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Howard B. Owens's blog

Sunday, November 9, 2008 at 9:38 pm

How to post a photo on The Batavian

post by Howard B. Owens in help, thebatavian

Sunday, November 9, 2008 at 9:37 pm

How to tag posts on The Batavian

post by Howard B. Owens in help, thebatavian

Sunday, November 9, 2008 at 9:36 pm

How to use the HTML editor on The Batavian

post by Howard B. Owens in help, thebatavian

Sunday, November 9, 2008 at 9:35 pm

How to create a blog post on The Batavian

post by Howard B. Owens in help, thebatavian

Sunday, November 9, 2008 at 8:32 pm

Is a new age dawning for agricutlure?

post by Howard B. Owens in agriculture

Mark T. Mitchell, writing for First Principles Journal, discusses sustainable farming in an article "The Rediscovery of Agriculture?"

Is there any farm in Genesee County like Polyface Farms in Staunton, Virginia?

Although he sells beef, chickens, eggs, turkeys, pork, and rabbits, Salatin calls himself a grass farmer. That is, he is in the business of raising meat and eggs for sale, but he realizes that the quality of his products, and ultimately the success of his farm, depends on the quality of the grass in his pastures. Unlike the vast majority of meat products in the U.S. today, Salatin’s cows are raised and finished on grass; his chickens are pastured; his hogs are happy, and his turkeys, well, they seem friendly. The Polyface website affirms their belief that the natural world is the model they seek to emulate: “Believing that the Creator’s design is still the best pattern for the biological world, the Salatin family invites like-minded folks to join in the farm’s mission.”

Salatin has developed innovated methods of enhancing his grass farm and thereby providing a good place for his animals. For example, his cows are moved to new pasture almost daily, and these docile beasts are anxious to move, for each fresh pasture represents, in the cow’s mind, what Salatin calls “cow ice-cream.” As in nature, once the herbivores (in this instance, cows) have moved to another field, the birds (in this case, chickens) come next. Portable chicken coops make it possible to move the chickens through a recently grazed pasture. The chickens flourish on the cropped grass, and they pick through the cow dung, eating bugs and parasites, and in the process spread the manure over the field, while depositing plenty of their own. The symbiosis of this relationship between cows and chickens replenishes the pastures even as it sustains the animals living there. This is just one example of how the people at Polyface seek to work with the natural world to raise healthy animals while simultaneously sustaining and even improving the land on which they farm.

Mitchell then goes on to talk about the work of economist John E. Ikerd, professor emeritus of agricultural economics at the University of Missouri.

Ikerd admits that his views are not typical of economists, but

[B]eing an economist is no excuse for ignoring ecological and social reality. How can agriculture meet the food and fiber needs of a growing world population if we destroy the natural productivity and regenerative capacity of the land? Economists generally assume that we will find substitutes for anything we use up and will fix any ecological or social problems we create, but these are simply beliefs with no logical, scientific support in fact.

Furthermore, although it is true that, at least in the short term, industrial agriculture can produce an incredible amount of food, there are trade-offs, and we are remiss to ignore what is inevitably sacrificed.

What is the net benefit of an agriculture that meets the physical needs of people but separates families, destroys communities, and diminishes the overall quality of life within society? How can it possibly be good to defile the earth, even if it is profitable to do so? Economists simply don’t consider the social, psychological, or ethical consequences of the things people do to make money. Economics treats such things as social or ecological externalities, which may impose irrational limits or constraints on the legitimate pursuit of wealth.

Mitchell then lists three reasons why centralized farming is bad for the nation.

  • Industrialized food doesn't taste as good and isn't as healthy;
  • Centralized agriculture is less secure against terrorist attacks;
  • Industrial farming is not sustainable.

This is an agricultural community.  I would be interested in two reactions to Mitchell's piece -- is it realistic based on what you know about local farming, and are there any farms in Genesee County implementing sustainable agricultural tactics?

Sunday, November 9, 2008 at 11:37 am

Graham CEO explains downturn in stock price

post by Howard B. Owens in graham corp

About 80 analysts gathered outside Buffalo yesterday to hear pitches from a number of Western New York companies about the soundness of their investments, according to the D&C.

Among those attending, Graham Corp. The Batavia-based company has seen it's stock slide from a 52-week high of $54.91 to close Friday at $13.90.

Graham, a regular presenter at the conference, has seen its stock fall sharply in recent weeks as oil prices plunged. The company makes vital equipment for the oil refining and petrochemical industries.

"This isn't a Graham problem," said CEO James Lines. "The whole energy sector fell out of favor."

Lines told investors that the long-term prospects of the energy industry are strong, pointing to plans for 17 refineries in China alone.

Sunday, November 9, 2008 at 11:28 am

Obama's Plan for Rural America, and our food supply

post by Howard B. Owens in Barack Obama, agriculture, farms

The blog Ethicurean, a site dedicated to healthy, locally produced food, put together a post about President-Elect Barack Obama's farm and food policies as detailed during his campaign.

Since Genesee County is a rural farming community, it is probably useful to look at some of the key issues raised by Obama in his speeches and policy statements.

Here's the key point of the post:

So what might we expect from an Obama administration when it comes to food policy? Maybe quite a bit. In his plan for rural America, he lays out a number of policy positions that are a departure from the status quo. Obama:

  • Supports subsidies as a safety net, but calls for a $250,000 payment limitation and closing of loopholes, so that the program supports family farmers, not corporate agribusiness.
  • Supports regulation of CAFOs (factory livestock operations).
  • Wants to enforce anti-trust laws that so that smaller farmers can compete against large-scale meatpackers.
  • Wants to cap the size of agricultural businesses that can receive government funds for environmental cleanup so that taxpayers don’t subsidize cleanup for large, polluting corporations.
  • Supports Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) for meat, a critical issue as we learn how widespread melamine contamination of animal feed is in countries like China.
  • Wants to increase support for organic agriculture and local food systems by helping farmers with organic certification/compliance costs.
  • Wants to provide incentives to encourage and support new farmers, land conservation, renewable energy on the farm, and microenterprise for farmers and other rural Americans.
  • Calls for greater food safety surveillance and communications.
  • Plans to encourage local foods in schools.
  • Supports providing farmers with incentives that will prevent agricultural runoff.

From his campaign web site, here is Obama's Plan for Rural America.

Saturday, November 8, 2008 at 2:01 pm

Palin lashes back at media and anonymous McCain staffers

post by Howard B. Owens in nation and world

This video is notable for the way Sarah Palin strikes back at the national media and their unethical use -- and it is unethical -- of anonymous sources to levy personal charges at her.  Whether the charges are true or not -- and she says they're false -- they're of the sort that should only be reported when sources are willing to put their names behind their statements.

Saturday, November 8, 2008 at 8:48 am

Byron's Hiscock Site subject of talk tonight

post by Howard B. Owens in announcements, byron

Richard Laub, Buffalo Museum of Science curator of geology, is the featured dinner speaker tonight at the  Eastern States Archaeological Federation’s annual meeting. He will speak on the Hiscock Site, an archeological dig in Byron. The federation is meeting at the Holiday Inn Lockport, 515 S. Transit Road.

The site was accidentally discovered in 1959, but was not actively excavated until the 1980s. The site has yield mastodon fragments and paleo-Indian artifacts.

The full program of the federations meeting can be downloaded as a PDF here.

Saturday, November 8, 2008 at 8:30 am

Batavian Stack helps RIT to victory in women's hockey

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, hockey, sports

Katie Stack, of Batavia, a sophomore at RIT, had a key assist last night as the Tigers beat Neumann College 6-1.

Klassen struck again at 5:17 of the second on a short-handed breakaway. The Tigers were down two, and Katie Stack (Batavia, NY) poked the puck free at center ice. She and Klassen broke in two-on-one. Stack flicked a pass over to Klassen who tipped the puck home for her second tally of the night.

Saturday, November 8, 2008 at 8:13 am

Batavia: Not just a place to pass through

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, bill kauffman

After 18 months of living in Batavia, local blogger Martin Szinger is getting settled into life in his new home town.

I was born and raised the Town of Tonawanda, a first-ring suburb of Buffalo. As an adult, I moved out to the "country" in Genesee County, Town of Batavia. Always Buffalo-facing, I never gave much thought to the City of Batavia, five miles to the east, other than it being the shopping destination of choice for most of life's daily needs. I came to understand that most of Genesee County is more likely to be Rochester-facing - we got the 585 area code with them, bland pollsters operating from a half a world away assume we watch the Rochester TV stations, and so on. But I never gave much consideration to the idea that any significant number of people could be Batavia-facing.

Great way of putting it: That you can live in Batavia and not look to Buffalo or to Rochester, but actually be Batavia-facing.

It's probably no surprise that Martin getting knee deep in appreciation for Batavia coincides with his reading Bill Kauffman's book.

Slowly, I've become more interested in the history of the place. I've just finished reading Bill Kauffman's Dispatches from the Muckdog Gazette, in which the author's classic experience of the Native Son returning to his small hometown is set in the very same Batavia. It's his vehicle for bemoaning so much of what's been lost in Small Town America and also celebrating the good in What Remains There, but it's also very much about Batavia. Literate (probably to a fault) and witty (to compensate), Kauffman produces a veritable parade of references that shed light on Batavia so as to almost move it from the Real to the Mythic. You can feel the love, and it's contagious.

And we're gratified to know that Martin reads The Batavian and that he is considering taking our advice to subscribe to the home town newspaper. We also encourage him to make a habit of WBTA.

You can enrich your life when you turn to your own home town and make it not just a place where you watch TV and sleep at night, but where you actually live.

Saturday, November 8, 2008 at 7:50 am

Can the Old Right rise again?

post by Howard B. Owens in nation and world

The blog at The American Conservative wonders if the Old Right can seize control of the GOP.  The Old Right would be the non-interventionist at home and aboard, the Robert Taft wing, of the GOP -- the traditional conservative movement that once dominated the party (before rought 3/4 of current Americans were alive).

Saturday, November 8, 2008 at 7:35 am

Why albums used to matter

post by Howard B. Owens in music, nation and world
Friday, November 7, 2008 at 8:39 am

Hardball questions Palin's readiness for VP slot

post by Howard B. Owens in nation and world

Thursday, November 6, 2008 at 7:37 am

Ralph Nader unrepentant for suggesting Obama could be an 'Uncle Tom'

post by Howard B. Owens in nation and world

Ralph Nader was, at one time, one of the most respected people in America. In an interview with a Houston radio station, Nader said Barack Obama will have a choice on whether to be an "Uncle Sam or be an Uncle Tom."

Fox News gave Nader a chance to take it back, and when asked if he regretted saying it, he said, "Not at all."

Nader appears completely clueless as to how offensive the term is.

Thursday, November 6, 2008 at 6:35 am

Dale Stein hopeful about Obama presidency

post by Howard B. Owens in Dale Stein

Former Genesee County Farm Bureau president Dale Stein is included in a D&C story rounding up reactions to Barack Obama's historic victory Tuesday.

Dale Stein, a dairy farmer in LeRoy, Genesee County, supported McCain, but said he was "not massively disappointed" with Obama's win — and was pleased with other aspects of the election. "There was a (big) turnout. People finally got a reason to get out and vote, and that's a good thing," said Stein, 54. "I liked some things about both candidates. I just liked McCain more."

Stein's top hope for Obama is addressing agricultural issues, particularly about immigration policies related to migrant workers.

Stein said he hoped Obama would take measures to turn the slumping U.S. economy around, but said that Congress has more responsibility in that regard. Reining in excessive pay and compensation for corporate leaders is key, he said.

Stein was included in a pre-election series of stories by the D&C about important issues in the election. We posted about it here.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008 at 7:37 pm

Chris Lee promises to keep constituents informed

post by Howard B. Owens in Chris Lee, NY-26

Congressman-elect Chris Lee spoke with WHAM's Evan Dawson this morning and promised to keep an open door, saying that if constituents aren't informed about what a congressman does, he doesn't deserve the office.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008 at 11:55 am

Our nation is changed forever

post by Howard B. Owens in nation and world

I like this post from conservative writer Megan McArdle:

Whether or not you are for Obama, the candidate, I think you have to admit that there is one pretty exciting thing happening today:  we will never again live in an America where a black man can't be elected president.   It's a great day for all of us--the thought really does thrill me every time I think it, even though I know I'm going to hate an awful lot of his policymaking.  But it's especially great for those who were, in earlier days, barred from that sort of achievement.

Which prompted a reader to write into libertarian blogger Glenn Reynolds:

UPDATE: Reader Rahul Banta writes: "I think one take away from this election cycle is that never again will two white men ever be successful running for President and Vice President. I think this election has changed all that permanently. For better or worse we now will have at least one woman and one minority person on one of the major parties ticket, perhaps even in the same person and anything other than that will be seen as somehow out of touch or not very representative of America. The amazing thing is this all happened without anyone really noticing it."

I also like this found on Glenn's blog:

JIM MANZI: "There are about 1,460 days until the next Presidential election, and I assume that I will spend approximately the next 1,459 of them opposing Barack Obama. But I’m spending today proud abut what my country has overcome."

It doesn't matter whether you're Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal -- the election of Barack Obama is a major milestone in this country.  It gives us hope that the ugly issues of race can become merely historical references in textbooks.

We should be proud of our country today, and for those of us who might oppose some or all of Obama's agenda, raise that opposition with equal measures of vigor and respect.  But we shouldn't let mere partisanship or over-simplified campaign rhetoric distract us from the work of moving the country, and our communities, forward.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008 at 11:33 am

Daughter of slave, 109, revels in Obama victory

post by Howard B. Owens in nation and world

From NPR:

Along a rural highway in central Texas sits a small white house with some cows grazing out back and a wheelchair ramp leading to the front screen door. Inside that house lives Amanda Jones, 109, the daughter of a slave. No one in her family, least of all Jones, thought she would live long enough to vote for the man who is to become the first black president.

Jones is the living link between the time when black men were owned as property and the time when a black man has been elected president of the United States.

She wears a pink gown and sits in a worn recliner. Thick glasses magnify her rheumy eyes — eyes that have witnessed two world wars, a great depression, and the arrival of jazz, television and antibiotics. Born in 1899, Jones has lived through a half-century of institutional segregation and a second half-century of attempts to erase that legacy.

"The white is over everything," she says. "I never thought the colored would rise up" and accomplish this.

She says Barack Obama's election is "a blessing."

Wednesday, November 5, 2008 at 8:32 am

Thoughts on Chris Lee and the campaign, the day after the election

post by Howard B. Owens in Alice Kryzan, Chris Lee, Jon Powers, NY-26

What I write below started as a comment in response to John Roach in response to this post, but as I wrote, I realized this is probably just my wrap up commentary on the 26th District congressional race. So, first John's excellent comment, and then my response.

It could have been the DNC negative ads that killed off Alice. Who ever came up with the Chris Lee was fired line at the last minute did Alice no good. Even if the charge is true, the way it came out, and at the last minute, made it look like a stunt. The China thing the national DNC lied about did not help either.

Chris told and/or his side told lies also. It just seems the side that lied the most lost.

John, Chris negative ads, as I said, were pretty devoid of substance -- "liberal trial lawyer" ... "she will raise taxes" ... scripted in 1988.  They had nothing to do with who Alice Kryzan really is, but painted her as characterture. They were relentless.

But I think the ads had the effect they were meant to have, which I didn't really think about until last night: They kept the base loyal.  Lee wasn't really trying, with those ads, to appeal to swing voters, just keep the GOP in the GOP column.  Drown out any positive message Kryzan might have.

And you're right, the DCCC did Kryzan no favors.  Whatever chance Kryzan had, the DCCC killed it. First, the negative ads were over the top and in no way truthful.  Second, they also crowded out Kryzan's message and didn't allow Alice to be Alice. In the end, they played right into the Lee/GOP strategy of muting Kryzan's plans and policy voice.

Kryzan's one chance of winning was to run a campaign of substance on issues, and not make it about Chris Lee. The DCCC tried to make it about Lee. Big mistake.

And you're right about the "fired" thing. I hadn't considered it from that light before. And in that light, you could make the case that the Kryzan campaign mishandled it, because they really tried to play it up.  Langworthy and Lee probably made stick the counter spin of "Kryzan's desperate campaign."

But let's face it, Jon Powers didn't do Kryzan many favors. He was slow to endorse her, and my sense from that is that the Democratic base was then slow to rally to her cause. He didn't start soon enough with the effort to get his name off the Working Families line. He didn't get out on the campaign trail for her soon enough.

That said, I'm optimistic that Chris Lee is a decent fellow.  I've met him once and he left a favorable first impression on me.  I remain concerned that he'll be a "reliable GOP vote" rather than an independent voice of and for the district. I would love a chance to sit down and talk with him at some length about his plans and his policies. Also, he's going to have a very tough job as a freshman congressman working within a decimated GOP minority.

Much has been made over earmarks (pork) the past two years, but the fact is, if you want to target meaningful reductions in Federal spending, pork is a poor choice of where to begin with the knife. Earmarks make up less than 5 percent of the Federal budget. But what earmarks do is allow a congressman to return some taxpayer money to the district.

If used to help build roads, upgrade other infrastructure, finance green business start ups, help local agencies get jobs done they could otherwise not afford, than earmarks help create jobs and make life better in a district. Earmarks shouldn't be used just to do favors for campaign donors.

So here's to hoping Lee will fight for the 26th District's share of pork, and then some.

As for being a "reliable GOP vote," I guess there are two ways of looking at that.  With the GOP in such dire straits in the House, the Republicans sticking together as the opposition party might have some mollifying effect on the Democrats (nothing against Democrats, but in any two-party Constitutional government, there should be some sort of opposition).

On the other hand, Lee has just won a seat that almost guarantees him no more than two terms in office (it will likely be eliminated in redistricting in 2012). The GOP is in disarray and will go through a good deal of soul searching and a few internal battles as it tries to rebuild a meaningful philosophical core.  That may take a generation or two, just as it did post-Hoover This would be a great time for a man like Lee to step out and define himself as an independent voice. It could be what makes or breaks his political career from 2012 onward.

There's no reason Lee can't fashion a voice and voting record that stands in opposition to the most extreme of Democratic plans, but doesn't kowtow to the Republican House leadership.  It will be interesting to see which path Lee chooses.  I haven't given up hope that Lee did what he had to do -- go along with the GOP election strategy  -- in order to safely win the seat, but that he has within him the capability to now step forward and better define himself as a legislator and as a representative.

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