Archives for the month of: March, 2012

A rock-star economist says it’s much simpler than you think. Daron Acemoglu, M.I.T. Professor, and his collaborator have found that the wealth of a country is most closely correlated with the degree to which the average person shares in the overall growth of its economy. When the poorest and least educated citizens have some shot at improving their own lives—through property rights, a reliable judicial system or access to markets—these citizens do what it takes to make themselves and their country richer. A comparison of related countries bears this out, e.g. the Dominican Republic vs. Haiti (two halves of the same island!) or Thailand vs. Burma (now Myanmar). It has also been true historically that fairly open and prosperous societies can revert to closed and impoverished autocracies. (NY Times Magazine, 3/18/12)

An important report from Working Families:

“This morning, a fracking compressor exploded in Northeast Pennsylvania, just 30 miles south of Binghamton.

As black smoke billows from the site, emergency crews from three counties are on the scene. The most recent reports suggest that workers are still trying to shut off the flow of gas. Luckily, no injuries have been reported so far.

The compressor station takes gas, extracted from the Marcellus Shale by hydrofracking, and pressurizes it for transport. Stations like these would spring up across New York if Governor Cuomo and the Department of Environmental Conservation approve fracking in our state.

Poisoned water, earthquakes, and now explosions. What more evidence do we need that fracking is too dangerous?”

Here is the link to news coverage by the Scranton Times-Tribune.

Chris Gibson’s Record (in part)

1. When he is in the district, he talks about getting Federal aid for flood victims from agencies such as FEMA. In Washington, he votes against all FEMA appropriations.
2. When in the district he talks about jobs. In Washington, he votes for tax cuts for large corporations and the rich – giving them money they invest overseas to take jobs away from Americans.
3. When in the district, he says he is in favor of expanding broadband coverage throughout rural areas. In Washington, he has done nothing to push this, and has voted against stimulus moneys that could be used for broadband expansion.
4. He consistently votes to restrict women’s rights.
5. He only votes against the wishes of his party’s leaders when they give him permission to do so and already have the votes they need, even when their positions hurt the district and its citizens. In short, he represents big corporations and lobbyists, and not us.

Governor Cuomo has quietly removed funding for the health assessment of hydrofracking, so that there will be no governmental data to prove that hydrofracking will result in increased levels of toxic chemicals in the air and water, with severe irreversible long-term health consequences for New Yorkers.

The issue of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars seems to have faded from public consciousness. It is important that Americans continue to recognize that these wars were sold to us with a pack of lies. They created unprecedented human misery, including the unnecessary deaths of thousands of young Americans, resulted in huge deficits (following a Democratic administration that left the country with a budget surplus), and failed to accomplish any of their stated aims of creating democracies and ensuring a guaranteed supply of middle eastern oil.

Significantly, when the Bush administration left office, Dick Cheney stated that he was satisfied that they had accomplished what they set out to do. What could that have been other than to make him and Bush’s supporters very, very wealthy, destroy the nation’s economy, and make the world a much more dangerous place.

One of the goals we had when starting BlueInGreene was to engage the community in an open dialogue, and to begin a discussion of the county’s problems and its direction moving forward. We felt that, by engaging in direct conversation about the issues in the county we live in, people from across the political spectrum might be able to come together in common initiatives.

It’s obvious the county has problems. We have an unemployment rate of 9.7% as of January (up from 9.2% last year, according to the NY State Dept. of Labor). In terms of health care outcomes, we rank 60th among the state’s 62 counties. The county’s attempts to generate new business—for example, through the IDA—have been pathetically ineffective, and often corrupt besides.

Well, the dialogue has begun— sort of. An article in the Daily Mail three weeks ago (and repeated in the Windham Journal a week later) has generated a fair amount of response, not all of it friendly and some of it downright incoherent. For example, a Letter to the Editor in today’s Daily Mail castigates BlueInGreene for any number of sins. One of the remarkable assertions in that letter, which you can read here, is that FDR’s New Deal "stifled" the American economy. Apparently we had been enjoying boom times during the Great Depression, before the New Deal came along and spoiled everything.

Folks, we welcome debate. We also welcome criticism. Above all, we welcome dialogue. But let’s try to keep things civil, and let’s try to stay within the confines of the reality-based community.

Once more, for the record: BlueInGreene is not formally affiliated with any political party, e.g., the Democratic Party. We are affiliated with MoveOn.org. The newspaper article that people continue to comment on was poorly written and contained a number of inaccuracies, as well as an erroneous quotation. We’re not trying to fool anyone; quite the contrary, in fact.

Let’s talk to each other. But, let’s stick to the facts, OK?

A reminder: Catskill’s important Wall Street to Main Street exhibition opens tomorrow at 2 PM. Some of us from BlueInGreene will be attending; perhaps we’ll see you at BRIK or GCCA. We’re sure you will find this exciting collaboration between GCCA’s Masters on Main Street program and the Occupy Wall Street Arts and Culture Working Group well worth attending in any case.

Also, BlueInGreene is having a meeting the following evening, Sunday March 18 at 6 PM, on the Mountain Top. If you’re interested in joining us, send a brief note of introduction to info@blueingreene.org and we’ll send you driving instructions.

Hope to see you soon.

I don’t usually listen to the President’s Saturday noontime address. I hardly ever listen to the rebuttal. But I was driving in my car—a captive audience. The things the President said about energy efficiency and becoming less carbon-dependent all made sense.  And then, the rebuttal speech by North Dakota’s Republican governor Jack Dalrymple came on the radio. It made me see red—because it was red, as in Red State—and it was wrong.

To listen to him, North Dakota has everything. It’s the place we all want to emulate. The lowest unemployment in the nation; a “reasonable regulatory environment,” and a “friendly business environment,” too. It sounds like paradise—for the corporate scavengers whose reward for raping a state’s natural resources goes straight to their bottom line. In return, the public receives meager short-term results that disappear in a few short years, leaving long-term environmental problems, the full-impact of which is not yet fully understood.

Should New York City Emulate Fargo?
Should NY Be More Like Fargo?

It didn’t take long for Governor Dalrymple to get to his real message, once he finished touting the shining example North Dakota offers our country. He suggested we fling off the “overly burdensome regulations” the rest of the country is shackled by. His message that hydraulic fracturing is no danger—because it occurs 2 miles beneath the surface—ignores the evidence of fracking-related earthquakes and water contamination that point to a sad truth that is becoming all too obvious: what goes underground doesn’t always stay underground.

So, let’s see. If New York becomes North Dakota—then Albany would be Bismark, North Dakota’s capital, and New York City would be Fargo, North Dakota’s largest city. And the New York City Watershed … would be what?  An endangered artifact under siege with unknown health and environmental impacts affecting 9 million people.

So Governor, thanks but no thanks. I’d like to propose that New York State  pass on the North Dakota model and adopt the French model instead. The French Parliament voted 287-146 in 2011 to ban fracking in France. It makes sense—after all,  New York City with a population of nine million has more in common with Paris (metro population 10,354,675) and more to protect  than Fargo, ND (metro population 208,777).

Greene County town supervisors have long been out of touch when it comes to broadband service in their communities. Nowhere is this more evident than in an article in today’s Catskill Daily Mail, in which Durham Town Supervisor William Carr Jr. is quoted as saying “We have decent coverage”.

What does Supervisor Carr consider to be “decent”? The fact the 58% of the roads in his town—representing, he says, 70% of the population—have access to cable broadband coverage. He gleaned this fact from a visit to the offices of Mid-Hudson Cabelevision in Catskill, where they “were happy to show me site maps” detailing the town’s coverage. Mid-Hudson Cablevision is the same firm that declined over $3 million in Federal stimulus money to expand broadband coverage in the area, citing increased labor costs, among other considerations.

Carr’s “decent coverage” attitude is typical of town officials throughout the county, where coverage is inadequate to begin with and little effort is made to press Mid-Hudson Cablevision or other providers to do better. Concerned Citizens for Better Broadband, led by Kathleen Whitley-Harm of Freehold and Rosemary O’Brien of Oak Hill, have been working for years now to improve broadband service in the county.

However, Supervisor Carr’s misplaced optimism in Durham is a sign of how far there still is to go. As Ms. Whitley-Harm notes, “Our mission has always been 100% broadband coverage for everyone in Greene County, and we believe our elected leaders should be working in the best interests of their communities by doing everything in their power to ensure all residents have equal access”. We at BlueInGreene could not agree more. We simply must do better.

Please add your comments in support of Concerned Citizens for Better Broadband in the comments section at the end of the Daily Mail article, here. Or click the comment balloon at left to add your comments to our site.

Wall Street to Main Street is a collaborative presentation from the Occupy Wall Street Arts and Culture Working Group. It will run March 17-May 31 in Catskill, hosted by the Masters on Main Street Project of the Greene County Council on the Arts. The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement has focused its energy on justice for the 99%—Wall Street to Main Street offers a platform for creative expression and dialogue focusing attention on a struggling community through a ten-week festival of experiences designed to engage, educate and inspire.

Elaine Fernandez of WiThePeople.com has a great video interview with Fawn Potash, Director of the Masters on Main Street project, on the upcoming OWS exhibition. The video is available here.

Wall Street to Main Street sounds exciting, and it’s a terrific opportunity for progressive people from throughout the region to meet up. Don’t miss the opening in Catskill on Saturday, March 17, from 2 to 8 PM.

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