Archive | August, 2010

A Matter of Proportion

26 Aug

Let me start by saying that I am the fussiest composter I know. Recycling too. I’m the guy who puts every little scrap of paper in the recycling bin. I mean every scrap. When I go through the mail, I shred the credit cards applications that can get you trouble (to put in the compost later), and recycle the rest. Every card board box, backing, and packaging insert. Every scrap of compostable food, off my kid’s dinner plates, and into the bin. I have even been known the fetch an errant banana peel, tomato top, or peach pit from the garbage, such is the devotion.

But I know, in the long run, it doesn’t make a damn bit of difference.

That whole “Think Global, Act Local” shtick is a crock of shit. I will not save the planet one banana peel, one compact fluorescent light bulb, or even one high performance insulated window at a time. Major alteration and restoration of our environment will require major structural changes all across the globe. Ignoring the CO2, for a moment (which is a convenient rallying cry but not even the worst of our problems), world economies, industries, and living habits need to change if we are going to stop driving species to extinction, destroying habitat, undermining natural processes, pushing mountains into drinking water streams and pouring oil into our oceans.

Big change requires big change. Duh.

Which is why this is really a column in defense of Silver Bullets in Buffalo.

“Silver Bullet” solutions, that fix all your problems in one go, are the bane of every busy body in Buffalo. Any development project must avoid the label, or else be doomed to failure. I never hear a politician, builder, or official declare any project a Silver Bullet. In fact, I hear every official go out of their way to say a project is NOT a Silver Bullet. Because once it is (Canalside, UB 2020, Seneca Casinos, etc), it is instantly doomed to failure. Silver Bullet projects in Buffalo are the ones that either don’t get done (Amusement Park on the Waterfront), or, once completed, make everything worse (Mainplace Mall). Watch for it. God forbid Rocco Termini’s project to convert the old AM&A’s store into a hotel/apartments/offices/foodcourt/mosque/retail ever gets the Silver Bullet for Main Street label, it’ll never get done.

I, for one, however, am willing to stand against that tide. Fifty years of population declines, a dearth of inbound young people, tribalism run rampant, major industry moves, a Great Recession, and the complete inability to complete any project over $300 million in less than 10 years (Canalside, Peace Bridge, Seneca Casino, etc) tells me we need a Silver Bullet.

Big change requires big change. Or at least a symbol of Big Change, which will suffice for now. Want an example? In Pittsburgh, they replaced US Steel with UPMC, sign and tenant both. Was there a better symbol that Pittsburgh was moving on from its manufacturing past and was leading the Eds and Meds charge into the future? I don’t need Buffalo to be San Francisco or Boston; Pittsburgh would be fine. The First Niagara sign on the Larkin Building is real nice, but not quite the same.

So I love taco trucks, carriage rides, urban farms, trees planted in parks, new signage at historic sites, mansion tours, new store front art galleries, extra farmers markets and cobbly streets with ghost historic buildings. I just don’t confuse them with game changing progress. I don’t confuse them with Big Change. I think we need Big Change, and we feel further than ever from it.

BTW, since you asked, which Silver Bullet would I request first? Easy. A Buffalo Bills Superbowl win. A regional attitude change to confidence, combined with the national news and reputation change (New Orleans looked a whole lot more rebuilt magically after last February), would do wonders.

Surrendering to Rich Newberg

26 Aug

Accused City Grill gunman Riccardo McCray – the man without a face – worked out a surrender to police at Channel 4’s studios yesterday with the help of community activist Darnell Jackson. It was somewhat of a bizarre spectacle, and some Tweeters speculated that the selection of WIVB was, in part, a middle finger to the Buffalo News.

I don’t know if I would use Rich Newberg as a middleman to surrender to the police. What would you do? (UPDATE: If you vote “other”, please put the name in comments!)

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ECDC on AG

26 Aug

The other day, I wrote that ECDC was unofficially supporting Sean Coffey for AG. I have since been informed that this isn’t necessarily the case.

I based my statement on what I had been told by unnameable sources at the NYS Democratic Convention in May. But at this time, ECDC has not formally endorsed any candidate for AG, because as my post showed, everyone is all over the place on that.

Frankly, that’s a good thing. I think the committee should always remain neutral in primary races and get behind the nominee.

The Fear Machine

25 Aug

The demographics of the voting class in this country have forever changed.  This has forced some changes in our national politics and the way the two parties work to maximize turnout in support of their agenda.  I’ll address how one party is handling this demographic shift because, well, it’s my site.

The Republican agenda or platform, as far as I can tell, consists of the following issues: tax cuts for the wealthy, cuts in social spending, corporate deregulation, abolition of unions, privatization of municipal services, perpetual empire building/foreign war, increased military spending, Israel, Israel, Israel, and in recent years…promoting a fear of “the other”.

Let’s go to the data to back up that last assertion.

In 2008, 90% of those who cast a vote for John McCain and his VP nominee, Crazypants McGee, were white. As a percentage of the overall voting populace, McCain captured a total of 55% of the white vote while Obama took 45% of the vote.

Yes, a candidate won a race for President in the United States without carrying a majority of white male voters. The 45% of white American men who cast a vote for Obama were not necessarily spread out around the country in an orderly fashion. Here’s a handy map reflecting the national distribution of white male votes for Obama.

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Unsurprisingly, you’ll note that Obama did poorly in the southern states as well as other traditional red states which now make up the national dixie belt. Obama did surprisingly well in some of the least diverse states in the North like Wisconsin, Vermont, Oregon, Washington and Maine.  There is something to that data point that I hope to get to in the future.  However, Obama didn’t need the white male vote because he took 59% of the vote for non-white men.  This chart shows Obama’s non-white male vote distribution around the country.

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Looks a lot different, doesn’t it?

Combined with data which show the GOP fares very poorly with the expanding hispanic and african-american demographics, the strategy for the GOP and the conservative movement is clear.  Foment a feeling that America is being taken over by radical minorities, muslims, gays and radical “leftists” with their un-american “urban” agenda.

We’re watching this strategy being implemented right now and it is morphing as needed along the way.  At the start of the Obama administration, we saw all sorts of Lee Atwater style tactics and buzzwords used to covertly describe how the black man wants to take away the white man’s rights and privileges.  Socialism!  After a while, the message grew repetitive and Americans have short attention spans, they needed to up the ante to keep the fear machine primed.

Now, we’re seeing the right wing media and tea party movement foment a fear and loathing of Islam.  It’s unifying white people behind the idea that this isn’t “their” America anymore, it’s being taken away from them by elitist, atheist, college educated snobs in the northeast and their black/muslim/gay friends.  Somehow it is a slap in the face of freedom loving Americans everywhere to have Sufi Muslims build a community center on the hallowed ground next to the titty bar and OTB near Ground Zero…right around the corner from another mosque which has been there for decades.

The fear machine provides the GOP its only chance to regain national power in the face of massively and rapidly changing voter demographics. Fire people up, get them to throw tea bags at each other based on misinformation; compare Obama to Mao, Stalin, Hitler.  Claim that Sharia Law is on the way, that the President is a muslim sleeper agent born in Kenya, sent to destroy America from the inside.  They’ll do whatever it takes to motivate the angry white guy who lost his job at the plant due to globalization to get off his ass and get to the polls and maximize turnout.  Demonize gays, blame job losses on unions (not automation efficiencies, shareholder demands and CEO priorities), turn hopelessness into anger and blame.

Will it work?  Can this short-term strategy effectuate a return to power for the GOP?  It might, especially with the President and his castrated Congress alienating and disappointing the liberal base on a daily basis.  Long term, what is the GOP plan to reach out to these changing voter constituencies?  Will they make an effort to reach recent immigrants and minorities and bring them into the GOP tent?  By all accounts, the current plan seems to be a doubling down on maximizing turnout in their shrinking core demographic.

The trends are not on their side; poor, uneducated, misinformed white people will not be a massive voting bloc in many parts of the country for much longer.  However, they’ll continue to stay in power in nationwide rural areas and in the Dixie Belt, which will provide them with enough useful idiot voters who will vote for noted Congressional morons like Louie Gohmert and Joe Wilson.  They’ll create a regional/rural party which will be obstructionist and give them just enough power to work toward the goals noted in the second paragraph of this article.  I’ll dig into all of that and why Congressional Democrats can’t seem to govern in the face of obstructionist dummies as time allows.

Think about this chart until we meet again, it’s probably the most telling of all. It’s a difference between the vote totals of George H.W. Bush in 1988 and the vote totals of John McCain in 2008. It’s stark to see how the GOP base has shrunk so drastically into the dixie belt in just 20 short years.  It also underscores why the GOP has made a permanent shift toward the fringe of the party and why they’ll need to continue doing so to remain relevant.

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The 2011 Chevrolet Camaro: Bitchin’ Again

25 Aug

Growing up in the late 70s and early 80s, the Chevrolet Camaro was something of a joke. We Westchester kids used to associate the Camaro with Long Island Guidos doing three-lane sweeps in heavy traffic. This was a differently-badged Trans Am, belonging in a tongue-in-cheek Burt Reynolds road movies than a serious sports car.

It hadn’t always been that way.

The original Camaro was GM’s response to the hugely popular Ford Mustang. Introduced as a ’67 model, it was a big, bad-ass muscle car, but regrettably morphed through the years into something more closely resembling a cut-rate Corvette than a coupe. Just think IROC-Z and the jokes about what “IROC” stood for. Yeah.

In 2002, GM killed the Camaro off entirely.

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But like the retro Mustang and Challenger, GM joined the muscle car redux bandwagon last year with the 2010 Camaro. Closely resembling the original from ’67, the new version comes available in a cool-looking V6, or a truly epic V8. The V6 offers 312HP and 29 MPG highway, and starts just north of $22k. That’s not too shabby at all, and with rear wheel drive, Stabilitrak stability control, traction control, an independent rear suspension, and 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS standard, it’s a car that can handle the power in normal driving conditions.

Last week, West-Herr Chevy on Southwestern Boulevard in Orchard Park lent me a maroon Camaro SS. The V8, like the V6, comes standard with RWD, stability & traction control, 4-wheel ABS, an independent rear suspension, and all that good stuff. The V8, however, adds a rear limited-slip differential. Both engines come standard with a 6-speed manual gearbox – significant because it’s not that easy to get an affordable car with a V8 driving the rear wheels enabling you to row your own gears.

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The major difference between the V6 and the V8 is, naturally, the powertrain. Because 312HP is clearly inadequate, the V8 bumps you up to a massive 426 HP. The car I drove had GM’s new 6 speed automatic gearbox with manual shifting available through buttons on the back of the steering wheel (the “paddle” is for show). Given the fact that I only had a couple of hours to play with this car, I was lucky to have an automatic because the power from that engine is so intense, and comes on so quickly, that I suspect there would have been a bit of a learning curve – although the manual comes with launch control.

The car’s interior is minimalist and neat. It has everything the driver needs within close proximity, together with radio and cruise controls on the steering wheel. The seats are comfortable, and keep the driver pinned in one position – quite necessary when throwing a very fast car through anything resembling curves. The rear seat was smallish and looked more appropriate for kids than adults. The rear seat folds in one piece, expanding the cargo space of the smallish trunk. It’s quite clear that this vehicle is built for performance and looks over mere utility. And that’s a good thing, because its performance is phenomenal.

Long gone are the days when American carmakers built and sold crap and got away with it. The Camaro’s engine is growly and instantly responsive. Put the pedal down, and it shoots you to 80 MPH before you even realize what happened. The brakes – in the SS you’ve got a set of 4 vented Brembo brakes – are equally responsive, quickly bringing 400+ horses to a safe stop with no panicking. The Camaro shares this particular V8 engine in the SS with its cousin, the Corvette.

Driving around the Southtowns, this car got a lot of looks. One guy crossing the street in front of me in downtown Hamburg mouthed, “that’s sweet” whilst staring at the car’s front end. The car’s handling is tight, and the suspension is firm without being harsh. The driver’s position is quite comfortable, although the narrow windows take a little getting used to. Because of the wide C-pillars, there are some blind spot issues on the rear passenger side. But this car isn’t made for convenience – it’s made to go from 0-60 in 4.6 electrifying seconds.

Amazingly enough, the top-of-the-line Camaro 2SS stickers at just under $35,000. The Corvette with the same damn engine costs $15,000 more.

The Camaro is a supercar for the everyman. It has to be driven to be appreciated.

Check it out at West Herr Chevrolet in Hamburg and Orchard Park.

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In the Race for Attorney General

24 Aug

The Erie County Democratic Committee is (unofficially) supporting Sean Coffey.

Mayor Byron Brown and Legislature Chairwoman Barbara Miller-Williams are supporting Eric Schneiderman.

Steve Pigeon and Congressman Brian Higgins are supporting Kathleen Rice.

Coffey and Pigeon have been doing some bickering, and people should remember that it’s good to bicker with Pedro Espada’s patronage hire.

Meanwhile, when the NY Post’s Fred Dicker asked Republican AG candidate Dan Donovan what he thought about Rick Lazio’s call to investigate the funding of the Park51 community center. Donovan’s reply,

You know, again I saw you on “Good Day New York” this morning on Channel 5, Fred. Great piece. And as you pointed out, no money’s been raised yet, so I don’t know what there is to investigate. But I have never had a discussion about the mosque situation with Mr. Lazio so I don’t know where — what he’s thinking in that area and why he’s calling upon the attorney general. He just never discussed it with me.

Buffalo Quick Hits

23 Aug

All these ideas deserve a full post. Unfortunately, they won’t get them today. So here you go:

What the Buffalo News is up to: Rarely is editorial control so blatant in “mainstream” newspapers. But even the least attentive local newspaper reader will note that the Buffalo News has left the simple reporting of facts far behind in the continuing coverage of the City Grill shootings, and, for reasons of agenda alone, “new” trouble on Chippewa.

What is the coherent message here? Its safe to come downtown and drink, and it’ll be even safer if we move the bar time back to 2am. 

What other explanation can there be for a series of diptychs for the last week, highlighting not only the continuing investigation of the shootings at City Grill, but, mysteriously and simultaneously, crime in the entertainment district on Chippewa. This trend of stories came to a head on Sunday, when the News’ headline concerned the criminal backgrounds of victims of the shootings, while adjacently posting a large picture of an average night on Chippewa. The News is now taking heat for this tasteless, but agenda-directed, news story – papers are burning and more protests are planned. I feel badly for the reporters doing the editorial dirty work.

The two stories are related in several important ways: they cater to the scared white suburbanite (who hasn’t been in downtown Buffalo after dark in years anyway but does buy newspapers), and it furthers the agenda of editors who wish the bartime rolled back to 2am. Regular quotes from Buffalo insiders (such as Croce and Goldman) provide cover for some of the editorializing, but the worst of it can’t be disguised:

Some suggest lifestyle, associations may have put them in harm’s way

Eight young people who grew up on Buffalo’s streets were gunned down in a hail of bullets last weekend outside City Grill downtown, four of them fatally.

They left grieving families. Mournful friends.

And arrest and conviction records.

Who is making these suggestions? Since no one is quoted in the News article, besides a random professor from Hilbert (!), it must be the News itself. But the comingling of the stories ignores some very inconvenient facts. First, the shooting outside City Grill happened at 2:30 am, after patrons were removed from the bar at the new proposed bartime. Secondly, the shooting appears ever more to be gang related. While the News is quick to highlight this fact some of the time (“See, its safe to come drink if you aren’t in a gang!”), it hopes you don’t ask what gangs have to do with Chippewa. Which leads to the third ignored fact – no evidence is provided that arrests are up, crime is up, or violence is up on Chippewa. A series of anecdotes are presented, which could read like the police blotter of many city neighborhoods.

Large parts of the East Side are closer to City Grill than Chippewa. Let’s highlight some of the crime there, and how to fix it, where far worse is happening nightly that is much more related to the tragedy at City Grill. I know its not related to the 2am bar time agenda, but its where the facts should lead you.

Next up for the CEJ? IDA’s: Flush off its victory sinking Bass Pro, the Coaltion for Economic Justice has found its next target: Industrial Development Agencies. Specifically, the six in Erie County that provided $600 Million in tax breaks, of which they deemed $135 Million “wasted” because job creation totals were not met.

I will hand it to the CEJ on one note: they are ideologically consistent, and do target every capitalistic recipient of government money. I look forward to their continued investigations, where they discover the bloated union contracts, mandatory hiring policies, outdated regulations like the Wicks and Scaffold Laws, and government ineptitude that also wastes the taxpayer’s money and provides no public benefit. I won’t hold my breath.

While ideologically consistent, it is clear that the CEJ does not require anyone with a practical economics or business background to participate in their planning. The disconnect from reality is flabbergasting. And not just subjective reality, like my opinion that high corporate taxes and a bad business climate make NY a tough sell to companies for expansion (or even retention), thus requiring tax incentives. But I mean objective reality too – you know, that Great Recession thing made all sorts of companies miss their hiring goals. I wonder if the CEJ union allies realize their employers are being targeted for the waste of their retained and unmoved jobs – manufacturing companies with union workers being a major recipient of IDA aid, after all.

But do not fear! In the future centrally planned economy, there will be enough work for all, each according to their talents, when government provides both the supply and demand, and all hiring and production goals will be met! March on, proud worker!

A home for Rick Lazio: No one wants the Republican Primary to come more than Rick Lazio. Left to his own devices, he issues thoughtful policy recommendations, like a reformed unicameral legislature (do you know Alan’s article is the top Google search for “Lazio Unicameral,” and I had a devil of a time finding this platform plank on Lazio’s own site? Sad.). But faced with crazed charged from his Right, in the form of Mad Paladino, he tracks dangerously into the loonisphere himself.

We can hope that once Paladino is dispatched in September, Cuomo and Lazio will have thoughtful policy debates. I won’t hold my breath for that either. It’ll be nothing but chicken costumes and GZM (that’s Ground Zero Mosque. Libs – don’t hate the player, hate the game) til November.

I’m going to vote for Lazio in September. In a parallel universe, where Paladino didn’t run and Sarah Palin’s handlers never opened a NYT to discover that a YMIA was being put up in downtown Manhattan, I think a Lazio/Cuomo race could have done something constructive for the state. It was not to be.

But Lazio’s policy instincts are good, if his political ones are bad. He has a use in the public service. He is a worthy addition to government in New York. But where is the right place for him? Back to the US House? Cross ticket LG? Mayor or county executive of some ‘burb on Long Island? NYS Senate Majority Leader? I wish I knew, but more, I wish he knew.

It Must Be August #Paladino #NYGov #Park51

23 Aug

Late last week, this happened:

Paladino has criticized New York’s rich menu of social service benefits, which he says encourages illegal immigrants and needy people to live in the state. He has promised a 20 percent reduction in the state budget and a 10 percent income tax cut if elected.

Asked at the meeting how he would achieve those savings, Paladino laid out several plans that included converting underused state prisons into centers that would house welfare recipients. There, they would do work for the state — “military service, in some cases park service, in other cases public works service,” he said — while prison guards would be retrained to work as counselors.

“Instead of handing out the welfare checks, we’ll teach people how to earn their check. We’ll teach them personal hygiene … the personal things they don’t get when they come from dysfunctional homes,” Paladino said.

…and this:

Paladino told The Associated Press the dormitory living would be voluntary, not mandatory, and would give welfare recipients an opportunity to take public, state-sponsored jobs far from home.

“These are beautiful properties with basketball courts, bathroom facilities, toilet facilities. Many young people would love to get the hell out of cities,” Paladino he said.

He also defended his hygiene remarks, saying he had trained inner-city troops in the Army and knows their needs.

“You have to teach them basic things — taking care of themselves, physical fitness. In their dysfunctional environment, they never learned these things,” he said

Under normal circumstances, a traditional candidate for governor of the state of New York would have been long ago disqualified from serving, and his campaign would be in tatters. But because Paladino is a self-funded millionaire, the resources are available to him to say and do utterly ridiculous things and continue to plow ahead.

Like when he called Governor Paterson a “drug addict“, Paladino will neither apologize nor walk back his outrageous and offensive mouthshits. He will instead double down on them, patting himself on the back for not being “politically correct”. Regrettably, literally hundreds of people around the state will be pleased by his defamatory “tough talk”.

The Paladino campaign has succeeded in gaining attention and some traction in the polls, but in so doing Carl has made headlines for sheer idiocy. Whether it was sending out racist & pornographic emails, calling the Governor a “drug addict”, trying to out-pogrom Rick Lazio on the Park51 community center in lower Manhattan, and now this – labor camps for the poors.

And I don’t throw around the term “pogrom” loosely.

A protest against the Park51 project (and Sharia law, and Islam in general) was held in lower Manhattan yesterday, and during it, an African-American carpenter who works on the Ground Zero construction project had the misfortune of walking by the protest wearing a white shirt and white do-rag. Some in the energized crowd mistook him for a Muslim, and he came within inches of being an assault & battery victim.

When people like Carl Paladino, who are unmistakably but inexplicably taken seriously as political candidates say that the Park51 center is a “monument to those who attacked our country” on 9/11, that’s calling every single Muslim a terrorist.

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When you put together the entire equation of what’s happening in that video, including the background lies and hatemongering that have whipped that crowd into that frenzy, this is no different from a contemporary anti-Muslim pogrom. It’s not about 9/11 or insulting the memories of those who perished on that day. Contrary to the bigots’ assertions, this isn’t some “victory mosque” or a coded project to force Americans to submit to Sharia Law. This is, quite frankly, what leads to a Kristallnacht or crosses burning on a lawn. That’s not to say that there are honest people who are genuinely offended by the idea of a mosque. But when you have a frenzied mob aggressively accost an innocent passerby because they think (incorrectly) that he’s Muslim, that goes far beyond the pale.

When Carl goes on about jamming the poors into a decommissioned jail so’s they can get their work on in various parts of the state as a sort of nouveau Civilian Conservation Corps, you have a bunch of interesting stuff going on.

Usually, tea party Republican candidates don’t tout modern-day versions of New Deal government jobs. We can make Carl’s CCC stand for “Carl’s Camps of Couth”. The notion that poor people, or people on government assistance can’t keep themselves clean is offensive on its face and needs no further comment. But, like Carl’s platform plank where he would require welfare recipients to be residents of New York State for a year before receiving benefits, he is uninformed about the law. A residency requirement is not legal. Carl’s assumption that welfare queens sit around having kids all day while smellily watching Maury is based on a pre-1996 vision of government assistance.

It’s a shame that these are the issues we’re discussing when it comes to New York and its dysfunctional government. The word for all of this is “laughingstock“.

Escape the Urban: Northern Adirondacks

22 Aug

Escaping the Urban is a new regular feature exploring the outdoors near Western New York. This is the second in a series of columns on the Adirondacks. 

Photo courtesy adknccrafts.com

Buffalo is hardly stifling in the summer. Even stuck in the most oppressive of the summer heat, our humid August days are moderated by the prevailing lake breezes, and pale in comparison to the sufferings of our southern and downstate neighbors. And yet, an escape to the mountains, with the chilly nip in the morning, warm sunny days built for swimming, and hoodie-sweatshirt nights, calls my name by the dog days each year. One could do far worse than the 300 mile drive to the northern Adirondacks, home of the High Peaks, endless paddling, and funky mountain towns.   

The well heeled escaped the heat of New York City at the turn of the last century by taking the train north to the Adirondacks, building large lodges and cabins called Great Camps, with their own distinctive style of casual and rustic luxury: wide porches (to take in “The Cure“), great fireplaces and sitting rooms, and relaxing chairs that beg for a book and an hour.  

For the same cost as the Best Western in Lake Placid, stay in your own Great Camp built in 1916 along the shore above Lower Stony Creek Pond. 

We comfortably slept four adults and five children at this perfect basecamp for a week of adventures. No, you can’t drink the water, and thus have to bring your own. Yes, you bring your own towels and sheets, and sleep on beds labeled “Patented May 1898.” But you also wake up to this view everyday, have your own swimming dock anchored offshore, and have five kayaks and canoes waiting for you at your own boathouse down the embankment. 

And where those ponds and streams can lead you. Our camp was along the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, a 740 mile water trail connecting Old Forge, New York to Fort Kent, Maine, via Vermont, Quebec, and New Hampshire. A historical route used by Native Americans and European fur traders, it has gained popularity recently as it has been “rediscovered” and promoted by a 10 year old non-profit of the same name. Some day I’m going to paddle it from end to end in one go, a trip of 40 or 50 days. For now, I had to content myself with 4 miles of it, from Raquette Falls to the Indian Carry portage off the northern Stony Creek Pond. What I missed in length I made up for in convenience; there is nothing better than putting your warm cup of coffee down on a sunny morning, walking down a hill, and pushing off your kayak that has been waiting for you on the lake’s edge. 

If the flatwater is too tame for you, raft down the Hudson, a classic northeast white water trip. While the snow melt creates the biggest rapids in the spring, regular dam releases keep the Hudson moving all summer, and its just tame enough that I could bring my seven year old along on his first trip. The Class II-III water was just enough excitement for me, and his perpetual grin proved there was plenty of rush for him. 

There is more to the ‘Dacks, though, than water; its the combination of peak, stream and town that appeals. Broad State Route 3, a legacy of the 1980 Winter Olympics, winds a thin veneer of civilization across the northern landscape. With the steady parade of cabins, restaurants, gas stations, ice cream stands, and snowmobile repair garages along the highway, it is easy to convince yourself that the woods and lakes are just screening more civilization, like the green tube of the NYS Thruway. Sitting on a restaurant deck on Mirror Lake in the town of Lake Placid, drinking some Ubu Ale (oh, its good), the city may not feel quite so far away. But climb up a peak, like Mount Ampersand, and get a view, and you will be reminded how far out you are.  

Whether it was the early rise of the sun or the exuberant birdsong outside my window, one morning I found myself awake before the rest of the cabin. I padded downstairs as quietly as I could, but 94 year old wooden beams creak in morning cold, and I was soon joined by my seven year old son. 

“Can we go take the canoe out, Daddy?” Sounds great. 

The mist was still clinging to the lake water when we pushed off. My son’s oar was two feet too long, but that didn’t stop him from enthusiastically paddling anyway, t-handle above his head. I guided us to the north end of the pond and upstream on the marshy creek that is the inlet. A young white tail buck, a velvety six-point, stood knee-deep on the swampy edge and politely ignored us, chewing waterlilies with his head up. With a couple quiet strokes, I guided the canoe towards the bank, and pulled within a couple yards of the buck. We waited, watched. He sniffed, nodded and we both moved on. 

The creek led to a bridge, and we paddled under, entering the wide northern Stony Creek Pond. We crossed, coming upon a lone island, covered in rock and pine and white birch, with a sad solitary cabin claiming its highest point. My son and I talked about what it would be like to winter in a 200 square foot cabin, on an island in a pond, before the days of paved roads and cell phones, with only a book and your fire to keep you company. We pulled up to a camp site on the northern pond edge, found bear scat and large Pileated Woodpecker holes, and climbed a small rise to look over the lake. Water meets stone, stone meets tree, tree meets sky. 

“How do people get to this campsite,” my son asked me. “There are no roads. Where do you put your car?” 

“You have to paddle. You can’t drive here.” 

My son thought about that for a moment, and then ran down the hill, giggling all the way back to the canoe. 

We pushed off again, back towards the cabin, and with our bellies rumbling, wondered aloud if Uncle Kurt was up and making scrambled eggs. The mist had started to burn off, but the lake was absolutely still, a perfect mirror of the pine forest and sunrise. I looked off to the right, and pointed out a loon, bobbing on the water, already awake and diving for fish in the lake. We’ve heard his call at night, a lonely wail, while we sat around the campfire, cooking and talking. 

“Dad, I like Adirondacks. I don’t know why.” 

I do.

Required Reading

22 Aug

There were two articles written in the past 14 days which should be required reading for anyone who wants to have an honest discussion about “financial reform” as proposed by President Obama and passed by Congress or about Park51, aka the “Ground Zero Mosque”.

Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone has provided some of the best analysis and coverage of the financial reform bill and the epic collapse of our financial system in 2008.  He writes in an accessible and biting way that simplifies the issue without dumbing it down.  For instance, his article from April titled, “The Great American Bubble Machine” is required reading for understanding the financial crisis.

The former Buffalo resident and the original editor of the once great Buffalo Beast, has written an article which should have every Obama supporter crying into their Hope T-shirts.

Over a long year of feverish lobbying and brutally intense backroom negotiations, a group of D.C. insiders fought over a single question: Just how much of the truth about the financial crisis should we share with the public? Do we admit that control over the economy in the past dec­ade was ceded to a small group of rapacious criminals who to this day are engaged in a mind-­numbing campaign of theft on a global scale? Or do we pretend that, minus a few bumps in the road that have mostly been smoothed out, the clean-hands capitalism of Adam Smith still rules the day in America? In other words, do people need to know the real version, in all its majestic whorebotchery, or can we get away with some bullshit cover story?

In passing Dodd-Frank, they went with the cover story.

The involvement of the Obama Administration in the construction of that cover story narrative is depressing.

As for the issue of the Park51 story that has become the central Republican created bullshit distraction issue of the election season, Frank Rich of the New York Times pretty much shuts down the dummies with this brilliant Op-Ed.

So virulent is the Islamophobic hysteria of the neocon and Fox News right — abetted by the useful idiocy of the Anti-Defamation League, Harry Reid and other cowed Democrats — that it has also rendered Gen. David Petraeus’s last-ditch counterinsurgency strategy for fighting the war inoperative. How do you win Muslim hearts and minds in Kandahar when you are calling Muslims every filthy name in the book in New York?

Also, a couple of required viewing videos from the week that was…

Jon Stewart also destroys right wing talking points on Park51

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The following video is not political in any way, it’s just awesome.  Cee-Lo Green is back…if you’re at work or around kids, I suggest headphones.  The song is excellent, but profane.

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