Archive for April, 2010

Tea Party Denials of Racism Fall Short

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

By Michael Kaufman


This is a message for all those tea party people who get upset when people call the tea partiers racists: If you are not a racist, why doesn’t it seem to bother you that you have racists in your movement? Why don’t you condemn the racists in your midst or at least dissociate yourselves from them? They give your movement a bad name…or don’t you care?


You can’t tell us they aren’t there. We see their signs and placards–racist images, misspellings and all–whenever we see pictures of your rallies in the newspapers and on TV…even on Fox News. Maybe you see them too. Maybe they don’t bother you so much.


Did it bother you when you saw your fellow tea partiers shouting the “n-word” at United States Representative John Lewis (D-GA) as he walked to the Capitol building during the debate on health care reform? That gave me a chill because I remember what happened to him in Selma when he marched for civil rights in the 1960s. Maybe you don’t remember.


I guess Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glen Beck, Mark Levin, et al, don’t remember either. Or they just don’t care. You know, “they” use that n-word a lot themselves in their rap music so what’s the big deal if white people use it once in a while? Chris Rock answers that question a lot better than I can. So if you ever feel like taking a break from talk radio and Fox News some time, check out his explanation on Youtube:


After you’re done watching Chris Rock, I suggest you work on your spelling. The Christian Science Monitor recently ran some photos from tea party rallies around the country that made lovers of good language cringe. Ironically, a lot of the signs that butchered the English language were carried by white folks who don’t like the idea that some people in this country speak Spanish. A sign calling on Americans to “boycott Mexico” proclaimed. “Respect Are-Country Speak English”


One sign denounced health-care reform, calling it, “One Hugh Mistake.” Another announced, “Not An Extremist, Just Extremey Overtaxed!!! No Amesty.” “Feedom Doesn’t Come Free,” said a placard held by a white teenager. A patriotic white man wearing a hat and shirt that was red, white, and blue with white stars, was captured in the midst of writing his masterpiece: “Birth Certifict Where Obama…”


A smiling young blonde woman held a sign that declared, “Obama Has a Crisis of Competnce.” Another demanded, “Repeel Congress.” And last but not least was a sign that said, “Thank You Fox News for Keeping Us Infromed.” You can see the whole appalling display at


But frankly I am far more appalled at the racism than the bad spelling. Not long ago I received an email from Dr. Michael Franzblau, who provided details about the health-care system in Nazi Germany for a recent post. Dr. Franzblau is a hero of mine. He lost 25 relatives on one horrific day during World War II. Nazis locked his family members in their synagogue in Poland, set it on fire and shot those who tried to escape. “I live with the thought of the Holocaust every single day of my life,” says the retired dermatologist.


Years later, during research on medical ethics, Franzblau stumbled upon the case of Hans Sewering, a German doctor and Nazi SS member, who helped implement Hitler’s plan for a master race by sending 900 disabled children from the sanitarium where he worked to a killing center. Dr. Franzblau made it his life’s mission to bring Sewering to justice and he led a successful campaign to force Sewring’s resignation after he was inexplicably named president of the World Medical Association. “I see this man as embodying everything evil that ever took place in my lifetime, as his behavior as a doctor,” said Franzblau.


So when Michael Franzblau has something to say, I pay attention. And here is what he wrote about the racism of some tea partiers and those who use images of President Obama with a Hitler mustache to protest health-care reform: “Joseph Goebbels would be delighted with the dangerous distortion of the facts concerning the truth about Nazism. I am 83 and a veteran of WWII. I never thought that overt attacks on people of color would be tolerated again in the United States.”


But tolerated they are, especially by the personalities at Fox News, who do such a wonderful job of keeping their viewers “infromed.”


Michael can be reached at



The Politics of Goofiness

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

By Jeffrey Page

You think New York is a political circus?

In this year’s senate election in Nevada, the incumbent is the hapless Harry Reid, the senate majority leader, who alienated millions of people out of jobs and maybe out of hope with some ill-conceived comments. He’s being challenged by the treacly Sue Lowden, a woman in her own sentimental dream world.

Let us begin with Reid and recall that skin-crawling moment in March when he hauled himself in front of the microphones to discuss the February jobs report. Labor observers had anticipated a loss of 75,000 jobs. The actual loss was 36,000. Reid should have celebrated the unaffected 39,000, expressed some sympathy for the 36,000 newly unemployed people, and called it a day.

But he blew it with a line that will be remembered when Nevadans – those with jobs and those without – go to the polls this fall. He said: “Today is a big day in America. Only 36,000 people lost their jobs today, which is really good.”

That’s an accurate quote. Democrats will complain that it was taken out of context, but there are 36,000 people who will remember it as the message from a man who doesn’t care much. The Republicans raised a good point when it suggested that Reid ask a few of the 36,000 people whom had lost their jobs in February how “really good” the numbers were. It’s virtually assured that Reid’s gaffe will be replayed time after time in GOP campaign ads this year.

But wait. Just when you thought Harry Reid is a blithering idiot, along comes the blithering Sue Lowden, who is Reid’s likely Republican challenger. Lowden has some ideas about medical coverage and insurance she’d like you to know about.

She said: “You know, before we all started having health care, in the olden days, our grandparents, they would bring a chicken to the doctor. They would say [to the doctor] I’ll paint your house…. In the old days that’s what people would do to get health care with their doctors. Doctors are very sympathetic people. I’m not backing down from that system.” (A chicken for an office visit is a “system?”)

First of all, Lowden knows nothing of days when you might have paid the doctor with a chicken since she’s only 57 years old and doctors weren’t accepting chickens in lieu of payment in the years after 1953.

Second, to fully appreciate the cynicism of her chicken-in-lieu-of-cash recollection it is important to note that Sue Lowden and her husband are worth about $50 million and never – even if they live to be 100 – will fret about their ability to obtain and pay for the finest medical care available. You and I may know people who’ll decide to save money by cutting their prescription dosages in half. But the Lowdens never will have to do that.

Chicken for treatment, indeed. I must quote the inimitable Gail Collins of the Times, who said recently: “Lowden has yet to explain how much poultry it would cost for a colonoscopy.”

Lowden’s health care solution places her in the jabbering wing of the Republican Party that believes if you stand on the shore of the Bering Strait as the fog lifts you qualify as an expert on Russo-American relations because you’re facing Russia 55 miles across the water.

If elected, Sue Lowden presumably would go to Washington loaded with uncomplicated, easy-to-understand solutions for other problems we face.

Education? Dismiss all those high priced teachers.

Taxes? Just end ‘em.

Immigration? Dig a 5,000-mile trench wide and deep.

Jeffrey can be reached at

Maybe It’s Just Me …

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010
By Bob Gaydos
(With a deep bow to Jimmy Cannon)

Maybe it’s just me, but shouldn’t it be illegal for American investment banks to conspire against their own country by handing out a bunch of lousy mortgages then bundling them together and selling them to some poor sap who thinks they’re good and then betting that those loans will fail? Isn’t that pretty much a sure thing? When your country is in the midst of a precipitous financial crisis brought about by thousands of bad mortgage loans, isn’t what Goldman Sachs did the equivalent of economic treason? Don’t the officers and board members responsible for this cynical, self-serving ploy deserve prison time? Watch the hearings. They don’t get it. They are smugly superior. Well, yeah, a bunch of people may have lost their home and jobs, but look how much money we made. That‘s why we deserve those big bonuses. If Congress can’t find room for bipartisan agreement on regulating and punishing these blood suckers, then we have truly lost our way.

Speaking of which, maybe it’s just me, but does anyone believe the pope and members of the Vatican hierarchy when they say they plan to get serious about rooting child molesters from the ranks of their priests? This molestation scandal has been going on for decades and has now spread from the United States across Europe. Can South America be far behind? Thousands of faithful have left the flock and tens of millions of dollars have been paid to families of victims in hush money and yet every time a new scandal is revealed, the pattern is the same: Priest (or bishop) molests a number of young boys over a period of time, is eventually found out, is sent somewhere for “rehabilitation” and eventually winds up working in contact with children again. No one ever calls the cops. Now, we have high-ranking cardinals attributing the molestation problem to homosexuals, following in the Church pattern of ignoring science in favor of self-preservation. They also divert attention from the more serious matter that church leaders have allowed this sin to go on by covering it up at almost every opportunity and by stubbornly refusing to find any place in the church for women, except in the pews. A Catholic Church with married priests (who have children) and women priests and altar girls would have dealt with the molesters swiftly and surely a long time ago.

On a less serious note, I have always thought Jim Carrey was a moron. Now I have proof. The actor of a thousand faces and one emotion ended his long (for Hollywood) relationship with Jenny McCarthy via Twitter. First: Jenny McCarthy! Second: Twitter! Third: Jenny McCarthy! Oh, and for good measure, he tweets (Is that really a word?) that Tiger Woods’ wife was complicit in his behavior. Carey is a moron.

Speaking of which, maybe it’s just me, but shouldn’t officials of Cal State Stanislaus, a public university, have revealed all the details of the contract they signed with Sarah Palin for a June speaking engagement there? It seems to me, students shouldn‘t have had to go dumpster-diving to find out that Palin insisted on having pre-screened questions, bottled water, bendable straws and a first-class hotel reservation for her visit. As for the fee, that’s still anybody’s guess. Maybe it’s just me, but shouldn’t boards of trustees represent the best interests of the public university?

And really, Michael, whatever happened to baseball players knowing the basic rules of the game. Exhibit’s A,B,C and D: Angel Pagan and Jose Reyes of the New York Mets and Brian McCann and Eric Hinske of the Atlanta Braves. During a recent game, Reyes hit a popup to the infield with runners on first and second and less than two outs. This initiates the much-maligned infield fly rule, which is simple: Batter is automatically out, runners go at their own risk. Here’s how it played out: Reyes’s popup was dropped, (but he was out as soon as he hit it). He ran to first anyway and stood there. McCann, who picked up the ball, threw it to first where Hinske tagged Reyes and the bag (both redundant). Meanwhile, Pagan who was on second, ran when the ball was dropped and kept running while the Braves threw the ball around and scored on a headfirst dive. Bravo, Pagan, right? Not quite. After the game, Pagan said, “I’m sure a lot of people don’t know all of the rules. (Yes, they’re called non-players.) You can’t know every one.(How about the ones that come into play almost every day?) But we talked about this in spring training. (Way to go, coaches.) I knew the batter was out (good), but I didn’t know you could run. I’m glad I learned that. (Again, way to go coaches.)”


Now, maybe it’s just me, but I’d bet everyone of those players played Little League ball and, trust me, as a former coach, Little Leaguers are taught repeatedly about the infield fly rule — both parts. When you’re making millions, you should know this basic stuff, it seems to me. Fines all around if I had my way.


And finally, doesn’t the new Arizona law letting police ask anyone for proof they are in this country legally stir memories of those old World War II movies? Pappers plizz! Ah, maybe it’s just me. 

I’m through griping for now.

Bob can be reached at




Sustainable Living – Eating (Yuchh) Oil

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

By Shawn Dell Joyce   

Americans eat almost as much fossil fuels as we burn in automobiles.  American agriculture directly accounts for 17 percent of our energy use, or the equivalent of 400 gallons of oil consumed by every man, woman and child per year according to 1994 statistics.

We have seen a major leap in farm productivity in the last 50 years with food production doubling and even tripling in the case of cereal grains. This amazing leap did not come from new farms or farmlands since we have lost more than half our small farms in that same period. Farmlands are also in decline and being gobbled up by urban sprawl.

 These massive gains in food production are due to the use of synthetic fertilizer and, to a smaller extent, better plant hybrids. “Two out of every five humans on this earth would not be alive today” without the widespread use of chemical fertilizer, says Vaclav Smil, Canadian professor, author, and energy expert.

We are eating fossil fuels in the form of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.  These marvelous inventions can be traced directly to Jewish chemist Fritz Haber. He won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1918 for “improving agriculture” through his invention of nitrate fertilizer. Unfortunately, Haber’s invention was also used by the Nazis to create Zyklon B, the gas used in the infamous death camps.

Today, a formulation based on Haber’s  Zyklon B is spread “in quantities of over 50 million metric  tons per year” on American farms as insecticides according to author and energy efficiency guru Amory Lovins.  This is 20 times more pesticide used than when Rachel Carson wrote her compelling book “Silent Spring,” warning of environmental catastrophe occurring from pesticide overuse.

 The unpalatable truth about our oil-based food system is that “ it takes 10 calories of fossil fuels to make 1 calorie of food energy” according to a study by David Pimentel, and Mario Giampietro published by the Carrying Capacity Institute. This scary statistic only takes into account the production of the food itself. If you factor in the processing, packaging, transportation, refrigeration and all of the other petroleum-intensive processes that statistic can inflate to 87 calories of fuel per calorie of food.


Why so much? Most of our food travels an average of 1500 “food miles” to get from the farm to our fork. Once these “fossil foods” get to our house we spend even more energy on refrigerating and cooking until each bite we eat is literally marinated in fossil fuels.
      We must start the transition now from the “S.U.V. diet” to a “low carbon diet.”  But how can all earth’s people be fed without fossil fuel based fertilizers and pesticides degrading the environment?

 What sustainable agriculture advocates call “organic farming practices” was simply the right way to do it for many centuries. This “new” model could double yields in highly populated countries without significant expense or resources. It is based on ecosystems’ regenerative capacity as a result of different plant associations; some of you gardeners may call it companion and rotational planting. In the Sahel (Africa), yields could be doubled by combining millet cultivation with acacia planting,” illustrates Marc Dufumier of the National Agronomic Institute.

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

Carrie’s Painting of the Week, 4/28/10

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Maryland Hill Farm

Maryland Hill Farm

By Carrie Jacobson

When we bought our house in Carroll County, Md., one of the innumerable papers we had to sign said that we understood that we were moving into a farming region, and that there would be farm smells, farm noises and farm equipment in the area.

That was 13 or 14 years ago, and enough has changed here that I wonder if buyers still have to sign that document.

The farms are not all gone, but roads that used to wind past farm after farm after farm now wind through a few farms and a bunch of developments.

Certainly, people need places to live. But does everyone need a new house? Does everyone need to live outside of the city where they work? In Baltimore, I saw beautiful but abandoned buildings everywhere. With a little money and a fair amount of work (or the opposite) these buildings could be reclaimed. Whole neighborhoods could be reclaimed. And while this would be a form of gentrification, there are enough empty buildings there to mean that the renewal need not ride in on the shoulders of displacement.

Here in the foothills of the Appalachians, here in these rolling hills, farmers still till the earth. But for how long?

If you’d like to buy this painting, email me at

Gigli’s Photo of the Week, 04/25/2010

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

Photography by Rich Gigli

RUST IN REACE - Since you'll never be forgotten. We pledge to you today. A hallowed place within our hearts. Is where you'll always stay.

RUST IN REACE - Since you'll never be forgotten. We pledge to you today. A hallowed place within our hearts. Is where you'll always stay. Photo was taken along old Rt. 17, Roscoe N.Y.

Sustainable Living – Eating Earth

Monday, April 19th, 2010

By Shawn Dell Joyce

Our Mother Earth has about 22 billion acres of usable land. This is contains about 3.3 billion acres of farm land, 8.4 billion acres of pasture land, and 10.1 billion acres of forest land. Not all of the land is fertile, which will affect its ability to produce food. We also must share this land with other species already dependent upon that land for survival.

According to Dr. Sidney Liebes’ book “A Walk Through Time,” if the earth were the scale of a ball that you could hold in your hand, the amount of usable farmland would look like a tiny speck of dust by comparison. Additionally, all the drinkable water would look like a tiny water droplet, while the breathable atmosphere would be a thin coating of shellac.

Our current ecological footprint which measures how much land it takes to feed, clothe and shelter a typical American, is about 9.6 global hectares, compared to the available 1.8 global hectares of usable land. If everyone used resources and land the way we Americans do, we would need three more planet earths to sustain our population.

Some scientists say that not only are we living beyond earth’s carrying capacity, but we are also eating up future generations’ ability to live within earth’s means. We are literally emptying the earth’s bank account rather than living off the interest as our ancestors have done, and leaving a “balance due” for future generations.

British geographer, Ernst George Ravenstein is credited with first estimating the carrying capacity of the earth to around 6 billion. Presently, at 6.5 billion, at least a billion of our population does not receive enough food energy to carry out a day’s work. Even through Ravenstein was operating on statistics from last century, he hit fairly close to home.

The World Hunger Program at Brown University estimated based on 1992 levels of food production and an equal distribution of food, “the world could sustain either 5.5 billion vegetarians, 3.7 billion people who get 15 percent of their calories from animal products (as in much of South America), or 2.8 billion people who derive 25 percent of their calories from animal products (as in the wealthiest countries).”

We have already passed all sustainable estimates and are now entering the “borrowed time” area of the population chart.  In order to provide the projected 9 billion people in 2050 with 2100 calories per day (what food aid agencies declare as the minimum caloric intake) we would have to double our global agricultural
production. Humans have already plowed over most of the usable farm land on the planet, and there is a limit to any field’s fertility.

In Orange County, we have seen our population increase by about 40,000 people per year, and are currently at a density of 418 people per square mile, and just over 816 square miles. This year, Celebrate Earth day by reducing your ecological footprint on our mother.
—– Encourage local farms by buying locally grown
—– Walk, bike, or share a ride instead of driving
—– Eat less meat
—– Invest in a greener home instead of a bigger home
—– Have smaller families and support zero population growth

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

Carrie’s Painting of the Week – 04/19/2010

Monday, April 19th, 2010



By Carrie Jacobson

I’ve made a number of these minimalist paintings of dogs and cats, and I have to say that I love them all, and this one in particular.

This is Gus, or Auguste Corleone Jacobson, my first dog as an adult. Before we knew about pet stores and puppy mills, before we understood about shelters and rescue groups, Peter and I went to a pet store and he bought Gus for me.

I’d never do that again – but I never regretted it, either. I loved Gus from the moment I saw him. He was as full of life and personality as any dog ever. We brought him home, and he raced around the house, faster and faster, barking at Najim, our Pekingese, and playing, and running and sliding on the floor, and then, all of a sudden, he collapsed, flopped right down, all four legs splayed, and dear God, I thought he was dead.

But no, that was just Gus.

He lived to be 16, and they were 16 fine years. He went fishing and camping and hiking with us in Idaho and Montana and Canada. He helped Najim recover from back surgery, finding a way to play that could engage Najim even during the weeks that he was paralyzed. When Najy was better, he and Gus would fight, on occasion, with a fury of barking and snarling and gnashing of teeth, and never any bloodshed or actual biting. Well, Peter and I were bitten a couple of times, wresting the tiny titans apart.

In Maine, the boys got to peeing around the house, marking territory, so we put them in crates when we couldn’t watch them. The crates were side by side, and after a while we realized that they were peeing on each other through the sides of the crates. Nice.

I still miss Gus. He loved to snuggle, loved to ride in the car, loved to go places and meet people. Our rescue bichon, Woodreau, is terrified of everything. He doesn’t like any of that stuff. But he is a nice little dog, and I love him dearly, and he desperately needed to be rescued.

But he is no Gus. And really, truly, he shouldn’t be.

Gigli’s Photo of the Week 04/18/2010

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

Photography by Rich Gigli


- APPLE BLOSSOMS - Sweet darlings of the vernal air, Nestling your faces on the blue,The rosy goddess, Eos fair, With fond enchantment tinted you. - Augusta Larned, 1895. Photo taken Cooke Falls, N.Y.

Really Dumb Jokes

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

By Jeffrey Page

So here’s Chris Christie, the pugnacious new governor of New Jersey, basically announcing that the state’s teachers, and many other public workers, are the chief cause of high taxes in the Garden State.

So he wants to freeze teachers’ pay. You can imagine what the teachers think of this.

Though teacher contracts are worked out by the New Jersey Education Association and the local districts, Christie has a lot to say about teacher pay because he decides the extent of state aid to the school districts.

This is a man that any intelligent person would want to deal with very carefully. But the NJEA has stepped into a bucket and can‘t get its foot out. Here‘s Joe Coppola and several other officials of the NJEA pulling a stupid stunt that makes the union look like a bunch of out-of-control jackasses, gains sympathy for Christie, and creates an atmosphere in which an aide to the governor can ask the legitimate question: “How [does the union] explain themselves to the children?”

At issue of course is the infamous NJEA memo about how the union will slug it out with Christie, but winds up with a prayer that Christie calls dangerous, the union calls a joke, and most everybody else calls idiotic. As reported by The Record of Hackensack, it goes like this: “Dear Lord: This year you have taken away my favorite actor, Patrick Swayze; my favorite actress, Farrah Fawcett; my favorite singer, Michael Jackson, and my favorite salesman Billy Mays. I just wanted to let you know that my favorite governor is Chris Christie.”

The joke got out to the public, and the union was left stammering that it was a joke, that it was never meant to be made public, that it was inappropriate, that union officials would never wish anybody dead, and blah blah blah. The union could be using its time to better advantage than explaining the jest.

By the way, NJEA couldn‘t even get the joke right. The Lord didn‘t take Swayze, Fawcett, Jackson and Mays this year. They all died in 2009, but the union never thought to update the list.

Why do otherwise intelligent people forget that words have meaning and that many in the public take those meanings at face value?

Here‘s another moronic joke told recently, this one by a Qatari diplomat. As Mohammed el-Madadi was leaving the bathroom on a Washington-Denver flight, an attendant smelled smoke and confronted Madadi who said he had not smoked but had been trying to set fire to his shoe.

Madadi said it was a joke. I wonder what the other passengers thought as they recalled Richard Reid, the original would-be shoe bomber. I wonder what the Air Force thought as it scrambled some jet fighters to intercept Madadi‘s flight. I wonder what the FBI thought as it entered the case.

Here‘s another. The Times Herald-Record reported this week that Sullivan County Judge Frank LaBuda ordered a lawyer to perform 100 hours of community service. Why? Because the attorney, William Brenner, had told LaBuda that there had been no plea deal talks for his client.

“In fact there had been several,” the Record noted dryly and went on to present a great quote from LaBuda to Brenner. Community service would be a reminder “to put your mind in action before your mouth.”

I‘m reminded of the never-ending battle between New Jersey environmental officials and people who love bears. The bear population is growing and the state has on occasion sanctioned a bear hunt. At a demonstration in Vernon, few years ago, one of the anti-hunt people carried a sign that said: “DROP McGREEVEY, NOT BEARS.”

McGreevey was the governor. You know what “drop” means.

The leader of the bear defenders was outraged when the wording on her protest sign appeared in the newspaper the next day. It was a joke, she said. Not to be taken literally, she said. She would never wish anybody dead, she said.

The most intelligent perspective on how to deal with political foes came from Bob Dole when he ran against Bill Clinton in 1996. Dole said he was shocked at Clinton’s personal conduct and went on to predict that the House would impeach him.

And Dole left it at that, saying of Clinton: “He‘s my opponent. He‘s not my enemy.”

But that of course was before politics became a blood sport.

Jeffrey can be reached at