Archive for July, 2011

Put on Your High-Heel Sneakers …

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

Michele Bachmann's strappy sandals

By Bob Gaydos

Can high heels really cause migraines? Apparently, Michele Bachmann thinks the answer is yes. She also continues to do well in polls of possible Republican presidential candidates. And so, we will once more sit in on Professor Bachmann’s class. The subject this time is health, not history.

Let’s start with a statement of fact: There is no scientific or biological evidence that wearing high-heel shoes can trigger migraine episodes. There’s not much anecdotal testimony on any cause and effect either. This is not in any way to belittle the sometimes debilitating effect such headaches can have on those who get them (women are three times more susceptible). Indeed, if the issue were merely migraines and how they affect Bachmann’s ability to handle her job as a congresswoman from Minnesota — or potentially, president of the United States — there probably wouldn’t be much of an issue.

Some ex-Bachmann aides (of which there are a lot) gave out the information on the migraines and said she took a bunch of pills to deal with them. They said she was sometimes incapacitated for a day by the headaches. Bachmann herself confirmed the migraines, but said she was always able to function. She said she takes prescribed medications for the headaches and side effects.

This is not unusual. Several presidents had to deal with painful health issues, but managed to fulfill the stressful duties of the Oval Office. John Kennedy and Thomas Jefferson suffered from migraines, to name two. So, assuming she is being forthright on the issue, doubting Bachmann’s ability to serve as president simply because she’s a woman who suffers migraines would be patently unfair.

But Bachmann’s the one who brought up the high heels, immediately making it a gender issue as well as a possible health issue. Her son, who is a doctor, said his mother noticed “a correlation” between the headaches and days when she is wearing heels. “The truth is she wears high heels all the time and she doesn’t get migraines” all the time, he said. “But she has found a correlation, though a correlation does not necessarily equal causation. It’s an unknown cause.” He pointed out she was wearing high heels during stressful situations.

Bachmann says she started wearing high heels as a little girl, when she wore her mother’s, and has always loved wearing them. In fact, high heels are a critical component of a certain type of modern powerful-woman package: Well-tailored expensive suit, stylish hair, high heels. I can be feminine and effective. Do not doubt me.

Fine. But high heels and migraines?

I decided to check with Orange County’s most famous female high-heel wearing politician — Mary McPhillips — to see if she ever had a problem with shoe-related migraines.

“No, never,” she said with a chuckle. “And I walked in a lot of parades wearing high heels. In fact, if I changed the color of the shoes, people asked me why.”

McPhillips, a funeral director who served as a county coroner, a member of the state Assembly and as Orange County executive, said the only physical problem she ever had because of wearing high heels was when she switched to wearing flats or low heels. “Your calf muscles have to change,” she said. “My legs would ache.”

Why did she even wear high heels all the time in the first place? Did it make her feel more powerful?

“When you’re 5-4, the heels at least put you on eye level with your constituents,” she said. “Now, when I wear flats, say to go to the store, people say, ‘You’re so short. Where are your heels?’ ”

Would she have any shoe advice for Bachmann, whose politics are 180 degrees from those of McPhillips?

“Try a pair of sneaks.”

Which brings me to my real problem with this whole issue. If Bachmann, who presents herself as a serious candidate for the highest office in this land, really believes that wearing high heels can occasionally trigger debilitating migraine headaches, why in the world does she continue to wear high heels? After all, she is willing to ignore scientific evidence on a host of other issues and speak and act based on her beliefs. So to me, this is not a gender issue, but a judgment issue. I suspect that if the equally style-conscious Mitt Romney thought tight, Italian leather shoes caused him headaches, he wouldn’t wear them.

I can admire a pair of shapely legs fitted out in high-heel shoes as well as the next heterosexual guy (that’s another Bachmann column and an admittedly sexist comment). But if a woman who wants to be president thinks the shoes are triggering serious migraines and continues to wear them anyway, she’s merely reinforcing the suspicion that there’s more style than substance at work. She’s also flirting with being relegated to Bimbo Land and Sarah’s got that constituency all sewed up.

Questions on the Death of Winehouse

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

By Michael Kaufman

I don’t remember precisely how this aging Baby Boomer found his way to the music of Amy Winehouse. Maybe my daughter Molly suggested I listen (like she did with Ani DeFranco and Tracy Chapman).  I always pay attention when my kids tell me about music they like because—as I learned from my own father—it works both ways.  I still remember the Father’s Day when pop agreed to listen to Horace Silver’s “Song for My Father”…. and I opened my ears to his favorite Beethoven symphony. 

After opening my ears to Winehouse I bought her CDs and had been expectantly awaiting a new release said to be coming soon. Now there will be only the obligatory memorial album and perhaps a “best of” or two with some previously unreleased material thrown in to boost sales.

But the thing that bothers me most about her death at age 27 is that everybody in the world could see it coming.  It was impossible not to see. Video clips of her stumbling, pathetic, incoherent performances in Jamaica and Belgrade were all over the internet. It was just a matter of time before she would self destruct. 

My question is why was it allowed to happen?

Of course she had famously sung a resounding “no” to rehab. But how can someone who has a substance-abuse problem make a rational decision about entering rehab? Shouldn’t they first go through detoxification and then decide?  Am I missing something or isn’t this a “Catch-22” situation? Was there nothing her parents and others who loved her dearly could do? (Whatever happened to having someone committed?)

Maybe Bob Gaydos, my colleague at Zest who often writes excellent articles about addiction and recovery, can shed some light on this.  And perhaps among our readers there are professionals who would like to comment. Please do, either in the space below or via email. And of course feel free to add your thoughts even if you are no more informed than I am.

Meanwhile, for any fellow Boomers who may be wondering what I heard in Winehouse, here are links to a few of my favorites. The first two are her own edgy compositions (and please note that they include language some may find offensive). The last is a lovely–and now even more poignant–rendition of “Someone to Watch Over Me.”

And in case you were wondering, Pop’s favorite Beethoven symphony (and now mine too) was the Ninth.

Michael can be reached at

First Step in the Ten Percent Challenge

Monday, July 25th, 2011

By Shawn Dell Joyce 

The Ten Percent Challenge is off to a great start after last weekend’s kick off party in Walden. This week, the Town of Montgomery Chamber of Commerce voted unanimously to endorse the Ten Percent Challenge. That means that many of our local businesses will be pledging to reduce their energy use by ten percent and get ten percent of their employees to do the same.

The first step is signing the pledge, available at most village halls, at the Wallkill River School in Montgomery, or online through Once you sign the pledge, return it to the committee, and it’s time for an energy audit.

An energy audit is free for homeowners, and virtually free for businesses and municipalities. The cost of an audit (ranging from $100-$400) for businesses is based on the number of employees. But, the cost is refundable when you take one of the auditor’s recommendations.

Ronnie in the Montgomery Village Hall filled out the application for a commercial energy audit with me, for the Village of Montgomery.  The application is a one page form available online at, and is very simple. It requires only a few facts about the square footage and number of buildings, employees, and electric usage over the past year. If you don’t have copies of your utility bills, the auditor can find this info online through your utility company.

Getting an energy audit is crucial because it gives you a baseline to measure your current energy usage (you would also want to add in gasoline, and fuel oil if you use it) and some easy ways to reduce your usage, along with the payback periods for efficiency upgrades.

In our county, you have a choice of auditors for residential, most of whom are local businesses with owners that live in our region, some may even be your friends and neighbors. Commercial audits are done through Daylight Savings in Goshen, and the application must be filed through NYSERDA first.

The Town of Montgomery will be discussing supporting the Ten Percent Challenge at the Aug. 4th Town Board Meeting starting at 7:30 at the Town Hall on Bracken Road. Town Board member Dan Dempsey will present the pledge to the board for a vote.

If you need help finding a copy of the pledge, or signing up for an energy audit, contact Sustainable Montgomery or me, and we will help you.  The next meeting for the Ten Percent Challenge is Aug. 3 at 7pm in Maybrook’s Village Hall.

Shawn Dell Joyce is the Director of the Wallkill River Art School in Montgomery, which along with the Wallkill Valley Times is a benchmark business in the Ten Percent Challenge. Both businesses will be reducing their energy usage by ten percent in the next year.

Debt Limit Games

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

By Jeffrey Page
Here’s a message for Obama and Boehner, for Cantor and Reid, for Pelosi and for all our local geniuses who are driving this debt limit issue to a brink that could be catastrophic on a grand scale and dangerous on a personal level.

It’s about your constituents. You remember us, right? You remember your last campaigns when you went out and swore that there was nothing – nothing! – more gratifying in the world than the privilege – privilege! – of representing us in Congress, of providing leadership in the White House.

Here’s another message: Control your blather. No one buys it. We don’t like being used as the little white balls in your never-ending game of partisan ping pong. If you believe you can get away with this brinksmanship on the debt limit, you should start checking the want ads. That privilege you treasure could be withdrawn in 17 months.

Listen, we’re the 60.1 million people receiving Social Security to the tune of $60 billion a month. Most of us don’t use that money for vacations in the south of France. It goes right into the economy to pay for groceries and gasoline, a movie ticket, the rent, a new tire for the car, the morning paper, taxes to keep things moving. Eventually, it is this spending that will rescue the economy.

Do you – Schumer, Gillibrand, Hayworth, Hinchey, the lot of you – understand this, or have your $174,000 congressional salaries and other personal wealth made you blind to what ordinary people must deal with every day as you play your political games. The fact is that your congressional pay is almost six times as much as the per capita income in New York. Fact is you don’t know much about us.

We’re also the 4.1 million veterans receiving $46 billion a year in various benefits for having served the nation. Much of that money goes into the economy as well.

And we’re the rest of the population, just plain sickened by what we see you doing.

Are you really going to watch the nation go into default, and watch your constituents miss a check or two all because you were too dumb to get off your butts and come to an understanding with the other side?

Every one of us who you represent understands what “compromise” means. Why can’t you? Or doesn’t it matter because you know that no matter what you do, no matter how much your people suffer, you’ll get your checks when we do not?

So here is what I want of you. Actually, here is what I am demanding of you as you posture and totter.

If Social Security and Veterans Administration checks fail to go out next week because you helped the nation run out of money, you must issue an immediate press release announcing that you will forego your salaries until we – the ones you go to for votes every few years – receive ours first.

Even later, when the crisis eases, you must not cash your paychecks for the periods when the government shut down. If you have an ounce of honor, you will endorse those checks and send them to Food Bank of the Hudson Valley (195 Hudson St., Cornwall-on-Hudson, N.Y. 12520).

To do less is to lose my vote.

Zest readers, do you agree?

Jeff can be reached at

Carrie’s Painting of the Week

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011

Pitbull Pup

By Carrie Jacobson

One of the funnest parts of my job as a Patch editor is working with the shelter in Montville, CT, the town I cover (check out the site I run, the Montville Patch!)

Happily, there are often no animals there to be adopted. But when there are, the animal control officer calls, and I take photos, or sometimes videos, and put them on the site, and who knows, maybe they help. I think they do.

Eager, a three-legged kitten, just got adopted, and I hope Patch had something to do with it. Want to see a video of Eager? Click here. Want to see a video of some pretty funny kittens? Click here. By the way, they still need homes, so if you’re in the market, and feel like traveling to Connecticut, I can hook you up.

A couple of years ago, with an Internet friend, I started the Art for Shelter Animals Project. In it, artists make portraits of animals in their local shelters or with rescue groups, then give the art to the shelter or rescue group. They can do whatever they want with it – sell it, auction it, put the art for calendars or coffee mugs, or decorate their offices with it.

Artists from around the world have participated – everyone from professional, well-known artists to classes of elementary school students, to people making their first paintings.

For an artist, the project is liberating. No one is ever going to be anything but totally and positively delighted with the painting. So you want to try making a purple cat? Cool! The shelter will love it. A pink dog? Great! The shelter will love it!

Check out the blog, and if you’d like to participate, it’s easy. Go to Petfinder, or your local shelter site, get a photo, make a portrait, send me a jpg, and give the painting away. I’ll put the image on the blog, write a little about you, a little about the animal if I can, and a little about the shelter.

I have some posts coming of on the blog animals up for adoption in Montville. One is of one of the kittens and another shows a golden lab with some issues. I made this painting of one of the dogs on the shelter’s Facebook page.

Blimey, It’s a Bloody Disaster

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

Rupert Murdoch

By Bob Gaydos

Where to begin? Is it with the charming Hugh Grant playing Hugh Grant wearing a wire in the movie version of “End of The World as Rupert Knew It“? Or with the dishy Wendi Deng (Mrs. Rupert Murdoch) playing herself in the same film and then replacing Lucy Liu in the next “Charlie’s Angels” vehicle? I must admit, I’m at sixes and sevens over this hugger-mugger that is rapidly engulfing our British cousins.

Part of me thinks it is smashing that a lot of people who have given journalism a bad name for a long time are finally getting their due. But another part of me is cheesed off to learn how widespread this abuse of power was and how apparently easy peasy it was for the Murdoch’s News International empire to entwine its tentacles in the highest reaches of British government. (Blimey, I can’t even stop writing English English instead of American Engish, I’m so narked about it.)

There really is too much happening so fast at the moment in this scandal to know where to focus. Merely having the Murdoch name at the receiving end of the word “scandal” for a change is almost beyond irony and is surly the source of much of the glee with which the rest of the journalistic world has pounced on the story.

But really, do we start with the fact that the head of Scotland Bloody Yard — the top cop in England — has resigned because a lot of people accuse him, his deputy and other police officials of covering up the phone-hacking scandal that is at the heart of the scandal?

Or how about the fact that Prime Minister David Cameron is so chummy with former editors of Murdoch’s News of the World tabloid that he hired one to be his chief press aide, regularly goes riding (horses) with another and has had 26 meetings with editors of that now-defunct newspaper in his first 15 months in office? Or the suggestion that the Murdoch media empire in Britain is so powerful, former Prime Minister Tony Blair actually gave Murdoch veto power over foreign policy initiatives.

Maybe we should look at the fact that the first Murdoch-employed reporter to admit to the phone-hacking and cop-bribing was found dead at home the other day. He was 40. Police said his death was not suspicious. They have arrested a bunch of journalists, however.

Perhaps the best place to start with this, since it appears likely to be a long-lasting story, is at the beginning. News of the World, which was the largest circulation paper in Britain, featured juicy stories about public figures — entertainers, athletes, politicians, members of the royal family — that were less concerned with fact and news relevance than with their gossip and headline value. Kind of a New York Post on steroids.

To get some of the inside information on these people, the World hacked into voice mails on their phones. Even in England, this is not legal. The list of potential hacking victims is anywhere from 400 to 4,000 names long. Hugh Grants is on that list and he has sued and he did indeed wear a wire to get evidence of the activity. Good job, Hugh.

This snooping has been going on for about six years at least and, a committee in Parliament has charged, some officers in Scotland Yard have been complicit in covering it up — in exchange for cash bribes or promise of future employment. In fact, the first detective on the case resigned and went to work for Murdoch.

As examples of how low the hackers went in their search for “news,” former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, told Parliament of the emotional pain caused when News of the World revealed details of his young son’s cystic fibrosis. And, in what is so far the most callous of all phone-hacking incidents, News of the World listened to voice mails of a murdered teen-age girl and actually deleted some of the voice mails, giving the parents false hope that their daughter was still alive. I must have missed that journalism course in college.

As I said, this is just beginning and the story gets better every day. Heck, I almost forget to mention that a British comedian smacked Murdoch in the face with a shaving cream pie while he was testifying before Parliament. Gotta love that subtle British humor. Murdoch said the day he closed the News of the World was the “most humble” day of his life. He apologized, but he did not take responsibility for any of the actions of his top editors. Neither did his son. Meanwhile, Murdoch’s prize paper in the United States, the Wall Street Journal, ran an editorial supporting the boss, saying, “It is up to British authorities to enforce their laws.”


This is a trial of the power of the press and the ability of news media to remain independent and objective and to report the news honestly, regardless of who is at the center of it. That has not been a hallmark of many Murdoch holdings. There are bound to be changes in British law regarding ownership of media outlets (Murdoch has nearly 40 percent of British newspaper and TV news stations). And it will be fascinating to see how his holdings on this side of the pond respond. This has really bollixed up their agenda.

Murdoch Is Sorry…That He Got Caught

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

By Michael Kaufman

“Yes,” write Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan this week in their syndicated weekly column, “Murdoch is sorry —that he got caught.” Their column sometimes runs in the op-ed pages of the Times Herald-Record.… but not this week. As the Record dutifully notes in its articles covering the scandal involving Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp global media empire, “News Corp. owns NewsCore and Dow Jones Local Media Group, of which the Times Herald-Record is a unit.”

Goodman and Moynihan, colleagues on the Democracy Now! radio and television broadcasts, make some telling points in the column titled, “The questions hanging over Murdoch, USA.”

They note how the “contagion affecting News Corp” has spread rapidly in the U.S., as indicated by the FBI  investigation of potential criminal hacking of the voicemails of victims of the 9/11 attacks and calls by lawmakers and grassroots groups for an investigation into whether the bribing of police was a violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. “As News Corp is a U.S. corporation, registered in the business-friendly state of Delaware, even bribery abroad could lead to felony charges in the U.S.”

If News of the World employees engaged in illegal attempts to access voicemails and the FBI investigation leads to indictments, however, “the most likely outcome would be extradition requests against the alleged offenders, which could drag on for years,” they explain.

“Meanwhile, Murdoch runs his media empire in the U.S. as an unvarnished political operation. Fox News Channel, run by career Republican operative Roger Ailes, is home to the most consistently vitriolic critics of Barack Obama. Leaked memos and emails from Fox vice-president of News, John Moody, and Washington managing editor Bill Sammon allegedly offer evidence of top-down directives to control the message throughout the news day, from linking Obama to Marxism and socialism, to denigrating a public option in the U.S. healthcare debate, to promoting skepticism about climate change.”

Goodman and Moynihan also recount acts of violence that may have been influenced in part by the exhortations of some Fox hosts. “In July 2010, Byron Williams loaded his car in Northern California with a small arsenal, donned body armor, and set off for San Francisco, intending to massacre people at two of [Glenn] Beck’s regular targets, the Tides Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union. When police tried to pull him over for speeding, Williams started firing and was arrested.” Williams later told a reporter, “I would have never started watching Fox News if it wasn’t for the fact that Beck was on there. And it was the things that he exposed that blew my mind.”

Similarly, Fox host Bill O’Reilly repeatedly castigated Dr. George Tiller, one of the only medical doctors in Kansas who performed abortions, referring to him as “Tiller the Baby Killer” on at least 29 occasions. “In 2009 Tiller was shot in the head at point-blank range, while attending church, by an anti-abortion extremist.”

Aside from the enormous direct influence of his media properties, say Goodman and Moynihan, “Murdoch doles out political contributions. Prior to the 2010 Republican landslide Murdoch gave $1million of News Corp cash to the Republican Governors Association, the group that helped push far-right candidates to executive office around the U.S., notably Scott Walker, who provoked massive labor protests in Wisconsin, and former Fox commentator John Kasich in Ohio.”

Needless to say, Goodman and Moynihan are not impressed by News Corp’s announcement that it is conducting its own internal investigation: “Board members Joel Klein and Viet Dinh….are taking active roles managing the crisis. Dinh was assistant attorney-general under George W. Bush and a principal author of the Patriot Act, the law that, among other things, prompted an unprecedented expansion of government eavesdropping.” Moreover, according to recent Securities and Exchange Commission filings, Dinh and other directors sold off stock options (with Dinh netting about $25,000) as the scandal broke.

“Klein, a former justice department attorney and chancellor of the New York City school system, joined the board recently to focus on its digital learning business. The New York Daily News reports that a business News Corp acquired just after Klein joined the board is now facing scrutiny, since it deals with schoolchildren’s personal data. New York State awarded Wireless Generation a no-bid, $27 million contract. Now parents are questioning whether News Corp should have such access.

“Perhaps,” say Goodman and Moynihan, “the greatest threat to Murdoch will come from grassroots organizations. The activist group Color of Change has already mounted a protest outside Murdoch’s New York Central Park apartment.” That group was co-founded by Van Jones, appointed by Obama to promote creation of “green” jobs but forced to resign after a withering assault by Beck and other Fox commentators. According to Goodman and Moynihan, an advertising boycott campaign mounted by the group “is largely credited with forcing Beck off the network.”

Murdoch’s hacks at Fox derided Jones and other Obama appointees as “czars” while ignoring the one person who deserves that appellation perhaps more than anyone since Nicholas II, Rupert Murdoch.

Michael can be reached at

10% Challenge Takes Off in Montgomery

Monday, July 18th, 2011

By Shawn Dell Joyce

The Ten Percent Challenge has officially passed through the village boards of Walden, Montgomery and Maybrook, making all three municipalities officially on board. This means that the mayors of all three villages have committed their village to reducing its energy usage by ten percent, and activating ten percent of the residents to do the same. This will result in using energy and tax dollars more efficiently.

The 10% Challenge is an initiative of Sustainable Hudson Valley, and is underway in other communities like Red Hook and Warwick as well. There is a “friendly competition” between these communities to complete the challenge, because the winning municipality will get such perks as an installed solar thermal system and a vacation trip for the board members.The Orange County Chamber of Commerce has also signed on to the pledge because they see that it benefits the local economy as well; especially the building trades related to efficiency and insulation.

Village residents now have the opportunity to sign on to the pledge this week during the official “kick off.” Maybrook and Montgomery will have informational tables in their village halls with the pledge available for people to sign on the spot.  Walden will have an informational table in the public library instead with related books. The forms on these tables were donated by Ciardullo Printing in Walden.

Signing up for the pledge is very simple, it’s a form you fill out that the stays at the table so the committee and measure how many people are signing up and from which village. If you can’t make it to the village hall during the next week, you can find the pledge form on the Sustainable Montgomery website: or on Facebook at Montgomery’s Ten Percent Challenge.

The next step after signing is to get a free energy audit through NYSERDA from a local energy auditor. That auditor will show you what you can do to lower your energy usage and how much money you can save in the process. Walden is able to meet the goal of a ten percent reduction in the municipal buildings just by a few lighting changes. Some of these simple and inexpensive changes will save so much that it’s a criminal waste of money not do them!

Take a few minutes this summer and sign on to the Ten Percent Challenge. You benefit, the community benefits, and it’s a great way to encourage your household to work together to lower bills and do something positive for the environment. Next week I’ll show you how to get a free energy audit.

Shawn Dell Joyce is an award-winning writer and director of the Wallkill River School in Montgomery. The WRS is a benchmark business along with the Times Community Newspapers office in the Ten Percent Challenge, both businesses have signed on and will reduce their energy consumption.  Follow our progress in future articles.

Gigli’s Photo of the Week

Sunday, July 17th, 2011

Photography by Rich Gigli

Beach Point, PEI, Canada.

The Evening Darkens Over
poetry by Robert Bridges

The evening darkens over
After a day so bright,
The windcapt waves discover
That wild will be the night.
There’s sound of distant thunder.

The latest sea-birds hover
Along the cliff’s sheer height;
As in the memory wander
Last flutterings of delight,
White wings lost on the white.

There’s not a ship in sight;
And as the sun goes under,
Thick clouds conspire to cover
The moon that should rise yonder.
Thou art alone, fond lover

Gigli’s Photo of the Week

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

Photography by Rich Gigli

Yellowjacket and Sunflower

The Eastern yellow jacket or Eastern yellowjacket (Vespula maculifrons) is a wasp found in eastern North America and throughout the Great Plains region of the United States. This yellow jacket is a social insect, living in colonies of hundreds to thousands of individuals.  Their nests are usually in the ground. Adult wasps only consume liquid foods. Most of their food is nectar from flowers, juices of fruit, and other sweet things. Since they are attracted to sugar sources, they may be attracted to soft drinks or other foods that are consumed by humans. (Wikipedia)