ConCon Mondays in April

In this instance, ConCon isn't shorthand for Constitutional Convention but for Consecutive Conservative Mondays in—wait for it—deep-blue Ithaca, NY.



There have been reports of pigs circling McGraw Tower.



The Cornell College Republicans are sponsoring a series entitled "American Voices" with a lineup of notable speakers on three consecutive Mondays in April:

  • Monday, April 8   S.E Cupp, Cornell class of 2000, 6:00pm in McGraw Hall 165. Topic: the liberal media
  • Monday, April 15   Rep. Tom Tancredo, 6:00pm in HEC Auditorium in Goldwin Smith Hall. Topic: immigration & national identity 
  • Monday, April 22   Herman Cain, 8:00pm in Call Auditorium, Kennedy Hall. Topic: the American Dream & free enterprise
A map of campus can be found here. McGraw and Goldwin Smith Halls are on the Arts Quad; Kennedy Hall is on the Ag Quad, at the corner of Garden Ave. and Tower Rd.
Click on the images below for more about the speakers:
For more information about the series, contact the president of the Cornell College Republicans, Jess Reif, at or (630) 863-3773.
Let's have a great turnout for these dynamite speakers and demonstrate that conservatism of all stripes is alive and well in Tompkins County and environs and—yea, verily—even on the Cornell campus.

Facts? What facts? This is Ithaca.

I wonder how many Pinocchios this article at the fishwrap of record about transient drill rig roughnecks Cornell students engaging in underage drinking got?

This many, ya think?

I give the editor credit—rather than take down the article, he left it there to stink:

Editors' Note: September 28, 2012
An article on Thursday described the effect of social media use on the bar scene in several college towns, including the area around Cornell. After the article was published, questions were raised by the blog IvyGate about the identities of six Cornell students quoted in the article or shown in an accompanying photo.

None of the names provided by those students to a reporter and photographer for The Times — Michelle Guida, Vanessa Gilen, Tracy O’Hara, John Montana, David Lieberman and Ben Johnson — match listings in the Cornell student directory, and The Times has not subsequently been able to contact anyone by those names. The Times should have worked to verify the students’ identities independently before quoting or picturing them for the article.

Via Newsbusters, where it was pointed out that the author of the article at the NYT "...had not considered at the time that the students could be lying."

And I love the dry remark at Instapundit:

Always remember,  these people are trustworthy, unlike those bloggers working in their pajamas.

Park-and-chide: "The media-philanthropy-university complex"

Many people have been asking the question, "who blew up the 'bridge to the future'?" Tompkins County-based people are largely the answer.  At AEI:

An anti-fracking philanthropist has turned environmentalists into precautionary conservatives. How did this happen?

Environmentalists are not playing it straight on natural gas. Until recently, they have been amongst its most aggressive promoters, even coining the phrase “bridge to the future”...

...Now, many activists call natural gas a “bridge to nowhere,” as Earth Island Journal recently headlined. Inexpensive comparatively clean natural gas is portrayed as a Trojan horse that will bring “water contamination, air pollution, global warming, and fractured communities.” The morphing of natural gas from ‘a necessary alternative to dirtier energy’ to ‘worse than oil and coal’ happened, metaphorically, almost overnight. What’s behind this seismic turnaround?...

...There are two factors, one widely reported and the other ignored: (1) advances in gas exploration and extraction fracking technology; and (2) a below-the-radar outpouring of funding by connected, wealthy anti-shale gas antagonists—and one activist philanthropy in particular, the Park Foundation headquartered at the epicenter of the US shale gas boom in Ithaca, New York. It’s also the home of Cornell University, which has become the academic face of the anti-shale gas movement...

...sober environmentalists such as the Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund and Natural Resources Defense Council continue to reject the simplistic demonization of shale gas. “At the EDF, we don’t pick fuels. We are realists; we recognize that fossil fuels will be around for a while,” says senior policy advisor Scott Anderson, noting that most states have considerable experience in regulating well construction and operation. “If wells are constructed right and operated right, hydraulic fracturing will not cause a problem.“

But hardcore opponents say there should be no middle ground: the environment is forever so only a total ban is acceptable. Consequently, scientists who consider trade offs face vitriolic criticisms. Much as the far right demands fealty on hot button issues such as no taxes or anti-unionism, enviroromantics are determined to turn opposition to shale gas into the ideological litmus test of our time....
...How did we get to this state where strident environmentalists and campaigning journalists define the debate while mainstream scientists and sober minded NGOs are ignored?... 
The media-philanthropy-university complex
What if wealthy donors are deploying their money to manipulate public opinion and support research whose conclusions often conflict with science? That in a nutshell is the media rationale for scrutinizing public relations efforts by Big Business. 
Journalists should be truth vultures. Expose the puppeteers. But the corrupting power of money and the ego enhancing romance of influence have no ideological limits. That’s the story unfolding in New York’s Tompkins County in the middle of the vast Marcellus shale formation. In this case, however, the key actors are not industry apologists but ‘white as snow’ philanthropists, NGOs and journalists. 
Over the last two years, Cornell University has emerged as the locus of academic study challenging the benefits of shale gas drilling. Research by a select group of scholars—oddly, none is considered experts in this field, even at Cornell—has been ballyhooed around the world, with the New York Times, consciously or unconsciously, playing the leading role of megaphone. 
In April 2011, the Times helped transform Cornell professor Robert Howarth into the ideological rock star of anti-shale gas activism. It ran a report and blog promoting a short article Howarth and Anthony Ingraffea had just published in Climatic Change Letters, a journal that had never before addressed the shale gas phenomenon. The authors claimed that shale gas generates more greenhouse gas emissions than the production and use of coal....
“There is a lot of money invested in shale gas development,” Howarth told me. Our research is threatening that, which makes it political.”
If the debate has become sharply contentious, Howarth is at least partly responsible. He often describes himself in ways that create the impression he has been researching fossil fuel issues his entire career. “I’ve worked on the water quality effects of oil and gas development for 35 years off and on,” he said recently. His training is in oceanography, with his primary concentration in marine science, particularly coastal marine ecosystems. Until his published letter, he had never published any university level research into natural gas, let alone shale gas. 
Howarth and his wife, Roxanne Marino, a biochemist at Cornell and partner at his lab, are well-known long-time environmental activists and outspoken opponents of developing shale gas reserves. Just months before the release of his letter, Howarth appeared in a YouTube video wearing an anti-fracking button at an anti-natural gas rally outside an Environmental Protection Agency meeting in Binghamton, NY, saying, “All this talk that it’s a clean fuel, as some say, is not based on any scientific analysis.” He continues to passionately and publicly lobby against shale gas.
Marino is the town supervisor in Ulysses, a small town in Tompkins County. For more than a year, often with Howarth at her side, she oversaw the implementation of an anti-fracking law through the local town council. “Industrial-scale hydraulic fracturing as proposed in the shale formations of the Finger Lakes and Southern Tier is a land, water, and chemical-intensive activity that poses unacceptable risks to human health and safety and environmental degradation,” Marino is quoted as saying, months before the publication of Howarth’s article.
...Each time the [New York] Times and anti-shale activists cite [Howarth's] letter, they make a make a point of mentioning that it was peer reviewed. But that’s misleading. It did not undergo classic double blind review...
With only a few exceptions, Howarth’s paper has been widely criticized by scientists across the ideological spectrum. The Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory reviewed the same data, concluding that natural gas, even from shale, results in far less emissions than coal. But that study did not make it into the NYT.
In August, scientists at Carnegie Mellon University, in a study partly funded by the Sierra Club, concluded that shale gas has significantly less impact on global warming than coal, a direct rebuke of the Cornell study. “We don’t think they [Howath et al] are using credible data and some of the assumptions they’re making are biased. And the comparison they make at the end [that the development of shale gas generates more greenhouse gas emissions than the production and use of oil or coal], my biggest problem, is wrong,” wrote lead researcher Paula Jaramillo.
That same month, independent researchers from the University of Maryland also published a peer-reviewed response to the Howarth study, again to no notice in the popular media. “[A]rguments that shale gas is more polluting than coal are largely unjustified,” they concluded.
The article was received skeptically even by liberal experts at EDF and the NRDC, but their comments got little play. As the Worldwatch Institute wrote, “Despite differences in methodology and coverage, all of the recent studies except Howarth et al. estimate that life-cycle emissions from natural gas-fired generation are significantly less than those from coal-fired generation”...
...Howarth’s colleagues at Cornell, Lawrence Cathles, Larry Brown and Andrew Hunter, with years of expertise in this area, have written a stinging response accepted for publication in January’s Climatic Change Letters. They characterised it as “seriously flawed,” more ideology than science, noting, “the assumptions used by Howarth et al are inappropriate and … their data, which the authors themselves characterise as ‘limited,’ do not support their conclusions”...
...Much of the anti-fracking research at Cornell, including Howarth’s modest burst of scholarship, is possible because of the generous support of the Park family of Ithaca, through its well-endowed trust, the Park Foundation (emphasis mine--tvm). Its president, Adelaide Park Gomer, and her daughter, Alicia Park Wittink, are openly antagonistic of natural gas development. And they’ve found ideological soul mates at Cornell and at dozens of influential NGOs, from Friends of the Earth to the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES) that receive contributions from Park.
The foundation funded the totemic video of the anti-shale gas movement, Gasland, the cinematically engaging but scientifically questionable documentary that made the rounds at Sundance, Berlin, Tokyo and Cannes, jumpstarting the backlash against shale gas. Park has sponsored anti-shale gas shareholder resolutions at the annual meetings of Chevron, ExxonMobil and Ultra Petroleum in alliance with the NGO, As You Sow, which Park also supports and which reliably churns out anti-shale gas propaganda.
...Gomer, a vocal shale gas opponent, has signed several anti-fracking petitions, this one in September 2010:
Hydrofracking will turn our area into an industrial site. It will ruin the ambience, the beauty of the region. But, moreover it will poison our aquifers. We can live without gas, but we cannot live without water. As a cancer survivor, I am especially concerned about the health repercussions! It is obvious that the 600+, as yet undivulged, chemicals that are used to extract the gas will not promote long healthy lives.
Gomer is also on the board of trustees of Ithaca College, which to an even greater extent than Cornell depends upon the largesse of the Park family. Its leading voice is biologist Sandra Steingraber, who, like the foundation, believes shale gas should be the litmus issue for progressives. “I have come to believe that extracting natural gas from shale using the newish technique called hydrofracking is the environmental issue of our time,” she wrote. 
The Park foundation lists assets of $320 million, guaranteeing that its views will be well represented. In 2010, it contributed $19m to various causes, more than $3.5m to seed dozens of anti-shale gas projects. 
Mother Jones, Earth Island Institute and Yes! Magazine among numerous media organisations have exclusively carried articles sharply critical of shale gas. They each received sizable donations from Park in 2010, $144,000 to Mother Jones.
Park also funded a widely circulated YouTube video on “Fracking Hell?” produced by Link Media’s Earth Focus. It also donated $50,000 to support distribution of the the influential Public Media radio program in the US hosted by Dick Gordon that regularly pilloried shale gas."
Curious about the recent sudden explosion in “grassroots” uprisings opposing shale gas? Southern Environmental Law Center received $125,000; Food and Water Watch banked $150,000; Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund operating in 110 municipalities got $35,000. The list goes on and on.
Park has injected millions of dollars into anti-shale gas education campaigns across the country, including $158,000 donated to Ithaca College for the development of “training kits” to ensure that children are exposed to only one side of this issue. It even funds the Green Guerrillas Youth Media Tech Collective, a group of teenage minorities getting job training in exchange for making an anti-fracking movie.
Park also provided $100,000 to seed a separate anti-Marcellus project at Cornell’s Department of City and Regional Planning, resulting in a paper and webinar contending that the benefits of shale drilling is overstated and will ultimately lead to an economic collapse in the region. The department has produced 13 “working papers” and “policy briefs” with the kind of narrow ideological conclusions one expects from an industry-funded “research center” generating propaganda for hire. Yet another Park-funded project is the anti-shale gas Cornell Cooperative Extension Natural Gas Resource Center, which has created an “Online Toolkit for Municipal Officials and Community Leaders” to develop expertise in battles against shale gas development.
Of course, philanthropists of any ideological stripe have a right to support any cause of their choosing. But big money raises conflict of interest issues, no different than the potential for corruption posed when industries fund lobbying against policies they find objectionable. Journals and researchers that receive funds should be disclosing conflicts and the media should be reporting about them. But that’s not happening...
...anti-shale gas advocacy groups are forging unlikely alliances. Their new allies include the Russians and the Iranians who thought they were going to corner the gas market in the coming decades, and factions of the oil, coal and even the nuclear industry, whose higher cost models may be as vulnerable to competition from natural gas as alternative energy. 
The most intriguing question lying ahead is whether politics—the forces lining up against unconventional sources of natural gas—will trump the science. The key is how reporters and university researchers who the public depends upon for a fair accounting of the consequences of innovation handle their responsibilities.
The signs are not promising. Not too long after the Times public editor blasted his own reporter, Ian Urbina, for questionable reporting, Urbina was invited to Cornell to discuss his anti-fracking reporting. The event was billed as the “Kops Freedom of the Press” forum. 
Robert Howarth was there. No journalist or scientist with long-standing established credentials in this research area—almost none of whom would have agreed with Urbina’s or Howarth’s perspective—were invited to participate in this celebration of academic ‘dialogue’ and journalistic ‘integrity’.
I was at Urbina's presentation.  All the usual suspects, including Walter Hang and Babs Lifton, were there. No one like, say, Terry Engelder, was there.
Absolutely, positively, read Jon Entine's entire article.

Janis Kelly campaigns to be Mayor of Ithaca

From IthacaIndy:

It may be a sign of how much Ithacans want to change course that a Republican provides the clearest picture of the path to take. As we move closer to the Sept. 13 primary for City of Ithaca Mayor, in a side-by-side comparison of the candidates, Janis Kelly comes out the clear winner.

In the seven-person race to replace outgoing Carolyn Peterson, Kelly provided specific reasons why she wants to be mayor and the well-known situation facing city residents.

From The Ithaca Journal:

Our city is in one of the Earth's beautiful places, but a decade of liberal politics, crony favoritism and civic neglect has left Ithaca shabby, vulnerable and broke.
We need policies that respect the values, diversity and creativity of our citizens. We have city boards eager to impose their own elitist ideas and the latest academic fads on the city.


We need city officials who understand the value of a dollar, and that time is money. We have "vanity government" willing to endlessly prolong and delay decision-making until, in many cases, businesses just give up and leave the city.

Can you top this?

No, I can't.  Just go to South of 5 and 20 and read the rest  smiley:

Town of Ithaca bans fracking


Town residents boarding Cornell's new campus shuttle
Well, that's settled...

Higher ed in upstate NY: a perspective

Commentary on Tuesday's post on higher ed in our area by Tom Reynolds:

In the past, we have been shielded from the worst of economic times and the assumption is that it will go on forever—and that's what always gets us into trouble.  People borrow too much, governments spend too much, people drink too much beer thinking that life isn't a pendulum and good things last forever.

Colleges have not had a recession since World War II ended because the government has poured money into education without ceasing and, in many cases, without getting appropriate results.

SUNY colleges want to make decisions like private colleges, but they want the public funding subsidy to continue so they will still have a huge competitive advantage over private schools.  Let SUNY Cortland and SUNY Geneseo compete for students against Ithaca College on equal tuition terms if the SUNY schools are unwilling to fulfill the purpose for which they were established: to make a lower cost college degree available to NY residents.

Private colleges are directly subsidized through grant programs (Bundy money for example) and indirect programs for student aid (TAP, Pell, etc.).  They are also subsidized through required professional certification and continuing education courses that are taught by faculty and through overhead rates on grants (lab science grants came with a 100% overhead rate when I was handling them. So, a $1 million grant gives half a million to the college, not to the project).

But over 40 cents of every dollar spent by the feds is borrowed and the national debt will soon reach $16 trillion on an annual budget of $4 trillion.  NY State has huge structural budget issues that it will not address.  And yet education expects to continue to be funded in the manner to which it has become accustomed.

College liberals and our Assemblywoman decry "Wall Street," but colleges actively seek multi-million dollar gifts from those who got the hated "Wall Street bonuses."  Individuals invest their pensions in "Wall Street" and "oil company" stocks, and college endowments are filled with those "greedy" investments.  Where was the righteous indignation from our Assemblywoman last year when Cornell got a multi-million dollar gift from a "Wall Streeter"?  Why wasn't she condemning it as the progeny of "Wall Street" greed?  Colleges depend upon large donations and when business suffers, the giving suffers. 

Remember, the money that makes our colleges run comes from outside the Tompkins County area.  Tompkins will not continue as an economic island if we are surrounded by a sinking economy.  What happens if the governments cut back?  Where will the tuition money come from if "Wall Street" and "Main Street" are in a long term recession? Colleges say that people come back for an education when economic times are tough.  But they come back on borrowed money because they don't have a job. 

Many areas of Cornell could continue relatively unchanged as they are selective enough to ease their admissions standards in order to keep a full house and continue to support Cornell faculty in the manner to which they have become accustomed.  Of course, faculty will publicly decry the drop in standards while privately celebrating their continuing jobs.  But some areas of Cornell are public and they will certainly feel the effect.  Non-faculty may not be so lucky.  When Cornell sneezes, Tompkins County gets the flu.

Ithaca College will be another matter.  Certainly, they have a few selective schools, but when I worked there, admissions to their Liberal Arts programs required little more than the proverbial "pulse."  It has been many years since I worked for IC, but I know that private liberal arts colleges have not been increasing their admissions standards over the ensuing years, and they are heavily depedent upon government-supported student aid to keep up their census and high tuition charges.  A long term downturn in the economy and government aid will have a significant effect on IC and it will cause more than a sneeze.       

SUNY Cortland was contemplating major furloughs a year ago during that year's state budget crises.  They will certainly be affected by any state cutbacks, more so than Cornell or IC.  Cortland County, unlike Tompkins County, does not have a history of economic isolation.  

These institutions will not close, but cutbacks will affect their entire industry in an area that is primarily dependent upon that industry.  House values will sink as jobs dissappear.  People have already been leaving upstate NY in droves and if education falters, there is nothing left to keep people here.  Taxes will go up even more as there are fewer jobs to provide tax dollars.

Any decent industry leader does not want to become dependent upon one source of revenue.  But in the past, our one source has kept Tompkins insulated from economic reality and our liberal leadership believes it will continue forever.  Maybe it will.  Then again, maybe it won't.  And if it doesn't, Tompkins will be in a bad spot in a state that is broke, with political leadership totally clueless as to what to do.

Higher ed in upstate NY: Knitting, eggs, baskets, and bubbles

Ithaca is actually on the radar of Greg David of Crain's New York Business:

The big success story upstate is Ithaca. Virtually untouched by the recession, Ithaca has added jobs almost every year since 2000. That area's most important industry? Higher education as it is the home of prestigious Cornell University and the well regarded Ithaca College.

The job numbers should be center stage in Albany because they show how higher education is the key to reviving the upstate economy. On Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo threw his support behind a plan to unleash the key SUNY campus from micromanaging by Albany--including deciding on their own tuition--so they can marshal the revenues to realize their potential. (A compelling case for the proposal is available on the Citizens Budget Commission website.)

The proposal is being blocked by downstate Assembly Democrats who worry that higher tuition will close the door to minority students. The claim is probably not true, and even if it is, the costs to upstate are devastating. The only alternative to giving SUNY the tools it needs is to condemn upstate to becoming even more a welfare ward of downstate. Is that what the Assembly Democrats really want?

In other words, upstate should stick to its proverbial knitting.  But is it wise to put all of upstate's eggs in one basket?

We've blogged about what may be a higher education bubble here and here. In 2010, Michael Barone, who spoke at Cornell recently, wrote in the Washington Examiner last September:

As often happens, success leads to excess. America leads the world in higher education, yet there is much in our colleges and universities that is amiss and, more to the point, suddenly not sustainable. The people running America's colleges and universities have long thought they were exempt from the laws of supply and demand and unaffected by the business cycle. Turns out that's wrong.

Read the whole thing.

And at TechCrunch is an interview with Peter Thiel, PayPal co-founder, hedge fund manager and venture capitalist, in which he says

A true bubble is when something is overvalued and intensely believed.  Education may be the only thing people still believe in in the United States. To question education is really dangerous. It is the absolute taboo. It’s like telling the world there’s no Santa Claus.

And as the interviewer, Sarah Lacey, continues

It used to be a given that a college education was always worth the investment– even if you had to take out student loans to get one. But over the last year, as unemployment hovers around double digits, the cost of universities soars and kids graduate and move back home with their parents, the once-heretical question of whether education is worth the exorbitant price has started to be re-examined even by the most hard-core members of American intelligensia.

Again, read the rest.

So if upstate NY does decide to stick to its existing knitting rather than diversifying, and at the same time potential students (or their parents) start to figure out that it might be wiser to acquire higher education in some non-traditional way (such as distance learning), or build up a work history and become self-sufficient earlier, thus becoming able to take more risks because they haven't racked up buckets of debt—what then? What happens to upstate? Wouldn't it just become "even more a welfare ward of downstate" anyway?

As we've said here before, the laws of economics don't stop at the state—or county—line.

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