Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Albany's Bad Bet


“I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse”

                                             Vito Corleone “The Godfather”


Often times the truth is indeed stranger than fiction. Not even Hollywood could come up with a script that tops what New York’s politicians are capable of, on what seems a daily basis. According to the New York Times in the last seven years more than 30 NY politicians have either been indicted, convicted of a crime, censured or otherwise accused of misconduct. It's no wonder that our state vies annually for the title of most corrupt and dysfunctional in the nation. One can now add the sordid chapter of trying to legalize gambling to the mix.

Albany’s latest move merits it’s own prize for chutzpah. Instead of using neutral and proper wording for the casino ballot initiative they've changed it into an advertisement for all the supposed benefits of gambling. And speaking of rigged games and stacked decks, in a move positively reeking of cynicism, the Albany brain trust has come up with what it regards as a fool proof plan to bring even more gambling to the state. Their plan, simply stated is this, if the hayseeds dont vote to change the state constitution and allow casino gambling, we’ll plaster upstate with barn’s chock full of video lottery terminals. Forget all the drivel about “economic development” and aid to education for “the children,” the only thing that matters is getting their paws on the money. Oh, and that promise not to accept campaign contributions from casino interests? Like the morning mist that one disappeared. Does anyone really think their taxes will go down if gambling is legalized? And just whose pockets is this money supposed to come from?

When viewed in the proper context the answer to the last question reveals not only the depth of cynicism but the total moral bankruptcy of Albany’s elites. For it is to come from those of us who can least afford it, the weakest and most vulnerable. While the special interests can lobby politicians with money for favors, who speaks for the poor sap who thinks his only chance at success in life is purchasing lottery tickets? Who speaks for the grandmother spending her social security check on slot machines? According to Albany they and others like them are expendable.

And talk about irony why are our elected “leaders” promoting gambling - a frivolous activity now? Whole regions of the world are in an economic depression, the American economy is posting it’s worst performance in the modern era with record breaking bankruptcies and Albany thinks now is the time to gamble? Never has a more discordant note been struck with the reality that faces millions of New Yorkers. And perhaps the supreme irony is Albany’s passage of the “Safe Act” . Passed in warp speed, the act is ostensibly supposed to “protect” New Yorkers. The only thing it does is to trample the constitutional rights of law abiding citizens. Some protection that.

New Yorkers can and must say no to the corrupt class that rules Albany. We cannot be a party to or enable their conduct. We cannot allow the spectacle of another shady multi billion dollar deal being cut in Albany’s back rooms. Saying no to the casino referendum will send a loud and clear message that New Yorkers want real economic development - the kind that doesn’t profit from human misery. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Polacco for Kingston

There is one candidate in the race for mayor in the City of Kingston who has risen above the petty name calling and personal criticism that has taken place. With determination and grit this person has managed to defy both political establishments in Kingston. This candidate is where he is because of his own effort and resolve. He owes nothing to any special interest group or political machine, and his only allegiance is to the taxpayer. I refer of course to Ron Polacco, Republican candidate for mayor. Ron has displayed no small amount of political savvy, and is by far the most fair and open minded candidate in the field. The city’s next chief executive will have to confront a host of tough issues. The character traits that Ron possesses will be of great value in bringing together Kingston’s many diverse communities. Unlike many, I am cautiously optimistic about Kingston’s future and believe the City can again get the wind in it’s sails. In order for that to happen, Kingston must go in a new direction and I believe Ron Polacco is the best candidate to chart that course.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

MAURICE OBAMA OR BARACK HINCHEY

The great Yogi Berra once wryly observed “When you come to a fork in the road take it.” That thought comes to mind as we approach perhaps the most important election in a generation. It is a rare American that does not admit to at least some foreboding about the nations future. The past two plus years have been a whir of government intervention and expansion involving mind boggling amounts of money. There remains however, a great unease at the governments continuing record levels of spending and debt. There is an intuitive understanding that it simply cannot last. The question many people have is what is there to show for this immense debt? In the midst of the worst economic recovery of the post WW ll era the Democrats have given us the kafkaesque “recovery summer” tour of Joe Biden.


Elected under the banner of hope and change and admittedly trying circumstances, the president and his party had an unique opportunity to move the country forward. What did they do? Instead of playing the role of a surgeon on the battlefield performing triage on the nations wounded economy, the Democrats had other ideas. Giddy at holding all the levers of power in the American government, the Democrats decided to take the nation on an idealogical, power mad bender. In a fit of historic political tone deafness, they rammed through congress, bills, thousands of pages long, they didn’t even read, and whose effects have been to paralyze the nation.


  • A stimulus bill, that was great if you worked for a public union or a liberal special interest group, but a dud for everybody else. And in an even bigger joke on all of us, the administration now tells us the recession ended in June of ’09. That’s before a nickel of stimulus was even spent. So much for the claim that the stimulus averted a depression.
  • The healthcare law - where does one begin? This epic clusterfark is the biggest government power grab ever enacted. Already it is having the opposite effect of all it’s stated claims as insurance premiums are going up. Forget about it’s additional sixteen thousand new IRS agents, the most insidious aspect of this bill is the threat it poses to our nations preeminent position in medical research and innovation.
  • Financial regulation anyone? The government did such a bang up job with fannie and freddie that we need more of it.
  • In childlike, almost romper room fashion they employed a “reset” button to our nations foreign policy. From sucking up to our enemies, to running down our friends, they seem to do the opposite of what every situation calls for.


The president didn’t achieve this all on his own. He had the help of congress and one member in particular. This members views are in total accord and sympathy with the president, so much so that their names are interchangeable. I refer of course to our erstwhile assemblyman now congressman Maurice Hinchey. What we have witnessed these past two years is the distilled essence of modern liberalism coming into contact with reality. It is not a pretty sight and it’s little wonder that the nation is in a funk. There was a time when Mr. Hinchey had his finger on the pulse of his constituency. Now, if you go to his government website, you can read his rants against the Bush administration! This is not just out of touch but dangerously so. The nation is in peril and the same old same old is not good enough. We need a change in thinking and leadership and that’s why I’m casting my vote for George Phillips for congress.




Monday, June 7, 2010

Maurice Hinchey and the Sugar Plum Ferry

Recent news stories surrounding Rep. Maurice Hinchey’s (D NY) involvement in a local real estate venture highlighted the congressman’s penchant for pork. While the articles in the May 18th, 21st and 30th, 2010 Daily Freeman of Kingston, New York, detail Hinchey’s acknowledged mastery in securing federal dollars, they also call into question the whole federal pork barrel process. However, these stories did not go far enough. If one were to dig a little deeper, one could see how corrosive this pork barrel process has become and how unconstrained spending on the federal level plays out on Main Street, or in this case, Partition Street. Today, for a number of reasons, I urge voters to help retire Congressman Hinchey from office. The country is in desperate need of new thinking and politicians that understand the gravity of the burden of debt that Washington is creating.
News releases detailing Rep. Hinchey’s involvement in a hotel and conference center development (The Partition Street Project), while welcome, are somewhat belated. It is odd that up to now, relatively few local media outlets have even questioned Hinchey’s role and participation in a real estate venture in his hometown. This is a testament to the power Hinchey wields and the fear that his power instills. This limited scrutiny, coming now after approvals for his project have been secured, reveal what can only be regarded as conflicts of interest of a sitting United States Congressman benefiting either directly or indirectly from taxpayer funds. While he stresses his limited role in this project, and lack of knowledge about other items of local interest, the congressman is involved more than he lets on.
The focus of the recent articles concern an $800,000 federal grant for certain sewer line improvements. Both Rep. Hinchey and local officials now strenuously deny that the grant is to improve the sewer lines around Hinchey’s proposed Partition Street project. At the time the grant was awarded, however, the impression in the community was that it was to improve the sewer lines in the vicinity of the project. Neither the congressman nor local officials did anything to dispel that impression. That is why this minor controversy now exists. Apparently, we have to take the word of the congressman that this grant was secured because of the deep concern he has over certain obscure and antiquated sewer lines in another part of his old hometown.

Alright, that is fair enough, but call me cynical when I try to square that with this news item that appeared in the Saugerties Times on May 9, 2009:

Saugerties-Tivoli ferry approved. Councilwoman Leanne Thornton announced that federal funding for a ferry service between Saugerties and Tivoli has been approved. The new service could increase tourism to the village and town she said. The funding, part of the recently approved stimulus package, provides 4 million dollars for the project. “The federal stimulus package provides 4 million for passenger ferry projects. “ Believe it or not no one applied except the village of Saugerties and the Village of Tivoli. The majority of the funding will go to the village of Tivoli because they have to go over the railroad tracts because they have to access to the river.” Saugerties will receive a ferry dock just below the Partition Street Project site and it will enable passengers to access the village and probably the town beyond it. The project will take about two years, Thornton estimated.

Apparently, old obscure sewer lines are not the only thing weighing on the congressman’s mind. Reanimating a ferry service that has not been in operation for over seventy years must constitute part of the necessary “public infrastructure” that Rep. Hinchey recently wrote about in the Daily Freeman (May 29, 2010). It is interesting that Hinchey makes no mention of the ferry boat service but defends his pork barrel spending. The ferry boat must have slipped down the memory hole because it has now become inconvenient to talk about. There has been no mention of it in the local media for months and the recent articles about the Partition Street project, referenced above, made no mention of the ferry service. Could this be another example of the power Rep. Hinchey wields?

In this instance we have the fact of a U.S. Congressman steering four million dollars of stimulus funds to a project that would directly or indirectly benefit a development he has a vested interest in. Though he now denies it, he steered an $800,000 grant for sewer line work that may have benefited his project. In addition, the Partition Street project has received another $800,000 in state funds. There is also the involvement in the Partition Street project of a prominent, if not notorious, local law firm with a long history with the congressman. This firm is well known in local circles to be Democrat ‘fixers’. There is far more than meets the eye with this firms involvement in the real estate project. Then, there is the separate case of one of Rep. Hinchey’s business partners selling his land to the federal government for a new Army Reserve Center. Hinchey claims to have no knowledge of this. Hinchey cannot, however, claim to have no knowledge of the ferry boat service as he was the sponsor of the grant. That is probably why the local media dropped the subject like a hot potato. The trail ends, literally, at his doorstep. However, the pretense of Hinchey claiming to have no knowledge about a whole variety of politically charged issues in his district is somewhat hard to believe. Being the shrewd politician that he is, Rep. Hinchey keeps tabs on everything of importance in his district.

While none of this may be illegal, it does have a certain odor to it. It is a typical, in your face type chutzpah, from a politician who has been around a long time. Rep. Hinchey has long cultivated an image of himself as being a man of the people. It is, frankly, sad to see a politician in the twilight of his career grasping after the proverbial dollar. Politics, it has been said, is the art of the plausible. In the heady days following the victory of President Obama and his party, a great many things must have seemed plausible. Now, in the cold light of dawn, what once seemed plausible is now ridiculous. While the amounts concerned might seem trivial in the grand scheme of things, they cannot be viewed in isolation. If you multiple these political schemes throughout the country it is easy to see why the United States is hemorrhaging red ink to the tune of 1.6 trillion dollars this year alone. These debt levels are simply unsustainable and portend a bleak future.

In his day, Franklin Roosevelt lifted the spirits of the nation by reminding us that we had a rendezvous with destiny. President Obama, and the Democrat leadership, on the other hand, are promising us an appointment with catastrophe. That day is coming faster with politicians in power like Congressman Maurice Hinchey and those who think like him.












Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Your Vote Matters




Dear Fellow Conservatives:


Ronald Reagan once said, One ought never to turn one's back on a threatened danger and try to run away from it. If you do that, you will double the danger. But if you meet it promptly and without flinching, you will reduce the danger by half. Never run away from anything. Never!” This quote comes to mind because I believe it aptly describes the instinctual reaction of millions of Americans to the actions of their government over the past year. Americans sense danger in the out of control spending of the stimulus bill; the massive power grab and intrusion into our health care; and the naive, incoherent conduct of our foreign policy. And rightly so.


Whether we are deciding who sits on the local Board of Education, or who we elect to this nations highest office, elections do matter. I am writing this letter to you because I feel that the next election cycles in 2010 and 2012 are the most important in more than a generation. They will literally determine whether America enters into a state of permanent decline or whether we right our course and return to the values and principles that made this nation great. What follows is an action plan that we, as grass roots Conservatives, need to do.


The Saugerties School Board election and budget vote will be held on May 18, 2010. School taxes are, for most of us, one of the largest bills we have to pay. I have long argued that the entire public education structure is broken and in need of reform. This need for reform has become even more apparent as we face a 21.1% increase in our Saugerties school taxes. This effrontery comes from an education establishment that views the taxpayer as a bottomless source of revenue. I take a backseat to no one in caring about providing our children with a quality education. But I am just as concerned with people being taxed out of their homes. For this reason it is important that we have people on the Saugerties school board that reflect the taxpayers perspective. Re-electing two dedicated and hard working Conservatives, George Heidcamp and Jim Steinhilber will be a step in the right direction. They voted against the massive budget increase. These gentleman will provide seasoned judgment and the taxpayers perspective. This will be necessary when the new board begins negotiating teachers contracts. The teachers union, powerful as it is, does not need even more influence on the school board. I urge you to tell your friends and neighbors to re-elect George Heidcamp and Jim Steinhilber. These candidates meet the criteria that will best help the community, the student and the beleaguered taxpayer.


In the larger picture we are reminded how actions of our federal government impact us locally. There is no doubt that President Obama came into office under demanding circumstances. By promising a new era of hope, change, transparency and post partisanship, he engendered the good will of a vast majority of Americans. Over the past fifteen months both he and the Democrat Party have squandered that good will. In a short time they have added over two trillion dollars to the deficit in a frenzied spending spree. In an act of historic political tone deafness and against the will of the American people, they rammed through a hyper partisan health care law. This law allows the government to take over nearly 20% of the economy. This new massive entitlement comes at a time when we can not afford existing entitlements. The bad news is there is no way the economy can grow fast enough to pay for any of it. Within two years our total debt will be over 100% of GDP. Servicing that debt will consume over 10% of the federal budget. This is unsustainable.


Instead of concentrating on the most critical need, that of getting the economy back on track, both the present administration and the congress have followed a socialist script to create a European welfare state right here in America. In what can only be a calculated strategy on their part, this script is, if allowed to proceed, a blueprint for disaster. So wedded to this script are the Democrats that they are willing to label vast swaths of the American public as racists and worse. I refer of course to the Tea Party movement. I consider the Tea Party movement to be the most wholesome development in politics in my lifetime. The fact that millions of Americans are concerned over out of control government spending, questioning the legitimate role of government in our lives, and studying our founding documents is a good thing.


The upcoming November 4th, 2010 election represents an opportunity for American citizens to change the present course of America for the better. The logical step is voting Democrat Congressman Maurice Hinchey out of office. Protected as Hinchey is by his praetorian guard of local media, his leftism has been allowed to run unchecked and unquestioned. Congressman Hinchey is also using his power to feather his own nest and to avoid rules he gladly applies to others. For true hope and change, it is time to vote Maurice Hinchey out of office. I urge everyone to vote for George Phillips, the Republican candidate in the upcoming November 2010 Congressional Election.


When this nation was facing similar economic and social crisis, Ronald Reagan, in his inaugural address, said “The economic ills we suffer have come upon us over several decades. They will not go away in days, weeks, or months, but they will go away. They will go away because we, as Americans, have the capacity now, as we’ve had in the past, to do whatever needs to be done to preserve this last and greatest bastion of freedom.” Let no one tell you that elections do not matter!






Monday, March 8, 2010

A Great Success

The first lecture of the Hudson River Lyceum was a tremendous success. My thanks go to John Taylor Gatto and to everyone who helped and attended this informative and important lecture. Mr. Gatto was in great form and gave his unique perspective on the state of education. I was particularly pleased at the attendance, for there were close to three hundred people there. People from as far as Oneonta, and Albany came to hear John speak. There were about a dozen college professors along with many local teachers in addition to the entire board of education from Onteora.

I believe the attendance was indicative not only of the message of reform that Gatto speaks to but also the fact that it must be addressed now. We no longer have the luxury of time to make needed reforms. New York State is currently in a budgetary crisis, masked only by the spending of federal stimulus money. Unlike many people, I believe the subject is not as difficult or complicated as it is being made out. It only gets complicated when the special interests exert their influence. All too often this influence is at the expense of the taxpayer and the children in the type of education they receive. This subject is only going to loom larger as our society comes to grips with the new fiscal realities. Here is a link to a brief video clip of the lecture.




Tuesday, May 5, 2009

JOHN TAYLOR GATTO




The Hudson River Lyceum is honored to have John Taylor Gatto, one of the most influential visionaries of the future of education, deliver its inaugural lecture on Friday, May 29, 2009, at 7:00 p.m. at the Bearsville Theater, Woodstock, New York.  Question and answer period to follow lecture.  The lecture is free and open to the public. 

Mr. Gatto, a former New York City and New York State teacher of the year, is one of this country's leading voices on the subject of education reform.  Through hundreds of public talks, articles, interviews, and classroom projects, Gatto has shown decisively where our failing schools have gone wrong and what can be done to fix them. 

A much sought after speaker throughout North America,  his books include A Different Kind of Teacher, The Underground History of American Education, Dumbing Us Down, The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, and Weapons of Mass Instruction.

 What others have said about John Taylor Gatto:

“I happen to agree with damn near every semi-colon and comma that Mr. Gatto has written.  Thank you, thank you, thank you, John Taylor Gatto: perhaps American’s most brilliant educator.” - Tom Peters, management guru and author of In Search of Excellence.


"I've loved John Gatto's work ever since I first encountered his astounding essays in The Sun. This analysis of schooling is

presented with daring, panache, and a humorous passion that leaps off the page. I give this book [Underground History of American Education] a standing ovation!  Bravo! " - Christine Northrup, author of Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom


“Gatto’s voice is strong and unique... a Socrates of the educational world.”   -Thomas Moore, author, Care of the Soul 


“How does he probe so deeply the complex issues surrounding our schools when so many experts can hardly penetrate the surface at all?  Here a master lecturer works his magic to cast the issues surrounding our schools in a new light. An examination of the assumptions behind compulsory schooling is the goal of this book [Underground History of American Education]  . Haunting. A minor classic.”  - Eric Schultes, The Whitehead Institute, M.I.T. 


“Gatto is a singular antidote to stale convention.” - David Guterson, author, Snow Falling on Cedars


“A remarkable achievement. I can’t remember ever reading such a profound analysis of modern education.”  - Howard Zinn, on Gatto’s The Underground History of American Education


Gatto’s ideas are splendid. I just hope someone is listening.” - Christopher Lasch, author of Culture of Narcissism and The Revolt of the Elites


Every word Gatto writes comes from the depth of his caring about the lives of children.” - SKOLE: The Journal of Alternative Education


Anyone interested in the fate of our schools should make this book [Underground History of American Education] a priority.”  - Dan Greenberg, Co-founder, the Sudbury Valley School


“In this fine work [Underground History of American Education], John Taylor Gatto traces the historic sources of educational corruption and pleads for a new deal for children, one grounded in the family and an intelligible order of the good.” - John E. Coons, Professor, University of California Law School at Berkeley, author, Making School Choice Work


“In his lectures and his writing Gatto not only adeptly denounces public schools, but also makes radical suggestions for improving them. These suggestions are grounded not in hypothetical clouds, but rather on his own innovative sturdy, apprenticeships, and solitude.” - Grace Llewellyn, author of The Teenage Liberation Handbook