EDITORIAL: Football doesn’t matter

I PLAYED FOOTBALL in high school, but I didn’t have what they call natural ability. I left the bench if somebody bigger couldn’t remember a play. I liked other sports better.

These days, high school football has led to a bitter debate in the Ichabod Crane Central School District as the Tuesday, May 17 vote approaches, clouding the prospects for passage of the budget proposal. And while this year football is the issue at ICC, three other school districts in the county field teams, and voters there undoubtedly will soon face similar dilemmas. Read more…

EDITORIAL: IT matters

WHAT A SURPRISE the first time I got email from the relative of a former king of a West African country who needed my assistance to recover the late monarch’s fortune in a Swiss bank if only I would most urgently send airfare, and my social security and credit card numbers for which I would receive immediately a fee of $4 million and a royal title. The next few trillion similar messages were less amusing.

These days you don’t see as many of these blatant scams, although they do persist. The truly destructive fraudsters now bilk us in ways either more sophisticated or much simpler. The sophisticated ones come from hackers who steal personal data from big computers and loot the bank accounts of their unwitting victims. The simpler path to trouble comes when we don’t take or deliberately ignore basic security precautions. Read more…

With protests, you never know

AS DEMONSTRATIONS GO the one in front of the Bank of America branch in Chatham last week was kind of puny. About 25, mostly middle-aged people showed up. They behaved politely and the police paid no attention that I could tell. One person was posting reports about the event on her Facebook page, but she was a member of the press. Nobody tweeted, and it didn’t feel like the protesters’ demands were likely to topple either the bank or the government.

Holding a demonstration at noon on a Monday makes it hard for people who work day jobs to attend. But the date, April 18, had significance for the demonstrators because it was the deadline this year for filing federal income taxes. The folks picketing the bank want to change the budget conversation in Washington from the singular focus on cuts in federal spending on services like education and health to a discussion about why corporations like the bank can pay no income taxes, even though they make huge profits and benefit from government bailouts. Read more…

Rough start in Chatham

YEARS AGO ACROSS the river a new supervisor won election promising to bring common sense and fiscal discipline to a town in need of both. His campaign pledges were more than political blah, blah, blah. The town was drowning in a soup of opinions cooked up by people who considered themselves experts on every topic under the sun, regardless of the facts. These great thinkers were eager to enlighten the new Town Board.

The supervisor’s initial town meeting went smoothly enough at first, as he presided in an amiable, low key fashion. But unable to remain silent a moment longer, one of the wise men began to babble. Swiftly, not saying a word, the supervisor picked up the gavel and brought it down on the table with a crack like a shotgun fired in an oil drum – so loud that everybody in the room jumped.

He savored the silence for a moment, then the supervisor calmly reminded the audience that the board had set aside parts of the meeting for public comment and everyone who wished to speak would have a turn. The great thinkers quickly grew impatient and left, taking their great thoughts with them. Town meetings got shorter and more productive.

Read more…

Editorial: The census and your vote

DID YOU NOTICE all the vacant homes in Copake, Canaan and Ancram? The U.S. Census Bureau did, and from the numbers — it lists 41% of Copake homes as vacant — you’d think these places are ghost towns, with tumbleweed bouncing down Route 22.

But no, the homes the census considers “vacant” include dwellings where nobody was home last year when census workers counted heads, a definition that covers snowbirds in Florida and weekenders who got counted somewhere else. Still, the countywide rate for such vacant homes did rise about 3% over the last decade to 21% of all the homes here. That’s more than double the state average, and it hints at some of the political shifts ahead. Read more…