Congress sides with corporations on Internet privacy
When Congress voted last week to strip away regulations protecting consumer privacy they demonstrated their preference to support big profits for big corporations. In doing so they effectively voted against protecting the privacy of the citizens whose interests they swore to represent when they took office.
The vote removed requirements that Internet providers protect personal information, such as customers’ web browsing history, health data, social security numbers, emails, and banking information. It allows Verizon, AT&T, Comcast and other internet service providers to sell that information, without customer approval or permission. For internet providers, customers’ private information begets corporate enrichment at the expense of customers’ fundamental privacy rights. From a practical point of view, this means Internet users will always be under surveillance by corporations searching for saleable databases to enhance their revenue stream. The legislation also frees these companies from the obligation to protect customer information from being hacked or otherwise stolen.
Today the Internet is a necessity for completing job applications, applying for college, communicating with friends and family, banking, and bill-paying. In many parts of the country, there is only one internet service provider. Those who support the bill claim, disingenuously, that the privacy regulations stifle innovation by forcing providers to abide by “unreasonably strict guidelines” and that stripping away the protections would “remove the uncertainty” created by the rules. Wouldn’t it be more innovative to figure out how to grow business while protecting customers’ basic privacy rights? Wouldn’t it eliminate uncertainty to support regulations that fully and clearly support customers’ privacy rights?
In eliminating an important consumer protection, this government is placing an additional burden on Americans already struggling to make their way in an increasingly complex world and demonstrating corporate profit opportunities are deemed worthier than a citizen’s right to privacy. The personal information targeted in this regulatory rollback belongs to consumers, not corporations; our fundamental right to privacy should not be monetized.
Deidre J. Byrne
Raise the age of criminal responsibility
New York is one of only two states whose justice system treats 16 and 17 year olds as adults, and Raise the Age legislation in the New York Assembly is an effort to make New York’s justice system at least as enlightened as Mississippi’s. DA Carnright’s recent objections to the legislation use worst-case hypotheticals to oppose the bill. This would perpetuate all the negative outcomes of sending so many young people to adult prisons where they learn to be hardened criminals. The Raise the Age bill would still deal harshly with those committing violent felonies. We should urge our state senators to support the assembly bill.
Speed limit on 9W should be lowered
I am told that DOT is refusing to permit lower traffic speeds on congested portions of Rt. 9W entering the village of Saugerties from the south. Who in DOT made this adverse determination and by what objective standards? Who made the initial request for the town and received the negative response? The town, county and state all bear the responsibility to provide safe convenient access on public roads for all forms of transport: foot, bicycle and motor vehicle. This is mandated by the governor under his Complete Streets Policy. Ever since its enactment New York State has shown no evidence of following through, nor has the county of Ulster responded. Only the town of Saugerties is beginning to respond, with Town Board member Fred Costello taking the lead along with the Saugerties Transportation Advisory Committee.
There can be a price to pay for this inaction, a huge price. On Dec. 22, 2016, in a trial in the Court of Appeals, the jury awarded an injured cyclist struck by a speeding driver over $35,000,000, 40 percent to be paid by the municipality for “failure to study or implement traffic calming measures.” If consideration for human life is not important enough to prompt DOT to act, maybe money will.
Thank you Jim
I would like to publicly thank Councilman Jim Bruno for once again assisting with and resolving several issues that I brought to Jim’s attention.
Over the years I have contacted Jim for many various town issues and concerns that I have. He always, and I mean always, takes phone calls either at his residence or on his cell phone and if not available always promptly returns each and every phone call. No matter the nature of my concerns, he listens, takes information correctly, relays that information to the proper town department and follows through by resolving the issue and with a follow-up phone call. He never makes me feel that my concerns are trite and listens to whatever I have to say.
Jim Bruno takes his councilman duties seriously and is not afraid to get involved. He is always there to help, as that is his true nature.
I want to say “Thank you Jim” and in closing, no matter what public office you run for you will have my vote. I truly appreciate all you have done for me and for the town of Saugerties.
The no-nukes dream
Thank you for printing the letters by Steve Josephs, informing the readers of the dangers of nuclear weapons, drones, the exploding defense budget and our ongoing wars. Mr. Josephs provides important facts and makes compelling arguments about why these activities will never create peace.
During the Vietnam War, Thich Nhat Hanh declared: “They bombed the village to save it.” We continue as a nation to go down that road and the problems worsen.
We have joined Nevada Desert Experience, a faith-based community, for the last 30 years, witnessing and doing non-violent civil disobedience at the Nevada Test Site and more recently at Creech Air Force Base, to put an end to nuclear weapons and drone warfare. We don’t hear about the thousands of innocent people who have died in our drone attacks.
Join the Sacred Peace Walk in April along with the Western Shoshone nation, and people of all cultures and traditions, who imagine a world where peace is possible.
Joan Monastero & Alan Spivack
Memorializing resolutions serve important function
Our Ulster County Legislature is going to vote on April 18 on Resolution 91 to ban memorializing resolutions as a part of its legislative agenda. This is a sad decision for our local democracy and will have the effect of stifling communities and individuals from expressing their values and needs as a collective. This collective voice is the foundation and precursor to the creation of new and better laws that will have an effect on all our citizens.
A memorializing resolution is a non-binding statement that municipalities or groups come together to create about something that matters to their quality of life or to a value they hold in common. It is a statement of intent or value that is not a law but a way, especially when done in concert with other municipalities, of creating a vision. These resolutions let other bodies of government know where a community stands on issues such as the environment, healthcare or civil liberties. Sometimes, if enough communities make the same resolution, it has a direct effect on state, county or local policy making.
One notable example of the power of memorializing resolutions to exert influence can be seen in the number of communities who made resolutions against fracking which ultimately factored into the decision of our governor to ban fracking in New York State. While we can make calls to our elected officials as individuals, the power of a collective voice can be more impactful and more expedient when trying to convey important points of view.
Some members of our legislature have decided that memorializing resolutions take too much time to debate and therefore should be eliminated. Chairman Ronk claims that a letter from a legislator is a sufficient replacement. He also claims that citizens can get up in front of the legislature and make a statement on what they want and that three-minute statement would be just as powerful. But once a citizen speaks (or even has the courage or wherewithal to speak) that is the end of that particular voice. The governor will never hear that speech whereas a passed memorializing resolution is newsworthy because it is the voice of many and is brought before the public for continued input before the vote takes place.
I feel a deep concern that some of our elected legislators, given their oath to serve our best interests, have fallen into an insular and narrow path with the creation of this ban. I would like to argue that all democratic processes take up time and if a memorializing resolution is one of the tools that legislators can use to speak on behalf of the public, what would the next tool that takes up too much time be? I also feel that the Ulster County Legislature has the possibility of setting the tone for the smaller towns, cities and villages county-wide. Is limiting public input and discouraging mutual cooperation between legislators and the citizens the best way to go? These are uncertain times in our democracy as it is. Do we really need, here in Ulster County, to put a tragic limit on the direct and personal wants, needs and desires of our citizens?
I say to our Legislature, vote no to Resolution 91. Vote for your constituents to be more empowered; not further hobbled.
Faso insincere about climate
Congressman John Faso recently sounded the trumpets after signing on to a resolution by House conservatives to “study and address” climate change. The “study” proviso is especially galling, as it implies that the sources of climate change are somehow not yet established. Not coincidentally, nowhere does the resolution assert that the primary cause of climate change is human activity.
Furthermore, the resolution does not address any of the well-researched means our legislators have at their disposal to actually address climate change, such as cap and trade programs, emissions regulation, and staying in the Paris Accord.
Faso is a former fracking lobbyist and ally to EPA director and climate change-denier Scott Pruitt. Faso voted to let coal companies dump coal tailings in streams. He voted to overturn the SEC requirement for oil, gas, and mining companies to disclose payments to foreign governments; now, those corporations can do any questionable deals they like, hidden from the public. Are these the actions of a congressman concerned about the environment and the public interest?
Faso likes to refer to himself as a “moderate,” but his votes are to the far right. Now he’s trying to portray himself as a champion of the environment with this meaningless resolution. This empty document is meant to distract voters from the business-as-usual actions of the House Republicans vis-a-vis fossil fuels. We’re not falling for it.
Beyond the nation-state
I am thankful to the people of Saugerties, our Hudson Valley communities and others throughout the U.S. who have been engaged in vitally important gatherings and actions of resistance in these difficult times, critical to the future of us all. Old and new voices are joining together, contributing insights, experiences and skills towards creating a more sane, honest and non-violent world.
I have recently returned from a conference of Jewish Voice for Peace where 1,000 people from across the U.S. and internationally have confronted difficult issues and have returned with renewed strength to enter into our collective struggle for human rights and dignity for all.
One of the amazing women I met at the conference was Alice Rothchild, Jewish-American obstetrician-gynecologist who has worked in healthcare reform and women’s movements for many years. From 2004 to 2013, she was assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology at the Faculty of Medicine, Harvard University. Her second and concomitant career as writer and filmmaker came out of her visits to Israel and Palestine. She has brought delegations to the region, her most recent visit with Physicians for Social Responsibility. Raised on the tragedies of the Holocaust, Rothchild was opened to harsh realities and new realizations. She has written, filmed and traveled the U.S. doing book readings, film screenings, analytic presentations.
Friday night, April 7 at 7 p.m., Alice Rothchild will be at Woodstock Town Hall, through a Skype interview together with her enlightening film “Voices Across the Divide” that documents interviews of rarely-heard personal stories. Rothchild sees — as we all must and as it has come home to our communities — that our future rests on ethical behavior and personal responsibility, not on nationalistic orientation. I urge you to be there!