Aug 23, 2011

The Politics of Clean Water

Earth Talk
E - The Environmental Magazine

Republicans move to strip EPA of water oversight

Dear EarthTalk: The U.S. House of Representatives recently voted to strip the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of its authority over state water quality. Why did they do this, what are the ramifications and what do leading green groups have to say about it? -- Joseph Emory

The legislation in question, the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011 (H.R. 2018), passed the House of Representatives this past July with strong support from Republicans and will likely be voted on by the Senate in the Fall. It aims to amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (also known as the Clean Water Act (CWA) in order to give authority over water quality standards back to the states.

The bill’s backers—including most House Republicans and lobbyists for the mountaintop coal mining industry and factory animal farms—claim it will bring jobs to Appalachia and other distressed regions of the country where they say economic growth has been crippled by stringent environmental regulations. The bill would prevent the EPA from overruling decisions made by state regulatory agencies.

“By second-guessing and inserting itself into the states’…standards and permitting decisions, EPA has upset the long-standing balance between federal and state partners in regulating the nation’s waters, and undermined the system of cooperative federalism established under the CWA in which the primary responsibilities for water pollution control are allocated to the states,” says, the website of the Republican majority in Congress. “EPA’s actions have created an atmosphere of regulatory uncertainty for the regulated community, and have had a chilling effect on the nation’s economy and job creation.”

But those opposed to the bill, including the White House and many Congressional Democrats, say that its provisions would undermine stringent federal water quality protections some four decades in the making.

“H.R. 2018 could limit efforts to safeguard communities by removing the Federal Government’s authority to take action when State water quality standards are not protective of public health,” said the White House after the bill passed in the House by a count of 239-184. Such changes, they added, could adversely impact public health and the environment through increased pollution and degradation of water bodies that provide drinking water, recreation and tourism opportunities, and habitat for fish and wildlife.

For their part, environmental groups couldn’t agree more. “Make no mistake: This bill would take the environmental cop off the beat and put at risk drinking water for millions of people, the habitat for scores of wildlife, and the jobs and economic growth that depends on a safer, cleaner environment,”
said Larry Schweiger of the non-profit National Wildlife Federation, adding that, if enacted, the bill would take us “back to a time when rivers caught fire because of rampant pollution.”

Environmentalists are optimistic that backers won’t have enough Senate votes to pass the bill. Meanwhile, President Obama has pledged to veto any such legislation that does make its way across his desk. But political winds shift quickly inside the Beltway, and only time will tell if the bill will gain enough support to withstand a veto. The quality of the nation’s water supply hangs in the balance.

EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E - The Environmental Magazine ( Send questions to: Subscribe: Free Trial Issue:

Aug 21, 2011

More on the Saratoga 9/11 Memorial

Idle Hands = Wandering Minds

A lot of people have WAY too much time on their hands

(A followup to a prior post)

Random Riffs:

- A few years back in the Town of Glenville, a local restaurant owner went about the process of getting WTC steel relics, with the plan of creating a 9/11 tribute at his business on the banks of the Mohawk River. A fine memorial it is, too. He got it done without anything approaching the tortuous process, debate and rancor that the City of Saratoga Springs is now going through.

- The obvious key reason for this smooth completion, of course, is that it was done as a private sector initiative, devoid of the twin roadblocks called nonprofits and government entities, as is the case with this Spa boondoggle.

- Of greater interest is to note that the Glenville memorial is not a commissioned "work of art." Two steel sections were procured, and were erected in simple vertical format. Period, done deal. No artists, no artistic debate, no juried decision making, no meetings-to-schedule-meetings.

- The restaurant's location is not "downtown" and not in a heavy foot traffic area. To get there, one typically takes a car or bike ride.

- The fact that the Saratoga Springs example goes in a contrary manner to these two choices is reflective of the 'Saratoga mindset,' if you will:

*** The "it has to be a work of art" decision reflects the city's belief of it somehow being an 'arts center', or at least the epicenter of some sort of creative and cutting edge artist colony. Memo to all involved: it is not.

*** The "it has to be downtown" consensus reflects the city's automatic "it's all about the tourists" point of view. Even those people criticizing the work's artistic merits fall into this trap; one of them asked at a City Council meeting "why would someone come to Saratoga to see this?" Is it REALLY all about the tourists, or is there some room for the further development of an actual livable community in Saratoga?

- The City Center "Oops, it's too big to fit here after all" fiasco should raise the question of "OK, now who the hell fucked this thing up?" But no one seems to be asking that question or seeking accountability. This question was first posed by an observant commentator in an other forum.

- The Plan B option of siting it on the lawn of the Visitors Center (better known to us natives as the Drink Hall) should be a non-starter because of the previous "it's SHOULDN'T be all about the tourists" reason as well as the fact that it simply does not scale to that location.

- The Plan C suggestion of the Lake Ave Fire House suggestion has two problems: it, too, does not scale to the neighborhood and the fact that placing it there creates a Drive-By attraction, as was correctly suggested on another blog comparing it to a McDonald's window. This should not be what it's all about.

- Plan D of the NYS Military Museum? See the above criticisms of the across-the-street Fire House.

- Suggestions of finding a site in the Spa State Park have merit. I would caution against the most popular among that bunch, the Reflecting Pool, however. To these eyes, that acre or so is the single most beautiful sight in the whole city and should be appreciated because of the fact that it has looked that way for many decades. It just might be the only such location in Saratoga that can make that simple claim. Given that we base much of our city's reputation and livelihood on that history thing, the Reflecting Pool neighborhood should be granted a sort of Forever Wild designation.

- That being said, there are other possible option within the Spa Park. There is a small plot of land just north (just to the right) of the Dance Museum that could work well while also providing a "walk or dive to it" choice.

- The Train Station was offered for the first time (we think) in this forum. We stand by that suggestion as being an alternative worthy of Short List consideration.

- We've also heard the "City Beach Property" (the old Waterfront Restaurant at Saratoga Lake) --- not bad.

- Regardless of the final siting decsion, it needs to be a 'touch-able' display, accessible by the public in a hands-on manner, for the obvious reasons.

- One thing we can all agree on: the ugly debate and discussion brought about by this exercise certainly puts a stamp on the once-great city of Saratoga Springs as having descended into little more than a glorified retirement village filled with individuals possessing little appreciation for its historical legacy or for the simple concept of "community."


Aug 19, 2011

Guitar Master to Play @ Saratoga

Thursday, Sept 8
Johnny A. to light up Parting Glass stage

Every few years, a new name or two emerges from the huge pool of guitar players around the globe as the most likely to rise to that exclusive Guitar Hero status, alongside such musical icons as Hendrix, Clapton, Beck or Page. The current crop of rising names includes Joe Bonamassa, Derek Trucks and Kaki King, among others.

A growing number of both fans and critics believe the name Johnny A should be part of that conversation. On Thursday, Sept, 8, local music lovers can judge for themselves as the Boston-based axe slinger plays an intimate small-room show with his trio at the Parting Glass in downtown Saratoga Springs.

After a long stint as sideman and 4-star producer for J Geils front man Peter Wolf, Johnny A (an abbreviation for the longer Antonopoulos ) ventured into a solo career with the outstanding Sometime Last Tuesday album. From it, "Oh Yeah" became the first number one instrumental song in more than a decade.

The followup Get Inside CD and One November Night live DVD further solidified his reputation. The legendary Gibson guitar company gave him the ultimate recognition with a rare signature edition model, which has gone on to be one of the firm's best selling models.

Known as a master of “space, tone and taste,” Johnny A is the ultimate musician's musician. Many of his fellow six stringers attend his live shows as if they were a clinic, absorbing his master level techniques as part of their own continuing artist development.

The Saratoga date is one of a handful of small room performances scheduled as a prelude to a winter European tour. Give this musician's rapid ascent, it is likely the last opportunity to catch Johnny A in such a setting.

Johnny A and his trio will perform on Thursday, Sept 8th at the Parting Glass in downtown Saratoga Springs, NY. Tickets are $16 for a limited number of advance admissions and $20 for the remaining.

Info: 518-879-2835 or online tix here

Aug 16, 2011

I'm Just Along for the Ride

Today, I was sending a personal (non-biz) email to an old friend. In the process, I found myself looking to insert a phrase that went something to the effect of "... and I'll pay for that ___cent postage stamp."

I was stopped dead in my tracks right there; because I don't know what the current cost of a first class postage stamp is! Now, how do you like that?

Upon further reflection, I concluded that I have not sent an old fashioned piece of snail mail in all of 2011. Zip. Zero. Never happened.


- I am 100% certain I have not sent or received a FAX in 2011.

- I am 80% sure I have not made or received a call on a landline telephone, pay phone or otherwise, in 2011.

- I am 100% certain that I have not bought a physical format of music (CD, vinyl) in 2011.

- I am also 100% certain that I have not bought a digital format of music in 2011. (I use streaming jukebox services)

- I am 90% certain that I have not bought a physical piece of software in 2011. (I either use cloud-based services or download software installs)

- I am 100% certain that I have not bought an admission ticket to the many arts and sporting events I have attended in 2011. (I buy online in advance)

- I am 100% certain that I have not received a bank statement, utility bill, investment statement or insurance invoice in the mail in 2011. (It's all online)

- I have not used a Yellow Pages / Phone Book in 2011.

- I have not read the Classied Ads section of a single phyical newspaper in 2011. (Although I still, on occasion, read newspapers -- but no subscriptions are in place)

- I don't have an FM radio in the house. (I stream net radio thru the PC)

- I don't own a backup storage device. (I backup thru a cloud service)

- At least 75% of my income is paid to me electronically (PayPal, credit cards)

Enlightening, when one kicks back and thinks about it ...

Aug 15, 2011

Fixing It: Derby Buzz

The Problem:

Horse racing needs a marketing gimmick to boost worldwide interest in its premier event, the Kentucky Derby, as a small part of its need to expand the sport's declining fan base.

The Fix:

Create a guaranteed mega jackpot contest for picking the complete order of finish for the Derby. A suitable figure might be $100 million for each and every winner.

The Logic:

Money talks. Raises interest amongst the 'lottery' crowd. Creates huge buzz.

The Math:

The chances of correctly predicting the complete order of finish of this race (which is typically 14 runners) are astronomically high. Doing it strictly as a number picking exercise (ie., without handicapping), the calculation goes like this:
- 14x13x12x11x10x9x8x7x6x5x4x3x2x1 = 87,178,291,200

The resulting figure (87+billion : 1) is far beyond the suggested $100 million payout(s), therefore the contest could be insured for a reasonable premium. That premium becomes a marketing expense for the industry.

Now, if the industry only had an empowered, funded and centralized organization that would take ownership of such an initiative...

Aug 13, 2011

The culture of fear


If the Dow dropping 600 points is front page news (complete with the usual stock photos of floor traders looking all worried) ....

.... then shouldn't the Dow regaining most of that loss the very next day be front page news, too?

Q: Then why was't it?

A: Because the media thrives on fear.

Aug 11, 2011

Fixing It: Saratoga's 9/11 Memorial

The Problem:

Like many towns and cities, Saratoga Springs has been allocated a section of the WTC's steel as the basis for a local September 11 monument. Members of the community are now bickering over the proper location of such a display.

The Fix:

The train station off West Avenue.

The Logic:

The rail line from that station runs directly to New York City as an unbroken link, thus establishing a physical connection between the two cities. In addition, the depot is often the point of departure and return for residents making a trip back & forth. There is plenty of space available for the monument, there is ample parking and bus service -- and its remote and quiet setting provides a suitable atmosphere for reflection by visitors.

Aug 7, 2011

Hugh Carey and the Gotham comeback

Former Governor Carey dies

From the Rotten Apple to the New Big Apple

New York City was an absolute mess in the mid-70's. As a kid who would make those rare treks into the Big Apple for social calls, rock & roll concerts or sporting events, I would mentally prepare for the journey with a mix of fear and excitement. You never knew what you were about to see down there, but you weren't really surprised by anything, either.

As hard as it is to imagine now, given its current gentrified and mass-commercialized state, even midtown was a scary proposition back then. Shady characters roamed like wild dogs, searching for prey and a followup mugging, rip-off or any of the various scams of the day. Pimps, hookers, dealers, junkies, con men, runaways, crazies -- they were everywhere. The Village, often our final destination, was relatively cool, but we'd never dare roam it in anything less than a pack of four and the exits were carefully planned to get us back to our car or Port Authority bus ride.

The outer boroughs were a definite no-no. On the rare occasions when that rule was broken, we would encounter scenes that reminded me of photos of 1945 Berlin that my father brought home from WWII: dilapidated and crumbling buildings as far as the eye could see, abandoned and often ablaze. Violence reigned the streets and the thought that you could be fighting for your life at any moment's drop was a constant mental image.

A legitimate, working economy seemed to be non-existent -- unless you considered the street-level wheeling & dealing to be legitimate. Manufacturing was heading to the air-conditioned south, and the retail and service sectors were fleeing to Long Island and other regional suburban wastelands.

Gotham looked dead in the water. Movies like Midnight Cowboy, Taxi Driver and (the later) The Bronx is Burning were what the rest of the nation was shown as being the state of the city; and they were all dead-on in those representations.

The shit really hit the fan when it went broke, literally, in '75. The city's balance sheet was so upside down that no lending institution would cover it. The anti-liberal, anti-urban and anti-northeast sentiments of the Nixon and post-Nixon national era made for a perfect storm that gave a big "fuck off and die" to NYC. All bets were off as to what would happen next, and the sequel of Escape From New York could have been shot with live remote cameras situated at random locations throughout the boroughs. Paid actors and designed sets were not needed.

Into the scrum came Governor Hugh Carey. In one of the greatest political acts in the Empire State's history, the aloof and quirky Carey somehow bitch-slapped, cajoled, bullied and hard balled all of the major players in this drama -- bankers, unions, private businesses, state & city legislatures and federal officials -- into putting into place a sensible operating plan coupled with a sensible financial program.

Carey's selling point was pretty simple, while at the same time oh-so-compelling: if this shitshow runs its course and the city goes down, none of you are going to come out on the other side in anything remotely resembling whatever your warm & fuzzy vision of being warm & fuzzy might be all about. It worked, the numbers were made to jive and it got done. Problem solved.

From that point on, New York got a little less spooky on each trip down. When Part One of the desktop computing revolution and other tech-focused industries kicked-in circa 1980, Wall Street was in renaissance mode and the thrill was on. The Big Apple was back from the edge of darkness, and the momentum built upon itself throughout the decade and into the next.

Trips to the Apple for this lad -- who by this time was now firmly entrenched in the biz-ness world -- were now walks in the park and a whole lot of fun to boot. I'd find myself looking for excuses to go down, not just for the ever-present dollar opportunities that were the proverbial hanging fruits, but also for the so-called city fix that rejuvenated one's spirit, soul and ambition. It was because of this that New York became my favorite city in the world. As a bonus, living in the state capital of Albany as I did at that time was also a real good party.

History books tend to simplify the realities of any particular event or era. So, yes, it is too simplistic and intellectually lazy to join the chorus and say "Hugh Carey saved New York city in the 70's." We all know that it was messier and more complex than that.

But as we hear today of Mr Carey's passing, it does make us salute the role he did play in the Great Urban Turnaround.

Furthermore, such reflection gives hope that Upstate New York can someday benefit from the same type of leadership and success story.


Naming names...

Ewww! I know that person!

Our comrade JT at Saratoga In Decline continues his expose on the (obviously) dangerous NXIVM (alleged) cult -- which also does business as Executive Success Program. Its activities and mumbo jumbo philosophies have long been a concern within its home base of the Capital Region.

Today JT publishes the names of the shadowy organization's upper-level insiders: its recruiters and coaches. This information comes from a mole within the group. Let's hope that person has been keeping his or her life insurance premium current. The same goes for JT.

Along with this notorious list comes the promise of future membership disclosuse of lower-ranking 'Espian' foot soldiers; the next one being Saratoga-based business owners.

This should be good. It never ceases to amaze me when headed with a "you're kidding: him, too?" revelation of this craziness.

Aug 5, 2011

Why books are better than iPads

iPads as e-readers? Not on the beach

1. "Whoops, looks like the battery is shot again"

2. "It won't boot; must be it's too humid today"

3. "I still can't read the f'ing thing in the sunlight"

4. "Why am I paying the same amount of money for an e-book?"

5. "Funny how a little grain of beach sand can scratch the screen"

6. "I don't dare go in the water 'cus someone might rip this thing off"

Aug 3, 2011

Malta: "We have a problem here"

Luther Forest traffic issue pops up

Gomer Pyle: "Surprise, Surprise!"

There are certain bundles of paper that you can automatically toss into the trash the minute received, given their worthless value. No, this is not another diatribe against The Saratogian newspaper...

I submit two additions to that "not worth the paper printed on" categorization: Economic Impact Statements and their close cousins, Environmental Impact Statements.

We're bombarded with the former: "this project will generate $400 million in annual economic activity" is the usual template of the summary conclusion. I've seen how these things are formulated, from the inside, and I can attest to their uselessness. The problem, of course is accountability: no matter what figure is tossed on to the wall, how is one to prove the final reality is something otherwise?

But Environmental Impact Statements should have a better degree of "hey smart pants: you were right" or "hey idiot: you really blew it" to them. For example, if it was predicted that 8,000 tons of sewage would need to be dealt with, but we find out that the actual figure ended up being 35,000 tons, then we should be able to start pointing fingers at that aforementioned "idiot" who wrote the EIS.

This comes to mind today while reading of the shocking (yes: shocking, to some) reports of unexpected traffic backups related to the Luther Forest / Global Foundries Technology Campus in Malta. It seems that drivers to & fro the site have elected to use the 'shortcut' known as Dunning Road.

The real surprise, of course, is that this was not predicted. But it wasn't. Just get out the old copies of the final impact drafts that were required for this project oh-so-many moons ago. "Nope, not a problem". The Town is now scrambling for a solution to this jam.

OK, we now know who blew it. Where's the accountability?

Aug 1, 2011

Takin' what they're givin'

So, some weisenheimer thinks she or he has a grip on the scene, huh?:

(with 1 to 4 Stars)

Deep reads thru an entrepreneur's eyes, with occasional rants
about what he perceives as local injustices. Usually well
written, but often too wordy while bordering on the pompous,
in a Dennis Miller sort of way.

Now, I can handle the missing fourth star. I can even take the "wordy" and "pompous" criticisms.

But the Dennis Miller comparison? Now you've crossed the line, my anonymous friend. Them's fightin' words where I come from -- and I come from right here.

Meet me at the railroad tracks behind the high school during lunch period, tomorrow. Be there.