THE CAPITOL CONNECTION: Who’s next for governor​?

SO HOW IS KATHY HOCHUL DOING in her new gubernatorial role? Well, she’s got a lot going for her. In the first place, and most importantly, she is not Andrew Cuomo. That may be tougher than you think. After all, she was lieutenant governor (number 2) under Cuomo. She now has to assure people that she was not responsible for having pushed Cuomo out and not alienating the Cuomo supporters who are still out there.

You all know the story. Cuomo picked her for lieutenant governor and then turned on her. She stood up to him and she prevailed. Now she is serving as governor for a few short months. She says she will run for the full term. On first blush, she has handled herself competently. She has made the right moves and said the right things, but she has not shown herself to be inspirational.

She is the first woman to serve as governor of New York which in itself is very important. She comes from the Erie-Niagara region and that may be a problem in that it is usually the New York City areas that pick the big state wide Democrats. She will almost certainly have a real downstate New Yorker running against her, someone like Tish James, the uber-accomplished attorney general who is also a woman and who is Black. James has really distinguished herself as attorney general and could well beat Hochul in a primary. Read more…

THE CATSKILL GEOLOGISTS: Columbia County and climate change: a history of landslides

WE HAVE BEEN PROGNOSTICATING about how climate change might affect Columbia County over the course of future decades. We have suggested that rising sea levels may raise the level of the Hudson River and that our local climate may become a good bit rainier. We have gone on to suggest that landslide events may become more frequent. Our fear is that heavier rain may soak into our region’s glacial lake deposits and trigger those slides. That would be all the worse if the waters of the Hudson did indeed rise.

But it’s not as if we haven’t already had enough large landslides. We have. The most recent big one struck in February of 2006. It was a slide of glacial lake deposits along the edge of Claverack Creek. That slide occurred very near the Sons and Daughters of Italy Lodge on Bridge Street in the town of Greenport. The clubhouse was located right on the banks of the creek. Right here, that creek flowed through the deposits of Glacial Lake Albany. This was not a particularly deep canyon. It was simply not a dangerous looking location. We suspect that no one ever even imagined that anything like this could happen.

But the year 2005 had seen a relatively rainy fall and winter. The sediments of Lake Albany are likely to have become very soggy. The predictable occurred; the earth gave way and rotated downwards. It was a big slide, measuring about a thousand feet in length along the edge of the river. Fortunately for the Sons and Daughters of Italy, the slide missed their building, but it was a very close call. The slide was a perfect example of a rotational slump. It left a nearly vertical cliff-like “head” right next to the lodge. See our first photo. The downhill “toe” of the slide had flowed into the stream. There were fears that those sediments would dam the creek and cause a flood, but fortunately that did not happen. Read more…

THE CAPITOL CONNECTION: The game’s still rigged

EVERYONE TALKS ETHICS REFORM. Good idea, but the players in the political game are no different than the players in all the other games—like the people who run the biggest corporations in America but pay little or no taxes thanks to their lobbyists and their lack of social conscience.

Legislators or governors get elected and then convince themselves that they are not paid enough for what they do. They then fix the rules in order to favor themselves. In some cases, they actually believe their own garbage. They are convinced that only they can do their jobs. Years ago, I heard a senior state senator suggest that if he wasn’t there, some kids would be running and ruining things.

I was a college professor for a long, long time. I took on extra courses because I wanted to. Trust me, some of my colleagues were not happy about that and thought that I was showing off to their disadvantage. Fixing the game is what it’s all about. It really is no different in the state legislature. All of a sudden, a great phalanx of legislators, Democrats and Republicans alike, decided that the governor was corrupt. Out came the long knives and pompous, nay pious, attestations of gubernatorial wrongdoing. Oh, don’t get me wrong. His character was not sterling, particularly when it came to political skulduggery. On the other hand, neither were theirs. They had the nerve to yell about changing the rules of gubernatorial politics, but I heard almost nothing about fixing the larger political game. Read more…

THE CATSKILL GEOLOGISTS: Climate change in Columbia County: the facts

ALL MODERN GEOLOGISTS have, to some extent, become environmental geologists. We have all been trained in the various traditional subfields of geology but have been forced by necessity to anticipate the environmental implications of our sciences. That includes the two of us. In this column we continue trying to answer the seemingly simple question how are possible climate changes likely to affect Columbia County. Let’s begin by summarizing some of what exactly is known about climate change hereabouts.

There are very good records on local temperature and rainfall rates from the Albany Weather Bureau. They go back to the 1820s. That’s less than two centuries but it includes most all of the world’s Industrial Revolution. So those records include almost all of the time during which climate change has been observed. The temperature records are not very exciting. We have had an average year-round temperature of 49½ degrees F. during all that time. The overall average has gone up about one degree. That may not sound like much—and it isn’t. It has been unusual for decadal temperatures to depart from the average by more than one or two degrees. In short, not much is happening to our temperatures.

Rainfall rates are more interesting—and more concerning. We received about 40 inches of rain per year during the 1820s and 1830s. Then there was a century of decline until a bottom of about 30 inches per year was reached during the 1940s. Since then, rainfall rates have climbed back up again to about 40 inches. That’s a steep rise, but is it for real? Climate change skeptics would likely cite this as typical random fluctuation of weather patterns. We can’t prove them to be wrong but if they are wrong and there is a continued increase in the rainfall, then we have serious worries. We fear heavier rains will trigger problems. Only time will tell for sure.

Well, those are the facts, not the conclusions; we will pursue this theme next time.

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KNOW THE VAX FACTS: We are at a crossroads

WE HAVE DEEP DIVISIONS in this country and many of us find ourselves on opposite sides of various issues. Differences of opinion are allowed, and debate is a hallmark of a healthy democracy.

But in times of crisis, people often put aside their differences to help their neighbors. This has been discussed in behavioral sciences for years. We see this in the aftermath of hurricanes, earthquakes, flooding, forest fires, as people come together to support each other, helping to rebuild what has been lost.

And we even pray.  Science helps us understand the beauty of creation, and how we are entrusted to be good stewards of this Earth. We are at a crossroads. Read more…