Archive for March, 2011

Gigli’s Photo of the Week

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

Photography by Rich Gigli

Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant - The Day after.

The original photograph of the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant was recreated in PhotoShop using multiple filters to dramatize the possibility of a nuclear accident.

Carrie’s Painting of the Week

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Reservoir Sunrise

A pair of hawks is nesting in the trees along the driveway.

They are beautiful creatures, red-tailed hawks with enormous wingspans. They soar and circle effortlessly, their high-pitched cries tearing at the morning’s quiet.

I am excited to see them, excited to have them in our yard.

But I’m worried, too.

Every summer, bluebirds nest in houses along our back fence. Woodpeckers come for suet, gold finches for thistle, chickadees and cardinals and bluebirds, orioles and titmice and house finches, sparrows and bluejays and grosbeaks and more all visit our feeders.

And this year, they could be in danger.

Maybe the hawks are far enough from the feeders. Maybe the feeders are close enough to the house. Maybe there are enough moles and voles, chipmunks and squirrels, field mice and bunnies to keep the hawks happy. Maybe the hawks will go hunt in the nature preserve that borders our land.

But maybe they won’t.

I look at the hawks, soaring above the yard, and I feel something inside me that is as wild as they are, as predatory, as simple. It is the thing that fights for what I believe, that protects my daughter and grandchildren, that loves with abandon and strives with ferocity. It’s pretty deep in me, most of the time, but it is there, close enough to be summoned. Close enough to rise up on its own.

There is more in me that is like the yard birds, twittery and flighty, more tame than wild, willing to take a chance to get a good meal.

In most of us, I think, the balance is pretty much like that. The hawk is there, but down deep.

I will watch, this summer, and I will hope. I will move the feeders closer to the house. I will be ready to defend our yard birds. Everyone deserves to live, and I will do what I can to make sure that everyone does.

Interested in this painting? It’s oil on canvas, 24×24. Contact me at for price and delivery information.

Gerry and Sarah, Blazing the Trail

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

“In politics stupidity is not a handicap.”

— Napoleon

By Bob Gaydos

The last time I saw Geraldine Ferraro, it was one of those hot, humid, mid-August afternoons when pressing the flesh and asking people to vote for you was not at the top of the list of favorite things to do for most politicians. It was at the Ulster County Fair and I had just reminisced my way through an hour of the current edition of the Drifters singing their collection of timeless hits and was in search of something cold to drink.

I turned a corner and there she was, standing virtually alone, the sun beating down on her, yet looking amazingly cool in her crisp, white, tailored blouse. Why wasn’t anyone talking to her, I wondered. Don’t they know who she is? She ran for vice president of the United States. She could have been — should have been — elected senator from New York six years ago.

It was 1998 and I was writing editorials for the Times Herald-Record and so I introduced myself to the Senate candidate. We shook hands, she smiled and politely said, oh yes, nice to see you again, Bob. I noticed she wasn’t quite the cool customer I had thought as she, too, had sweat beads on her forehead. We chatted briefly and I seem to recall an air of calm resignation about her, although how much of that is real and how much the product of history, I can’t be sure. At any rate, she answered my questions graciously and moved on as, eventually, some of the other fair-goers began to recognize her.

For all intents and purposes, Ferraro faded into political obscurity soon after that. She had started the campaign a heavy favorite to win, because of her name recognition, but was drubbed in the Democratic primary by then-Congressman Charles Schumer, a guy who knows how to work a county fair crowd and who had millions more than Ferraro to spend on his campaign. Schumer went on to become the ubiquitous Senator Chuck. Ferraro went on to a battle with cancer that lasted the rest of her life.

Ferraro died Saturday, at age 75, of a form of blood cancer. She was diagnosed with the disease in November 1998, shortly after the Senate campaign, but did not reveal her illness until more than two years later. She more than doubled the survival rate for her cancer, which may have had as much to do with her toughness as with the bone marrow transplant and drug therapies she received. During those years she became an energetic advocate for research and education on blood cancer as well as for opportunities for women in politics and in professional careers. In sum, the Italian-American daughter of Newburgh was well-deserving of the tributes paid to her as a pioneer for women’s equality.

Which brings me to that quote at the top of this column. No, it does not refer to Ferraro. She was feisty. (In 1984, when she was Walter Mondale’s running mate on the Democratic Party presidential ticket, she had this to say in answer to a question about her debate with George H.W. Bush: “I readily admit I was not an expert on foreign policy but I was knowledgeable and I didn’t need a man who was the Vice President of the United States and my opponent turning around and putting me down.”) She was intelligent; she was well-informed and well-spoken; she was curious. She was, in sum, a serious political candidate.

But Napoleon, bless his egotistical little heart, was right. None of those attributes is necessary for success in politics.

Consider, as Rod Serling used to say, the curious case of Michelle Bachmann. She has been elected to Congress four times in Minnesota and is regularly mentioned as a possible Republican presidential candidate in 2012. You may have heard that, on a recent fund-raising visit to New Hampshire, Bachmann said, “You’re the state where the shot was heard around the world in Lexington and Concord.”

Uh huh. She is also famous for saying, “Death panels are the bureaucracies that President Obama is establishing where bureaucrats will make the decision on who gets health care and how much.” The founder of the Tea Party caucus in the House of Representatives also believes: “Carbon dioxide is natural, it is not harmful, it is a part of Earth’s lifecycle. And yet we’re being told that we have to reduce this natural substance, reduce the American standard of living, to create an arbitrary reduction in something that is naturally occurring in Earth.”

And what the heck, one more from Bachmann: ”I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out under another, then under another Democrat president, Jimmy Carter. I’m not blaming this on President Obama, I just think it’s an interesting coincidence.”

The last Senate campaign also gave us Christine O’Donnell as a Tea Party Republican candidate in Delaware. O‘Donnell had perhaps the most intriguing campaign theme of all time: “I’m not a witch.”

Meanwhile, in Arizona, Sharron Angle ran for the Senate as a Tea Party Republican offering this bit of political strategy: ”I hope that’s not where we’re going, but you know if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying my goodness what can we do to turn this country around? I’ll tell you the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out.” Sweet.

But of course, the godmother of Tea Party Republicans is Sarah (Half-term) Palin. Palin is to the Republican Party as Ferraro was to the Democrats. Sort of. Palin was the first female to run for vice president on the Republican ticket. She also could be described (in fact, insists on being described) as feisty. There, the similarities end. Entire web sites now exist devoted to the utterings of Palin: A small sampling:

  • ”If God had not intended for us to eat animals, how come He made them out of meat?” (In her book, ”Going Rogue”)
  • My concern has been the atrocities there in Darfur and the relevance to me with that issue as we spoke about Africa and some of the countries there that were kind of the people succumbing to the dictators and the corruption of some collapsed governments on the continent, the relevance was Alaska’s investment in Darfur with some of our permanent fund dollars. Never, ever did I talk about, well, gee, is it a country or a continent, I just don’t know about this issue.”
  • “Another big question that has to be answered, Greta, is are we at war? I haven’t heard the president state that we’re at war. That’s why I too am not knowing — do we use the term intervention? Do we use war? Do we use squirmish? What is it?” (On the U.S. and NATO bombing of Libya, March 29.)
  • In New Delhi, India, on March 19, she was asked why the Republicans did not win in 2008. “I was not the top of the ticket,” was her reply.

Having thus thrown John McCain — the man who made her career possible — under the bus, Palin showed herself to be as capable of cutthroat politics as any man and, like Ferraro, a trailblazer for women in her own right. I can sense some female readers getting a bit restless about now, so let me offer one more Palinism: “Who hijacked term: ‘feminist’? A cackle of rads who want 2 crucify other women w/whom they disagree on a singular issue; it’s ironic (& passé)” (In a Twitter message, Aug. 18, 2010).

You may argue that Palin is not in Ferraro’s league as a qualified, well-informed, competent and coherent politician, and you would be right, but you cannot deny that Palin was the first woman to be part of a GOP presidential ticket. You can also not deny that being smart, serious and substantive were not always regarded as necessary in males who ran for the same office (just go back as far as Dan Quayle and Spiro Agnew and I can’t help it if these are all Republicans).

No, Napoleon was on to something. You can be dumb and succeed in politics. Geraldine Ferraro may have blazed the trail for them, but thanks to Sarah, Michelle, et al, women in America have finally achieved political equality with men.

I for one wish they had aimed a bit higher.

Bob can be reached at

What to Cut?

Monday, March 28th, 2011

By Jeffrey Page
I went to Congresswoman Nan Hayworth’s Town Hall meeting in Warwick over the weekend. She assured the audience that the federal government spends too much money and that this is why the nation is in such deep debt.

She complained that the government has been operating through deficit spending for the last several decades. How serious is this? Pretty dire, Hayworth said. In fact, a flyer entitled “The Facts About Our Debt,” which was created by the House Republican Conference and which was given to everyone in the audience, noted that the debt stands at $14 trillion, and that this amounts to a $45,500 “birth tax” for every kid born this year.

Read that again. Fact is that if you divide $14 trillion by $45,500, you learn that we can expect to have 308 million babies born in 2011. But just two years ago, only 4.1 million babies were born. Hayworth should get a bill passed to send the wizards at the GOP Conference to classes in remedial math and how to tell the truth.

No matter. Hayworth went on to explain the difference between mandatory spending and discretionary spending. The former is the money we spend on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The latter is everything else.

“We have a debt crisis because Washington spends too much, not because Washington taxes too little,” the mathematically challenged flyer said.

“I want taxes to be lower,” Hayworth said. “Our mission is to cut federal spending.” That might have sounded bold for a moment, but it was gutless because at no time did she say what it is she would cut or eliminate.

Come on, Congresswoman, be specific.

–Would you get rid of the Veterans Administration? VA hospitals? You could not be that cruel.

–The FBI? The Secret Service? How about the entire Justice Department so we can dismiss all those high paid U.S. attorneys and their staffs? Of course, this leaves unanswered the question of who would prosecute terror suspects.

–How about federal agriculture assistance? Oh wait, not with all the farms in Orange County and the rest of your district.

–Congressional salaries? What about the House of Representatives cafeteria? You’re in the House majority; will you propose a pay cut?

–The Army Corps of Engineers? Lot of griping about the corps after Katrina, right?

–How about the National Weather Service? Oops, farmers depend on this service.

–The Internal Revenue Service? Ha-ha! That’s a good one. Who would collect the taxes that you don’t want to spend on anything frivolous?

–Yellowstone National Park? After all, it’s just a big wilderness with some geysers.

–The Small Business Administration? Uh, better not; you’d have a lot of explaining to do to calm the Chamber of Commerce.

–The Food and Drug Administration? Hey, if people can’t figure out which products are impure, maybe they should just go take a class somewhere.

–The Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program that gets milk, eggs, juice and bread to poor women and kids under 5? Nah, no one could be vicious enough to do away with this. Could they?

Hayworth never addressed the question of what she would cut. So on Monday I sent her an e-mail and asked her. As soon as I get a response, I’ll post it right here at Zest of Orange.

Reach Jeff at jeffrey

Freecycling Lessens the Waste Stream

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

By Shawn Dell Joyce
Each one of us produces 1.2 tons of garbage per year, which is mainly bagged household trash. What’s not included in that figure are all the perfectly usable goods that get thrown out each year such as old furniture, clothes, books, obsolete technology and working appliances.

Many of these items are yard sale fodder or can be found parked by the curb with a “free” sign attached. If you can’t find what you need through curb shopping, or the classifieds in the paper, try websites like Craig’s List, and Freecycle. You can pretty much search any category from ab-workout machines to xylophones and find what you need. For cash-strapped families, or people who just wish to avoid adding to the consumerist culture, buying second-hand is the way to go.

The good news is that it also creates more economic impact in your local community when you buy something used from a neighbor than new from a big box store. In addition to filling your home with beautiful, new-to-you furniture, it helps reduce the solid waste stream flowing into our landfills. It takes a lot of energy and resources to produce new consumer goods each year. By reusing items, we extend the lifecycle of such goods, and reduce the environmental impact of our purchases.

In my circle of friends, we exchange garbage bags full of used clothing freely. We often have parties centered around exchanging used clothes, or trading hand-made things. Some of these parties have been open to the public, and leftover clothes were donated to families of migrant workers.

There are a few stores in the area that cater to a reusing crowd, like the Goodwill store in Middletown and Recycled Style in Montgomery. Walden has several, and Newburgh has Habitat for Humanity’s Restore for usable building materials. New Paltz is the new home of the Hudson Valley Materials Exchange, which specializes in redirecting usable things from the waste stream. Many materials can be used for art and educational purposes.

A paradigm is a collection of assumptions, concepts, beliefs and values that together make up a community’s way of viewing reality. Our current paradigm dictates that more stuff is better, that infinite economic growth is desirable and possible, and that pollution is the price of progress. To really turn things around, we need to nurture a different paradigm, based on the values of sustainability, justice, health, and community.

Our Irish ancestors had a philosophy of “make do with less” and “want what you have.” This paradigm shapes a resilient culture that thrives on minimal goods, and builds community rather than personal wealth. Many of our grandparents survived the Great Depression and learned to live simply. Hopefully, we don’t have to suffer through that deep of an economic drop before we adopt voluntary simplicity.

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

A Pension Isn’t Greed

Saturday, March 26th, 2011

By Russ Layne
How is it I have the time to write this piece? Two years ago, it would have been impossible. Two years ago I was a full-time speech and language therapist and the cultural affairs chairman for New Jersey’s third largest school district: Paterson. Essentially, I had two full time jobs – one for which I was paid and one for which I got not a penny. But that’s what teachers who are passionate about connecting with kids do.

Paterson was virtually the birthplace of the American labor movement. The first strike in a U.S. factory took place in Paterson in 1828. Eighty-five years later Paterson – now the epicenter of the textile industry – was the site of the Great Silk Mill Strike.

Later, Paterson’s teachers organized and that’s where I come in.

My journey to becoming a teacher, despite what right-wing talking heads and newly elected reactionary governors might say, was not through mail order. First it took four years of disciplined study as an undergraduate and then another year to complete a Masters degree. Among my peers, the reality of working with kids for a respectable salary overshadowed any desire to put wealth over our interest in social responsibility. As aspiring educators, our consciousness was more focused on how we might make a difference in society. There was little talk about making big bucks.

The Paterson School District was one of the first to offer me a job and since my predilection was to work in an urban environment, I took it. I knew very little about the teachers’ union but after much cajoling by the building representative, I became a member. The union seemed like just another insurance policy, a kind of a necessary evil. It took some learning over the years to understand that despite the fact I would not get rich teaching, the union, with its failings, was responsible for preserving two benefits that every working American deserves: decent health care and a decent pension.

In fact, often when salary negotiations were stymied, the union held firm on not compromising health and pension benefits. Trying to sustain a middle-class lifestyle on a teacher’s salary was indeed problematic. For many years, I had to teach summer school. I also taught bedridden students after school hours. When my neighbor put much of his surrounding property up for sale, we asked if we could buy a small piece to preserve some sense of privacy. His answer: “You can’t afford it. You’re school teachers.”

After 38 years of a challenging yet fulfilling career, I retired. Suddenly, I and my fellow retirees are accused of being “greedy” by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Recently The Daily Show with Jon Stewart showed pundits on Fox News declaring that teachers’ pensions are “outrageous” and “enormous.” At the same time Christie, governor of the state with one of the largest populations of billionaires, has never once considered levying the Millionaires Tax – a tool accessible to him in economically stressed times.

O.K. Governor Christie, I’m willing to give up my mansion, live-in chef, servants, and maybe even my yacht and jet, but I won’t allow you to tamper with my pension or health care.

I’ve never been one to give hyperbolic lip service to public education and its unions. As with any public or private institution, there is always room for improvement. But unions and public education are cornerstones of democracy, however imperfect. And now to be called “greedy,” because of those hard-won and hard earned benefits, hardly fits the definition in my dictionary of “greed.”

Russ can be reached at

Gigli’s Photo of the Week

Friday, March 25th, 2011

Photography by Rich Gigli

Garden of Eden

Carrie’s Painting of the Week

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011


Where are the blue skies and the bright sun and the scent of warming earth? Where is the spring I so desire? I wait for it to walk down winter’s corridor, its footsteps sure and ringing. I wait for the sound of the key in the lock, the scrape of the door on the frozen earth, the invitation to go out, to find again the freedom of the fields, the limitless horizons, a world released from the chains of this winter’s snow and ice.

Where is this spring?

Outside my window, the snow is falling, and night is falling, and it feels like spring is falling, too. But I look at this painting of Tuscany, and I imagine the warmth of the sun, the peppery scent of the sunflowers, the sweep of the grass waving in a hot noon wind.

It’s coming.

This painting is oil on canvas, 24×48. Contact me at for price and delivery information.

Rush: Teaching Is ‘Easy Money Scam’

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

By Michael Kaufman

The other day I was talking to my neighbor in front of his house as Rush Limbaugh’s voice blared inside from the radio. I like my neighbor despite his terrible judgment.  Rush was doing a segment similar to one he titled, “Teachers Run an Easy Money Scam on Fellow Citizens” for his website. He said, “Can we get rid of the myth once and for all that school teachers, anymore, are these average, ordinary (as Obama wants to say), next-door neighbors who are just doing everything they can to further the educational experience of your children?

“That’s not who they are. They are left-wing activists, active members of unions who are oriented first by a political agenda, second by their own well-being, and your kids come last. Can we just get that out in the open?” According to Rush, the teaching profession today has been taken over by “people who’ve found an easy way to make a living.”

This from a man who makes millions of dollars for sitting at a microphone and spouting whatever bit of stupidity and bigotry pops into his head. In this case he ignorantly maligns so many wonderful and dedicated teachers I know or have known that I cannot name them all….so I will name only two: India Kaufman, who teaches elementary school in Atlanta, and the late Alex Smith, who taught in the Warwick Valley Middle School.    

As for Rush, he would be an ideal candidate for an appearance on a new Survivor show being proposed in an email currently making the rounds on the internet. He would be one of six business people dropped into an elementary school for a full school year. 

Each contestant will be provided with a copy of his/her school district’s curriculum and a class of 20-25 students. Each class will include some learning-disabled children, children with ADHD, children who speak limited English, and several labeled with severe behavior problems. Rush and the other contestants will have to complete lesson plans at least three days in advance, with annotations for curriculum objectives, and to modify, organize, or create their materials accordingly.

They will be required to teach students, handle misconduct, implement technology, document attendance, write referrals, correct homework, make bulletin boards, compute grades, complete report cards, document benchmarks, communicate with parents, and arrange parent conferences. Each month they will conduct fire drills, tornado drills, and [Code Red] drills for shooting attacks.

They will be required to attend workshops, faculty meetings, and curriculum development meetings. They will also tutor students who are behind and strive to get their non-English speaking children proficient enough to take the standards of learning (SOL) tests.  If they are sick or are having a bad day they must not let it show.

Each day they must incorporate reading, writing, math, science, and social studies into the program. They must maintain discipline and provide an educationally stimulating environment to motivate students at all times. If any students do not wish to cooperate, work, or learn, the teacher will be held responsible. 

The business people will only have access to the public golf course on the weekends, but with their new salary, they will not be able to afford it. Lunch will be limited to 30 minutes, which is not counted as part of their work day. They will be permitted to use a student restroom as long as another survival candidate can supervise their class. If the copier is operable, they may make copies of necessary materials before or after school. However, they cannot surpass their monthly limit of copies.

Finally, the contestants must continually advance their education, at their expense, and on their own time. The winner of this Survivor season will be allowed to return to their job. 

Is there anyone reading this who thinks Rush could last a week?

Michael can be reached at



Monday, March 21st, 2011

By Shawn Dell Joyce
Spring showers wash it into our lawns, collect it in the gutters by the roads, and consolidate it in storm drains. With no leaves as camouflage, we see the plastic bags caught on bare branches. Beer bottles, tin cans and Styrofoam cups nestle like Easter eggs under shrubs and bushes. Litter is a man-made blight on the American landscape within five miles of every town.

But litter doesn’t stop there. In his eye-opening book “The World Without Us,” Alan Weisman describes a small continent of litter floating in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. His words: “It was not unlike an Arctic vessel pushing through chunks of brash ice, except what was bobbing around them was a fright of cups, bottle caps, tangles of fish netting and monofilament line, bits of polystyrene packaging, six-pack rings, spent balloons, filmy scraps of sandwich wrap, and limp plastic bags that defied counting.”

What is the source of all this flotsam and jetsam? Captain Charles Moore of Long Beach, Calif. is quoted in the book as concluding that “80 percent of the mid-ocean flotsam had been originally discarded on land. It blew off garbage trucks, out of landfills, spilled from railroad shipping containers, washed down storm drains, sailed down rivers, wafted on the wind, and found its way to the widening gyre.”

So, why do people litter?

According to the Keep America Beautiful campaign, “People tend to litter because they feel no sense of personal ownership. In addition, even though areas such as parks and beaches are public property, people often believe that someone else, like a park maintenance or highway worker, will take responsibility to pick up litter that has accumulated over time.”

Part of the mission of Keep America Beautiful, is to engage people in cleaning up their community and feeling that they have a vested interest in their environment. The organization points out that litter can also happen accidentally. As in overflowing garbage cans waiting for curb-side collection. Or from trucks at construction sites that are not properly covered. Even from municipalities that don’t offer litter cans and proper receptacles in public places.

Every year, Keep America Beautiful hosts the Great American Cleanup from March 1 to May 31. This is the nation’s largest annual community improvement program, with 30,000 events in 15,000 communities. Last year, volunteers collected 200 million pounds of litter and debris; planted 4.6 million trees, flowers and bulbs; cleaned 178,000 miles of roads, streets and highways; and diverted more than 70.6 million plastic (PET) bottles and more than 2.2 million scrap tires from the waste stream.

This year, for Earth Day, April 22, the Wallkill River School will host a cleanup from 10 to noon at Benedict Town Park in Montgomery along the Wallkill River. Bring a garbage bag and wear boots. Find other cleanups near you at
Shawn Dell Joyce is an award-winning newspaper columnist and the director of Wallkill RIver School in Montgomery.