Archive for June, 2013

Carrie’s Painting of the Week – 06/07/13

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

Mt. Airy Farm

Mt. Airy Farm

Oil on canvas, 10×10, $100
My first plein-air cowscape!
Yes, it’s little.
Yes, the cow is sketchy.
Yes, the buildings are a little tippy.
All those things can be dealt with. The fact is, I saw the outdoor cows, I made a decision to paint at least one, and I did it!
This has been a long-held fright for me, painting a cow (or horse) in plein air. Why? Because they move. (Or mooove, as my little mental word-gamer says). And it always scared me that I might start the painting, and the cow would move away, and then,,, what?
And to that, I would say: What? So what? Why be scared?
Well, if we knew why we were scared of dippy, dopey things, we probably wouldn’t be scared.
 Here’s my painting in the landscape. Yes, I changed the color of the barn. As my friend and inspiration, Gene Bove, might say – What good is a barn if it’s not red?


And We Think We Have Idiots?

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

By Michael Kaufman

Last week’s post about idiots (lovable and not-so-lovable) elicited a response from North Carolina via the Virtual Mailbag. It was from my old high-school friend Jonathan Kotch, whose valedictory speech at our graduation ceremony remains a happy memory. Jon departed from the script of a speech pre-approved by school officials and instead lit into them for stifling independent thinking and creativity among students and faculty.

His speech ruffled their feathers so much that Fordyce C. Stone, the superintendent of schools—and is that not just a perfect name for a superintendent of schools and maybe even president of  the American League?—called his parents later that day to see if they had any insights into why their son had been so ungrateful. After all, Stone said, he had gotten into Columbia, hadn’t he? (I’m sure the valedictory speech will be among the topics that come up later this month when a few friends from high school, some with partners or spouses, will be visiting us in Warwick.) I was at Kotch’s house when his mother took the call and I heard her tell the not-so-lovable idiot Stone that on the contrary, she was proud of Jon and that it was his own diligent work that had gotten him into Columbia.

If you go to the website of the University of North Carolina School of Public Health and look at Jon’s curriculum vitae you won’t see Oceanside High School listed there, or Columbia, for that matter. There’s just no room for them among the degrees, awards, publications, and academic appointments of Jonathan B. Kotch, M.D, M.P.H., F.A.A.P, Carol Remmer Angle Distinguished Professor of Children’s Environmental Health, Department of Maternal and Child Health, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“Actually,” wrote Jon, “they (the 7,000 pro-gun people who rallied in Albany against the new gun-control law in New York State) are all idiots. But you don’t know how good you have it in New York. In North Carolina the idiots are in charge!” He went on to explain that pro-gun state legislators “are trying (and are likely to succeed) in repealing the law that allows universities to ban concealed weapons (for that matter, any weapons) on campus. Just this week the police chief of our largest state university, N.C. State, testified at a legislative hearing that carrying firearms on campus would decrease, not increase, security. This is the same legislature that believes that it is possible to plan for the management of inlets, estuaries and ocean shorelines without addressing sea level rise (since global warming is a communist plot). Damn the facts, full speed in reverse!”

But, he continued, not everyone in North Carolina appreciates what the Republican-controlled state government is doing. “The NAACP has been coordinating demonstrations at the legislature on a weekly basis to protest cuts in unemployment benefits, health care coverage, public school funding, mental health services, and early childhood education while acting to limit racial justice in the criminal justice system, workers’ rights and voters’ rights. If I get arrested at the next demonstration on Monday I hope to bring my mug shots to the get-together at your house. Idiots indeed.”

Jon was indeed arrested and you can read all about it here:
To the rest of the world he is Jonathan B. Kotch, M.D, M.P.H., F.A.A.P., and one of the country’s leading experts in maternal and child health. To me he’s still and will always be the valedictorian.

Michael can be reached at



R.I.P., F.R.L.

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

By Jeffrey Page

The late Sen. Frank Lautenberg

The late Sen. Frank Lautenberg

Frank Lautenberg could be devastating if he thought he or his friends were being unfairly attacked. So in 2004, with John Kerry’s war record in Vietnam being torn apart by the Bush forces, it was the distinguished gentleman from New Jersey who was recognized on the floor of the Senate for remarks.

In that short talk, Lautenberg gave as good as Kerry was getting, and once again proved that if Democrats were smart, they’d search for some more pugnacious candidates like himself and stop being so damned polite.

Lautenberg referred to “chicken hawks,” a species he described as having an appetite for war but only if they could find someone else to fight it for them. Lautenberg was never one to speak quickly and then break for lunch. So he went on to identify Dick Cheney as “the lead chicken hawk.”

He continued: “We know who the chicken hawks are. They talk tough on national defense and military issues and cast aspersions on others, but when it was their turn to serve, they were AWOL from courage.” His outrage extended to the shameless GOP trashing of Senator Max Cleland of Georgia, a triple amputee from Vietnam, as somehow not strong enough on defense matters.

Calling the vice president of the United States a coward was a variation on the old Democrats-are-soft-on-defense drivel the Republicans had been spewing for years. Now it was in their faces. And they yelped that it was unfair.  

Lautenberg had the standing to make the case. He had spent four years in the Army during World War II while Cheney spent about the same amount of time getting his five deferments during Vietnam and while George W. Bush was finding himself a cozy place in the Texas Air National Guard.

President Obama would be in a much stronger position these days if he had a few more Lautenbergs to call on when his party, his supporters and himself are slimed by the Right. When Congressional Neanderthals play dirty, Democrats often seem quick to shrug their shoulders, look sincere, and announce to anyone who’s listening that they’re ready to work with the other side. They’ve yet to figure out that the other side has no interest whatever in working with them. Democrats ought to listen to tapes of Lautenberg when he was angry and stop being so characteristically courteous.

It isn’t just Lautenberg’s partisan mouth that will be missed. He was a passionate national politician.

–He led the struggle for a national drinking age of 21. For years, New Jersey teenagers drove across the state line to New York to drink. The Jersey drinking age was 21; New York’s was 18. There were comparable situations elsewhere. Using the possible loss of federal highway funds as a club, Lautenberg persuaded all the states to adopt that higher age.

–Lautenberg was an advocate of a national blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent. If your BAC is higher, the law presumes you’re drunk and incapable of driving safely. Again, no state could be forced to adopt the lower BAC. But neither are the feds required to write highway-aid checks to states that refuse to comply. Today, 50 states subscribe to the 0.08 level.

–He was a strong supporter of the Secaucus railroad station, a $500 million project in the Jersey Meadows that was designed to allow NJ Transit rail commuters to switch trains and ride into midtown Manhattan or to Newark instead of traveling to Hoboken and the PATH trains.

–Just two things about Secaucus. There was an early proposal to spend $200,000 on a statue of Lautenberg for the station, an idea thankfully laid to rest by then-Governor Jim McGreevey, a fellow Democrat. I checked the clips to be certain and could find no story suggesting that Lautenberg opposed the idea of a statue of himself. I think he kind of liked the idea. Anyway, he got the next best thing; the station’s official name is the Frank R. Lautenberg Secaucus Rail Station, but most people just call it “the transfer,” and wonder why it’s such a confusing place.

–It was Lautenberg who led the fight to outlaw smoking on most domestic passenger flights. Remember what it was like when smoke drifted from the smoking section to the nonsmoking section? Remember the headaches? Remember thinking how much you’d pay for a breath of fresh air? Remember the smell of your clothes?

He had other issues: One of his environmental measures requires manufacturers to inform local officials of the chemicals they have on hand and use. He supported gun control. His intervention sped up federal assistance to survivors of Hurricane Sandy.

Lautenberg was one of the wealthiest members of Congress but he fought the people’s fights. The party and the people need a few more like him.