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By Jeremy Schiffres, Daily and Sunday Freeman, Kingston, N.Y.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The finish line ... at last

The election in New York's 20th Congressional District is under way and will be over at 9 tonight.

Thank God!

... not because a seat in Congress will be filled after being vacant for two months, but because one of the meanest, angriest, most spiteful and most hateful campaigns in recent political history will finally be over.

I mean, here we are, after two months of non-stop campaign advertising, and I - a reasonably intelligent and attentive guy when it comes to the news of the day - can tell you far more about what each side hates about the other guy than I can about what each guy stands for.

I know that Democrat Scott Murphy claims to have created 1,000 jobs and backs President Obama's economic stimulus plan, and I know Republican Jim Tedisco opposes the stimulus plan and says he's fighting for people like us (whatever the heck that means). But that's really it.

What about health care, education, foreign policy, immigration, the environment and countless other issues that voters care about? Not a peep in Murphy's or Tedisco's campaign commercials about these things. Instead, they (and the national party committees who bankroll some of the ads) think we care about how much money Tedisco charges taxpayers for his state vehicle, Murphy's connections to overseas companies, how this guy said one thing but did another, and how that guy ... oh, WHO GIVES A CRAP!!!

And the reality is that, in the grand scheme of things, this election doesn't matter that much. It's important that the people of 20th District have able representation in the House, of course, but to portray this as some sort of national referendum on Obama's policies - as the likes of Fox, CNN, The Associated Press and USA Today have been doing - is just hogwash.

This is, for all intents and purposes, nothing more than a local election among a relatively small group of voters who, sadly, will make their decisions today not on the basis of the candidates' policy positions, but on the grounds of whose negative ads had a more devastating effect on the opponent.

How sad.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Campaign overload

The fourth and final debate between Democrat Scott Murphy and Republican James Tedisco — the candidates in next week's special election in New York's 20th Congressional District — was held from 7 to 8 this evening in suburban Albany.

Between 7:30 and 9:45 p.m., the Freeman newsroom received a total of 14 e-mails from the two campaigns — eight from one side, six from the other — each one extolling their guy's virtues and slamming the other.

The final e-mail from the Murphy camp declared Murphy had won the debate.

The final e-mail from Tedisco's people declared Tedisco the winner.

And the total amount of material from these e-mails that will appear in the Freeman's story about the debate? Zero.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Fiddling around

Congrats, kudos and a loud shout-out to the Kingston High School students who put on an outstanding performance of the musical "Fiddler on the Roof" this past weekend.

The cast - led by Sage Boris as Tevye and featuring the dynamite voices of Nichole Silva (Golde) and Liz Wilson (Hodel) and the great comic timing of Leah Cohen (Yente) - provided ample proof that there are plenty of good, talented and hard-working kids among today's teenagers, even though we often are led to believe otherwise.

Great job, one and all!


Friday, March 20, 2009

Second-hand news

The Associated Press, unable to find out Natasha Richardson's medical status after a skiing accident in Quebec this week, reported before her death on Wednesday that the actress' condition was serious - attributing the information to The New York Times, which was quoting two anonymous sources.

This morning, the Poughkeepsie Journal reported Richardson will be buried Sunday in Dutchess County, where she had a home. Unable to confirm the burial site on its own, the Journal attributed the information to the New York Post, which was citing "off the record" sources.

Whatever happened to the days when news organizations had to nail down facts on their own - and from named sources - before reporting them?


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Whose party is it anyway?

Have you seen Jim Tedisco's new TV commercial?

The Republican candidate in New York's 20th Congressional District quotes Democratic President Barack Obama, saying: "In these difficult times, we're not Democrats or Republicans. We're Americans."

Make no mistake: This is a Republican candidate in a heavily Republican district so worried about losing (after all, his lead in the polls over Democrat Scott Murphy has shrunk from 12 points to 4) that he's now quoting the Democratic president in an effort to win over Democratic voters.

If Jim Tedisco needs Democratic voters to win in the New York 20th, stick a fork in him. He's done.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Great games

The professional and college sports teams I root for haven't won many championships (a grand total of two, to be exact), but they certainly have given me some thrilling postseason games. And the list grew by one this week.

Here's a rundown:

• January 1991: The Buffalo Bills — who I've followed since my childhood — played in one of the most exciting Super Bowls ever but came up just short, losing 20-19 to the New York Giants after Scott Norwood's infamous "wide right" 48-yard field goal attempt with 8 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

• January 1993: Another Bills classic. Down 35-3 in the the third quarter of an AFC wildcard game against the Houston Oilers, the Bills, piloted by backup quarterback Frank Reich, scored 35 unanswered points to take the lead before finally giving up a game-tying field goal near the end of the regulation. But they went on to win on a Steve Christie field goal in overtime.

• April 1994: My beloved Buffalo Sabres played the New Jersey Devils to a scoreless tie in regulation of Game 6 in the NHL Eastern Conference quarterfinals. The game remained scoreless through three 20-minute overtimes — no surprise given that two of the league's best goalies, Buffalo's Dominik Hasek and New Jersey's Martin Brodeur, were minding the nets at the opposite ends of the ice — before Buffalo's Dave Hannan finally went top shelf on Brodeur for the game-winning goal in the fourth overtime ... at about 2:50 a.m. The Sabres lost Game 7 of that series, bringing their season to an end, but that long night's journey into the next morning will always stand out in my mind.

• October 2002: The Anaheim Angels — down 3-2 in the World Series to the San Francisco Giants and losing 5-0 with one out in the seventh inning of Game 6 — scored three runs in the seventh and another three in the eighth to force Game 7, which they won, 4-1, to secure their first championship.

• April 2003: The Syracuse Orange stormed out to an 18-point lead in the NCAA basketball championship game against Kansas only to have to hold on for dear life down the stretch to secure a three-point win and the school's first national title.

And finally ...

• March 12 (and 13), 2009: Syracuse blew a late seven-point lead over the University of Connecticut in the quarterfinals of the Big East basketball tournament and went to overtime against the Huskies. Then a second overtime. Then a third. And a fourth. And a fifth. And a sixth, before finally pulling away for a 127-117 victory in a game that ended at 1:22 a.m. Truly a game for the ages (unless you're a UConn fan).

I can't wait to see what happens next!


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Giving you pieces of my mind

Sorry I've been blogless for about a week. Got busy with some other things. Here's what's been on my mind lately:

* I can't believe that Scott Murphy, the Democratic candidate in the upcoming special election in New York's 20th Congressional District, is not trying to make hay out of Republican candidate James Tedsico not living in the district. (Tedsico lives in Schenectady, which is just outside the 20th.) Tedisco isn't breaking any laws - it's legal to run for Congress in any district in New York as long as you live in the state - but it seems to me that Murphy would score a lot of points by reminding voters in the 20th that Tedisco isn't one of them. But what does Murphy do instead? He agrees to debate Tedisco on March 26 in Latham, which is - you guessed it - not in the 20th District.

* One of the 11 p.m. news anchors on WABC-TV 7 in New York City commented on Saturday that the return of daylight-saving time means we're getting "an extra hour of daylight." It does? That's news to me. Sunset may be coming an hour later, but so is sunrise.

*The Sonic drive-in restaurant chain is building its first-ever New York state location in the town of Ulster. A drive-in restaurant in a place that gets snow about five months out of every year - yeah, that makes sense.

* Not yet sure how I feel about Terrell "T.O." Owens signing with my beloved Buffalo Bills. He's a good receiver, to be sure, but he has a reputation for being a troublemaker and a devisive element in the locker room - something the Bills can do without. I'm willing to give T.O. a chance, but forgive me if I don't put too much faith in a guy who has made numerous enemies in his three previous NFL cities.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Marc at 15

My son Marc turns 15 today - the same age I was when I met the woman who later gave birth to him.

Does that mean Marc might meet the mother of my future grandchildren sometime in the coming year? Hey, you never know!

Happy birthday, Marc. And no need to rush that grandchildren thing.


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Not so depressing

An Associated Press piece I read on the Web this morning suggested that, amid all the talk of the United States being in a recession, we may actually be in a depression — a severe economic downturn not seen in these parts since the 1930s.

Here’s a news flash for the writer: We’re not in a depression. In fact, we’re not even in a recession yet, despite the oft-repeated lie that the current downturn started in late 2007.

A recession, by virtually every economist’s definition, does not exist until there have been two consecutive quarters of economic contraction — that is, back-to-back three-month periods in which the United States’ “gross domestic product” becomes smaller rather than larger.

If you buy into all the silly exaggerations, you probably think the GDP has been moving in reverse since the final quarter of 2007. In fact, the GDP expanded in the final quarter of 2007, as well as the first three quarters of 2008. The only negative quarter we’ve had — and it was a doozy, I’ll grant you, at minus-6.2 percent — was the final three-month period of 2008. That means a recession will not officially exist until the government confirms the GDP also contracted in the current quarter (which I’m sure it has).

Once that data is in, it can be said with certainty that a recession began in the final quarter of 2008 and became official in the first quarter of 2009.

Anyone who tells you the recession began earlier is lying. And anyone who tells you we’re in a depression is just plain nuts.


Monday, March 2, 2009

Snow job

Does The Weather Channel truly believe that calling an average late-winter snowfall a "megastorm" will make it so?

The worst snow totals around the Northeast on Monday ranged from 8 to 14 inches - a headache to be sure, but a "megastorm"? Please.

"Megastorm" conjures up images of the infamous blizzards of March 1993 or January 1996 - two of the most powerful and devastating winter blasts of the last 50 years; catastrophes that dumped feet of snow and shut down entire cities for days. What happened on Monday (which, by the way, was far less severe than forecast) was a garden variety Nor'easter - the kind that comes along once every year or two, messes things up for a day, moves on and is quickly forgotten.

Are the folks at The Weather Channel so hard up for ratings that they have to resort to ridiculous exaggeration and overstatement to attract attention?

Well, they obviously attracted the attention of school district officials in Ulster County, who, in what has become a laughable streak, canceled classes on a day when a fairly unimpressive storm passed primarily to our south and east and left us with barely a dusting of fresh powder.