Tompkins County

Unbecoming conduct...

...in Tompkins County, NY. Are you tired of this yet?

PATTERN OF MISCONDUCT
                                
     On October 19, the Dryden Town Board admitted that a fraudulent document was submitted to the Town Clerk in July 2013.  The document, created by the Town planner, was approved and co-signed by Town Supervisor Mary Ann Sumner (D-Dryden).  It was discovered because the Town Clerk’s office spotted its unusual character; there was no Board vote approving it and it was pre-dated 2012.  The Town Planner’s employment was ended, the Board voting in public session, 4-1 (Supervisor Sumner alone voting no, against termination).  No action was taken regarding Supervisor Sumner’s own involvement in the fraud.  At an October 17 public meeting, questioned about this, Sumner dismissed her role as minor.  She never explained why she signed a pre-dated document that did not show Board approval.  Sumner refuses to take responsibility for the fraudulent document she approved and co-signed and now seeks another term.
 
     During 2011, the Town Board of Newfield, discovered that Newfield’s employee withholding taxes had not been paid for months; $30,000 was missing; workers’ compensation premiums were double paid, costing Newfield about $12,000; and Supervisor Richard Driscoll (D-Newfield) by his own admission received unemployment benefits, while drawing a Town salary (legally disqualifying).  The Board requested a New York State audit with both Democrat board members voting against seeking the audit.  Driscoll took no responsibility, claiming that the problems were due to bookkeeping.  The $30,000 was never found.  For Driscoll’s failure to timely pay IRS and NY employees’ withholding taxes, the Town was subjected to $14,867 in interest and penalties.  Driscoll also used Town credit cards for personal bills, repaying the Town only when caught.  Yet, the Democrats re-nominated Driscoll for another term.
 
      In 2012, Tompkins County Legislator Martha Robertson (D-Dryden) was not elected to the position of Legislative Chair until January 17.  But, Robertson accepted Chairperson’s pay from January 1 to January 17, a period when another legislator performed Chairperson duties.  Only when confronted did Robertson consider repayment.  Even if repaid, this would not excuse taking pay not earned.  In 2012, Robertson redirected $17,000 taxpayer dollars to paint the shoulders of Ellis Hollow Road green to calm traffic (ineffectively) in front of her own home.  In 2013, Robertson, without evidence, falsely accused Congressman Tom Reed (R-Corning) of having Republican operatives hack her website, to induce campaign contributions, raising a federal wire fraud issue.  Robertson, running for another four year legislative term in 2013, has already begun campaigning for Reed’s seat in Congress in 2014.
 
      Do these problems go beyond these Democrat office holders? Are these incidents a pattern of incompetence, untrustworthiness, and disdain for the voters by Democrat officeholders throughout Tompkins County?  In the November 5 election, voters should turn out of office people who have been shown untrustworthy, incompetent and who refuse to take responsibility for their own actions.  As President Harry Truman (D) said, “the buck stops here”.  It is time to end whitewashes and cover ups and to elect competent people who will honor the people with honesty in office, providing open and transparent government.
 
                                        James Drader
                                        Chairman, Tompkins County Republican Committee

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 jar453@cornell.edu 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.
 

Dora Dogood strikes again!

Haven't heard from the old battleaxe dear in a while. Turns out she's been taking a few turns in her Sopwith Camel.  

In this essay, Dora makes Hallmark's Maxine

 

look like

 

***

A few days ago, I was sitting in Dryden’s Queen Diner having coffee, reading my copy of the ever shrinking Ithaca Journal.  There, I learned that not only was our county legislature about to vote on the minimum wage but that it was also considering a vote on an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to withdraw person status from corporations.  This last item led me to almost choke on my coffee.  It should have been in the comics section.
 
Indeed, it would be humorous, if it was not so sad, to see a local government body concerning itself with an amendment of that type.  I hope we all learned in social studies classes what it takes to pass a constitutional amendment, a two-thirds vote of each house of Congress and ratification by three-quarters of the states.  This process is so rigorous that while many amendments have been introduced, very few have been adopted.  That’s for good reason, tampering with our constitution for any but the most serious reasons is at best unwise, at worst likely to be foolish.  As a practical matter, such voting by our county legislature is a total waste of time and resources, a blatant political statement, that will be dead on arrival wherever it is sent. And, we’re actually paying them to pretend to work on our behalf.
 
Thinking back to the last election of county board members about three years ago, I cannot remember anyone questioning candidates on their views about the American constitution or anyone voting to give them the power to speak for county residents on constitutional law.  Perhaps my memory has lapsed now that I’ve reached age 88, but I think not.
 
Have Albany and Washington been abolished?  Are we unrepresented there?  Have Jim Seward, Richard Hanna, Tom O’Mara, and Mike Nazzolio gone home?  A quick check on my iPhone said they are still in office.  But what do we need them for when we have Martha Robertson and her dwarfs to vote on these issues?
 
If a corporation wasn’t a person, who could we sue if wronged?  What would happen to the investments that support our pensions, including a lot of stock?  Who would risk their money by putting it into a non-entity?  It would be nice if occasionally people who come up with schemes like corporate non-personhood would think about where their proposals would take us.  Perhaps I’m expecting too much when asking people to think.
 
Local power grabs... For most of my long lifetime, local governments including our Dryden and county governments stuck to what local governments do best, mostly roads and a bit of public safety.  They checked on septic systems and made sure they met public health needs.  But, they did not vote on banning activities they didn’t like, far reaching zoning and environmental controls, minimum wages, or constitutional amendments.  Now, we have “home rule,” which means local officials erode our rights, take away our choices, and enact local laws about matters they haven’t the first clue about. Government of the uninformed, by the uninformed, and for the uniformed, where the loudest voice gets served and fears rather than information rule.

I’ll inevitably be “checking out” before too many more years.  What will happen to my children, grandchildren and beyond, I dread, particularly if they choose to live in this area.  Enough said, I’m off to do some flying.  Aerobatics, if mishandled, are a good way to realize how short life can be.
 
 
  
 
 
Town of Dryden
 

Of minimum wages and corporate personhood

Ah, it's spring in Tompkins County and can the May Day rallies be far behind?  

In today's Ithaca Journal, a little story about the Tompkins County Legislature voting on issues that are above their pay grade on, of course, May Day:

With the Tompkins County Legislature voting on resolutions to endorse a higher state minimum wage and end corporate personhood Tuesday, the Tompkins County Workers' Center is preparing to rally in support of the two measures, while the county Republican Party is calling endorsing a higher minimum wage hypocritical.
 
The minimum wage resolution supports state minimum wage increasing from $7.25 to at least $8.50 or ideally $12.78 an hour. County representatives are scheduled to consider the resolutions at a special meeting of the Capital and Personnel Committee at 4:45 p.m. and then the full Legislature will take it up at 5:30 at the Tompkins County Courthouse, 320 N. Tioga St...
 
...The county GOP issued a statement Sunday saying the county Legislature should leave the issue for state legislators and calling the higher wage an unfunded mandate causing increased costs and prices. "It is hypocritical to complain only about those unfunded mandates that directly affect the Tompkins County Legislature but not those that impact the private sector," Tompkins County Republican Chairman James Drader said. "Ultimately it is the same taxpayer/purchaser who pays for unfunded mandates, whether these mandates are on government or businesses."
For more actual, you know, data on the effects of a minimum wage increase in NYS, see Raising the Minimum Wage in New York: The Poverty Impact of A. 9148.  To whet your appetitie:
...The data show that a majority of the employees affected by an $8.50 minimum wage in New York are either living with family or have a spouse that also works. As a result, the family income of a typical beneficiary of an increase in New York’s minimum wage is far higher than the $15,080 full-time, year-round income figure cited by policymakers and advocates.
 
The average family income of an employee affected by the proposed wage increase is above $53,000 a year. Even the median income of a beneficiary is $37,033 per year—more than double the $15k family income figure that advocates rely on....
Read on, Macduff.  Sound like an unfunded mandate that doesn't even do what it claims to do anyway?
 
And as for ending corporate personhood, see this post at Middle Class Dad on Politics, Marriage, Low-Carb Diets and a 1967 Firebird:
...Under this amendment, if I were to gather a group of my friends to advocate a position and we incorporate so we can claim non-for-profit status, we could be limited on what we could say by the government....
And that's only one of many issues with the idea that those evil, nasty, greedy corporations need to be muted.  
 
In the end, though, it boils down to free speech for me but not for thee. Progressives just hate it when they don't have enough rational arguments marshalled to win a debate, so their solution to that sticky wicket is to silence the other side.
 
And then, of course, there's the issue of the Tompkins County Legislature spending taxpayer money, in effect, as well as time on topics like the state minimum wage and an amendment to the US Constitution that are well outside their bailiwick.
 
Must be there are no county issues to deal with.
 
Right.
 

Temperance movement

One of these old girls is Dryden's own Dora Dogood.  Can you guess which one?

While you're thinking about that, here's another little essay from Dora:

I am an old lady, having lived in the Town of Dryden now for 88 years.  I’ve watched our town board members and members of our legislature including an energy activist from the eastern part of Dryden take the lead in banning drilling in our areas.  Surely their actions will extend to the next vital step, ending energy use in the area.
 
So, naturally, I assumed that none of these activists would accept power from the electric grid or heat their own homes with fossil fuels.  Imagine then my surprise when I learned that all members of the legislature who advocate against drilling are on the grid and that all use fossil fuels or sources that impact our environment, either directly or at least at times from the power grid!  Not one has disconnected from the grid.
 
Why won’t these activists be true to their own principles?  My suggestion is they take a pledge, “I, _____, advocating against drilling in Tompkins and New York State do solemnly swear, or affirm, that I will live my own life off the power grid and without use of fossil or earth impacting fuels, no matter whose back yard they are developed in.  If fossil fuel production is not suitable for Tompkins, Tompkins residents must not use fossil fuels.  Therefore, I will introduce or support legislation that no person in Tompkins, regardless of pre-existing uses, may use any fossil fuel or any fuel that endangers our water, our air, the quiet in our neighborhoods, and, such as solar panels, the beauty of our neighborhoods, or puts combustion products in the air, destroys natural resources, or produces radioactivity or nuclear waste.  Residents who don’t accept this life style should leave the area.”
 
The pledge and the suggested legislation is necessary if our legislators are truly committed to saving our planet.  To do less than that is to be hypocritical.  Our activist legislators must lead by example, renouncing all personal use of fossil or polluting fuels, whether they pollute now or might pollute in the future.  Otherwise, these legislators condemn the people of other lands or other places in the U.S. to producing energy for our local use while not caring enough about the people whose own backyards are being impacted by the very problems they don’t want here.

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.
 
 

Hot/Not: Newfield edition

Town of Newfield picks:

Jeff Hart & Roy Trask, Town Board

Gary Dresser, Town Justice

For bios of Jeff, Roy, and Gary, and more info about the Newfield Republicans, click here.

 

Forecast: Bursting bubbles

We've been reading stories for quite a while now about college students graduating with degrees in Women's Studies or some arcane art major, tens of thousands of dollars in student debt, and no job prospects.  College tuition and spending has soared in recent decades, much to the benefit of Ithaca and its surrounds.  

But parents and students are increasingly looking askance at the current college model, and the prospect that they might actually do something different is forecast as the "bursting of the education bubble."

Today, there is this:

Call it better learning through technology -- and cheaper.

As college and university classrooms around the country fill with students facing mind-numbing tuition, free online classes are filling up too -- and their rising number threatens to destroy the current model that has student loans soaring and parents feeling the bite...

Similar to how media began “supplementing” printed newspapers in the 90s with free online editions -- which transformed business models and made the news largely “free” on the web for consumers -- free online courses might (perhaps unintentionally) ultimately force tuition closer to zero. 

Exhibit A is Stanford's new "Introduction to Artificial Intelligence” class. It’s entirely online. It’s free. And it even promises student feedback, in addition to an unaccredited but still résumé-worthy “Statement of Accomplishment.” ...

Stanford is far from the only one making a bet on free online courses. MIT, Harvard, Yale, Oxford and dozens of other iconic universities are getting involved as well.

Our hometown Ivy, Cornell is no stranger to this trend, having run its CyberTower since 2000, first as a for-fee service and then for-free since 2004.  Some of the older material seems to be in ancient video formats but since it's Ithaca, you can still go there to learn about loons.

Online courses can easily have the same disruptive effect that Amazon had on the publishing industry and that iTunes had on the music industry.  

No, Cornell isn't going anywhere any time soon, but students may spend less time in a traditional classroom... and maybe less time in Ithaca. Cornell is branching out with a campus in Qatar and a plan for an engineering campus in New York City.  Fewer students spending less time in Ithaca can mean big changes for our county.  And it could happen quickly, meaning that we will need to diversify -- and fast -- if we want to maintain the lifestyle which currently emanates from the Cornell aura that has kept Tompkins County economically head and shoulders above our neighboring counties.  How exactly would we do that?

As Mark Twain said.... well, he said a lot of stuff.  But while living nearby and sharing rich associations with Cornellians, he only seems to have visited Ithaca twice and maybe never visited the Cornell campus proper.  

Just sayin'.

Tompkins County Budget Meeting in Varna on Monday

The second in a series of community meetings to discuss next year's Tompkins County budget has been set for 7 p.m. Monday (August 1, 2011) in Dryden.

The meeting, sponsored by County Legislators Martha Robertson, District 13, and Michael Lane, District 14, will be held at the Varna Community Center, located at 943 Dryden Road, Varna.

Shale shocka from our moral and intellectual superiors

The back page of the "Life" section of today's Ithaca Journal has a full-page ad (and those don't come cheap—paid for by "Social Ventures") with the header " Our Water Is Their Future." It consists of four quotes and a "what you can do " section, just to get your activist juices flowing.

From Sandra Steingraber (whose book was brandished by the lead singer of a rather weird band at an unsuspecting audience at Dryden Dairy Day in June during a tirade against BGH (bovine growth hormone)—that didn't sit well with the folks from the Grange): "Fracking is the biggest threat to children's environmental health that we've ever encountered..."  In the background is a tug-at-the-heartstrings photo of children holding hands with Cayuga Lake behind them. A couple of things come to mind...

Fracking is the environmental threat du jour.  It may well (no pun intended) turn out to be the equivalent of environmentalists'-sweetheart Rachel Carson's DDT.  That turned out well for all the children around the world who have died of malaria as a result of her crusade, didn't it?  And all those kids in that photo by the lake?  How many of them will still be in this area after age 18?  Not many, I suspect.  As a parent of children ranging in age from 34 to 14, I can tell you this: they don't hang around and they go where the jobs are and temp jobs at Cornell (and while local institutions of higher learning may have protected us from economic buffeting so far, they probably won't forever) aren't sufficient inducement to keep them here for any length of time.  Of course, once the "sustainability" folks get their way and none of us have cars, the inability to leave may stem that particular tide.

And by the way, Sandra Steingraber is in "good" company:

Over the years, In These Times has published the work of a wide range of noted writers, including fiction by Alice Walker and Kurt Vonnegut; reporting by Clinton speechwriter David Kusnet, former New Republic editor Andrew Sullivan, and current Salon Editor-in-Chief Joan Walsh; and political commentary by former presidential candidate George McGovern, environmentalist Sandra Steingraber, the late Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, novelists Barbara Kingsolver and Dorothy Allison, and a number of contemporary members of the House of Representatives who contribute to the magazine’s “House Call” column.

From Robert Howarth: "Shale gas has the largest greenhouse gas footprint of any fossil fuel..." We've said it before and we'll say it again—there's a lot of disagreement on this particular point. And while anti-anti-frackers (I won't call them pro-frackers—it's not necessarily the same thing) are always portrayed as being in the pockets of evil Big Gas, anti-frackers are never painted as having any ulterior motives—pure as the driven snow are they. So you may want to see Joe Nocera's op ed in the NYT as well as South of 5 and 20's post for some perspective on Mr. Howarth's objectivity.

From Tony Ingraffea: "A record of 1 blowout every 1000 wells and 1 cement failure every 20 wells, with tens of thousands of wells planned for New York, means the possibility of blowouts in your neighborhood and the ruin of your water supply..."  Another example of "it's a fact that it's a possibility."  And as Nocera points out in his NYT column

The truth is, every problem associated with drilling for natural gas is solvable. The technology exists to prevent most methane from escaping, for instance. Strong state regulation will help ensure environmentally safe wells. And so on. Somewhat to my surprise, this view was seconded by Abrahm Lustgarten, a reporter for ProPublica who has probably written more stories about the dangers of fracking than anyone. In a comment posted online to my Tuesday column, he wrote that while the environmental issues were real, they “can be readily addressed by the employment of best drilling practices, technological investment, and rigorous regulatory oversight.”

From Dr. Adam Law: "Permitting hydraulic fracturing is like conducting a medical experiment using members of our community as subjects..."  I put it to you that forbidding hydraulic fracturing (as well as other forms of energy development) is like conducting a social experiment using local communities in an experiment to see what the desired end, the de-development of society à la John Holdren, will look like. It's not just a coinkidinky that the anti-frackers sound an awful lot like the "sustainability" folks, who sound an awful lot like the local town and county planners, who sound like the local "social justice" folks and so on.  It's because they're all working off essentially the same blueprint for creating heaven right here in our backyard.  Ain't it grand? 

The six-point activist list at the bottom of the ad includes references to Walter Hang's (who spoke at Left Forum 2011 and Left Forum 2010) company, Toxics Targeting (no agenda there. of course), as well as NYPIRG.  But wait...aren't these various state PIRGs just nice, neutral organizations of energetic young people who come to your door in the summer with petitions and pleas for money? Um, not so much.  You may be interested to know, for instance, that the U.S.’ largest Marxist organization, Democratic Socialists of America, has a new national director, Maria Svart, who cut her post-college teeth as a campus organizer with the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group.  Just sayin'.

All of life is a risk; but right now, we appear to be suffering the tyranny, not of the majority, but of the most vocal, who also seem to be the most risk-averse of all.  As Joe Nocera wound up his piece on the Marcellus Shale

...those of you who live near this tremendous resource have two choices. You can play the Not-In-My-Backyard card, employing environmental scare tactics to fight attempts to drill for that gas.

Or you can embrace the idea that America needs the Marcellus Shale, accept the inconvenience that the drilling will bring, but insist that it be done properly...

Let's not make the best the enemy of the good.

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