Thursday, February 24, 2011

Jackpots, Crackpots, Empty Pots....

  GreeneLand is the home of a newly minted multimillionaire.  As reported copiously in the news media, Stephen Kirwan of Purling hit the jackpot on a Powerball lottery ticket that he bought in January at the Clothes Pin Laundromat in Catskill Commons.  Beating odds of one chance in 295 million, among buyers in 42 States plus territories and the District of Columbia, he snagged what was billed as the prize of $122 million.  But his actual prize was a smaller sum.  After choosing to collect by way of a lump sum payment rather than installments spread over 29 years, he actually copped a prize of  $61.2 million, or $40.4 million after taxes. 
    His decision in favor of collecting a lump sum makes sense in light of the fact, among others, that Mr Kirwan is 68 years old.  He has retired from two jobs: 20 years as a South Bronx firefighter and then, after moving to Purling with his wife Catherine and two offspring, 25 years up here at the Stiefel Laboratories skin care products plant.
    Joining Mr Kirwan at the award ceremony, at Albany’s Empire Plaza on February 11, was another Powerball winner: Jeff Pintuff of Wilton, in Saratoga County.  The nominal $48.8 million jackpot he won at a Christmas day drawing, thanks to a QuickPick ticket bought on December 23 at a Stewarts Shop, yielded payments of $12.4 million to Mr Pintuff and to his wife, Christine, with taxes reducing those sums to $8.2 million each.
    (Publicity photos showed the winners holding blow-ups of checks in the amounts of $122 million and $48.8 million, but no checks of those amounts were tendered).
    Meanwhile, back at the Clothes Pin Laundry, proprietor Bhasu Patel reports that in the last couple of weeks, sales of lottery tickets have surged.
    Not so lucky in the quest for sudden wealth is Coxsackie resident (so to speak) Ronald Williams. Over the past four years, Mr Williams filed Federal tax refund claims totaling $740 million.  Instead of reaping a fortune from that paper work, he achieved a grand jury indictment on charges of filing false instruments—around eight of them, including one for the sum of $293 million.   As reported in the local press (and picked up by the Associated Press), Mr Williams submitted the claims while residing, in consequence of convictions for possessing stolen property, in Greene Correctional Facility.
    The number, the scale, and the effrontery of those claims may indicate an attachment of the prisoner to the “sovereign citizens” or “redemption” movement.  “Sovereigns” deem themselves free from Federal and State taxes and regulations.  They self-award their own ‘legal’ documents (licenses to drive, hunt, fish, own a car…), file nuisance property liens naming huge figures, occasionally make lethal attacks on law enforcers, and claim to be entitled to huge government-hidden sums that were allocated to their accounts at birth. If Mr Williams is indeed a local “sovereign” he might be one of the fools who have heeded the bloviations of “Dr Sam Kennedy” (a.k.a. Glenn Richard Ungar) of Clifton Park, who does or did have a radio show (Republic Broadcasting) called “Take No Prisoners.” (For more information, check web sites of the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League).

    And speaking of money, GreeneLand’s recent cases of double-dipping from the public treasury, when compared with what is emerging down in Kingston, look trivial.  The head of that city’s detective bureau has been charged with grand larceny, to the tune of $9000, and more charges, involving lots more money and perhaps more police officers, seem to be imminent.  Lt. Timothy Matthews is suspected of drawing pay from the city, including overtime, while simultaneously drawing pay from the school district, working as a security guard at special events.  As reported in The Daily Mail, the investigation is spreading so as to cover other police officers who have worked as school security guards (at $24.50 per hour), as well as other officers in Lieutenant Matthews’s police division.  Federal Bureau of Investigation agents reportedly are sifting files relating to the Ulster Region Gang Enforcement Narcotics Team (URGENT).  Lieutenant Matthews reportedly drew pay from the city and the school district from 2007 through 2010 of $707,000 (plus benefits).  Before being placed on unpaid leave, he was due to receive in 2011, as a police lieutenant, $118,000 in salary and benefits.  Apart from overtime.  And outside work.

    Oh, and speaking of money,  State financial aid to GreeneLand (among other counties) is shrinking just as local demands for county services, prompted by hard times, are growing.  Workloads of county employees, including overtime, are up.  Obligatory payments to retirees from public sector jobs continue to grow.  Given likely revenues, at present tax rates, GreeneLand faces an excess of spending over income of $5 million.  To meet anticipated costs, even after strict economies, would require a 7 per cent hike in the local tax levy.  But the State’s new governor, Andrew Cuomo, advocates the imposition on county governments of a 2 per cent limit on tax levy increases.   Such is the picture presented in his annual status report (Feb. 16) by the chairman of the county legislature, Wayne Speenburgh.
STRIKEOUT.  The lawsuit brought against the Catskill Central School District by the high school’s former principal, William Ball IV, has been dismissed. Judge Joseph Teresi of State Supreme Court (which is not judicially supreme) ruled that Mr Ball’s termination by the district’s trustees at the end of the 2009-10 school year did not manifest “bad faith and subterfuge.” Mr Ball had contended, through attorney Richard Mott, that the trustees were punishing him for union-like activities as head of the State principals’ association.  Judge Teresi spurned that theory, giving credence instead to the trustees’ economic, budgetary rationale for the termination (which was followed by the appointment of a replacement principal).   Little attention was paid to the abrupt suspension last Spring, and to the earlier staff muttering, that preceded Mr Ball’s termination.

TWOFERS.  Now available are “Greene Cards” entitling bearers to mid-week two-for-one deals at GreeneLand resorts and attractions.  They are free and are valid for Hunter Mountain (zip line as well as ski slopes), Windham Mountain, and—come Spring--nine local golf courses.

GENDER SCORE.  Latest reports from GreeneLand high schools on Honors achievers show boys almost catching up in two cases out of three.  At Catskill HS, the ranks of High Honors-achieving seniors for the second term contained nine boys and ten girls.  At Coxsackie-Athens, the score was ten boys, twelve girls.  But at Cairo-Durham, where 32 seniors scored High Honors in second term, only nine boys made the cut. 

DOG STORY.  A sheriff’s raid on a mobile home in Ashland achieved the rescue on February 8 of 20 Golden Retriever puppies that the town animal control officer, Bruce Feml, described as “walking skeletons.” 
       According to Ron Perez, president of the Columbia-Greene Humane Society, the raid followed a tip from a State police officer who had gone to the mobile home, at 580 Sutton Hollow Road, on an unrelated matter. The animals were taken to the Humane Society shelter in Hudson, given a medical checkup, fed, and made available for adoption.   (518)828-6044. Offers of adoption have poured in, to the point where no more applications are being taken.
       The puppies had been under the care of George Leary and Emmaretta Marks, veteran rock musicians,.  Mr Leary told a News 10 reporter that he feeds his dogs “holistically” with emphasis on “natural foods.”  Mr Perez said the dogs’ mistreatment seemed to be “not malicious,” only “misguided.”          
       Ms Marks was a featured player (as one of The Supremes) in the original cast of the Broadway musical “Hair.”  She has performed with such luminaries as Jim Hendrix, Ike and Tina Turner, Levon Helm, Paul Butterfield, Melba Moore and The Rolling Stones.  She and Mr Leary, a drummer with roots in Albany and Woodstock, have recorded music with Mambo Daddy, Agitated Bovine and other bands.  As Marks & Leary & Friends, they produced an album, “Rockin’, Rhythm & Soul,” that, according to the promotional material, delivered an “urban elite sound…of super soul Woodstock dance music” that “leans you to the groove.”

Friday, February 18, 2011

Fictitious News

        Israel Releases 255 Palestinian Prisoners

       Taliban Threatens to Kill 18 Korean Hostages

       Indonesian Town Begins Preparation for 
       Next Tsunami

       Denmark Says It Secretly Flew Iraqi Employees 
       Out of Iraq

       Hamas Replaces Gaza Courts

       Italy Says Group Uses Mosque As Terror Camp

       White House and Military Say Iraq Report….

       China Shuts 3 Companies…

      Those headlines are false.  Although they were presented in the guise of straight news (in The New York Times; 7/21/07), they presented fictions.  What is more, they delivered variations on a distinctive, and common, kind of fiction.  Cases recur in the texts as well as in headlines of putative news stories, at home and abroad, written and spoken.  Witness these opening sentences:

The Town of Catskill has opted not to fill its empty fifth seat, but will continue as a four-man body until the November elections this year.”

Greene County has begun a Hudson River Corridor Study that will bring together local officials and community leaders to plan for the growth and development of its Hudson River corridor ....

HONG KONG — China took steps Wednesday to control rising prices at the most basic consumer level. But Beijing faces a severe challenge in preventing higher global commodity prices from igniting broader inflation that could threaten China’s streak of powerful economic growth. 

BEIRUT— Hezbollah and its allies threatened to withdraw from Lebanon’s government on Wednesday, a move that would force it to dissolve and deepen a crisis over a United Nations-backed tribunal investigating the assassination of a former prime minister.  
New Delhi: A day after Trinamool Congress said it was prepared to go it alone in the West Bengal assembly elections, ally Congress on Tuesday claimed that Mamata Banerjee's party cannot defeat the Left Front alone. 

Wall Street retreated Tuesday after [some companies] issued disappointing reports and the Federal Reserve voiced concern about the slumping economy.

While all of those sentences expressed falsehoods, however, for recipients they were not equally deceiving.  Some of them delivered fictions which some recipients could translate into more or less accurate accounts of actual events.  Some of them, for some recipients, worked as useful compressions.
Achieving that benefit, from such locutions, depends first of all on recognizing figurative speech.  That recognition  may come quickly.  After all, the cited headlines and sentences allude to events that contravene generally accepted notions of the laws of nature. Each offers putative information about the deeds (words; other willful behavior) of an agent who (!) does not possess a voice box, a brain, or limbs. Each endows some inorganic entity—nation-state, faction, party, department, building, corps (“the military”), direction (“the left”)--with faculties which are peculiar to human beings.  Each can be processed, then, as a variant on a singular figure of speech.
Strangely, while that pattern of figurative speech is a common feature of news (and other) discourse, it has not acquired a commonly recognized brand name.  Labels such as impersonation, personification, anthropomorphism and reification do come up, but none of them points directly to a rhetorical device.  The best label, I suggest, drawing on old lexical usage, is Personation.
 Recognizing Personation is but the first step toward decoding.  Further progress can be achieved at times by way of familiarity with conventions governing the use of particular variants.  Thus, “the White House said…” may be decoded by experienced respondents as the start of an account of what was said by a particular denizen of a particular white house:  the American President’s press secretary, acting in his official capacity.  That interpretation, based on recurring use, may be validated by a news story’s subsequent  sentences, recounting what was said by a person who is identified explicitly as the President’s press secretary.  The informant does not bother to stipulate that when he quotes or paraphrases “the White House” he is quoting or paraphrasing the President’s press secretary.  But we get the idea, and we can then credit the informant with admirable economy of expression.
 So it is too when headlines saying “UNIONS THREATEN…” and “UNIONS TO PRESS…” are followed immediately by sentences saying “Union officials threaten…” and “Leaders of two large New York City unions said Wednesday that they would push…”.  A real-world translation of the headlines is implicitly offered.
A seasoned consumer of mainstream news might not feel baffled even by the verbal image of a retreating street named Wall.  He might instead draw the inference that yesterday the average price of stocks composing the Dow Jones Industrial Index went down.  In like manner he could make sense of reports that the subject street missed the Cisco story, is poised for a tepid start, or is less anxious this week.
      Again, reportorial prose averring that “The Senate on Feb. 2 voted 81-17 to remove an unpopular paperwork requirement from the new healthcare reform law”—behold a “Senate’ who (!) votes and simultaneously votes for AND against—may deliver, with admirable brevity, a summary of how 88 Senators voted on a certain measure and of that voting’s legal effect. 
      By the same token, ostensible accounts of the doings of China, Britain, and Italy can be deciphered as accounts of deeds of agents of the governments of those nation-states.  But here, among other places, the decoding of Personation can be perilous.  For example, a headline saying 'BELARUS INTENSIFIES EFFORTS AGAINST FORMER CANDIDATE" invites respondents to infer either that a creature named Belarus is methodically abusing an individual (who somehow is and is not Belarusan) or that most Belarusians support the punitive measures that a rigorously disciplined band of governors are talking against a former candidate.  Such suggestions deter the inference that some members of an insecure ruling junta are taking desperate measures amid international and domestic disapproval.  And yet the text of the report that appeared below the headline (New York Times, 1/12/11) favors the latter inference:
  As Belarussian diplomats scrambled on Wednesday to assuage European concerns about the sweeping crackdown on dissent in their country, the authorities in Belarus were stepping up their campaign against the family of a former presidential candidate whose 3-year-old son they have threatened to seize. The security services conducted a search of the home of the former candidate, Andrei Sannikov, as well as the apartment of his wife’s mother… 

Also misleading is this version of a local event:

   Greene County’s Republican Party secured, again, control of county government’s treasurer and clerk’s posts in Tuesday’s election….
    While the GOP retained control of the Greene County government treasurer’s    and county clerk’s posts, the tenor of county politics seems to have changed….
Readers may recognize here a metaphorical treatment of “Greene County’s Republican Party” into as a single, sentient, willful being.   But they could readily infer from the author’s use of personation that the county treasurer and county clerk, and perhaps the whole county, now are effectively under the control of agents of a unitary Machine.  Such things have been known to happen (in Albany, in Jersey City, in Chicago as well as in Soviet Russia).  But in this case the inference would be wrong.  The treasurer and the county clerk of Greene County are not puppets dancing at the end of strings manipulated by a Boss.   Neither are the county legislators, coroners, district attorney, sheriff and judges who are enrolled as Republicans.  They are not centrally recruited, subjected to discipline, subject to dismissal if they break lines, dependent on the local Republican treasurer for their livelihoods.  But awareness of that situation depends on local knowledge.  Personation in this case—GOP retains “control”—falsifies the local political scene. 
    Cases of that sort do not necessarily trump the utility of Personation as a condensing, economizing aid to learning about actualities.  A sound evaluation of that practice, however, must take account of its other [psycho-political] effects.
    One is de-personalization.  When newsworthy deeds are ascribed to animated police departments rather than to police officers, to senates not senators, to houses (White) and addresses (10 Downing Street) rather than to occupants, to loquacious legislatures not legislators, to China not Chinese, to extremist groups rather than terrorists, to a town instead of to four Town Council members, to “the voters” rather than to voters, to companies and unions rather than to executives or members, then the effect cumulatively is to belittle—to erase and thereby deny--the responsibilities, the event-shaping roles, of people.  
Business news is rife with examples.  Deeds performed by company executives or directors are identified regularly by professional news-givers with the deeds of sapient, vocal companies: “Starbucks Replaces Chief With Chairman”; “Mozilla Names New Chief, but Reaffirms Open-Source Commitment”; “The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce fired two executives Monday”; “Conde Nast Publications announced a management shake-up on Monday”….
International news is similarly infested.  And the world’s most populous country, as it happens, is the foremost recipient among nation-states of journalistic personation. “China Moves to Block Foreign News on Nobel Ceremony.”  “China Resisted U.S. Pressure on Rights of Nobel Winner.” “China no longer resists becoming emotional.”  “China has waged an extraordinary and unprecedented campaign…to discredit the [Nobel Peace Prize] award and to dissuade other governments from endorsing it.” China “has punished Norway….” China “took steps Wednesday to control rising prices at the most basic consumer level.” China is “trying to build an economy that relies on innovation.” China “intends to engineer a more innovative economy.” China “intends to roughly double its number of patent examiners” and its patent numbers.  To that end, “China has introduced an array of incentives.”  China is busy.  Where are the Chinese?
Related to personation’s de-personalizing effect is intimidation.  Personation promotes a brand of metaphysics that not only is goofy, but also is conducive to personal paralysis.  Since so much of history is made not by people but by big, extra-human, super-human willful entities, surely it would be presumptuous for us Lilliputians to entertain thoughts about exerting influence.   Personation works, cumulatively, against feelings of personal responsibility and personal efficacy.
     Blended with personation’s de-personalizing and intimidating effects, in more than a few cases, is political spin.  Journalists (as well as pundits and advertisers) use Personation as a tool of special advocacy.  Intentionally or not, they use Personation so as to excuse, praise and damn. Witness this piece of reportorial prose:
   The union representing 175 school bus drivers and monitors who work for Durham Services has voted to strike, potentially impacting student transportation for the Rhinebeck, Rondout Valley and Spackenkill school districts and Dutchess BOCES.
By imputing the strike vote to the union, the reporter divorces the actual voters, the drivers and monitors, from that action, thereby acquitting them of responsibility for ensuing disruption.  That treatment fits a popular mold.  In news discourse as well as in punditry, various unions are Personated in an unfavorable light: greedy, selfish, disruptive, overly powerful….  Not so the teachers, firemen, pilots, beauticians, stevedores or factory workers who make up their memberships.  In like manner, profit-greedy corporations are demonized in a way that exonerates their leaders and members from responsibility for ‘their’ misdeeds.
 On other occasions, personation works to bestow extra force and luster on a chosen project.  Thus, by saying “Greene County has begun a Hudson River Corridor Study that will bring together local officials and community leaders…,” a reporter does not just give a metaphorical rendition of a decision by some or all of a county’s elected legislators.  He magnifies the decision’s popularity and imbues it with merit, to the point of treating residents who are ignorant, indifferent or opposed as not being of Greene County.
In similar fashion, a headline proclaiming that “A Town Tries to Protect an Artist’s Inspiration”  magnifies the scale and the clarity of popular commitment to a cited project, thereby conferring an extra measure of nobility.  (In this case, it also contradicts the substance of the story it introduces, which dwells on local divisions over how, and whether, to protect an Edward Hopper viewscape.)
The headline “India Names Its First Female President” invites respondents to envision not only a momentous historic first, but also a first that either was deliberately and heroically taken by an enormous nation-state or was consistent with the sentiments of virtually the whole of that nation-state’s people.  Its personation works against the idea that the new female president was the candidate of the parliamentary majority party, whose adherents out-polled the main opposition party’s (male) candidate.  
    According to the New York Times (12/11/10) the Swedish city of Kristianstad “vowed a decade ago to wean itself from fossil fuels.”  Kristianstad “and the surrounding  county” now “use no oil, natural gas or coal to heat homes and businesses.”  Their “area” has “forsaken” traditional fuels and, instead of resorting to solar panels or wind turbines, “generates energy from a motley assortment” of wastes.  After it (she?) “started looking for substitutes” for standard fuels, the area has come to the point of “looking into building satellite biogas plants for outlying areas….”  Such pseudo-expository prose amounts to bandwagonizing.  Rhetorically it expunges Kristianstaders who did not take the vow.  Its personation serves not just to encapsulate, but rather to cheer and advocate.  (Incidentally, in ascribing this puffery to The Times, I commit personation; the by-line on the story was that of Elisabeth Rosenthal.  But the personation here may serve to call attention to plural responsibility, running from writer to editors to publisher).

Friday, February 04, 2011

Sounding Greene

      Movie-goers who attend “The Social Network” get treated to a sound track emanating from the Swarmatron, which is related to the Alphatron, the Hymnotron, the Melody Gin, and the Automatic Drone machine, as well as to the parental Dewantron.  Those electronic instruments are the creations of GreeneLand’s Brian Dewan, along with his cousin Leon, of New Rochelle.  The Swarmatron, and the Dewans, received a nice write-up in the January 24th New Yorker.  Characteristic of this analog synthesizer is the expressing of any note in eight different tones.  “The sound of eight voices straining toward but not quite achieving a unity of pitch, the dissonance stretching like taffy,” says author Nick Baumgartner, “seems perfectly suited to these attenuated times.” (To learn more, Google “swarmatron” and http://dewanatron ) 

      RESIGNED. In the wake of findings that he sought and received, improper travel reimbursements, to the extent of some $2000, a Greene County legislator has resigned.
          As reported in The Daily Mail and The Daily Freeman, Sean Frey of Durham said that while his claims for mileage payments were consistent with “usual and customary practices” of the legislators, he chose to spare his family and the citizenry the ordeal of a “lengthy and perhaps costly public process.”  He also tendered a check for $2000.
          His resignation, as of Monday (1/31/11) followed a State police investigation that District Attorney Terry Wilhelm instigated in response to a suspicion, prompted by the County Treasurer’s office, of “irregularities” in Mr Frey’s reimbursement claims.  The investigation, said Mr Wilhelm, yielded evidence that Mr Frey did not take some trips on county-related business for which he made reimbursement claims, and that some trips were made in an expense-paid employer’s car belonging to Ulster-Greene ARC.
          The $2000 reimbursement was about equal to what Mr Frey received improperly, Mr Wilhelm said, and no further legal action is contemplated.
          Mr Frey won election to the legislature in 2007, was re-elected in 2009, and had been the Democratic minority contingent’s elected leader.  He was succeeded in the latter position last week by the Cairo representative, Harry Lennon.
         A replacement for Mr Frey will be chosen by a vote of the remaining 13 legislators, to serve for the remainder of this year.  The post will then be subject to filling in November by popular election.
       JAILED.  A Cairo resident has been jailed on suspicion of taking advantage of a comatose friend.  Tammy Lacitignola, 34, of 332 Foster Road, faces a cluster of felony and misdemeanor charges, in Columbia as well as in Greene County, all having to do with stealing the identity of the friend (not named in published reports) for whom she ostensibly was caring.  She allegedly opened credit card and cellular telephone accounts in the name of that friend, forged her unconscious friend’s signature on checks, and thereby stole more than $10,000 from her friend.
     CHARGED.  A Coxsackie Correctional Facility manager has been suspended pending the hearing of charges that he often went to his part-time outside job while pretending to be doing his prison work.  According to the report of an investigation by State Inspector General’s staff, Edward Pebler, assistant maintenance supervisor, criminally filed false instruments, claiming to to be on the job at the prison while actually working as the town of Coxsackie’s building code enforcement officer.  He had held the latter job since 2001 and, according to town supervisor Alex Betke, did it well. On one occasion, the investigators say, Mr Pebler did code enforcement chores while claiming to put in a full day at the prison (at $69,000 per year, plus benefits) along with five hours of overtime.  
     CHARGED.  Another Coxsackie Correctional Facility employee was charged in early December with  defrauding the State’s taxpayers out of about $34,000.  According to reports in the local Press, Kevin Schwebke, 26, started work in 2005 as a correctional officer, injured his ankle on the job in 2009, started collecting workman’s compensation, but continued to do his part-time job as a police officer for the town of Cairo.  Following an investigation by the State’s insurance department and its workmen’s compensation board, he was suspended without pay from both jobs. 

       Are boys catching up?  Latest score on High Honors in 12th grade at Catskill High School shows a gender division of eight boys and 11 girls.  That represents a gain on the masculine side, a climb toward equality of academic achievement.  And in 11th grade, the gender division at High Honors level was even: six boys, six girls.  (BTW: special congratulations are due to Buliches: High Honors for five kids in four grades).
        At Cairo-Durham High School, meanwhile, the beat goes on.  Among High Honors students in Grade 12, girls out-numbered boys by a 3-2 margin: 18 to 12.  Similarly, at Hunter-Tannersville HS, for the first term of the school year, four of the seven seniors who achieved “Superintendent’s Honor” rating are girls.  To be more comprehensive: 18 seniors achieved grade averages of 90 or better, and 11 are girls.
         The pattern of male under-achievement is not peculiar to GreeneLand.  At Saugerties HS, 69 seniors achieved High Honors in the first quarter; only 26 are boys.  And down in Rondout Valley, 25 female 12th graders achieved High Honors, while only 12 males did so.  Again, at Kingston HS  15 boys won Highest Honors among 12th graders, while girls achieving the same distinction (grade average of 95 or better) numbered 26.

     PARK.  Just announced by GreeneLand’s Industrial Development Agency is a “commitment” to develop a new business and residential park on the 100-acre Coxsackie site that once was touted as future home of a Fernlea Flowers nursery.  Now contemplated is a mixed-use development, Fountain Flats Park, that would blend commercial operations with “intergenerational affordable housing.”  The site on Route 9W at Brook Mill Road would contain “shovel-ready” sites for distribution centers, offices and retail operations, along with sites for 73 residential units of one, two and three bedrooms.  Twenty-four would be reserved for seniors (residents over 55 years of age), including frail elderly residents; and others would be affordable for prospective members of the business park’s work force.
      MART.  According to a Daily Mail report (D T Antrim, 1/29), the Hannaford supermarket chain has announced the purchase of Ellsworth “Unk” Slater’s Great American Plaza in Cairo.  The announcement speaks of plans to demolish the present Great American market in favor of a new 35,000 square foot outlet, including a pharmacy.  The reporter notes, however, that the listed Hannaford spokesman would not comment on the matter, and neither would Mr Slater.  The company’s web site ( makes no reference to the project.  Anyhow, it does say that the Hannaford chain (born in 1893, in the form of a one-horse produce cart) includes 173 stores and 27,000 employees located in Maine (the origin), Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont as well as New York.  Since 1999 it has been a subsidiary of Belgian Delhaise Group, and part of the fifth largest supermarket chain in the United States.
       BANK.  GreeneLand’s foremost bank continues to flourish.  Net income of Greene County Bancorp, parent of the Bank of Greene County, grew during the final quarter of 2010 by 11.2 per cent, to $1.4 million.  That gain was preceded by another buoyant quarter, bringing net income for the latter half of 2010 of $2.676 million.  Mainly contributing to these record earnings, said President Donald Gibson in the company’s report, was “net interest income,” or the spread between what borrowers paid the bank relative to what the bank paid—mostly to depositors—in order to acquire the loanable funds.        
        Some passages in the company’s report offer cautionary notes.  Commercial loans, which are generally classed as riskier than residential loans, increased fractionally as a proportion of all loans.  Provision for loan losses increased along with the volume of loans.  So did the value of assets that were classed as “non-performing” (with payments being in arrears); the end-of year figure was $6.2 million.  Those troubled assets (loans and other valuables) were just 1.16% of total assets, which grew by fully $36.1 million, or 7.3%, in the final half of 2010.
        Deposits at the bank also grew substantially, by $44.2 million.  Among sources of that growth were deposits at the new branch in Germantown, in Columbia County.
      REVENUES.  The bank’s gains can be viewed plausibly as a reflection of general improvement in local economic conditions.  And further evidence of that improvement is provided by an increase during 2010 over the 2009 score on county sales tax revenues. Total inflow to county coffers was reported to be $25,282,642, which is about one per cent higher than in 2009 and about $400,000 better than what had been projected for the purpose of budget framing.  Neighboring counties also incurred gains in sales tax revenues.
        JOBS.  Coinciding with those small gains have been small gains in employment.  According to the State Department of Labor’s figures, the unemployment rate in Greene County in December 2010 was fractionally better, by a tenth of one per cent, than the December 2009 rate.  In the State as a whole, and indeed the nation, fractional improvements have been recorded.  Curiously enough, the sector in which job losses have continued most heavily is not construction or manufacturing; it is government.  Meanwhile, the expanding (or most substantially recovering) sectors are various services (education, health, professional, business) and leisure and hospitality. 
        DEPARTURES.  Gone from Main Street in Catskill, and sorely missed by friends, is the MOD Cafe. Dana and Mary have moved to Hudson, near the Amtrak station, where they will be serving dinner as well as breakfast and lunch, and thus have renamed their establishment as MOD Restaurant. Also gone from Catskill, from a Daily Mail desk, is reporter Susan Campriello, who took with her, to The Poughkeepsie Journal, a tiny frame and a locally rare talent: literacy.  
        MERCHANTS.  GreeneLand’s chamber of commerce evidently has acquired a heart, a voice box, and self-governance powers.  This metaphysical marvel is revealed in a news release saying “The Greene County Chamber of Commerce is pleased [sic] to announce [sic] the appointment [sic] of a new slate of officers for the coming year.”  The slate includes a “Chair” (Kathleen McQuaid), first and second “Vice Chairs” (Perry Lasher; Tom Fucito), a Treasurer (Ed Gower) and a Secretary (Karl Heck). 

            This Spring’s village elections in GreeneLand promise to be extraordinarily uneventful.  In Catskill, in Coxsackie and in Athens, evidently, there will be no contests.  In Catskill, incumbent trustee Joseph Koslowski was re-nominated at the caucus of his fellow Democrats, and then was cross-endorsed at the Republican caucus.  In Coxsackie, members of the Republican caucus nominated Mayor Mark Evans for re-election, along with incumbent trustee Stephen Hanse, and they endorsed Paul Sutton as replacement for the retiring Greg Backus.  The Democrats found no challengers.  In Athens, at the official Democratic caucus, Mayor Andrea Smallwood was endorsed for re-election along with incumbent trustee Robert June, while Anthony Paski was nominated as prospective successor to the retiring Tom Sopris.  So far, no Republican or independent candidates have appeared. 
            In Tannersville, however, some contestation can be expected.  The Democrats’ caucus on January 25th produced a kind of insurrection.  A majority of the 15 participants proceeded to NOT renominate the three incumbent Democratic trustees—Mayor Lee McGunigle, Gregory Landers, Anthony Lucido--whose terms are about to expire.  Instead, they nominated Jason Dugo for mayor and Jeremiah Dixon and Christopher Hackgetting for trustees. According to The Daily Mail, the blindsided Mr McGunigle resolves to run as an Independent, and hopes to be joined by Mr Landers.  
             As one of the most vocal members of his party, fellow Democrats have expressed their regret over Frey’s departure.
            That sentence is classified by cognoscenti as a case of dangling construction.  Its opening phrase is a modifier which can’t find a subject in the main clause on which to land. 

            The governors of Greene County, Pennsylvania, voted to change the name of that political entity, temporarily, to “Black & Gold County.”  They were keen to show Super Bowl solidarity with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are about to clash with the, uh, Green Bay Packers.