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Columns

KUZMINSKI: Democrats Can Rebuild Around Climate Change, Economic Justice

Column by Adrian Kuzminski

November 30, 2018.

Democrats Can Rebuild Around Climate Change, Economic Justice

Adrian Kuzminski

Now that the Democrats have made a comeback by capturing the House of Representatives, they are faced with how to use their new power. Up to now, they have been obsessed with Trump, and split on how to address the problems of the day.
We’ll get to Trump in a moment. But first, let’s look at what the Democrats have to say about the big issues of the day.
These boil down to two super-problems: runaway climate change for all and increasing economic insecurity for many. It’s hard to think of any major issue which isn’t entangled in one or both of these, or that wouldn’t be greatly alleviated by progress on either of them.
Status quo Democrats (the Clinton-Obama tradition) have become the party’s conservatives. They’ve been running the show for a generation, and have failed to rein in either climate change or economic insecurity. There’s less and less reason to think they can deal with these mounting problems.

Progressive Democrats, by contrast, are largely defined by the Bernie Sanders movement, which, revealingly, calls itself “Our Revolution.” They are also influenced by the Green party, particularly by its call for a Green New Deal, recently endorsed by Bill McKibben.
The Green New Deal is remarkable in its focus on the twin problems of climate change and economic justice. So far, it’s the only alternative this writer has seen to business as usual (just Google “Green New Deal”).
The Green New Deal calls for closing overseas military bases and using the savings to help finance domestic renewal. It demands an end to subsidies and tax breaks for fossil-fuel related industries. It insists on an immediate transition to 100 percent renewables.
It identifies the financial system, led by too-big-to-fail private banks, as the main obstacle to economic restructuring. It proposes an alternative public banking system to fund infrastructure, guarantee employment, transition to renewables, offer free education through college, and provide single-payer, comprehensive Medicare for all.

Revolutions are risky business.
Can revolutionary excesses be avoided? Climate change and economic insecurity are increasingly catastrophic. Is a Green New Deal what we need to cope? Is it practical? Can it gain broad support? Can it hope to overcome its formidable opponents? Can its goals be achieved without chaos and abuse of power?
A lot will depend on the answers to these questions.
But, like it or not, the Green New Deal takes seriously our most intractable problems, and gives us a sense of what it will take to deal with them. If we’re going to have a revolution, this is the one the
left envisions.
Progress on big issues is unlikely, however, unless Democrats (and Republicans) learn to deal with Trump. We all know his faults. He has also become the voice of social grievances his critics have mostly, to their peril, ignored. Perhaps most important, he denies climate change and takes extremes of wealth for granted.

Whatever collusions and financial ripoffs might be pinned on Trump, even if illegal, blend all too easily with what many corporations and governments do routinely these days. In these ways, he’s as American as apple pie.
He should be impeached if impeachable offenses can be established. But for impeachment to stick, to avoid the appearance of political vengeance, it has to be part of a larger sense of renewed justice that speaks to the revolutionary changes which seem to be increasingly in the air.
That means getting serious about climate change and economic insecurity – two items not on Trump’s agenda.

Adrian Kuzminski, a retired Hartwick College philosophy professor and moderator of Sustainable Otsego, lives in Fly Creek.

ZAGATA: Knowledge Workers? Great, But Traditional Industries Needed, Too

Column by Mike Zagata for November 23, 2018

Knowledge Workers? Great, But
Traditional Industries Needed, Too

Mike Zagata

As I began to read an article in last week’s edition, I felt a surge of excitement.
The author, an elected official, had just stated that her constituents elected her twice because they understand that protecting our environment and growing our economy are not mutually exclusive policies.
That is close to a statement in my recent book, “A Journey Toward Environmental Stewardship.”
My excitement, however, soon switched from positive to anger. Aside from the statement that methane leaks erase all the environmental benefit from switching fuel to natural gas (I found it intriguing the author admits there are benefits), the author goes on the say this is a scientific fact – according to what scientifically refereed journal?
Let’s take a harder look at that claim. If methane leaks erased all the environmental benefit from burning natural gas, then the amount leaked would have to equal the amount burned. That would cut the company’s profit in half. Do you really think a company, any company, would knowingly allow that to happen?
For policy matters of this magnitude, we can’t afford to rely upon the opinion of an advocate who opposes natural gas.
As I read further, I began to feel sympathy for the author and even more so for the people whom she had just called “redundant.” According to her and her reference to a Boston consulting group, the future of our economy is tied to “knowledge-based industry.”
According to her, heavy industry and manufacturing were indeed historically vital to our economy, but we no longer need them. Low-skilled jobs are becoming redundant – in other words, if you don’t have a college degree you’re no longer needed. Wow – and she got elected twice.
Let’s take a look at the facts. When Oneonta’s economy was strong, it benefited from the presence of heavy industry and manufacturing. Companies trained their employees so they would become “knowledge based” and able to perform their jobs.
Many of the companies had apprentice programs to train workers to become more skilled and they were able to advance and make a higher wage – they were “knowledge based” without the buzzword. That’s what built Oneonta.
The notion that we have to move entirely away from that model is nuts. We stand to benefit far more from an approach that nurtures what we had while embracing new types of companies – those that don’t actually build anything. (We sent those companies with their middle-class jobs to Mexico and other countries with poorly thought-out trade policies).
Off the top of my head, I was able to create the following list of companies that can be described as heavy industry/manufacturing: Lutz Feed, Focus Ventures, Brewery Ommegang, The Plains LLC, Northern Eagle, Custom Electronics, Corning, Astrocom, Ioxus, Amphenol, Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, Brooks Bottling, Wightman Lumber, MAMCO, Covidian, Munson Building Supply, Cobleskill Stone, Oneonta Block Co., DOMO, Otsego Auto Crushers, Seward Sand & Gravel, Clark Companies, RJ Millworks, Eastman Associates, Butts Concrete, Unalam, Leatherstocking, P&R Truss, Medical Coaches and Otsego Ready Mix.
The list is not claimed to be complete and I apologize if your company isn’t listed. However, those companies employ about 2,500 people who don’t consider themselves to be redundant, feel very much “needed” and contribute to our economy. They also vote. Hopefully, Otsego Now will be successful in getting other companies looking for “knowledge-based”
employees to come here. We need them all.

Mike Zagata, a DEC commissioner in the Pataki Administration and former environmental executive with Fortune 500 companies, lives in Davenport.

KUZMINSKI: Can Human Ingenuity Save Us From Perils Of Our Successes?
Column by Adrian Kuzminski for November 16, 2018

Can Human Ingenuity Save Us
From Perils Of Our Successes?

Adrian Kuzminski

It’s a widespread article of faith that “economic growth” is essential to future prosperity. That’s hardly surprising, since the modern world has been brought into being in less than 200 years by an unprecedented wave of economic growth.
If we go back 200 years – to 1818 – we see there were no automobiles, no airplanes, no railroads, no antibiotics, no anesthesia, no electricity, no central heating, no telecommunications, no refrigerators or appliances, no computers, no internet, no a lot of things.
Life was, comparatively speaking, nasty, brutal, and short.

In 1818 there were about a billion people on the planet. The overwhelming majority were farmers, peasants and artisans, with a thin veneer of landlords, officials, merchants, professionals and entrepreneurs.
Energy came through physical effort, or from water and wind power. Most consumer goods were made on the homestead or in the nearest town. People lived sustainably, whether they liked it or not, dependent as they were on renewable resources and the rhythm of the seasons.
Fossil fuels changed all that. They made explosive economic growth possible. Coal and oil and gas turned out to be much more potent sources of energy than muscle, water or wind.
The energy density of fossil fuels is orders of magnitude greater than muscle power. Try pushing your car when the engine doesn’t work! Further, fossil-fuel-based fertilizers dramatically expanded agriculture and helped support much larger populations.
Fossil fuels also made possible the chief instruments of the industrial revolution – large-scale machines, beginning with railway locomotives and steamships and the steel mills to build them, and on to tractors, bulldozers, motor vehicles, paved roads, power plants, the electric grid, airplanes, appliances and the whole range of modern products and infrastructure.
A famous study, called “Limits to Growth,” published in the 1972 by a team of MIT researchers led by Dennis Meadows, focused on the global resource consumption required for the production of goods and services.
It projected that the depletion of natural resources and the finite capacity of the planet to absorb emissions and other pollutants would force society by the 21st century to divert more and more capital to make up the difference, eventually bringing economic growth as we’ve known it to a halt.

Poet William Blake (1757-1827) was decrying the Industrial Revolution’s “dark, satanic mills” almost from the beginning.

A 30th anniversary edition of the work, in 2002, found its projections confirmed. Since then, the challenges of resource depletion and environmental degradation have only intensified. Economic growth has become increasingly expensive and uncertain.
The steep decline in energy return on energy invested is a good example of the limits to growth, and that’s true of many other resources as well, from fisheries to arable land to clean water.
Around World War II, the return of investment in an oil well was on the order of about 100 to one. It cost about a dollar’s worth of energy to extract $100 worth of energy. That’s $99 of more or less free energy. Today that ratio is down to about 15 to 1, and declining.

Another measure of economic limitation is what economists call the externalities of production, where the costs are born not by the producing enterprise, but by the public or the environment. Industrial pollution – such as General Electric’s release of PCBs polluting the Hudson river – is a classic economic externality. The widespread use of pesticides, which has seriously reduced amphibian, insect, and bird populations, is another of many examples.
Similarly, the climate costs of greenhouse gas emissions – storm damage, wildfires, flooding, loss of property values, stress on agriculture, and the rest – are not priced into the energy economy, but are disproportionately borne by the individuals who suffer them.
The only growth that seems to escape these limits is mental rather than physical – growth of the imagination, of the digital technology of cyberspace, of the production and exchange of ideas, images, and stories and the values they represent.

Many believe that this human ingenuity will also find a way to deal with the undesirable consequences of traditional economic growth. Maybe. So far that remains a hope, not a fact. In the meantime, the obstacles to conventional economic growth continue to increase.
Many ecologists say that we need a sustainable, steady-state economy, not an economy predicated on a belief in endless economic growth. A steady-state economy presumably would wax and wane with the cycles of renewable resources upon which we ultimately have to depend. How that might work, we have yet to figure out.
In that event, we would not have to go back to 1818. Since we have the advantage of all the knowledge and technology accumulated since then, we can hope for efficiencies that would give us more energy than we could find back then.
If the limits to growth are as real as they seem to be, we may have little choice but to relearn how to live within the ecological budget of our physical home, of our planet.

Adrian Kuzminski, a retired Hartwick College philosophy professor and moderator of Sustainable Otsego, lives in Fly Creek.

MORGAN: Downstate Controls, Doesn’t Care About Upstate

Column by Tom Morgan for November 9, 2018

Downstate Controls,

Doesn’t Care About Upstate

Tom Morgan

Yawn.
Upstate’s recovery from the Great Recession is the weakeast of any U.S. region. According to a recent study. You can examine all the nooks of Upstate’s economy. Most every one is daubed with lackluster. Papered with anemic. Writ large with blah.
Yawn.
Upstaters grew accustomed to this long ago. Our motto should be “We’re Number One at being Number Fifty!”
Most of us know what would help revive Upstate. Lower taxes would. Fewer regulations would. Fewer mandates from an out-of-touch Albany bureaucracy would. A much slimmer state government would. Because the slimness would suck less money from Upstate taxpayers. The slimness would reduce the number of state government fingers in Upstate pies.
We tend to lead the nation in taxes and regulations. We lead the nation in making life difficult for businesses large and small. Don’t you wish we could lead the nation in something else?
There is one move that would help Upstate.
Getting rid of downstate would.
Yawn.
The idea excites few. Lethargy pervades. (Maybe we lead the nation in lethargy too?) This is because upstaters know downstaters in the legislature would never allow us to split. And downstaters call the shots.
In other words, the guys who know and care nothing about Upstate decide Upstate’s fate. A good example of this is that Greens in the Big Apple are major voices in blocking fracking in our Southern Tier. Can you imagine Upstaters blocking projects on Staten Island? Upstaters opposed to tree-culling in the Hamptons? C’monnn.
Downstaters really do know nuttin’ about upstate. This is more than a laugh line at a party. Folks in Glen Cove and Oyster Bay really think Jamestown is only in Virginia. Utica really is another country to denizens of Commack. Syracuse and Binghamton are Fuhgettusville to dwellers of Brooklyn.

Oh yeah? Well, vice-versa to you too, buddy! Really. I mean, tell me all you know about the latest problems in Amityville and Islip.
Truth is, we don’t know and we don’t care that we don’t know. We feel so little allegiance to each other.
We New Yorkers have scant connections. We have no state TV or radio network. No statewide newspaper. And Upstate doesn’t even get its fair share of the state’s greatest industry: corruption. We don’t get no respect.
Splitting the state in two would work. Surely it would.
First, we would have less corruption in government. Because no new state could ever compete with the sleaze that oozes up the Hudson to Albany from the City and Long Island. Downstaters are simply too practiced in corruption for us.
Second, an Upstate government would be sensitive to Upstate issues and challenges. Its legislators and bureaucrats would more likely know how to locate Canandaigua without GPS.
Third, a separate Upstate might well end up with two political parties. As now composed, New York State has one.
Two parties, competing ideas? Hey, it might work!
This column goes to some heavies in the Big Apple. At this point I could write that they are all slobs. None of them would respond. Because none of them will have read this far. As soon as they saw the word “Upstate” they fell asleep.
A prime minister of Canada once mused that living in the attic of the U.S. was like sleeping with an elephant. The big fellow kept the bed warm, but when he rolled over…
This is the predicament of Upstaters.
If we all voted the same way and organized and outright demanded…
Oh, forget about it. Yawnsville. It would never work. We have met puny and he is us. Even in the corruption business. We could all contribute to raise a mountain of money to buy off the downstate legislators and governor. Yeah, but it would flop. Those birds are too accustomed to the big bribes. They would laugh at our paltry efforts. Not that they wouldn’t take the money.
From Tom…as in Morgan.
Tom Morgan, the retired Oneonta financial adviser and syndicated columnist, lives in Franklin. His new novel, “The Last Columnist,” is available on amazon.com

KUZMINSKI: Gerrymandering Takes Away Our Right To Representation

Column by Adrian Kuzminski for November 2, 2018

Gerrymandering Takes Away
Our Right To Representation

Adrian Kuzminski

The most remarkable thing I’ve seen in this year’s midterm
election campaigns is Chad McEvoy’s op-ed in the New York Times. The headline says it all: “If I win my district, I’ll get rid of it.”
That’s the 101st Assembly District, a model of gerrymandering, which snakes in a narrow strip from New Hartford near Utica through part of Otsego county to the Hudson Valley.
Its shape guarantees that almost nobody living in the district is connected to anyone else in it. Its only purpose is to provide a safe seat for a politician who can be sure that his atomized constituents have no voice of their own.
Chad is running to overturn this kind of all too familiar nonsense.
The 101st district is an egregious case of gerrymandering, but in fact most of our legislative districts work exactly the same way. Most people couldn’t find their state legislative or Congressional districts on a map, or even name them accurately.
The districts overlay and cut across one another in insane fashion. People in one Congressional district are guaranteed not to be together in the same state Assembly or Senate districts.
Divide and conquer is obviously the rule.
Most districts are spread over a large number of communities almost entirely unique in terms of jobs, industry, schools, social services, and so on. That means our local communities are NOT represented in Albany or Washington.
The heart of your community is where you live and work. It includes your neighborhood, the town where you do most of your business and shopping, and the school district where your kids go. For most people – except for those commuting to distant jobs (say 20 miles or more) – these functions mostly overlap.
Call it home.
The largest local unit which people recognize and more or less identify with is the county, which administers social services, collects taxes, provides public safety, manages code enforcement and waste disposal, maintains major local highways, carries out environmental and planning responsibilities, and coordinates local towns which enjoy home rules under the state Constitution.
People know their counties; counties are the largest political entities which still function as communities. The county should be the political district that is directly represented in Albany, if not in Washington.
New York has 62 counties and representatives elected from each of those counties could comprise at least the state Assembly, if not the entire state legislature. That would be one way to upset business-as-usual in Albany and put the public back
in control.

This map of the “spaghetti district” accompanied the New York Times op-ed. For full column, Google “chad mcevoy nytimes.

Of course, counties differ widely in size. The largest county in the state – King’s County(Brooklyn)– has a population of 2,504,700, while the smallest – Hamilton County, in the Adirondacks – has 4,836 residents. But just as towns are represented on the Otsego county Board of Representatives by weighted voting, counties could be represented in Albany the same way.
The larger number of smaller, more rural counties would naturally work together to offset the clout of the fewer number of larger counties.
As far as Congressional districts go, in densely populated areas (like New York City) they should be drawn to be within counties as much as possible. In less dense areas, like Upstate, they can be drawn to include whole counties as closely as they can.
The point is that the interests of, say, Otsego county, would have a direct voice in Albany, something that is NOT currently the case.
In fact, our communities
are not directly represented anywhere at all.
This lack of representation
goes a long way towards explaining why a place like Otsego county has long suffered chronic economic decline and social malaise.
Let me close with a couple of personal endorsements of local candidates who recognize the need for the kind of fundamental change I’m talking about.
One is Chad McEvoy in the 101st Assembly District, as discussed above. Chad wants to strengthen local education, supports single-payer health care for New Yorkers, and advocates universal broadband and green energy as economic drivers.
The other candidate I’m voting for is Joyce St. George in the 51st Senate district. St. George – a feisty, anti-corruption investigator and local business woman who also supports single-payer health for all New Yorkers – is running against our long-time senator Jim Seward, who represents the status quo.
Seward has made a career of recycling taxpayers’ own dollars back to them as perks for which he can take credit; his so-called “economic summits” have gone nowhere; and his environmental record is among the worst in Albany – he’s been consistently rated near the bottom of New York legislators by the watchdog group Environmental Advocates. If you think we can do better on these issues, vote for St. George.
Adrian Kuzminski, a retired Hartwick College philosophy professor
and Sustainable Otsego
moderator, lives in Fly Creek.

ZAGATA: Is Upstate Downbeat? Blame Slow Recovery

Column by Mike Zagata for November 2, 2018.

Is Upstate Downbeat?
Blame Slow Recovery

According to a newly released report from the Empire Center for Public Policy, “New York’s Uneven Economic Recovery: A Tale of Two States,” those of us who live in Upstate New York escaped the real estate/housing bubble that led to the economic crash in 2008. Why? Because our economy was so bad that we didn’t experience a bubble like the rest of the country. How’s that for good news?
Since the economic downturn, the Governor has claimed he has grown the state’s economy back to recovery. Have you experienced a recovery? Here’s how he’s been able to make that claim.
According to the governor, “We created 1,000,000 jobs (since 2011). New York State today has more private-sector jobs than it has had in the history of the state. Period. Unemployment went from 8.5 to 4.2 percent, and the recovery was statewide. In the old days you would see New York City doing very well, and Upstate would be struggling. Look how even the recovery is all across the State.”
The data don’t support that claim. In fact, to the contrary, it shows a sharp and growing economic divide between Upstate and downstate. According to the “Report,”, “By any standard, Upstate New York’s economic recovery has been among the weakest of any region in the country”. Only West Virginia, Wyoming and Arkansas, coal and minerals-dependent economies, have fared poorer. According to the Report, New York’s annual rate of real GDP growth has been lower than the rate for ALL states in six of his first seven years in office.
New York City, followed by Long Island and the lower Hudson valley, suburbs for the City, has enjoyed the highest rate of job growth in the state. At the same time, Upstate has gained private-sector jobs at about one-third of the national rate.
Of the State’s 62 counties,
23 of them, all but one
Upstate, have yet to recover to their pre-crash private employment levels. Knowing this, the Governor banned fracking in an attempt to court the “green community” and stopped the pipelines that could have brought much-needed natural gas and jobs to our region.
Did the unemployment rate in Upstate really drop or was it made to look that way – remember the old “shell” game? Based upon information in the Report, total private-sector employment Upstate grew by 6.3 percent since 2010. That is about one-third the U.S. rate of growth (17.8 percent) and even worse than that for downstate (21.2 percent). The Southern Tier counties ranged from having a loss of jobs to zero-5 percent growth. Guess where we fell in the ranking?
According to the Report, the 48 up-state counties saw a drop in employment “by a combined total of 87,500 from August 2010 to August 2018. Yes, the unemployment rate Upstate fell, but only because the labor force in those counties decreased by 210,000 people” – a result of fewer people looking for work because they had either given up, left the state or both.
Mike Zagata, DEC commissioner in the Pataki Administration and former environmental executive with Fortune 500 companies, lives in West Davenport

ZAGATA: Science Can Be Political Tool, And Even Worse, Up For Sale

Column by Mike Zagata for October 26, 2018.

Science Can Be Political Tool,
And Even Worse, Up For Sale

Mike Zagata

I read with interest and admiration the article in last week’s paper about the different kinds of “truth.”
Objective truth is the “truth” that
is supported by fact. Subjective “truth” is what circumstances point toward or what we want, based on the information we have at our disposal,
to believe.
The Senate confirmation hearings for judge, now justice, Kavanaugh were used in the article to illustrate the differences.
I found myself agreeing with the points being made until the author alleged that
it was the Republicans
who failed in the search for
THE truth by not having the FBI conduct a thorough investigation.
The truth is that we have no idea whether or not their investigation was “thorough.” What we do know is that the Democrats
sat on the information alleging
sexual abuse until AFTER the
Senate hearings.
Had they wanted the FBI to do a thorough investigation in search of the “truth”, the information about alleged sexual abuse would have been provided to the FBI
BEFORE, not AFTER, the
hearings. Had that been done, the FBI’s findings would have been a part of those hearings and thus fully vetted.
Based on that information, one can conclude the real agenda was not a search for the “truth”, but an attempt to delay the judge’s confirmation until after the mid-term elections.

Does that conclusion represent the objective or subjective “truth”? Each of us enters the search for the real “truth”

with built-in bias. That makes it very difficult to accept
information that differs from the results we want, i.e.
don’t confuse me with the facts.
It becomes tempting to omit certain information when offering our version of the truth to others. For example, the author omitted the fact that the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee sat on the allegation of sexual abuse for six weeks prior to the hearings. Without that information, it is much easier to “sell” the truth that the FBI didn’t do a thorough investigation.

Finding the truth is not easy. I was invited to lunch recently by a person who wanted to talk about climate change. The person was very sincere and had done considerable research on the topic. In fact, it was that research that led to confusion, because one source stated that the recent deviations in our climate were outside the norm and another source said they weren’t.
How does the average lay person or non-scientist determine which one is the “truth”?
Unfortunately, science has become a political tool and, worse yet, can be for sale. If a scientist gets a government funded grant to do research on climate change, should that scientist’s findings have to agree with the government’s position? The answer is “no”, but grants have been withdrawn when
they didn’t.
That’s not true “science” where we test the null hypothesis and let the chips fall where they might. If we deliberately omit data points because they aren’t consistent with what
we want them to be, that isn’t
good science.
The downsides of doing so are a loss of public confidence and the expenditure of scarce capital to cure a problem that may not exist. If we cry “wolf” when there is no wolf, will the public be willing to support what needs to be done when a real “wolf” exists?

It’s election season, and we’re all being bombarded by various versions of the truth by candidates for office. I do not personally know all of the candidates, so I can only reach the subjective truth about how I feel they will perform if elected.
I do, however, personally know two of the candidates – state Sen. Jim Seward and Congressman John Faso. I worked with them while serving as your DEC commissioner and knew John as a neighbor.
I have watched them make the tough decisions based upon the objective truth when they could have ducked them. Those decisions were intended to provide real, measurable benefit to their constituents. That’s the objective truth based on fact.

Mike Zagata, DEC commissioner in the Pataki Administration and an environmental executive for Fortune 500 companies, lives in West Davenport.

KUZMINSKI: If We Can’t Agree On Basis Of Truth, Nation In Trouble

Column by Adrian Kuzminski for October 19, 2018

If We Can’t Agree On Basis
Of Truth, Nation In Trouble

Adrian Kuzminski

In any war, as the saying goes, truth is the first casualty. That’s become the case, unfortunately, in the war of the sexes as well. It’s turned into a war because the abiding injustice women have suffered from men
resists resolution through institutions mostly created and
sustained by men.
What counts as evidence, or sincerity, or credibility may have more to do than we’d like to admit with male rather than female dispositions.
Part of the problem is the hidden nature of sexual abuse. The evidence of such assault is intensely private and intimate, with objective evidence for or against allegations perhaps harder to find than in other areas.
Christine Blasey Ford and Brett
Kavanaugh, on the face of it, cannot both be telling the truth. She alleged he attacked her when they were teenagers, and he denied it. The U.S. Senate was faced with sorting this out, and the senators failed to do so.

The tragedy of the Kavanaugh-Ford controversy is the substitution by
our leaders (and by many of us) of subjective truth for objective truth,
of belief for fact.
Objective truth is factual experience that can be witnessed, recorded,
publicly acknowledged, and shared
by as many people as care to seek it out.
Subjective truth is a
personally held belief about something, a private opinion, conviction, or interpretation that can be asserted as if
it were true, but which
remains unproven, and is not necessarily true.
There are many reasons why anyone might believe one or the other of them, and many of us have little hesitation in taking sides. But, in the absence of confirming evidence about the alleged sexual assault, these
reasons are largely subjective.
They reflect beliefs people hold about what happened, or didn’t happen, not knowledge whether anything actually happened, or not.

That’s why an investigation into allegations against Brett Kavanaugh (as with anyone) was of the utmost importance. A factual determination, according to the rules of evidence, means establishing objective, publicly ascertainable facts about the event in question.

Now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford at last month’s U.S. Senate confirmation hearings.

It also means that, in the interest of due process and the principle of “innocent until proven guilty,” allegations must have reasonable plausibility to deserve investigation. It’s true that Senate confirmation hearings are not legal proceedings, but a factual basis for allegations remains essential.

The Republicans initially dismissed Ford’s allegation as implausible, and only reluctantly admitted her testimony under great pressure, and even more reluctantly agreed to a limited FBI investigation. They are paying a heavy price for their political and cultural blindness about gender
issues for dismissing what appeared to be a credible woman making plausible allegations.
The Democrats rightly insisted upon a factual investigation as the only way to settle the matter, initially gaining the upper hand in the debate.
But many Democrats have continued to insist that the word of an accuser is sufficient to disqualify people from office, or worse. That too is a dismissal of factual
evidence as a standard of truth.
Was the FBI investigation thorough? It’s doubtful that it was. Deborah Ramirez, another alleged victim, claims the FBI didn’t even follow through on witnesses she named for them.
Culturally, we are losing the ability to decide factual issues. I’m reminded of an exchange between a scientific geologist and a fundamentalist Christian reported in the early days of the evolution debate.
The scientist points to the ancient fossils he’s uncovered as proof that the earth could not have been created just a few thousand years ago by God. The fundamentalist replies that God created the fossils with the illusion of great age in order to test the faith of people like the scientist. That’s how belief can be used to trump fact.

This kind of impasse, sadly, is nothing new. But it’s getting worse. In an age of fake news, cultural relativism, media propaganda, and a flood of unsubstantiated opinion on the Internet, we have reached a point where the assertion of a belief is no longer confirmed or disconfirmed by an appeal to objective evidence.
Absent such a check, there is no mechanism to settle our differences, nothing to stop the escalation of conflict and violence.
Without the ability to test beliefs by facts, we have no common standard for deciding the issues which divide us. The abandonment of the standard of public evidence, imperfect as it has been, is more than shocking.
It puts into peril our political system, and indeed the very fabric of our society. Under these
circumstances, anything goes.
We are in trouble.

Adrian Kuzminski, author, retired Hartwick College philosophy professor, and Sustainable Otsego moderator, lives in Fly Creek.

ZAGATA: Natural-Gas Issue Is A Ruse; Real Intention Is No Growth

Column by Mike Zagata for October 12, 2018

Natural-Gas Issue Is A Ruse;
Real Intention Is No Growth

Mike Zagata

Apparently something happened to The Professor during her youth to cause her to come
forward during the confirmation process for The Supreme Court Justice, but we’ll never know for sure exactly what happened, nor will we know
who was responsible.
That wasn’t the intended outcome of the public spectacle we’ve been subjected
to. The intended outcome
was to delay the confirmation process until after the mid-term elections.
Thus well-intentioned people like us who were supportive of either The Judge or The Professor were used. We believed we were doing the right thing in seeking the truth, but we were being manipulated to actually support a different agenda – delay.

I bring that up because the raging debate over energy has the potential to repeat that scenario and use our concern for the environment to push a no-growth agenda.
We are concerned about the quality of our environment and thus want our energy sources to be environmentally friendly. However, when I read two quotes, one from a Board member and the other from a local environmental activist, stating that heavy industry has no place in our community and that, instead of trying to attract companies to our area by being able to provide the energy they would need, companies should go elsewhere where that energy already exists, I feel “used.”
Do you understand the
significance of that mentality? It means that if those against development can prevent us from getting gas they can prevent us from having jobs.

Sometimes the stated issues are a cover for a hidden strategy, Mike Zagata writes.

My suspicion was realized. Are those who oppose economic growth in our area using the “environment” as a ruse to get us to support their real agenda without our knowing it?
In one of the many recent articles, mostly by the same people, opposing
natural gas, pipelines, trucking and decompression, and everything in
between, the author states that it’s
OK to burn fuel oil on those days (about 30 per year) when our hospital, college and some industry are curtailed because there isn’t enough gas to go around.
Fuel oil does not burn as cleanly as natural gas so, if your real concern is protecting the environment, how could you possibly state that it’s OK to burn fuel oil for 30 days instead of natural gas?
Your real agenda – no growth for our area – is starting to show through!

Oneonta is a welcoming community, but we’re not open to being told how we can lead our lives, what kind of jobs we can have or that our children have no future here.
We need more – there is already some – heavy industry as that was what historically supported the middle class and it’s the middle class that pays the bulk of the taxes.
About half of our potentially taxable property is off the tax rolls. Thus we’re paying about double what we should be for the services we receive.
Our school enrollment is about half what it was when we had a stronger economy and the jobs that came with it. Other schools in our immediate area are suffering the same drops in enrollment and will face consolidation if that doesn’t stop.
People are leaving New York in droves and it’s not due to the weather. Each time someone leaves, the taxes of those of us who remain must, by definition, go up in order to pay for the same level of services.

The folks opposed to everything, the vocal minority, don’t offer viable alternatives to using natural gas as a bridge to the time when renewable energy sources are economically and physically viable. They sprinkle fairy dust into the air and hope we breathe it.
Industry – that evil entity that we don’t want to come here – is working to develop the ability to store energy captured by solar panels. However, that’s still a ways into the future and, even if it was available today, it would not be able to meet our energy needs after the week of rainy, cloudy weather we just experienced.
In addition to not being predicable, solar energy has its own environmental issues. Do the people who oppose natural gas pipelines prefer to look out their window and view 450 acres of solar panels instead? The answer is a resounding “no”. They can afford to install a solar system out of sight that services their needs and don’t much care if the rest of us suffer from extreme heat or cold because we don’t have enough gas to meet our needs.
As I’ve said before, it’s time for the real majority to get involved, take back control of our lives and get out and vote.

Mike Zagata, DEC commissioner in the Pataki AdministratION and former environmental executive with Fortune 500 companies, lives in West Davenport.

ADRIAN KUZMINSKI: Natural Gas Is A Bad Investment

Column by Adrian Kuzminski, October 5, 2018.

Natural Gas Is A Bad Investment

Adrian Kuzminski

It’s obvious we have to get off fossil fuels, yet we keep hearing that fossil fuels – natural gas in particular – are essential to local economic growth. While “solar and wind would be a viable source for electric,” Otsego Now CEO Jody Zakrevsky wrote in The Freemans Journal & Hometown Oneonta in the Aug. 30-31 editions, “it (the solar and wind source) does not currently provide a solution to companies that need extreme heat in processing.” For them, he tells us, natural gas is a necessity. Further, they are the companies he thinks we need for future economic growth.
Zakrevsky points out that two projects with potentially 475 jobs failed to materialize recently due to the lack of natural gas essential to their operation. That’s hardly surprising. Companies that can’t function without natural gas have been locating in places where adequate gas infrastructure already exists, and that is clearly not Oneonta.
Bringing more natural gas to Oneonta would cost a fortune: $17.5 million, Zakrevsky estimates, for a decompression station and related infrastructure. But many millions more would be needed to replace and expand the DeRuyter pipeline.

The Freeman’s Journal – Otsego Now’s Zakrevsky outlines plans for a decompression station Aug. 9 to the Oneonta Town Board.

Why aren’t the local businesses who would benefit raising the money themselves? Perhaps it’s because no serious investor would fund a project importing natural gas when industry can locate far more cheaply elsewhere, where gas is abundantly available.
That’s as it should be. Natural-gas dependent industries ought to go to natural gas rather than spending more money to get natural gas to come to them. That’s economic efficiency.
Even then, there’s no guarantee businesses will come. Look at Richfield Springs in our own county. A surplus of natural gas hasn’t helped Richfield attract industry.
Yet Otsego Now seems bent on depleting the public purse to bring more gas to Oneonta, leaving citizens and consumers (taxpayers and ratepayers) to bear the costs of the project.
The few businesses involved, including NYSEG, would, whether they realize it or not, in effect be making a profit on the backs of the public. Yes, some jobs would be created, but they are unlikely to support whole families (few jobs today do).
Meantime, the public as a whole would be impoverished by having to pay for the project, arguably leading to less, not more, overall economic growth. And money invested in natural gas is money that is not invested in other job-creating industries – like renewables.Even worse, this project, which calls for a 25 percent increase in the amount of natural gas delivered to Oneonta, would re-enforce the
current, unnecessary use of natural gas
by residential and institutional
consumers.

These consumers are not dependent upon natural gas for industrial processes requiring “extreme heat.” Non-polluting alternatives would serve them (and the climate) far better, and create jobs too. That should be the priority.
Yes, it’s true that our electricity supply is also constrained, but renewables can expand available electricity, which should be prioritized over gas.
And there’s the safety issue. Otsego county’s Public Safety Committee, to its credit, after several virtual pipeline gas truck rollovers, has called for the trucks to be taken off local roads.
Also, keep in mind, according to the New York Times (Sept. 14, 2018), “since 1998, at least 646 serious gas distribution episodes have occurred across the country, causing 221 deaths and leaving nearly a thousand people injured, according to data from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.”
The whole Otsego Now project is in effect a massive subsidy by the public for a polluting and unsafe industry which would better be located elsewhere. It’s time for local planners – and politicians like state Sen. Jim Seward – to abandon economically non-viable proposals for bringing more
fossil fuels to this area. In spite of its
history, Oneonta’s no longer the place for fossil-fuel dependent heavy industry.
The essential infrastructure we need – as I’ve argued in my last column – is state-of-the-art broadband for all, not obsolete gas pipelines for a few. Real internet would help give us a new economic base, which in turn would help finance sustainable local enterprises.
This is the vision that our economic planners should be pursuing, and for which they ought to be fighting to find money. Earlier this year, New York State announced $1.4 billion for 21 renewable energy projects, including 22 solar farms, three wind farms, and one hydroelectric project.
That’s the kind of money Otsego Now should be going after if it wants to invest in the future of Otsego County.

Adrian Kuzminski, retired Hartwick
College philosophy professor, author
and Sustainable Otsego co-founder and moderator, lives in Fly Creek.

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