Archive for July, 2012

Community Life Can Make You Healthier

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

By Shawn Dell Joyce

In his recent book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell cites a study that proves a strong localized community actually improves your health.

The study is centered on Roseto, Pa., a small community comprised mainly of immigrants from a small Italian village also named Roseto. This village attracted international attention in 1950 when it was found to have the lowest rate of heart disease in our nation.

The study, led by physician Stewart Wolf, studied the entire population of 2,000 people and discovered that the death rate from disease was 35 percent lower than the rest of the country. Moreover there was no suicide, alcoholism, drug addiction, and very little crime. No one was on welfare, and no one had peptic ulcers.

The Wolf study found that Roseto residents ate pretty much what other Americans were eating, deriving 41 percent of their calories from fat, with many struggling with obesity. Many were heavy smokers. But the difference between the people of Roseto and virtually everyone else was not diet, exercise, or a genetic predisposition to good health. It had nothing to do with the land or the water, but had everything to do with the town itself.

What these immigrants brought with them to rural Pennsylvania – Roseto is about 50 miles south of Port Jervis – was an “old world” sense of community. Researchers found that the people of Roseto made the time to stop and chat with each other on the street. They cooked for one another in backyard parties, and held friendship as a high priority. Extended families lived under the same roof, with elderly parents commanding respect. There were 22 civic groups serving the small population.

Roseto had a healthy and prosperous localized community where everyone knew each other, and were all available to lend a helping hand when things got rough. Wealth was never flaunted, and those falling on hard times were never shunned. The villagers had woven a social fabric of interconnected relationships where each thread was valued and needed for the good of the whole.

As a result, individuals had a sense of belonging and well-being. Their efforts were valued, and all were considered equally important to the community whether they were the mayor or the garbage men.

Sound familiar? Yes, many of our Wallkill Valley villages and hamlets could pass for Roseto. We are blessed with strong local economies and a social fabric that is tightly woven with historic families, and the recently relocated. We have enough farms to feed our population, and a picturesque place to live.

When we look at individuals in our community, they are each unique and beautiful, but what really makes a work of art is seeing each individual brushstroke as part of a whole painting. As an artist, I often have to take a few steps back from my work to see the painting as a whole. As community members, let’s collectively regard the lovely tapestry of friends, neighbors, and small businesses, and ask, “What can I do to make it better?” Then realize that the effort you exert to build a stronger community is also good for your health, your family, and the well-being of us all.

Part II: Joe Williams, the NAACP, and the ‘Rush Sununu’ White Power Hour

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

By Emily Theroux

When aggrieved conservatives — those harboring “white resentment” over perceived preferential treatment of minorities — denounce African-Americans as “racists,” they are generally not referring to any actual assertions of “anti-white” sentiment by their targets. The predominantly older group of white Republicans who hate Barack Obama’s race, while insisting they only hate his policies, are, not surprisingly, the same folks who rail about affirmative action and government handouts. Having grown weary of being branded racists,  they’ve resolved, as blogger Imani Gandy of “Angry Black Lady Chronicles” explains in exasperation, “to define racism as ‘including race in the consideration of anything’ — and therefore that means all liberals are racists.  ‘We win,'” they jeer. ‘What are you going to do about it?'”

Joe Williams

Just dare to mention the words “white people” in passing, and the right’s favorite bullies will track you down with hysterical rhetoric designed to sabotage your career by mounting a coordinated campaign of zero-sum character assassination. The white rage complex can annihilate black pundits with words alone, as former Politico reporter Joe Williams recently learned the hard way.

What Williams calls “the Right-Wing Noise Machine” will not stand down, in fact, if anyone on the left brings up this demographic, not without unleashing the full force of their collective virtual artillery — a week-long barrage of hate tweets, blog bombs, and unmanned drone texts.

‘Politico didn’t hesitate to cave to right-wing pressure’

Ann Romney, The Daily Caller, and tag-teamed Joe Williams’ “white folks” quote — distorting what he said about presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney being “comfortable around people like him” into Romney being “uncomfortable around black people.” To further muddy the waters, the bloggers produced a detailed study of the reporter’s Twitter feed, in which he made questionable (supposedly private) remarks about his employer and retweeted a snarky penis gag a friend made after Romney’s wife, Ann, joked about her husband’s “stiff” demeanor: “I guess we better unzip him and let the real Mitt Romney out.” The bloggers, of course, the ones who could demagogue in their sleep, said Williams had written the tweet.

After the wingnut blogosphere succeeded in making a fine fricassee of Joe Williams’ professional credibility, Politico suspended him almost without blinking. “Politico didn’t hesitate to give in to right-wing pressure and call into question this man’s stellar journalistic career,” observed Nida Khan at The Huffington Post.

Eliot Spitzer

Over the past few weeks, Williams has begun appearing almost nightly on the Current TV cable show of a fellow “outcast,” former N.Y. Gov. Eliot Spitzer. After the New Unzipped Mitt’s controversial speech before the NAACP convention, where black leaders lustily booed the candidate’s testy “Obamacare” slurs, Mitt jetted off to a Montana fundraiser to boast about the reaction he had gone there to provoke. “If they want more stuff from the government,” he told his upscale audience (emphasis mine), “tell them to go vote for the other guy — more free stuff. But don’t forget, nothing is really free.”

“Politico’s Joe Williams was fired for saying that Romney couldn’t relate to black people. If he’d said that tonight, he might still be employed,”Andrew Sullivan summed up in a post titled “Can I Have My Job Back Now?”

‘Mittmobile’ detours into murky ‘foreign’ terrain

Rush Limbaugh

Believe it if you dare, but Mythological Mitt tried to deflect the Bain barrage (and persuade members of his own party to back off the drip, drip, drip of tax-return demands), by resurrecting Barack the Magic Muslim’s “Back-to-Birtherland bio” — without Donald Trump’s help this time. (Mitt still lost the round; he actually consulted instead with Senor “Oxycontin Rush” — a genuine pharmacological phenomenon, BTW — for advice on dirty-tricks strategery.) Mitt may rue the day he embraced El Rushbo’s proffered “Tall, Dark, Shiftless ‘Furriner’ Who Never Worked a Day in his Life” routine. Wimpy Willard was too “chickenhawk” to deliver on Limbaugh’s bully-boy script himself, so he got Big John “The White Rhino” Sununu (please note the silent “h”; they pronounce it “RINO”) to reenact Rush’s hard-boiled role instead.

John Sununu

Sununu badly flubbed his cameo, calling out Obama’s imaginary cluelessness about “how the American system works,” placing him in the firmament of  the “political-slash-felon environment” of Chicago, and declaring that the president needed to “learn how to be an American” (a charge he later retracted, apologizing for questioning the president’s patriotism).

Meanwhile, Meandering Mitt took a risky detour onto the “extraordinarily foreign course” he claims Obama is following. Limbaugh chimed in, stating unequivocally that, “It can now be stated without equivocation — without equivocation — that This Man HATES This Country.” Sununu and his birther retinue soon crawled back under their customary rock and managed to stay there, at least for now. (A comment on read, “Sununu and Romney, both young men during the Vietnam war, found a way to escape serving their country. Now they are lecturing others on how to be American? Shame on you pathetic losers!”)

As for deflecting attention from Mitt’s Jumbo the Elephant-sized tax impasse, the mission’s histrionics merited a resounding FAIL. A total of 15 conservatives are now clamoring for the Blue-Blooded Blunderbuss to release his tax returns without further incident or delay.

Multimillionaire Mitt keeps his eye on the prize
The freedom of opportunity that Mitt extols (primarily for “wellborn,” patrician white guys like him) to scale the lofty peaks of achievement, success, and entrepreneurialism is not really an option for the underprivileged, the way he’s always looked at it.  Mitt shouldn’t be forced to divulge whatever advantages and hypocrisies and moral shortcuts inhabit his tax returns, offshore tax havens, and Swiss bank account — not to mention the mystery gazillion-dollar IRA that would have taken a “working stiff” 73,000 years to amass (its grand total jealously guarded by the Trust Fund Manager from Hell, who hasn’t imparted one iota of info about them to poor, bullied Mitt in 25 years!).

So Romney wants America’s “huddled masses” — including Barack H. Obama — to just back off and allow him the huge head start he is accustomed to, so he can add the bauble of the U.S. presidency to the priceless collection of mansions, boats, dressage horses, and other hidden pleasures that he and his immediate family enjoy. Don’t pass “GO”, don’t collect $200; just keep your eye on the prize, Mitt, and exclude all the unworthy riffraff you possibly can — especially the “Halfrican” (Rush’s word, not mine), Kenyan, Indonesian Muslim who’s been blocking Mitt’s path to glory since early 2007, when both of them announced their candidacies — the privileged, entitled white man and the genial, pragmatic black man who saw his own opportunity flicker in the 21st-century political groundswell and seized it, before the flimsiest outside chance in American history could flame out just as abruptly as it had appeared.

‘But the God I don’t believe in is a merciful God’

Louis XVI of France

What would Jesus do? Don’t even ask — but I’m sure it would have a lot more to do with camels wedging their massive humps through the eyes of size 8 embroidery needles than rich guys breezing past the Pearly Gates, brandishing their “Get Out of Jail Free” cards. Mitt’s birthright, indeed, includes the precious liberty once afforded to France’s last “absolute monarch,” Louis XVI, an ineffectual ruler who tried but failed to remedy widespread hunger among the disgruntled masses, as well as make a stab at repaying a soaring national debt brought on by inadequate tax revenues and the enormous costs of  foreign wars (Aux armes, citoyens!) — in the brief decade before the impatient rabble rose up and chopped Louie’s entitled freaking head off.

Mitt, on the other hand, believes he’s earned the cherished freedom he so covets from being “shamed” by lesser mortals’ envy or unAmerican sniping or Marxist denigration (Glenn, take a bow!) into sharing one thin dime of his stupefying fortune with anyone — except for an obligatory pittance to the Mormon high mucky-mucks whose sole utility to Mitt is to make sure he squeezes through the eye of that needle with all of his secret lucre intact.

(And how about Joe Williams — what would he think? Sadly, I haven’t been able to ask him, since he closed his Twitter feed when the Politico controversy began, and nobody new — that would be me — can follow him.)

In Joseph Heller’s magnum opus Catch-22, Yossarian asked Lieutenant Scheisskopf’s wife what the hell she was so upset about when, as he reminded her, “‘I thought you didn’t believe in God.’ ‘I don’t,’ she sobbed, bursting violently into tears. ‘But the God I don’t believe in is a good God, a just God, a merciful God. He’s not the mean and stupid God you make Him out to be.’ Yossarian laughed and turned her arms loose.’“Let’s have a little more religious freedom between us,’ he proposed obligingly. ‘You don’t believe in the God you want to, and I won’t believe in the God I want to. Is that a deal?’”

Deal — if only the God I don’t believe in would find a new job for Joe Williams, working for reasonable people, as soon as possible, and keep Mitt’s greedy fingers from getting a good grip on the brass ring. After all, he’s greased his palms with so many other people’s accumulated misery. I think just a little dab of heavenly Brylcreem would do him, like the jingle said — and if we’re lucky, do in his ill-advised campaign for good.

Keeping the White House white, withholding new ingredients from America’s historic melting pot — no matter who’s been scheming to restore the tradition and for whatever nefarious reason — was a really rotten idea in the first place.

The ‘Reverse Racism’ Police, Part I

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

By Emily Theroux

Barack Obama

The night America celebrated the election of the first African-American president in history, no one really imagined what Barack Obama’s opponents – the ones who took his victory as an affront to truth, justice, and the American way – were capable of.

For many Republicans, the sting of defeat and the political imperative of surrendering the executive branch to another “Democrat” administration were reason enough to begin scheming in earnest to regain power. For others, however, the collective recoil of the right from Obama’s election signified something more visceral. The mere fact of the new president’s race was an affront that people inclined to mistrust or malign minorities couldn’t abide.

Obama the first black president would soon live with the first black family in “the people’s house” – the American version of a palace, whose occupants had always resembled the now-ebbing white majority. The ugly legacy of racial animus bubbled up from hibernation, to remain just beneath the surface of the national dialogue.

By 2010, it had coalesced into an obsessive goal – not for all conservatives, certainly, but for the white supremacists in their midst. Of utmost importance to both the biased politicians who wouldn’t come right out and say it and the very vocal portion of the populace who would: getting the black guy out of the White House (only the racist signs and posters and websites didn’t couch that sentiment in such bland terms, with all the banality of evil even the milder words convey).

Reince Priebus

As Reince Priebus, chairman of the RNC, demagogued the issue’s urgency the other day in apparent racial code that would have done Scarlett O’Hara proud: “We have to put an end to this Barack Obama presidency before it puts an end to ‘our way of life’.” (That expression, once widely employed in the antebellum South, is a paradigm of dog-whistle politics: It’s too high-pitched for human ears, but them good-ole-boy redbone coonhounds can hear it a mile away.)


Beck calls Obama a racist, and the floodgates open

Glenn Beck, the zookeeper at Wingnut World, played the “reverse racism” card against Obama early on, inexplicably calling a biracial man raised by his white mother and grandparents “a racist” with “a deep-seated hatred of white people and the white culture.” The right seized on it, venting their post-election fury by attacking a succession of black “proxies” for the then-Illinois senator who dared to attempt “running for president while black” – and soundly beat them.

Andrew Breitbart

First, congressmen and talk-show hosts scapegoated ACORN, sabotaging an organization devoted primarily to registering minority voters. Later, far-right bloggers targeted Van Jones, the president’s “Green Jobs” czar, and smeared Shirley Sherrod, an employee of the Department of Agriculture whose remarks about helping a white farmer were distorted by “creative” videotape editing to make her look like a racist.

The attack dogs’ fearless leader, Drudge Report protege Andrew Breitbart, purportedly “died of hostility” (as Robert Wright of The Atlantic suggested) on March 1 at the age of 43, yet was survived by a cadre of fanatic “Breitbots” dedicated to carrying out his mission here on earth.


White-balling’ (reverse racism) vs. the media

Currently in the Breitbart scandal machine’s sights are members of the mainstream media or progressive blogosphere who dare to venture into “white-balling” territory. (That’s what I call the mythic “blackballing of white people” that the right wing calls 21st-century “reverse racism,” otherwise defined as any utterance, however non-judgmental, that causes white people to imagine that black people could possibly blame them or their ancestors in some way for Dred Scott, “whites only” water fountains, high-rise public housing projects, stop-and-frisk, Amadou Diallo and Abner Louima, America’s 70 percent non-white prison population, voter ID, or racial slurs, about the very worst of which – according to “Chris,” author of  the incisive and funny blog, “Stuff Black People Hate” – doofy white guys named Chad in too-tight pink polo shirts will ask you why, if black people can say the most awful word in the English language, they can’t.)

Joe Williams

The story of how the Breitbart bloggers brought down Joe Williams – the first black editor to be hired by the DC print/online enterprise Politico, in the wake of its confrontation by the National Association of Black Journalists because of a noticeable dearth of diversity in its newsroom – is instructive.

Joe Williams, according to Politico’s website, is “a veteran political journalist and telegenic analyst” whose credentials include a 1996 Nieman Fellowship at Harvard and a solid 28-year career in newspaper reporting and editing, magazine writing, and newsroom management. As deputy chief of the Boston Globe’s Washington Bureau, he covered the 2008 presidential campaign and Obama’s 2009 inauguration. Politico hired him in June 2010 as deputy White House editor but, less than a year later, reassigned him to a reporter’s job – that of White House correspondent, “specializing in the intersection of race and politics,” according to Tracie Powell of the Poynter Institute.

The move (which Powell didn’t characterize as a demotion) gave Williams an opportunity to develop his broadcast skills while providing Politico with onscreen “proof ” of its diversity – yet his editor’s job went to a white female editor who still holds the position, so Politico’s management ranks are once again no more racially diverse than they were before Williams was hired.

“They said they wanted me as a reporter, which would get me closer to the action so that I could describe some of the things I would talk about on TV with more authority,” Williams told Powell. “They said I was good at it.” Williams’ supervisors also pointed him in the direction of cable news programs, many of which express a viewpoint, so Politico’s honchos can’t say they expected a correspondent stationed at the vortex of race and politics, during an election year this volatile, to appear on cable opinion shows and then clam up on the subject of race.


Romney ‘very, very comfortable’ with people like him

Joe Williams was indeed good at his job. I watched him frequently on cable news programs like Martin Bashir’s afternoon talk show on MSNBC, and Williams was thoughtful, knowledgeable about the presidential race, and insightful about the issues. Then one day in June, he appeared on Bashir’s program, gave a candid answer to a simple question, and returned to the office to find his life turned inside out.

Mitt Romney

Bashir had asked him why he thought Mitt Romney appeared so often on Fox News while avoiding network TV and other cable stations. “Romney is very, very comfortable, it seems, with people who are like him,” Williams replied. “That’s one of the reasons why he seems so stiff and awkward in town hall settings, why he can’t relate to people other than that. But when he comes on ‘Fox and Friends,’ they’re like him. They’re white folks who are very much relaxed in their own company.”

When Williams mentioned people who aren’t like Romney, he was referring to class differences (between Romney and white, conservative town hall attendees, or waitresses at a diner he visited, or the “hoi-polloi” in plastic rain ponchos at a NASCAR event), not racial differences. But by that time, it didn’t make any difference. Sharp ears at The Washington Free Beacon and pricked up when Joe Williams said “white folks,” and that seemingly innocuous expression was all they needed to hear. The “Reverse Racism Police” were off in their squad cars, sirens blaring, to bag another hapless suspect.

The bloggers blogged their inevitable tale of Joe Williams’ racist smear against Mitt Romney and perfidy against Politico, throwing in a few “raunchy” tweets they came across while trawling through the reporter’s virtual baggage. They dug up dirt about his personal life. And sure enough, they scored a bulls-eye: before the week was out, Politico had suspended its most conspicuous “diversity” hire.

Except for the fact that Joe Williams is not an employment statistic, a demographic profile, a notch in someone’s belt, or an object lesson in the pitfalls of political coverage. He’s a human being, not a scalp taken by vicious partisans with an ideology to flog.

Next week: Part II, “Reverse Racism and False Equivalency”

Gigli’s Photo of the Week

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

Photography by Rich Gigli

Murray Harbour Wharf , P.E.I.

Isn’t it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive–it’s such an interesting world. It wouldn’t be half so interesting if we know all about everything, would it? There’d be no scope for imagination then, would there?”
– P.E.I. Author, Lucy Maud Montgomery,  Anne of Green Gables


Where Have You Gone, Joe DiMaggio?

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

The Yankee Clipper

…and other (hopefully) thought-provoking questions

 By Bob Gaydos

  • We’ll start with the summer’s top puzzler: Soft ice cream or soft frozen yogurt? They say one is healthier for you, but this is obviously a matter of taste and mine leans to the ice cream most of the time. Maybe a strawberry shortcake sundae with soft vanilla, whipped cream, sponge cake, strawberry syrup, etc. But a friend of mine swears by the black raspberry frozen yogurt at Scoops in Pine Bush. Of course, they put chocolate chips in it. Maybe that‘s what makes it better for you.
  • Coke or Pepsi? Most people, from my observation, still prefer and say, “Coke” when asked. So how come waitresses at every diner in the area then ask you, “Is Pepsi OK?” Sure it’s OK. But it’s not Coke. What the heck happened to the Coke salesman?
  • Google or Yahoo? Not to be harsh, but why bother with Yahoo? Really. And what the heck is Bing?
  • Mac or PC? I’ve got a PC; both my sons have Macs. They love theirs; I may get one some day. I fully expect us all to be doing everything on a tablet in the not-so-distant future. Even cooking.
  • Egg and cheese sandwiches made on a grill in a deli or the pre-fab Styrofoam “eggs” served up in fast-food places? OK, we all agree on this one.
  • Obamacare or No Care? After campaigning relentlessly against the constitutionally acceptable Affordable Care Act with a slogan of “Repeal and Replace,” Republicans have conceded that they have no actual plan with which to replace it, in the unlikely case they actually did repeal it. They should just ask Mitt Romney to retool the plan he introduced in Massachusetts.
  • Jeter or Reyes? … What’s that? That’s not a question anymore? Sorry.
  • Designated hitter or unathletic pitchers trying to not hurt themselves at bat? You can deduce my vote. With fulltime inter-league play next year, the DH in both leagues is the only thing that makes sense. So they won’t do it.
  • If you read a book on a Nook, is it a book or a Nook? And does that apply to Dr. Seuss?
  • Really, what the heck is a Bing?
  • I text. All the time. Only way my kids will talk to me. But has anybody under 25 noticed that it’s still a lot quicker and more efficient to actually talk to the other person? Honestly …
  • Does anybody “get” Twitter? Am I a twit if I don’t tweet? Speaking of twits, should I care what Ocho Cinco had for lunch?
  • Whether pot is legal or not, do the SUNY trustees actually think they can make every SUNY campus smoke-free in two years without putting half the students on probation?
  • Which is the more dangerous job: Catching alligators (crocodiles?) bare-handed; driving tractor trailers on narrow, ice-covered roads or repossessing Subarus? I’m betting on the repossessing.
  • When did the above become entertainment?
  • And who did put the ram in the ramalamadingdong?
  • Isn’t it true that every item on the Taco Bell menu consists of the same items, mixed in different combinations and given different names?
  • Can we find that answer on Bing?
  • Wouldn’t it be more popular if they named it Bong?
  • Does anybody remember Frick and Frack? No? No sweat, I looked it up on Yahoo: “Frick and Frack is for any two people who are closely linked in some way, especially through a work partnership.

“The origin is from a famous partnership of Swiss comedy ice skaters, Werner Groebliand Hans Mauch,   whose stage names these were. They came to public fame in the later years of a series of skating spectaculars called Ice Follies, promoted by Eddie Shipstad and his brother Roy, which began in 1936 and ran for almost 50 years. Their association lasted so long, and they were at one time so well known, that their names have gone into the language.

“Michael Mauch, the son of Hans, told me in a personal message about the origin of their names: ‘Frick took his name from a small village in Switzerland; Frack is a Swiss-German word for a frock coat, which my father used to wear in the early days of their skating act. They put the words together as a typical Swiss joke.’ ” Now don’t say you never learn anything when you read my column.

  • What is the current fascination with tattoos, or body art, if you prefer? Maybe the NBA commissioner can answer this one.
  • And by the way, why can’t Democrats defend their man (Obama) with the same fervor with which Republicans attack him? Don’t they care if he loses?
  • How Much Wood Would a Woodchuck Chuck if a Woodchuck Would Chuck Wood? Oops, sorry, that’s not a question, it’s a new show on the History Channel.
  • If I tweet that, will some twit think it’s funny?
  • … and what about Naomi?

Now don’t be bashful, please. I would really appreciate comments, answers, jibes and japes (look it up on Bing) on any of the above. This is supposed to be an interactive medium, so interact, please. At the very least it will me make me feel good and at the most I may be able to get another column out of the replies. Isn’t that worth interacting?

PS: If you don’t know the Joe DiMaggio answer, look up Paul Simon. And shame on you.


Fit to Print?

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

By Jeffrey Page

Certain decisions by people with loads of money and monumental pretensions cry out for comment. The same goes for decisions by news editors.

In the Styles section of The Sunday Times just past, we were offered a story about the wedding of a couple in Santa Barbara. He is 30. She is 29 and comes from a rich family; her father was executive producer and co-creator of some popular TV shows.

The reporter gave us 29 breathless and fairly vacuous paragraphs about how the happy couple met (through friends out for a drink), and how the woman found the man acceptable even though he wore a fanny pack (“I knew when his fanny pack didn’t bother me that this was the real thing”), and the fact that she is stylish and he once had worked on the Harvard Lampoon, and that their feelings for each other got warmer during his absence on a previously planned vacation.

Packed into those 29 paragraphs were 1,586 words of which 27 were: “It is not guaranteed but if a stylish woman forgives her date for wearing a fanny pack, all that follows can be pretty much considered a breeze.” This wedding story contained about double the number of words in a typical column by the great Maureen Dowd one of whose recent pieces contained 889 words of which 37 were: “Standing a few feet away from Jerry Sandusky, as he laughed and reminisced with friends in the front row of the courtroom, made me want to take a shower. Just not in the Penn State locker room.”

One of the two pictures accompanying the wedding story showed the newlyweds playing skeeball on two alleys, a little something the bride’s parents had installed when they redesigned their barn so it could be used for what Dad called “the cocktail part of the party.” They also moved a half-acre of earth to create a hill. They felt they needed a hill so the guests would have, in the reporter’s words, “stunning water views during the ceremony.”

The story reported that the bride had consulted “the family psychic” about whether the man was right for her and that the soothsayer’s response was “You know that you know that he’s the one,” which sounds suspiciously non-committal on the seer’s part.

The story took up two-thirds of the page. I know about story placement. I know that a wedding story, unless it’s William and Kate, doesn’t go on Page 1 and that a story about children dying violently doesn’t go in Styles. Some news that got short shrift on the day of the story of the wedding with the ocean view demand attention because their treatment made The Times look foolish.

–That same Sunday edition contained a 466-word story about two Lebanese people killed by shells fired from Syrian territory. One of the victims was a boy in the village of al-Hisheh. He was 8. His father and four siblings were injured. A woman was killed when a shell landed in her home.

–Officials in Myanmar freed 20 people whom they’d seized en route to a major demonstration with political overtones. This was told in 328 words.

–In New York, the police reported that six people had been slain in the last few days. In one case, a woman bludgeoned her son to death. He was 9. A man was shot to death in Bay Ridge with a bullet in his neck. He was 65. The other four dead were in the Bronx and Queens. The Times gave it 632 words.

That’s three life-and-death stories, not one of which involved building a hill so wedding guests could see the water.


The Brach Dairy

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

By Shawn Dell Joyce

There aren’t many men like Harrison Brach left here in Montgomery. In fact, there aren’t that many dairy farmers left in all of Orange County. According to Cornell Cooperative Extension, there are only 43 dairy farms left in this once mainly agricultural county.

Brach is a dedicated dairyman who, at 81, still gets up early every morning in all seasons and all weather to milk his cows. He’s been at it for more than 40 years.

Brach was born in Newburgh to an English mother and a father who aspired to be a dairyman on an estate farm. It was Harrison Brach’s father, in 1941 around the outbreak of World War II, who first purchased what would come to be called the Brach farm. Unfortunately, he later sold it, and his son Harrison had to buy it back – something he accomplished with a grand total of $400 in his pocket.

Brach tells me all this as we sit on lawn chairs outside his milking parlor on a day of 93-degree heat. He shows me a photo of a cute young boy with a big green tractor. It’s him at age 7. He leans close to me and cackles: “If you told me then that I’d be a dairy farmer now, I’d say no way. I never dreamt I’d be here.”

A fire in 1979 sealed his fate. The barns burned and all the old farm equipment was destroyed. Brach brought his children and wife Esther together to discuss what to do. The family committed to rebuilding and modernizing the farm, adding the milking parlor and several pieces of other machinery.

“If it wasn’t for my family, I wouldn’t be here,” Brach says of his brood of six children, 11 grandchildren, and 5 great grandchildren as he sits back contentedly. “I’ve been blessed.”

Indeed he has, as Brach’s Dairy became one of the more profitable farms in the area. The old dairyman chalks it up to the fact that he doesn’t feed corn to his cows. Instead, he feeds them mainly alfalfa, which results in healthier cows producing richer milk.

Brach’s daughter Dawn joins us, and wonders aloud why young farmers don’t come and study how her family has streamlined their operation. We agree that there really aren’t any young farmers interested in dairy.

Dawn notes that only she among her siblings showed interest in the farm. She worked beside her father for many years, hoping to take over the farm one day but found she couldn’t do it by herself.

What does the future hold? Harrison Brach suffered a mild heart attack two weeks ago and I can’t help wonder how long he’s going to keep up with the rigors of the job and how long Orange County will be home to the few dairy farms we still have.

“I’m going to work until the very end,” Brach says. “I don’t have to do this, I want to do this. This is the good life.”

A Question for Hayworth & Maloney

Friday, July 6th, 2012

By Michael Kaufman

Over the next few months voters in the 19th Congressional District will be bombarded by campaign materials and robot phone calls boosting two well-funded candidates, Republican incumbent Nan Hayworth and her Democratic challenger Sean Patrick Maloney. Maloney recently moved into the district from New York City to make the run and was endorsed by Bill Clinton, for whom he used to work as an aide.

In slickly produced campaign mailings Maloney trumpeted words of praise from The New York Times, implying to voters in last month’s Democratic primary election that he had been endorsed by that newspaper. In reality there was more criticism than praise within the quoted editorial, which ended with an endorsement of one of his opponents, Richard Becker, who had the backing of many local progressives—but was hopelessly outspent in this era of elections a la Citizens United.

In conceding defeat in the primary Becker said he was disappointed but he endorsed Maloney and stressed the importance of defeating Hayworth, whom he cast as supporting the “Tea Party agenda.” For her part, Hayworth has been trying to distance herself from the Tea Party extremists in Congress, with whom she was swept into office in 2010. To hear her and her supporters, such as Warwick Town Supervisor Michael Sweeton tell it, she is a true friend of local farmers who suffered severe damage from recent storms—despite her initial reaction that government assistance should be withheld until the money could be found by cutting the budget from another federal program.

She recently proposed relief for area commuters (but only if the funds come from the Affordable Care Act budget, also known as “Obamacare,” which she has pledged to repeal if re-elected).  But perhaps even more egregious is her stance on Social Security, in which she depicts herself as a fighter for seniors, even as she is committed to denying benefits to the next generation of seniors. Hayworth has been an unapologetic supporter of the budget proposed by Wisconsin Republican Congressman Paul Ryan, which would slash funding for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other government “safety net” programs—at  a time when they are needed most by millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet.  Or, as Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders told his colleagues in a recent speech, “when the wealthy people in this country are becoming wealthier, the middle class is disappearing and poverty is increasing.” Now, he said, “when we talk about an oligarchic form of government, what we’re talking about is not just a handful of families owning entire nations. We’re also talking about the politics of the nation.”

Sanders could not have made it any clearer: “When you hear folks talking about Social Security reform, hold on to your wallets because they are talking about cuts in Social Security,” said the Vermont independent.  “Nothing more, nothing less.” The latest gambit, he said is a concept called chained consumer price index (CPI).

“The so-called chained CPI is the belief…that cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for Social Security are too high,” he explained. Seniors in his home state are incredulous when they hear this, he observed, which also may be said of seniors across the country, with the possible exception of Alan Simpson, millionaire Republican ex-Senator from Wyoming, who recently used terms like “greediest generation” and “geezers” to refer to Social Security recipients.

“Seniors back home start scratching their heads” when they hear about the chained CPI, said Sanders. “They say, ‘Wait, we just went through two years when my prescription drug costs went up, my health care costs went up and I got no COLA—and there are people in Washington, Republicans, some Democrats—they say my COLA was too high?’ What world are these people living in?”

In plain language Sanders told his colleagues that imposition of chained CPI “would mean that between the ages of 65 and 75, a senior would lose about $560 a year, and then when they turn 85 and they’re trying to get by off of $13,000 or $14,000 a year, they would lose about a thousand bucks a year. That’s what some of our colleagues want to do. Virtually all the Republicans want to do it. Some Democrats want to do it as well. As chairman of the defending Social Security caucus, I’m going to do everything that I can to prevent that.”

Seniors in the 19th district should know where the two candidates for Congress stand on this issue. Will Maloney if elected be aligned with Bernie Sanders and other progressives in the Senate and House who oppose all attempts to end Social Security as we know it, or will he be among the “some Democrats” who support drastic “reforms” such as chained CPI? And how will Hayworth answer when asked if she supports the imposition of chained CPI on the current generation of seniors? Their responses could influence the outcome of the election. The likely winner, however, will be the one who spends the most.

As  Sanders put it, “What the Supreme Court has said to the wealthiest people in this country is, okay, you own almost all the wealth of this nation — that’s great — now we’re going to give you an opportunity to own the political life of this nation. And if you’re getting bored by just owning coal companies and casinos and manufacturing plants, you now have the opportunity to own the United States government. So we have people like the Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson. The Koch Brothers are worth $50 billion…and  they have said they’re prepared to put $400 million into this campaign to defeat Obama, to defeat candidates who are representing working families.

“You have the six largest financial institutions in this country that have assets equivalent to two-thirds of the GDP of America–over $9 trillion. These six financial institutions write half the mortgages, two-thirds of the credit cards in America. They have a huge impact on the economy. That’s not enough for these guys. The top one percent owns half of the wealth:  Not enough for these guys. Now they have the opportunity to buy the United States government. So that’s where we are.”

Sanders concluded with a plea that fell on many deaf ears in the Senate chambers but which surely resonate among many Americans: “What we have got to do is start listening to the needs of working families, the vast majority of our people, and not just the people who make campaign contributions. And I know that’s a very radical idea. But, you know, it might be a good idea to try a little bit to reaffirm the faith of the American people in their democratic form of government. Let them know just a little bit that maybe we are hearing their pain, their unemployment, their debt….the fact that they don’t have any health care; the fact they can’t afford to send their kids to college. Maybe, just maybe, we might want to listen to them before we go running out to another fund-raising event with millionaires and billionaires.”

Michael can be reached at





Bosons and Bankers: What’s Up, God?

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

By Bob Gaydos

Sometimes, having to have an opinion on any topic that comes down the pike actually requires a bit of work. Usually, it’s when you don’t have the foggiest idea what people are talking about, but they all appear to be smart and they all say that what they are talking about is very important, or significant, or shocking, or historic.

And so this week, I give you two of potentially the most important stories of the year, which I feel safe in saying most of you — being American, like me — also don’t know much about and have heard very little about from what passes as our news media these days:

  • Higgs boson, or, as it has been dubbed, the “God” particle.
  • LIBOR, or as I see it, the God complex.

In fairness, some of the media did try to explain Higgs boson and its potential significance — explaining the origin of the universe and the nature of the matter, stuff like that — but most, in my experience, bogged down in an energy field of scientific mumbo jumbo whose mass could only be contained by the Internet, but certainly not my brain.

Still, the fact that scientists in Geneva, using a $10 billion atom-smashing super-collider, say they have found a subatomic particle that would not only validate “The Big Bang Theory” on television, but in real life, is literally mind-boggling. As I understand it, the boson particle (named after Scottish physicist Peter Higgs) is kind of like a universal sticky particle to which other sub-atomic particles, such as quarks, “stick” as they whiz around wherever. The more such particles that stick, the more bosons involved, the more mass the particles eventually have and, with gravity added, the more weight. They become something.

No boson, no sticking, no universe. Nothing. With bosons, we have planets and primordial ooze and dinosaurs and humans and science and evolution and rock and roll and super-colliders and big banks, all neatly aligned as if some higher power had cleverly laid out the whole plan to explain the Big Bang.

If you guessed the big banks reference was a hint on LIBOR, good for you. You are promoted to honors economics. LIBOR stands for London Interbank Offered Rate. It is the average cost of borrowing at which Britain’s banks lend each other money. It is calculated daily, based on information supplied by those banks and is used worldwide to set prices on trillions of euros and billions of dollars worth of derivatives and other financial products.

And yes, there’s that word derivatives again. What’s happened is that a bunch of too-big-to-fail big banks, playing God with other people’s money, got together between 2005 and 2009 and rigged the rate to keep it low. They lied about their financial health and conspired to make each other look better than was true, thereby luring unsuspecting customers to invest even more in worthless mortgages, loans and, ugh, derivatives. The big difference in this story is that, while the big banks in America pretty much got away with their deceit and theft, the Brits are getting tough on them.

The chairman of Barclay’s has resigned and the bank, apparently claiming it thought it had received the OK to lie from the Bank of England, Britain’s central bank, has agreed to pay a $450 million settlement. It also agreed to cooperate with police authorities and Parliament, which are looking to hold major banks and their executives legally responsible for this massive scandal.

That’s a lot different from the cloying welcome Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase, got in the U.S. Senate recently in explaining his institution’s loss of $2 billion in customers’ money through synthetic derivatives and other risky bets. Chase, along with Citigroup, HSBC, RBS, and a half dozen other banks are involved in the LIBOR conspiracy.

The U.S Justice department has all the evidence uncovered in the LIBOR investigation (which is reportedly extensive) and appears to be letting Britain take the lead in prosecution for now, which is just as well, given how many American bankers have been prosecuted to date for throwing the world economy into crisis.

If you’re going to have an opinion, look for the links. The links between the Higgs boson and LIBOR stories, beyond their complexities and lack of attention in the United States, are obvious. Both have gravitas, in these cases, a combination of mass, gravity and universal significance. Both involve amounts of money most of us cannot comprehend. Both involve an incredible amount of teamwork among people within the same profession. One group effort, as noble an investment of money, time and brain power as is imaginable, seeks to explain why we are all here, at least in a physical sense. The other, money, time and brain power notwithstanding, only makes me wonder if we’ll ever figure it out morally.








How the GOP Weathered the Fourth

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

Mitt Romney ... blowing in the wind

By Emily Theroux

When it rains on the Republicans’ Fourth of July parade, it’s a monsoon!

I doubt seriously that the stars will ever again align against the GOP in the precise configuration they’ve achieved since the Supreme Court ruled that the individual health care mandate in the Affordable Care Act is constitutional. The deluge of dashed hopes, mixed messages, and wrong turns that has flooded the vast conservative echo chamber has expanded the right wing’s Independence Day celebration into a “terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad week,” to borrow a phrase from author Judith Viorst (and a meme from the Internet).

Never mind that “the mandate” was an idea that Republicans originally proposed but which they detest now against all reason and with vehement intensity. (President Obama is equally intent on furthering his inevitable goal of “bipartisan compromise,” which never gets him anywhere with these people.) Once Obama looks favorably upon such brainstorms of the right-wing think tanks and thereby gives them cooties, conservatives metamorphose into their own doctrines’ most fervent critics.

How many things went wrong for the Republicans in the short span of a week? I counted a dirty dozen:

1. The Supremes ruled against them, and “heads exploded,” as Dick Cheney once said, all over Washington.

2. Fox and CNN (trying to outfox Fox) both got the story horribly wrong at first, because whoever skimmed that ruling was either in too big a hurry for a scoop to read past the first paragraph or too “simple” to fathom what the ruling meant. They saw “individual mandate unconstitutional” and ran with it. (Even worse, Obama was tuned in to both channels and, at first, believed what he was hearing!)

3. The entire wingnut populace spent days massively freaking out, denouncing the treachery of Chief Justice John Roberts (who is supposed to be “an impartial guardian of the law,” not a right-wing tool), and proclaiming that “Obamacare” included “the biggest tax increase in the history of the world.” Roberts’ new critics invaded his Wikipedia biography and symbolically “repealed” him by “replacing” the title “Chief Justice” with “Chief Traitor.”

Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Michael Savage all tried to outdo each other’s bombast. “Our freedom of choice just met its death panel,” Limbaugh raged about SCOTUS. Beck hawked T-shirts depicting Roberts as a coward. Savage suggested that Roberts’ epilepsy meds had caused “cognitive disassociation (sic)” that affected his judgment. And Troy Newman of the militant anti-abortion group Operation Rescue compared the day the decision was announced to 9/11 and, appallingly, referenced Nazi Germany as well, warning that “we are all moving down the road toward complete annihilation.”

4. Some nut-job even proposed one of Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle’s “Second Amendment remedies.” In Michigan, former state GOP spokesman Matt Davis asked in a mass email whether “armed rebellion” might now be justified. An anonymous commenter responded to an online article about it: “I will not submit I will not buy something I don’t want I will not pay the fine (sic). And I will not be arrested peacefully. Your move Feds (double sic: punctuation needed desperately).”

5. Mitch McConnell appeared on “Fox News Sunday,” expecting his usual softball interview. Chris Wallace, however, grilled him relentlessly about the Republicans’ plan to “replace” Obamacare once they’ve repealed it. After Wallace asked him three times how the GOP planned to cover some 30 million uninsured Americans, McConnell finally blurted out in exasperation, “That’s not the issue!” Then, realizing what he was admitting, he clarified that the Republicans didn’t have a replacement plan for Obamacare’s most important provision.

6. After Republicans were proven wrong on how big the tax increase would be (the Great God Reagan passed a higher one), Romney’s campaign stooge, Eric Fehrnstrom the Etch a Sketch guy, made it clear that Romney didn’t consider the fine that “free riders” would have to pay for ignoring the mandate a “tax” but rather an “unconstitutional penalty.” If Romney were to call it a tax, it would mean that he had also “raised taxes” when Massachusetts passed Romneycare. Much wingnuttery ensued, including a snide tweet from Rupert Murdoch saying Mitt should “hire some real pros” for his campaign team.

On the “penalty” side of the debate were conservative think-tank analysts, The Wall Street Journal editorial board, and the four dissenting justices – all of whom warned that accepting as a tax what was written into law as a penalty would give big-government advocates “unlimited power to impose new purchase mandates.” The government could “legally tax our every breath,” Sen. Rand Paul warned.

7. Individual GOP lawmakers have a personal stake in one facet of the law they so fervently want to repeal: the provision that allows their own adult children to remain on their health insurance policies. Tea Party blowhard Joe Walsh (who also recently tried to “swiftboat” his Democratic opponent, a former Black Hawk pilot and double amputee, for “politicizing” her military service) explained that, while his 24-year-old son is covered by his mother’s plan, the freshman congressman doesn’t really support keeping the provision. “I don’t know where I am on that, and that’s a lousy thing to say,” he observed. “That doesn’t matter to me, though, irregardless (sic) of that.” (It’s “lousy” indeed, given that Walsh’s ex-wife has sued him for more than $100,000 in child support arrears that she claims he owes.)

8. Mother Jones magazine updated a story about Mitt and the Fabulous Bain Boys investing $75 million in Stericycle, a medical waste firm that disposed of aborted fetuses. This time, Mitt couldn’t weasel out of it by claiming he no longer worked there when the Stericycle deal went down. According to writer David Corn, an SEC document revealed that Mitt had held sole “voting and dispositive power” over Bain’s Stericycle shares when the investment was made. One pro-life blogger, along with Dan Primack of CNN Money, challenged Corn’s conclusion. Primack acknowledged that Bain asked Mitt to continue signing Stericycle fund documents after he “left” in February 1999 to salvage the Olympics in Utah. (Mitt had taken an earlier leave in 1994 to run for the Senate.) “Romney said he will stay on as a part-timer with Bain, providing input on investment and key personnel decisions,” The Boston Herald stated at the time. A July 1999 press release said Romney was “currently on a part-time leave of absence” and quoted him speaking for Bain Capital.

9. In a surprise move, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed three voter suppression bills. Needless to say, Republicans weren’t too happy about this unprecedented defection from their nationwide plot to disenfranchise likely Democratic voters.

10. Jonathan Krohn, the erstwhile wunderkind of CPAC’s 2009 conference as a precocious 13-year-old, has now emerged at 17 to denounce conservatism – and his own naivete. Movement bigwigs who once revered him are now calling him vile names and sniffing that they secretly thought all along that he was annoying, condescending, and mindless.

11. On the Fourth, Mittens caved to intense pressure from his puppeteers by revising his views on the “penalty vs. tax” issue yet again, now calling it “a tax” but offering no elaboration. Then a Wall Street Journal op-ed blasted Mitt and his bumbling campaign strategy for “slowly squandering an historic opportunity” by vacillating and obfuscating on issues like health care reform. Flip-Flopper-in-Chief, anyone?

12. And for the grand finale, the right’s wackiest characters genuinely “brought the crazy” during America’s 236th birthday week. El Rushbo dropped another misogynistic bombshell when he replied to a caller opining on the youth vote: “When women got the right to vote is when it all went downhill. Because that’s when votes started being cast with emotion and maternal instinct that government ought to reflect.” (Worry not, dittoheads: Beck’s got his back. The Blaze, Beck’s website, insisted that Rush was merely baiting liberal critics with an old saw written by Ann Coulter – who probably really believes it.) Meanwhile Florida’s favorite Mad Hatter, Rep. Allen “Wild, Wild” West, said at a campaign rally: “I have a great idea. I believe, for personal security, every American should have to go out and buy a Glock 9mm” – an obvious applause line, gun humor for the ideologically challenged. “And if you don’t do it, we’ll tax you,” he added, after his curtain call. (Col. West is not amused by the federal income tax.) “Now I wonder how the liberals will feel about that one.”

I have to hand it to him: That’s one hell of an “individual mandate.” The problem is that it’s about as thoughtless a possible provocation to trigger-happy whack jobs as Dubya jeering, “Bring ’em on!” at the citizens of a nation we had just occupied in a preemptive war. Or Sarah Palin exhorting the Tea Party faithful, “Don’t retreat, RELOAD!” and using a U.S. map festooned with figurative gun sights to target the districts of congressional Democrats who had voted for the Affordable Care Act – like Arizona’s Gabby Giffords, later shot and gravely injured by a deranged gunman who killed six other people during the same attack.

I’m not implying that the shooter had ever seen Palin’s provocative map; we have no way of knowing what set off his crazed shooting spree. But all we need in this polarized country is more wildly irresponsible NRA rhetoric – or everybody and his grandma packing heat.