Archive for May, 2010

Citizenship Games (cont’d.)

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

By Jeffrey Page

Last time, it was a member of the House of Representatives calling for the deportation of the children of illegal immigrants even if the kids are American citizens.

Duncan Duane Hunter, a first-termer from Southern California, would ship the kids back though he doesn’t say to where. Which raises the question: Why would Mexico or Poland, Peru or Saudi Arabia accept them if they’re native born citizens of the United States?

If he had actually read the 14th Amendment, Hunter might have been shocked to discover that his own U.S. citizenship is no more sacred than that of a young Chicano who was born or naturalized here – no matter if the kid’s parents are here legally or not.

But Hunter was last week’s news. Now, in the fearful time after the failed attempt to detonate a car bomb in Times Square, my friend Ken Farber sends along a note about the mischief Senator Joseph Lieberman is disguising as serious legislation. Lieberman would strip the citizenship of anyone who provides material support for a group that the government has designated a terrorist organization – whether or not that person has been convicted of a crime.

“Let’s just throw the Bill of Rights out the window,” Ken says in disgust.

“If they’re a U.S. citizen, until they’re convicted of some crime, I don’t know how you would attempt to take their citizenship away,” House Republican Leader John Boehner said. “It would be pretty difficult under the U.S. Constitution.”

Oh right, that bothersome Constitution.

Meanwhile, what is material support anyway?

Writing in The Washington Post, David Cole, a professor at the Georgetown University Law school, notes the meaning of “material support” is “so broad that it makes it a crime to file an amicus brief in the Supreme Court, to lobby Congress, to teach human rights or to write an op-ed piece, so long as it is done with, or for, a designated group.”

Could this mean that if you exercise your First Amendment right to petition the government on some matter that Joe Lieberman finds offensive you could lose your citizenship? I don’t believe we really want to go down that path.

On the matter of stripping someone of his citizenship, Cole says the Supreme Court has previously ruled that citizenship is a constitutional matter and thus can’t be arbitrarily terminated by the government.

In these dangerous days some politicians are trying to prove how tough they are. The problem for the rest of us is that people like Lieberman and his three co-sponsors – including Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts, the successor to Ted Kennedy – might not know when to stop. If we ship American kids out of the country and revoke the citizenship of people not convicted of anything, when do we get back to internment camps such as those to which earlier American citizens were exiled?

In the earlier dangerous days of the Forties, we shipped 120,000 citizens of Japanese ancestry to what amounted to internal deportation, snatching their homes and much of their property in the process. It took 50 years but the American people finally apologized for this atrocity and even paid $20,000 in reparations to each of the 60,000 survivors. This was not liberal gamesmanship.

“Here, we admit a wrong, here we reaffirm our commitment as a nation to equal justice under law,” President Reagan said as he signed that reparation measure into law in 1988.

Jeffrey can be reached at

Buenas Noticias from Middletown

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

By Michael Kaufman

Amid the misplaced anger and hatred directed at Spanish-speaking immigrants in some parts of the country, comes some refreshing news from Middletown. Starting in September, elementary schools in the city will begin offering a dual-language program to up to 88 lucky kindergarten students. The program, funded through a four-year federal grant, will bring together in one classroom an equal mix of English-speaking and Spanish-speaking children.

Lessons will be taught in English one day and Spanish the next. Although this may seem like a tall order for small children unfamiliar with the other language, the program has proved to be an educational success in other districts, including Engelewood, NJ, where two of my daughters took part when they were little.

According to Kristin Kerr, director of bilingual and English as a second language (ESL) programs for the Middletown schools, learning to think and express themselves in two languages helps students develop higher-level thinking skills. “If you are bilingual,” says Kerr, “you have the ability to flex your thinking for problem solving.” Sadly, this is now something of a novel approach to education thanks to “No Child Left Behind” and it’s over emphasis on teaching students how to pass standardized tests rather than to think independently.

Middletown and Newburgh are the only two districts in Orange County that offer the program, which is now in its second year at the West Street School in Newburgh. Lillian Torres, principal of the West Street School, says the first-grade students there are now able to speak, read and write in both languages. “We’ve really got to look at it as ‘gifted and talented,’” she says.

“This is a benefit for any kid and all kids,” adds Kerr. Being bilingual or multilingual will give them an advantage when they enter the workforce as adults. Bilingual programs, as opposed to traditional ESL programs that target only Spanish-speaking students, result in superior academic performance in both languages, explains Jane Briggs, of the NY State Education Department. As a parent of two English-speaking children who benefited from the program in Englewood, I can vouch for the accuracy of this statement and also mention a few other advantages.

For one thing, the children will instinctively help one another learn the language that is new to them. They will forge lasting friendships with children from other ethnic and cultural backgrounds. (Whenever our daughters are anywhere near Englewood they visit their favorite Colombian bakery to pick up a few empanadas and bunuelos.) Equally important, they have both continued to excel in Spanish (and other languages) in high school and college.  

In Englewood the program started in pre-kindergarten, where there were two teachers. An African-American Muslim woman taught the classes conducted in English. A Spanish-speaking white Jewish woman taught the Spanish-language classes. Their close relationship with one another, and the loving attention they gave to all the students, inspired both children and parents alike. Indeed, we still keep in touch.

When school budget cuts led to a shortage of computers in the Englewood elementary schools, no shortage occurred in the dual-language classes because they were funded separately. This could prove to be another advantage for Middletown parents considering the program for their children.

The program will be offered at both the Chorley Elementary and Truman Moon Primary Schools. Parents have recently been notified that they must submit their children’s names to be eligible for inclusion. If you live in the Middletown school district and have a child who will be entering kindergarten at one of those schools this year, I suggest you submit their names as quickly as possible. 

Michael can be reached at

Sustainable Living: School savings

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

By Shawn Dell Joyce


We are all concerned about our schools and our rising school taxes. Most districts are facing a decline in state funding of 11% or. in Valley Central’s case; $3.6 million. That’s a lot of money, and we all wonder where it will come from.


Teachers are concerned about larger classes and less funding for teaching materials, salaries, and lower educational standards. Parents are concerned about less funding for the classes that keep kids interested in school, like music, art, sports, and extracurricular activities. Taxpayers are concerned about an ever-increasing burden that is already difficult to bear. Kids face crowded conditions, increased bullying, and less attention from teachers.


It’s a difficult situation for all, without an easy answer. Many school districts across the country are in the same pickle and some have come up with a few creative solutions that could be applied here.


Newburgh has hired an energy efficiency consultant to show faculty and students how to conserve resources and save money. Simple measures like turning off lights in empty classrooms, lowering the heat after hours, and reducing paper waste can more than pay the consultant’s salary, and save school resources over the long term. Engaging the student population in the school’s efforts to conserve, teaches children an important lesson to take back to the home and community.


Batavia schools have found methods for pooling resources and sharing specialized staff and equipment. This sharing cuts down on individual school district’s costs, and helps keep learning standards high.


In Fairfax County, Va., they are asking parents to pay fees for tests like the PSAT, and SAT tests. They are also planning to charge $50 per student to participate in high school sports. The most ingenious suggestion was to raise class size by a half of a student. You have to wonder where they put the other half!


Texas schools find themselves with a decreasing tax base (as property values plummet) and increasing student population. Instead of building more schools, the districts are encouraging home schooling by providing an online curriculum, free computer and internet, and a teacher with an online class size of 500.


Other states also encourage homeschooling by offering homeschooled children the use of the school for certain classes that parents may not be able to provide at home. For example, a high school science lab course would be easier to pay for than to recreate at home. This piecemeal approach to education also brings in additional revenues from homeschoolers already paying school taxes.


California high school students will soon be working from free digital textbooks online rather than the expensive hardcover textbooks at district’s expense.


Perhaps the best approach to solving the school budget crunch is the one right under our noses, and most likely to be missed. Why not have the children come up with the solution? One of the biggest complaints about schools is that they don’t prepare children for the “real world.” Here’s our chance, let’s give the kids a “real world” scenario, and see what they come up with?


Thomas Kerston of the National Council of Professors of Educational Administration has come up with a helpful module that could be applied to any classroom. It’s available free online at


We are quick to give our children the latest in interactive online video games, now how about we give them a quality education in life?


 Shawn Dell Joyce is the director of the Wallkill River School in Orange County.


Carrie’s Painting of the Week

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010


By Carrie Jacobson

My stepdaughter – who, by now, is simply my daughter – was married on Saturday, to a lovely man named Jon. They are both well into their 30s, and this was the second marriage for both of them. The ceremony – a church service, with tuxedos and bridesmaids dresses and a full-length white gown with train –  included Erika’s daughter and young son, Jon’s mother and young daughter, and Peter and me. Erika had asked us both to walk down the aisle with her, and to give her away.

Erika dressed in the rectory. Then she and her maid of honor (daughter Samantha), bridesmaid Margaret, flower girl Jenna (Jon’s daughter) and I were to walk down Elm Street, and around the corner to the front doors of the church.

The day had been rainy and foggy and dark, but when we opened the doors of the rectory and stepped onto Elm Street – blocks from where Erika grew up – the sun edged out from behind the clouds.

In our pretty dresses, carrying our beautiful flowers, we walked the 50 yards from the one door to the other. Cars went by and honked their horns. Drivers waved and shouted “Good Luck,” and it felt like we were walking on rays of sun and promises and happiness and love – and indeed, we were.

To my utter astonishment, I burst into tears twice – once when the doors of the church opened, and Peter and I took Erika’s arms to walk her up the aisle, and again when Peter and Erika danced at the reception.

There is nothing like a marriage to make you understand – again and again – the power of  love, the beauty of commitment, and the healing that is possible inside a family.

If you want to commission me to make a painting of your pet, email me at, or call – 860-442-0246.

Going to be in Northampton, Mass., over Memorial Day weekend? Come to the Paradise City Art Festival, and visit me, in booth 318 in the Morgan Building. American Style magazine recently named this the third-best art fair in the country!

Gigli’s Photo of the Week May 9

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

Photography By Rich Gigli

MOTHER'S DAY - Two baby sparrows cuddled in their nest.

MOTHER’S DAY – Two baby sparrows cuddled in their nest.

While mother bird gathers food without any rest.

Chirp,Chirp, Gulp,Gulp, beaks opened wide to fill their tiny inside.

Light down feathers ready to fly. Hoping someday to reach the sky.

Soon the nest will be silent and still. But mother bird had a wonderful thrill.

(Gigli 2010)

A Barbaric Idea is Aired

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

By Jeffrey Page

It’s a different time with different concerns and different people, but the words ring as true now as they did in 1954.

“Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?” Joseph C. Welch said, sounding the beginning of the end of Senator Joe McCarthy.

Nowadays, those questions are justifiably addressed to Rep. Duncan Duane Hunter, a Republican from Southern California, who would tackle the problem of illegal immigration to the United States by deporting the native-born children of illegal immigrants.

In other words, Hunter would trash the Bill of Rights and deport American citizens. This Orwellian solution would be a first for America, a place where we have always prided ourselves for granting rights, not eliminating them.

The shameless Hunter is not the only person who must be asked about a sense of decency. The question also should be put to the nativists in our midst who talk up the matter of “family values” and yet have no problem with the idea of separating families. Certain families, anyway. Can you guess which ones? More on this in a moment.

In order for Hunter to get what he wants, America would have to suspend the 14th Amendment, whose first sentence is: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.” Changing the Constitution is something not to be taken lightly. To amend it would require approval in the Congress by two-thirds majorities plus subsequent approval by three-quarters of the states, or by a Constitutional convention.

As it stands, if you were born here you belong here. You’re a citizen. You could be president or a judge or even a member of the House of Representatives from southern California, and no yahoo back-bencher like Duncan Duane Hunter can change that.

The question of Hunter’s easy one-syllable immigration fix came up at a recent Tea Party gathering in Ramona, Calif., about halfway between San Diego and Escondido. Hunter was asked if he supports such deportations. “I would have to, yes,” he said.

Here’s why Duncan Duane Hunter isn’t the only person who needs to be questioned about a willingness to divide families and about his monumental ignorance of the framers’ desire “to promote the general welfare and [to] secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”

Hunter’s remarks in Ramona were before a Tea Party. Did they scoff at his suggestion to send children back? (Back to where, by the way?) They did no such thing.

Did the tea partiers, whose fondness for family values is evident on many of the signs they carry whenever they gather, greet him with jeers and thumbs-down gestures? They did not.

In fact, they burst into applause and cheers. To cheer Hunter’s idea is to declare that only Anglo values can count as family values.

“We’re not being mean,” Hunter said. Whoa! As long as he brought up the subjective question of meanness, let’s at least be honest. His idea is among the meanest imaginable.

He continued: “We’re just saying it takes more than just walking across the border to become an American citizen. It’s within our souls.”

Duncan Duane Hunter doesn’t know what he’s talking about. First of all, no one thinks that to become a U.S. citizen, you simply walk across a border. And second, no one – not even Duncan Duane Hunter – should ever presume to know what is in the souls of others.

Jeffrey can be reached at

Sustainable Living: Mothers Day Alternatives

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

 By Shawn Dell Joyce

     Flowers are big business. The U.S. floral market is a $20 billion-a-year industry, yet the vast majority of the 4 billion flower stems sold here every year come from Latin America. Colombia, Ecuador and Peru have been exporting flowers to us duty-free since the 1980s. As part of the “War on Drugs,” import taxes on South American flowers were eliminated to give farmers a profitable crop to replace cocaine.

           All the flowers in corporate chains and box stores are imported. The cheap abundance of imported flowers not only has an impact on Mom-and-Pop-owned florists and supermarkets, but also makes it very hard for American growers to compete. One grower complained: “We can’t allow other countries to come in and impact our bottom line in the name of free trade. How can you compare foreign labor costs of $3 an hour compared with our labor costs of $12 an hour?”

           “We can’t compete with imports,” a nursery owner said. “Those flowers are loaded with pesticides that local growers can’t even think about using.” A survey on Columbian flower plantations found that workers were exposed to 127 different pesticides. One-fifth of the chemicals used in flower production in South America are restricted or banned in the United States and Europe (such as DDT). Since there are very few environmental laws in South America, these chemicals wind up in drinking water, causing species decline as well as damaging human health.

          Workers are often denied proper protection and become sick after applying herbicides, fungicides and pesticides. Two-thirds of Colombian flower laborers (mostly women) suffer from impaired vision, respiratory and neurological problems, disproportionately high still-birth rates, and babies born with congenital malformations. When workers try to organize unions to defend their interests, they are often fired, ridiculed, or harassed.

          In response to the horrendous social and environmental costs of cut flowers, green entrepreneurs have stepped up to the plate. Organic florist Lynn Mehl of Good Old Days Florist in New Windsor, N.Y., had an epiphany recently when she discovered the thorny underside of the floral industry. “I did a little research on my (previous) products and found that roses alone, according to recent studies, can contain up to 50 times the amount of pesticides that are legally allowed on our food. I shop organic, I support fair wages, I cannot consciously continue with a business practice that is against all that I have supported for years!”

       Mehl got proactive about it and located a U.S. import distributor who sells exclusively certified organic, eco-friendly, and soon-to-be fair trade flowers in bulk resale.  She also found some smaller suppliers of locally grown organic flowers in season.  All varieties are not yet available, but will be in the growing season. These include the heavy-demand varieties like roses, lilies, sunflowers, tulips, baby’s breath, assorted greens and ferns. “Ironically,” notes Mehl, “these flowers are more fragrant, last longer, and have very little cost difference. They are healthier for those who enjoy them, help protect the environment, and support sustainable farming.”

       “And would you believe,” adds Mehl, “I am the only professional florist buying these flowers on the East Coast for resale?” 

Want to celebrate both Mom and Mother Earth this year?

—– Ask your local Mom and Pop florist for organic flowers
—– Buy flowers from a local farm like Twin Ponds in Montgomery.
—– Give Mom a live plant from a farm like Manza’s in Montgomery.
—– Give Mom an edible bouquet of salad greens and flowers from a local farm
—– Buy Mom a flat of flowers from Hoeffner’s farm and plant them in flower beds for her

 Shawn Dell Joyce is an award-winning columnist and founder of the Wallkill River School in Montgomery.

Carrie’s Painting of the Week, 5/5/10

Monday, May 3rd, 2010
April Afternoon

April Afternoon

By Carrie Jacobson

I love spring. I love the greening of the grass, the lengthening of the days. I love the crocuses and the birdsong and the sweet smells of hawthorne and honeysuckle. I love the way forsythias seem to trace bright yellow explosions, and the way lilacs drench the air with scent. Most of all, I think, I love azaleas.

They’re only beautiful for a week or two, I know – but for that week or two, there’s nothing better. I drive around a curve and suddenly, the world is pink, even scarlet, and that horizontal splash of color and light takes my breath away.

I’m not a real golf nut, though I do admit to enjoying watching the slow progress of that quiet game spill itself over huge stretches of green – but I love the Masters, because of the azaleas.

If you’d like to buy this painting, email me at, or call me at 860-442-0246 and we can discuss price and delivery options.