Saturday, March 31, 2012

CS Negotiating Sale to Gannett Company

     Gannett Company, a newspaper chain which owns the Ithaca Journal, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, and Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin, is negotiating to buy our local CS newspaper, according to well-informed sources. Details are being withheld at this time. If the sale is completed by July, as indicated, CS will get an infusion of capital to establish a user-friendly up-to-date newspaper website for Internet subscribers and advertisers.
     An update to this story will be available tomorrow.

Update--April 1, 2012
     The Cortland Contrarian discovered this morning that our usually "well-informed sources" were drunk last night and were playing an April Fool's Day prank. CC editor Jeff Paine was duped also. We sincerely apologize to Gannett Company, CS and our loyal readers, especially wishful thinkers.
     By act of contrition and consolation, we highly recommend the following website, which contains detailed explanations of 100 of the world's greatest hoaxes:
     You may want to listen to April Come She Will by Simon & Garfunkel at : This soothing music is a peace offering.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Godzilla vs. Hydrilla

     The Tompkins County legislature voted unanimously yesterday to lease from the Japanese government a working model of Godzilla to eat and destroy the invasive aquatic plant called hydrilla. An $800,000 state grant, originally intended for plant-killing chemicals, will be used to pay for the lease. Environmentalists cheered when the resolution was adopted.
     Hydrilla threatens fish life, boating and swimming at the Cayuga Lake Inlet. Recently two fishermen were thrown into the cold lake and drowned when an erupting green mass of hydrilla rose from the lake bottom and flipped their boat.
     Members of the Hydrilla Task Force persuaded the county legislature to lease a replica of the movie icon Godzilla after scientists from Cornell University dubbed the little green plant a destructive and agressive aquatic invader. A program leader of the Tompkins County Cooperative Extension warned legislators that the plant's reproductive turions were spreading unchecked.
     Scientists first suggested the introduction of sterile carp, but carp cannot be contained and isolated at the Inlet and may cause extensive habitat damage to other areas of the lake.
     Godzilla, on the other hand, has been genetically programmed to respond to emotional cries from children and adults in sinking boats, and environmentalists who cry when they see invasive plants in lake water.
     Godzilla will begin work at the Cayuga Lake Inlet on June 1. The public is invited to watch his progress and encourage his efforts. Amateur movie crews and photographers are expected. The Japanese ambassador is also expected.
     Scientists are studying a Godzilla-related environmental waste problem but a solution to dispose of Godzilla's personal waste has not been made public. It is believed that scientists are working on a disposal method called programmable odorless organic preparation. When they use the term among themselves, they distinctly emphasize each accented syllable. In everyday conversation, skeptical Ithaca residents use the acronym.

Editor's note:
For additional information about hydrilla, visit Tompkins County Cooperative Extension: 
For information about Godzilla, visit Wikipedia:



Cortland School District State Aid 2012-13

     The Cortland Enlarged City School District will receive $25,358,067 in combined aid from New York State for school year 2012-13. This is a 1.04% increase over the current year. Without the inclusion of building aid, it is a 1.70% increase. Current aid is $25,097,348. The Assembly released these figures March 27, 2012. View in pdf:
Cincinnatus, McGraw, Homer and Marathon numbers are included in this release.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Cortland County Legislature Votes To Join Flat Earth Society

     The Cortland County legislature voted 18-1 today to apply for associate membership in the international Flat Earth Society. A surprising negative vote was cast by legislator Newell Willcox, who later explained why he was opposed.
     "We should invite them to join us," he said. "Everything we do smacks of flat earth theory."
     The Flat Earth Society promotes the continuous and consistent belief in a flat earth. It's motto is: "Veritate Victoria" or Victory in Truth.
     Legislator Tony Pace was made a county delegate to the Flat Earth Discussion Board. Interviewed by Flat Earth News at the County Office Building, he stated:
     "This is an honor which I appreciate and deserve. I admire 19th century lecturer Dr. Samuel Birly Rowbotham and I have read all of his writings and theories. The man was a genius."
     The county legislature has a reputation for controversy. Recently the legislature hired a public defender, effectively ending one controversy by creating another.
     "Our intention is to amuse and entertain voters. Serious work and accomplishment is an after-thought--some say an accident," commented a legislator who wanted to remain anonymous. "The landfill is a good example. Next, we shall tackle the hepatitis C virus and the sticky problem of free needles for drug addicts. That ought to be a howler."
     For information about the Flat Earth Society, click on:
     For information about Cortland County government, click on:

Editor's note: Although we created a parody and "quoted" legislators Willcox and Pace in this post, the Cortland Contrarian acknowledges the high work ethic of both individuals and their commitment to improve the efficiency and economy of county government. They avoid procrastination and make quick decisions. One is a Republican and one is a Democrat, and both seem to recognize the need for bi-partisan progress to achieve necessary improvements in county government. Now, if the others would get in line, perhaps this parody would be unnecessary.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Circle of Delusion

     By now, you must be wondering why you're not hearing about corruption in DC from others such as the media and politicians. If it's anywhere near the big deal I make it out to be, wouldn't some courageous politicians and journalists be upset, excited, outraged?

     A journalist working the 'national beat' is only as good as his sources, those politicians, officials, bureaucrats with access to inside information. If you're ambitious and aspire to be a celebrity journalist, famous in your own right and well paid, possibly getting to interview big shots on TV, you spend years building relationships with those who feed you information,

     There is, of course, a flaw, a conflict of interests, in this. Those feeding you represent a special interest (themselves, their party, their sponsors) and are careful to spin whatever they say so as to support these interests. They get to pick and frame the issues. Of course, a good journalist would get at the truth and publish it even if doing so caused great embarrassment to his sources. Ah well, so the kid doesn't get to go to college.

     Columnists are the worst offenders, they're famous for being consistent; you always know that you can count on your guy or gal to slip it to the other party on any issue or scandal. And that is why we read them. It's fun to stay well informed this way, like following the Red Sox, or Lakers. Too bad it doesn't seem to get us anywhere.

     All this amounts to a symbiotic relationship between journalists and politicians; they need each other and are careful not to cross the line. Journalists do not want to see their sources get caught; think of how a sports agent feels when his star athlete suffers a career-ending injury.

     Those of you who have read Republic Lost understand how the system works, feeding millions of dollars to a sub-rosa system resulting in a corrupted government serving their interests.

     An example for others: A recent issue of The Economist dwelt on over regulation in the U.S. It cited the Dodd-Frank bill (re-regulating the banking industry). The bill now sits at 823 pages and most of it is still to be written. They point out that complexity can be an end in itself since it allows for cheating. The Glass-Stiegel Act passed in 1913 to regulate banking and erased in 1997 was 72 pages. (We know what happened next). Messrs. Dodd and Frank both wrote to The Economist, objecting to the article, pointing out that it wasn't them, but 'special interests', lobbying for favors and loopholes, that are causing the complexity.

     But there's hope, a growing number of citizens are aware of the dysfunction in DC and that getting rid of the 'Other' Party altogether won't fix it. Lawrence Lessig, author of Republic Lost, and founder of, has written another book, One Way Forward, in which he cites the efforts of other organizations dealing with the problem of corruption, and how we can all be part of the solution. My favorite is  Check it out; you don't have to vote for one of the two 'special-interests' stooges.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Abel Olmstead

     To say that Old Man Gracie was a bit unstable was more than an understatement: it was a form of kindness and respect. His neighbors were familiar with his odd nocturnal habit. Night after night, summer or winter, he went to bed at 9 P.M. and woke up at 2 A.M. "hearing noises about the house."
     So he went outside with his shotgun. He was seventy-two years old, and his vision and hearing weren't what they used to be. He stood on his porch and peered into the darkness. If he heard a tree branch crack, a frog croak, ice break on the pond, or an owl hoot, he pointed his gun and fired.
     "Trespassers, burglars and robbers repulsed," he announced tiredly, and then he went back to bed.
     Since his wife died of pneumonia, Gracie had lived alone. He was tottering on senility. He still functioned and took care of his farm, working every day whether it rained or snowed. He had three milking cows left, having sold more than two dozen after his wife died. There were chickens, a rooster, one remaining horse, two cats and an old brown dog named Odif. His farm was spread out a distance, with pastures on both sides of the road that bore his name. He attended church in South Cortland.
     Before the experimental fish station was built and named Tunison, part of his pasture ran along Beaver Brook. Most of those hemlock trees and pines, located brookside today, were planted after 1930. Much of Gracie's land was rough and tumble, with hardwoods, wetlands, and rock-laden pasture lands. He planted corn, and cut hay three times a year. He didn't do all this work alone.
     He had a hired man, Abel Olmstead, who was in his fifties, average height, lean, strong and healthy. On a good day he could do the work of two men. But he was mentally handicapped. He seemed to have a slow brain and he spoke oddly. He seldom looked directly into the eyes of people who spoke to him.  He was shy, quiet and reclusive. He didn't socialize much with the neighbors, but kept to himself.
     In summer, he slept in a small hut along Beaver Brook. In winter, he slept in Gracie's barn with the cows. Gracie's neighbors frequently referred to him as "the simple one" or "the hermit," but whenever he was within hailing distance they said, "Good day, Abel" or "Hello, Abel."
     Early on, he endeared himself to all the neighbors when he rescued a drowning six-year old Lenora Lefler who fell through the ice over shallow Gracie Pond. Abel had crawled along the ice but fell through himself, and half-walking, half-swimming, he pulled her back to shore safely.
    "A twenty-two year old angel by the name of Abel just showed up at our farm looking for work, something to eat, and a place to sleep," explained Mrs. Gracie to her pastor before she died. "I put in a good word for him to my husband. He's been working for us ever since." 
     Mrs. Gracie recognized Abel's handicap, felt sorry for him, and convinced her husband to take him in. Abel was a dedicated farm worker. He was born and raised near Montrose, Pennsylvania. He never graduated from grade school. He left home and travelled and worked across central New York and northern Pennsylvania. He rode cars on the Lehigh R.R. and walked to where he wanted to go. He never owned a horse of his own.
     From the start, Abel's relationship with Gracie was informal. Although Abel did most of the work around the farm, Gracie often pitched in. If Gracie wasn't satisfied with some detail or another, he never used harsh words with Abel. And Abel never talked back or disagreed, even when Gracie was overly demanding.
     Abel fed all of the animals except the cats; Gracie fed them. Not surprisingly, the animals were sweet on Abel, especially the horse. He never put a metal bit in that horse's mouth. He used a bridle with a leather bit. If it broke, he replaced it. Gracie never complained about the cost.
     The wild animals Abel befriended near his hut were also sweet on him. He fed butternuts and beechnuts to a pair of squirrels who nested in a tree near his hut.They would come up to him and eat from his hand. He called them Joseph and Mary. He gave bread crumbs to the chickadees, sparrows and finches. He dropped corn in the woods along deer trails.
     His hut was essentially sleeping quarters for one man. Floor space measured about ten feet by five feet.There was no room for a chair in the hut, so he placed a home-made chair outside the door. A food container improvised from an old book case stood against one wall. His bed was made of a log frame on the ground, with straw under a thin mattress, and a blanket on top. He had a fire pit a few feet away from the hut. He improvised another pit as an outdoor toilet. He got his drinking and cooking water from Beaver Brook.
     Farm chores took up much of his time. Milking had to be done at 5 A.M. It was easier and quicker now that only three cows were left. He and Gracie used to milk a cow apiece while the third cow complained of neglect. In good time, Abel would milk that cow too.
     There was a predictable routine to farm work. Every now and then there was a bump in the routine--a flood that took down bridges after heavy rains, roads thick with mud and impassable in places, a wind storm that knocked down trees, a sickness or death in a neighbor's family, or the death of a farm animal. In a sense, these things were predictable too.
     Some time after Mrs. Gracie died, Abel began to hear the angel Gabriel calling him during the night. He had visions of the angel flying over the farm and beckoning to him. Abel knew the Lord's prayer and he knew some hymns, so when he heard the angel calling, he would sing or recite with religious fervor. He did this whether he was sleeping in the hut or in the barn.
     One summer night, Abel ventured out from his hut and followed the flying image of Gabriel through the trees and meadows. He walked and then ran up the hill to Gracie Road, and made his way toward the farm house. He stopped in a clearing about two hundred yards away from the house. Under the dim moonlight, he saw Gracie come out of the house with a shotgun. It was 2 A.M.
     Gracie fired once into the darkness, said the usual "trespassers, burglars and robbers repulsed," and then he went back to bed.
     Abel felt the bullet exactly when he heard the shot. It hit him in the chest and knocked him down. He got up. He didn't think he was hurt too much, but he was bleeding. Instead of walking directly to the house, he turned and walked slowly back across the road and down the hill to his hut. In the darkness, he couldn't see the blood as much as he could feel it. He placed his right hand over the wound. He had trouble breathing and he was in pain by the time he got to his hut, and then he fell into his bed.
     He lay there on his back. He turned and found a cotton shirt in the darkness and he pressed it against his chest. He said the Lord's prayer several times and then he started to sing hymns. After a few minutes he stopped. He heard chattering outside, and he recognized the squirrels Joseph and Mary. The squirrels entered his hut and sat quietly next to his bed. It was as if they were trying to console him. He knew they were there but he couldn't see them. He was bleeding to death.
     At 5 A.M. Old Man Gracie was in the barn at the milking station. Where was Abel? he wanted to know. He milked one cow, then started on another. But he was wondering about Abel. While the third cow sought his attention, he stopped milking, wiped his hands on a rag, and went outside.
     The sun was coming up. Gracie looked around in every direction. He called out. "Abel? Abel? Do you hear me, Abel?"
     Silence. This worried and perplexed him. He knew he had the forgets, but he hadn't lost his mind completely. Abel was always on time. He walked toward the road, and then down the hill to Beaver Brook. When he saw the open door of the hut, he suspected something was not right. He saw two chattering squirrels race out the door, climb up a tree and disappear in the uppermost leaves. Seconds later, he was inside the hut and looking down at his hired man. Abel's clothes and the bed were soaked in drying blood. He reached down and touched him.
     Abel opened his eyes and smiled when he recognized Gracie. "You shot me," he said weakly. Then his eyes closed and he died.
     "Oh, my God!" Gracie exclaimed.
     Gracie's old eyes filled with tears. On his knees now, he prayed and cried for several hours. He thought about killing himself but changed his mind. Finally, exhausted, he got up and pondered what to do next.
     He tried to dissuade himself that he had shot Abel. "It was an accident. It wasn't my fault," he repeated to himself. He considered reporting it to the sheriff, or discussing it with trusted neighbors. But his profound guilt and emotions distorted all sensible actions. He walked in circles around the hut for more than an hour before he reached a decision.
     It was noontime. A distraught Gracie climbed the hill and returned to the house. He got a shovel from the barn.
     He returned to the hut and buried Abel Ohmstead nearby in the woods. He covered the spot carefully with leaves and brush. Then he returned to the hut and burned it to the ground. He left full of remorse.
     The neighbors were the first to notice that Abel was missing. When they asked about Abel, Gracie told them that "Abel just up and left and didn't leave a word about where he was going." The neighbors appeared satisfied. They also noted that Gracie looked much older and very tired; perhaps he was on his last legs. Time marched on. Nobody ever came looking for Abel Ohmstead.
     Before he died, Gracie told his pastor the entire story, and made him promise not to tell a single soul. But the pastor told his wife, and she then wrote a revealing letter to her sister. That letter was a major source of material for this story.

     Below are recent photographs showing the foundation of the hut (second photo), and a collection of cow's bones (first and third photo) found about 30 meters from the hut's foundation.

     H marks the hut location on this map of Lime Hollow Center and Tunison Labs. Beaver Brook or Creek is the Leon Chandler stream on the map. It runs east to west and can be followed on the Brookside and Hermit paths. View and print a larger trail map at:
     Click on images to enlarge, or use Tools to enlarge page. If you decide to investigate this location, waterproof shoes or boots are recommended. Staff members at Lime Hollow Center are familiar with the location.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Sunshine Week

     Joe Spector, Chief of Gannett Albany Bureau, has written a timely article on New York's Freedom of Information Law. View at Ithaca Journal:
     FOIL--What you should know and how to file--
     FOIL request string-along example:|newswell|text|Home|s
     FOIL request string-along example:

Thursday, March 8, 2012

City Needs To Hire A Pro

     For years and years the City of Cortland used to negotiate all union contracts in house. It cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars.
     It wasn't until a couple of years ago that a professional was brought in for these negotiations. When the old contracts were looked at , the professional remarked that he had never seen such lucrative salaries and benefits in any city or town he had worked in.
     Now I am ALL for unions. However if I was an employer, I surely would want a PRO to do all the negotiating so I could be protected as well.
     Which brings me to this: It seems the City is going to have to depend on a Swim Coach and a Newspaper Delivery guy to negotiate a 26 million dollar Tax revenue deal with the county. Neither of them has the foggiest idea, or the background, to take on such a huge undertaking. It seems to me that the city would be better served to hire a PRO to do this. It would be MORE than worth the expense to do so, when one considers that if not properly done, it could cost the city over a MILLION dollars in revenues !!

Phillip Marlowe

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Narcissists and Short-Sighted Political Policies

     Do you worry about short-sighted political policies, and the way they affect your life?

     Throughout human history, politics has been a magnet for narcissists. It offers them so many advantages: power, money, privilege of all kinds, and most of all, status and admiration.

     Around the world, brash narcissistic dictators stand out. Even in western democracies, narcissists are attracted to a political culture with appealing privileges and benefits.

     If, like me, you are frustrated, infuriated and worried about political policies that are short-sighted, that ignore facts and evidence (e.g. Howard's response to climate change), that promote divisiveness over unity and cooperation, suspicion and mistrust over compassion, and destructiveness over healing and dialogue, look for the narcissists.

     Big egos, resistance to change, ruthlessness and dishonesty are not just the foibles of high achievers; neither are they the admirable qualities of go-getters. These are the symptoms of a serious pathology. It is important for the public to understand and identify what it sees rather than feel dismayed and puzzled by it.

     Narcissistic leaders can give a whole society a narcissistic flavor by promoting and advancing those who are like them. The most obvious signs of a narcissistic society are a strong focus on grandness, appearances and public spectacles, disregard for rules and laws, and an empty confusing rhetoric at the expense of real substance. A narcissistic government would spend a lot of money and time publicizing its achievements, real or imaginary. Under narcissistic leaders reality begins to mix with fiction. Real information about what is going on is covered up.

     If we want to live in a compassionate, benevolent and rational society, based on dialogue and inclusiveness rather than fear and divisiveness, and if we want to have a long-term view of problem-solving, we must ensure that we do not elect narcissistic leaders.

     A rational way to obstruct narcissists is to reform our political system. A humbler political system is needed. It should cover the essentials. It should be caring, transparent, truly accountable and operate in a genuine spirit of service to the people. Such a political system is unlikely to attract narcissists because they will not find in it benefits and rewards they so covet.

Susan Feiszli

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Principal Stands on a Principle

     By the spring of 1880, the political battle lines were formed. The Superintendent of Public Instruction, Neil Gilmour, and his loyal political allies, established defensive positions at the New York State legislature.
     Reformers, led by Dr. James Harmon Hoose of Cortland and other educators, established an aggressive counter-position with a new candidate for superintendent, John Gilbert, who was introduced to the legislature with high hopes for confirmation.
     The reformers demanded a superintendent chosen by the state board of education. They wanted to abolish the procedure whereby the state legislature chooses the superintendent. Their expectations were higher than political reality would allow. Gilbert lost, and Gilmour was re-confirmed with no change in the process.
     On June 28, 1880, Superintendent Gilmour wrote to Dr. Hoose and demanded his resignation from the position of principal of the Cortland Normal School. It shocked Dr. Hoose, and electrified his supporters. Gilmour's letter was unusual, as it did not state any charge or cause. Dr. Hoose replied to the superintendent. He refused to resign. The subsequent actions of the superintendent were going to be nasty.
     The local school board wrote to Gilmour and requested an explanation, with a specific request for detailed charges. Educators across New York State followed the controversy.
     On July 12, 1880, Gilmour wrote to the local board and to Dr. Hoose that, in effect, Hoose had been fired. The board wrote back and stated that it did not concur with the superintendent, and gave its opinion that Dr. Hoose was eminently fit for the office he held. The battle was joined.
     The issue between the superintendent and the local board became a question of who had the authority to fire Dr. Hoose. The state superintendent and the state attorney general held the opinion that the authority rested in the state superintendent. The local board claimed that the authority must be shared between the local board and the state superintendent, that both had to concur.
     Gilmour appointed a replacement principal and ordered the teachers at Cortland Normal School to report to the new principal. Six of the twelve teachers complied with the summons. The local board ignored the summons, filled six vacancies, and the autumn term opened with Dr. Hoose as principal.
     Gilmour began to interfere with  the appointment of students by withholding certificates, and by sending students to other Normal Schools. He also withdrew teaching authority from six teachers. On September 7, 1880, he ordered the school closed.
    The local school board refused to close the school. There were five hundred students in the school. What would happen to them if the school closed? On the advice of counsel, the local school board requested that Superintendent Gilmour submit the question of authority to the state Supreme Court. Initially, this suggestion was rejected, then accepted with conditions, reconsidered again, and ultimately rejected. 
     On February 7, 1881, Gilmour obtained a writ of mandamus from the Supreme Court to compel the local board to terminate Dr. Hoose and recognize the new principal.
     Dr. Hoose left the school but did not resign. A series of appeals on his behalf were initiated in the courts.
     On April 18, 1882, the Court of Appeals set aside the writ of mandamus of the lower court and stated that Dr. Hoose was the legal principal of Cortland Normal School.
     In April 1883, Superintendent Gilmour was removed from office by the state legislature and Hon.W.B. Ruggles was appointed superintendent.
     Dr. Hoose resumed his duties at the school. Educators throughout the state applauded the outcome. A claim was filed against the state for lost wages on behalf of the dismissed teachers and Dr. Hoose. On May 3, 1884, the Board of Claims awarded back salaries to each of the plaintiffs. Gov. Grover Cleveland signed the bill on May 24, 1884.
     This ended a bitter political battle that had been fought over several years. The decision gave greater security to educators, and established conditions for more comprehensive reforms. The initial skirmish was lost, but a principle of far greater value was won.

To view early photo of Dr. Hoose, click:

Thursday, March 1, 2012

New York State Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officers Expresses Concern

Last updated on February 29, 2012

Local Officials From Across New York State Announce New York Leaders for Pension Reform

     Mayors and county executives from across New York State, representing more than 15,000,000 New Yorkers, today announced that they have formed a bipartisan coalition to address the crisis of skyrocketing pension costs. New York Leaders for Pension Reform will lead a vigorous campaign across the state to ensure state legislators understand the importance to local governments of passing Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s reform plan to get pension costs under control without reducing retirement benefits for a single existing public employee. Please visit for further information.
     View related article at:|topnews|text|Home
     Pensions must be paid on these high public employee salaries:
     New York State pension list:
     A useful website covering public pensions in California, New York, and several other states:
     For an unbiased news report, click on link:
     Tier 6 adopted:
     Buffalo News editorial about political blowback on pension reform:
     Gov. Cuomo's press release on Tier 6:
     Recent and projected pension contribution increases for local government and schools:
     Teacher pensions in New York State:
     Find New York State and local pensions:
     In-depth article on pension costs:|topnews|text|Home