Tuesday, November 24, 2015

No Dinosaur Courts: amendment to end life time tenure of federal judges

Imagine a supreme court appointed by Woodrow Wilson, a confirmed racist. That is something we should imagine because such a gap between the court and the society at large is inevitable. Democracy demands we limit the terms of federal judges. We can do it now with a constitutional amendment or we can wait until the supreme court become intolerable and has to be undermined more completely in another way. We need to tame the court to save it.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

diamonds on the sidewalk

The propensity in the human mind to not see diamonds on the sidewalk where a diamond should not be, is not supposed to be, and on the rare occasion when it is there, right where is is not supposed to be, so, obviously, is are not there... and it gets kicked to the curb. Happens every day.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

le pen v mujica

Trump is a nativist, unpredictable, egomaniac wild card, more like Le Pen than anyone in American history. Sanders maybe a bit like Pepe Mujica of Uruguay.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

I should be able to go to a website and type in a police department and find out what percentage of the officers of that department denounced fellow officers in a given year and what percentage of those denunciations resulted in disciplinary action. I should also have much more data: overall crime rate, cost of department per capita, comparison data to similar jurisdictions, and I should be able to make a non-anonymous complaint about that department involving my own personal experience that will be read by a federal employee. 

If you have 100 officers and not one of them reported any wrongdoing by their colleagues-- not letting a friend or co-worker or relative off when they should have been arrested, not taking or planting drugs, not racially profiling suspects, nothing at all wrong-- that could be a great sign that your department is perfect. But if you released information that one or two of your employees was in fact guilty of some infraction and was terminated on the basis of a complaint by another officer, I would trust your department more. 

If even after all the press coverage and a video dash cam in operation a officer thinks he can yank a person out of a car for no conceivable crime, arrest her, assault her, and leave her a condition that threatens her life over three days, then you have to assume there is no accountability whatsoever within the majority or maybe all the police departments in America. Data would be a good place to start on accountability. While racism and police abuse of authority are clearly related, the abuse of authority and clear rules and reporting may be easier to change than internal feelings and prejudices.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Frogs out!

They are here!

Every year I note the night the peepers, frogs, come out. It's a very clear marker of spring, as all the frogs come out at once -- once one male frog starts singing for a mate, the others come right out and join in so it goes from quiet one night to loud the next night. It is loud right now.

Although it seems like this has been an endless winter, in fact, the frogs came out later last year. 

Here are 8 years of first nights.

2015: April 3
2014: April 6
2013: March 30
2012: March 12
2011: March 17
2010: March 19
2009: March 27
2008: April 1

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Ginsberg's Project: it doesn't fit

Below (click "read more") is the short version of all that is wrong with this project. Here is the more detailed version.

Free land, free money, variances that allow the company to flaunt the zoning laws: this deal is bad and there is a meeting tonight.

Then, another: Wednesday, September 17, at the Ghent firehouse at 10 AM. Very important meeting for all Columbia County residents.

Also, I never did blog the payroll meeting but this article is damn good.

Let your voice be heard at both. Read more.

Crony Capitalism at its Worst

Below I offer more details on this sorry Ginsberg deal. Here is the shorter version. Meeting tonight.

Wednesday, Sept. 10th at 7pm at Ghent Town Hall
"PLEASE TAKE NOTICE THAT the Zoning Board of Appeals of the Town of Ghent will hold a regular meeting on 9/10/2014 at 7pm at the Town Hall, 2306 Route 66, Ghent, NY at which time the applications by Ginsberg/Crawford & Associates for variances/code interpretation will continue to be reviewed."

Report from the Columbia Paper from the last ZBA meeting "Ghent Residents give freezer plan frosty critique"

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

public trust?

From the audit:
Payroll Department on November 14, 2013 via email identifying 37 leave days to be deducted from the resigning attorney’s accruals, the email was not opened before the separation payment was issued on November 21, 2013. 
It should be noted that we found the discrepancies in this department because it was the only department that had sufficient records to test. Such records consisted of leave request forms and an electronic calendar that documented daily absences. 
The public trust is endangered when records of leave time earned and used are not maintained and separation payments made are not fully supported. 

What do 26 hour days do to public trust? How about 5 guys maintaining private law offices with staff while simultaneously claiming to be present at 401 State Street for years when they don't have desks at 401 State and never went there?

Grattan is obliged by law to deal with this by law and can't say "whoops!." If crimes were committed, hundreds of felonies for years by many people, the DA has an obligation to prosecute and the state police have an obligation to arrest.

comptroller audit meeting tomorrow

Special meeting of BOS 9/4/14, 5:30pm, to review Columbia County Payroll Audit

 NOTICE OF SPECIAL MEETING OF THE BOARD OF ... 2014 at 5:30 pm in the Board of Supervisors Chambers located at 401 State Street, ...

Here is an interesting passage from the audit:

Of the fi ve departments selected, we reviewed all of the 26 fulltime
employees’ leave accrual records for four payroll periods to
determine if departmental records supported the leave accrual records
maintained by the County Payroll Department. Departmental records
indicated 168 instances of leave time taken covering 1,050 hours. We
found 40 instances5 covering 241.50 hours with variances between
departmental records and the Payroll Department’s records. The
most common variance occurred when department records showed
an employee was absent but the Payroll Department records did not
have a corresponding charge to leave accruals. This occurred in 26
instances totaling 165.50 hours, valued at $6,976. During our limited
test, the majority of uncharged leave totaling 112.5 hours, valued at
$5,542, was taken by four attorneys in one department. The remaining
53 hours, valued at $1,434, were taken by four non-attorneys.
We expanded our review of the four attorneys’ leave accrual records
for the period from June 2012 through October 2013 and found that
they took a combined total of 113.50 days (794.5 hours) of vacation,
sick and personal leave time, valued at $39,138, that had not been
deducted from their accruals and may have gone undetected without
our audit. This amount included leave time valued at $15,517 taken
and not charged by an attorney who had resigned and received a

separation payment prior to completion of fi eldwork. Leave time not
charged by the other three attorneys collectively totaled 68.50 days
(479.50 hours), valued at $23,621. After we brought the defi ciencies
to the department head’s attention, he obtained detailed records of
leave taken by seven employees6 and submitted them to the County
Payroll Department to correct the accrual records. These corrections
totaled $24,824, leaving an uncorrected balance of $231.

I have to translate this into English.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

an amendment

I get a lot of fundraising emails about overturning the Citizen's United decision that gutted election laws and gave free speech rights to corporations. I followed the most recent fundraising email here. Here is another. One more here. Last one to prove there are a lot.

comptroller article in the Register Star


The thing is, it's way more than $40,000, as that is only for 18 months including the time after the story ran on the front page of the Albany Times Union.

Thursday, August 21, 2014


I no sooner wrote this abstract piece about the police when Sam Pratt told me to read this. I'm upset. It's a whitewash.

I'm going to get a copy of the report and every document I can pertaining to the production of this report. If you steal a million dollars it's not "oh well, we'll try to do better next time."

DiNapoli in there for the cronies. Democrats and Republicans united in corruption.

the police

The protests and unrest and police misconduct in Ferguson, Missouri makes me think about policing generally. Here are my thoughts:

Friday, June 27, 2014

july 4, 1776, pluses and minuses

American Independence may in part be something to celebrate. If Edmund Burke, the arch conservative, Ben Franklin, the arch moderate, and Tom Paine, the arch radical, could all agree on the need for the Americans to break away from the British, then they must have a point. No doubt, the English were heavy handed. True, fundamentally, the English did seem to have a point that the American should pay at least a fraction of the taxes that the people back in England had to pay in order to cover the costs of defending the colonies from the French and Indians. Still, the war was justified due to the lack of compromise on the English side.

But was American independence good or bad?  It's hardly a slam dunk either way. Let's think about a few things:

Thursday, May 15, 2014

second home owners: Columbia County's main industry

Sam Pratt has a story up about Ginsberg getting 33 acres for free from Columbia County. I was having trouble getting on his blog a few minutes ago but it should be back up soon.

Friday, April 4, 2014

I won


I won an appeal, Freedom of Information request against Columbia County. 

The county is hiding evidence that they have many no show, fake jobs. The most obvious, as ran on the front page of the Albany Times Union, involves the felony larceny of Tal Rappleyea. 

Rappleyea routinely billed in excess of 24 hours per day. He was paid by municipalities without submitting as much as a scrap of paper. The comptroller knows about it and refuses to investigate. The attorney general claims no jurisdiction. The local DA Czajka promoted Rappleyea as prosecutor in one town AFTER acknowledging Rappleyea's criminality in a meeting. The state police refuse to act. Pat Grattan, chair of the CCBOS, knows this practice of theft, millions stolen, continues even now. 

Rappleyea is not alone. New Lebanon paid Andrew Howard 24,000 for 45 minutes of "work." That works nicely with his fake county job.

Paul Czajka's secretary was Rappleyea's wife and he refuses to get off the case. Some more background here


Oh, and I have an art opening next week and some classes for children and teens around town. Knowledge is power and all that, democracy, etc. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


The supreme court voided campaign contributions limits.

Meanwhile, the top .1 percent of the country in wealth controls 12% of the nation's wealth, which is about the same as the bottom 50%, on in other words, some 30 thousand people have as much wealth as 160 million people.

In short, that's ridiculous. Morally, economically, environmentally, democratically-- in no way is that a good thing, to give a small group of people so much power over the rest of us.

One dollar, one vote. I mean it's just bullcrap.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I have to follow up on this. When is the final decision coming? And then there is this.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

international law

This article says American foreign policy is arrogant and Obama is a huge disappointment. This article is about the terrible abuses in North Korea. This wikipedia page is about the Chinese annexation of Tibet in 1951. This disgraceful law is emblematic of US paranoid nationalism. In this piece, Abdulrahman's grandfather points out that Barack Obama killed a 16 year old boy in cold blood for no coherent reason (and many other people) on October 14, 2011 and has kept it up since then.