Friday, June 29, 2012

I Wouldn't Pick a Fight With This Guy

And Rich Cahill is finding out why:
This is getting old fast. Cahill attacks me and my wife, then points the finger at me when confronted with his deeds. That makes it hard to move the conversation forward. I suggest, in the future, instead of crying “Jon attacked me!” perhaps Cahill could reply by numbers. Pick a number, any number, and reply to the point.
Lawyer Cahill is so inept at argumentation one wonders how he managed to pass the Bar Exam.

Bye-Bye, Benedictine

Benedictime closure now a "certainty" according to HealthAlliance:
One of Kingston’s two hospitals definitely will close, the head of HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley said Thursday night, and leaders of the company that oversees the two facilities said the remaining hospital probably won’t be Catholic.

“We will be going to a single campus,” HealthAlliance Chief Executive Officer David Lundquist told the Freeman after a public forum in Saugerties about the company’s future.

HealthAlliance first announced in early May that one of its two health care facilities in the city — the non-sectarian Kingston Hospital or the Catholic Benedictine Hospital — could close because of steep financial losses, but it did not say which campus might be in jeopardy or if a closure was certain.
Certainly didn't take them very long to weigh the public's concerns, did it? Almost like they already knew they were going to close Benedictine months ago, but they needed to make it look good.

You know, I've found that if you automatically think of the most cynical possible outcome for events, particularly in politics and business, you will more often than not hit the nail right on the head.

But, let's make lemonade out of the gigantic bowl of lemons HealthAlliance has served to the local economy:
Ulster County Community College may offer more blended online and in-person instruction and would seek new partnerships with Kingston High School and Benedictine Hospital if Sophie Finn Elementary School becomes a UCCC satellite campus, college President Donald Katt said this week.

Kingston school district Superintendent Paul Padalino has recommended the district close Zena, Sophie Finn and Anna Devine elementary schools and move fifth grade from the elementary schools to the middle schools to cope with rising costs, declining enrollment and the state’s new tax cap.

The changes — which would take effect in September 2013 if approved by the Board of Education — would save about $25 million over five years, help the district stabilize its finances and allow money that went to overhead for keeping schools running to be reinvested in academic programs, Padalino has said.

Ulster County Executive Michael Hein has proposed moving the UCCC classes that currently are housed at the Business Resource Center in the town of Ulster to the Sophie Finn building, which is on Mary’s Avenue in Kingston. Under the same plan, county operations at 300 Flatbush Ave. and 25 South Manor Ave. in Kingston would move into the Business Resource Center with the goal of selling the vacated office buildings to get them back on the tax rolls.
This makes so much sense I'm surprised Katt and Hein are suggesting it. Downtown Kingston would be an ideal location for a UCCC satellite campus, primarily because of transportation. While the Business Resource Center isn't a bad location, having a campus that is more central to the Kingston community makes a lot of sense. Hell, with enough demand, converting the Benedictine building itself to a full-blown college campus might be in the cards somewhere down the road.

So, as usual, a group of guys in suits got together behind closed doors and made a decision effecting the lives of thousands of people. They protected themselves, and their huge salaries, while screwing at significant number of their employees out of good-paying jobs. And, also as usual, there is abolutely nothing any of us can do about it. These elites control our lives, like we're so many pieces on a chess board and not actual human beings.

Given that this is fait accompli, all we can do now is make the best out of a terrible situation that was brought on by HealthAlliance execs' greed and incompetence. Converting the old hospital to an UCCC satellite might be the best we can hope for at this point.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Yep, He's a Wingnut

Chris Gibson voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt. How reasonable. If you want to know why I would never vote for this guy, you have at least part of your answer.

And to the 17 Democrats who voted in favor of this stupidity, especially Kathy Hochul (NY-26), go to hell!

Rumors Flying

There are some potentially very ugly issues surrounding Terry Bernardo and the unfortunate passing of Karen Binder. Robin Yess alludes to it today on her blog:
Nope, it’s not a fishing trip and there isn’t a flood coming, but the BS sure is getting deep around here so you better break out your waders. There’s nothing like taking advantage of a situation to press the flesh and impress the press. The phony, sympathetic looks and the prepared statements regarding Karen Binder’s passing aren’t fooling anyone.

The problem is that too many people know the real deal, the scoop as it were, and soon everyone will know the truth. When one person knows, ten know. When ten people know, a town knows. And when a town knows, it won’t be long before the County knows.
A commenter expands upon this a bit:
I would have one simple request on behalf of Karen’s true friends and family. That all those phony people especially legislators who let the wicked witch abuse Karen during her fight and struggle with this deadly disease, PLEASE stay home, don’t cheapen yourself anymore by going to the wake and pretending you cared. You weren’t there for her when she needed you so let’s not pretend. She is in a better place that most of you will never see.
The wicked witch in this case is no doubt Bernardo. As for the abuse Binder is alleged to have put up with, well, abuse is a big part of the Bernardo management style, so I wouldn't be at all surprised if we come to find out that Binder was being hounded out of her job, with Bernardo using Binder's poor health as an excuse, so the former can appoint another hanger-on to a cushy government job.

Now that Karen's former job is available (god rest her), how long do you think it will be before another unqualified Independence Party piggy lines up at the county trough?

As for the details of what happened between Binder and Bernardo, the truth will eventually out. Of course, if anyone has anything specific, the comments section awaits.

p.s. Also, how long will it be before a Bernardo flunky makes a comment about "letting the dead rest"? Think I should start a pool, maybe?

Bye-Bye, Gainful Employment

As I said, the closure of one of Kingston's hospitals is a done deal. All they need to do is go through some theater to make sure the rubes We the People think we had some input, and then our elites do whatever they want:
With the closure of one of Kingston’s two hospitals appearing more likely than ever, a preliminary plan detailing the pros and cons of each facility is to be filed with a state agency in two weeks, according to the head of the their parent company.

David Lundquist, president and chief executive officer of HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley, whic operates Kingston and Benedictine hospitals, said during a public forum Tuesday evening that the plan will be submitted to the state Health Department on July 9.
No amount of job losses, or economic pain for the local community, can stay these creeps from collecting their own paychecks while the little people the company's workforce spirals down the drain.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Schreibman Wins

Not a big surprise:
Former Ulster County Democratic Chairman Julian Schreibman on Tuesday defeated Dutchess County Legislator Joel Tyner in the Democratic primary in New York’s 19th Congressional District.

The Associated Press declared Schreibman the winner at 11:02 p.m., and numbers compiled by the Freeman confirmed the result.

Schreibman will face U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, in the November election.
What I find most interesting about the returns is that so few people are actually involved in the choosing of candidates:
With all precincts reporting in Ulster, Dutchess, Sullivan, Schoharie, Rensselaer, Otsego, Montgomery and Broome counties, and most precincts reporting in Columbia and Delawarecounties, Schreibman led by a tally of 5,457-3,939, or roughly 58-42 percent.
Fewer than 10,000 votes in a district with approximately 700,000 residents.

In other news, Wendy Long's voluntary November ass-whooping has now been officially confirmed:
Wendy Long, who promoted her conservative credentials on her way to a convincing win in New York’s Republican Senate primary, now faces a broader and more liberal electorate as she takes on Democratic incumbent Kirsten Gillibrand.

Long, a New York City attorney, defeated U.S. Rep. Bob Turner and Nassau County comptroller George Maragos in a primary election Tuesday notable for low turnout.
Long doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell against Gillibrand.

And, not to be too partisan, one of the most corrupt Democrats in the House managed to keep his nose in the trough for another term:
The 2012 Democratic primary for the House of Representatives was billed as a tough fight for Rep. Charles Rangel, thanks to demographic changes and the shadows of an ethic scandal. And when the dust cleared, it was apparent that it had been.

Rangel only narrowly defeated his closest challenger, State Sen. Adriano Espaillat on Tuesday. With about 85 percent of the votes tallied, he had about 45 percent of the vote in unofficial results, a rare dip below a majority for Rangel.

Even in 2010, when he was in the midst of an ethics investigation, he easily outdistanced his nearest rival, winning more than twice the number of votes.
Rangle has been there so long, I think everyone in his district probably owes him a personal favor. My guess is he'll leave office feet first.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Today is primary day here in New York. So, if you're registered with a party, please get out there and let your voice be heard. If you're having trouble locating your polling place, you can contact the Ulster County Board of Elections.

Remember, if we don't vote, we get the government we deserve.

HealthAlliance Theater

I suppose we should be pleased that HealthAlliance at least appears to be interested in what the public has to say about the fact that hundreds of good-paying Kingston jobs might go the way of the Dodo, but I also know that these types of hearings are often nothing more than executive ass-covering, theater designed to make it look like we have input, when behind the scenes the agenda has already been written and the executives go and do what they had intended all along.

Still, if you're in the Kingston area, it can't hurt to make your voice heard:
The first of two public forums focusing on the future of health care in the region as consideration is being given to closing one hospital in Kingston will be held tonight.

The session will be at 6 p.m. at City Hall on Broadway. The Freeman will livestream the event on its website at

“I am pleased that we are going ahead with plans to facilitate public discussion regarding the future of health care in our region,” state Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, D-Kingston, who will host both of the forums, said in a news release. “As a constituent consumer myself, I know firsthand how important it is to keep our communities informed and actively involved in the process.”

Cahill said he will be joined by officials with HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley, the parent company that operates Kingston and Benedictine hospitals.
A second meeting will be held at 6pm on Thursday at Cahill Elementary in Saugerties for those on the north end of the Kingston area.

Personally, I think these HealthAlliance employees are going to end up getting screwed. Why? Because that's what virtually always happens under such circumstances. Still, HealthAlliance could turn around and surprise us all. I just wouldn't bet real money on it.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Institutional Memory

It appears that firing everyone maybe wasn't such a hot idea after all:
There is trouble in the land of legislative paperwork, which could be a big problem, come next month’s session of the Ulster County Legislature. For a little insight into this post, the staff of the Legislative Clerk’s office currently includes people who are, for the most part, inexperienced with the operational matters of a Legislative office. While it is possible to get away with having some inexperienced staff people when a core group of experienced employees exists, having no experienced staff presents a real, serious problem.

[. . .]

With Karen Binder out indefinitely, it appears that Bernardo has a self-created, lack-of-employees situation on her hands. What? No employees?

No Nettie. No Karen (Spinozzi). No Karen (Binder). No Tammy. Maybe it’s time to send Mance, Reggero, and Mathes off to Legislative Staff Boot Camp so they can help Tantillo and Fabella who will likely be working round the clock to get the job done in the coming months. Funny how things work out, isn’t it?
In order for institutions to function, you need experienced people who understand how they operate. This is known as "institutional memory." When you fire all the experienced people, you end up with a bunch of novices who don't, or can't, follow the correct procedure. It's also why I oppose term limits for legislators. When you populate a legislative body with a bunch of procedural ignoramuses, the lobbyists end up running the show.

Either way, it's awfully hard to enact one's self-serving agenda without the people who do the heavy lifting behind the scenes. Langdon Chapman should keep his portable typewriter handy.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Paging Mocking Robin

The great thing about the blogger platform is that any idiot (yours truly included) can start publishing stupid political commentary. All you need is an internet connection, a computer, and a strong sense of your own personal victimhood:
Push poll disgust

Now Robin is going too far. She has put up a ridiculous poll asking how you would classify someone who take benefits away from someone who has stage 4 cancer. The possible answers were Malicious, Evil, Heartless and All of the Above.

We at Mocking Robin are not sure who the cancer patient is but we can be sure of three things. One, since no one has the opportunity to choose anything but a bad vote, the results will be 100% what she wants. Hardly a poll anybody can trust. Two, Robin is going to twist whatever circumstance she is going to reveal into something it really isn't. It won't be the first time. Three, dragging a cancer patient into her political sickness is All of the Above. That's our vote at Mocking Robin.
The above is in response to this post at the Liberty Coalition (be sure to read the comments).

Uh, to call this a push poll is pretty damned idiotic, even coming from Terry Bernardo. Robin's intention was obviously to lampoon Bernardo's callousness. The fact that all of this is lost on Bernardo doesn't come as a surprise.

UPDATE: Notice, too, that Bernardo doesn't bother to refute the charge, and instead feigns ignorance. For shame.

Bernardo Watch: Political Hit Jobs

In light of what's going on in the NY-19 Democratic primary, with insurgent Democratic candidate Joel Tyner being accused of financial impropriety with virtually no evidence of such, I think it would be worth your while to head over to Rochester Smoke Out and take a look at the kind of thing that happens on the local level.

As I've mentioned before, local elections are for the most part wide open when it comes to shady campaign dealings. On the state and federal level, campaigns receive a higher amount of scrutiny from the media, whereas local races receive very little. The local papers might send a reporter to a candidate forum or two, but most of the time they simply report the results and that's that.

In other words, you can get away with a hell of a lot at the local level because no one is really watching.

Which is why it's worth reading the Smoke Out's series of posts regarding the dirty tricks pulled on then-Town of Rochester Councilwoman Manuela Michailescu during her 2009 campaign for the county legislature. It starts with her letter to her GOP colleagues:
Dear fellow Republicans:

Please allow me to share with you a potentially explosive situation – before you become aware of it at the Republican Convention on Tuesday.

My name is Manuela Michailescu and I’m Republican Councilwoman in the Town of Rochester; I was a member of the Republican slate which won in its entirety in November 2007.

I expressed my intention to run for one of the four Legislator seats in District One, but I’ve been strongly “discouraged” to do so. I was boldly told that the Ulster County Chairman of the Independence Party – who happens to live in our town – wanted to make sure that his wife is presented with a Legislator seat, so he struck a deal with Chairman Catalano to block any Republican who intends to run in District 1.
And they did everything they could to prevent her from running, and thereby challenging the candidacy of Bernardo. The local Rochester GOP, which is in the hip pocket of the Bernardos, even went so far as to endorse three Democrats over fellow Republican Michailescu:
IN DISTRICT 1 (Marbletown, Rochester, Wawarsing), Republican voters will choose from among five candidates for four spots on the Republican line. Democratic incumbents Joseph Stoeckeler, Mary Sheeley and T.J. Briggs, all of Ellenville, and Terry Bernardo, who is registered in the Independence Party, have the backing of the Ulster County GOP. They are facing a primary challenge from Kerhonkson Republican Manuela Michailescu.
Why did this happen? She's not part of the Bernardo club, that's why.

We've seen weird endorsements (of the opposition party, no less), bait-and-switch tactics regarding candidate petitions, and what appear to be knowingly bogus signatures (even allegations of people coming back from the grave to sign).

Anyway, it's quite the story, and it shows you just how ruthless people can be when it comes to getting their time at the public trough.

What it also shows is how important blogs like this one, and the Liberty Coalition, and the Smoke Out -- and even the idiotic Mojo -- are when it comes to ensuring that there is real public scrutiny in local races. Good people can disagree on policy all day long, but they should do so with a spirit of compromise -- and all should agree that the playing field shouldn't tilt in one direction or another.

And a note to our elected officials on both sides of the aisle: We're watching.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Little Bipartisanship

And it's good for Kingston veterans:
Legislation that would transfer state property at 67 Wurts Street in Kingston from its previous use as a group home for developmentally disabled persons to a home for transitional housing for veterans has passed the State Senate and Assembly.

It now goes to the governor for his action.

The bill was sponsored by Senator William Larkin and Assemblyman Kevin Cahill.
You know, if they would take time off from constantly trying to punk one another, we might actually have a state legislature that works.

But I'm sure it will be back to business as usual soon enough.

Let's Close All the Schools

Seriously, why not just eliminate mandatory public education altogether?:
KINGSTON, N.Y. -- "We're looking at a complete overhaul of our district," said Kingston Schools Superintendent Paul Padalino.

Padalino delivered the news at a school board meeting Wednesday evening. He said the district's floundering finances leaves him no choice but to propose closing three elementary schools. Sophie Finn, Anna Devine, and Zena by the end of the 2012-2013 school year.

It's a move, along with shifting fifth graders into middle schools, that Padalino said will save the district $25 million over five years.

"We can keep our school buildings open, but if the fiscal realities come to fruition, we won't have any teachers to put in those buildings. We really need to look at doing things differently," said Padalino.
After all, an informed public is a huge inconvenience for elected elites, what with all the questions about how they're spending our money and stupid stuff like that.

UPDATE: And this is OUR 100th post.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sorry, Smoke Out

But this ain't gonna happen:
We the People have every right to question whether tax breaks granted by the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) are producing the promised economic benefits. For those not familiar with the issue, the following paragraphs come in handy.

From Ulster County Cloackroom:
    This is classic lazy journalism. DiNapoli writes that a number of businesses in Ulster County could lose tax breaks or be subject to other sanctions, but she cannot be bothered to ask which businesses O’Halloran is referring to. Her article doesn’t say that the THR tried and failed to obtain this information (which is publicly available). So, why the omission? Could it be that one of these “underperfomers” is Skate Time 209, which is owned by O’Halloran patrons Len and Terry Bernardo? How convenient of DiNapoli to leave this information out of her article.
From Liberty Coalition (yes, it’s about Skate Time 209):
    For example if a business applied for IDA assistance – whether for a loan, tax breaks or both – and they said they were going to create twenty jobs but their reporting shows they’ve created only nine (45% of the target) then maybe a formula needs to be created that increases the tax liability based on the underperformance. After all, I don’t think any of us wants to pay for an underperforming business to operate on our nickel. Put another way, if a $1.4 million commercial property is paying under $7,000 per year in property taxes, and that business is at only 45% of their job target, which includes the owners, it sounds like the taxpayers are getting screwed.
Mrs. Bernardo, tonight – for a change – do the right thing: when the Resolution No. 157 pops up, recuse yourself.
There is absolutely no way that Bernardo will do the right thing on this, as doing the opposite is her raison d'etre.

Why Should I Care About My Neighbors?

I mean, seriously. My neighbors are not ME. So anything they posses means there's something I DON'T posses. Makes me sick to see other people happy and content.

And I'm glad to see that there are so many commenters who agree with me (see the comments from the previous post to hear what your enlightened neighbors think about the quality of our rivers and streams).

And all of this is nothing more than political grandstanding. Hein, Bernardo, and the entire county legislature are simply taking advantage of their constituents. Why, I bet they actually convinced NY City to start these discharges into the Esopus so they could make political hay out of it.

And Big Government, especially when it's the government of NY City, is our friend. We should never, ever question the wisdom of what they do. After all, we're just the little people, and we really don't know any better.

Sarcasm aside, you all should be ashamed of yourselves. You're not fit to live in the company of decent people.

And those of you who aren't sociopaths should be sure to drop by tonight's hearing at SUNY New Paltz if you can spare the time. Let's tell the city we're not going to be steamrolled.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Hearing on Esopus Discharges Tuesday Evening

City and state officials continue to treat us like we're a bunch of rubes, at least when it comes to the enormous damage the city did to the Esopus Creek last year. So, if you want to make your voice heard on this important issue, which is likely to intensify in the coming years as water resources dwindle, then now's your chance:
A war over water heats up in Ulster County. County Executive Mike Hein is encouraging residents to attend a public hearing Tuesday night about water released into the Lower Esopus.

The state allowed the New York City Department of Environmental Protection to release muddy water from the Ashokan Reservoir into the Lower Esopus, even before a completed environmental impact statement. They also issued a "draft consent order" that would require New York City to set permanent terms for releasing water.

Mike Hein says the consent order is flawed and puts both the residents and the environment at risk.

"What they have done is disgraceful and woefully inadequate. The dollars associated with this don't even come close to what a private company would be forced to pay if they damaged in the same way. $37,000 a day, they dumped 600 million gallons a day for 10 months straight," said County Executive Hein.

The public hearing takes places Tuesday night at SUNY New Paltz.
Without us, New York City cannot survive, yet we would do just fine without them. But somehow it seems the city is the one falling all the shots. Funny how that works out, huh? Maybe it's time for some pitchforks and torches.

Anyway, the hearing is set for Tuesday, June 19, at 6 p.m., in Lecture Center Room 100. The knuckleheads at YNN managed to leave out the room location and time.

Friday, June 15, 2012

IDA Could Kill More PILOTs. But Which PILOTs?

If you read the Times Herald Record, you know about several of the businesses in question. But why not the rest? (sorry, moronic paywall):
Businesses applying for tax breaks made big promises to the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency, but they didn't all pan out.

The IDA is combing through its records to see how far short of expectations businesses fell. The move comes on the heels of Birchwood Village developer Steve Aaron's default on tax break payments, which might go into arbitration.

Eight businesses that received breaks from the IDA are underperforming in terms of job creation, IDA Chairman David O'Halloran said. Those eight businesses represent 23 percent of the IDA's active projects.

The IDA has "clawback" rules on its tax breaks. If businesses don't meet projections, the agency can eliminate the breaks, ask for money back or other options, O'Halloran said.

Two underperformers, the Hampton Inn in Kingston and the Hudson Valley Sportsdome in Milton, explained their numbers Wednesday at an IDA meeting.
This is classic lazy journalism. DiNapoli writes that a number of businesses in Ulster County could lose tax breaks or be subject to other sanctions, but she cannot be bothered to ask which businesses O'Halloran is referring to. Her article doesn't say that the THR tried and failed to obtain this information (which is publicly available). So, why the omission? Could it be that one of these "underperfomers" is Skate Time 209, which is owned by O'Halloran patrons Len and Terry Bernardo? How convenient of DiNapoli to leave this information out of her article.

I would argue that DiNapoli is just being lazy, if it weren't for the fact that O'Halloran seems to have the ear of a THR editor. Who can forget this little gem of a few months ago? (sorry, the same moronic paywall):
Snail mail ads play role in digital age

By James Walsh
Times Herald-Record
Published: 2:00 AM - 04/22/12
Despite the popularity of electronic communications in the digital age, direct-mail advertising has shown remarkable resilience as a popular and even growing marketing tool for businesses interested in narrowing their target for customers.

Marketing companies find that overloaded electronic mailboxes and the prevalence of spam filters are partially responsible for boosting the advantages of direct mail.

"We thought we could save on the printing, on the postage, but then we saw our occupancy rate drop," said David O'Halloran, proprietor of the Pinegrove Ranch and Family Resort in Kerhonkson, of the company's foray into email marketing.

Success strategies

Here are some tips for businesses considering direct-mail marketing:

• Always make an offer in a mailing. That increases the chances it will be read, said Jay Shapiro of D&D Mailing Services in Newburgh.

• Define your customer and use that information to market to other geographical areas, said David O'Halloran, a longtime user of direct mail and proprietor of the Pinegrove Ranch and Family Resort in Kerhonkson.

• Be prepared to make multiple mailings. It takes time to establish recognition. Make mailings eye-catching with a compelling message, said Josh Sommers of Focus Media.

• Use email to enhance, not replace, direct mail, said O'Halloran.
O'Halloran, chairman of the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency, found that direct mail and print ads drive traffic to the resort's website.

Many of those viewers, he suspects, peruse the website during their lunch hour, because traffic spikes between 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Josh Sommers of Focus Media in Goshen and Jay Shapiro of D&D Mailing Services in Newburgh agreed that businesses should use multiple marketing platforms. Email still has its place. O'Halloran finds sending an occasional message is fine, while too-frequent ones spur requests for removal from email distribution lists.
Talk about fluff. The THR did everything but climb into bed with O'Halloran and peel him a grape.

But we shouldn't be surprised. The THR is owned by News Corp, the company founded by Rupert Murdoch, a man who has done more than anyone in history when it comes to damaging the journalism profession. The THR, which was once a pretty good paper, is now nothing more than ads, recycled AP stories, and a handful of slipshod local pieces that don't tell the reader anything important.

For Murdoch, News Corp, and the THR, this is "progress." And for those like O'Halloran and the Bernardos, an ignorant and under-informed public is their best ally.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Anonymous Comments Aren't Going Anywhere

A commenter reminded me of this, which was in the news a couple of weeks ago:
One might have expected the news that several Republican state lawmakers in New York want to pass a law essentially banning anonymous comments on the web to be met with outrage.

But the reaction from New York's digital-media proprietors seems to be more of a collective eye-roll.

"This is a misguided idea that indicates a lack of understanding of not only the essence of the web but also the principles of the First Amendment," said Gaby Darbyshire, the attorney and chief operating officer for Gawker Media. "I don't believe it will come to anything."

"This legislation is going nowhere," said Andrew Rasiej, chair of the NY Tech Meetup and founder of Personal Democracy Forum (and an adviser to Capital). "Its not OK anymore for politicians not to know how the Internet works. The sponsors of these bills basically self painted the word 'dinosaur' on their backs with this one."
How stupid is this? PC Magazine sums it up thus:
It's always funny when clueless do-gooders try to put the Internet toothpaste back in the tube.

This week we learned that New York lawmakers are considering legislation that would ban anonymous speech on the Internet. This is an idea that's dumb on so many levels, it's difficult to figure out where to start dissecting it.

Let's run through the facts, which Wired's Threat Level blog alerted us to earlier this week. It seems there's a bill (S06779) going through both state chambers that calls for the administrators of New York-based websites to "remove any comments posted on his or her website by an anonymous poster unless such anonymous poster agrees to attach his or her name to the post."

The targeted parties would include "any individual who posts a message on a website including social networks, blogs forums, message boards, or any other discussion site where people can hold conversations in the form of posted messages."

Let's call that a commendable covering of all the bases. Let's also call it an unenforceable, business-killing, First Amendment-violating monstrosity of a brain fart.
In other words, it's moronic, and nothing more than another one of those laws proposed by people who don't understand, or don't use, the internet.

It will never pass, and it would be struck down by the courts even if it did. And then there's this little problem of fundamentally changing the entire nature of the internet to suit the whim of an out-of-touch state legislator.

And you can take my previous commentary on this issue (which has been zilch) as being commensurate with my degree of concern.

Jeremy Blaber has Nothing to Say

At the end of the day, the reason people reads blogs is because bloggers have something to say. People keep coming back here, I believe, because I actually try to offer some sort of analysis of the posts/articles to which I link.

Can anyone find a post by the "tremendously credible" Blaber that actually says something?

I also love the fact that Rich Cahill clearly doesn't know what "out of context" means. What Rich was really saying is, "How dare they link to something I wish I hadn't written!"

Keep whining, Rich. It makes you look statesmanlike.

Hiatus Over

So, I take a break for a few days and all hell breaks loose.

First, another $2.5 million evaporates:
Ulster County could be on the hook for $2.5 million because of what the U.S. government says were overpayments in federal funding for the Golden Hill Health Care Center.

The county’s congressional delegation is fighting the demand for the payment, but Deputy County Executive Ken Crannell said on Friday that Ulster has been told it may have to repay the money within six weeks.

County officials are calling the payment demand unfair and say forcing Ulster to part with $2.5 million could wreak havoc with its 2013 budget and result in “significant cutbacks and reductions in service.”

The disputed payments were so-called “intergovernmental transfers” — payments made by the federal government to public nursing homes to compensate for the difference between the state’s Medicaid payment rate and the federal Medicare rate.
Well, isn't that just wonderful. And related to Golden Hill again. I wonder how many more golden turds the taxpayers are going to have to step on. As to whose fault this is, everyone's pointing fingers at Washington. My take? The blame for this screw-up rests somewhere in Albany, though we may never find out exactly who, how or why.

There are also rumors, according to an anonymous commenter, that Pete Rooney will volunteer to have his ass handed to him again by Kevin Cahill. Cahill won that race 56-44, and I don't see Rooney this time doing any better than he did against the well-funded incumbent. We should know soon enough whether Rooney will run.

In Kingston, RUPCO's plans to convert the United States Lace Curtain Mill into affordable housing appears to be moving forward:
Computer-generated images have been created that show what a former lace curtain mill in Midtown Kingston would look like after it is renovated for housing.

The images were created as part of a proposal by the Rural Ulster Preservation Co., known as RUPCO, to renovate the former United States Lace Curtain Mill at Cornell Street and South Manor Avenue into an affordable housing complex.

City Planner Suzanne Cahill said the Planning Board will continue its review of the plan during a meeting at 6 p.m. Monday in City Hall.

Cahill said it’s unlikely any decision about the plan will be made at the meeting.

The computer images — made by the Kingston architectural firm Scott Dutton Associates, which is designing the building — depict how the exterior will look when complete, including landscaping and a new parking lot.
Everyone and his brother, including then-candidate Shayne Gallo, were opposed to more affordable housing in Kingston just a few months ago. Now, everyone is lining up and saluting. Again, I ask why this project isn't causing the same amount of rancor the Safe Harbors project caused? I think I know the answer, and it has to do with the ethnicities of the respective residents of the proposed projects.

In blog-related news, our logically challenged friend over at the Crusader has a couple of new posts up. One claims that Mike Hein doesn't work on Fridays. Doesn't the county executive's office publish Hein's schedule? I'm actually asking. Most full-time elected officials tend to let the media know where they are going to be on a given business day. Shouldn't be too hard to find out, Crusader, though it would involve doing some actual work.

The Crusader also smells a conspiracy between Hein and Robin Yess. You're kidding, right? Maybe the Crusader should FOIL Hein's birth certificate as well.

And speaking of Robin Yess, there is a new post up over at the Liberty Coalition regarding cronyism by the Bernardo/Independence Party gang:
Political cronyism is clearly alive and well, and if it isn’t, why was Lisa K. Mance – a resident of the Town of Marbletown and employee of the County Legislative Clerk’s office – at the Town of Rochester Republican Committee meeting earlier this week, diligently taking notes for Terry Bernardo who, as a Committee member, was absent?
Go read the whole thing. It's well worth your time.

We also have a new blog on the block. Again, the Cloakroom blog leans left, so I don't agree with many of my neighbors policy-wise, but it's always nice to hear a new voice. Welcome, Rochester Smoke Out!

So, what else is going on? What did I miss?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Anonymous Blogging is as American as Apple Pie

The Kingston Times' Crispin Knott's article on local blogging is really as silly and out-of-touch as can be. "What is this blogging thing of which you speak and that all the kids are doing?" it seems to ask. The article then takes an incredibly superficial look at online writing, while it also wrist-slaps anonymous bloggers, such as myself, for hiding our identities:
Local political blogs aren’t new to the area. In Kingston, two bloggers on opposite sides of the political spectrum — Rich Cahill Jr. and Jeremy Blaber — have been going at it for years, mixing solid information with commentary. But there’s a difference between those widely-read local blogs and Ulster is Your Town Too and others like it: Clear ownership.
Since we don't know who is saying what we're reading online, we can therefore safely ignore it, the article implies. Well, that's not how it works. There are plenty of good reasons to blog anonymously, the most important of which is our right to do so under the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. But I'll get back to that in a minute.

The first mistake Knott makes is in choosing his subject blogs: Jeremy Blaber's and Richard Cahill's. Both bloggers have been active for some time -- Blabber since March of 2006, and Cahill since Decemember 2010. Blaber, however, wins points for being the most active of the two. Since he started his blog, Blaber has posted 1558 times, which is an average of 0.65 posts per day. Cahill, on the other hand, has posted just 135 times since he started his blog, or an average of one post every three days or so.

This brings me to the first rule of blogging: You have to blog every day to remain relevant. While I don't always adhere to this philosophy, I certainly try to. Without new content, people have no reason to visit. In fact, the most successful blogs out there aren't limited to one voice. Some have as many as a dozen different writers who chime in throughout each day. This is something I'm considering in the future.

And in case you're wondering, there have been 91 posts on this blog since February of this year, or about 0.78 posts per day. I even post on the weekend sometimes, if something newsworthy is going on.

And Blaber deserves some credit for his stick-to-it-iveness in 2007/8, when he averaged well over one post per day (though he has tailed off, dramatically, in more recent years). It's not always easy to come up with new content; so, way to go, Jeremy! You should really think about increasing the number of times you post on average. Besides, your blogging neighbors need link bait.

Cahill, on the other hand, is writing something that is closer to an online diary. He just doesn't update it often enough to call it a "blog" (though he is active this week, likely due to the increase in traffic generated by the article. You need to pick up your game, Rich).

The KT article then illustrates, quite clearly, how little these two bloggers -- and the Kingston Times itself -- know about history:
"To me, it’s gutless to come out and take a shot at somebody like that,” said Cahill. “If you feel strongly enough about something, why wouldn’t you want to put it out there in your own name? The only reason I can see doing it is if you know you’re doing something deceitful or underhanded and you know it’s going to blow back on you. To me it’s a question of honor.”

“I’ll tell people exactly how I feel, and I’ll always put my name on it,” said Blaber, who scored a journalistic coup by being the first to break the news of ex-Kingston cop Tim Matthews’ suspension amidst allegations (to which he later pleaded guilty) of stealing public money. “If you want credibility, you’ll put your name behind what you’re writing. Nine times out of 10, [anonymous blogs] are designed to attack a specific person or a specific agenda. Usually the anonymous blogs, they go after people but they don’t have the guts to put their names behind their attacks.”
Both of these statements are totally asinine. First, Cahill suggests that the ONLY reason someone would want to blog anonymously is because he or she is up to no good. This is so wrong-headed it would be laughable, if it weren't so frightening that people think this way.

As just one example of what can happen to bloggers who reveal their identity, we have this charming story out of Mexico:
Gang members in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, killed and beheaded the moderator of a social network, the Houston Chronicle reported Wednesday.

“Hi, I’m Rascatripas,” read the note on a blood-stained blanket left with the body. “This happened to me for not understanding that I shouldn’t report on the social networks.”

The victim, known by his nickname “Rascatripas (Belly Scratcher),” was the moderator of a site called Nuevo Laredo en Vivo, which had posted information about the local drug cartel.

This is the fourth murder in the area in the past three months that appears to be related to victims’ social media activities. Another blogger on the same site, Marisol Macias Castaneda, was found beheaded in the same location as Rascatripas in late September. A couple of weeks earlier, two bodies were found hanging from a pedestrian overpass with a sign (pictured above) that threatened, “This will happen to all the Internet snitches.”
Am I suggesting that something like this could happen here in Ulster County? Of course not. But something like this could:
A homeowner in El Segundo posted the salaries of the overpaid cops in his town, on his blog - and the next thing he knew he was being harassed at work, by a police captain who makes over $300K a year, according to the LA Weekly.

The blogger, David Burns, is in charge of emergency preparedness at UCLA. After this incident, the same police captain turned in a public records request at UCLA to find out how much Burns makes. It turns out Burns makes a third of what the overpaid captain pulls in, and his salary has been cut by 23% due to budget problems.

It should be noted that El Segundo has only 16,000 residents and barely any crime, but their cops and firemen make hundreds of thousands of dollars.

As for the issue of the police captain harassing a private citizen blogger, it sure sounds familiar to us, here at the Orange Juice. Our blogger Sean Mill was also harassed at work when he asked Supervisor John Moorlach to find out why Liberal OC blogger Chris Prevatt was reading blogs at work.

Prevatt has been quoted in a Voice of OC article, where he complained that he couldn’t read the Voice of OC blog at work. Mill and I wondered why Prevatt was reading blogs on his work computer, since Prevatt is an employee of the Orange County Health Care Agency
Just Google "blogger harassed" and see what turns up. In virtually every case, a writer went after local established power -- and found themselves being harassed by local authorities as a result. It's as if Cahill doesn't believe that officials will misuse their power (or, worse, still, he condones it).

I've watched a number of local elections, and, let me tell you, local elections are far dirtier than the big campaigns that get real press scrutiny (or what passes for it these days). I've seen intimidation, whisper campaigns, business boycotts for putting up a lawn sign, you name it. And there is essentially nothing one can do about this. Call it the coercive effect of those who want to perpetuate the current status quo. People have been shut-up, run out of town, marginalized, and made into local pariahs simply because they disagree with their neighbors, and want a chance to prove their ideas in the next election. Instead of fighting fair, the harassers will do anything -- sometimes using means of very questionable legality -- in order to hang on to power. It's sickening. Petty corruption in small-town America is rampant, and local bloggers are the sunlight disinfectant, to paraphrase Brandeis.

And if you don't want to believe me, The Electronic Freedom Foundation has quite a bit to say on this subject. The organization quotes a court in Washington State regarding online anonymity:
Protections for anonymous speech are vital to democratic discourse. Allowing dissenters to shield their identities frees them to express critical minority views . . . Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. . . . It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation . . . at the hand of an intolerant society.

You might also look up Thomas Paine, as well as Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison (The Federalist Papers were written anonymously, we should remember).

The KT article is also completely out to lunch on the hit counter issue, as I've previously mentioned. And I have a challenge: I've shown you mine, now you show me yours. Let's see how relevant Blaber and Cahill truly are. Both can easily enable the Google Analytics feature in the Blogger platform, which would show just how much traffic these two blogs generate on average. How about it, guys? (I'm not going to hold my breath).

What the KT really gets wrong, however, is that there is no way to contact the author of this blog. There is. The blog email address is listed right on the top of the right column, plain as day, for anyone to use if they want to reach out. In fact, I have received several emails from members of the local community. If you have a local story, I'm interested in hearing what you have to say (please remember that I reserve the right not to publish it if I don't think it's "news," though you can be assured of anonymity if you prefer to remain nameless).

If Crispin Knott (which is an awesome name, by the way) had reached out to me, I would have been happy to answer questions via email. I never heard from him, and doubt I will in the future. Oh well.

My last point is one that has been stuck in my craw for a while: Hey, Kingston Times! They're called hyperlinks. You should use them. Okay, I understand that you don't want to link to me or the Mojo. That's fine. But couldn't you at least have linked to Blaber and Cahill's blogs? Even the stodgy New York Times is now embedding hyperlinks in its stories. And doing so, KT, will actually increase your internet traffic, making your online real estate more attractive to advertisers -- and, you know, increasing your relevancy as a newspaper. Get with the program, folks. It's actually pretty embarrassing how out-of-touch you guys are, so out-of-touch that I'm surprised your story on blogging actually made it into the online edition.

Monday, June 4, 2012

I Don't Pad My Hit Counter

I couldn't let this go by without picking it apart, but the Kingston Times apparently thinks the numbers you are seeing at the bottom of the right column might not be accurate:
It’s difficult to gauge the popularity of blogs on Blogger, because even those who add a counter can start the count at whatever number they’d like. Many local political blogs allow for commentary, and sometimes those build a bit of steam and go into the double-digits, but with responses anonymous it’s virtually impossible to determine how many come from the same person.
When I first started this blog, I didn't have a hit counter. The reason? I didn't want folks to see how poorly it was doing, traffic-wise. But thanks to the kindness of other bloggers in Ulster County, including Robin Yess and the Rochester Republicans, traffic became surprisingly good very quickly.

So, for a while, I had a third-party hit counter at the bottom of the page. A few of you may have seen it. The problem was the counter I used, from, didn't allow me to input the actual original numbers from Google Analytics. It instead started from zero and didn't reflect any of the traffic that came before. I figured it was no big deal that the hit counter didn't reflect the first 5000-or-so visitors, but the numbers you saw at that point lagged far behind the actual numbers. And I couldn't figure out how to adjust them to reflect reality (I'm not that adept with this kind of thing).

But this shows you what I know. Google actually keeps track of traffic through its own system. The numbers that you see with Blogger, the platform this blog uses, come straight from Google. There is no way to game these numbers. I suppose it's possible to log in from multiple IP addresses and click away for a while until you have the desired number of hits, but this would be a tedious and convoluted process. And then I discovered, through playing around with the various features of the Blogger platform, that Google had a hit counter that is simply a reflection of the numbers that come straight from Google. So, I deleted the hit counter from, and loaded up the one from Google itself. What you see now is the actual traffic this blog has seen from the very first post onward.

Most days, the blog generates about 200 hits. The record for a single day is 312 hits. Traffic has been down over the past few days, however, as I've been AWOL for a bit (real life sometimes intervenes). But I have no doubt that the traffic will pick up again as I devote more attention to the blog.

Anyway, the Kingston Times doesn't know what it's talking about when it comes to blog traffic. And this blog isn't gaming the system when it comes to traffic. What you see is what you get.

As to the KT's lament over mean anonymous bloggers, there's this little little thing called the Bill of Rights. And there are a whole host of reasons why a free and open society, such as ours, should welcome this kind of anonymous commentary. Sure, there are a lot of idiots out there who like nothing more than to be inflammatory; but there are also folks who have something to say, but for whatever reason decide they would like to, or simply must, remain anonymous.

I'll have more about why this is important in the coming days. I promise.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Jay Townsend Should Resign

This isn't any way for an official campaign spokesman to behave:
Jay Townsend, a campaign spokesman for Republican Rep. Nan Hayworth (NY-19) has ignited a controversy after he said, "Let's hurl some acid" at female Democratic senators.

Townsend's comments (which have since been removed) were posted Thursday on a local Facebook discussion forum for New York's 19 th congressional district. Townsend was responding to comments made by a commenter named "Tom" during an online debate over gas prices. Townsend wrote:

"Listen to Tom. What a little bee he has in his bonnet. Buzz Buzz. My question today … when is Tommy boy going to weigh in on all the Lilly Ledbetter hypocrites who claim to be fighting the War on Women? Let's hurl some acid at those female democratic Senators who won't abide the mandates they want to impose on the private sector."

Hayworth's office has not yet responded to requests for comment on the matter.
If you're not familiar with the reference, this is what Townsend was saying should be done (figuratively) to a number of female Democratic United States Senators:
Acid throwing, also called an acid attack[1] or vitriolage, is a form of violent assault.[2] It is defined as the act of throwing acid onto the body of a person "with the intention of injuring or disfiguring her out of jealousy or revenge".[3] Perpetrators of these attacks throw acid at their victims, usually at their faces, burning them, and damaging skin tissue, often exposing and sometimes dissolving the bones.[4] The long term consequences of these attacks include blindness and permanent scarring of the face and body.[5][6][7]

These attacks are most common in Cambodia,[8] Afghanistan,[9] India,[10] Bangladesh,[5][6] Pakistan[5] and other nearby countries.[7] Globally, at least 1500 people in 20 countries are attacked in this way yearly, 80% of whom are female and somewhere between 40% and 70% under 18 years of age.
It's like Townsend went out of his way to find the most offensive reference he could get away with. But, that's the way he's always operated, so I suppose we shouldn't be shocked.

Jay Townsend should resign, but he won't. Nan Hayworth should fire him, but she won't. It's how they roll, these folks.

UPDATE: Townsend does the right thing and resigns. Thank you to the anonymous commenter for the heads up.