Sunday, April 22, 2012

unmuffled: Think you forgot a few folks

unmuffled: Think you forgot a few folks: Commentary The local reporter responsible for writing about cops and courts, as well as the Hudson City School District, wrote in a blog ...

Saturday, April 21, 2012


That's the story in the paper. Here is the quote I emailed the reporter April 18, 2012 5:07:05 PM EDT:

Ron Knott hired the biggest law firm in the Capital District and spent $150,000 on Whiteman, Osterman and Hanna in 2011. And after all that time and money, can they name a rule and say I broke it? No. Meanwhile, the town supervisor, Mr. Knott, is breaking the very parts of the zoning law they still want to use against me if they can. If you live in a glass house, don't throw stones. One way to convince people to stop throwing stones is to pick one of the rocks they threw at  you up and throw it back. 

I would think the reporter would use the glass houses quote. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Grattan, the dynamo

An article this bad deserves two blog posts.

"Pat Grattan, R-Kinderhook has taken a pay cut, initiated the taping of meetings and posted county financial info online, all since January."

Wow. In just four short months he managed to post financial info online. How long does it take him to upload a video to youtube?

A mere 100 days and he has already NOT uploaded any data. After four hard months of work, the County website is exactly the same and just as crappy as always, thanks to the tireless work of that dynamo Grattan.

A pay cut? He has three other jobs, that dynamo.

I know internet access can be slow in Columbia County. But even I can upload some data faster than that and I have Fairpoint Communications DSL.

But you have to remember, the County IT department is full of crony relatives who only play video games and can't actually use computers, and they have to pass all idea through some guys who whisper a lot and act shady, so the fact that they also have dial up modems is not the only impediment to claiming that they uploaded data that they didn't actually upload over the course of an otherwise uneventful 100 days of business as usual with the boss away at this other job.

 "Monthly financial reports and resolutions are being posted on the county’s website."

Wait. The resolutions have been online for a year. Grattan, some dynamo. He's claiming credit for something that is really easy and was done a year before he got into office.

Mr. Dynamo came in, saw that the county website was crappy, and did nothing about it. All in a mere 100 lackadaisical days.

 "The Board of Supervisors is also having its monthly full board meeting videotaped for the local public access channel at a maximum cost of $1,200 a year."

And he put a big "NO VIDEO RECORDING" sign in front of the place where the meeting is, which makes not sense if he also wants to brag about paying someone to tape the same meeting.

So, other than stopping people from video recording the meetings and uploaded the video for free and instead paying someone to put it where no one can find it, claiming to have uploaded data you didn't upload or was already online, and looking at a fire hydrant, Mr. Dynamo did a lot more great stuff.

Like... like... trust me, he's really busy, a dyanmo, the county is in good hands now!

This story is like the Onion meets Pravda. 100 days to not upload a PDF.... that no one uploaded.

our local the Onion

I mean, this has to be a joke right? This is news? The guy is presiding over a corrupt empire and doing nothing about it as his thieving friend Robert Fitzsimmons hands out no show jobs to his own employees in private practice, with Grattan seeing no evil hearing no evil... and he has four jobs himself. What a dynamo! Mulligan-Moore: we want every penny back! (So we can steal it ourselves.)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

bring out the paper

I'm in the middle, or more like the end, of a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) lawsuit against the town of Stuyvesant. Funny to think that when Gerry Ennis revoked my permit on August 9, 2010 and the town clerk Melissa Naegeli emailed me to tell me I have no right to appeal on August 16, 2010 I did not know that the FOIL law existed. Never sent in a FOIL request until then. Now here I am arguing a FOIL lawsuit I filed pro se... and maybe doing a little better than just arguing a lawsuit.

I'll discuss the details of the case soon enough. We'll see how it plays out, my case is looking pretty good, but I'm not sure the Freedom of Information system is working as well as it should.

Freedom of Information Law and the right of the public to information is far too weak in New York State and United States. We have a solid right to publish our opinion. We don't have a solid right to get the information necessary to know what to say. If the government wants to cover stuff up, they can get away with it. If they get caught, nothing much happens to them.

Who's fault is that?

The process back in the 18th Century that lead to our Constitution was good. The anti-Federalists had good reasons to oppose the Constitution - like the power of unelected, lifetime appointed judges. Good points on both sides, mixed in with plenty of deception and power grabs. Both sides argued intelligently. The process worked.

When the anti-Federalist complained that there was no bill of rights in the first draft, Madison wrote back that you don't want a list of rights. There are things that should be rights that will not get on the list of rights. If you make a list, then that's it, anything not on the list isn't a right.

The anti-Federalists said, no, if you don't have a list then you might have no rights. The anti-Federalists won that one, except maybe Madison and company did get in the 9th amendment, which means there are other rights other than those on the list.

Madison had a point, as enshrined in the 9th amendment. Take FOIL. It's not a Constitutional right. It would have been a strange thing for people in the 18th Century to think of as a right. They didn't have photocopiers or carbon paper. They had printing presses and newspapers but documents, government documents, were hand copied pieces of paper. I guess you could require the government to make a copy and post it on a pole somewhere - and in fact, we have plenty of laws about "notice" that amount to just about that. They could not have imagined the huge amount of data and easy of copying that data that we have now, or even what we had 50 years ago.

So they didn't think about Freedom of Information. How could they? I also think the Founding Fathers didn't pay enough time thinking about embezzlement. And maybe 12 or 20 years would be enough for a Federal judge, who then has to be re-appointed (or not). And plenty more they didn't think about... which is why the Bill of Rights was never intended to be the end of the story.

The Founding Fathers knew things would change, so they left the door open for rights they hadn't thought to put in the Constitution back then. The Right to Information, FOIL or FOIA, is exactly the kind of thing they had in mind: an example of the kind of thing they had in mind when they said there would be things they did not have in mind.

When the government hides stuff, it should be a bigger deal than it is. FOIL or FOIA means don't hide stuff from the people.

The 14th amendment boils down to what's good for the goose is good for the gander. The 1st amendment means you have a right to your own head and body. The 2nd and 3rd are hard to figure out. The 4th amendment means, hey, this is my house. The 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th mean they can't railroad you, take your property and lock you up for nothing. All kind of basic common sense stuff in there.

And information? The government can't hide what their doing. Pretty simple. No hiding stuff is a pretty basic, simple idea. No secret meetings. No secret budgets.

I think Freedom of Information is covered by the 9th amendment, as we have laws and 40 years of legal precedent to back those laws up. The right to information is now part of the culture, as well as the law of the land. I think the right is now covered by the 9th amendment and there is no going back. FOIL and FOIA cannot be repealed (I would say).

But like everything else in the Bill of Rights, or even the Constitution generally, you'd be hard pressed to prove that the government actually follows what the paper says. The president can start a war without Congress, no matter what the paper says. They can strip search you for nothing. They can fly over your house with drone and take pictures of you. Hide the budget. Hide everything. Lock you up. Kill you, whatever.

Still, I think information is a right, even if it is violated by the government as completely as all the other rights. I think when the government hides stuff, it should be a big deal, like when they hammer you to try to shut you up. We know they shouldn't punish you for speaking your mind, arrest and strip search you for attending a peaceful demonstration and all the other stuff they do.

It's just as bad when they hide what their doing, hide the paper.

FOIL or FOIA is what the Federalists had in mind when they wrote the 9th Amendment. So hand over the documents. Post everything online. Open up the files. Bring out the paper.

Go file a pro se FOIL lawsuit.