Archives for category: Environment

Last night, Will Yandik visited a Democratic meeting at the town hall in Tannersville. What he had to say was impressive.

Yandik, who is 38 (he looks younger) and runs a 100-year-old family farm in Columbia County, is running for Congress as a progressive. There is very little to separate him on most issues from Zephyr Teachout, his better-known competitor in the June 28 Democratic primary.


Will Yandik in Tannersville. Photo: Tom Pletcher, BlueInGreene.org.

Some readers will recall that this blog has already endorsed Ms. Teachout to replace Chris Gibson in Congress this fall. (Speaking of Chris Gibson, he surprisingly announced today that he is withdrawing from politics at the end of his current term.) But Yandik, in his brief address to the assembled Democrats and the follow-up Q & A, showed why many local voters really like him.

Yandik correctly views broadband as the single biggest economic issue for our region, and believes the federal government will need to play a role in finally bringing broadband to everyone, including laggard Greene County. He wants the environment protected and he wants consumer privacy preserved (backdoors in software to enable government surveillance should not be allowed, in his view).

Given the similarity of these stands to those of Zephyr Teachout, I asked Yandik why he decided to compete against her. His response: he believes that his local roots and knowledge give him a leg up and make him more resistant to Republican attack. He also noted that he feels the competition has made both candidates stronger.

Will Yandik is a strong candidate. It would be great if we could split the 19th Congressional District and elect Yandik and Teachout both. But we can’t, of course, and I continue to believe that Zephyr Teachout’s growing national reputation and superior name recognition make her the best candidate this time around. Even so, I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of Will Yandik.

This Saturday, April 9, there will be a rally for Bernie Sanders, clean energy and a safe climate in Kingston. Sanders is the only presidential candidate who has a comprehensive plan to remove subsidies from the fossil fuel industry and transition to a prosperous, clean-energy economy.

Sanders is also the only presidential candidate of unquestioned integrity. He has won seven of the last eight contests and narrowed Hillary Clinton’s delegate lead considerably. A win in the New York State primary on April 19 would demonstrate conclusively that he is the better, stronger candidate against the Republicans this fall.

Bernie Sanders 2016
Photo: Matt Rourke/AP.

Anti-fracking activist Josh Fox (Gasland) will be at the Kingston rally, along with Tribal rights attorney and Honor the Earth Campaigns Director Tara Houska, environmentalist and author Bill McKibben, environmental justice organizer Anthony Rogers-Wright, local organizers and other special guests. After the event, everyone will head out into the community to knock doors and turn out the vote for Bernie.

It’s your chance to help make a real difference, by supporting the candidate most likely to help re-energize upstate New York and our country.

The address is 323 Wall Street, Kingston. Doors open at 2 PM tomorrow. RSVP here.

Florida has long been a setting for comedic catastrophe, as in the columns of Dave Barry or the novels of Carl Hiaasen. Now catastrophe looms again and while there is plenty of ironic destruction (and more to come), it no longer seems so funny.

A friend who spends time in Florida (the state continues to exert a pull on upstate New Yorkers) recently sent me news of a ridiculous situation near the Everglades: an oil company, Burnett Oil of Texas, wants to search for oil and natural gas next door to the Everglades in Big Cypress Natural Preserve. This would not only be a destructive and foolish thing to do but it flies in the face of Florida’s need to fight the effects of climate change, which it is already experiencing. If you feel fracking next door to the Everglades is selfish and counter-productive, please let the National Park Service know.


Flooding in South Beach. Photo: Miami New Times.

The business-as-usual and damn-the-consequences approach of Burnett Oil is all the more striking in that South Florida is in the vanguard of actually experiencing the effects of climate change. Rising sea levels and massive, violent storms do not bode well for the future of Miami and South Florida. An article by renowned environmental writer Elizabeth Kolbert (The Sixth Extinction) in the current, December 21 issue of the New Yorker outlines the dangers, present and future, in some detail.

Miami and —especially—Miami Beach face environmental challenges so significant that some experts think even the most expensive and elaborately engineered attempts to combat rising sea levels are doomed to failure. In light of this, conducting any harmful environmental activity in South Florida seems downright insane. And yet such activity is still utterly routine, in Florida and throughout the world.

Which may be the great environmental challenge of all.

A progressive website in Greene County, NY is bound to spend a lot of time focusing on negatives and seeking prospects for improvement, just by the nature of things (and the nature of upstate politics). So it is a pleasure to briefly report on two feel-good events in our state last week, both from New York City.

The first and most important was the visit of Pope Francis to three East Coast cities, including New York. This Pope has inspired people from all faiths around the world, and his message resonates with secular citizens, too. His focus on fundamental fairness and the Golden Rule appeals to everyone in possession of any empathy at all, and his insistence that we—humanity—address the major issues of our day, such as income inequality, climate change and massive immigration, provides much-needed hope for many.

Pope Francis
Pope Francis in NYC. Photo: popefrancisnyc.org.

The Pope concludes his American journey in Philadelphia today.

Our second bit of happy news stems from the New York Mets, who are once again amazin’. Yesterday the Mets clinched the Eastern Division title, albeit on the road in Cincinnati. (A large contingent of New Yorkers had driven out to Ohio for the event.) It’s been 9 years since the Mets’ last division title, a long drought that includes two late-season collapses, so this year’s triumph is especially sweet.

Matt Harvey with Mets fans
Matt Harvey celebrates with fans. Photo: Aaron Doster, Associated Press.

The Mets will take on the L.A. Dodgers, another team with strong pitching, in the first round of playoffs. It should be a lot of fun.

Last night, Barack Obama gave the strongest State of the Union address of his presidency. If Republicans and the political pundits were expecting any sort of contrition following the Republican victories last November, they must have been sorely disappointed. Obama was aggressive in defense of his policies instead, and vowed to veto any Republican attempts to impede them. Better late than never, as they say. It’s good to see the leader we thought we elected in 2008 finally emerge, and it’s good to see Obama abandon his attempts to find compromise with people who are so conspicuously wrong on every important topic.


Photo: Alex Wong, Getty Images.

Under the rubric of “middle-class economics,” the President proposed raising the tax rate on the richest Americans and large financial institutions to Reagan-era levels (i.e., still relatively low). The revenue would be used to provide tax breaks for working families, a higher minimum wage, expanded child care, two years’ worth of free community college and substantial investments in America’s ailing infrastructure, including broadband. It’s a sound, middle-of-the-road, common-sense approach which Republicans of course reject.

Speaking of broadband, Warren Hart, Greene County’s underperforming director of Economic Development, Tourism & Planning, was supposed to announce a new county broadband initiative last week. There’s been nary a peep in the press about this. Oops. Not that it matters; more than a year ago, Hart was talking about using towers designed for emergency cell service to improve the county’s broadband coverage. That was a clumsy idea back then and it remains so now. If the county ever does gain decent broadband, it will be through policies imposed from the top down, either at the state or federal level.

Progressive change, as ever, is likely to be incremental and the Republicans, at every level of government, will try to obstruct such change. But it was good to listen to the President set the terms of the debate.

It’s been a long time coming, but today Gov. Cuomo announced that fracking will be banned in the state of New York, in large part because of the health risks involved (a study of these risks has only recently concluded, after running for years).

Don't Frack New York
At last: New York bans fracking. Photo: inhabitat.com

This isn’t the time to go into the political calculations involved in the decision, though obviously they have been considerable. Let’s take some time instead to celebrate an important move forward, regardless of what it took to get to this point (and much of what it took is a lot of hard work on the part of progressives throughout the state, including Zephyr Teachout’s strong run in this fall’s Democratic primary).

New York is the first state with significant shale deposits to ban fracking, and that’s a great holiday gift for all of us who live here.

Earlier this week, prior to the disastrous 2014 election results, I raised the question of whether my, or your, individual vote really matters anymore—whether anything would change regardless of which way we voted, or whether we voted at all. I was enormously frustrated and cynical when I wrote that, but I was also pretty much correct: under our current two-party system, the individual doesn’t count for much.

The American Unwinding Continues
Image from George Packer’s The Unwinding, Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2013).

The mainstream media’s reading of the election results has been predictably superficial; the local media’s reading even more so. Yes, the Republicans won handily. Voters were unhappy, so they voted for “change.” This is of course starkly ironic, in that Americans heartily disapproved of Congress and Republican obstructionism before the election. Now we’ll have more of the same.

Still, one should never give up. What is the way forward?

For Democrats at every level (local, regional, statewide, national), the message needs to be sharper and stronger if the party is to stand for anything at all. Here in Greene County, I have nothing but admiration for Democrats who brave the odds and run for office (though I’d like to see them more dynamic and outspoken). But as regards the 19th Congressional District, I have to ask: what the hell was the party thinking? Surely Democrats will be able to come up with a more plausible candidate from this region the next time Gibson runs for reelection.

Timid, wishy-washy stances on every important topic contributed to the piss-poor showing of Democrats and progressives on Tuesday. A Democratic candidate in Ohio who wouldn’t even admit to voting for the president? Cuomo at the top of the Working Families ticket? (That party paid dearly for its mistaken “compromise.”) Candidates who were unwilling to address climate change or economic inequality? No wonder most people stayed home, or voted for the other side to voice their dissatisfaction (contrary to their own interests though that vote may have been).

Zephyr Teachout, who ran strongly against Cuomo in the Democratic primary, had this to say about the midterm results.

And the national news that Democrats lost—well, that’s a sign we need to return to our core progressive values with Elizabeth Warren-style populism if we’re going to win, not a set of manufactured milquetoast messages with no real ideas behind them. People feel powerless—we should address that honestly and directly, and take on the monopolists that are rigging the system. We need a trust-busting, pro-public school, clean energy Democratic Party that is unafraid to speak the truth and refuses the trickle-down ideology. So let’s keep up the fight.

She’s not talking about Hillary Clinton in 2016, folks.

I almost decided to ignore this election. Yes, the country is in dire straits and the stakes are indeed high. But it’s likely this election will have almost zero impact on any of our nation’s most important problems. For the first time in my life I’m tempted to skip voting altogether.

Vote Blue—Power to the People
Vote Blue 2014 POWER TO THE PEOPLE logo by Jeff Dombrowski.

And yet … there are differences. So you can argue citizens have a duty to choose, so as to minimize destructive outcomes. Chris Gibson is widely viewed as a nice guy, but that is no reason to vote for him, as this editorial makes clear. As for the rest of tomorrow’s choices, progresssive voters would do well to vote the Working Families Party line, with the exception of the choices for Governor and Lieutenant Governor. There, the vote should go for Green Party candidates Howie Hawkins and Brian Jones.

Here’s hoping I’m wrong, and tomorrow’s election will somehow make a difference.

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.

title
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.