Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Old Computer Virus Hoax Unmasked

     For an enjoyable and educational one-page read, click on  www.bobsfridge.com/virus.html. No tricks. It's safe.
     The Cortland Contrarian recommends Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by British author Lynne Truss. We recommend it; we don't adhere to it.
     We break the rules of punctuation and grammar here on this blog. It's a matter of ignorance and wilful choice.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Repeat: Gassed Up, Fed Up

     Today I filled my car with gasoline in Cortland at $3.65/gallon. This was the cheapest price in Cortland on Tuesday, October 25, 2011. In Ithaca the cheapest price was $3.61/gallon, in Syracuse $3.51, in Moravia $3.56 and in Auburn $3.44. A year ago the price for a gallon of gas was about 70 cents cheaper in New York State.
     The wholesale price has averaged about $2.70 over the past month. A man who works for a retail gasoline dealership association in Syracuse says that you add about 80 cents to the wholesale price to arrive at the retail price in our area. That would be $3.50/gallon.
     So why is Cortland the most expensive place to buy gasoline of the aforementioned cities and villages?
     Supply and demand?
     When was the last time you saw a "price war?" Can't remember? Does that mean there is no competition? Does dropping the price three cents a gallon on a selective day of the week, always at the same brand stations, count as competition? Have you ever seen different brand stations with three cents discount on the same day? Doesn't it look as if we have one distributor dealing gas to our county?
     It's more like musical chairs.
     While the music plays, and you scramble to get a bargain seat, your money is drawn into a black hole controlled by gasoline distributors located outside Cortland County.
Gassed up, fed up.

Edith O'Reilly, Cortland, N.Y.

Editor's note: Today the price is approaching $3.90/gal. Except for a change in price, Edith's observations are sound. Her questions go unanswered. See related article in Syracuse Post-Standard:
http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2012/02/gas_prices_continue_climbing_a.html
and numbers based on $4.04/gallon in NYC.
Per-gallon breakdown
Where your gas money goes:
Federal tax 18.4¢
State Petroleum Business Tax 17.8¢
State Motor Fuel Excise Tax
State Petroleum Testing Fee 0.05¢
State Spill tax 0.3¢
State sales tax
City sales tax in MTA region (4.375%) 16.9¢
TOTAL TAXES: 69.45¢
Refiner 23¢
Delivery
Gas station 22¢
Oil company $2.88


Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/getting_hosed_j5Gq8nl4fZEzfZVQDMMn9H#ixzz1pTjfHXtL

Friday, February 24, 2012

Conjecture And Rumor

     I've always had trouble with words. They're more disturbing than a swarm of African bees in the baby's bedroom in the middle of winter.
     My dear departed English teachers and my ancient school tests confirmed my word incompetence. One teacher insulted me when she told me I had to learn the alphabet before I could write a word.
     I hated the dictionary. (Still do.) The dictionary always told me that the word I wanted to use had a different meaning than what I thought or intended. This came as a surprise: a skunk is not a politician. Mistakes can be made. In addition, who dares malign the saintly reputation of a skunk?
     Words continue to trouble me.
     What is the difference between conjecture and rumor? I guess most people don't care. But for those who do care, don't call a city lawyer. The lawyer may demand a high retainer fee, and worse, refer you to a definition of hearsay and then tell you about the exceptions. Good thing lawyers don't write dictionaries.
     I don't want to know about hearsay. I want to know about rumor and conjecture.
     Everybody knows what a rumor is; college educated people can tell you the meaning of conjecture--well, some of them can.
     Rumor is defined as a story or statement in general circulation without confirmation or certainty as to facts. It's also called gossip or hearsay. Hold that thought about hearsay.
     Conjecture is defined as the formation or expression of an opinion or theory without sufficient evidence for proof. Hold that thought about proof.
     So, it seems that hearsay and proof are active agents in this convoluted word puzzle.
     This is getting too complicated. Now we do need a lawyer.
     Retaining a lawyer or lawyers to prove the definition of rumor and conjecture may be a futile and costly investment. The initial legal decision, depending on the judge--another lawyer--surely will be the subject of conjecture. No doubt it will be the subject of rampant rumor, a catchy cliche that I will not abandon. All or part of the decision will be subject to appeal, and subsequently, inevitably, to speculation.
     Perhaps this question of definitions can go all the way to the Supreme Court. Those impeccable judges are good with words. I can give you an example. The high court recently created an alternative definition for bribery. Bribery wasn't eliminated, but now it is also called an unlimited campaign donation. I think they did it to confuse those pretentious, synergetic lexicographers.
     If any authority can define the meaning of rumor and conjecture, I believe it would be those respected judges with their infinite wisdom and political detachment.
     In a preceding paragraph, did I type: "Good thing lawyers don't write dictionaries?" I'm known for that kind of deception.
     My next inquiry will concern itself with the word deception.
     As I am still a novice in the practice of deception, I will begin attending sessions of the New York State Legislature to see and hear how the professionals do it. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Wild Goose Chase

 
 
     Out by Gracie Pond, a few miles from Cortland, there's a first-rate family that takes care of a gaggle of wild geese year 'round. That family would be the Phelps. They feed the geese when times are lean and tough--you know, when too much ice covers the pond, and when too much snow covers the corn stubble in nearby fields.
    Winter was easy on the geese this year. Gracie Pond seldom iced over entirely, and nearby corn fields had little snow cover. About three dozen geese have made the pond their winter home.
     The Phelps have identified the geese by odd markings or peculiar habits. They gave names to each of the geese. Birthdays are special occasions. Mary Goose, on her second birthday, got a birthday cake with white icing and sprinkles of cracked corn. Old Emma and Charles, when they turned twelve years old, got a dozen bran muffins. On his fourth birthday, Tourist got a half-dozen corn muffins but had to share them with a few aggressive young ganders, led by Pirate.
    Sometimes it's impossible to separate hungry geese. Seagulls are worse, I think. That's nature's way or God's way. Take your pick or settle with both.
    The Phelps get their sacks of cracked corn from the old Space farm on nearby McLean Road. All the baking for birthdays is done in the big kitchen at the Phelps' house.
    I suppose you want to know why you can't find the Phelps' address in the telephone book? Can't answer that. It's James and Mildred Phelps, you'd be looking for. Folks say it's the big yellow house with the bright red roof--if you care to drive out there and look. They say you  can't miss it.
    I'm just telling you what I know. No need to embellish it with facts.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Hall Of Shame (Updated)

     We received a contributor's email which references a Binghamton Press and Sun-Bulletin news article listing the criminal behavior of some state lawmakers. We put it in the Hall of Shame. http://www.pressconnects.com/article/20120219/NEWS01/202190328/Here-s-list-lawmakers-who-ve-had-troubles-law-since-2000-
New York's Troubled Politicians: A Roll Call (updated April 2013) 
http://www.theithacajournal.com/article/20130402/NEWS10/304020034/New-York-s-Troubled-Politicians-roll-call?nclick_check=1

2012: Former state Sen. Nick Spano, R-Yonkers: Pleaded guilty Feb. 10 to one count of federal tax evasion for failing to report $53,000 in income taxes from 2000 to 2008. He will be sentenced in June to up to three years in prison.
» 2011: Sen. Carl Kruger, D-Brooklyn: Pleaded guilty to bribery charges in December for collecting about $1 million in payments from businesses that had dealings with the state.
» 2010: Sen. Pedro Espada, D-Bronx: Lost primary following corruption investigation and other ethical issues. He was later indicted on various corruption charges by the Attorney General and federal prosecutors.
» 2010: Sen. Hiram Monserrate, D-Queens: Expelled in February 2010 by vote of the Senate due to misdemeanor assault conviction involving his girlfriend.
» 2010: Sen. Vincent Leibell, R-Patterson, Putnam County: Resigned before end of Senate term and pleaded guilty to felony corruption charges. He didn't seek re-election in 2010 and won election as Putnam County executive, but didn't take office. Serving 21 months in prison.
» 2009: Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio, D-Queens: Resigned from the Assembly after federal indictment. He pleaded guilty to single count of theft of honest services for taking bribes. Died in prison.
» 2008: Sen. John Sabini, D-Queens: Appointed head of State Racing and Wagering Board after pleading guilty to DWI earlier that year.
» 2008: Assemblywoman Diane Gordon, D-Bronx: Found guilty of taking bribes; tried to steer city-owned land to a private developer in exchange for a house.
» 2008: Sen. Joseph Bruno, R-Brunswick, Rensselaer County: Former powerful majority leader retired from Senate amid pending federal investigation for corruption. He was indicted on eight charges and was found guilty of two after trial. Conviction was vacated; prosecutors are seeking new trial.
» 2008: Sen. Efrain Gonzalez, D-Bronx: Was indicted on federal mail fraud and lost election as result of federal investigation; he later pleaded guilty to two charges of mail fraud and two charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud.
» 2008: Assemblyman Michael Cole, R-Alden, Erie County: Lost primary after being censured by Assembly and stripped of committee posts due to his spending the night in the apartment of an Albany intern.
» 2006: Assemblywoman Ada Smith, D-Queens: Lost primary election after being found guilty of harassment; accused of throwing coffee in a staff member's face. Was censured by Senate minority leader for "a pattern of inappropriate, unprofessional and often abusive behavior."
» 2006: Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin, D-Queens: Resigned amid corruption indictment; pleaded guilty to racketeering after being arrested on charges of embezzling more than $2 million in state and labor funds.
» 2005: Assemblyman Ryan Karben, D-Monsey, Rockland County: Resigned from Assembly amid charges of improper fraternization with interns.
» 2005: Assemblyman Clarence Norman, D-Brooklyn: Found guilty on three felony counts, including intentionally soliciting illegal campaign contributions, stealing $5,000 donated to his re-election, and falsifying business records. Got one to three years in prison for judicial extortion scheme.
» 2004: Sen. Guy Velella, R-Bronx: Resigned Senate after pleading guilty to bribery. He received a one-year sentence and spent 182 days in jail. Died in January.
» 2004: Assemblyman Roger Green, D-Brooklyn: Pleaded guilty to two counts of petty larceny and one count of filing a false instrument (false billing of Assembly travel expenses). Ran for re- election and won. In 2006, he unsuccessfully ran for Congress.
» 2003: Assemblywoman Gloria Davis, D-Bronx: Resigned after pleading guilty to taking bribes.
» 2000: Assemblyman Jerry Johnson, R-Nunda, Livingston County: Pleaded guilty to second-degree attempted burglary; felony charge required resignation from office.

Influence peddling. See how it's done: http://www.pressconnects.com/article/20120307/NEWS01/203070384/Consulting-firm-had-strong-ties-Libous?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE
As for Carl Kruger, see NY Times article:  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/27/nyregion/carl-kruger-sentenced-to-seven-years-in-corruption-case.html?_r=3
Pedro Espada convicted:  http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Espada-convicted-3556925.php
Pedro Espada editorial:  http://www.timesunion.com/opinion/article/Editorial-Mr-Espada-s-just-desserts-3561124.php
Add former State Supreme Court Justice Thomas J. Spargo to the list. Although he is not a former state lawmaker, he qualifies for listing as a lawbreaker: http://blog.timesunion.com/crime/spargo-reports-to-minimum-security-federal-prison-camp-in-kentucky/3455/
Lowbrow justice, highbrow justice:  http://blog.timesunion.com/opinion/lowbrow-justice-highbrow-justice/20061/
Note: All convicted felons who qualify for a state pension may receive the pension while in jail and after release. The New York State Constitution guarantees public pensions. Forfeiture exceptions for felony criminal convictions do not exist in New York State laws.
State Senator Huntley indicted by Attorney General: http://blog.timesunion.com/opinion/ms-huntley-joins-the-club/21763/ and pleads guilty to mail fraud.
Ex-senator Huntley pleads guilty to felony :  http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/178376/huntley-pleads-guilty-in-state-court/
Assemblyman William Boyland's per diem expenses and bribery indictment:  http://blog.timesunion.com/opinion/23980/23980/
Former State Senator Nick Spano--white collar felony gets kid glove treatment:
http://www.lohud.com/article/20130302/NEWS/303020058/5-days-out-prison-Spano-now-Brooklyn-detention-center?odyssey=tab%7Ctopnews%7Ctext%7CFrontpage&nclick_check=1
State Senator Malcolm Smith, charged with bribery, inducted into Hall of Shame: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/03/nyregion/state-senator-and-city-councilman-accused-of-trying-to-rig-mayors-race.html?pagewanted=1&_r=0&hpw
http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/bribing_his_way_onto_the_ballot_3XFvV67oWZHFo7bVdoCkcO
State Assemblyman Eric Stevenson charged with bribery, inducted into Hall of Shame:
http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/184191/u-s-attorney-charges-bronx-assemblyman/
http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/184206/stevenson-half-of-albany-could-be-in-prison/
Assemblyman Castro resigns:
http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/184247/castro-resigns-has-been-cooperating-since-09/
'Pots of money' ripe for abuse:
http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Pots-of-money-can-be-ripe-for-abuse-4413992.php
State Senator John Sampson charged with embezzlement:
http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/FBI-Sen-John-Sampson-arrested-4491330.php
Ex-State Senator Huntley sentenced:
http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/shirley-huntley-sentenced-year-day-article-1.1339563
Facing expulsion for alleged sexual harassment, Assemblyman Vito Lopez resigns:
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/18/nyregion/vito-lopez-facing-possible-expulsion-says-hell-resign.html?hp&_r=0
Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez charged with DWI:
http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Assemblyman-charged-with-DWI-4578914.php
Former Senator Pedro Espada sentenced to five years in jail:
http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/189160/espada-gets-five-years-for-raiding-health-clinics/
Corruption, or conspiracy against people of color?
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/28/nyregion/as-minority-officials-are-caught-up-in-scandals-some-see-a-conspiracy.html?ref=nyregion&_r=0
Gov. Cuomo to create anti-corruption commission:
http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/gov-cuomo-unveils-tough-anti-corruption-reforms-article-1.1312338
Albany Times Union: A watchdog or a lapdog?
http://www.timesunion.com/opinion/article/Editorial-A-watchdog-or-a-lapdog-4753666.php
Former Assemblyman Nelson Castro pleads guilty to making false statements:
http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/ex-assemblyman-castro-lied-speaking-press-article-1.1438679
Target pensions of corrupt officials:
http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/195151/bharara-says-pensions-of-corrupt-officials-could-be-tapped/
State Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak resigns:
http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Gabryszak-resigns-amid-sex-harassment-allegations-5136452.php
State Assemblyman Stevenson convicted of bribery: http://nypost.com/2014/01/13/stevenson-guilty-on-all-counts-in-bribe-case/
State Assemblyman Boylan convicted of multiple counts including bribery: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/brooklyn-assemblyman-william-boyland-jr-convicted-article-1.1713067

Feds Widen Crackdown on New York Political Corruption: http://nypost.com/2014/04/30/feds-widen-crackdown-on-new-york-political-corruption/ 
Assemblyman Eric Stevenson convicted of bribery: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/22/nyregion/former-bronx-assemblyman-sentenced-for-corruption.html?hpw&rref=nyregion&_r=0
Assemblywoman Gabby Rosa pleads guilty to two felony charges and resigns: http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/215815/assemblywoman-gabby-rosa-pleads-to-sham-marriage-in-federal-case/
http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/assemblywoman-gabriela-rosa-scheduled-court-public-corruption-charges-article-1.1846687
State Senator Thomas Libous is indicted for lying to federal officials:
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/02/nyregion/state-senator-thomas-libous-indicted-on-charges-of-lying-to-fbi.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&version=HpSumSmallMediaHigh&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0


Pennsylvania shames convicted lawmakers with plaques that show their crimes: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2014/07/17/pennsylvania-will-now-shame-convicted-lawmakers-with-plaques-that-note-their-crimes/



State Assemblyman William Scarborough indicted for filing false expense vouchers: http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/221589/feds-174-of-198-scarborough-per-diem-vouchers-were-bogus/


Speaker of Assembly Sheldon Silver arrested: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/23/nyregion/speaker-of-new-york-assembly-sheldon-silver-is-arrested-in-corruption-case.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=span-ab-top-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0



The Many Faces of  New York State Political Scandals in the Past Decade: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/07/23/nyregion/23moreland-commission-and-new-york-political-scandals.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0



Former Sen. Malcolm Smith Found Guilty of Bribery and Conspiracy: http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/Malcolm-Smith-Corruption-Trial-Albany-New-York--290536811.html



Grand Jury Indicts Assemblyman Silver: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/20/nyregion/sheldon-silver-is-indicted-on-fraud-and-extortion-charges.html?ref=nyregion&_r=0


Assembly Fails to Pass Pension Forfeiture Bill: http://www.twcnews.com/nys/hudson-valley/politics/2015/04/3/assembly-fails-to-pass-pension-forfeiture-bill-part-of-ethics-legislation.html


Ex-Senator Bruno’s acquittal and legal defense cost New Yorkers $1.8 million: http://www.timesunion.com/news/article/Comptroller-rejects-elements-of-Bruno-defense-bill-6190537.php


New charges against Sheldon Silver:
http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/sheldon-silver-hit-new-charges-investments-article-1.2196876


Senator Dean Skelos Arrested on Corruption Charges:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/05/nyregion/dean-skelos-new-york-senate-leader-and-son-are-arrested-on-corruption-charges.html


Assemblyman William Scarborough facing prison under plea agreements: http://www.timesunion.com/news/article/Scarborough-facing-prison-under-plea-agreements-6246515.php


Troubled NY Lawmakers, May 12, 2015: http://ithacajournal.nydatabases.com/database/troubled-ny-lawmakers


Dean Skelos and His Son Face New Bribery Charges:  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/22/nyregion/dean-skelos-and-his-son-face-new-bribery-charges.html?_r=0


Sen. Thomas Libous convicted of lying to F.B.I.: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/23/nyregion/thomas-libous-new-york-state-senator-is-convicted-of-lying-to-fbi.html


Ex-State Sen. John Sampson Convicted: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/25/nyregion/state-senator-john-sampson-is-guilty-on-federal-charges.html?_r=0


No Mercy for Disgraced ex-Assemblyman William Boyland: http://nypost.com/2015/08/21/feds-want-no-mercy-for-disgraced-ex-assemblyman-william-boyland/


William Scarborough Sentenced to 13 Months: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/15/nyregion/william-scarborough-ex-new-york-assemblyman-is-sentenced-to-13-months.html