Archive for June, 2013

No cash, no problems

Friday, June 21st, 2013
Shawn Magrath

It’s no secret that welfare abuse is a problem that exists in (and well beyond) the parameters of Chenango County. So any effort of local, state, and federal legislators to mitigate the threat of welfare abuse is something I would usually stand and applaud. However, a bill passed in the State Senate this week that would prohibit welfare recipients from using cash assistance to gamble, or buy tobacco products and alcohol, I think deserves a little criticism, not because I disagree with the intent to cut down on welfare fraud, but because I think the bill, in reality, is meaningless since it’s almost impossible to enforce.

Making it illegal to use public assistance for anything other than basic essentials, while good in theory, falls way short of solving the actual problem at hand. The problem, as identified by the Public Assistance Integrity Act, is that individuals receiving welfare are using cash assistance (which is not currently regulated) for anything and everything other than its intended use. But in my opinion, labeling such action “illegal” isn’t going to stop violators (an argument I’m sure pro-gunners are all too familiar with). Not to mention, how could anyone prove cash spent at the strip club is that of public assistance? And will the impending investigations of cash assistance misuse cost tax payers just as much, if not more, than what it’s currently costing without tougher restrictions in place (and please note, I’m not implying anything here… I really don’t have an answer)?

The bill would also prevent individuals who receive welfare from using their electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards to make ATM withdrawals from certain places, including liquor stores, casinos and strip clubs. My theory? It’s much better to find a way to ditch cash assistance altogether. So what if ATM withdrawals can only be made at the bank across the street from the liquor store? I’m sure the money withdrawn will spend the same. Perhaps – if it’s possible – we should broaden the Food Stamps program to include other essentials like toiletries, toothpaste, hygiene products and the like, and eliminate cash assistance altogether. No cash, no problems. It seems so simple.

I can’t help but think the Senate’s decision to pass this legislation was anything more than an impulsive reaction to the recent threat of losing $120 million in federal funds for cash assistance (a good reaction, maybe, but a quick and non-specific one no less). That is to say, the issue of welfare fraud certainly didn’t grow overnight. Legislators have had time – years, even – to give the issue more thought and develop a better solution. In my opinion, the Senate’s bill is too little an effort to control what has become a frustrating issue for the millions who genuinely need public assistance and use it responsibly.

Hitting the road – PorcFest bound

Friday, June 21st, 2013
Ashley Babbitt

The recent weeks have been pretty eventful for anyone paying any attention to local, state, national, or worldwide happenings. The protests in Turkey and now Brazil, continuous “updates” on the NSA, Supreme Court’s decision to essentially disregard the Fifth Amendment, the COO of Golden Artist Colors, Inc. speaking before the U.S. House Committee on Small Business, preliminary talks of bringing a homeless shelter to Chenango County, and the hot-topic of the Village of Oxford elections – of which voter turn-out was significantly higher than previous years, telling me the Oxford residents are paying attention.

At any rate, a lot is going on and always is. I’ve always figured if there is something interesting taking place, I might as well check it out. Therefore, this weekend – as soon as I get out of work, rather – I will be packing a few things into my car and heading for the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

The tenth annual Porcupine Freedom Festival – as part of the Free State Project – has been in full swing since Monday, but even with my late arrival this evening I will have the opportunity to meet many peaceful, liberty-minded folks, hear from some pretty prominent people within the freedom-oriented community, eat some tasty food, and do whatever my little heart desires.

The festival has been commonly referred to as PorcFest – no – it is not a direct bacon reference (I don’t even like bacon… crazy, I know). The porcupine has been used as a libertarian “mascot” or symbol if you will – as it is the porcupine is an animal who harms no one if left alone, but will defend itself if need be.

I’ll have the opportunity to learn about gardening, firearms etiquette, hear Antonio Buehler of the Peaceful Streets Project (the goal of which is to create a cultural shift where individuals understand their rights and hold law enforcement accountable, and communities protect and serve each other) and Buehler Education speak about Education Entrepreneurship, hear speakers regarding jury nullification, listen to a panel discussion by ladies involved in the liberty movement, take part in a CPR workshop, among many other events and discussions.

2012 Libertarian Presidental candidate Gov. Gary Johnson speaks tomorrow evening – something I’m very excited about. Johnson was the Governor of New Mexico from 1995-2003 and is probably best known for his veto record – which includes more than 750 during his time in office. When he ran in 2012, Johnson garnered the most votes in a Presidental election in the Libertarian Party’s history. I don’t agree with him totally by any means, but he certainly received my vote in 2012 – so I’m looking forward to his talk.

There are radio shows broadcast, documentary screenings, ice cream socials, a pig roast, dance parties (if you’ve read anything I’ve written, you many have noticed I have an affinity for dance parties. Usually solo, but hey – you never know), music, kid-friendly fun (I don’t have any kids but little tykes will be taking part in a number of track and field events, which might be fun to watch), and tons of other things.

Mind you, all the aforementioned are taking place either tonight, tomorrow, or Sunday. Imagine a week’s worth of that. Ah, too much fun – or maybe my idea of fun is different than yours.

Vendors in Agora Valley will be selling just about anything neat you can think of: Ice cream, homemade juice, chili, baklava (I hear it’s the best I will ever have), books, clothes, documentaries, handmade jewelry, organic soaps… you name it, you can probably buy it – or trade something for it. It seems as though it is the epitome of a free market.
The six-hour drive will prove to be a fun adventure in itself, as there’s nothing like a good road trip. Granted, the cd player in my car is on the fritz and my iPod was snagged from my car a while back so the radio will have to suffice, but once I get out of the area maybe there’ll be a cool station that plays something I’m into.

So happy Friday, folks. Enjoy your weekend and get out and do something fun. I am beyond excited to spend the weekend camping with about a thousand or so liberty-oriented and freedom-loving activists, authors, speakers, economists, and “average Joes.”

Catch you when I get back.

Chenango County Amateur First-Round Scores

Saturday, June 15th, 2013
Patrick Newell

AFTON – The following are first-round scores from the Chenango County Amateur Golf Tournament contested Saturday at Afton Golf Club, a par-72 layout. Canasawacta Country Club will host the final round of tournament play Sunday morning.
(Overall scoring irrespective of division)
Bob Branham–71
Bryan Evans–71
Brenon Maynard–71
Dave Riley–71
Rick Ferris–72
Tom McCarthy–73
Edd Jenkins–74
Eric Walling–75
Mark DeMellier–76
Sal Testani–76
Jim Wysor–76
Ryan Johnson–77
Hal Skillin–77
Colin Fraser–78
Joe McBride–78
Patrick Newell–78
Wayne Emmons–80
Jim Johnson–81
Steve Upton–82
Butch Muserallo–84
Cliff Tamsett–85
Ernie Muserallo–86
Lou Guzzetta–88
Mark McLaughlin–93
Rich Latham–WD
Chuck Gardner–WD

You don’t read the newspaper?

Friday, June 14th, 2013
Shawn Magrath

• I’m a sucker for old buildings, so of course I jumped at a chance Friday morning to get a peek of the inner working of the Chapman and Turner clock that overlooks Broad Street at the main intersection of downtown Norwich. The clock, which has worked on and off since I moved to Norwich four years ago, is on again, thanks to the commitment of a few historians and the financial support of a generous local charity. I suppose for some, it might seem like a trivial matter. But I’d like to think that for most, having a downtown clock that’s right more than twice a day is welcome news.

• Now I don’t usually call out ’30 Seconds’ posters, simply because I believe everyone is entitled to their opinion and the ’30 Seconds’ page on The Evening Sun website is a platform to express it. That said, there have been a few posts and phone calls this week regarding area sex offenders and a need for greater public awareness via the newspaper (i.e. where they live, their age, their offense, and their threat level). I couldn’t agree more. Anyone who regularly reads the paper also sees the number of sex crimes that go before the Chenango County Grand Jury each month, and the countless other sexually based offenses committed in this area. However, I would also like to point out that The Evening Sun is not the only source for such information. If you are a concerned parent or resident, there are resources to turn to (not to mention, if you aren’t being notified that you’re neighbor is a predator when you have kids to worry about, there is an obvious kink in the line of communication between you and local authorities).

• National headlines this week were dominated by stories of Edward Snowden, the man who revealed Monday that he was solely responsible for leaks of secret service operations to news media outlets in May. Feelings of whether this considers Snowden a hero or a traitor aside, what I find most surprising about this story is the surprise surrounding it. That is to say, I wasn’t taken back by information that the NSA was collecting phone records and conducting email surveillance. Like it or not, there’s a lot of information about everybody out there that, thanks to the digital age, has become increasingly easier for government officials to access. Fact is, that’s just the Orwellian age we live in. I’ll even wager that someplace, there’s somebody who know more about me than I do, and that’s a scary thought… though I do have a favorite sweatshirt that’s been MIA for a month. Maybe they know where it is…

• Shifting gears a bit, I stumbled across a somewhat interesting article written in Forbes magazine this week. The topic of the article: “13 Things You Should Never Say at Work.” According to the author, there are just some things that shouldn’t be overheard in the workplace. In order to take leadership in any company, the article says employees should stick to words and phrases that empower others. Included on the list of phrases off limits are: “That’s not my job,” “That’s not fair,” “I’ll try,” and “He’s/She’s a jerk” (admittedly, I’m guilty of saying that last one on more than one occasion; but to be fair, it’s never been about a co-worker). The list got me thinking of things I wish I hadn’t heard in The Evening Sun office, which in my mind are equally valid. Things like: “I don’t read the newspaper. I don’t like the reporters,” or “I’m glad I’m not in a profession that deals with people,” and the classic, “This milk has been in the refrigerator longer than I’ve been working here.” But I’d like to think every workplace has its own disclosed taboos.

Team Edward

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013
Ashley Babbitt

Possessing or showing courage or determination in the face of danger. That’s the definition of valiant. Synonymous with heroic, brave, and even plucky… a word I love.

A person who betrays a friend, country, or principle. That’s the definition of traitor. Synonymous with recreant, dastard, and renegade. The crime of betraying one’s country is referred to as treason.

I would hope by now you’ve heard of Edward Snowden. If not, I’ll provide a quick breakdown.

Edward Snowden, 29, was employed by the government contractor Booz Allen Hamilton as an infrastructure analyst for the National Security Agency (NSA), and had worked out of the Virginia based company in Hawaii for less than three months. Three fourths of this private company’s 25,000 employees hold government security clearances and half of their employees hold top secret clearances. Snowden worked for the CIA previously, and most likely retained the security clearance he gained with that position. Once he left the government position and moved to private contractors, he was able to keep his clearance, which granted him access to offices, files, communications and computer networks. He had worked for the NSA through various private contractors for the past four years. It was announced Tuesday that Snowden was fired from Booz Allen Hamilton.

Snowden decided to disclose top-secret information to the public regarding actions that are being conducted by the NSA including their program codenamed PRISM. The program accesses data held by internet companies including Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo, Skype and others (Some heads of these companies have released statements denying the allegations, but as for me, I take whatever Mark Zuckerberg has to say with a grain of salt). The data obtained contains detailed online actions including social media activity, live chats and the contents of emails.

There is an interview with Snowden readily available online where he lays out not only what PRISM is all about and how the US government is blatantly violating our privacy, but how he feels about coming forward. Watch it if you haven’t already. I implore you.

In the interview he states, “The NSA specifically targets the communications of everyone. It ingests them by default. It collects them in its system and it filters them and it analyzes them and it measures them and it stores them for periods of time simply because that’s the easiest, most efficient and most valuable way to achieve these ends. So while they may be intending to target someone associated with a foreign government, or someone that they suspect of terrorism, they are collecting your communications to do so.”

Now, the argument has been made that the actions being carried out by the NSA are completely legal because a warrant must be obtained to look further into an individual’s information. …My question is then, do you trust the government? You believe what it tells you? If you want to blindly follow and trust what you’re told, so be it – but that means we’re in different zones completely.

The 2011 Analyst’s Desktop Binder of the Department of Homeland Security was released due to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. Beginning on page 21 of this document are the key words analysts monitor on social media sites to pinpoint “threats.” After reading the list of key terms multiple times, I feel like I can say with confidence the majority of people I know have used these terms on social media sites, likely on a regular basis. Here are just a few: Cops, militia, deaths, shooting, sick, pork, cloud, Mexico, burn, North Korea, subway, cancelled, electric, marijuana, drug war, bust, Afghanistan, snow, social media, homegrown, power lines, worm.

Yes, you read those correctly. Sick, worm, pork. …Awesome, right?

“The government has granted itself power it is not entitled to. There is no public oversight. The result is people like myself have the latitude to go further than they are allowed to,” said Snowden in the interview. “Even if you’re not doing anything wrong, you’re being watched and recorded. …it’s getting to the point where you don’t have to have done anything wrong, you simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody, even by a wrong call, and then they can use this system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you’ve ever made, every friend you’ve ever discussed something with, and attack you on that basis, to sort of derive suspicion from an innocent life.”

If this stuff isn’t sending chills up and down your spine or striking a nerve with you… I’m sorry.

Stripped of our privacy, what do we have left? Our freedom of speech is being infringed daily, New York is not an ideal place to live if you’re a gun owner or value the second amendment, property rights are being violated continuously, and I could continue, but won’t for the sake of brevity. The revelation of this information by Snowden – hopefully – has opened the eyes of everyone living their cozy little life.

The Obama Administration stood behind the actions of the NSA asserting it uses legal means to obtain the information. Check out the video on YouTube comparing Obama pre-presidency in 2007 and the speech he made just days ago. …How’s that “change” working out for you?

In regards to Snowden, Speaker of the House John Boehner said Tuesday in an interview, “”He’s a traitor…The president outlined last week that these were important national security programs to help keep Americans safe and give us tools to fight the terrorist threat that we face.”

I wholeheartedly disagree with Boehner and whoever else thinks Snowden is a traitor, or thinks he has committed acts of treason.

How many people are actually scared of terrorism? – Now that’s a legitimate question I have – but I understand the answers will differ based geographical location. I’m honestly not, and I don’t think it’s because of all the “security measures” the government has in place. The last two times I flew I was escorted to a special area where I was directed to wait for a female TSA agent to arrive, who then told me to remove my shirt because she had to inspect my “sensitive areas.” How many terrorist plots has the TSA foiled since its inception? Costing about 8 billion dollars per year you’d think it’d be pretty effective. I don’t think so. I didn’t feel one bit safer, just ridiculously violated.

Do I trust our government? Simply put, no – and I’ll leave it at that for now, because I could ramble on forever. But do you? And what are you willing to give up for the sake of so-called “security?”

Are you willing to give up your comforts, your family, the life you know, to awaken the world if only for a short time? Snowden was.

Said Snowden, “The great fear that I have regarding the outcome for America of these disclosures is that nothing will change. [People] won’t be willing to take the risks necessary to stand up and fight to change things… And in the months ahead, the years ahead, it’s only going to get worse. [The NSA will] say that… because of the crisis, the dangers that we face in the world, some new and unpredicted threat, we need more authority, we need more power, and there will be nothing the people can do at that point to oppose it. And it will be turnkey tyranny.”

I, for one, am all for changing things. What we have now isn’t working. More authority, more power… that is not what the government needs at all.

Edward Snowden was in a hotel in Hong Kong when he was interviewed. He had mentioned thoughts of seeking asylum in Iceland. He has since checked out of the hotel where he was staying and his whereabouts are currently unknown. He expressed fears the harmful effects on his family, who he said he will no longer be able to help.

He also stated, “I do not expect to see home again.”

You know what, folks…. go ahead… spend $15 dollars to go watch your hero in a cape stop the bad guys on a big screen – I heard one of those movies just came out. He may even do something fancy in a phone booth. Then go home, turn on the news and hear the real hero – the plucky Edward Snowden – being deemed a traitor for revealing what he knows is a violation of our rights. Or, save your money, turn off your TV and do some reading, or at least some thinking.

A friend of mine begged me to go with her to see Twilight when it came out however many years ago. Against my better judgement, I did… yuck. Afterward I was asked if I was “Team Edward” or “Team Jacob.” I honestly had no opinion.

Today, I can say with absolute pride I am Team Edward… Edward Snowden, that is.

Sports Editor’s Playbook, June 4, 2013

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013
Patrick Newell

Public speaking is not my forte. I will admit that, primarily since it something I rarely do. I have always preferred to remain inconspicuous, and leave the spotlight to the athletes, coaches, and teams that I cover.
Last week, Art Rigas, AD for Norwich High School, phoned me with a request. He asked if I would be available to speak at the senior athletics banquet, sponsored by the NHS Student Athletic Council. After reviewing my schedule to make sure I didn’t have another commitment, I emailed Art back and said my evening was clear. Almost immediately, I started writing my speech. Over the past five days, I wrote and rewrote different passages, and even rehearsed it three or four times. Tonight, (Tuesday, June 4), I delivered my first public speech in 10 years. With the exception of two or three extemporaneous remarks, below is the text of my speech to the NHS Class of 2013:

I want to thank the Norwich athletics department for asking me to speak to the Norwich senior athletes from the class of 2013. I know some of you here have probably sat through at least 10 banquets, and have heard dozens of speeches. I promise (really) to keep this brief.
I did a little math when I thought of the year 2013. Subtracting 18 years, my guess is that most of the senior class was born in 1995. Can I get a little nod from the seniors if I have that right? Interesting parallel, at least to me. Guess when I started writing sports for The Evening Sun… yeah, 1995.
In that respect, the Norwich seniors and I have shared a journey together over the past 18 years, and that is one reason why I have a special affinity for this year’s class. The other reason the seniors are special to me is that my son, Elijah, is part of this graduating class.
My son started out playing youth sports 12 or 13 years ago, and that is when I was introduced to many of you for the first time. Hard to believe now, but “I” actually towered over 6-foot-3 Kyle Edwards, and was more solidly built than 200-pound Grant Brightman. Is Levi Lorimer here? I don’t think I was EVER bigger than you.
When I think of the young men and women in this class who played sports, I have visions of a flashback montage in which I see all you swinging a bat, kicking a soccer ball, shooting a basket on the lowered rim at the Y, or grabbing someone’s flag in flag football at Kurt Beyer Park. I see it as clear as day, yet that was at least 10 years ago. Wow, has it been that long?
Little did I know at that time, this group of seniors would help change the perception of Norwich sports. When you hear people around town discuss Norwich sports, the common remark is, “Norwich is a basketball town” or “Norwich is a football town.”
Yes, we Norwichians love our basketball and we love our football, but Norwich sports is much more than that. The tennis teams, the golf team, the swimming teams – all had winning seasons. In just about every sport, you can point to a bright spot, one in which, YOU, the seniors, have made a difference.
In 18 days, your job at Norwich High School will be complete. To many of you, moving on from Norwich cannot happen soon enough. Speaking for the parents and adults here tonight, it feels like time has passed far too quickly.
When you get to my age, you have the benefit of hindsight, and I’d like to share a couple of things I learned after high school and college. First, listen to your mom and dad.
I went to college, got degrees in accounting and business management, and was following that career path. I was working at a local insurance company when my mom passed on a job listing Wanted: Evening Sun Sports Editor. It gave the details of the job and how to apply. At that point, I was in my mid 20s, and although I had been reading the paper for years and years, I NEVER looked at the ads. I was skeptical about the job listing, but my mom encouraged me to give it a shot. She knew sports had always been my passion, and this was my chance to get my foot in the door. If it wasn’t for my mom, I never would have gotten this job. So thank you mom.
The second point I wanted to make goes back to that word – passion. Now that I’ve been a working adult for 20-plus years, I have learned the key distinction between working a job and pursuing a career. My suggestion to all of you, find a career you are passionate about. Do you want a job where you are looking at the clock? Or do you want a career where you don’t wear a watch? By the way, no watch here.
All of you are here tonight because you played sports, and now that got this far, I presume you weren’t doing it to make someone else happy, you were doing it because it made you happy. You probably didn’t notice it, but along the way, you picked up some valuable life skills such as teamwork, setting and achieving goals, self-discipline, and time management. Just by playing playing sports, you have created a great foundation for future success. I wish all of you here the best of luck in whatever you do. Thank you.

Follow me on Twitter @evesunpat