Archives for the month of: April, 2012

Recently, a Republican constituent of Representative Chris Gibson here in Greene County emailed him to ask for more information on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), aka “Obamacare”. The Congressman provided an in-depth response, attaching six PDF reports from the Congressional Research Service.

Reports from the CRS are, as Wikipedia puts it, “highly regarded as in-depth, accurate, objective, and timely, but as a matter of policy they are not made directly available to members of the public”. So even though Congressman Gibson told his constituent to “please note below the specific [Republican] defunding that has been enacted into law over the past year and a half,” the inclusion of the hard-for-the-public-to-obtain CRS reports is a civic good deed. (By the way, this constituent forwarded Gibson’s response to some 200 recipients and asked them to share it, which is how we wound up with a copy.)

Whether you agree with many on the left that the Affordable Care Act does not go nearly far enough or whether you agree with most on the right that it represents a horrifying Socialist intrusion into individual liberties, now you can read the facts surrounding the law for yourself, in great detail. Links to each of the six CRS reports appear below.

Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA)

Private Health Insurance Provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA)

Health-Related Revenue Provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA)

Medicare Provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA): Summary and Timeline

Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Provisions in ACT: Summary and Timeline

Public Health, Workforce, Quality, and Related Provisions in PPACA: Summary and Timeline

The ideas behind Rebuild the Dream—and specifically, the Contract for the American Dream—were what got this group started. Now those ideas are fleshed out in a highly readable and inspiring book by Van Jones, also titled Rebuild the Dream.

Rebuild the Dream

Jones, author of The Green Collar Economy and an environmental activist and former special advisor to the Obama administration on clean-energy jobs, examines the dynamics behind Barack Obama’s election and the forces that have since emerged to challenge him. He pays particular attention to the Tea Party, and seeks to learn what tactics can be adopted from its 2010 electoral success. He also examines the Occupy movement and suggests what it needs to do to accomplish its goals. Mainly, though, Jones issues a clarion call to join the Rebuild the Dream movement to revive the American economy and restore the country’s greatness.

Jones doesn’t pretend this will be easy, but he does bring great optimism to his focus on achieving change through consensus and bottom-up direction, and through community organizing, “crowd-sourcing,” online petitions, digital projects and conferences. He explains how movements fit into a “Heart Space/Head Space” grid, and how progressives need to appeal to the emotions as well as the intellect (a lesson learned from the Tea Party). Finally, he focuses on the Contract for the American Dream, and how it embodies the values that can make America work again.

If you long for progressive change but sometimes despair of achieving it, read this book. Its common sense and can-do attitude will give you a lift. Then, take action. Join the Rebuild the Dream movement. And if you’re in our neck of the woods, join BlueInGreene as well.

Yesterday’s Rural Broadband Symposium in Catskill was a sham. No direct questions were allowed after the morning’s panel presentations; questions had to be submitted in writing. And even then, tough questions went unasked. The president of Mid-Hudson Cable showed his respect for the broadband issue by skipping the symposium altogether and sending a self-serving video instead.

Kathleen Whitley-Harm and Rosemary O’Brien, who comprise Greene County Citizens for Better Broadband, did seem sincere and passionate in their advocacy of the issue. But they have spent years to achieve modest gains in one Greene County town, Greenville. And since individual towns have their own individual contracts with “providers” and these town contracts are typically for 10 years or longer, such a piecemeal approach could take many, many years to produce worthwhile results for the county as a whole.

Congressman Gibson announced that yet another symposium on the subject will be held soon. That would be the third. Gibson will point to these symposia in this election year, and say progress is being made on an important issue. In fact, the symposia seem to be a stalling tactic on the part of the Congressman and our local “providers”. Talking about an issue does not, in itself, resolve it. But it does allow you to claim you are “doing something”.

Mid-Hudson Cable President James Reynolds was quoted in the Catskill Daily Mail nearly a year ago (4/27/2011) as saying, “Virtually all the areas are going to be done without the use of government funds.” This was after Mid-Hudson Cable declined $3.5 million in stimulus money to expand broadband services in Greene and Columbia Counties. It would have been natural to ask him, at this symposium, where that broadband build-out process stands one year later. But he was not in attendance. And the question itself was not permitted. (I asked it in writing, but moderator Warren Hart chose not to present it.)

The lack of adequate broadband coverage in our area is indeed a critical issue. But much bolder action than this sham symposium will be required to address it.

Do you know the record or positions of your Senators or Congressman? Here are several links that will give you immediate access to the voting records, positions on critical issues, legislation introduced, contributors, as well as many other important informational data points.

For Kirsten Gillibrand go to: http://www.votesmart.org/candidate/65147/kirsten-gillibrand.

For Chuck Schumer go to: http://www.votesmart.org/candidate/26976/chuck-schumer.

For Chris Gibson go to: http://www.votesmart.org/candidate/key-votes/127042/chris-gibson.

For legislation introduced and the entire Congressional Record go to the Library of Congress: http://thomas.loc.gov/home/thomas.php.

Columbia County resident and BlueInGreene supporter Lee Jamison recently sent this encouraging dispatch from the other side of the river.

Today, 4-5-12, Jim Besha, Albany Engineering CEO, hosted a “Progress Report” on their renaissance project at Stuyvesant Falls Hydro. Senator Schumer came for a walk-through and gave words of support for renewable hydro, stating “Megawatts, not mothballs! Everybody is for it!” He referred to the fact that this project took a hydro plant out of NiMo mothballs and is halfway to having 7 megawatts back on line. This doubles the original output of the plant and could power seven thousand homes. Shumer complimented the town for its work, partnering with Besha. He recalled his legislative action years ago when he helped save Stuyvesant’s electrical generating license.

Hydropower!

Albany Engineering showcased a list of some 40 local and U.S. manufacturers that were vendors for this proudly “Made in the USA” project.

When the Senator asked for questions, I asked if similar support could be given for the some 70 other mini-hydros that were mothballed and sold to Brascan by Reliant Energy (remember Tom DeLay?) for $900 million at the same time in 2004. Besha’s son, Jim, confirmed that all these plants were located in NY State. I observed that we might spend the money that was promoting nukes and fracking on this cleaner, more renewable energy source instead. The Senator seemed interested.

Megawatts Not Mothballs!

A number of Stuyvesant residents were present: the Burches, Bill Schneider, Christian Sweningsen, Rene Hoffman and town officials—Supervisor Ron Knott, Councilman Ed Scott and Claverack Supervisor Robin Andrews, who expressed interest in reviving the Philmont Hydro. She observed that their old power house is almost identical to ours. She was overjoyed to meet the Beshas, as she had been seeking hydro-engineering expertise but her search had been stymied when she discovered no state resource or even RPI had any hydro-engineering program.

—Lee

This (April 2-8) is National Public Health Week, and to coincide with this focus on public health, the 2012 County Health Rankings have been released. For Greene County, the news is mixed.

The good news is, our county has moved up in the NY State County Health Rankings, from no. 60 (of 62 counties) in 2011 to no. 52 this year. The reason for the improvement is unclear; it may well be that other counties have simply had more slippage in health care outcomes over the past year than Greene has. Columbia County, our neighbor across the Hudson River, slipped from 43rd to 45th place, for example.

Regardless of the cause, it would be good to have more public discussion of Greene’s health outcomes. A ranking of 52 out of 62 remains a failing grade by anyone’s standard. The health of Greene’s citizens is something that every local politician, regardless of ideology, should start making a priority. It would be great if Greene continued to improve over the course of 2012, so when next year’s state rankings come out, we would no longer find ourselves in the bottom quadrant.

Elaine Fernandez of WiThePeople.com has put together an excellent video interview highlighting BlueInGreene’s principles, objectives and plans. If you’d like a brief introduction to what our group is all about, Elaine’s video—complete with visual aids and theme music—is an ideal place to start. The video is available on WiThePeople’s home page.

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