Archive for February, 2012

Gigli’s Photo of the Week

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Photography by Rich Gigli


Poetry from Robert Louis Stevenson:

I woke before the morning, I was happy all the day,
I never said an ugly word, but smiled and stuck to play.

And now at last the sun is going down behind the wood,
And I am very happy, for I know that I’ve been good.

My bed is waiting cool and fresh, with linen smooth and fair,
And I must be off to sleepsin-by, and not forget my prayer.

I know that, till to-morrow I shall see the sun arise,
No ugly dream shall fright my mind, no ugly sight my eyes.

But slumber hold me tightly till I waken in the dawn,
And hear the thrushes singing in the lilacs round the lawn.

Romney Wins, Snowe Quits!

Monday, February 27th, 2012


Sen. Olympia Snowe ... she's tired of congressional bickering

By Bob Gaydos

Having managed to insult and offend, in no particular order, women, immigrants, gays, union members, middle-class workers, college students and John F. Kennedy, the Republican presidential primary circus left Michigan and Arizona behind as it trudged on its dreary way with its sights set on Ohio and Tennessee and, ultimately, New York. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

After a scare in which it seemed for a while that he would actually lose the state in which he was born and his father served as governor, Mitt Romney barely prevailed in Michigan. Enough GOP voters there held their noses and voted for the I-can’t help-reminding-you-I’m-rich Romney rather than the God-is-on-my-side Satan-fighter Rick Santorum. Newt Gingrich continued to eat the furniture, but nobody paid much attention and Ron Paul was still a man without a century.

It’s enough to make a sensible, savvy, lifetime Republican politician proclaim, “Enough! I quit!”

Which is what 33-year veteran Maine Senator Olympia Snowe did while her fellow Republicans were still voting in Michigan and Arizona. One of the very few voices of Republican bipartisanship in Congress, Snowe said in a press release: “Unfortunately, I do not realistically expect the partisanship of recent years in the Senate to change over the short term. So at this stage of my tenure in public service, I have concluded that I am not prepared to commit myself to an additional six years in the Senate.”

True, that statement does not specifically target her own party, but as one of the few remaining Republican moderates in Congress, she knows full well the dangerous turn towards the cliff that her party has taken. Snowe was the only Republican in the Senate to vote in favor of President Obama’s health care reform plan. Her vote helped get it out of committee to the floor for a vote. But she was the subject of such intense pressure and threats from the vocal rightwing fringe that has dominated the GOP of late, she voted against the plan on its final vote.

That doesn’t mean she forgot what happened. I have felt for some time that moderate Republicans — the kind once referred to in New York as Rockefeller Republicans — were in need of a new party, They have let the loonies usurp their party, its platform and its principles, forgoing the “compassionate conservatism” it once promoted for one that chastises the poor and rewards the rich, that emphasizes prayer and denigrates education, that discourages contraception and rails at food stamps, that celebrates only its narrow version of marriage, wants everyone who speaks a language other than English to go back where they came from and, far too often, acts as if it wishes women like Snowe would know their proper place in society. That would not be in the U.S. Senate or in a military uniform, or probably not even doing scientific research in a major university for that matter.

There really is no place in today’s Republican Party for the likes of Snowe or her Maine Senate colleague, Susan Collins, also a Republican. It’s time for a third party, perhaps made up of disgruntled centrists from both parties — Democrats have their partisan zealots as well — that, unlike the Libertarians who idolize Ron Paul, could actually govern in the 21st Century.

In fact, as I was trying to focus my own thoughts on this issue, I discovered that Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine had already gotten there. In his Daily Intel blog commenting on Snowe’s retirement, he noted the specific nature of her statement. In particular, this: “As I enter a new chapter, I see a vital need for the political center in order for our democracy to flourish and to find solutions that unite rather than divide us. It is time for change in the way we govern, and I believe there are unique opportunities to build support for that change from outside the United States Senate. I intend to help give voice to my fellow citizens who believe, as I do, that we must return to an era of civility in government driven by a common purpose to fulfill the promise that is unique to America.”

Chait speculates Snow may be thinking of joining Americans Elect, a third party claiming many disaffected Republicans and Democrats, dedicated to avoiding partisanship and offering a civil form of governing, probably slightly more conservative than Obama’s. The party’s rules go so far as to require its presidential and vice presidential candidates to come from different parties.

Too idealistic, too wacky to succeed? Once upon a time, that’s what they said about the men who created a new party made up of those tired of the rabid pro- and anti-slavery rhetoric that dominated the day. That Republican Party has now badly lost its way. Snowe and others who agree with her should let the tea partiers and evangelists and assorted know-nothings do with the GOP as they will. Start a new party. And don’t make your constituents hold their noses to vote.

Possible Extraterrestrials Seek Presidency

Sunday, February 26th, 2012

By Jeffrey Page

I was taken aback when I realized that not once in this election cycle has anyone seen Rick Santorum’s and Newt Gingrich’s birth certificates, or other proof they were born in the United States and not on, say, the planet Neptune.

Was Santorum born in Winchester, Va. and Gingrich in Harrisburg, Pa. as they claim? To determine if they’re constitutionally eligible to be president – only native born citizens can hold the office – I’m founding Birthers II, the Campaign for Natal Truth. We want to see those birth certificates right now.

I bring this up in defense of Article II of the Constitution but also, I must confess, because some of Santorum’s and Gingrich’s views are like their possible birthplace on Neptune – cold, distant, and lacking in humanity. Examples of their thinking follow.

Recently, Santorum accused President Obama of being a snob – his word – for saying he wants everybody to go to college. (The Washington Post did some checking and found that Obama never said this. What he did say was that everyone should get a year’s worth of education after high school at community colleges, four-year colleges, vocational training or apprenticeship.)

“A lot of people in this country have no desire or no aspiration to go to college,” said Santorum (Penn State ’80, University of Pittsburgh ’81, Dickinson School of Law ’86), apparently holding the idiotic belief that Obama would force you to go to college.

Santorum also said he almost threw up – his words – when he read the speech John Kennedy delivered in 1960 to a gathering of Protestant ministers about his running for president as a Catholic. It was a time when some non-Catholics believed a Catholic president would be governed by the Vatican.

“I believe in an America,” Kennedy said, “where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference; and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.”

You find that sickening? The ministers gave Kennedy a round of applause.

Speaking of Kennedy, Newt Gingrich – remember him? – says he would spend what seems to be at very minimum $5 billion to start work on a moon base. Kennedy issued the original moon challenge in 1961.

Only a presidential candidate from outer space would call for a moon mission at a time like this when money is tight, jobs are hard to find, and some people are hungry.

In 1960, when Gingrich was 17, we could afford to go to the moon and to feed hungry children. Nowadays, we can’t and that $5 billion should go for the children. But at 69, and with a $500,000 line of credit at Tiffany’s, Gingrich is happily oblivious to what’s needed in America.

How many hungry kids? The private relief agency Feeding America reports there are 3 million children in the United States at risk of malnutrition. And those are just the ones under age 5. Feeding America also reports that 16.4 million children lived in poverty in 2010. But Gingrich plays Let’s-Pretend-I’m-Jack.

Newt, we knew Jack Kennedy, and you’re no Jack Kennedy.

Gingrich cares as much about children – especially poor ones – as he does about marital monogamy. He wants an end to child labor laws – saying such protections are “truly stupid” – and wants poor kids to do janitorial chores in their schools.

“The kids would actually do the work,” Gingrich said, “they would have cash, they would have pride in the schools, they’d begin the process of rising.”

It’s too bad Gingrich never served in the military. In Army basic training he would have quickly understood that mopping latrine floors and washing toilet bowls and urinals do not create pride.


Saturday, February 25th, 2012

By Shawn Dell Joyce
Some 200 million acres of the world’s farms grew biotech crops last year, with over 90 percent of the genetically engineered (GE) seeds coming from U.S.-based Monsanto Corp.

Scientists have taken genetic materials from one organism (like a soil bacterium), along with an antibiotic-resistant marker gene, and spliced both into a food crop (like corn) to create a genetically modified crop that resists specific diseases and pests. There has been no long-term independent testing of the impacts of these genetically modified food products – or “frankenfoods,” as they are known – on the ecosystem or human health. Instead, there is a long litany of concealed truths, strong arm tactics and even outright bribery by the world’s biotech giants.

In the early 1990s when frankenfoods were being evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, several FDA scientists warned that genetically engineered crops could have negative health effects. These scientists were ignored and blanket approvals of genetically engineered crops were awarded. Perhaps one reason for the quick approval process is the revolving door at the FDA, which allows corporate executives from biotech giants to hold decision-making positions in the FDA.

Michael Taylor, for example, was an attorney for Monsanto before being appointed deputy commissioner of the FDA in 1991. Taylor hastened approval of genetically engineered crops through the FDA, then returned to Monsanto to become the vice president for public policy.

It is very difficult to avoid eating genetically modified organisms (GMO) in our country, because they are so pervasive in the food system and unlabeled in grocery stores. Part of the reason for this is biotech giants fought to keep GMO-foods unlabeled. GMOs can be found in most commercially farmed meats, and processed foods. In our country, 89 percent of all soy, 61 percent of all corn, and 75 percent of all canola are genetically altered. Among other foods containing GMOs are commercially grown papaya, zucchini, tomatoes, several fish species, and food additives such as enzymes, flavorings, and processing agents, including the sweetener aspartame (NutraSweet), and rennet used to make hard cheeses.

To complicate matters, GMOs move around in the ecosystem through pollen, wind, and natural cross-fertilization. The Union of Concerned Scientists conducted two independent laboratory tests on non-GM seeds “representing a substantial proportion of the traditional seed supply” for corn, soy and oilseed rape. The test found that half the corn and soy, and 83 percent of the oilseed rape were contaminated with genetically modified genes, eight years after the genetically modified varieties were first grown on a large scale in the U.S.

The report states that “Heedlessly allowing the contamination of traditional plant varieties with genetically engineered sequences amounts to a huge wager on our ability to understand a complicated technology that manipulates life at the most elemental level.” There could be “serious risks to health” if drugs and industrial chemicals from the next generation of GM crops were consumed in food.

What can you do to avoid GMOs?

–Know how your food is grown and buy directly from local farmers.

–Support organic agriculture and food producers who label their ingredients, particularly dairy farmers.

–Eat pastured meat raised on organic feed; the only way to ensure this is to buy from someone you know.

–Support farmers who are a sued by biotech giants. Monsanto has set aside an annual budget of $10 million and a staff of 75 devoted solely to investigating and prosecuting more than 150 farmers for a total of more than $15 million.

–Demand labeling on all GMO-containing products so that we at least have a choice.

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

Book Sheds New Light on Old Project

Friday, February 24th, 2012

By Michael Kaufman

In the years since leaving sports writing to make a living as a medical writer I have had the opportunity to report on some developments that have dramatically changed the practice of medicine in the United States and around the world. Maybe one day I will write about some of them but today I want to tell you about one of the lesser endeavors of my career, a project I worked on in 2003 that I’d all but forgotten about until just the other day.

It was an eight-page highlights of a roundtable discussion titled “Current Concepts in Facial Hair Removal,” published by means of “an unrestricted educational grant from Women First Health Care, Inc.” In the publisher’s box it said, “Editorial content does not necessarily reflect the view of the sponsor or the publisher.” (That was the medical publishing equivalent of a used car salesman saying, “This car is a cream puff.”)

As editor I was responsible for the content, based on the comments of four leading dermatologists, all of whom spoke with great enthusiasm about Vaniqa (eflornithine), then as now the only prescription cream approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration “clinically proven to reduce the growth of unwanted facial hair in women.” The product is currently marketed by SkinMedica.

The doctors who took part are excellent clinicians, all of whom I know and respect. The information we provided in the newsletter is solid too. If I did not remember the piece it was only because the subject matter was not on the same level as the ones I alluded to in the first sentence. But, as I learned the other day, it might well have been so.

You see, I’ve been reading Medical Apartheid, a book by Harriet A. Washington, subtitled “The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present.” It is a powerful and well documented indictment of centuries of abuse of African Americans as unwilling and unwitting subjects of medical and pharmaceutical research.  Fortunately, according to Washington, most of the abuses against African Americans have been curtailed. But some shameful practices continue to take place on the continent of Africa and other Third World Countries. 

After reading some flagrant examples, I was stunned when I came to the following passage: “Some of the research on Africans by Western scientists has been more subtle but equally troubling from an ethical perspective. For example, trypanosomiasis, or sleeping sickness, kills as many as half those it infects in the central African regions of Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Ethiopia, Malawi, and Tanzania….By 1995 the pharmaceutical company Aventis had completed research demonstrating that its drug eflornithine was effective against sleeping sickness, although not against cancer as the firm had hoped. But the company decided to abandon its use against trypanosomiasis, due to high production costs and low profits. It began seeking other profitable uses for the drug, and U.S. researchers soon found one: Eflornithine effectively banished facial hirsutism in women. Aventis and later Bristol-Myers Squibb began marketing the drug as Vaniqa, because many American women were able to part with fifty dollars a month to keep their faces free of hair, while few Africans were able to pay fifty dollars monthly to save their lives.

“It is completely understandable that the firm should focus its resources upon the profitable depilatory use of their medication, but it is disappointing that it chose not to make the drug available cheaply to Africans in order to vanquish sleeping sickness.” Sleeping sickness, explains Washington, threatens 60 million people, only seven percent of whom have access to medical treatment.

Disappointing? Reprehensible would be a better word to describe a system that places profit above the needs of millions of human beings for life-saving health care.

Michael can be reached at

Carrie’s Painting of the Week

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Heading Home

By Carrie Jacobson

I remember a man, from North Carolina, I think, who made only paintings of roads.

Well, I don’t remember the man, but I do remember the paintings. They were mostly big, and they were all luscious, and they were all of roads. They made me feel that I had gone somewhere, or I could go somewhere, and it was right in front of me, this adventure.

This was 20 years ago, and I didn’t have the nerve to ask that artist to let me pay over time, or barter something for one of those paintings – and how I wish I had!

I can see them still – and remember the feeling they instilled in me. And while this little painting is not like his, it does bring his to mind.

I still wish I had one of that man’s paintings. Or at least could remember his name.


If any of you are in the area of Marlborough, Mass. over March 16-18, stop by the convention center, say hello and check out my paintings in real life. For more on the show, click here to visit the Paradise City site.

Whitney and Josh and Their Disease

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

Josh Hamilton

Whitney Houston

By Bob Gaydos
In a week filled with sometimes lurid, often fawning stories about the death of Whitney Houston, it was once again evident how little most Americans know about addiction or, in fact, how little they seem to care to know.
The pop icon’s longtime battle with drugs was well-known, yet when she died in unusual circumstances, the two most popular theories put forth were that she had suffered from a drug overdose or that her doctors — the new media favorite suspect since the Michael Jackson case — had somehow killed her by messing up prescribed medications.


Both are possible, of course. But it is also quite plausible that the years of abusing her body with drugs and alcohol had taken an early toll on her, as they had with an even younger Amy Winehouse. But the only fact of which anyone is certain right now is that no one will know what killed Whitney until an autopsy is completed.

At the same time, there has been a noticeable lack of criticism aimed at Houston for her drug-filled lifestyle while her fans ease their grief by remembering her in better times, on stage, in recordings, in the movies. It’s as if Whitney the superstar, in death, was now finally beyond rebuke and, officially and irrevocably, a victim of addiction.

That’s an awfully steep price to have to pay for society to at last acknowledge your disease. Unfortunately, it’s not at all uncommon. People who struggle with addiction and who relapse — but do not die — are more likely to feel the sting of society’s tongue. Indeed, for those not afflicted with alcoholism or drug addiction, probably the least understood aspect of recovery is the relapse, especially when it follows a significant period of sobriety. The same questions inevitably come up. How could he drink when he knows how much he has to lose? How could she use drugs again knowing it would hurt her family?

The questions themselves define the disease of addiction. Quite simply, relapse, while not a requirement of recovery, is nonetheless a part of it for many people. Houston herself was an example. Addicts do things that defy reason and common sense, often to the harm of themselves and those close to them. That’s why recovery programs stress the need for addicts to develop a new way of thinking, a new way of living, a new image of themselves that does not include using alcohol or drugs.

It is not easy to make this change, but with time, the support of loved ones and constant attention to the new behaviors suggested as a way of living a sober life, it gets easier. It becomes the addict’s new normal way of living, in good times or bad.

Recently, another celebrity — although not in Houston’s orbit — apparently forgot that basic fact of recovery life. Josh Hamilton, the star outfielder for the Texas Rangers and probably the best-known admitted addict in baseball, acknowledged that he had relapsed. He apparently had several drinks in a bar with “friends,” called a teammate who talked with him and dropped him at home, then went out again and had a few more drinks. Hamilton said at a press conference the next day he had had a ”weak moment” and was drinking over “personal reasons.”

Being a high-profile professional athlete, Hamilton’s history with addiction and recovery has been well chronicled. He has been dealing with it for 10 years, even being suspended from baseball for two years for alcohol and drug abuse. But he had been clean and sober for two years before his “slip” and his public honesty about his disease has been praised. At the same time, Hamilton has received a lot of criticism among sports reporters for his slip, mostly of the “how could he do that?” variety.

But the fact of the matter is that celebrities must deal with the same challenges in recovery as the businessman next door, the veteran teacher, or the local plumber while living in a pressure-packed public bubble. There is no anonymity for Whitney Houston or Charlie Sheen … or Josh Hamilton. There is no way for them to try to justify their risky behavior as acceptable just because nobody saw it. This means Hamilton, and other athletes and celebrities who live with addiction, must be even more diligent in following their sober routine — in accepting their disease — if they want to avoid relapse.

One of the striking facts in the stories about Hamilton’s relapse is that he no longer had an “accountability partner” assigned to him by his team. The “partner,” the equivalent of a sponsor in Alcoholics Anonymous, went everywhere with Hamilton when he wasn’t playing ball or at home. But the coach who had the job recently took a job with another team and Hamilton was doing it on his own.

That may be possible for people with several years of clean and sober time, but it is not recommended. Besides, Hamilton’s recovery has been a series of relapses, suggesting he still hasn’t fully surrendered to the concept of addiction. That’s not unusual, but many people who have trouble staying sober and who relapse several times do eventually get sober and lead fulfilling, contented lives. For every Whitney Houston and Amy Winehouse there are dozens of sober celebrities who are leading contented lives, not creating headlines..

That’s why it’s important when an addict relapses to resist the easy temptation to question and criticize him because “he has so much to lose” or “he let down so many people who care about him.” Yes, it is about taking responsibility for one’s actions, but recovery is also often about second or third chances. The Texas Rangers, with a manager who is also a recovering drug addict, appear to understand this. They assigned Hamilton a new accountability partner.

Hamilton also apologized to “fans, kids, people who have addiction who look up to me.” That’s all well and good. But he’s been dealing with addiction long enough to know that other recovering addicts aren’t putting him or any other celebrity addict on a pedestal. There are no all stars in the battle and there is no “I” in recovery. But no addict living with what is often a fatal disease should have to die for the rest of the world to finally get it.

Bob Gaydos also writes a regular column on addiction and recovery.

Carrie’s Painting of the Week

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012


By Carrie Jacobson

The spring birds are coming back, and it looks like our hawks are with them.

Last summer, a pair of red-shouldered hawks nested along our driveway. We were afraid, at first, for the other birds, but they seemed to do them no harm. We live beside a nature conservancy, and there’s plenty of food for raptors.

It was really fun to watch the baby hawks learn to fly – and we laughed at their efforts to learn how to hunt. Smokey, the dog in this painting, sat in a window for hours watching with us.

At first, I thought one of the babies was developmentally disabled, as I watched it trying to stomp on worms.

“Look,” I said to my husband, and pointed at the bird and its very strange behavior. “I’m afraid he’s not going to make it.”

But after a couple days of stomping around the yard, he caught a worm. Then he spent a couple days – whole days – sitting motionless on a branch outside Peter’s office. And on the afternoon of the second day, he swooped down and caught a mouse or a chipmunk or something, and he was off and running.

So it’s good to have the hawks back, along with the bluebirds, the robins and the mourning doves.


Free Home Energy Makover

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

By Shawn Dell Joyce
The Ten Percent Challenge is presenting a series of workshops to help people get a free or inexpensive home energy audit.

These workshops, known as Home Energy Makeovers, provide detailed information about such programs of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) as Home Performance with Energy Star; Green Jobs–Green N.Y., and the new On-Bill Recovery Loan Program.

Utilizing even one of these programs could help homeowners save up to $700 on their energy bills while making their homes more comfortable.

Here are the details of three upcoming Home Energy Makeovers:

–Saturday, Feb. 25, 10:30 a.m. to noon at the Albert Wisner Public Library, 1 McFarland Drive in Warwick.

–Saturday, March 3, 10:30 a. m. to noon at the Newburgh Free Library, 124 Grand St., in Newburgh.

–Thursday, March 8, 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Walden Village Hall, 3rd Floor, at 1 Municipal Square in Walden.

You can fill out an application on the spot if you bring your past utility bills or a 12-month summary of electric and heating usage. You can also register for the Ten Percent Challenge and become part of a county-wide effort to reduce energy usage and costs by 10 percent or more this year.

Some big news from NYSERDA for towns and villages is that the New York Department of State is accepting applications for Local Government Efficiency (LGE) grants to reduce municipal expenses, and property taxes, by helping municipalities plan and implement projects that have positive impacts on taxpayers. LGE projects must demonstrate new opportunities for financial savings and operational efficiencies. This is especially important for municipalities like Walden, Montgomery and Maybrook, which have already pledged to reduce their energy use by 10 percent, as part of the Ten Percent Challenge.

NYSERDA’s FlexTech program offers cost-sharing incentives to help local leaders identify and implement cost-effective energy measures, including energy procurement and renewable generation projects.

If homeowners are looking for renewable energy systems to reduce operating costs, NYSERDA also offers significant incentives for solar panels, small wind-, and solar-thermal systems.

There also is a new program that allows you to finance the efficiency upgrades and renewable energy systems through your utility bill, meaning the cost of owning a solar hot water system is financed at a very low rate and deducted from your energy savings on your monthly bill. You don’t notice the added expense because it’s financed to be less than the energy savings; your monthly bill doesn’t increase but your energy efficiency does.

These programs and incentives don’t last long, so come to a Home Energy Makeover to learn how to take advantage of these programs. If you have any questions, contact Meridith Nierenberg, at Mid-Hudson Energy $mart Communities, or 845-331-2238, or the Ten Percent Challenge at or on facebook/MontgomeryTenPercent.

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

Maggie Thompson, Presente!

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

By Michael Kaufman 

Maggie Thompson lived in the “other” Orange, the one in New Jersey, but the lessons of her life extend far beyond the boundaries of a single city or county. Maggie, who died last week at age 92, spent most of her life trying to make the world a better place.  Along the way she inspired family members, friends and others she met to do the same.

“From very early on, Maggie Thompson was deep in the struggle for equality, taking on women’s rights and civil rights and speaking up for an emerging labor movement,” wrote Barry Carter, who interviewed Maggie in November at Daughters of Israel, a senior care facility in West Orange, NJ, where she spent the last months of her life. “The challenges of an interracial marriage made it even tougher, living in Orange where she was involved in the campaign to desegregate the Orange school system. She was white; her second husband, the late Ernest Thompson, was black and a well-known union organizer.”

Carter’s interview with Thompson, published in the The Star-Ledger of Newark, followed publication of her autobiography, From One to Ninety-one: A Life, which she began at age 90 and finished in nine months.  Carter observed a writing class conducted by Thompson to encourage fellow residents of the facility to write their stories: “Thompson, 91, is every bit the instructor as she lectures from her wheelchair in the cafeteria,” he wrote. “Six students in the class inched their way around the table, some in wheelchairs like hers, others riding motorized scooters.” Guided by Thompson, each penned a short story based on their life experience. 

The reporter could not help but notice that Thompson had to pause frequently “to catch her breath from an oxygen tube attached to a green tank on the back of her wheelchair. She inhales for enough energy to continue, but it doesn’t slow the cancer gradually taking her strength.” Between breaths she told the reporter about her life with Ernest Thompson, the first African-American organizer for the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America (UE) and director of organization for the National Negro Labor Council. “Together, they helped Benjamin Jones become the first African-American elected to the all-white municipal government in Orange.

“They weathered the McCarthy years, a period of government scrutiny that she describes as hateful and isolating. The FBI watched their home, she says, and questioned their neighbors. It didn’t help that they were dear friends of Paul Robeson, a concert singer, actor, athlete and scholar who spoke out for equality of minorities and workers’ rights throughout the world. In their backyard on Olcott Street, the couple hosted a barbecue for Robeson in 1956, when no one would allow him to perform because of his political activism.”

Not long after the interview, Maggie grew too weak to continue teaching the class, but she continued to post her thoughts on her blog site, MaggieINK ( until Dec. 21. Her final post was the poem “Desiderata,” written by Max Ehrmann in 1927, which she introduced with these words: “Take it down, trust it to your memory, put it among your ‘Things To Be Remembered,’ and look at it when your spirits are low. It’s guaranteed to make you feel strong again. Trust me.”

The last verse reads:

 With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,

it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy

At the end of the poem Maggie wrote her final message to her readers in large type: “Do all the good you can.” 

Michael can be reached at