Almanack Contributor John Warren

John Warren

John Warren has been exploring the woods and waters of the Adirondacks for almost 50 years. After a career as a print journalist and documentary television producer he founded Adirondack Almanack in 2005 and co-founded the geolocation services company Adirondack Atlas in 2015.

John remains active in traditional media. His Adirondack Outdoors Conditions Report can be heard Friday mornings across the region on the stations of North Country Public Radio and on 93.3 / 102.1 The Mix. Since 2008, John has been a media specialist on the staff of the New York State Writers Institute.

John is also a professional researcher and historian with a M.A. in Public History. He edits The New York History Blog and is the author of two books of regional history. As a Grant Consultant for the William G. Pomeroy Foundation, he has reviewed hundreds of historic roadside marker grant applications from around New York State for historical accuracy.


Sunday, June 12, 2005

Come on your honor… everyone’s doing it!

Famous pot smokers aside. Last week, in a second bid to subvert the will of voters in ten states, the Bush Administration got the US Supreme Court to rule that the Feds can prosecute the sick for marijuana crimes when they are legally proscribed cannabis in states that have medical marijuana laws – and they have wasted no time in getting it done. We already know about the high costs of prohibition (especially in the North Country). We’d like to know where the states rights conservatives stand on this one, but we’re aware that the media is in their pocket so it was no surprise that the story quickly faded from public and the tough questions were never asked – or at least never answered.

It will have an impact in Vermont though, and in New York where a half-hearted reform of the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws last year means that the battle over our last war — the War on Drugs (remember that one?), which has imprisoned millions of Americans and filled North Country jails and prisons with our non-violent neighbors, is far from over. A recent edition of public radio’s To the Point makes a good one – The War on Drugs has become the War on Pot. It only makes sense; people on the political left seem to smoke more pot after all.

A little history:

Draconian: From the Greek King Draco, whose laws were so severe they were said to be written in blood.

Marijuana Act of 1937 – First federal law to limit access to Marijuana via a tax (the original tax stamps like those that used to appear on cigarettes and booze) were recently auctioned off by the Treasury Department. Marijuana was outlawed first in the west (particularly) California and Louisiana.

In Cali (now said to be home to America’s most potent pot) the impetus was the need to eliminate immigrant Mexican labor during the depression – since they were pretty much the only folks around smoking the weed, passing laws outlawing it and then arrested and deporting them was a great way to free up jobs for Okies and other white working poor.

In Louisiana, it was jazz musicians and racism that inspired the right-wing prosecutors to outlaw pot and wage a war against the evils it inspired – mainly that Negro music and it’s decadent dancing, which it was said led to white slavery, black on white rape, and you name it.


Friday, June 3, 2005

On The Road With Chicken Little

The Almanack doesn’t like to fall into the Chicken Little trap – even if occasionally, it does seem as the sky really is falling – or at least growing very, very dark [flash animation].

But lately we’ve been considering the raising price of gas, oil, and propane. There’s been a lot of talk lately about peak oil – the term used for the theory, backed by nearly all scientists in the field, that the world’s oil supply is limited and that the limit (the peak) is about to be reached. It’s all laid out here in this Vermont Guardian piece. It’s not a question of whether it will happen, but when; some say it will be in 2005-2006.

Like most Adirondackers we at the Almanack drive a lot – the nearest grocery is a nearly 15 minute drive, and we’re lucky – some have to travel more than an hour. Daily commutes to work alone can cost an Adirondack family 3, 4, 5, 6, hundred dollars a month or more. So is it any wonder that one Warrensburg man has made national news by being arrested twice in two weeks for stealing gas? [Just for media fun – read this version, and see how twisted others report (actually copied) this story – here, and here]

We all know the price of gas has skyrocketed since the beginning of the Iraq War – right? Well, not all of us. According to the Federal Energy Information Administration – a mouthpiece of big oil – there is “some good news.” According to EIA, the price of gas has fallen to the level of a year ago! Hurray! Adirondack Guardian has duly “reported” the good news – we’ll bet verbatim from the EIA press release. A better place to gauge the impact on our suburban consumer driven fossil fuel economy and its coming impact on us all is to check in with Jim Kunstler’s Clusterfuck Nation Chronicle – the author of Geography of Nowhere is really somewhere.

The cable station FX (in true Fox form) is simply prodding at our greatest fears, but riots and robberies over scarce and expensive gas are as sure to arrive as the yearly increase in the number of drive-offs at local gas stations – our man in Warrensburg appears to be the harbinger of things to come.


Thursday, June 2, 2005

More on Media

Old media is under threat everywhere. Unfortunately, they’ll be the last ones who see that it’s not the medium that their audience is fleeing; it’s their content – honestly – it is.

We don’t have one, but we respect the power of satellite radio, and so too does the New York State Broadcasters Association who fears that their lowest common denominator, right wing, over-produced and over-hyped commercial junk radio is under threat from companies that are offering listeners a choice in what they hear and an opportunity to listen to content that hasn’t been stifled by right wing corporate censorship.

The Saratogian is clearly afraid – rather than provide quality content online, they’re simply trying to force us to drive into town to buy their crappy paper – good luck.

So… some really cool media sites:

Hudson Mohawk Indy Media (Local Indy Media Site)
A Fairly Young Contrarian (Local Blog)
Newsbreakers (Local Media Criticism)
WikiNews (Collaborative News Writing on the Wiki Model)
MediaChannel.org (Media Reform)
Media Access Project (Public Access Advocacy)


Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Commentary: When We’ve Had Enough

Adirondackers have a strange relationship with alcohol, especially on campus. This fact really hit struck me after a local kid, just graduated from high school left for Iraq. He was 17 when he signed up – when he comes back, he’s still won’t be able to drink legally. Sure, kill a few Iraqis, get shot at (or killed), see your buddies blown to bits, clean up some blood and gore, meet people living in unimaginable suffering and poverty, but when you come home – don’t have a glass a wine – and don’t get into your car after you’ve had two.  Between March 19, 2003 and May 7, 2005 more than 480 of the 1,589 US military deaths have been young people under the age of 22 [statistics].

Standing outside the local Nice and Easy, Stewarts, or family grocery on a weekend sees a stream of locals, tourists, and summer residents getting their beer, and lots of it. When there isn’t much to do – only the biggest towns have a movie theater, bookstore, or coffee shop – hanging around the fire with friends and a bottle of wine or a few beers has its appeal. No fireplace? Then head out to the local tavern – towns that don’t have a single other open business after 7 or 8 pm, sometimes have two or three bars. During the week, some communities are deserted, especially in winter, except for the local pub.

So why is there a war on against bar owners and their patrons? Why do towns with few local business and few residents still have a county cop shop and/or state trooper station and constant patrols? Sure, like all the new roadblocks and firehouses built around the region after 9-11 we can point to the abuse of our irrational fears by institutions already tapped into a state and federal tax redistribution system – we pay it, they take it and use it against us.

So too with the newest attack on the DWI front. The Republicans in the NYS Senate passed legislation to once again increase the penalties for driving while intoxicated (as the Republicans in the Assembly demanded last year). Ask any tavern owner and they’ll tell you that the biggest drain on their business has been the onslaught of police overzealously enforcing the DWI laws. Even restaurants point to reduced business, dinner checks that are half what they used to be, bartenders making half the money they used to, all thanks to the fear of having half a drink (or inhale) to many (according to the law – some folks get one or two) and getting a d-we on the way home.

What about the dangers of drunk driving I hear some of you shouting… well we’ve had laws on the books since the eighteen nineties that require you to stay in your lane, require you to not drive recklessly, require you to drive within the bounds of road conditions and speed limits. In Saratoga County, about 1,100 of the 8,600 arrests police make annually are for DWI – and 25 percent of people under correctional supervision have been charged with drunk driving [source].

No doubt there are horrible and needless deaths from idiots who get outrageously drunk, climb behind the wheel, and then violate all civility by driving recklessly and killing someone in the process. But guess what? Senior citizens driving when they don’t have complete control of their vehicles, young drivers on joy rides, big rig drivers who’ve been on the road too long, idiots with a penchant for speed or aggressive driving, crazy border patrol who don’t use common sense in setting up roadblocks, cute girls putting on their make-up, and businessmen and women yapping on their cell phones are all killing themselves and others behind the wheel.

“When you have people getting in the car with that type of blood-alcohol content, it just proves that people aren’t thinking when they’re drinking,” Karen Pettigrew of the Saratoga County Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving told the Saratogian, “Every person caught is a potential tragedy averted,” she said – well thank god we are imprisoning people at the highest rate in the world to avert potential tragedies – of course the Saratogian duly reported that statement without question.

We don’t ban cell phones, or make-up, so why do we hunt – and that’s what’s happening out there, police are hunting for these so-called criminals who would have, using all common sense and legitimate statistics, driven home perfectly safely, and who, if they knew the right person, would have continued on their way home no matter what their blood-alcohol level. They are also hunting, using children as bait, the low-wage workers who serve them – with corporate crime on the rise, don’t officials have better things to do than this? or this? or this?

I agree with Anna over at Bad Samaritan, the folks at Modern Drunkard Magazine and the DUI Blog – there are always going to be a few boneheads who don’t follow the rules and simply aren’t civil – it’s time we ended the hysteria and the attendant police state and took a more reasonable look at our relationship to alcohol.


Sunday, May 22, 2005

Progressives offer candidate for Glens Falls Mayor

A recent posting from local baker and progressive activist Matt Funicello reports that activist artist Esmond Lyons (who we wrote about back in March) will run as a independent for Mayor of Glens Falls. He already has the support Adirondack Progressives, a group of area Green, Republican, Democrat, and politically Independent activists that has been very active over the past year organizing a surrogate Presidential Debate, a Molly Ivins read-in, Martin Luther King Day activities, the recent Ralph Nader appearance and other events. “It is long overdue that someone with his vision, quick wit and common sense, redefines the way in which this vital post is filled,” Funicello wrote in an e-mail to Adirondack Almanack, adding:

During the next mayoral term, some very crucial issues will be decided which should concern all of us in the area. Issues like our unsteady “partnership” with Queensbury and its sprawl, the upgrading of city infrastructure, the proposed changes to assessments that are undoubtedly going to accompany massive growth and our city’s continued trend of privatizing services.

Our cable franchise contract will also expire during this term and a mayor who understands the importance of re-negotiating this contract properly will be an invaluable ally for those of us who would like to see real community access television, a free community media center and possibly citywide wireless Internet service [ed… yeah! take a look at this].

Perhaps, the most important thing that will happen, though, is a continued influx of developers to “Hometown USA”. This can be a blessing and a curse. We need a mayor who will work WITH, and not for, these developers who are buying up downtown Glens Falls and proposing that they use our own tax money to improve it. We need to avoid the building of parking garages and make sure that new residents of the city are made to find their own answers to the parking problems they may well create.

We need to fix, shore up and make beautiful what we already have. We then need to work very carefully with the pro-development forces to ensure that they make provisions for affordable housing, green space and a pedestrian-friendly downtown. Esmond has many items in his agenda that he wishes to tell us about but he is equally excited about the opportunity to talk to you about things that are near and dear to you. This is going to be a citizen-driven campaign.

The first benchmark and biggest hurdle for independent candidates is the petitioning period (July 12 to August 23 – Calendar PDF) – it will require large numbers of supporters to hit the streets. Section 6-142 of New York State Election Law (Law PDF) lays out the enormous obstacles independent candidates face (see the recent Green Party lawsuit –Word Doc) – it’s expected that local Democrats and Republicans will challenge Lyons petitions (as they most always do with candidates outside the State Parties).

At 6 pm tonight (Sunday) Adirondack Progressives will host a meet the candiate dinner at Rock Hill Bakehouse Cafe (19 Exchange Street; corner of Elm and Hudson). Food will be served and music will be provided by Post-Star On-line Maven Carrianne Skidmore, Carol Strasser, and John Lawrence. It looks like there will soon be a website up as well.


Saturday, May 21, 2005

Your attention is directed…

To the new series by the Plattsburgh Press-Republican on Wind Power in our area…

To the Times Union’s ill-conceived editorial on the same subject… if we followed their weak argument – “Still other environmentalists believe the Adirondack Park should be true to its mission of keeping the wilderness free of humankind’s imprint. But that’s the point. Humans have already scarred the Adirondacks. It has been going on for years as smokestack pollutants from midwestern coal-fired power plants drift eastward and descend in the form of acid rain, killing lakes and forests in the Adirondacks at an alarming rate.” – Then hey… why should we care about protecting the Adirondack region at all? Who exactly is doing the thinking over there at the TU?

To Alan Chartok’s latest blog – a strange fantasy piece on Hillary Clinton…

To another great Metroland piece – this time the target is the St. Lawrence chipboard factory scam…


Thursday, May 19, 2005

What’s Your Favorite Local / Regional Media?

Adirondack Almanack is always on the lookout for good local and regional media – what’s your favorite? Why? What’s your least favorite?


Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Historic Crimes

Regular readers know that ADK Almanack likes history, especially since we’re doomed to repeat it. That’s why we simply can’t believe that the powers that be will allow the historic Adirondack Railroad to be ripped up for scrap by corporate killer NL Industries (NCPR Report). Actually, we can believe it. Just take a look around – everywhere there are historic sites destroyed for little profit (if any). On Schroon Lake in the 1970’s the State of New York simply burned down the historic Scaroon Manor, there’s nothing left of that great historic hotel except what remains of the abandoned beach.

Cemeteries really get our blood boiling, like the Old Burying Ground in Keeseville that has been abandoned and vandalized over the years – or the Dresden Station Cemetery on Route 22 in Washington County that has been so neglected and overgrown that while hacking through the brush on a recent visit we noticed a buried stone, completely buried, face down, and when we turned it up, we discovered it was the grave of a Revolutionary War Veteran – we wonder what the graves of Vietnam or Iraq War vets will look like when they become history. » Continue Reading.


Monday, May 16, 2005

Real Reporting and the Saratogian

Recently ADK Almanack reported on the offensive, ignorant, undemocratic and slanderous reporting of local sex offenders by the right wing-nuts at the Saratogian. Last week the alternative weekly Metroland chimed in with an intelligent and fact-based look at the issue. Unfortunately, for reasons we simply don’t understand, Metroland doesn’t have a proper archive for their site (only this strangeness) so the story is here only until Thursday. Highlights of the article include the following facts drawn from the US Justice Department’s Center of Sex Offender Management:

  • Strangers rarely commit sexual assaults. Ninety percent of adult victims of sexual assault had a prior relationship (family member, intimate or acquaintance) with the offender.

  • Not all sex offenders reoffend. In fact, sex offenders are less likely to reoffend than other criminals.

  • Fewer sexual-offense crimes are happening each year. According to statistics from the FBI, the arrest rate for all sexual offenses dropped 16 percent between 1993 and 1998.
  • 30 percent of adult sex offenders were sexually abused as children. However, approximately 40 to 80 percent of all juvenile sex offenders, who commit for 20 percent of all rapes and 50 percent of all child molestations, were sexually abused.

  • It’s not cheaper to keep sex offenders in prison. A single year of high-level supervision and treatment in the community costs between $5,000 and $15,000 for each offender. A single year of incarceration, without treatment, costs approximately $22,000 for a single prisoner.