Archive for October, 2009

A Nobel Prize and an Ignoble Idea

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

 By Bob Gaydos

 NEWS ITEM — President Barack Obama was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.
 FOLLOW-UP NEWS ITEM —  Virtually every American politician, every political commentator, every TV talking head and late-night comedian scoffs at the award as “undeserved,” “premature,” “ridiculous” or some other negative characterization. 

 Maybe it’s just me, but this has to be the only country on the planet where it is a bad thing for our president — a man lauded, admired and elected for his publicly stated intention to end the angry, short-sighted, self-serving, polarizing approach to domestic politics and international diplomacy — is ridiculed for being honored by an international body for actually putting those political promises into practice.

 It’s not as if he asked for the award. In fact, he was appropriately surprised and humbled by it. What, he should give it back, as some idiotic pundits proposed? Like they would return it if they got it. It’s the Nobel Bleepin’ Peace Prize, for Pete’s sake, not an indictment for War Crimes from the World Court.

 The Nobel judges said the prize recognized Obama’s efforts to restore constructive dialogue and cooperation among nations of the world, to seek peaceful solutions to mutual problems and to encourage all nations to assume some responsibility for lessening tensions worldwide. For acting, in effect, the way the leader of the free world should act.

 Some said the prize was for not being George W. Bush. Hey, works for me. Wasn’t that what the U.S. election was all about? So thank you, Nobel judges, for agreeing with our choice and honoring it. And a fist bump for you, Mr. President.

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 OK, this one I know is not just me.  Starting on April 1, 2010, New Yorkers obtaining or renewing their vehicle registration will be required to purchase new license plates, whether they need them or not, for $25. That’s a $10 increase. If they want to keep their old numbers, it will cost an additional $20.

 Say what? You say your current license plates are just fine, are still intact and reflective and you’ve only had them a couple of years? Gov. Paterson doesn’t care. He sees a $129 million windfall in this money grab and apparently doesn’t care how he tries to overcome the state’s budget deficit. There is no doubt the state is a financial mess, but there is absolutely no justification for this new fee, which will obviously impact upstate residents more than city dwellers. The state has been on a 15-year plan for replacing license plates, but even that is relaxed as the plates have held up. Requiring new plates for every vehicle in the state may sound like an easy way to make some cash on the backs of struggling taxpayers, but it will surely be a major inconvenience and will inevitably require more costly paper work as registration and insurance documents have to be changed.
 In fact, St. Lawrence County Clerk Patricia Ritchie called it an outrage to ask families and businesses to pay more for new license plates they don’t need or want when they are being battered by the ongoing recession. She has launched an online petition drive ( to fight the fee, which the Legislature passed, clearly without much thought. Ritchie said more than 5,000 people signed the petition in the first week. Thousands more (including this writer) have since joined.
 Morgan Hook, a puffed-up gubernatorial spokesman, told AP, “Is (Ritchie) calling for a $129 million tax hike? Is she calling for $129 million more in cuts to school aid? Because that’s really what this petition drive is all about. This is the type of irresponsibility that led to the crisis we face today.” He said she should suggest other ways to make up the money.

 State Senator James L. Seward (R/C/I – Oneonta) and Assemblyman Pete Lopez (R/C/I – Schoharie) did just that recently in leading a rally against the fees. Among their suggestions:

  • Consolidating redundant or underutilized agencies, such as merging the Thruway Authority into the Department of Transportation. Their plan would protect rank-and-file employees, but target high cost administrative appointment positions, many of which are patronage “no show” jobs. They say this would save between $266 million and $1 billion;


  • All state agencies should immediately enact a 5 percent reduction in non-personnel spending, such as travel, postage and transportation. This would supposedly save taxpayers an estimated $138 million. A 10 percent reduction would save $212 million;


  • Suspending any new leases or purchases of vehicles, except for safety purposes, would save taxpayers $10 million;


  • Enforcing a state law to collect cigarette taxes on Native American reservations would bring in a new revenue source worth $500 million;


  • Tackling Medicaid fraud, waste and abuse, estimated to be 10 percent of total Medicaid spending, could save taxpayers hundreds of millions.

 Will those things work? Don’t know, but they and other ideas are worth pursuing more than charging motorists for new license plates they don’t need. As for those supposedly worn-out license plates, police can always enforce the law on that, maybe at the same time they pull over all those drivers using cell phones.

 Bob can be reached at

Foot-in-Mouth Museum

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

By Jeffrey Page

First, a note of thanks to the many Zest readers who took a few minutes to respond to my questions about how the site is doing. Your notes were thoughtful, detailed, helpful and, most of all, encouraging. You say we’re doing a good job and that, for some of you, we’ve become essential reading. Thanks for that.

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Someday there will be a Hall of Fame of Asinine Public Comments and the People Who Utter Them. I hope never to be enshrined myself, preferring to be chairman of the admissions committee.

Here are some recent nominees for glory in the hall.

–It’s 2009, right? New millennium, new century, right? Civil War ended 144 years ago. Voting Rights Act in place since the Sixties, Civil Rights Act about as old. And oh yes, there’s a black fellow sitting in the Oval Office.

Well, it’s not 2009 in Tangipahoa Parish in Louisiana where the witless Keith Bardwell presides as justice of the peace. Bardwell is the judge who recently refused to issue a marriage license to Beth Humphrey and Terence McKay, one of whom is black, one of whom is white.

His denial was outrageously un-American enough. Worse was his bizarre reasoning. “I’m not a racist,” Bardwell said. Then, focusing on the children of mixed race couples, Bardwell declared: “I think those children suffer and I won’t help put them through it.” How do they suffer? He didn’t say. Put them through what? He didn’t say.

What he said was that he tries to treat everyone equally. And oh yeah, some of his best friends are black.

Humphrey and McKay said they intend to ask the Justice Department to investigate Bardwell’s brand of jurisprudence.

–In Grahamsville, Donald Daggett walked into the Tri-Valley high school packing a .38. This is against the law.

During a talk with the principal, Daggett mentioned that he was armed. The principal asked for the weapon and Daggett handed it over.

What might have happened had a kid seen the butt end of the gun, recalled a place called Columbine, and gone tearing down the corridors to warn classmates and staff that there was a guy with a gun in the school?

“It was a stupid mistake,” The Times Herald-Record quoted Daggett. “I never even thought about it.”

The school thought about it and called the cops. Daggett was arrested. Maybe he’ll think about it next time.

–Roman Polanski, 76, is still in a Swiss jail with U.S. officials seeking his extradition to face charges of having sex with a girl in 1977, when Polanski was 43 and the girl was 13.

A gaggle of Hollywood swells have flocked to Polanski’s defense. Oh come on, they say. It was three decades ago, they say. The girl was sexually experienced, they say. Polanski had a horrific childhood when the Nazis overran Europe, they say. He’s a great director, they say. He won an Oscar, they say. He’s an artist, they say.

Among the newest reasons for going easy on Roman Polanski is money.

His lawyers have appealed to the Swiss courts to ask that Polanski be freed on bail because he has several months more work to do on his latest movie. And if he doesn’‘t get this work done, he could go bankrupt.

Not only that, the attorneys sniff, if Polanski can’t finish the movie, his backers stand to lose $40 million. In keeping him behind bars, it’s likely the Swiss judges recall that Polanski was freed on bail in the United States in 1977 – after pleading guilty – and promptly fled to France, where he has been living ever since.

The legal team’s equating child rape and movie profits is obscene. If you buy the argument that Roman Polanski needs to be free so he can avoid bankruptcy, you might approve the same request from Bernie Madoff. And you wouldn’t do that, right?

Care to join me on the Hall of Fame’s admissions committee? Just drop me a line with the dumbest public comments you’ve come across.

Jeffrey can be reached at

The Adventures of Zoe, the Wonder Dog

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009



By Carrie Jacobson

Chapter 20

The story so far: James Dunning lost his job and moved in with his wife’s mother, who is allergic to dogs. He brought Zoe, his old, nearly blind lhasa apso, to the Pike County shelter and left her there, tied to the fence, in the middle of the night. Before daybreak, Zoe met Kaja, a big red chow-German shepherd, and the two left the shelter to make their way back to James. They’ve been joined by Loosey, a cat, who’s most recently helped them make their way across the bridge over the Neversink on Route 209.

In the morning, at the intersection of Route 209 and Route 211 in Deerpark, the trio stops. Kaja can smell water, and the rich scent of tilled soil. But which road to take?

She nudges Loosey toward a tall tree, and Loosey understands in an instant. She’d lived with dogs her whole life and she likes them. Then, Thelma, the last dog, got old and died, and Marie went into a nursing home, and suddenly, Loosey was on her own. But she knows dogs, and so she leaps up into the tree and climbs high, high above the little building on the corner, high above the house across the street, higher than the fire station roof.

From the branches, she can see the fields below, and a river snaking along one side of the road. She can see the mountains and a tower sitting high in them. She can see houses, and a road that curves in one direction and climbs a small hill in the other.

She comes down the tree – always harder! – and the three decide to walk along the flat road that skirts the fields. They’re hungry, and there should be mice or voles to catch and eat there.

Loosey does just that, catches two mice, and the three eat, and then drink from the river, and make their way along the road. It narrows and climbs, runs past houses set back in the woods, and past dirt roads and big patches of forest. Cars zoom by, and the three shrink back into the underbrush.

In the afternoon, the three come to a place where the road widens and there are more houses. Kaja can smell people, and a bright mix of cooking smells, from houses and from restaurants. She can hear people talking and laughing, and she knows this is a town, and that towns are dangerous.

They scramble down a bank, away from the main road, and cross under a bridge. It’s quieter down here, and darker, and they run along this road, down a hill, away from the town, Kaja in the lead, Loosey following Zoe. Night is coming, and the air is getting sharp and cold, and it doesn’t feel safe here.

Just then, there’s a loud noise, louder than any of the three has ever heard, a noise of metal and machine and iron, and a smell of something harsh and dark, and then a long, screeching, horrible screaming whistle – the three stop and flatten themselves, make themselves as small as possible – and the train roars past, cabin lights coming on, whistle blaring – and then it’s gone, and Kaja and Zoe and Loosey run as fast as they can.

They end up on the big road again, and this time, Kaja can smell horses and cows, and it’s a good smell, a smell that means barns and water and hay and maybe even food. A smell that means safety. They trot along the road, and as the day darkens into night, they make their way up the drive into Pierson’s farm.

There’s a light on in the barn, and a girl is singing as she does her chores. She’s raking a stall when the three friends arrive at the door, and she looks up and laughs.
“Well, hello!” she says, and they know they’re safe for the night.

Carrie can be reached at

A Punctuation Pot Purée

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009
By Beth Quinn

The Apostrophe Posse has branched out. This week’s edition includes, not only apostrophe catostrophes (I know, I know! It’s on purpose!), but some fabulous, off-the-mark quotation  marks, someone in an apparent comma coma, an interesting spelling error and some terrible confusion about meat vs fish.

Therefore, without further ado …

Those Happy Meal Chimes are Ranging

The top portion of the receipt from McDonald’s in Hancock, N.Y., reads:

WELCOME TO HANCOCK MC DONALD’S Our value meals and happy meals are rang up with the drinks separate, so we can adjust for different drinks”

I know, I know. The BIG question is, what was I doing at a McDonald’s????

– Pam Guess

I’ve been to the Hancock McDonald’s myself, loathe as I am to admit it, and was struck by its apparent shortage of periods to put at the end of sentences. – Beth

Are There no Periods in Vermont, Either?

In the July/August issue of AT Journeys (the magazine of the Appalachian Trail Conference), the cover is a picture of the Rutland County Farmers Market in Vermont. The description of the photo on page 2:

On the Cover: The Rutland County Farmers Market in downtown Rutland, Vermont’s Depot Park is open rain or shine, Saturday’s and Tuesday’s, spring through fall.

I sent an e-mail asking them why the apostrophes, especially since they didn’t call it the Farmers’ Market.

– Joan James

Is it Maneur or Shti?

Several years ago, whenever I approached the intersection of Route 208 and Sarah Wells Trail, I enjoyed my daily chuckle when I saw the Manuer for Sale sign. Unfortunately, the sign was removed some time ago and replaced with a corrected version.

– Helen G. Ullrich

In the Category of Confused About Food

It’s not punctuation but surely worth mentioning. The following invitation appears on the Web site of Australian chef Curtis Stone:

Learn the best way to safely defrost meats like shrimp.

You want to tell them, or should I?

– Carol Montana

“Unnecessary Quotation Marks”

Here are a few awesome examples that recently ran on the Huffington Post Web site.

And then poor Jim Bob had only two fingers and one eye left.

And then poor Jim Bob had only two fingers and one eye left.


Is this meant to keep the atheists happy?

Is this meant to keep the atheists happy?


Hard to imagine, but whatever it means, it seems to apply to one gun only.

Hard to imagine, but whatever it means, it seems to apply to one gun only.

Finally, Some Semi-Good News

A properly placed semicolon was found in, of all places, the New York City subway system. It was nearly hidden on a public service placard exhorting riders not to leave their newspapers behind when they get off the train:

Please put it in a trash can; that’s good news for everyone.

Semicolon sightings are unusual, period, much less those found in exhortations drafted by committees of civil servants, as this one was. In fact, proper semicolon use is such a rarity that, when this one was spotted, the New York Times deemed it worthy of an article. As a bonus, the placard contains a properly used apostrophe as well.

Former Goshen resident Bess Jankowski, who lives in the city, was so taken by the semicolon that she deemed it worth passing on.

“This renews my faith in humanity,” wrote Bess.

– Bess Jankowski

Beth can be reached at

Carrie’s Painting of the Week – 10/27/09

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009


By Carrie Jacobson

The dog park is a great invention! You take the dogs, unclip their leashes, and let ’em run. They make friend (or enemies), they get more exercise in 30 minutes than we humans could give them in a week, and you get to watch the mesmerizing dynamics of a pack in the making.

This painting is of Rocky, a pit bull pup, and one of the sweetest dogs in the DP (as we’ve taken to calling it within canine earshot). I brought liver treats the first day, and while my dogs wouldn’t take them, Rocky thought I’d brought ambrosia from Mount Olympus.

I’ll be leading a dog-painting workshop at the Wallkill River School Nov. 7. Click on the link to the right to find out more; there’s plenty of room, if you’d like to join!

Shawn’s Painting of the Week – 10/26/09

Monday, October 26th, 2009
Silvermine Lake in Harriman, plein air painting of fall foliage from one of the prettiest sites in Bear Mountain!

Silvermine Lake in Harriman, plein air painting of fall foliage from one of the prettiest sites in Bear Mountain!

No Such Thing As Clean Coal

Monday, October 26th, 2009

By Shawn Dell Joyce
 We are enduring a $45 million dollar advertising campaign touting “clean coal” and the solution to America’s energy crisis. This is an attempt by Big Coal lobbyists (in this case American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity) to “greenwash” Americans into believing a lie that coal can ever be clean.

Don’t believe the hype!

Most of our coal is extracted through mountaintop removal mining which involves clear cutting the forests and scraping away the topsoil, blasting up to 800 feet off the top of the mountain, and gouging out the coal with gigantic earth moving machines. This mechanized process replaces human miners with technology, and causes millions of tons of “overburden” (mountaintops, trees, and topsoil) to be bulldozed into adjacent narrow valleys, and clog streams.  Just obtaining the coal is a dirty, polluting process.

Burning coal is a major contributor to climate change. Coal puts 80% more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than burning gas according to Greenpeace. Burning coal also spews pollutants like mercury which is highly toxic and poses a ‘global environmental threat to humans and wildlife,’ according to the United Nations. Coal-fired power and heat production are the largest single source of atmospheric mercury emissions. There are no commercially available “clean coal” technologies to prevent mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants.
The coal industry’s main strength and selling point is that coal is cheaper than renewable energy like wind, or solar because many of the costs of burning coal are hidden or externalized. These are costs that we will pay as individuals, like asthma in young children from the air pollution caused by burning coal. Climate change is another externalized cost of burning coal that is difficult to quantify. How much does the loss of a mountaintop, or Appalachian culture and community cost?

The coal industry estimates that cleaning up fly ash would cost as much as $5 billion a year. If every coal-fired plant in the U.S. added carbon capture and sequestration technology or implemented other (unproven) “clean coal” technologies, that figure could easily double. We would pay that price through higher energy costs.

Coincidentally, the EPA released a study last week claiming that it will cost Americans $22 billion, or roughly $100 per family each year, to meet the goals of the Climate Bill currently debated in the senate. We will pay either way. The big question is what we will get for our money, a transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy or a temporary band-aid solution courtesy of Big Coal?

 Locally, we still get half our electricity from coal, but we have entrepreneurs like Jim Taylor with promising projects like Taylor Biomass, Walden’s hydroelectric dam, and Montgomery’s mill that still generates hydropower as well. Soon we will have cul-de-sac communities sharing large photovoltaic arrays, and maybe even wind turbines dotting pastures where cows graze. Let’s support and develop local renewable energy sources and keep our energy dollars in the local economy.

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

What a Revolting Development…

Monday, October 26th, 2009

By Michael Kaufman

Whenever things got to be too much for Chester A. Riley, played by William Bendix on the old “Life of Riley” TV show, he would exclaim, “What a revolting development this is!” I uttered those same words last week as a I came to the yellow blinkers and four-way stop signs that now disrupt the flow of traffic on Grand Street in Warwick. 

The stop signs and blinkers were deemed necessary thanks to the location of Liberty Green, the handiwork of millionaire developer Jonah Mandelbaum and enabled by his accomplices among the local powers that be. The name Liberty Green is something of a misnomer, sort of like the way they name places built in the broiling, treeless sunlight of South Florida: “Welcome to the Shady Maple Motel.” Take away green space and replace it with a garishly lit, hideous brown building and call it “Green.” Populate it with older women and men who are not at liberty to afford the more expensive adult condos at Warwick Grove and voila…the perfect name.

Mandelbaum, as noted in a previous post,  is a member of something called the Warwick Development Coalition, where he is joined by the likes of Robert Krahulik, vice chairman of the Warwick Republican Committee and head honcho of the Chamber of Commerce. Krahulik is a lawyer whose office handles real estate closings. What a coincidence. (His office also orchestrated the infamous “stealth” campaign that unseated Village Justice Richard Farina in the last election. )

More recently Krahulik published a letter in the weekly Warwick Advertiser in response to a brief letter by resident Jerry Sander. Sander wrote about the checkered and violent antics he had observed on the part of followers of Lyndon LaRouche in the 1970s. He did this after several LaRouche followers set up a table in front of the Wawick Post Office, brandishing pictures of President Obama with the word “Nazi” beneath it, and similar offensive materials. Near the end of his letter was this sentence: “Local Warwick Republicans might consider this before they offer these nuts their support.” 

Sadly, there had been more than a few passersby who signed petitions, donated money, and otherwise expressed support for the hateful depictions of the president, as well as a degrading poster targeting Nancy Pelosi. It is reasonable to assume that at least some of these passersby were Republicans, perhaps unaware of the history of the LaRouche cult, which Sander had briefly elucidated in his letter.

Krahulik responded with a sledgehammer.  First he accused Sander of attempting “to tie the Republican Party to the anti-Obama rhetoric of the LaRouche PAC.” This, he added, was “but a feeble attempt to advance his [Sander’s] agenda and that of the left. Those on the far left do this often when they can’t win an argument on substance. They resort to personal attacks or distortions of fact.” And, he added,  “I have faith in the intelligence of the reader to understand and comprehend the truth.” Me too. The truth is that anyone looking for personal attacks or distortions of facts will find them in Krahulik’s nasty letter…not Sander’s.

“Mr. Sander’s advocates did the same thing when they dismissed those of us who took time from work and family to spill onto our Nation’s Capitol Mall and Plaza to peacefully protest this government’s radical reform of our health care delivery system,” continued Krahulik. It seems like Krahulik thinks he deserves a medal for his sacrifice and heroism in going to Washington for a demonstration.  And what exactly does he mean by “Mr. Sander’s advocates?”

All that was just part of the opening sentence of a long paragraph detailing the demonstrators’ complaints about such things as “over regulation into major industries.” He also said, “They called us angry white racists rather than debating the issues.” And, “Of course we all would like to see health care reform, but at what price?” Funny, he didn’t mention tort reform anywhere in his diatribe. But just where does Jerry Sander’s letter fit into all this?

“Sadly, Mr. Sander and his minions don’t like dealing with the facts,” concluded Krahulik, “and worse yet, are now attempting to hide the facts and the truth from the American people.” Mr. Sander and his “minions”? All Sander did was offer a word of caution to local Republicans about associating with the LaRouche cult.

The last time Krahulik had a letter in the paper it was to announce the support of the Chamber of Commerce for the firing of school bus drivers as a way of keeping school taxes down. By then it was already a done deal but he couldn’t resist the opportunity to pile on, offering his sympathy (of course) to those of our neigbors about to lose their jobs and benefits… while  explaining that it just had to be done.

There’s an election coming up Tuesday. A local Republican campaign sign says, “Preserve our agricultural heritage.” These are the  same people who opposed PDR, the purchase of development rights, that has preserved some–but not enough–of our local farm land. (But notice how the elected ones always show up for the PDR photo ops?) And for all their complaints about large national issues, they have done nothing locally to help our dairy farmers stay afloat. 

With guys like Mandelbaum and Krahulik calling the shots for the Republicans, the only way our agricultural heritage will be preserved is in a museum. What a revolting development! 

Michael can be reached at

Photo of the week – Oct 25, 2009

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

THE ENCHANTED FOREST - The enchanted forest is a path that's traveled,bearing your load as your cares unravel. With the trees and the grass your only guide, as you walk so softly in your stride. Where everyone lives in harmony here, for this is a place sacred and dear. (Gigli 2009).  Phot was tken at Ringwood State Park, N.J.

THE ENCHANTED FOREST - The enchanted forest is a path that's traveled, bearing your load as your cares unravel. With the trees and the grass your only guide, as you walk so softly in your stride. Where everyone lives in harmony here, for this is a place sacred and dear. (Gigli 2009). Photo was taken at Ringwood State Park, N.J.

Photography by Rich Gigli







On the Mark? Off the Mark?

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

By Jeffrey Page

Hello, anybody there?

I’m just checking to see if anyone’s reading Zest of Orange. Please note that this is not an official posting by Zest of Orange, but just by me.

Though I must tell you that some others in this little cabal are wondering the same thing: Are you there? Do you find us informative? Entertaining? Do you agree with what you see in Zest? Or do you think we’re totally off the mark? Any suggestions?

I did a quick check over the weekend at the Zest of Orange site and found that the Zest writers, photographer and artists have posted 125 columns, photographs and paintings since late May, when the site got under way. Since then, we’re received 120 comments. Not much of a dialogue – about one reader-comment per posting.

Common sense tells me that if readers have nothing to say about what they read, they must be bored. And God protect readers from being bored. The idea of Zest of Orange is to be sharp, witty, provocative and entertaining. I would hope we’re doing a pretty good job.

So, are you reading us? What do you think?

Let us know.


Jeffrey can be reached at