Archives for category: Education

It often surprises me that Vermont, our neighbor to the east, seems so much more progressive than upstate New York. Bernie Sanders is probably the most prominent case in point—prior to becoming a U.S. Senator, Sanders served as the openly Socialist mayor of Burlington.

Sanders recently brought us news from Denmark, a consequence of touring Vermont with Danish Ambassador Peter Taksoe-Jensen. In an article entitled “What Can We Learn from Denmark?” that appeared in the Huffington Post last week, the Senator outlined some of the ways in which the U.S. might profit from following Denmark’s lead.

You should find it thought-provoking, regardess of your political persuasion.

Tomorrow evening, Wednesday February 27 at 6 PM, Ms. RoAnn Destito, Commissioner, Office of General Services, will lead a presentation and discussion of Governor Cuomo’s State of the State Address (“New York Rising”) and the 2013-2014 Executive Budget and Management Plan. The event will take place at the Meeting Room of the Cairo Public Library, 15 Railroad Avenue, Cairo. Everyone is welcome to attend, regardless of party affiliation. Again, the time and place are:

Wednesday, February 27
6:00 PM
Meeting Room of the Cairo Public Library
15 Railroad Avenue, Cairo, NY

The following story is true.

A few years years back, I was walking two large dogs on a rural road in Greene County, not far from my home. They were newly arrived rescue dogs, and they were alarmed by vehicles on the road—the breed is trained to guard, and they saw the vehicles as threats. Whenever one would come by, the animals would pull and lunge. Since they each weighed 120 pounds or so, controlling them was something of an effort.

A red pickup truck went by, going uphill. The dogs behaved predictably, and I struggled to get them back into walking mode. Two minutes later, the same vehicle returned, going downhill. This pissed me off, and I gave its driver the finger. He backed up to ask “what my problem was,” and a “conversation” ensued.

I pointed out that he had traversed the same space twice within a couple of minutes, and asked him if this was part of his entertainment routine, driving back and forth on a country road. He replied that he had gone to see a friend, who wasn’t home. I asked if he had ever tried using a telephone. And so on and so forth.

Now this was a big guy, but with the curious, high-pitched, whiny voice that many of Greene County’s “native” men seem to possess. He did not seem like the sharpest knife in the drawer. I asked him if he had a rifle in his truck, just to see if he conformed to the stereotype. “Yes I do,” he said proudly. “And if you don’t like hunting, why don’t you go back where you came from?” He pointed out that his “daddy” and his “daddy’s daddy” had been hunters.

Several days later, I was walking the dogs again, this time with my wife, when this guy—let’s call him Joe Moron—came by again. This time he feinted toward my wife and her dog with his pickup. We followed him to a neighbor’s house, this particular neighbor being another proud Greene County native. Further words ensued. When my wife noted that he had come close to hitting one of our dogs with his truck, Mr. Moron noted that “next time I will.” I told him that if he ever hurt my wife or one of our dogs, I would kill him. This was both a rhetorical commonplace and not; I was very angry. What I envisioned at the moment was a fistfight in which I left him bloody on the ground, even though he had 50 pounds on me and was a good 20 years younger.

“Oh, I’ll remember that,” was his response.

Fast forward a week or so. We’re out with the dogs again, about 25 feet from the entrance to our driveway, when we find two dead coyotes. They had been shot and dumped there, a crude and savage message. The following week, another pair of coyotes turned up dead on an adjacent road, where the original dog-walking incident took place. My wife and I found this upsetting, of course, but not really alarming, as we didn’t believe Moron had the personal daring or the intellectual wherewithal to actually harm us or our dogs.

We did feel bad for the coyotes, though. Four of them were needlessly shot, simply to make some redneck’s inchoate “point”. Another neighbor, a sensitive, intelligent woman (and a non-native), was terribly upset, and she put up a sign accusing the coyotes’ killer of moral depravity and cowardice. She was right, of course.

OK—what is the point of this rambling anecdote, you may ask?

Simply this: many people own guns who shouldn’t. Stupid people. Uneducated people. Violent people. People not fully in control of their thoughts or emotions. A right-wing Supreme Court has decreed it is their right to do so. But New York State has recently taken steps to disagree with that catastrophic decision, and to restore some balance to the questions of gun ownership and gun control.

The state didn’t go far enough, in my opinion. But at least it’s a start.

America dodged a disaster last night, managing to avoid what would likely have been four years of catastrophic misrule. Yet despite Mitt Romney’s shape shifting and evasions, and despite the Republicans’ desire to feed the rich at the expense of every pressing national priority, the election was close. Too close. We as a country are starkly and rigidly divided, and those of us on the blue team are breathing a sigh of relief today.

Worth a Thousand Words
A campaign victory image posted on Facebook.

The relief is likely to be short-lived, though. We face enormous challenges as a nation, and our divisions hamper our ability to face them. Still, I’m grateful that President Obama remains at the helm as we move forward.

Local election results were mixed. More on that in a future post.

Here’s another excellent and timely post from our Columbia County correspondent, Lee Jamison. She’s writing about the lack of genuine broadband options in our region, and what can be done about it. This is an issue that BlueInGreene will return to repeatedly as November approaches, since NY-19′s Democratic candidate for Congress Julian Schreibman is open to real solutions, rather than simply paying lip service to the crying need we have.

Lee’s post:

More faux-Broadband, this time from Fairpoint!

How many Stuyvesant residents got a huge postcard mailer in their box today touting:

Lightning fast 7Mbps Broadband Internet
Now with a price-lock guarantee for 18 months $29.95/month

Wait a second! I’m already a Fairpoint customer—so how come I don’t have 7Mbps?

I double checked my internet speed at http://www.SpeedMatters.org.
—4.7 Mbps for download
—.09 Mbps for upload

My speeds are worse than the averages for NYS, worse than averages for the entire USA (5.2Mbps). Japan (15.9 Mbps) and South Korea (20.4Mbps) leave everybody in the dust! Gasp! And here I thought the USA was #1 in all things techie?

So why don’t I have 7Mbps? My physics teacher friend, Christian, had the answer, “Read the fine print!”

Sure enough, there was fine print on that card:

“…taxes and additional charges may apply. Not all services available in all areas. Available speeds may vary depending on customer location. Speed and uninterrupted service are not guaranteed…”

Fairpoint reported losses of $46.7 million in the 1st quarter of 2012. Sound bad? It was better than 2011 4th quarter, when they lost $84 million.

Nevertheless, Stuyvesant does have fiber optic cable running along the CSX(Amtrak) Right-of-Way and Rt9—with no public access. Who uses it? Who paid for it to be put in? How do we get access? Wouldn’t it be good for business?

Ontario County, NY built their own “middle-mile” fiber optic cable system for an investment of around $5 million for a 200 mile ring.
Axcess Ontario Officially Complete | Community Broadband Networks

Anybody think the Board of Supervisors might ask some questions?

Rural Electrification went through Congress in 1936 during the Great Depression. Surely our Congress could manage real Rural Broadband for the economic development of Hudson Valley. Even our current Tea Party Congressman says he’s for Rural Broadband. But we need more than just lip service to make it happen, and we probably need healthier, better managed companies than Fairpoint.

—Lee

Julian Schreibman held another “meet & greet” this past Sunday, at the Brik Gallery on Main Street in Catskill. It was an apt setting—Main Street had rebounded and was doing fairly well prior to the financial crisis; now it is a collection of largely empty storefronts where businesses, restaurants and galleries used to be (including Brik). This made Main Street an ideal setting for the recent, innovative “Wall Street to Main Street” exhibition put on by the Greene County Council on the Arts in collaboration with the artistic wing of Occupy Wall Street. Many of the window displays from that recently concluded exhibition remain, as the photo below demonstrates.

The Writing's on the Wall (or Window)
The Writing’s on the Wall (or Window)
Photo: John P. O’Grady

Mr. Schreibman spoke movingly, as though inspired by the reduced state of the street outside. He railed against America’s growing economic inequality, and vowed to do everything he could to address it. He also:

  • Spoke in favor of the DREAM Act
  • Firmly renounced fracking as bad for New York
  • Emphatically renounced policies of torture and rendition in America’s endless wars (this, in reply to an inquiry about his CIA background, which had nothing to do with field activities)
  • Explained how grateful he was for the help he received in getting a good (Yale) education, and described his belief that every American should be entitled to a chance at the same opportunities he had
  • Denounced our current Republican Congressman for voting against the interests of the 19th District
  • Announced strong support for new policies to stimulate economic growth in our region, including support for family farms and a strategic rural broadband initiative

It was another strong performance by a candidate whose appeal only continues to grow.

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.

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.

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.

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