Archive for the ‘Jeffrey Page’ Category

Donald’s New Pal, Rodrigo Duterte

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

By Jeffrey Page

Rodrigo Duterte ... got an invite from the Donald

Rodrigo Duterte … got an invite from the Donald

While we’re waiting for Robert Mueller to reveal what many suspect, let’s review an earlier bizarre episode at the Trump White House.

Americans now find their president issuing an invitation to Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines, to pay a visit to the White House, a place dubbed long ago by Theodore Roosevelt as the “People’s House.” It’s unclear what T.R would call it nowadays.

The Duterte invitation went out as the result of “a very friendly conversation” between the two presidents, the White House said. Very nice, but here’s why the invitation should be withdrawn at once.

On one hand Trump is still hot to build his damned wall along the Rio Grande as a means of keeping some people out.

On the other hand, Trump, doing whatever he can to get certain people in, would open the White House doors to Duterte so the two leaders could engage in some manly talk. The problem is that Duterte is a self-described admirer of Hitler and has likened the Jews of Europe in the 1930s with the drug dealers and users that he loathes. He puts the number of each group at 3 million. In the case of the Jews that’s about half the usual estimate.

If Trump is hot to meet with Duterte, I wish the two of them a good time.

But not in the White House, which is not Trump’s to sully since it doesn’t belong to him, but to you and me and 300 million other Americans.

When running for president last year, Duterte wished to display his loathing of drug users and dealers and promised to use some of the same tactics against them that Hitler used against the Jews of Europe.

“Hitler massacred 3 million Jews. Now there are 3 million drug addicts. I’d be happy to slaughter them,” Duterte said. He meant the dealers and junkies, not the Jews. Or so I think.

Still, Jews were aghast at this comparison. So was anyone else with a streak of decency.

Another reason for double-locking the doors of the White House when Duterte comes to call is his view of law and order, and his choice of words to describe the people he dislikes, including America’s ex-president.

When he took office, Duterte called on his army and police to help out in the war on drugs. The use of summary executions was fine, he said. “Do your duty,” Duterte said, “and in the process you kill 1,000 persons, I will protect you.” Estimates of the number of people put to death by Duterte and his men vary. Some have been as high as 9,000.

Perhaps one of the reasons Duterte could issue such instructions is because he had participated in them himself.

When he was mayor of the sprawling city of Davao he responded to a question by declaring: “Me? They’re saying I’m part of a death squad? True. That’s true.”

A visit to the White House, the place where American presidents live? Not for Duterte who, when hearing what sounded like criticism of his police operations, responded by calling President Obama “a son of a whore” and told him to go to hell.

And now the obvious question for Trump.

How dare you allow this man into the Executive Mansion?

Sometimes You Have to Say, ‘I’m Sorry’

Thursday, May 4th, 2017

By Jeffrey Page

Trump ... tweeting.

Trump … tweeting.

Donald Trump and his coterie believe that election is tantamount to gaining unquestioned authority in matters of insult, truth and apology.

You may believe that begging someone’s pardon after intended or unintended insult might make the world a little more civil, maybe even a little safer, but Donald Trump seems to hold no such belief.

“If I win,” he informed Hillary Clinton during the campaign, “I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your [missing email] situation because there has never been so many lies, so much deception.” This as Trump’s followers gleefully roared “Lock her up! Lock her up!”

So far, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has appointed no special prosecutor, which could indicate that Clinton is not quite as wicked as Trump would have you believe.

So with no special prosecutor in sight, can Trump stand up and say “I went a little too far; I apologize?”

He cannot.

He’s apparently unaware that in America when you charge someone with a crime you’re supposed to have evidence.

Someone else operating from the Trump Handbook of Practical Politics is Jeff Sessions, who stepped into a Ringling Bros. bucket when he declared recently that the state of Hawaii is little more than a banana republic – seven insignificant islands floating out there on the briny.

Apologize? Sessions?

Reacting to an unfavorable ruling by District Judge Derrick Watson in Honolulu, Sessions told an interviewer: “I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the President of the United States from what appears to be his statutory and Constitutional power.” Such judicial orders are precisely what make America unique, far different from a lot of countries.

At issue before Watson was Trump’s signing an executive order barring travelers from Muslim dominant countries from entering the United States – the so-called travel ban. Watson didn’t think it passed Constitutional muster.

Sessions was “amazed?”

If so, Americans must be “amazed” to learn that their attorney general is “amazed” at what the judges of a great nation do. That is, they interpret the law.

Sessions attributed the hubbub over his island jest to Americans having a lousy sense of humor. Get it? He was just kidding around with those 1.5 million unappreciative Hawaiians, not to mention the rest of us.

Incidentally, yes Watson was appointed by President Obama.

And yes, the Senate vote to confirm him was 94-0.

And yes, one of those yea votes was cast by Jeff Sessions, a senator at the time.

Here’s a handy guide to a few older incidents that beg for apology but have received no such thing.

— “I watched in Jersey City New Jersey where thousands and thousands of people [Muslims] were cheering as that building [the World Trade Center] was coming down,” Trump said about 9/11. Apparently he was the only person to witness such cheering.

— Trump said he doubted he could get a fair trial in a case to be heard by Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel since Trump was calling for a wall to prevent Mexicans from crossing the border to reach the U.S. and Curiel had that Mexican sounding surname. Therefore, Trump’s reasoning went, he could not expect a fair shake from Curiel, except that Curiel is not Mexican but a U.S. citizen born in East Chicago, Indiana, the son of U.S. citizens.

— Trump charged outrageously that President Obama’s people tapped some of Trump’s phones during the campaign for Hillary Clinton’s benefit.

The evidence?

None.

Even Trump Should be Appalled at This

Saturday, April 15th, 2017

By Jeffrey Page

Sean Spicer .. why is he still working?

Sean Spicer 

“Even Hitler didn’t sink to using chemical weapons.”

The words of the White House, as uttered by Sean Spicer, the usually snarly press secretary to President Trump, as he discussed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s use of sarin gas in his own people a few days earlier. The gas caused the horrible deaths of almost 90 people, including many children.

“Even Hitler …,” Spicer said.

That moronically misplaced emphasis – even – ought to have given pause to the president. After all, there was Spicer on the second day of Passover hinting that Hitler just might have gotten a bum rap all these years since 1945. Even Hitler. Never mind that he was a man with 6 million warrants out for his arrest. In many cases he had Jews and others murdered by poison gas.

Sean Spicer is 45 years old. It’s reasonable to expect someone of his age would have a better handle one of the major, man-made catastrophes of the 20th century, the Holocaust, and all the misery and horror it inflicted on 6 million Jews, Catholics, Romanis, communists and trade unionists.

You’d also like to believe that. while Spicer is entitled to his own opinion, he’s not entitled to his own facts. (Thank you, Pat Moynihan.) If a kindly nod to Adolf is all right for Spicer, you have to wonder about the president, the man for whom Spicer speaks. Did he carefully vet Spicer for the position of press secretary.

No? Why not? And what’s the effective day of his dismissal?

Yes? In that case, the vetting of the man who speaks for the president of the United States of America was insufficient. And again, what’s his last day on the job?

And the final questions. Didn’t Spicer, at age 45, know that the thing called the Holocaust actually occurred? Or is he a card-carrying Holocaust denier? And though it sounds like Holocaust denial, could President Trump confirm this?

Later in the day, Spicer apologized for making himself sound like an idiot for his remarkable take on recent European history.

Move On responded with a call for his dismissal or resignation.

 

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.