Archives for category: Environment

The Sept. 9 Democratic primary is coming up fast. There was supposed to have been a debate this past Tuesday between Gov. Cuomo and his primary challenger, Zephyr Teachout. Cuomo chickened out but Teachout showed up, and she had some very interesting points to make. You can watch this informative one-person debate here.


Zephyr Teachout scores points against an absent governor. Still: NY1.

A breath of political fresh air rolled into Woodstock last night, as Zephyr Teachout and her Whistleblower Tour bus pulled up around 9 PM to address supporters waiting at the funky/charming Havana Club Bar & Grill at the Woodstock Lodge. She’d been slated to appear at 8:30 but was running late from an address across the river in Columbia County. The Havana Club’s patrons didn’t mind—Zephyr was worth the wait.

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Zephyr Teachout at the Havana Club. Photo: Tom Pletcher.

Ms. Teachout was nearing the end of her second full day of the Whistleblower Tour, which kicked off in midtown Manhattan Wednesday at One57, the billionaires’ residence built by Extell. The theme of the tour is endemic corruption in New York State, and the way ordinary people have been ignored in the current political process. Economic inequality and lack of opportunity are among the inevitable results, which Teachout vows to address in her bottom-up underdog campaign.

She was absolutely terrific, despite having spent a long day on the tour: sincere, engaging and compelling. And she’s got some strong momentum going, too: the New York Times declined to endorse her opponent, Cuomo the Lesser, and urged people to vote for Zephyr instead, in order to “send a message.” Yesterday the Times decided to endorse her running mate, Tim Wu, for Lt. Governor. Wu is vastly preferable to the conservative and hypocritical Kathy Hochul, just as Zephyr Teachout would be an enormous improvement over Mario Cuomo’s autocratic, unlikeable son.

Among her ideas to revitalize the upstate economy: big investments in 21st Century energy sources and modernized transportation systems. You’d have to dig deep into Cuomo’s idea bank to find any thoughts on improving things upstate, and what you’d come away with is casinos (a day late and a dollar short, as they say).

Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu deserve the support of every progressive New Yorker, and they need your support now, with only 11 days to go until the Sept. 9 primary. Please volunteer or donate as you can.

The new year is nearly upon us—what to expect is anyone’s guess, but what we should strive for is increasingly clear. Broadly, we need more equality, greater justice and a more peaceful, sustainable world. Here is an excellent outline of some of the specifics, courtesy of Senator Bernie Sanders from neighboring Vermont.

Dear Thomas,

I want to take this opportunity to wish you and yours a very happy new year. I also want to express my gratitude to you for the political support that you have given to me, and for all of your efforts in trying to move our country and the world in the direction of peace, justice and environmental sanity.

As we survey our country at the end of 2013 I don’t have to tell you that the problems facing us are monumental, that the Congress is dysfunctional and that more and more people (especially the young) are, understandably, giving up on the political process. The people are hurting. They look to Washington for help. Nothing is happening.

  • The middle class continues to decline with median family income some $5,000 less than it was in 1999.
  • More Americans, 46.5 million, are now living in poverty than at any time in our nation’s history. Child poverty, at 21.8 percent, is the highest of any major country.
  • Real unemployment is not 7 percent. If one includes those who have given up looking for work and those who want full-time work but are employed part-time, real unemployment is 13.2 percent — and youth unemployment is much higher than that.
  • Most of the new jobs that are being created are part-time work at low wages, but the minimum wage remains at the starvation level of $7.25 per hour.
  • Millions of college students are leaving school deeply in debt, while many others have given up on their dream of a higher education because of the cost.
  • Meanwhile, as tens of millions of Americans struggle to survive economically, the wealthiest people are doing phenomenally well and corporate profits are at an all-time high. In fact, wealth and income inequality today is greater than at any time since just before the Great Depression. One family, the Walton family with its Wal-Mart fortune, now owns more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of Americans. In recent years, 95 percent of all new income has gone to the top 1 percent.
  • The scientific community has been very clear: Global warming is real, it is already causing massive problems and, if we don’t significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the planet we leave to our kids and grandchildren will be less and less habitable.

Clearly, if we are going to save the middle class and protect our planet, we need to change the political dynamics of the nation. We can no longer allow the billionaires and their think tanks or the corporate media to set the agenda. We need to educate, organize and mobilize the working families of our country to stand up for their rights. We need to make government work for all the people, not just the 1 percent.

Before we talk about 2014, let me ask you a favor. Do you know of friends, family or co-workers who might be interested in receiving our email newsletters and updates? If you do, please forward this email and encourage them to sign-up for occasional updates. They can sign-up for our emails by clicking here.

When Congress reconvenes for the 2014 session, here are a few of the issues that I will be focusing on.

WEALTH AND INCOME INEQUALITY: A nation will not survive morally or economically when so few have so much while so many have so little. It is simply not acceptable that the top 1 percent owns 38 percent of the financial wealth of the nation, while the bottom 60 percent owns all of 2.3 percent. We need to establish a progressive tax system which asks the wealthy to start paying their fair share of taxes, and which ends the outrageous loopholes that enable one out of four corporations to pay nothing in federal income taxes.

JOBS: We need to make significant investments in our crumbling infrastructure, in energy efficiency and sustainable energy, in early childhood education and in affordable housing. When we do that, we not only improve the quality of life in our country and combat global warming, we also create millions of decent paying new jobs.

WAGES: We need to raise the minimum wage to a living wage. We should pass the legislation which will soon be on the Senate floor which increases the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour, but we must raise that minimum wage even higher in the coming years. We also need to expand our efforts at worker-ownership. Employees will not be sending their jobs to China or Vietnam when they own the places in which they work.

RETIREMENT SECURITY: At a time when only one in five workers in the private sector has a defined benefit pension plan; half of Americans have less than $10,000 in savings; and two-thirds of seniors rely on Social Security for more than half of their income we must expand Social Security and make sure that every American can retire with dignity.

WALL STREET: During the financial crisis, huge Wall Street banks received more than $700 billion in financial aid from the Treasury Department and more than $16 trillion from the Federal Reserve because they were “too big to fail.” Yet today, the largest banks in this country are much bigger than they were before taxpayers bailed them out. It is time to break up these behemoths before they cause another global economic collapse.

CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM: We are not living in a real democracy when large corporations and a handful of billionaire families can spend unlimited sums of money to elect or defeat candidates. We must expand our efforts to overturn the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision and move this country to public funding of elections.

SOCIAL JUSTICE: While we have made progress in recent years in expanding the rights of minorities, women and gays, these advances are under constant attack from the right wing. If the United States is to become the non-discriminatory society we want it to be, we must fight to protect the rights of all Americans.

CIVIL LIBERTIES: Frankly, the National Security Agency (NSA) and some of the other intelligence agencies are out of control. We cannot talk about America as a “free country” when the government is collecting information on virtually every phone call we make, when they are intercepting our emails and monitoring the websites we visit. Clearly, we need to protect this country from terrorism, but we must do it in a way that does not undermine our constitutional rights.

WAR AND PEACE: With a large deficit and an enormous amount of unmet needs, it is absurd that the United States continues to spend almost as much on defense as the rest of the world combined. The U.S. must be a leader in the world in nuclear disarmament and efforts toward peace, not in the sale of weapons of destruction.

Let me conclude by once again wishing you a happy and healthy new year — and by asking you to share this email with friends, family and co-workers. They can sign-up for our occasional emails by clicking here.

This is a tough and historical moment in American history. Despair is not an option. Let us stand together as brothers and sisters and fight for the America our people deserve.

Thank you for your continued support.

Sincerely,

Senator Bernie Sanders

To the Senator’s worthy agenda, I would only add this:

GUN VIOLENCE: It’s time we treated gun violence as the public health menace it is. That means real legislative reform and much tougher regulation. This is one of the most, if not the most, politically difficult fights that rational Americans face today, but it is increasingly urgent.

Here’s to a better world in 2014. Happy New Year, everyone.

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

In addition to a piece on a marriage boomlet in Las Vegas (because today’s date will be so easily remembered), the New York Times has a more serious story today which has direct relevance to virtually everyone on the Mountain Top, if not Greene County as a whole. The story is headed, "Climate Change Threatens Ski Industry, Leaving Slopes Bare," and that headline pretty much says it all.

The story notes several predictions by the Interdisciplinary Center on Climate Change at the University of Waterloo in Ontario. Among them: by 2039, New York State’s 36 ski resorts will have shrunk to 9.

Will Hunter Mountain and/or Windham Mountain be among them? And if not, what will take their place in the already under-performing local economy?

It’s not too soon to begin thinking about this, folks. The likely loss of the county’s major economic drivers could be viewed as catastrophic—or it could be viewed as an opportunity, because we do have time to plan ahead. Perhaps, with the right leadership in place, Greene can develop a new, more varied economy that outperforms the current one.

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.

Last year, Greene County and surrounding areas were hard-hit by Tropical Storm Irene. There was loss of life, and much of the damage caused by that storm more than a year ago has still not been repaired.

This week, when Hurricane Sandy struck the Northeast, our area was luckier, although there was flooding and some homes and businesses did incur damage. But New York City and New Jersey, which had escaped the worst of last year’s storm, took a tremendous blow this time, with many deaths (41 in the city alone, as of today) and horrendous, historic damage, currently estimated at $50 billion.

A parking garage near Wall Street
A parking garage near Wall Street.     Damon Winter/The New York Times

Would you be surprised if another major storm hit the Northeast next year? No? Then why aren’t we talking about it? Why isn’t climate change on the political agenda?

Speaking of politics, there was a refreshing break in the immediate aftermath of the storm. Both presidential campaigns were suspended, Obama’s for a day longer than Romney’s. There was even some bipartisan cooperation between President Obama and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who hailed Obama as “outstanding”.

What’s really refreshing, though, is yesterday’s surprise announcement by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg that he is endorsing President Obama—because Obama is more likely to take on the challenge of climate change than Romney, who now denies the issue, in line with Tea Party orthodoxy.

Way to go, Mayor Bloomberg. If Hurricane Sandy turns out to be an “October surprise” that helps get Obama re-elected, then maybe the country will finally start taking climate change seriously.

New York State’s new 19th Congressional District (see map below, borrowed from Julian Schreibman’s campaign site) is far more logical, and also more compact, than its predecessor, the 20th. There is no skinny finger extending up into the Adirondacks for no apparent reason (except to garner more Republican votes). Instead, the new district wraps around Albany to the north and encompasses the Catskills and the mid to upper Hudson Valley. It also extends west to the PA border and east to Connecticut and Massachusetts.

NY's 19th Congressional District
New York’s 19th Congressional District

NY-19, because it contains Kingston and all of Ulster County, should be friendlier to Democrats than the old 20th District that elected Chris Gibson. And because the district is less gerrymandered and more of a piece than the 20th, it has the potential to be more unified in general, and thus represents more promising ground for region-wide efforts—economic development and broadband initiatives, for example.

We’ll be looking at the Congressional candidates and the pros and cons of NY-19 in the weeks and months leading up to the election. Spoiler alert: for counties like Greene, that used to reside in the 20th, a Schreibman-Democratic victory would represent an empowering step forward.

It could be argued, with a high degree of credibility, that the most serious roadblock to happiness and fulfillment, not to mention health and general well-being for the average American in 2012 is the Republican Party. Or, to be more specific, the practices and principles which are embraced and endorsed by the current incarnation of the Republican Party.

Let’s look down the list. The economy? Still in the tank, thanks to the profligate spending of the Bush administration and the crimes and predations of Wall Street and the banking industry. The environment? Drill, baby, drill—and frack you in the process. Health care? Let’s repeal it. Civil rights? Depends on whose. Women’s rights? Sure, we have lots of special laws just for women.

It is heartening, then, to watch Mitt Romney and the Republicans squirm as the candidate comes under attack for his work at Bain Capital, and for his refusal to release more than two years of tax returns.

Bain of Our Existence
Photo: Evan Vucci/AP, on csmonitor.com

It’s no wonder Romney is defensive about his time at Bain, and about when he ended it. After all, the firm is notorious for outsourcing and layoffs, and for investing in such sterling endeavors as Stericycle, a company that specialized in disposing of aborted fetuses collected from family planning clinics, among other things. And that was an investment that took place in 1999, by the way.

As for the missing tax returns … as so many others have said, the calculation must have been made that it would be more damning to release the returns than to withhold them. Hence Romney’s continued refusal to show anything earlier than his 2010 return. We already know about the offshore accounts Romney has, and we already know he makes tons of money (most of it from his Bain days). What is he hiding? And as a presidential candidate, is he really entitled to hide it?

Let’s keep the pressure on.

You’ve got to give Joel Tyner credit for gall. His campaign has managed to crank out a misleading, pre-primary robocall blast to Democrats throughout NY-19, in which Tyner says:

“Hi, this is Joel Tyner, a populist, progressive Democratic candidate for Congress in the 19th District, currently in my 5th term in the Dutchess County Legislature. I believe in core Democratic values. Unfortunately, my opponent says the jury is still out on fracking; I know it should be banned. I also stand with Maurice Hinchey, unlike my opponent, for Medicare for all and bringing back FDR’s Glass-Steagall Act to break up the big banks. Vote for me June 26th to be a strong voice for you and not an echo.”

This is blatant overreach (much like Tyner’s entire campaign). In the first place, he is misquoting Julian Schreibman on the fracking issue, by taking a radio interview comment out of context. He has been doing this for quite some time now. Julian Schreibman is against fracking. He knows it threatens our water supplies, and he doesn’t believe it offers economic benefits for New Yorkers. At an event in Catskill this past Sunday, Julian spelled it out: “fracking is bad for New York.”

Tyner is also overreaching by calling for universal Medicare when the health care reform we already have, along with Medicare itself, is under serious attack. And that points out a major distinction between these two candidates.

On the majority of issues, both Tyner and Schreibman are in close agreement. But Tyner is standing on his progressive soapbox as a longtime local legislator, while Schreibman has the organization, the resources, the experience and the political expertise to actually win against Chris Gibson this November.

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