Archive for October, 2010

Election pleasantries

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

By Jeffrey Page

I may be the only person who actually bet on George McGovern in 1972 – $5 down the drain – so you can believe me when I say I’m familiar with hope, naïveté and disappointment. I’m sitting here looking over the Times on the morning after the elections. I’m looking for assurance. It’s there, but in extremely small measure.

–With a little luck, we’ve seen the last of Carl Paladino. In New York we don’t abide Paladino’s threatening to have a reporter killed for raising troublesome questions. And we don’t tolerate his sending emails showing African tribesmen dancing outside a grass hut with the caption “Obama Inaugural Rehearsal.” We don’t accept Paladino’s pornographic emails. Nor do we accept his referring to former Governor George Pataki as “a degenerate idiot.” Maybe Carl Paladino will do New York a favor and just disappear.

–How did anyone in Connecticut decide whom to support for Chris Dodd’s Senate seat? On one hand was Linda McMahon whose claim to fame is her association with World Wrestling Entertainment, which has as much to do with wrestling as Carl Paladino has to do with good taste. WWE is about sex and violence. McMahon’s opponent was Richard Blumenthal, the state attorney general, whose war record is exemplary but for one fact: It doesn’t exist. Not just once or twice but on several occasions Blumenthal claimed to have served in Vietnam and even suggested that he got a hostile reception when he returned. In fact he never set foot in Vietnam. This is called lying, right? Never mind finding the lesser of two evils; I couldn’t have voted for either one.

–In losing a bid for Joe Biden’s old Senate seat in Delaware, Christine O’Donnell actually conned 123,000 people into voting for her. Unbelievable. She’s the Tea Party darling who couldn’t name a Supreme Court decision she opposes – “I know there are a lot,” she said – and promised to list one on her web site. I still can’t find it. Her site described her as someone who “strongly believes in protecting the sanctity of life at all stages,” which is pretty nervy talk for someone who not only opposes sex outside marriage but masturbation as well.

–As of this morning, Tea Partier Joe Miller is a loser, but his race for senator from Alaska may take a while to decide. He challenged the Republican incumbent Lisa Murkowski, got Sarah Palin’s endorsement, beat Murkowski in the primary, and then was shocked when Murkowski announced she would wage a write-in campaign against him. Right now she’s up by 7 percentage points. Why do I care? Because it was Miller and his little band of hired thugs who held a reporter incommunicado for 25 minutes for asking questions Miller didn’t want to address. That’s cause for disqualification.

–Running for governor of Minnesota, Tom Emmer came in second by just 1 percentage point. With luck, that 1 percent will stand during the likely recount. Emmer is the candidate who dismissed a portion of the people of Minnesota by reducing his position on gay marriage to 12 words: “I believe marriage is the union between one man and one woman.” That’s like being asked about Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity and responding “I don’t buy it; next question.”

–Happily, Cuomo vanquished the loathsome Paladino. Maurice Hinchey is going back to the House; would that John Hall were going back with him. Meg Whitman learned that even spending $140 million of your own money doesn’t get you elected if the voters perceive you to be a hypocrite. She railed against illegal immigrants but paid one to clean her house for nine years and the claimed she, uh, didn’t know.

–Good news was overwhelmed by the fact that plenty of Sarah Palin acolytes were elected around the country. Palin? 2012? Can’t happen. Bet you $5.

Jeffrey can be reached at

Sustainable Living by Shawn Dell Joyce

Saturday, October 30th, 2010

The best way to preserve idyllic vistas like our Shawangunk Ridge, is to support the small farms that pay the taxes and upkeep on those beautiful open fields. Eating locally is one of the best environmental contributions you can make to preserve scenic vistas and open space. Another one is through the Orange County Land Trust in partnership with the Wallkill River School.

The Wallkill River School is a nonprofit collective of artists that understands the importance of “eating your view.” Like their predecessors in the Hudson River School, (only more local) the artists preserve remaining farms and vistas through their paintings and activism. The Wallkill River School brings urban artists out to rural farms and open spaces to paint, and connect viscerally with the land that sustains us. This year, artists painted on Orange County Land Trust sites across the county that are preserved, and farms in danger of being developed.

This Saturday, at the Wallkill River School in Montgomery, artists are auctioning off their paintings to benefit the Orange County Land Trust and keep these important views picture-perfect for future generations. The auction art can be previewed all week, and on Saturday until 3pm. Live auction will begin then, and is conducted by Orange County Tourism director Susan Havermale Cayea. Refreshments will be served.

The sale of the artwork benefits the artist and the Land Trust, and is a great way to make a donation to the Land Trust and receive a piece of land you are preserving through a local artist.

Shawn Dell Joyce is the director of the Wallkill River School combining plein air painting with environmental activism.

Those Annoying Robot Campaign Calls

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

By Michael Kaufman

In the last few days alone I’ve gotten phone calls from Ed Koch (twice), Carl Paladino, Nan Hayworth, Chris Christie, and a happy-sounding guy who sounded like he was from Texas. The guy who sounded like he was from Texas invited me to attend “the mother of all tea parties” Saturday in Putnam County.  Last week there was a call from someone who told me that “Rockland County needs Scott Vanderhoef.”

Because these messages are recorded, I was unable to respond.  I would have liked to have told Koch that his endorsements mean nothing to me. (I would have voted for David Carlucci anyway and I have no intention of voting for Nan Hayworth.) I would be more careful talking to Paladino: I wouldn’t want him threatening to “take me out” the way he did Fred Dicker, the venerable reporter who covers the dysfunctional political scene in Albany for the New York Post. That Paladino dude scares me.

I’d have politely told Hayworth that I prefer to have someone in Congress who will fight to preserve the Social Security system and who will work for better healthcare reform.  I would thank Governor Christie for taking time out of his busy schedule to call me—a  voter in a neighboring state—just to urge me to vote on Election Day. He didn’t even mention any candidate or political party by name. He just sounded like a swell guy with no ulterior motives such as national political aspirations.

And I would have read the tea party guy something someone emailed to me the other day. It goes like this:

To the Tea Party crowd….
You didn’t get mad when a covert CIA operative got outed.
You didn’t get mad when the Patriot Act got passed.
You didn’t get mad when we illegally invaded a country that posed no threat to us.
You didn’t get mad when we spent over 800 billion… (and counting) on said illegal war.
You didn’t get mad when Bush borrowed more money from foreign sources than the previous 42 Presidents combined.
You didn’t get mad when over 10 billion dollars in cash just disappeared in Iraq .
You didn’t get mad when you found out we were torturing people.
You didn’t get mad when Bush embraced trade and outsourcing policies that shipped 6 million American jobs out of the country.
You didn’t get mad when the government was illegally wiretapping Americans.
You didn’t get mad when we didn’t catch Bin Laden.
You didn’t get mad when Bush rang up 10 trillion dollars in combined budget and current account deficits.
You didn’t get mad when you saw the horrible conditions at Walter Reed.
You didn’t get mad when we let a major U.S. city, New Orleans, drown.
You didn’t get mad when we gave people who had more money than they could spend, the filthy rich, over a trillion dollars in tax breaks. You didn’t get mad with the worst 8 years of job creations in several decades.
You didn’t get mad when over 200,000 U.S. citizens lost their lives because they had no health insurance.
You didn’t get mad when lack of oversight and regulations from the Bush Administration caused U.S. citizens to lose 12 trillion dollars in investments, retirement, and home values.
No…..You finally got mad
When a black man was elected president and decided that people in America deserved the right to see a doctor if they are sick.
Yes, illegal wars, lies, corruption, torture, job losses by the millions, stealing your tax dollars to make the rich richer, and the worst economic disaster since 1929 are all okay with you, but helping fellow Americans who are sick…Oh, Hell No!!

And finally, to the guy who told me that Rockland County needs Scott Vanderhoef, I would say, “I don’t know about Rockland but Orange County needs him like a hole in the head.” 

As for my choice in the State Assembly race in the 97th District, I’m going with Myrna Kemnitz over Assemblywoman Annie Rabbitt. Not only do I agree with Kemnitz more on the issues, but I haven’t gotten any robot calls from her or her supporters.

FROM THE VIRTUAL MAILBAG—Thanks to Tom Karlson for his suggestion for a campaign slogan to set the record straight on healthcare reform: “They passed the bill, healthcare went up, without this law, we’d be (bleeped).” Now why didn’t the DNC think of that?

Michael can be reached at

First Amendment Woe

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

By Jeffrey Page

You’re a reporter in Alaska. You trail a candidate for the U.S. Senate into a public building for a public event. You ask a tough question. The candidate demurs. You follow him into the corridor and ask it again. Then he has you arrested by his private goons.

Not since the grim days of Richard Nixon has the nation been subjected a more obvious trashing of the First Amendment’s guarantee of a free press. But something dark is happening in America and there has been surprisingly little outrage about a reporter’s being held by a swarm of non-cops. What should have been a noisy cause célèbre seems to have been quickly forgotten.

A touch of background. Alaska gave us Sarah Palin. It also gave us the defeat of a sitting Republican Senator, Lisa Murkowski, by the Tea Party favorite, Joe Miller. Murkowski, who ran a close second to Miller in the GOP primary, is waging a write-in campaign. Some polls indicate she stands a chance of upending Miller. The third candidate is the Democrat, Scott McAdams, who, despite the closeness of the Murkowski-Miller race, is not considered a factor.

So, with Murkowski breathing down his neck, Miller wasn’t eager to take tough questions from a reporter.

Miller was making a campaign stop at a public school in Anchorage on Oct. 17 when he was confronted by Tony Hopfinger, the editor of the Alaska Dispatch web site and no lapdog reporter. Hopfinger tried to ask Miller about his alleged improper use of government computers in Fairbanks North Star Borough for political purposes two years ago.

Hopfinger asked again and was told, not by Miller but by his security detail, that if he didn’t shut up he would be arrested for trespassing – at a public event in a public building. Sure enough he asked again, and sure enough Miller’s privately hired thugs placed him in handcuffs and escorted him away from the candidate. Hopfinger was taken to an adjoining hallway where he was held incommunicado for 25 minutes. The security people, two of whom were reported to be active duty Army personnel on free time, said they were going to call the police. When the cops showed up, they ordered the handcuffs removed.

It’s amusing in a morbid kind of way to think about the right wing’s disgust with government and how often it notes Jefferson’s fear of big government. But conservatives never summon up other Jeffersonian traditions, such as the need for an unfettered press.

Jefferson famously said: “… were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

He less famously said: “The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure.”

It’s one thing to refuse to answer reporters’ questions, as cowardly as that is. It’s quite another to have an annoying reporter dragged away in true Stalinist tradition. If anyone is waiting for Miller, Palin, Christine O’Donnell or any of the other Tea Party darlings to even hint that Miller’s goon squad went too far, they should bring provisions. They’re going to have a long wait.

Meanwhile, the question remains: If Miller tolerates this assault on the First Amendment as a candidate, what will he tolerate if he’s elected to the Senate?

Jeffrey can be reached at

Carrie’s Painting of the Week – 10/25/10

Monday, October 25th, 2010
Fall is blowing in with all its light and all its color and all its subtle sadness. The trees shine as if illuminated from inside, the yellows this year particularly vibrant, especially today, against the gray sky.

The wind yanks leaves from the limbs and then those leaves drop like brilliant snow, covering the ground.

Our old dog will not make it until spring. She shuffles through the leaves, walking, yes, but now unwilling to walk far at all. There were days, years, when she would race off chasing deer, and it would take a good long time for her to make her laughing way back.

And even now, when she turns to make her unswerving way home,  long before I would have turned, she looks over her shoulder, taunting, with merry eyes and a big smile. She’s had enough, she’s going home, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

There is a lot that’s like that, I think. Life goes on, people do what they will, and laugh about it, the joy of the decision as rich as any reward. I remind myself often these days to be merry, to enjoy all of this, for as long as I have it, as long as I can enjoy it. If misery is optional, that must mean joy is, too.

Good Old Girl, oil on canvas, 12x12, commission

Self-driving Cars

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

By Jason Poggioli

Wouldn’t it be nice to hop into your car, choose a destination, and just let your wheels take you away knowing that you’d arrive safely – carefully ferried by an awe-inspiring computer intelligence?  What once sounded like the stuff of far distant science fiction took a big step closer to reality two weeks ago.  Google, that ultra-hip and seemingly omniscient technology company, announced it was not only working on exactly that kind of future tech, but that it had quietly been test driving autonomous cars on busy California highways and streets for months.  That’s right, self-driving cars on the open roads of California navigating the Pacific Highway and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Of course, a human was always in the driver’s seat if it became necessary to take control of the car and apparently it was on many of the 140,000 miles Google’s fleet of modified Toyota Priuses racked up.  However, Google has stated that a whopping 1,000 of those miles were logged without a single instance of human intervention.  In fact, the worst mishap reported was a mild fender bender when a human driven car (perhaps with a mildly distracted driver?) rear-ended one of the Google cars stopped at a traffic light.

Needless to say, this news has lit the blogosphere up with speculation as to when driving a car will be relegated to join the ranks of 8 tracks and rotary phones.  The futurists are all waiting with bated breath to be able to climb into their “personal transports” to be whisked away while finishing their coffee, bagel and makeup.  Google, being most familiar with the technology, has stated for the record that it’s at least eight years away from mass production and most technologists think it’s further off than that.  What I don’t understand is why all the bloggers and tech reporters are talking about 100% automation instead of what huge benefits even partial automation would bring.

In some respects the auto industry has been taking baby steps when it comes to automating the driving experience.  Traction control and anti-lock brakes are a couple examples of technology assisted driving while most of the responsibility is still left to the human operator.  A number of car models are even offering the ability to parallel park themselves, although you still have to feed the meter.  If Google is already making prototype cars that can completely drive themselves what kinds of driving assistance can we expect to see in just a few more years?

Driver distractions are multiplying faster than a teenager’s thumbs bouncing around the keys of his cell phone.  Once upon a time (actually, just a little more than ten years ago) the car radio and morning cup of coffee were the most dangerous distractions a driver had to carefully manage.  Now we have cell phones, GPS devices, and text messages adding to a growing list of things competing with the road for our attention.  Even the cars themselves, with full computer screens in the dashboard feeding you readouts on real-time gas mileage, battery consumption, and other miscellaneous car vitals conspire to take your eyes off the road.  Something needs to step in and solve this rapidly growing danger.

I’m a big fan of technology and an even bigger fan of the idea that technology can solve the very problems it creates.  While passing laws on cell phone usage and making public service announcements about texting while driving are laudable attempts to get drivers to pay more attention I see the ultimate solution being a car that can take over when necessary.

People love to be in control and love the illusion of being in control even more.  When a driver is fully paying attention hauling down a highway at 65 miles per hour he really only has the slightest control over their vehicle and that’s why driving remains the most dangerous form of travel.  As long as drivers have their hands on the wheel, though, the illusion of control is maintained which is why so many people intuitively feel more comfortable driving rather than flying.  Giving up that imaginary control willingly and openly isn’t going to happen any time soon.

My prediction is that self-driving cars will begin as silent guardians watching over the road as you juggle that breakfast sandwich and Blackberry. Just as ABS brakes and traction control only step in when danger is inevitable so will our computerized co-pilots.  Human drivers will be content maintaining their illusion of control long after they’ve given over navigation responsibilities to their autonomous automobiles.  It can’t happen too soon.

Sustainable Living-Taylor Biomass

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

By Shawn Dell Joyce

Biomass is the “ugly duckling” of renewable energy sources because it most often utilizes garbage. Garbage as a fuel source is not as glamorous as solar energy, or as eye-catching as wind turbines. Biomass is not a new idea, as Americans used it in World War II in the form of wood alcohol. China has used a simplified version of biomass in composting pits for heat and cooking. As a renewable energy source, the leading edge of research around the world is right here in Orange County; Taylor Biomass in Montgomery.

Jim Taylor is the CEO of Taylor Biomass, and a gentle, unassuming man who looks like he would be more at home in blue jeans than a suit and tie. Taylor graduated from Valley Central High School, and started a tree pruning business rather than go to college. He built his business from scratch, often enlisting the labor of his family members until he could hire more employees.

Today Taylor runs one of the most successful recycling plants in the world. The Environmental Protection Agency promotes Taylor Recycling as a model. Taylor is so successful that inquiries are pouring in from China, Pakistan, Puerto Rico, and Africa. Taylor’s philosophy is to “keep waste out of the ground” (meaning landfills). He currently employs about seventy-five workers, and is very proud to say that Taylor Recycling has never had a death or disability.

Taylor’s mission in life is unfolding as Taylor Biomass; a waste recovery center that will convert 500 tons of waste into approximately 25 Megawatts of electric power, daily. That’s enough to power 25,000 homes. The primary product is a synthesis gas that is used to generate electricity. By products from this process include silica ash that could be used for concrete, and a small amount of emissions, less than 100 tons per year. This is the same amount of emissions generated by the electric and heating use of 10 average houses.

The way it works is municipal waste is trucked into the enclosed tip floor where it is sorted by machines. Recyclable materials are removed, and household hazardous waste and rubber are removed, resulting in 13% waste to landfills rather than the initial 550 tons per day. The resulting material is fed into a gasifier where it comes into contact with super hot sand and steam. No air is present so it doesn’t combust or smoke; instead the organic biomass portion of garbage is converted into a gas. The gas passes through a conditioning reactor to remove the contaminants. The cleaned gas is used to efficiently generate electricity.

Taylor points out that “the waste generated locally could be used to produce electricity to use locally.” This would eliminate the emission created by trucking the waste to Pennsylvania landfills, and lengthy power lines cutting through towns to meet power needs. Taylor could become our new local power utility company.

So what’s holding back this revolutionary garbage-to-electricity plant? Taylor is in the midst of a regulatory process which involves the Town of Montgomery, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and the New York State Public Service Commission.  Taylor Biomass combines the two most regulated business permit processes into one business model, making a regulatory nightmare.

“When you’re the first, you invent the process and write the rules,” says Taylor. He’s referring to the legislative difficulties his facility has faced due to the fact that “biomass” and “gasifier” are not terms most agencies understand.

“Depending on how fast we could bring this process to fruition, Montgomery could become green powered.” Taylor explains he will pay a “host community fee.” Part of this fee would include preferred customer prices for taking in garbage from the township of Montgomery, Walden and Maybrook, and lower priced renewable energy for all municipal buildings.


The Taylor Biomass facility will not only create electricity, but also jobs. High tech jobs in particular, which is something sorely needed in Montgomery. “I’ll be creating 24 jobs for the gasifier, 50 new jobs in processing and 40 High Tech jobs in the corporate head quarters,” explains Taylor. “Orange County College graduates will be given first consideration.” Taylor is firmly committed to using local labor and materials to construct his facility, and hiring local graduates to run it.

Let’s give this local green business our full support for the good of our community and the planet.

Welcome, Philo and Rachel

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

By Bob Gaydos

There is a statue in the Capitol Visitors Center in Washington, D.C., part of its Statuary Hall collection, that contains this simple inscription: “Philo Taylor Farnsworth: Inventor of Television.”

Need I say more?

For better and worse, Philo Farnsworth’s vision, and subsequent inventions, changed the world we live in. There’s no way he is not one of The 20 Most Influential Thinkers of the 20th century. At the delicate age of 13, he came up with his idea for television and at 21 made the first electronic transmission of television, which became the basis of all we take for granted today, from “Jersey Shore” to “Meet the Press.” His wife Emma’s face was the first human image transmitted via television.

As with many inventors, what he envisioned is not necessarily what developed. After fighting and beating RCA over patents, he hoped television would become a tool to bring education, news, and the arts into the living rooms of ordinary Americans. By the 1950s he had banned the use of TV in his own house, although he did make a guest appearance in 1957, as “Dr. X,“ on the popular quiz show, “I’ve Got a Secret.” The panel couldn’t guess his secret, but there‘s no mystery as to why he‘s on The List.

Similarly, Rachel Carson, marine biologist and nature writer, called by many “the mother of environmentalism,” surely had no idea of the profound impact her book, “Silent Spring,” would have on the planet she so wanted to preserve for the rest of us. Her research and elegant writing on the negative effects that the widespread use of synthetic pesticides to kill insects had on all life on the planet not only resulted in a ban on the use of DDT (which she never advocated, by the way), but it gave rise to a different way of looking at the interconnectedness of all organisms and the need to protect and conserve nature’s resources.

She died of cancer at 57, only two years after publication of her most famous book, but her legacy lives on in thr Environmental Protection Agency and in every environmental debate, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Marcellus Shale. She’s on The List.

So here’s where we stand with the list of 20 (in no specific order):

  1. Albert Einstein
  2. Gandhi
  3. Henry Ford
  4. The Wright Brothers (count as one)
  5. Thomas Edison
  6. Picasso
  7. Nikola Tesla
  8. Mark Twain
  9. James D. Watson, Francis Crick, Rosalind Franklin (DNA trio count as one)
  10. Winston Churchill
  11. Philo Farnsworth
  12. Rachel Carson

The two guys who started me on this quest both added suggestions last week. I think I’m not taking any more after this, but here’s what they offered:

  • Tim Shannon: After visiting the Roosevelt Memorial in D.C. last week, I really think that Franklin and Eleanor should be on the list as a team. The ideas that they put into practice certainly revolutionized social consciousness of not only the USA but the world. Two people from the Upper Class trying to help the struggling average Joes. Reading the quotes from these two remarkable people brought tears to my eyes. I’m thinking that they really should be there.
  • Bob Ladanyi (who is still computer-challenged: Daniel Ellsberg was very influential, not just for releasing the Pentagon Papers, which revealed the truth about much our military was hiding in Vietnam, but because he changed the way military intelligence analysts did their job. (Hope this is an accurate paraphrase.) Ellsberg, by the way, is still doing his thing.

Here are the remainders from my original list of 29: Bertrand Russell, Noam Chomsky, Carl Jung, Jean Paul Sartre, Sigmund Freud, T.S. Eliot, George Carlin, Albert Camus, Ludwig Wittgenstein, John Dewey, Bill Wilson, Dorothy Day, Bill Gates, Thomas Watson, Sam Walton, George Orwell, Margaret Sanger, Khalil Gibran, Betty Friedan and Isaac Asimov.

And here are other names suggested: Billie Holiday, The Beatles, Ken Wilbur, Vivekananda, Bob Dylan, Thomas Merton, Groucho Marx, Clarence Darrow, John Ford, Ted Williams, Al Gore, Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Jon Stewart, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Benjamin Spock, Oprah Winfrey and Diaane Ravitch.

Only room for eight more.

Gigli’s Photo of the Week – 10/24/2010

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Photography by Rich Gigli

Autumn leaves of red and gold

Sonnet 73
by William Shakespeare (1609)

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the deathbed whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourished by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

Gigli’s Photo of the Week 10/17/2010

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

Photography by Rich Gigli

White Birch Trees


Where the white birch grow,
and autumn sun shines on the shattered bark, it glows.

Like the white keys on a piano that sit side by side,
only to play the white birch melody in stride.


The winter snow will come and cover the white birch in a dream, while they sleep along the reflecting stream.


Gigli 2010