Friday, March 14, 2008

Happy Pi Day

BTW, happy Pi Day.

Saranac Lake - Going Downhill

You can always tell when it's election time in the Village of Saranac Lake. You tend to hear, even more, how Saranac Lake is going downhill or becoming a ghost town. This, primarily from the Republican candidates and their supporters. True to the Republican party, the two Republican candidates running for Village trustee positions are all about cutting taxes. That's fine, the Village taxes are high. But you also need to cut spending, and like most spending of this sort, that usually means cutting jobs. You won't hear anything about cutting jobs during the election season. The Saranac Lake Republican party also seems to be the party of Wal-Mart. Unlimited development of our part of the Adirondack Park seems to be the best way to go in their view. Afterall, Wal-Mart provides good jobs. Oddly, one of the Republican candidates even seems to think the proposed Community Store is unfair to downtown businesses. It's too much for current businesses to compete with. It's not clear why a 5000 sq. ft. community store is a danger to downtown businesses but a 120,000 sq. ft. Wal-Mart is ok.

The Democratic party is supporting a candidate that believes Saranac Lake has something to offer to people and to businesses. He believes that certain businesses would thrive in Saranac Lake. One only has to look at Trudeau Institute, Inc. to see that this is true. Trudeau Institute provides many of the best paying jobs in the area. Unfortunately, attracting high tech, clean businesses means new people (outsiders) would move to the area. People with "disposable income" and opinions! This is not what many in Saranac Lake care to see happen. Don't believe me? Read the letters to the editor in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, the comments on the ADE poll questions and listen to "talk of the town". You will soon realize that most problems in Saranac Lake derive from "outsiders" with "disposable income" and opinions. Scaring away newcomers to our community is not a way to prevent Saranac Lake from becoming a ghost town.

Property prices in the Adirondacks have been growing in leaps and bounds. Why is this? Because people (outsiders) realize that the Adirondack Park is a gem. The largest tract of undeveloped (mostly) land in the Northeast USA, yet convenient to large cities like Montreal and New York City. People prize the Adirondacks because it is different from everywhere else in the northeast. There are no big box stores. You can still go to a pharmacy where the pharmacist knows your name. You can be involved in community and political affairs. And, your children can be educated in good, safe schools.

The Village of Saranac Lake needs to continue moving forward with a vision to attract sound, careful growth of clean, high tech businesses. Cutting Village taxes today only to increase them tomorrow, when the tax cuts get you in trouble (sort of like the Federal Government right now), is no answer to our problems.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

NY Gov. Paterson Answers an Important Question

Reporter: "have you ever patronized a prostitute?"

Gov. David Paterson: "Only the lobbyists"

(read it here)

No Al Qaeda Connection in Iraq

Whoa, who would have guessed? Before the USA invaded Iraq, the Bush administration made several hundred false statements claiming that Iraq had ties to Al Qaeda. Seems like that just was not the case.
An exhaustive review of more than 600,000 Iraqi documents that were captured after the 2003 U.S. invasion has found no evidence that Saddam Hussein's regime had any operational links with Osama bin Laden's al Qaida terrorist network.

Then the report was going to be censored by the Pentagon because it was too politically sensitive. That means it makes the Bush administration look bad. Unfortunately, the report has made it to the internets anyway. You can view it here.

Want to Remain Free?

We're back to the old Bush policy of "if you want to remain free, you have to give up some of your freedoms". I never understood this reasoning. If the Islamic terrorists "hate our freedoms", then isn't Bush doing exactly what the terrorists want by asking us to give up some freedoms?

Yes, this is about telecom immunity. Bush insists that for Americans to remain free and safe in their homes, giant telecom companies must not be prosecuted for possibly breaking the law. Did the telecoms break the law? If they didn't, they don't need immunity. If they did break the law, wouldn't it be nice to know exactly what they did? That is the sticking point. Bush doesn't want us to know what the telecoms did because it would open doors that he doesn't want open. Remember Adm. Poindexter's "total information awareness" program that was shut down by Congress a few years ago? Was it really shut down?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Adm. Fallon ------> Gone

I too wondered how Centcom commander Adm. William Fallon managed to keep his job for as long as he did. He took over when Bush was doing his best to start a war with Iran. Adm. Fallon is the guy who said let's slow down and think about this. Adm. Fallon was just not the kind of guy to accept policy without question from the Bush administration. Unfortunately, it is said that good soldiers follow orders without question - Adm. Fallon just was not a good soldier. But he was right.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Hate the Phone?

I'm really happy to learn from a Kevin Drum blog post this morning that I am not the only person who really dislikes the telephone. Not only do I dislike making phone calls but I don't particularly care to receive phone calls either, except from close relatives. I think it's because I'm terrible at engaging in "small talk". Any exchange of information is fine, but please don't ask me to talk about nothing. I also don't like talking about what I've been up to lately, primarily because it's typical that I've been up to nothing.

Monday, March 10, 2008

A Few Words About Torture Effectiveness

Spitzer Needs to Resign

Gov. Spitzer says:
I have acted in a way that violated the obligations to my family and that violates my — or any — sense of right and wrong. I apologize first, and most importantly, to my family. I apologize to the public, whom I promised better.
Spitzer should resign as Governor of NY as soon as possible. Democrats need to have a zero tolerance policy towards politicians involved in crime.

Third Anniversary

Today is the third anniversary of Adirondack Musing. Thanks for visiting.

Teacher Contracts and Green Dot

What about public school teacher contracts - unions. Here is a short opinion piece that has a paragraph of interest.
Most contracts are throwbacks to when nascent teacher unionism modeled itself on industrial unionism. Then, that approach made sense and resulted in better pay, working conditions and an organized voice. Yet schools are not factories. The work is not interchangeable and it takes more than one kind of school to meet all students’ needs. If teachers’ unions want to stay relevant, they must embrace more than one kind of contract.

I couldn't agree more. My entire outlook towards public school teachers changed when I participated in negotiating a teacher contract. The negotiators for the teachers were no longer teachers....they were union members, blue collar attitude union members. They were no longer the professionals I saw every day. The entire negotiation centered around how much pay was going to be given for any perceived "extra work". I was shocked at the lack of professionalism.

It seems however that public schools with a unionized teaching force can be made to work. A group called Green Dot Public Schools in California has joined with the United Federation of Teachers to open a charter school in the South Bronx in the Fall of 2008.
Key reforms embodied in the AMU contract include: teachers have explicit say in school policy and curriculum; no tenure or seniority preference; a professional work day rather than defined minutes; and flexibility to adjust the contract in critical areas over time. Green Dot was able to achieve these reforms by establishing a relationship of mutual trust with the teachers union and committing to pay its teachers above the average of comparable schools’ pay scales. In doing so, Green Dot and AMU share a unique relationship in the world of labor relations, one that is characterized by collaboration and a mutual interest in improving public education.
The teachers in Green Dot operated schools seem to be paid relatively well also. You can also see the Green Dot contract with their teachers here.

The other major difference in Green Dot schools is that parents of students must agree to volunteer 35 service hours per year. Green Dot schools operate on six tenets: Small, safe, personalized schools; High expectations of all students; Local Control with Extensive Professional Development and Accountability; Parent Participation; Maximize Funding to the Classroom and Keep Schools Open Later.
If a school site chooses not to follow a Recommended Practice, they are required to provide a plan that describes why they are not following that practice, lay out the new practice that the school site will employ, and provide support for that new practice in the form of research and evidence from other successful schools. If a school site or teacher is not following the Recommended Practices and does not meet its performance targets, it will be required to adopt the Recommended Practices. Green Dot is continually updating its Recommended Practices through innovations from within Green Dot’s own network and from best practices developed by other school operators.

Net Worth to Feel Secure

Here is a question I often ponder. What is the minimum level of net worth you would need to feel secure? Many people write they would feel secure if they had a minimum net worth of $1,000,000. This amount would include home equity and savings portfolio. Others disagree and say more would be needed. Somewhere in the vicinity of $2-5 million in home equity and savings. I agree that $1 million for retirement these days probably isn't quite enough. A home clear of mortgage debt, no other major debts, and 1.5 million in savings would probably do quite nicely though.

Any other opinions?