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adrian kuzminski

On Flying The Flag

COLUMN

VIEW FROM FLY CREEK

On Flying The Flag

By ADRIAN KUZMINSKI  • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

A balloon drifts past the flagpole at Main and Pioneer, Cooperstown, during the Clinton Regatta in May. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)

The other day I was chatting with a long-time local business man in Cooperstown who occasionally reads this column. He brought up the recent decision of the Village of Cooperstown to officially fly the Gay Pride flag on Village property.

He expressed discomfort with at least some aspects of gay lifestyle, and clearly felt that the village action did not represent him and, by implication, others who shared his reaction.

An isolated reaction, some might think. Isn’t being gay now an accepted part of public life? Yes, it is, but not everyone understands it in the same way.

There are still a lot of people unsettled about minority challenges to traditional cultural norms, and distressed by what they see as political correctness being foisted on society. It’s not always clear, they say, where the resolution of long-standing injustice ends, and where resentment and ideological fervor take over.

KUZMINSKI: Home Rule In Constitution, But Limited

COLUMN

Home Rule In

Constitution,

But Limited

By ADRIAN KUZMINSKI • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

I’ve been commenting in recent columns on the first two Principles of Sustainable Otsego:  Sustainable Living and Economic Independence. In this column, I want to take up the third and last principle: Home Rule.

“Home” is where we live with family, friends, and neighbors. Its scale is small enough to sustain in-depth relationships with people and places. Home has the capacity to inspire love, not least because it embodies a complexity of human experience not otherwise available.

The largest political unit with which people identify, and which preserves this sense of community, is the county, where people from different backgrounds and neighborhoods are still able to come together on an individual, face-to-face basis for the services, commerce, education, recreation, spirituality and government which make up everyday life.

KUZMINSKI: Do We Give More Than We Take, And Does It Matter?

COLUMN

THE VIEW FROM FLY CREEK

Do We Give More Than

We Take, And Does It Matter?

By ADRIAN KUZMINSKI • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Jane Jacobs “Death and Life of American Cities” helped spawn the historic preservation movement.

In my last column, I discussed “Sustainable Living” – one of the three principles of Sustainable Otsego. Today I want to consider the second principle, “Economic Independence.” I’ll take up the last principle, “Home Rule,” in a later column.

The phrase “economic independence” is bandied about these days by politicians and pundits alike. But what would real economic independence look like? How could we measure it?

The issue was clarified some years ago by the insightful economic and social critic, Jane Jacobs, in her influential book. “The Death and Life of Great American Cities.”

Her key idea is what she calls “import replacement.” Insofar as a community imports more goods and services than it exports, it runs what’s essentially a trade deficit. Money drains out faster than it pours in.

We usually think of trade deficits as a national issue, but they are in fact a good indicator of the economic health, or the lack thereof, of any community.

So let’s take Otsego County.

Only Grassroot Activists Can Save Our Planet

THE VIEW FROM FLY CREEK

Only Grassroot

Activists Can

Save Our Planet

By ADRIAN KUZMINSKI • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Sustainable Otsego has been both a social network and political action committee since its founding in 2007. Over that time, it has advanced three principles around which local life could be organized:

  1. Sustainable Living.
  2. Economic Independence, and
  3. Home Rule.

Today let me address Sustainable Living; I’ll take up the other two in later columns.

Sustainable Living turns out to be a lot harder than many of us thought. The very word “sustainable” has been corrupted by phrases like “sustainable growth” and “sustainable capitalism.” Thanks largely to corporate propaganda and misinformation, it is less and less clear what terms like “sustainable” or “green” mean.

If it means anything, sustainable living means living on renewable resources on a finite planet.

At least that was the idea when the term “sustainability” went mainstream in the early 2000s.

Energy analysts had begun to worry about “peak oil” decades earlier, but by the early 2000s compelling evidence of limited conventional oil reserves, as well as of the depletion of other resources (fertile soils, clean water, essential minerals, species diversity), brought the issue of sustainability to a larger public.

The idea of sustainable living was a response to this brewing eco-crisis. It meant avoiding practices that led to pollution and a deteriorating natural world. The idea was to recycle everything, go organic, and use less energy and resources. We were supposed to lower our “carbon footprints” to minimize global warming and mitigate climate change.

Sustainable living became no less than a moral movement, a kind of secular religion where

Nature takes the place of God, cooperation takes the place of competition, holistic thinking replaces partial thinking, and harmony and compassion replace strife and tribalism.

That was a profound cultural moment, and it changed important human behaviors. It’s been the main force behind the progress made in recent years towards surviving on this planet. The hope was to maintain something like the middle-class lifestyle to which we have become accustomed.

The plan was to do it by replacing fossil fuels with eco-friendly renewables, poisonous chemicals with “natural” ingredients, and accumulated waste by recycling and composting.

But it didn’t quite work out that way, at least not yet. New technologies (fracking) expanded access to oil and gas reserves, postponing “peak oil” indefinitely, while locking in our reliance on fossil fuels through low prices. Recycling has yet to absorb the vast waste stream, and organic alternatives, popular as they are, are far from replacing cheap, chemically based products.

In the meantime, the methane and CO2 pumped into the atmosphere by continued fossil-fuel use has brought us to the verge of uncontrollable climate change.

The easy steps of sustainable living – buying a Prius, recycling, eating organic food, switching to

LED lighting, etc. – are no longer enough. We need structural, not just personal, changes.

Our continued post-fracking reliance on cheap fossil fuels has allowed the oil and gas industry to dominate the political system, frustrating the transition to renewables. Corporate-led deregulation has rolled back the environmental standards necessary to fully promote organic products and eliminate waste. Indeed, under Trump we’ve gone backwards on all these fronts.

At this point, only upheaval from below seems likely to change national politics. And that will happen only when the urgency of the biggest threat – climate change – reaches a critical threshold in most minds. Because of it, we’ve witnessed in recent months massive wildfires out West, catastrophic floods in the Midwest, melting glaciers and polar ice packs, another record heat wave in Europe, accelerating wildlife extinctions – the list goes on.

The floods a few years back gave us a taste of what can happen here, though climate change for us so far has been mostly incremental and cumulative, rather than sudden and overwhelming.

But it’s not any less significant for that. Hundred-year floods now occur a lot more than once a century. Storms and power outages are more common. The growing season has lengthened.

Winters are milder. Tornados, once unheard of in our region, now occur repeatedly.

If you experience the weather mostly when walking to and from your car, it’s easy to dismiss all this as some kind of delusion, a fake crisis. But if you’re a farmer, a gardener, someone who works outdoors, or manages infrastructure (powerlines, roads, etc.) exposed to the weather, you’re more likely to recognize that climate change is happening right before your eyes.

Sustainable living is both more important than ever, and even harder to achieve. To recognize its challenge is to feel its urgency, and especially the vital need to replace fossil fuels with renewables.

This is evident in the deliberations of the new Otsego County Energy Task Force, where climate change concerns and economic-development issues are coming together for the first time locally.

In response to this growing crisis Sustainable Otsego has evolved into a political action committee focused on local government. Given the failures of our major parties nationally and locally, Sustainable Otsego remains resolutely non-partisan. Visit us on Facebook, and at sustainableotsego.net.

If we’re to respond successfully to climate change from below, it will be because local grassroots activists – conservatives and liberals alike – insist upon it. Only they can force our representatives – local, state, and national – to do what’s necessary to secure the transition to sustainable living. No one else is going to do it.

Adrian Kuzminski, retired Hartwick College philosophy professor

and co-founder and moderator of Sustainable Otsego, lives in Fly Creek.

 

How to Waste $400 Million

COLUMN

How to Waste

$400 Million

By ADRIAN KUZMINSKI • Special to wwww.AllOTSEGO.com

At the January 2019 Otsego County Energy Summit in Cooperstown, sponsored by the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce, a NYSEG representative surprised many present by announcing that the utility was planning to rebuild and expand the DeRuyter pipeline, which brings natural gas to Oneonta.

In a subsequent report, filed with the Public Service Commission on March 15, NYSEG states, with regard to the DeRuyter pipeline, that it “will replace approximately 50 miles of 8-inch and 10-inch 298 psig-coated steel gas transmission gas mains with 12-inch main in several phases.”

Construction is expected to start in 2022.

COLUMN: If Facts Can’t Defuse Deniers, What Can?
The View From Fly Creek

If Facts Can’t Defuse

Deniers, What Can?

‘What is Truth?” Pontius Pilate famously asked. Lately, it seems a bigger question than ever. If, like me, you surf between conservative and liberal websites, Fox News and CNN/MSNBC, talk radio and PBS, Sean Hannity and Alan Chartock, you know that you’re getting radically different, irreconcilable
versions of the truth on virtually any subject.

It’s scary.

The other day, driving down Fly Creek valley, it was Glenn Beck on the radio making fun of people worried about climate change, something President Trump calls a “hoax.” Trump, in a recent tweet, approvingly quoted a renegade Greenpeace activist, Patrick Moore, who says:

“The whole climate crisis is not only Fake News, it’s Fake Science.”

There are policy implications as well. The New York Times reports that the Trump administration is planning to alter the reporting of the government’s “National Climate Assessment” to eliminate projections for the years after 2040. That’s when the worse consequences of greenhouse gas emissions are expected to kick in.

Many conservatives reduce climate change to nothing more than liberal propaganda: a tactic by the left to frighten people into submission while providing a handy excuse to centralize government power and move towards socialism.

Call this Climate Change Denial. One is reminded of other, similar Denials, including Holocaust Denial, the denial that priests ever abuse children, or that smoking causes cancer.

What these denials all have in common is a rejection of overwhelming factual evidence. Photos, documents, and testimony about Nazi extermination camps are brushed aside or said to be fakes.

Accounts of child abuse are dismissed as preposterous. The established correlation between smoking and lung cancer is reduced to speculation.

In the case of climate change, the documented accelerating effects of humanly generated greenhouse gases warming the planet are simply ignored.

This in spite of a near consensus among climate scientists.

An oft-quoted statistic states that something like 97 percent of climate scientists agree that the evidence shows that human activity – using fossil fuels – is the main factor driving climate change.

This near-scientific consensus is blown off by climate deniers. One wonders if they would reject a medical diagnosis given by 97 percent of doctors, or legal advice given by 97 percent of lawyers. That would be considered, by most of us, classic cases of denial.They key tactic of deniers is to find any dissenting opinion at all, and use that to argue that the issue in question remains unsettled.

If you’re an addicted smoker, if you benefited by the appropriation of Jewish property during the war, if you’re a church trying to avoid scandal, or if your economic security depends on the continued use of fossil fuels, then you have an incentive to deny that smoking causes cancer, that the Jews were dispossessed and murdered, that priests molest children, or that humanly created greenhouse gases cause global warming.

Deniers come down on the side of calling something into question just because it’s been disputed. It’s a clever strategy that substitutes opinion for evidence, and it’s become a staple of fake news. It turns into denial when it persists in the face of overwhelming evidence.

This allows climate-change deniers, Holocaust deniers, child-abuse deniers, cigarettes-cause-cancer deniers, and other deniers to sound reasonable. I have my opinion, you have yours, they say, while subverting the truth.

Denial isn’t a monopoly of conservatives, to be sure. Many liberals, for instance, deny that globalization has dramatically increased economic inequality, or that open borders have negative consequences, or that there are gender differences, or that Trump voters are anything other than stupid, misguided “deplorables.”

Indeed, who among us hasn’t fallen into denial at some point in our lives? If I’m focusing here on climate change Denial, it’s because climate change is arguably the most disruptive challenge we face. It’s a denial we can no longer afford.

Absolute certainty isn’t required to make informed, rational decisions. What’s necessary is an objective, reliable standard of evidence, not uniformity of opinion. There will always be outliers who reject objective standards, out of fear, greed, or sheer craziness.

In such psychological states, objectivity itself is denied. Truth, by contrast, is what we normally observe in our common experience, including what we are most likely to experience in the future. We ignore it at our peril.

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

KUZMINSKI: A Guaranteed National Income?

COLUMN

A Guaranteed National Income?

Democratic president hopeful Andrew Yang flips pork chops during a swing through Iowa. (Yang2020 photo)

By ADRIAN KUZMINSKI • The View From Fly Creek

You might have heard of  Andrew Yang. He’s running for president as a Democrat. A long shot, for sure, but he’s already generated considerable interest and support.

Last month, he announced that he had received contributions from over 65,000 donors in over 20 states, enough to qualify him for
the first round of debates by the Democratic candidates.

Yang, from a Taiwanese immigrant family, was born in nearby Schenectady (like our congressman, Antonio Delgado), and became a corporate lawyer working for startup companies. Later he served as the CEO of Manhattan Prep, a company which administers the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) for business school applicants. He went on to run a non-profit, Venture for America, whose internship programs place graduates into startups across the country.

As a presidential candidate, Yang stands out for proposing what he calls the “Freedom Dividend,” a $1,000/month payment, or guarantee annual income, to all U.S. citizens over 18 years of age. There’s a long interview on “The Joe Rogan Experience” explaining his ideas which has received over 2,600,000 views. (Type “rogan” and “yang” in the youtube.com search line.)

Yang’s campaign slogan is “Humanity First,” which reflects his big campaign issue: the fact that automation and robotics are displacing human labor throughout the economy. Jobs are a key issue locally and nationally. The solution may not be more jobs, but something entirely different, like Yang’s Freedom Dividend.

Cutting labor costs enriches investor/owners, but it’s catastrophic for workers. Self-driving vehicles are going to put truck drivers out of business, just as scanners have reduced supermarket checkout clerks, and online purchasing has devastated retail outlets.

Automation affects not just factory-line workers, but most wage-labor, even on a professional level. Doctors, lawyers, and tax preparers are being replaced by remotely controlled automated services, the way travel agents have been replaced by online booking, and teachers and college professors now compete with online courses. Certain service sectors – plumbers, electricians, contractors, waitresses – continue to resist automation, but they too are vulnerable.

There are still jobs, of course, but they no longer provide the economic security they used to for the bulk of the population. Traditional wage-labor is a shrinking proposition, ever harder to achieve, leaving most of the population redundant, less and less able to support itself. The jobs that remain are all too often low-skill and low-pay, insufficient to support a family.

Labor, Yang is telling us, is no longer the source of security and value it once was. His attempt to restore economic security – a basic guaranteed income – is a radical departure from the usual remedy of trying to “create” more jobs. The government simply prints and sends you the money, instead of trying to find you a job.

If you just give people money, they will spend it, and stimulate the economy. At least that’s the idea. Adding money to the economy – all other things being equal – means more dollars chasing the same goods and services. That’s inflationary, unless the new spending is matched by enough new production to satisfy the new consumption.

And that’s the problem. If money is continuously printed faster than the economy is growing, we will suffer inflation, perhaps hyper-inflation. Yang and other guaranteed income advocates have yet to explain how their schemes will avoid inflation.

There might be a clue, however, in his use of the word “dividend.” The word suggests an income from a share of ownership in corporate assets. Alaska’s Permanent Fund Dividend comes to mind. Since 1982, it has distributed an annual royalty share of corporate revenue from Alaskan public resources (mostly oil and gas) to all state residents. The amount fluctuates (up or down) with corporate profits (and losses) over time. In 2018 the payment was $1,600 per person ($6,400 for household of four).

A guaranteed national income could be modeled on the same idea – an individual dividend paid out of a permanent fund supported by corporations. That would add a measure of public ownership of the means of production. Instead of 100 percent of corporate stock being privately held, a certain percentage could be publicly held, and form the basis of a national dividend.

A national dividend would not only give regular citizens a stake in the economy, it would also ensure that the money distributed would be neither inflationary or deflationary, but an accurate measure of the value of the economy, fluctuating with the ups and downs of economic activity.

That’s not socialism – corporations would still be privately run for profit – but it is a way to share ownership more broadly. Call it populism.

Adrian Kuzminski, retired Hartwick College philosophy professor

and Sustainable Otsego moderator, lives in Fly Creek.

 

Don’t ‘Abolish’ Otsego Now, But Consider Broader Council
from ADRIAN KUZMINSKI

Don’t ‘Abolish’ Otsego Now,

But Consider Broader Council

To the Editor:

I am privileged to be a columnist for this newspaper. Readers ought to be aware, however, that editors, not authors, choose the titles for op-eds, letters, and columns.

My last column was misleadingly titled “Abolish Otsego Now.” That suggests shutting down

Otsego Now, and everything it does. I advocated instead that its functions be included in a much broader Economic Development Council.

The Editor also paired his title of my column with his own editorial calling to “abolish” Otsego

2000, suggesting some kind of equivalence which does not exist.

Material submitted to the paper ought to be allowed to speak for itself, and not be manipulated for sensational effect, especially in the very same issue in which it is published.

ADRIAN KUZMINSKI

Fly Creek

ABOLISH OTSEGO 2000!

ABOLISH OTSEGO 2000!

Abolish Otsego Now? Goodness. It’s Otsego County’s “single point of contact” on economic development, the locus of job-creating efforts.

Adrian Kuzminski, our creative and thought-provoking columnist, suggests such in the column on the opposite page. Read the column. But here’s an alternative idea.

How about abolishing Otsego 2000? It’s arguably the “single point of obstruction” to any economic development in Otsego County, evident most recently in the drive to stymie a
10-year effort to  redevelop Oneonta’s vacant D&H railyards.

Here’s just one instance: A few years ago, Otsego 2000 successfully blocked the 160-turbine
Jordanville wind farm because the windmills would have degraded the “viewshed” from James Fenimore Cooper’s Glimmerglass.

The typical 1.5 MW wind turbine creates enough electricity to power 332 homes; 160 would have powered 53,120 homes, more than double the 23,921 homes in Otsego County.
Now, Otsego 2000 has dug in its heels on bringing any more natural gas to Otsego County. Zilch. Nada. Zero.

Elephant In The Room Undergirds Discourse

Elephant In The Room

Undergirds Discourse

Dismiss Smokescreen Hype

About Dubious New Jobs

In last week’s editorial in this newspaper, Oneonta Mayor Herzig is quoted as saying: “We should not let those who are economically secure, by comparison, tell those who need jobs they can’t have them.”

The mayor was reacting to the March 5 hearing he moderated at the Foothills in Oneonta, where a long series of speakers pushed back almost unanimously against the gas-expansion project proposed by the city and Otsego Now to develop the D&H railyards.

The mayor’s insinuation of class warfare is totally out of line. No one at the hearing told anyone they can’t have a job. On the contrary, the point was repeatedly made – by many people distinctly not “economically secure” – that the development of renewable energy and retrofitting buildings to be more energy efficient was far more likely to produce jobs than the proposed railyards project.

Something Like ‘Green New Deal’ Essential, But Impact On Personal Freedom Worrisome

Something Like

‘Green New Deal’ Essential,

But Impact On

Personal Freedom Worrisome

The Big Idea of the Green New Deal, now widely supported among Democrats, is to deal aggressively at once with the twin crises of climate justice and social justice.
The Green New Deal (GND) seeks to combine the progressive goals raised by Bernie Sanders in the 2016 election (single-payer healthcare, free college tuition, taxing the rich, and breaking up big banks) with a wholesale public infrastructure program for an immediate, full-blown transition to a renewable, clean, greenhouse-gas-neutral, energy-efficient economy.
Conservatives, who have no solutions to these problems, are either apoplectic (out of fear that it might succeed) or scornfully dismissive (out of bravado that its absurdity will turn off voters).

What Ails Yellow-Vested Nous Amis Ails Us

WE IGNORE THEM AT OUR PERIL

What Ails

Yellow-Vested

Nous Amis Ails Us

 

Last November the so-called  ‘Yellow Vest’ movement exploded across France. A new gasoline tax imposed by the Macron government sent waves of protesters into the streets.
Coming out in large numbers, they donned as their symbol the yellow safety vests the French government requires all motorists to keep in their vehicles in case of emergency.
The protesters called for a repeal of the gas tax. Initial reports pictured them as rural right-wing populists frustrated by the supposedly pro-environment and pro-immigrant policies of the establishment government.
And indeed the protesters included anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic elements, as well as supporters of Marine Le Pen’s nationalistic National Front party. 

Energywise, We Can Have It All: Natural Gas Now, Renewables Later

Energywise, We Can Have

It All: Natural Gas Now,

Renewables Later

Adrian Kuzminski, Fly Creek, Sustainable Otsego moderator, listens to Zagata. The two alternate a column in this newspaper every other week. In the background is Oneonta Town Board member Trish Riddell-Kent.

The Otsego County Chamber board and president deserve a heartfelt “thank you” for having the vision and courage to host the “Energy Summit.”
Speakers from New York and Pennsylvania talked about fossil fuels and renewables including biomass, ethanol, electric cars, wind, solar and geo-thermal. At the end of the day, it was clear that, although promising for the future, renewables are not currently capable of replacing or offsetting our demand for energy provided by fossil fuels.
That does not mean we should abandon our pursuit of alternative sources of energy that emit less carbon and are cost-competitive with fossil fuels.

KUZMINSKI: ‘Populism’ Isn’t A Dirty Word

Column by Adrian kuzminski for Jan. 3, 2019

Populism’ Isn’t A
Dirty Word,It’s As
American As Apple Pie

BY Adrian Kuzminski

Our columnist was prescient: Adrian Kuzminski’s 2008 study of populism, “Fixing the System,” foreshadowed Bernie Sanders’ and Donald Trump’s populism by eight years.

Since 2016, we’ve had an explosion of political upheavals around the world – all widely described as populist: the Brexit vote in Britain, Trump’s election, and the rise of separatist and nationalist parties in Europe and beyond. We can also include the “yellow vests” in France and movements in places like Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico, and the Philippines.Back in 2008, at the time of the financial crisis, I published a book about the history of populism called “Fixing the System: A History of Populism, Ancient & Modern.”  It didn’t make me famous, but it did aim to understand the rising political phenomenon of populism – something which since has morphed into a global tidal wave.

Populism is easily misunderstood. It can be found on both the left and right of the political spectrum. It’s not about how liberal or conservative you are. It’s about the failure of the system to provide economic and social security for a large part of the population.

KUZMINSKI: Public Banks, ‘Greenbacks,’ Might Close Gap Between Rich And Poor

Column by Adrian Kuzminski for December 14, 2018

Public Banks, ‘Greenbacks,’ Might
Close Gap Between Rich And Poor

Adrian Kuzminski

I brought up the Green New Deal in my last column as the only political agenda I’ve seen which, whether we agree with it or not, at least tries to measure up to the magnitude of the two biggest problems we face: climate change and economic insecurity.
Let’s take a closer look.

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