (and of many winter days): If Saturday night's expected freezing rain in Freeville turns to regular old rain by 9 AM Sunday, will it still be freezing rain till noon or later here on the mountain? And if so, should I grocery shop today?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Scofflaw Developers

The question of the day is: Should someone who's notoriously delinquent in paying property taxes be allowed to continue building developments? If, for the town, it's all about expanding the property tax base, yet the developer is regularly on the list of nonpayers or late payers, how is it a benefit to the town for the developer to continue building?

Whereas some local developers seem to make plans and build structures without the slightest flap, the Lucentes always seem to be in the paper. Either they're building on wetlands and fighting with the Town of Ithaca, or they're ignoring zoning restrictions and appearing before the Dryden ZBA. When I was 6, my family lived in Lucente Land, in the northeast Ithaca development my mother aptly christened "Tobacco Road" (Rocco Lucente named the streets after cigarettes, since the existing street, Muriel, reminded him of the cigar, despite being named for an earlier developer's daughter). When I was 9, we left and never looked back.

Rocco's still in the biz in Ithaca. His sons Christopher (for whom Christopher Circle is named) and Stephen are in the biz, too. Stephen often develops under his wife's name, perhaps to derive tax breaks for female-owned businesses. Now they are up against residents of the hamlet of Varna, waiting for a break from the ZBA. With all that they own, the Lucentes are not on the list of top ten taxpayers in Tompkins County. Could that be because they're always a skip away from foreclosure? There oughta be a law. Oh, yeah, there is one.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Commish

New York's Commissioner of Education is an interesting guy--a product of British education who, while at Boston U, roundly condemned the way we train teachers; a dean at Hunter College School of Education whose major innovation was the use of the Flip video cam to track and critique teachers' performance. Now he's in charge of the whole pie in NY, and his vision is broad and deep. I like what I've seen; it scares a lot of people, and that, to me, is a good thing.

Today I drove to see him in person at the Owego Treadway Inn, along with district supts, supts, principals, and a few board members from the region. I was glad to have given myself extra time--it took 1 1/2 hours to get there behind scared drivers in the mild blizzards and just 45 minutes to get back.

The Commish spoke about the Race to the Top changes, which affect curriculum, assessment, and accountability. By 2014, we should have all-new assessments that will be used statewide. With them will come (for the first time) a statewide curriculum, not mandatory (politically, that's probably unfeasible), but, he hopes, appealing enough to be broadly used, plus rubrics for teacher performance, ditto. This ties into NY's signing on to the national Common Core standards.

The inquiry teams we're putting in place at the local level are meant to be the liaisons between what's happening in Albany and the local classrooms. He thinks each team should have one or two curriculum folks, a tech & data person, and an assessments & accountability person.

Remarkably few people asked questions--I could have asked questions all day! When they did, most were the "how can we pay for all this" whine that most often comes out of administrators who just had to cut seven teachers to pay for yet another mandate from the state. There will be a huge gap (several million) in the budget for next year's Regents tests. On the table are three possibilities: 1) the legislature steps up and pays the bill as usual, which they claim they will not do; 2) State Ed cuts back the Regents to a bare minimum, just before we have to remake the tests to incorporate Common Core standards; and 3) State Ed charges districts $7-$8 per student for taking the test--which looks like a scurrilous surcharge to me, since, of course, we already pay for the creation, production, and administration of those tests.

I asked a question that's been bothering me--Steiner talks a great game (and I have been saying this for eons) about how the changes to national standards are completely necessary--we've fallen from second to fourteenth in worldwide education levels, we're the only developed nation NOT to have such standards, etc. However, we're burdened politically by something Finland and South Korea don't have--the myth of local control. So I asked how, given this, he would suggest we deal with explaining and supporting the changes at the community level. He agreed that the trickle-down of urgency had not yet happened, but that he was quite convinced that over the next ten years, middle-class families would find more and more that grown, jobless kids would move back in with mom and dad, as they're starting to do, and that this more than anything else would represent at the local level what happens if we DON'T implement change at the state and national levels.

In top schools, the Commish finds that the teachers all know how the kids are doing, and that they think collectively about "our child" rather than "my child"--as a school or district rather than as a discrete classroom. Top schools have master teachers in the classrooms of new teachers, sometimes every hour of every day (rich schools, obviously!) Too many teachers that he sees in his visits are teaching well below students' abilities (he mentioned an 11th grade geography class being pitched at a 6th grade level, but he thinks this is pervasive, and I'm sure that it is).

Lots more, not new stuff, but clarification of how things might work as they go forward. It's a daunting task, but this Commish seems to relish the work, which may or may not be enough to get us somewhere over the next few terrible years.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Bernie Sanders Speaks Truth

Thanks to the many many people who sent this one:

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Breaking the Silence

I've been ducking the no fracking issue for too long. Today I went public, in a response to a friend who had asked me to sign a petition. I know that my stance will horrify most of my friends and family, but here goes.
Dear M—
I thought you deserved an explanation as to why I did not sign your DRAC petition last night. Since I remain somewhat soft on the issue, I’m copying some friends on the committee on the off chance that one of them might be able to change my mind.
Full disclosure: We leased mineral rights on a corner of our property several years ago, before the term “hydrofracking” entered the New York lexicon.

THE SCUM-OF-THE-EARTH ISSUE
Like many Democrats, I believe that oil and gas companies are the scum of the earth. For that reason, we tried very hard to get at least partly off the grid when we first built our house. We looked into solar and wind energy sources, talked at length with NYSERDA and others, and determined that, in NYS at least, the system is stacked against individual homeowners. Yes, some incentives exist (and I believe that such incentives are a good and proper use of government). However, since the US really has no coherent energy policy, and NYS is basically corrupt, the incentives are not great enough to make solar or wind affordable to middle-income families, partly because NYS requires that homeowners deal exclusively with certain manufacturers and installers (which I think is NOT a good and proper use of government). The initial outlay, back when we looked into it, was so great that it would have taken 20-25 years to break even. We ended up going with a dual system of wood and heating oil.

I wish that we had known about geothermal heating when we built. That would have been a good alternative for us. If some unknown rich relative leaves us a legacy, we’ll rip up our back yard and convert to geothermal. Right now, that’s not an option.

THE HYPOCRISY ISSUE
If we heated our home geothermally, I would feel far more comfortable opposing gas drilling. I think it’s much better to use a renewable source for our energy than to use fossil fuels, no matter how much “cleaner” natural gas might supposedly be than oil. But we use oil, as do over 40 percent of New Yorkers, and that’s a serious problem for me. First of all, there is no way for me to know the source of the oil I use. I shop around each year, but whether I buy it from Agway or Ehrhart or Hewitt, it’s an unknown resource from an unknown source. Almost certainly, some percentage of it comes from overseas. Almost certainly, most or all of it is refined in the US. That’s about all I know.

In keeping drilling rigs out of Dryden, which I would love to do, I am condemning small towns in Texas and Oklahoma and Louisiana to lives of unsightliness, disease, and misery, just to provide me with the fuel oil I need. I am contributing to the economic segregation that plagues our country, a segregation that allows communities with money to draw their resources from communities without money. I am increasing the footprint of my fuel choice by ensuring that it is shipped thousands of miles before it reaches me. My own NIMBY attitude, if it is not accompanied by a refusal to use fossil fuels, is harmful to others. As someone who once lived in West Virginia, I’m pretty sensitive to this issue.

It seems to me that to oppose gas drilling logically, I need to offer a better option. Yet I live in a town that regulates against windmills of a certain size and in a state that insists that I purchase my solar panels from the most expensive sources around.

THE UGLINESS ISSUE
Here’s what I think are ugly: Power lines. Phone lines. That’s why we spent the extra dollars to bury ours underground. I also think cell towers are ugly. However, we’ve agreed to let Chuck B build a tower on our property, to the dismay of friends and family. Why? Because we feel that the town’s need for high-speed Internet service trumps our need to keep our woods pristine. Someday we’ll figure out a way to reduce the ugliness factor, but we’re not there yet. Right now, if we want 21st century communication, we have to have towers. (We are hoping to mitigate the ugliness by working with Chuck to find a way to tie wind power to the placement of towers. It remains to be seen whether this will succeed.)

I think most of Dryden’s apartment complexes are pretty ugly, as are its trailer parks and its Dollar Stores. The farms that keep rusted-out dead equipment next to the road are ugly, too. Zoning is used in many places to reduce ugliness. My guess is that we would all come up with different suggestions if the town decided to use zoning primarily for this purpose.

To oppose gas drilling merely on aesthetic grounds seems petty, and as I suggested above, that simply pushes the ugliness onto someone who can’t afford to oppose it. To oppose gas drilling on safety grounds seems much more reasonable.

THE SAFETY ISSUE
I do not want unknown pollutants in my well water or groundwater. I support a moratorium and want to hear from the DEC and EPA on the safety issues. (Meanwhile, if we don’t trust the DEC, shouldn’t we disband it? If we don’t trust the EPA, ditto? What is the point of having regulatory agencies whose opinions we reject?) I’d like to know more about the form of fracking used in parts of Canada, a form which apparently uses no chemicals. I don’t want fracking to proceed until all safety questions are answered satisfactorily.

No, I don’t want big trucks and bright lights damaging my roads and nighttime sky. I’d much rather those trucks and bright lights were somewhere else where I didn’t have to see them. (See the Hypocrisy Issue, above.)

THE JOBS ISSUE
I know that the GOP notion that gas drilling is a job creator is specious. I know that the scum-of-the-earth gas and oil companies bring in experts from Texas and Oklahoma and Louisiana, temporary workers who buy their goods at the company store and return home to spend their sizeable paychecks. I think a reasonable use of government might be to insist that a certain percentage of jobs (good jobs, not just part-time truck driving) in the gas industry go to local citizens. I have yet to hear that proposal made.

THE WORDING ISSUE
Unfortunately, this latest petition isn’t up on the DRAC website. However, my initial reading of it last night did not gibe with the suggestion that it was about zoning to prevent gas drilling. It seemed much more definitive than that—completely preventative under any circumstances. Pulling the rug out from under hopeful landowners (not us, despite our little, soon-to-expire lease—the elderly farmers in our community that stand to lose their land) seems drastic to me. I understand the desperation of the DRAC supporters who fear that Cuomo will open the gates to drilling, but I still don’t see an alternative energy plan—from anyone at the town, county, state, or national level—that would help me support a “no fracking ever” stance.

Thanks for letting me ramble on.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Corporatocracy

On a pleasant walk along Taughannock Creek this weekend, Mark and I talked politics and life, and he mentioned that if he were able to turn the clock back, the number one thing he'd eliminate is corporate law--the notion that corporations are living, breathing entities with their own wants and needs. It's a notion that "Citizens United" only extends, and Frank Rich touches on one aspect of its damage in his article this week on the financing of politicians. It's the problem I have with BOCES and New York's teachers' unions--the fact that even an association designed to support other organizations or individuals can take on a life of its own and make decisions designed to benefit itself at the expense of or despite the needs of its constituent members--or in conflict with its purported raison d'etre, which, in the case of NYSUT, is "advancing excellence."

From constitutional republic to corporatocracy in just over two centuries. Ike warned us about this 50 years ago:
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

Sadie's pose says it all.-->

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Representation

Since Mike Arcuri won't run again for Congress, it appears that my Congressional district is back to being solidly Republican for the foreseeable future. My State Senate district has been that way since I moved here (and we've had the same senator, Jim Seward, since 1986). My Assembly district has been helmed by a Democrat for as long as I've been here; Marty Luster took the seat in 1988, and his chief of staff took over in 2002. County representation has moved back and forth, as befits a section of town that is fairly equally divided. It was Mike Lane (D); then it was Mike Hattery (R); now it's Mike Lane again. I honestly don't remember who was representative when I moved here in 1991; perhaps someone can remind me.* As for the town, it was red when I got here, turned briefly bluish, back to red, and is now as blue as it's ever been (3 Dems, 1 Republican, 1 Independent). All of which goes to show that Dryden is an upstate NY town that is somewhat influenced by its proximity to a liberal small city. But a look at the maps also indicates that it's way past time for redistricting. Congressional District 24 above; State Senate District 51 here.
* Thanks to Simon, who claims it was Bob Watrous.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Another Budget, Another 5+%

Dryden's Mike Lane was one of four legislators, mostly downtown Democrats, who voted against the county budget last night. If it were up to me, I would have been content with County Administrator Joe Mareane's original budget, but squeaky wheels prevailed.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Interactive Fix

Here's a clever feature in the online Times--YOU fix the budget.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Required Reading

Of course, in reposting this, I'm feeding into the very problem that Andrew Sullivan dissects so neatly in the piece--it's all too easy, given the news cycle and the Internet, to rely on another, like-minded paraphraser rather than checking the source.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Overall Wellbeing

I'm getting over a nasty virus, but I'm happy to hear that I live next door to the city that ranked highest for overall wellbeing in Gallup's survey of 1 million households. Imagine that!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Required Reading

Zakaria on three "revolutions," the first two of which ended up being little more than wheel-spinning. The Republican Revolution: Real This Time?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Take That, Susan B. Anthony

Eleven women stepped up to challenge anti-choice incumbents in the State Senate this year. All eleven lost. This year, the ratio of women to men in the State Senate is about 1 to 6. It may be worse when the dust clears. Happy 90th anniversary of women's suffrage.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Prediction

I'm not putting money on any results, although it seems likely that Cuomo will sleepwalk in with ease. I will predict the following, however: The next two years will be a battle royale between the Tea Partiers and the Neocons, and the result will change the Grand Old Party one way or the other for a long time to come. Populists or corporate hacks? Slash defense to kill the national debt, or start new wars in some new locale to increase spending in the private sector? It seems pretty obvious that the center cannot hold--this supposed alliance is nothing of the kind, and it will result in an ugly implosion. It's enough to make me look forward to the occasional Tea Party win today.

Global Economics 101

Krugman on how if everyone stops spending, the economy spirals downward--yet our Puritan notions of economics keep us from serving our own interests.
The irony is that in their determination to punish the undeserving, voters are punishing themselves: by rejecting fiscal stimulus and debt relief, they’re perpetuating high unemployment. They are, in effect, cutting off their own jobs to spite their neighbors.

But they don’t know that. And because they don’t, the slump will go on.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Jobs

Vote November 2

Figures from the CBO

A CU physicist sent around this message to interested voters, and I present it here in its entirety.
It troubles me greatly that the Republican and Tea Party leaders, with the help of the unlimited advertising on their behalf by corporate lobbyists, have totally misled the public about causes of the nation's economic problems. They have managed to convince many people that Obama and the Democrats are responsible for the budget deficit and other economic woes. The facts are quite the opposite. The source for all the numbers I provide below is the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), and anyone can go to the web site http://www.cbo.gov/ to check the numbers I provide below.

Here is how the total Federal Debt (as a percentage of Gross Domestic product changed from 1980 to 2009):
Federal debt in 1981 when Reagan took over from Carter 26.2%
Federal debt in 1989 when Bush-1 took over from Reagan 41.1% (increase of 14.9%)
Federal debt in 1993 when Clinton took over from Bush-1 50.1% (increase of 9.0%)
Federal debt in 2001 when Bush-2 took over from Clinton 33.4% (DECREASE of 16.7%)
Federal debt in 2009 when Obama took over from Bush-2 42.0% (increase of 8.6%)
In total the Federal Debt increased by 32.5% during Republican presidents and DECREASED by 16.7% during the Democratic president.
Reference: http://www.cbo.gov/doc.cfm?index=11945

Although bailing out Wall Street is unpopular, letting the banks collapse would have been devastating for the economy. The bailout was one of the few actions done with bipartisan support. Similarly, letting the auto industry in the US collapse would have severely hurt the economy as well as national security. Moreover, it is projected now that the eventual cost to the taxpayer will in the worst case be a tiny fraction of the original estimate and in the best case may in fact save the taxpayer money.

The war in Iraq and the mortgage fiasco both occurred under the watch of the Republicans, the former because of lies promulgated by the Bush administration and the latter because of antipathy to any reasonable regulation. The economy has slowly started to turn around under Obama, but it takes more than 2 years to fix a mess created over a long period of time. When Obama took office the Dow was around 7,500 and headed down to 6,500, and now it is over 11,000.

The Obama stimulus bill according to http://www.cbo.gov/doc.cfm?index=11706 has:
a) Raised real (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product (GDP) by between 1.7 percent and 4.5 percent, b) Lowered the unemployment rate by between 0.7 percentage points and 1.8 percentage points, c) Increased the number of people employed by between 1.4 million and 3.3 million, and d) Increased the number of full-time-equivalent jobs by 2.0 million to 4.8 million.

Every credible analysis of the health care bill indicates it will save money. According to http://www.cbo.gov/doc.cfm?index=11945 by 2019 it will provide insurance to 32 million Americans who would otherwise have been uninsured while at the same time saving money by reducing administrative costs and having increased competition among insurers in the nongroup market.

When Obama came to office, he made every effort to reach out to the Republicans and even included two Republicans in his cabinet. The Republican response was to try to block every positive initiative by the president, repeatedly using filibusters to allow the 41 senator minority to prevail over the 59-member majority. A large number of government positions are still unfilled because Republicans in the Senate have not approved Obama appointees. For example, MIT economist Peter Diamond's appointment to the Federal Reserve has been blocked by the Republicans, supposedly because he is unqualified. Peter Diamond won the Nobel Prize for Economics a month ago!

Vote for the candidates that have some respect for the truth, speak to the issues and are willing to reach across the aisle to work together. That is what made our country great and that is how we can keep it that way.

R.I.P.

Ted Sorenson, speechwriter extraordinaire, age 82, and Pontiac, age 84.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Four-Point Program

The Statewide School Finance Consortium has put forth a four-point plan, which they have shared with all candidates for state office:
Solution: A FOUR-POINT PLAN TO BRING EDUCATION COSTS UNDER CONTROL
1. The State must freeze wages for all public school employees when state aid is frozen or reduced. Only the State Government has the power to enact this measure. No individual district can impose a wage freeze.
2. The State must cap the amount a school district can spend on health insurance and require employees to pay a larger share of their health insurance costs. School districts cannot sustain costly contract provisions for salaries and benefits that were negotiated many years before and which they cannot reduce under the provisions of the so-called “Triborough Amendment”.
3. The State must enact a new major pension reform and require public employees to contribute significantly more toward their pensions. The State requires school districts to participate in the Employee and Teachers retirement systems and they have no control over the cost of those benefits.
4. The State must reduce the costs of special education by bringing New York’s regulations into conformance with federal guidelines. These skyrocketing costs are beyond the control of local school districts. Only the State Government has the power to make its requirements more reasonable and realistic.
Passing the burden of the state’s constitutionally-mandated responsibility onto local schools cannot continue. Schools have already cut spending as far as they could in order to keep property taxes from rising during this economic downturn. Local property tax increases will simply be insufficient to meet school districts’ rising costs.
If they cannot provide enough state aid for schools to function, then our elected leaders really have no alternative but to enact substantive cost-saving measures.
New York State can no longer pass the buck.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Required Reading

Early voting actually suppresses the vote.
Early voting also dilutes the intensity of Election Day. When a large share of votes is cast well in advance of the first Tuesday in November, campaigns begin to scale back their late efforts. The parties run fewer ads and shift workers to more competitive states. Get-out-the-vote efforts in particular become much less efficient when so many people have already voted.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Autumn Work

I came home from the Dryden Dems biannual Highway Cleanup to find that Paul had been busy, too. Imagine carving those pumpkins.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Candidate Forum

The candidate forum at Neptune Hose was fairly well attended (though not by Democrats), despite the nasty weather. Sheriff candidate Lansing was unable to be there, so Sheriff Meskill just introduced himself and stuck around for the Assembly candidate discussion. No questions on fracking--questions instead on truck regulations, constituent service, charter schools, spending, the STAR program. Nothing particularly out of left field. Candidate Reynolds seems to believe that we can just sit down and talk with individuals instead of writing regulations. He also believes that we should make school decisions locally but still have state standards. Candidate Lifton talked about "studying" problems and the complexity of the issues a bit too often. The guy handling the camera in front of me shook his head violently at everything Lifton said about charter schools, none of which seemed shake-worthy to me. I couldn't get a handle on the audience--the grange was well-represented, but there were many people I did not know. ICTV showed up but didn't seem very well organized or able to lift their cameras without clunking around. Two or three local papers were also there; I did not see the radio stations.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Who's the Craziest Candidate?

Oh, so many to choose from. Let's go with the craziest who's likely to win. That could be Florida Congressional Candidate Allen West, endorsed by Palin and the Tea Party, who's ahead in the polls despite his (1) being forced out of the Army for using abusive interrogation techniques; (2) association with a violent biker gang suspected in cases of arson, drug running, and murder; (3) self-reference as an "intellectual warrior"; (4) suggestion that the Tea Party fight liberals the way the Untouchables did ("they send one of yours to the hospital; you send one of theirs to the morgue"); (5) physical intimidation of Democratic staffers who attempted to attend his speeches and rallies; etc., etc., etc. But he got $11K from Bank of America! and $10K from John Boehner's Freedom Project!

NY Debate

Who says politics is dull? Here we had the legalize-pot-former-madam vs. the Rent Is 2 Damn High party candidate vs. the scary developer from Buffalo vs. the failed HUD secretary. Paladino seemed way over his head; Davis was far better prepared and got off the best zingers, and McMillan was a laff riot.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Dissolving a Village

The Village of Candor has been tiptoeing around this issue for some time, and now a committee has conducted a study, with the help of the Center for Governmental Research. A local government efficiency grant paid for the study.

Based on the comment that follows the article, there are at least two sides to the argument. A flowchart on the Candor committee website shows how complicated the process of dissolution may be.

The Village of Candor is 794 residents within a town of 5,138. As a point of comparison, the Village of Freeville has 505 residents, and the Village of Dryden has 1,832, all within a town of 13,532.

Friday, October 15, 2010

I Knew She Was Above Average

CNN tells us that the average teen sends 3,339 texts a month. Ha! O's latest monthly score? 19,785.

LATER: My mistake. I misread the printout. This was for a month and a half. More like one every 4 minutes or so.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Baby Peafowl Grow Up

Eiffel ("I'm Blue"), Seneca, and Oneida are now used to the big pen. They do everything together, but Eiffel is a bit braver and more curious than his siblings.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Foundations of Liberty Not for Me

As if NYS weren't plagued with enough home-grown silliness, now we're importing nutballs from Utah to instruct us in re-establishing a government based in natural law.
We want to redefine citizenship and patriotism as helping the nation by creating better marriages and families. We want to communicate that the only way to fix Washington is to admit that we are a part of the problem, to re-evaluate (ReValue) our own selves, marriages, families and communities and make the changes necessary to be better people. This will result in less personal vice and broken marriages, happier and loving families, better neighborhoods, leading to improved communities, superior local leaders and no-nonsense state level leadership and finally, inspiring national leaders.
This libertarian stress on local over federal, family over community, micro over macro, purports to be the absolute purpose of our nation as the founders conceived it, but to me it's a recipe for selfishness and ignorance. Shanon Brooks stresses an American education that focuses on the works of Jefferson (the "real" Jefferson), Washington, and Adams (ditto). At his Monticello College and in his workshops, they read Locke, Marx & Engels, and especially crazy John Bircher Cleon Skousen, whose emphasis on faith-based politics (and argument that slave owners were the main victims of slavery) makes him the fringyest of the fringe philosophers.

And now they're coming to Dryden to enlighten us all. I wish I had the patience to sit for three hours and listen to this blather, but I can think of so many things I'd rather do.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Fire!

The rumor flew around Facebook faster than any rumor before--and then it turned out to be true. The middle school has smoke and water damage, and it may or may not reopen Tuesday.

LATER: It reopened on time. A generator shot a rod, essentially backfiring, and flamed out so thoroughly that the roof temperature (on a cool night) got up to 170 degrees. It was a carburetor fire involving natural gas. It melted the emergency shutoff and caused about $250K worth of damage (all covered by insurance).

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Required Reading

Frank Rich on how Christine O'Donnell's candidacy is just what the billionaires who fund the "populist" TP movements needed for legitimacy.
By latching on to O’Donnell’s growing presence, the Rove-Boehner-McConnell establishment can claim it represents struggling middle-class Tea Partiers rather than Wall Street potentates and corporate titans. O’Donnell’s value is the same as that other useful idiot, Michael Steele, who remains at the Republican National Committee only because he can wave the banner of “diversity” over a virtually all-white party that alternately demonizes African-Americans, Latinos, gays and Muslims.

Friday, October 1, 2010

A Woman's Prerogative

Looks like TP/9-12er Kelly Kheel changed her mind somewhere after 2008, when she gave nearly $800 to Hillary Clinton's campaign.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

We're Not Tea Partiers

Forgive my last post. In a dust-up on The Albany Project, Kelly Kheel announces that her group are 912ers, not Tea Partiers. In other words, they belong to that nutball chorus of re-Constitutioners sponsored by Glenn Beck. Here's their platform, in case you aren't familiar with them. I publish it without comment, but I eagerly await yours.
The 9 Principles

1. America Is Good.

2. I believe in God and He is the Center of my Life.
God “The propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained.” from George Washington’s first Inaugural address.

3. I must always try to be a more honest person than I was yesterday.
Honesty “I hope that I shall always possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider to be the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.” George Washington

4. The family is sacred. My spouse and I are the ultimate authority, not the government.
Marriage/Family “It is in the love of one’s family only that heartfelt happiness is known. By a law of our nature, we cannot be happy without the endearing connections of a family.” Thomas Jefferson

5. If you break the law you pay the penalty. Justice is blind and no one is above it.
Justice “I deem one of the essential principles of our government… equal and exact justice to all men of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political.” Thomas Jefferson

6. I have a right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, but there is no guarantee of equal results.
Life, Liberty, & The Pursuit of Happiness “Everyone has a natural right to choose that vocation in life which he thinks most likely to give him comfortable subsistence.” Thomas Jefferson

7. I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable.
Charity “It is not everyone who asketh that deserveth charity; all however, are worth of the inquiry or the deserving may suffer.” George Washington

8. It is not un-American for me to disagree with authority or to share my personal opinion.
On your right to disagree “In a free and republican government, you cannot restrain the voice of the multitude; every man will speak as he thinks, or more properly without thinking.” George Washington

9. The government works for me. I do not answer to them, they answer to me.
Who works for whom? “I consider the people who constitute a society or a nation as the source of all authority in that nation.” Thomas Jefferson

The 12 Values
* Honesty
* Reverence
* Hope
* Thrift
* Humility
* Charity
* Sincerity
* Moderation
* Hard Work
* Courage
* Personal Responsibility
* Gratitude

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Tea Party, Tompkins County Style

Our local TPers (sounds like a party of Halloween pranksters) recently invited candidates to a debate session moderated by their own leader but failed to reveal their own identity in the invitation. Since our campaigns knew they weren't the Grange, or Rotary, or the League of Women Voters, they did some online searching and discovered the source of the invitation, leading most of the Dems to decline. Simon has more on the story, which is one of those things that could just represent innocent ignorance--but probably is somewhat more sinister. The fact that the Conservative/Republican candidate for Assembly is a member of the local TP chapter makes this even more dubious.

Hiatus

After a very intense four months on Common Core Standards, I've earned the right to clean my office (done!) and take a road trip with Kris to Saratoga.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Garden

Considering that we had no tomatoes at all last year, thanks to the blight, the bushels this year seem especially bountiful. And our pumpkins should be winning awards at some fair.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Primary Colors

Another primary day has come and gone. I did far better (3 for 3) than in my football picks for the week (damn Jets). As usual, I got to bumble through some commentary prior to the vote. People are all freaked out about the Tea Party wins (remember, people, it's not a party), but I look forward to seeing the GOP eat its tail through until November 2.

BTW, turnout for Dems in the county was around 4 percent, which is horrendous, even for us.

LATER: Got that 4% from an incorrect IJ post. More like 20%, which is typical.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Required Reading

Larry Bartels in Slate on income inequality. Startling.
In all income categories except the 95th percentile, income growth rates under Democratic presidents exceeded income growth rates under Republican ones. That suggests greater income equality can coexist with (or even help create) greater prosperity.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Labor Day

Here's a nice Labor Day story, complete with spunky heroine and evil exploiter of undocumented workers. And it's true!

Friday, September 3, 2010

County Budget

A bunch of folks attended last night's presentation on the county budget at Dryden's Community Center Cafe. The presentation was coherent, thorough, and very depressing. Although county taxes are a drop in the bucket when it comes to our total package of property taxes, they are symptomatic of the whole--no state support + runaway state mandates = disaster. The major budget drivers are pension costs, health benefits (somewhat alleviated by the county's joining of a municipal consortium), fringe benefits, temporary assistance (welfare, aid to dependent children, etc.), and Medicaid. Pension rates alone are projected to leap from 11.5 percent of payroll in 2010 to 16.1 percent in 2011.

I was surprised to see exactly what are considered discretionary programs (and therefore those that are most likely to be cut, although they make up just a small portion of the pie): emergency response, road patrol, facilities and road maintenance, public library, mental health, youth services, IT, office for the aging, and agencies. This doesn't bode well.

There was a small crowd there to advocate for a couple of youth services, particularly one that delivers services to the trailer parks of Dryden. There was a small "no new taxes" crowd, which included the guy who is running against Barbara Lifton for State Assembly. The rest of us just felt generally defeated and glad we weren't on the budget committee.

A rollover of services would raise the levy more than 10 percent, to $6.70 per $1000 assessed value. (For perspective, our school rate is somewhat over $20/$1000, depending where you live.) The budget the county administrator will present is one that raises the levy 5 percent. No doubt that will not stand.

LATER: Simon has additional details.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Reunion


We hosted a mini-reunion for my pals from Cornell, including the Chair of Interpol's environmental crime committee, a woodworking artist specializing in hand tooled Japanese shoji, and the next ambassador to Pakistan. We hit the high spots--campus, the Farmers' Market, Taughannock, the Rongo. . . . Much food, drink, and cameraderie.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Trip to Ohio


Zac Brown Concert, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Browns preseason game--all the highlights.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Updated Mechanics Rules

Thanks to DE for sending along the Chicago Manual's updated rules. US, not U.S., a single rule for ellipses, capped Internet but lowercased website, etc., etc. Only two of them irk me--breaking URLs before the slash rather than after, and using apostrophe and s after Xerxes to show possession. Is nothing sacred?

I Told You So

When this was proposed, I wrote quickly to our local congressional rep, telling him all the reasons it was a bad idea that wouldn't work. You can't give schools federal funds in August and tell them to retain teachers they laid off in June. Nor can you expect them to hire new teachers with one-time money. Who's for it? The unions. Does it make any sense at all? None. Are we stuck with it now? Looks like it.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Reading List

I was totally inclined to hate it--a historic novel in black-voice by a young white Southerner? But I gave up, because it's really pretty good.

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Nice Story

Just a bit of good news from our school at today's BOE meeting--a program known as WEB, or the "weekend backpack" program, founded by the elementary school social worker along with folks from the Kitchen Cupboard, sent food home every Friday in 24 elementary students' backpacks last year--2 proteins, 2 grains, 2 dairy products, and 2 veg/fruits. Thanks to help from Sertoma, Dryden churches, and a variety of other local organizations (for example, the Girl Scouts help pack the food), WEB was able to continue this over the summer and will serve 36 children next year. They will also be able to supply children with toothbrushes and toothpaste every 3 months. The collaboration among Dryden agencies and organizations is pretty remarkable, and the service feeds kids for whom free school breakfast and lunch five days a week are otherwise the only regular meals they get.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Required Reading

The most important point Krugman makes in his demolishing of Congressman Ryan's fiscal plan is that Americans can't do math, so they accept anything that sounds good.
One depressing aspect of American politics is the susceptibility of the political and media establishment to charlatans. You might have thought, given past experience, that D.C. insiders would be on their guard against conservatives with grandiose plans. But no: as long as someone on the right claims to have bold new proposals, he’s hailed as an innovative thinker. And nobody checks his arithmetic.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Religion and Politics

Certain American churches were once essential advocates of civil rights here and abroad. It's nice to see that something good has come out of the AZ immigration flap--churches aren't just engaged in ugly fire and brimstone sermonizing but are actively supporting their people in this ongoing struggle.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Bethel Woods

This part of the Catskills is just the most bizarre part of NY--equal parts cheesy Woodstock nostalgia and ancient Orthodox bungalow colonies, now fallen into ghetto disrepair but still housing hundreds upon hundreds of the faithful up from Brooklyn, all of whom were strolling the roads of White Lake and environs on this Sabbath afternoon and looking for all the world like the Mennonites of Dundee, minus the horses. We went to visit the Woodstock Museum, which is wonderful, and to hear a concert at the open-air venue, which, on this most beautiful evening, was stunning. About 2.5 hours up and 2.5 back.