Archive for the ‘Jeffrey Page’ Category

The Messenger is the Message

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

By Jeffrey Page

Close to 2 million people gathered in Paris on Sunday to condemn the murderous attacks on the staff of Charlie Hebdo and on a kosher supermarket that resulted in the deaths of 17 people. One of those attending the march was David Cameron, the British prime minister. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as there. So was Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the Palestinian Authority. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi were there as well.

Oh, and Jane D. Hartley was there to represent us. Hartley is the United States ambassador to France, and probably known to as many Frenchmen and women as the French ambassador to the United States is known to Americans. You know; whatsisname, Gérard Araud.

But President Obama couldn’t make it. Nor could Vice President Joe Biden. Nor could Secretary of State John Kerry. Apparently nobody from America could make it, so we sent Jane D. Hartley.

And in doing so, Obama revealed an insensitivity not worthy of a world leader. France, after all, is America’s oldest ally, and you just don’t treat old friends quite as shabbily as Obama has with France and its people.

While President Obama may have been too busy to travel to Paris, his counterpart, François Hollande, took the American disrespect gracefully and, speaking through a spokeswoman, declared that he had not been offended. “President Obama supported France in their common struggle against terrorism,” he said.

As though imitating a Ringling Bros. clown stepping into a bucket, Obama caused further embarrassment to himself by giving some of his sharpest critics a free ride for a couple of news cycles.

–Sending Jane D. Hartley to the Paris march was “beyond crass, even for this administration,” said Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee.

–“Our president should have been there,” Senator Ted Cruz wrote in Time Magazine.

–Obama is “a failure when it comes to fighting Islamic jihadists,” said Mike Huckabee.

–“Skipping this rally will be remembered as a new low in American diplomacy,” said Rick Perry.

–“There’s a plethora of people they could have sent,” said Senator Marco Rubio.

They’re right.

No one would remember “Ich bin ein Berliner” if John Kennedy had ordered some deputy assistant secretary of state no one ever heard of to deliver it. Nor would anyone recall “Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” if it had been uttered by anyone but Ronald Reagan.

Sometimes the messenger is the message.

The Majority Gets Whipped by Its Own

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

By Jeffrey Page

Rep. Steve Scalise

Rep. Steve Scalise

I really have to stop writing about politics and the people who play the game. The stink of it has become overwhelming and I find my gag reflex being tested day after day.

The latest issue is the existence of a man named Steve Scalise, who is the Republican majority whip in the House of Representatives. That makes him the third most powerful member of the House, an important man.

I venture to say that before the end of 2014, no one outside Louisiana ever heard of Steve Scalise. In fact, a check of The New York Times shows that the paper has mentioned Scalise in 136 stories. But note that 32 of those stories have been published in the last 10 days or so.

What shoved Scalise into the news was the revelation that 12 years ago he was the guest speaker before the European-American Unity and Rights Organization, a group that sounds benign enough, but whose leader at the time was David Duke, the former Grand Whatsis of the Ku Klux Klan.

In 2002, Scalise was a member of the Louisiana Assembly and addressed EURO on a tax matter. The Associated Press recently reported that Duke did not attend the meeting but addressed it by phone.

I believe Steve Scalise has the unalienable right to speak to any organization he chooses though I’d be much more comfortable if he were a little more discriminating.

Now it gets complicated.

After word of Scalise’s EURO talk was reported recently, he did what he probably thought was the most honorable – not to mention pragmatic – thing he could. He fessed up, kind of.

“One of the many groups that I spoke to regarding this critical [tax] legislation was a group whose views I wholeheartedly condemn,” AP reported him saying. “It was a mistake I regret and I emphatically oppose the divisive racial and religious views groups like these hold.”

This of course raises the question: If Scalise is such a tolerant, unbiased man of principle, why did it take him 12 years and the publication of an unflattering story to get him to read us his credentials as a man who hates racial intolerance.

Confessing is one thing. Confessing 12 years after the fact is an attempt to rewrite history and show the nation that Scalise is just a great, open-minded guy you’d be happy to have a beer with.

Meanwhile, the Republicans have leapt to his defense. Boehner; Gingrich (does this man ever go away?); Kevin McCarthy, the majority leader of the house; Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal et al. offer a similar theme. Scalise? Nice fellow, not a racist cell in him, probably wound up at the EURO meeting totally unaware of its views.

Unaware that you’re going to talk before a racist organization? There’s a great Yiddish response to such bizarre statements: Pish nisht af mein fus, un dertzail mir az si regant, which translates to: Don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining.

But once such stories start it’s hard to end them. Here’s another. Scalise has been questioned about a New Orleans reporter’s assertion that 20 years ago, when she was new to reporting, Scalise described himself as “David Duke without the baggage.”

At a recent news conference, Scalise was asked if he made that Duke statement. His answer as reported by the Times: “I reject bigotry of all forms and I think when you see the people that know me best, here and especially back home, people that I’ve been on opposite ends politically with, who know the truth and know my heart, they are the ones who speak the best.”

That wasn’t an answer. It wasn’t even a non-denial denial. It was just self-defensive fluff. Later, Scalise denied claiming to be the squeaky clean version of David Duke. And the reporter has stuck with her recollection of 20 years past. The truth will out soon enough; it almost always does.

E.E. Cummings had it right: “A politician is an arse upon which everyone has sat except a man.”

Casinos Arrive

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

By Jeffrey Pageroulette wheel

The news that Monticello in Sullivan County had been awarded the Catskills casino site brought mixed feelings, not the least of which was the happy understanding that the roulette spinners and the blackjack dealers will be doing their work there and not here.

“Here” being southern Orange County, where one of the losing casino concerns wanted to build his operation and, in the process, put Sterling Forest at grave risk.

Truth in writing: I must say that after leaving New York City many years ago, I lived for a time in Sullivan County, first in Forestburg and then about eight years in Liberty. It was a time when the big hotels – Kutsher’s, Grossinger’s, the Concord, the Raleigh, and so many others – were still humming, though maybe not as melodically as in years past. It was the start of the end, a time when hotel owners of my time in the mountains, generally a secretive bunch, used to talk out loud about how much fancier – how much glitzier – it had been before when guests were happy and plentiful, and the money rolled in.

A classic dialogue played out any number of times:

“So and so’s going Chapter 11. Couldn’t keep up with Milt and his sports academy.” Then would come the dirge with the grim lyrics: “Fell by the wayside.” Words heard over and over, fell by the wayside. Eventually they all fell by the wayside.

Sullivan County was troubled. By the middle 1970s, Broadway in Monticello was deserted most nights in all seasons. Liberty, always quiet despite the existence of Grossinger’s just down the road, seemed forgotten by the outside world. And South Fallsburg, a place described best by my colleague at the Times Herald-Record, Pete Kutschera: “The place looks like a traveling circus went through 20 years ago and they never got over it.”

No question, Sullivan County needs and deserves a boost. So they’re getting a casino and in all likelihood certain people are dreaming of the money rolling in. I hope a casino gets things moving again, but I have to wonder.

With all the campaigning for a casino site, some important facts about the county and the Town of Thompson and the village of Monticello seem to be missing.

Has anyone in government taken pencil to paper and come up with an estimate of what sorts of changes the area can expect with the opening of a casino? If it’s been done, I confess I missed it.

But right off the bat is the startling statistic that the winner, Montreign Resort Casino, wishes to install 2,150 slot machines, which works out to four slot machines for every resident of Roscoe. Is this progress? Is this any way to a secure future? It worked in Las Vegas where there was no competition but can it work in upstate New York when there’ll be competition from another casino in Schenectady and from gaming tables in nearby states.

In the meantime, how many more cops will have to be hired with the advent of casino gambling? Montreign, projects the creation of 2,400 new jobs. That will require more new housing, more school facilities, more teachers, more equipment. Tax bills likely will go up.

The real winner, if there is one, isn’t the bettor or the community. It’s the casino operator. Any other belief is naive. Is the area ready for such a non-bonanza bonanza?

I’m happy for Sullivan County getting what it wants, but far happier for southern Orange remaining casino-free.

Death Penalty Dilemma Again

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

By Jeffrey Page

I carry with me a special loathing for the monsters in our midst who take out their frustration and rage by beating children, or killing them.

Recently I recalled several such stories I wrote in my years at The Record in Bergen County. Such as the young pregnant woman who felt funny at her high school prom, went to the ladies room, delivered a baby, strangled her, ate a salad and went back to the dance. Note: There is no exaggeration in that description. And such as the man who beat his son to death because the little boy pressed the wrong buttons on Dad’s TV remote.

What brought this recollection in these days leading to Christmas, was a story in the Times Herald-Record that demonstrated yet again what some people are capable of doing to children. The story centered on a boy named Mason Decosmo, or to be precise, the late Mason Decosmo.

Mason was about 2 years old. He was murdered, basically beaten to death.

The TH-R story was about testimony offered by the Ulster County medical examiner on the condition of Mason’s body. The story was accompanied by a head-and-shoulders picture of Mason. That photo shows a sweet little boy with reddish hair and a toothy smile. He looks like a happy kid though I noticed he had bags under his eyes, something you don’t expect to see in a toddler. There’s no mistaking him for anything but a child, yet those bags, and a slight crease in his cheek, give him the momentary look of a little old man.

Two years old. Walking around, in all likelihood. Understanding some words and maybe repeating some to his mother. Toilet trained? Maybe, maybe not. Was he in the early stages of the Terrible Twos? Did he love to watch TV? What was his favorite toy? His favorite storybook? We don’t know.

What we do know is that there’s someone in this world who had an unquenchable hatred for this little boy. For, as reported by the Times Herald-Record, this is what the medical examiner, Dennis Chute, found when he examined Mason’s body:

Mason was hit so hard that he suffered liver damage. Mason’s pancreas was torn into two pieces. Mason had internal bleeding. Mason had blood on the brain. Mason had a broken rib. Mason had a damaged lip. Mason had 60 bruises. Mason had torn skin on his anus. Mason, two years old, had bruises on his penis. Mason had bruises on his scrotum.

On trial is Kaitlin Wolfert, Mason’s mother, charged with negligence and abuse. She said she was unaware of how badly her son had been hurt and therefore didn’t take him to the hospital. Later, there will be a separate trial for Kenneth Stahli – Wolfert’s boyfriend – who is charged with murder.

When the killer, whoever he or she is, finally is found, my shaky opposition to capital punishment will again be tested. I grew up opposing it and was happy when it was outlawed in New York. After all, how certain can we be of a capital defendant’s guilt? What if we execute someone who’s innocent? These are absolutely legitimate questions, and I wish I had rational answers.

In the meantime, what do we do with the beast who murders a little boy like Mason Decosmo? Should he or she be allowed to live in our society? If capital punishment is cruel and inhumane, what then do we do with the people who kill little kids like Mason?

For now, let’s remember this little boy. May Mason and his suffering never be forgotten.

Is It Him? Most Likely

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

By Jeffrey Page

When I was a kid, my mother told me of the death in World War II of someone called Everett Nighland. Or was it Highland? Everett, she told me, was my brother’s Army buddy and while there is no good day to die, Everett demonstrated the idiocy of war for the people who do the fighting; he was shot to death in Italy, my mother said, on the day the war ended.

By the spring of 1945, Everett and my brother Gerry had been separated by half of Europe. Gerry, having survived the Battle of the Bulge, was in Germany. Everett was in Italy at a place called Il Poggio, where American troops seemed to be having a fairly easy time – if there is ever such a thing in combat as a fairly easy time – of displacing a German rear guard. But one shot hit Everett and he became the only member of his platoon to be killed at Il Poggio.

I don’t recall Gerry’s ever saying a word about Everett after the war. The little information I got from my mother was the extent of my knowledge of Everett Nighland. What has always stuck with me about him was the cruel timing of his death.

With the holiday coming up, I’ve been thinking about Veterans Day, which of course led to thoughts of Gerry, who died a couple of years ago, which in turn led to thoughts about Everett, the mysterious end-of-the-war casualty, the young man who died before he ever had a chance to vote.

I ran Everett Nighland’s name through a couple of genealogical web sites and found a reference to a soldier named Evert (not Everett) L. Nylund (not Nighland or Highland) Jr., who was 20 years old in 1945 (same age as Gerry) and who hailed from Brooklyn (same as Gerry). Just a coincidence, but maybe not.

A little more searching revealed that Sgt. Evert L. Nylund Jr. – Protestant, unmarried, high school graduate – was killed on April 19, 1945, precisely 19 days before V-E Day.

Eventually I wound up at a web site of the old Brooklyn Eagle where, in a list of war casualties, I came across one particular notice.

“In sad and loving memory of our only child, Evert L. Nylund Jr.,” it read. “Killed in action in Italy, April 19, 1945. Always in our thoughts.”

It was signed “Mom and Dad.”

This many years after April 19 in 1945 I take some time to remember Evert and his parents who were deprived of their only child by an insane world, whose wars show no sign of letting up.

Do We Deserve This?

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

By Jeffrey Page

Was Tocqueville prescient when he observed that in a democracy, the people get the government they deserve? Or should we drop the $20 words and just acknowledge that he was right and we are stuck with some political adventurers?

Recently there’s been a clump of stories that make me wonder about the safety of this American experiment in democracy because some politicians are getting away with all kinds of mischief while the electorate seems content to stand aside and watch.

In Staten Island and Brooklyn, Rep. Michael Grimm is seeking his third term in the House while he stands charged in a 20-count federal indictment involving his use of undocumented foreign workers at a restaurant he owns.

Clearly, Grimm must think the voters are a bunch of dolts when he assured them that if he is re-elected on Nov. 4, and later convicted on the immigration charges, he would do the right thing and resign from the House.

The problem with Grimm’s sacrifice is he forgot to mention that he wouldn’t have much to say about resigning because the House of Representatives is not in the habit of seating convicted criminals.

Yet despite his legal troubles, indications are that Grimm’s race against a Democratic challenger is very close. If there have been calls in the district for Grimm to step down or take a leave of absence until his case is resolved, I haven’t seen them.

Right, Grimm hasn’t been convicted of anything. But an indictment isn’t exactly an invitation to afternoon tea; it’s the studied conclusions of prosecutors and investigators.

Thus the recurring question: Are the people of the 11th Congressional District getting the government they deserve?

–Mayor Bill de Blasio has been embarrassed by the fact that the woman who serves as his wife’s chief of staff is involved with a man who has dropped the chief’s name several times when stopped for traffic violations.

The mayor says he’s had enough questions about this and will answer no more.

But there’s the question of why Chirlane McCray – she’s the mayor’s wife – has a staff at all. She holds no official position yet her chief of staff, Rachel Noerdlinger, is on the payroll for $170,000.

Have there been any protests over Noerdlinger’s salary or about the mayor’s high-handed dismissal of questions.

See recurring question above.

–Faced with continued criticism about his handling the appearance of Ebola in the United States, President Obama took the bull by the horns and appointed someone to the position that’s been labeled “Ebola czar.”

That czar – an unfortunate word when you think about it – is Ron Klain, who’s now in charge of coordinating the Administration’s efforts to finally get a grip on this insidious outbreak.

Is Klain a physician specializing in infectious diseases? Does he hold advanced degrees in public health? Is he a research scientist who’s been working on Ebola for years?

The answers are No, No, and No.

In fact Klain’s most recent position in government was as chief of staff to Vice President Biden. The Times reported recently that one of Klain’s major tasks with Biden was to prepare him for the Vice Presidential debates of 2008.

What Klain lacks in science, he makes up for in political savvy. Anybody complaining about a pol handling the Ebola response? I don’t think so.

See recurring question above.

The Deaths of Strangers

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

By Jeffrey Page

Lately, I’m again thinking about the wretched deaths of two people I never met.

No one knew the true identity of the homeless woman who keeled over dead on a bench in Grand Central Terminal in 1986. But a group of people decided that she would not be buried as an anonymous number in the potter’s field and they made a funeral for her.

In the other case, in 2004, a baby – almost certainly murdered – had no name until a priest gave him one as his little body was placed in the ground. It was a funeral witnessed only by a photographer, a reporter, a cemetery worker and an undertaker who contributed an inexpensive coffin and some flowers.

In writing about these victims several times over the years, I reject the advice of an old city editor who advised me when I was a cub in Jersey City never to get emotionally involved with the people in my stories. But sometimes you just can’t let it go and so, later in a long career, I understood that the woman and the little boy deserved to be remembered. I would remember them. I told the priest I would kick in some money for the impromptu funeral if it was necessary. It wasn’t; no one charged a fee.

I expect I’ll spend the rest of my days occasionally giving a little ink to these two strangers, and writing about the gentle humanity in the homeless woman’s case – some people called her Mama, some called her Mary – and the outrage inflicted on the baby, whom the priest named John on the day of the funeral. Additionally, maybe at some time to come someone will read about them and realize a relationship to the woman. Maybe the person who tossed John into winter-cold water will read about him and make an appointment to meet with the prosecutor.

I was a reporter for a long time and generally followed that long-ago city editor’s words. I created a shield around myself that allowed me to see but not feel. But there are those moments when I allow the shield to slip such as in the cases of Mama and John.

Mama snoozed on a bench at Grand Central Terminal. The police had told her to move on, but it was cold and soon, she was back. She closed her eyes and fell asleep. Soon, a cop approached. She was dead. It was Christmas.

She was about 55. In addition to Mama and Mary, some of the homeless who took shelter at Grand Central called her Granny. She spoke with a European accent. She didn’t bother anyone, though she was shameless when she needed a cigarette. She’d ask anyone – commuters, the police, other homeless people – to bum a smoke.

She would have gone to the potter’s field on Hart Island had it not been for a woman from the Bronx who put up some money for a funeral. All at once, Mama had some dignity. She got a grave at Maple Grove Cemetery in Queens, a casket, a kaddish service at Temple Emanu-El in case she was Jewish, a priest’s eulogy in case she was Catholic. The priest quoted a Quaker line (“I expect to pass through this world but once…”), and a vigil was held for her at Grand Central in case she was none of the above. The cash was for a gravestone at discount.

There was a small gathering at her burial, and people still return every Christmas season to pay respects to the woman with no name.

John was discovered by a man walking along a stretch of the Raritan Bay shoreline called Ideal Beach. In the far distance you can see the Empire State Building and the Parachute Jump at Coney Island.

The man stopped, leaned down and found himself staring at a naked dead baby. The medical examiner determined that the baby’s fractured skull could have been caused by a blow to the head or, somehow less horrific, by smashing into something in the water. The M.E. also noted that the extent of decomposition probably meant the baby had been in the water for about a week.

He also held out the possibility that the baby had been alive when tossed into the bay.

The advice from a newsroom veteran served me well, but sometimes rules and common sense must be tossed.

Birth Control and Pure Ignorance

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

By Jeffrey Page

Mike Huckabee

Mike Huckabee

Jerk: A person regarded as disagreeable or contemptible.

The requirements for election to the House of Representatives aren’t complicated. You have to be 25 or older, a U.S. citizen for at least seven years, and reside in the state you wish to represent.

I have a proposal to amend the Constitution. It would read as follows: “No person who is a jerk is allowed to serve in the House. Nor as senator. Nor as a governor. And certainly not as president. The United States recognizes that all people are created equal, but just as we wouldn’t allow a popular cocker spaniel to assume public office, nor would we allow a jerk to hold public office.”

The event that prompted my outburst was a pitch that came in the mail from Planned Parenthood asking for money and reminding recipients of some of the more outrageous comments by four men with bizarre ideas about what degree of lunacy the American people will accept from their elected representatives.

We have seen these quotations before, but there they were again, clumped in a tidy one-page display that left me breathless.

You remember this stuff of course.

— Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., declared at a hearing that women’s voices were “not appropriate or qualified” to participate in discussion of birth control matters. This is truly remarkable because if 51 percent of the population is not qualified to discuss birth control, new and dangerous paths are automatically opened. Remember when the majority were not allowed to vote at all in South Africa? What else might Issa see as unfit for the input of more than half the population? He didn’t say. But if women shouldn’t be at the table for talk on abortion and other forms of birth control because only they can get pregnant, you have to wonder if Issa would bar the 49 percent from the table when the subject is prostate cancer or low testosterone levels or male breast cancer or male osteoporosis. Issa didn’t say.

— In the wrangle over whether employers who offer medical coverage should be required to make birth control part of the benefits package, Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas said, “[Refusal to include birth control in workplace health coverage] is not denying women’s rights. If a woman then wants birth control, go work somewhere else.” This is a puerile response unworthy of half the legislative branch of our government. By suggesting that women quit their jobs – especially in the economy’s current state – and go marching out to an array of nonexistent jobs, Brownback lets everyone know the truth: He doesn’t give a hoot in hell about the real “facts of life.”

— Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas and sometime candidate for president, shocked the nation with this moronic, sexist, and almost obscene observation: “ … women are helpless without Uncle [Sam] coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido … without the help of government.” Newsflash, governor: When a woman gets pregnant, there’s usually more than one libido involved.

— Finally there was Todd Akin, the genius from Missouri, who informed the nation about aspects of human reproduction that no one knew existed. To the question of the importance of making abortion available to women who get pregnant during rape, Akin said: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down.” “That whole thing?” What is this man talking about?

Election Day is just 40 days away. Reject jerks seeking public office.

Dreaming an American Nightmare

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

By Jeffrey Page

obama tan suit

President Obama … no strategy on ISIS?

I dreamed an American nightmare.

I dreamed President Obama conducted a news conference and when asked about additional air strikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria he said, “We don’t have a strategy yet” for dealing with the ISIS threat.

Then I realized I hadn’t been asleep at all, and that the president’s verbal shoulder-shrug was the real thing – sign language that translated to: We’ll have a strategy when we have a strategy. Here we are, 13 years after 9/11 and we kinda, sorta know what to do.

This is unacceptable. Not having a strategy against an implacable enemy doesn’t sound quite in the spirit of keeping 300 million people safe.

White House spokesmen can spin it all day long – and spin it they did after President Obama’s news conference – but in the end the fact remains that the President of the United States of America had just finished letting the world know, and letting ISIS know, that he hadn’t yet come up with a strategy for dealing with ISIS.

This is pathetic, not to mention dangerous, because you and I both know the reverse is true – that ISIS has a strategy for dealing with the United States. So oughtn’t President Obama have a plan that goes beyond “Don’t know; see me in a week?”

Asking people to wait for such a plan is asking too much because ISIS is no ordinary foe. It has been conducting a homicidal war against just about everyone in the Middle East. It has murdered two American journalists and several prisoners of war in a manner so unspeakable that ISIS has erased its name from the roster of the members of civilization.

ISIS has weapons and experienced soldiers and the will to use both. It has been described as “the real deal” when it comes to who represents the greatest danger to the Middle East, to Europe, and to the United States. It poses a direct threat to the U.S. because, as some intelligence officials believe, some of ISIS’s more ardent adherents are here in America right now because they live here. ISIS’s description as “an imminent threat” to the United States was not from someone with a loose mouth and no facts, but by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. And Hegel didn’t say this one hour ago, which might have given Obama an out for not yet having a strategy. Hagel said it in July. And the ISIS threat has been known far longer than that.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry had a piece in The Times over the weekend in which he acknowledged that America can’t deal with ISIS alone. It needs partners. “With a united response led by the United States and the broadest possible coalition of nations, the cancer of ISIS will not be allowed to spread to other countries,” Kerry said.

Sounds great, but I wouldn’t want to be the diplomat sent by Washington to, say, Berlin to ask German Chancellor Angela Merkel for troops and cash on behalf of an American president who has no strategy.

Someone at the White House must remind President Obama of the danger the nation faces. He also needs to be told that he leaves himself open to ridicule when he asks allies for help but has no plan.

On Wednesday, President Obama said the United States would not be intimidated by ISIS. Very tough, very bold. But it’s not a strategy.

 

Can the Public Get to the Public Hearing?

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

By Jeffrey Page 

The agency charged with deciding where one or two casinos can be placed in the mid-Hudson is conducting a hearing to find out what the public thinks.

I’m sorry, that was a joke. A look at some of its actions and decisions suggests that the clumsily named New York State Gaming Commission Facility Location Board doesn’t give a hoot in hell about what the public thinks of allowing casinos and their attendant delights – traffic jams, prostitution, street crime, loan sharking, etc. – into our once calm villages and towns.

How could I be so cynical? Here’s how.

The hearing, which is scheduled for Sept. 23, will run an absurd 12 hours. Did you ever have to pay close attention to an important matter for 12 hours like the five members of the location board will have to do? Nor have I.

Why just one grindingly long session? The Warwick Advertiser reported that Lee Park, the location board’s PR flack, said it would be more efficient this way, and that one long hearing would be best for the five members of the location board – never mind what would be best for the public. The Advertiser quoted Park this way: “These guys all have full-time jobs. It will be a long day.”

That response might suggest to people just in from Planet Neptune that the five location board members are a bunch of working stiffs who punch a clock every morning and afternoon. But that’s not the case at all.

Here are the five men who’ll be tailoring the future of the mid-Hudson, and therefore will have much to say about your future:

  • The chairman of the location board is Kevin Law, the CEO and president of the Long Island Association, an economic development firm based in Melville.
  • Then there’s Stuart Rabinowitz, the president of Hofstra University – based in Hempstead. He’s also a member of the Long Island Association.
  •  Next there’s Bill Thompson, the former New York City comptroller and now the managing director of the investment banking firm of Siebert, Brandford, Shank, which is based in New York City.
  • Fourth is Dennis Glazer, retired partner of the Davis Polk and Wardwell law firm, which is in New York City.
  • And fifth is Paul Francis, the managing partner of the Cedar Street Group, a venture capital firm located in Larchmont.

Park should rest assured that “these guys,” as he described them, would not be docked a day’s pay if they had to take an extra day or two to conduct the hearing in a fair, sensible manner.

Casinos in the mid-Hudson will change life here forever. So isn’t it odd – or, for that matter, outrageous – that not one member of the location board is a known Orange, Sullivan, or Ulster quantity?

Then there’s the question of where the hearing is to be held. Will it be in Goshen, the Orange County seat? No. How about Monticello, the Sullivan seat? No. Maybe Kingston, the Ulster seat? No.

It is to be staged in Poughkeepsie, across the Hudson in Dutchess County, a city not included on the list of possible casino sites.

Here’s Park’s response to The Warwick Advertiser’s question about the odd placement of the hearing: The location board decided against having the hearing in any of the eligible counties in order to “not show favoritism and to be completely objective.”

Completely objective? When not even one of the three counties is represented on the board?

Where are the mid-Hudson representatives? They rolled snake eyes and are out of it.

If you think the pols need to hear your position on casinos in general or the set-up of the location board in particular, you can reach State Sen. John Bonacic at 344-3311 in Middletown and Sen. Bill Larkin in New Windsor at 567-1270.