Archive for March, 2011

Numbers Game

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

By Jeffrey Page
We’re fighting in Afghanistan. We’re fighting in Iraq. Now we’re fighting in Libya. But don’t get us wrong; we don’t want to be the world’s cop. Will there be a fourth?

Recently, the Arab League put out a call for someone to deal with Qaddafi, and the clear message was that “someone” did not refer to members of the Arab League. Then the UN called for a no-fly zone over Libya.

Before you could utter the oxymoronic “desert quagmire” there we were in the Libyan sky with the French and British.

Right or wrong – wrong, I think – the United States did nothing about the murderous Qaddafi for his role in the bombing of Flight 103 over Lockerbie, but here we are 23 years later, serving as the Hessian for the colonel’s unhappy neighbors.

So where next?

All you have to do to figure that out is get your hands on a globe, give it a good spin and stop the turning with your index finger. We probably can have a war wherever you’re pointing because chances are we already have troops there or nearby World cop? Not us.

Some Americans go to bed hungry. Some can’t afford the price of a prescription medication. Some send their kids to crummy schools. But we spend countless millions in posting our military in 149 countries on every continent. Some are embassy guards. All are combat-ready troops.

Not the cop of the earth? Really? Here’s some information you might find interesting from the Defense Department’s “Active Duty Military Personnel Strengths by Regional Area and by Country” as of Sept. 30, 2010.

–We have 9,646 troops in Italy, 1,379 in Djibouti.

–We have 16 in Romania, 8 in Albania, and 7 in Lithuania.

–We have 110 in Thailand. We have 133 in Greenland. We have 442 in Holland and 275 in Egypt.

–We have 11 in Ghana, 44 in the Bahamas. We have 22 in Nigeria, 19 in Somalia.

–We have 1,252 stationed in Belgium.

–We have 53,951 in Germany, 1,530 in Turkey, and 15 in Haiti.

–We have 1,240 in Spain.

–We have 10 in Slovakia, 8 in Slovenia.

–We have 9,229 in Britain, 36 in Liberia, 17 in Uruguay.

–We have 703 in Portugal, 24 in El Salvador.

–We have 15 troops in Kazakhstan, 11 in Kyrgyzstan, 6 in Tajikistan, 5 in Uzbekistan, 133 in Pakistan, 4 in Turkmenistan, and 105,900 in Afghanistan.

–We’ve got 34,385 stationed in Japan, 1,349 in Bahrain.

–We have 913 at Guantanamo Bay, 338 in Greece.

–We have 35 in Kenya, 47 in Russia. We have 23 in Argentina.

–We have 42 in Peru, 39 in Brazil, 28 in Mexico.

–Hell, we even have 127 in Canada, where I think they like us, and 17 in Venezuela, where I think they don’t.

–We have 6 in Malta, 130 in Australia, 35 in Israel, 555 in Qatar, 239 in Saudi Arabia.

–We have 39 in South Africa, 15 in Yemen.

–We have 403 in Honduras, 2 in Belize, 96,200 in Iraq, 14 in Bolivia.

–We have 16 in Vietnam.

–Figures for South Korea are hard to come by, but it seems we have about 30,000 troops there.

There are more, roo many to mention.

In several places – including Iran, Iceland, Somalia, Palau, Malawi, Liechtenstein and Andorra – we have no troops at all.

The remaining 1,133,699 troops are in the United States and its territories.

Jeff can be reached at

Gigli’s Photo of the Week

Saturday, March 19th, 2011

Photography by Rich Gigli

The Butterfly

Blue-Butterfly Day – by Robert Frost

It is blue-butterfly day here in spring,
And with these sky-flakes down in flurry on flurry
There is more unmixed color on the wing
Than flowers will show for days unless they hurry.

But these are flowers that fly and all but sing:
And now from having ridden out desire
They lie closed over in the wind and cling
Where wheels have freshly sliced the April mire.

Gigli’s Photo of the Week

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

Photography by Rich Gigli

Path to Enlightenment

“Those who arrive at their destination teach those who are still on the path, while those still on the path are sources of wisdom for the teacher.”   Lao Tzu – Tao Te Ching

More Nuclear Trouble

Saturday, March 12th, 2011

By Jeffrey Page
Never mind the explosions. Never mind the fires. Never mind the leaked radiation drifting to the clouds and that a complete meltdown is possible.

Never mind all that because important voices are telling us – despite our complete understanding of the calamitous news of the last few days – that nuclear energy remains the way to go. And you have to wonder what these people have been reading during the days since Friday when, in fact, the world changed. Surely not the news out of Sendai in northern Japan.

The New York Times, after conceding that what happened in Japan amounts to the worst nuclear “accident” since Chernobyl in 1986, goes on to editorialize that nuclear power will remain “a valuable tool” for the United States.

“But the public needs to know that it is a safe one,” The Times notes, as though you might disagree with the paper’s astute observation.

Meanwhile, upstate, in the 20th Congressional District, the Saratogian newspaper reported that Rep. Chris Gibson’s support of nuclear power remains undiminished following the incident in Japan. “I want it done and I want it done safely,” Gibson declares as if to suggest you might be in the camp that doesn’t want it done safely.

Gibson wants to have a nuclear generator built in his district. “Energy is a passion for me because it can be a game changer for the economy,” Gibson, a member of Congress for 72 days, told the Saratogian.

Needless to say, The Times and Gibson are not alone in wishing for safe sources of energy. The problem, of course, is that Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and now Sendai in Japan have shown us that essentially there’s no such thing as safety when it comes to nuclear power plants. What Gibson and the newspaper are forgetting is that certain forces, completely beyond anyone’s control, were the catalyst that set the Japanese reactor off.

Maybe the plant in Sendai would have survived for another 50 years had last Friday been like any other Friday in northern Japan. But there was the little matter of the earthquake, which measured 9 in intensity, one of the most severe on record.

So let us design a reactor to withstand a quake of 9.0. But if the next earthquake happens to measure 9.5, what then? Rebuild to make the plant safe from a magnitude 10 quake? And what do we tell the people who lose their families when that reactor is fatally damaged? That nuclear power is a valuable tool? That we want it done but safely? That energy is our passion?

When it comes to nuclear energy, the problems never end. The news is about Japan and fires and explosions, but have you seen a story about the other monster problem, that of safe disposal of nuclear waste?

And then there’s Indian Point. NBC reports that federal regulators are trying to figure out how vulnerable the nuclear plant in Buchanan is to earthquakes. MSNBC reported that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission found Indian Point the most vulnerable in the nation.

And then there’s terrorism.

One of these days we’re going to get serious and acknowledge that as nice and cheap as it would be to derive our energy needs from a stack of radioactive rocks, nuclear plants will always be a danger.

In the meantime, let’s stop fooling around. Because records are made to be broken, let’s design a nuke for Gibson’s district that’ll withstand a quake with a magnitude of 15. That should do it.

But some questions: Do you think Chris Gibson would move into a terrific new house next door, down the road or even within 20 miles of the plant? Would the Times editorial staff?

Would you?

Jeffrey can be reached at

Therapy, Almost

Friday, March 11th, 2011

By Gretchen Gibbs
The front page of The New York Times featured the sad tale of Dr. Donald Levin, a psychiatrist who once provided “talk therapy.” Now, he prescribes only medication to 1,200 clients seen every few months for no more than 15 minutes. Dr. Levin, like most psychiatrists these days, says he cannot afford the time to provide any form of psychotherapy. The article speaks of a “telling loss of intimacy between doctors and patients.”

Of course, Dr. Levin could allow his salary to plummet to the level of the psychologists and social workers to whom he refers his clients. The math is easy. If you have 40 clients a week who pay you $100 a session, you’re grossing $200,000 a year. Dr. Levin did not reveal his salary, but with four clients an hour and working more than eight hours a day, he easily is quadrupling that $200,000.

So partly the loss of intimacy is due to the desire to make money. There are other factors, however. For instance, the field of psychology is also changing. Psychologists themselves are seeking prescription privileges, and in several states have already obtained them.

Training in many graduate schools focuses on “manualized treatment,” meaning that the psychologist is following a manual telling her or him what to say after each type of comment from the client. It’s easier to prove such treatment is effective. Models of treatment are primarily cognitive-behavioral; there’s no attention paid to the causes of one’s problems, only to the treatment plan. The therapist doesn’t want to hear about your past.

I started this piece with the notion that the public is being cheated out of the kind of personal contact they want and need from mental health workers. Then I saw the headline this week in the Times entitled “Teachers wonder, why the scorn?” and I began to wonder if we really honor those whose professional role involves sharing who they are as a person. Why is the country so concerned to cut teacher salaries? Is there a profession that’s more important?

Of course, teaching also has become more technological. On the college level, I have walked the halls and noted the darkened rooms as professors present their Power Points and as students text and play solitaire. Distance Learning is a catchword, and classes are larger. Other providers of human services, like nurses and nurses’ aides, complain that their work has become more technological, with less patient contact. So perhaps as a society we are in some ways complicit with the loss of intimacy caused by these increases in technology.

I heard an interview on NPR with Sherry Turkle, about her book Alone Together, which deals with the isolation that technology is producing. She provides the ultimate example: the use of robots with children and the elderly to carry out the role a person, or at least a pet, would have had to perform previously. There’s Furbie for children and the Paro, a cute baby seal that moves in your arms and makes pleading noises, for the elderly in nursing homes. The illusion of unconditional love, without any bother. Turkle feels technology isolates us, citing adolescents who say they don’t like phoning now, it’s too intimate; they just text.

So the loss of the “human” in human services may be linked to the growth of technology and interest in making money, but many of us seem to welcome it. It’s more comfortable. Perhaps we are redefining what relationships mean. What’s a friend when you have hundreds of them on Facebook? I am too much of a psychologist to believe that people can do without intimate relationships, or that they want to. What’s the impact, though, of a world where it’s increasingly hard to find that connectedness? Perhaps we think we’ll “save” intimacy for those few we really care about. But then, when we’re in an intimate relationship, will we know how?

Could the Wallkill Valley have its own local utility?

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

By Shawn Dell Joyce

One of the biggest import leaks in our county is energy. We bring energy into our region in the form of Appalachian coal and nuclear energy. But we also produce energy through hydropower dams on the Wallkill. Now imagine for a second what it would be like if we actually met all our electric needs through local, cleaner sources? We would eliminate the cost of delivery, and environmental destruction.

Now imagine if we all owned that local company as shareholders. Like a public utility that we all invested our savings in. Our bills would be lower, and we would regulate the company for the benefit of the community.

Taylor Biomass is a proposed 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. Byproducts 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.

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. 

The electricity generated by Taylor’s Biomass plant would be cleaner and greener than coal-fired or nuclear energy. It would be a boon to the local economy in that a huge chunk of each household’s monthly energy bills would stay local. Right now, promised Federal funding is evaporating for this project, putting its future in jeopardy. It would be a shame for our region to lose this valuable resource due to short-sighted politics.


The Taylor Biomass facility will not only create electricity, but also jobs. High tech jobs in particular, which is something sorely needed in Montgomery. Taylor intends to build a corporate headquarters and training center that would be used to train delegates from other areas in how to operate their own gasifiers and recycling facilities.

“I’ll be creating 24 jobs for the gasifier, 50 new jobs in processing and 40 high tech jobs in the corporate headquarters,” 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. That’s a lot of money flowing into the local economy.

I’m not a wealthy woman, but I’d be willing to invest in Taylor to see it happen. I’m sure there are plenty of you who would, too. If only 5,000 people that live in the region potentially powered by Taylor (1/5th of the households) were willing to invest just $500, we could raise more than $2,500,000 to make Taylor’s vision a reality. Considering the risks of the stock market, and the pounding most of our investments have taken over the past few years, this one sounds like a much surer bet.

Taylor has thrown his lot in with us every step of the way. He’s worked to keep this project in our region, and the benefits local. Now it’s our turn to help him get his project started, then become our community-owned electric company.

Shawn Dell Joyce is a nationally syndicated newspaper journalist and director of the Wallkill River School in Montgomery.

Carrie’s Painting of the Week

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Blue Dreams

In just a few minutes, I will go over to the Lighthouse Gallery – a lovely little gallery near my home here in Connecticut – take my show down, replace the paintings with other paintings, and drive what is essentially my Lighthouse/Wallkill River School Gallery show to Boston for the Paradise City show, a major, very high-end arts and craft show that I am a little stunned to have been accepted into.

Chris Rose, curator of the Lighthouse Gallery, came over to my studio the other day to select the replacement paintings, and he put some notions in my head.

One was to try (again) a limited palette. The other was to work on two paintings at the same time.

I like a challenge, and I like Chris, so I tried both – and am I glad I did. I really love this painting. I can’t say that I understand it or can explain it. I can’t say that it adheres to anything in reality, or to any rules – but it has a soft feeling that really appeals to me. Also I am a sucker for blue, so there you go.

I will post the other painting – this one’s opposite, soon.

These are versions of a painting that I think might be the best one I ever did, which was bought by a dear friend of mine at my show in February at the Wallkill River School Gallery in Montgomery. I am honored  that my friend bought that painting – and really, also, helped me paint this new one.

If you are interested in buying “Blue Dreams,” please contact me for price and shipping/delivery options. The painting is in oil, on a gallery-wrapped canvas, 24×24.

Gigli’s Photo of the Week

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

Photography by Rich Gigli

North Rustico Lighthouse

North Rustico Lighthouse, situated on the northern shore of Prince Edward Island facing the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The lighthouse, which consists of a square wooden tower, 35 feet high and an attached dwelling, was built in 1876, for $1,700.

King & the Radicals

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

By Jeffrey Page
Peter King, basking in the warmth of the House Republican majority that gave him the chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee, has chosen to investigate Islam in America. Wait. Not Islam, per se, but the extent to which Muslims here in the United States have been radicalized. Whatever that means.

What King, as chairman, has chosen not to investigate, or even talk about as a rank-and-file member of the House, is the extent to which the Republican party itself has been radicalized.

Item: Scott Walker, the Republican governor of Wisconsin, would have you believe that state workers got the wages and fringe benefits they enjoy by pointing a gun at the heads of previous governors. Actually, they got their pay through collective bargaining. You know, two sides negotiating a deal each could live with. Walker’s solution, with Wisconsin facing a $3 billion deficit? End collective bargaining with public sector unions. Walker knows and I know, and you know and everybody with a brain knows that an end to collective bargaining is the end of public unions. And that’s not a radical position? Ending the process that gave workers a chance to join the middle class?

Item: The leadership of the Republican party is afraid to confront some of its more radicalized members and inform them that President Obama was born in the United States and that to continue the “birther” nonsense – that he really came from Kenya or some distant planet – makes the GOP look like a bunch of fools. Radical fools, but fools nonetheless.

Item: Chairman King, who has grandly titled his hearings “The Extent of Radicalization of the American Muslim Community and That Community’s Response” has thus far declined to call for hearings titled “The Extent of Radicalization of the Westboro Baptist Church Community and That Community’s Response.” Westboro of course is the church in Topeka, Kan. that sends its people around the country to picket the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their incredible reasoning: Homosexuality is a sin; America tolerates homosexuality; soldiers defend America; therefore the dead soldiers were killed defending homosexuality. This, they contend, allows them to display such signs as “God Hates Fags.” And King is bent out of shape about Muslims.

Item: King ought to check in with the Tea Party and see who’s been radicalizing this group that scares the hell out of the GOP every time mainstream Republicans do something the Tea Party finds annoying. It was at a Tea Party forum on health care a couple of years ago in Greenwood Lake when a man opposed to national health care declared: “I resent the administration’s comparing me to a brown shirt or a Nazi” when in fact no one in President Obama’s administration had said any such thing. I have seen signs at these rallies showing Obama and a lion with the wording “African Lion? Or Lyin’ African?” And I have seen the signs showing Obama with the racist message “Monkey See, Monkey Spend.” What I have not seen is King mouthing any degree of concern over these displays of radicalization.

Item: Sarah Palin runs around the country mouthing big ideas about this issue or that but when you listen, you get a creepy feeling that she’s reciting a GOP nursery rhyme. Yet there are elements in the Republican party that see her as a serious contender for the presidential nomination next year. How radical is that? A genuine know-nothing thinking about running America.

Item: King might want to investigate his own radicalism. The Times on Wednesday ran a fascinating story in which it quoted King in his 1985 defense of the Irish Republican Army. “If civilians are killed in an [I.R.A.] attack on a military installation, it is certainly regrettable,” he said, “but I will not morally blame the I.R.A. for it.”

King should learn that he doesn’t encounter radicalism only on the left. It’s out there among every group – such as his.

Jeffrey can be reached at

Hudson Valley Restaurant Week

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

By Shawn Dell Joyce
Next week is Hudson Valley Restaurant Week from March 14-27, when some of the best restaurants in our area open their doors with special seasonal menus. Now in its fifth year, this much-anticipated multi-county dining extravaganza features 160 restaurants offering three-course prix-fixe dinners at $28 and many offering three-course lunches at $20. If fine dining is an extravagance that you haven’t been able to fit into the budget, hire a babysitter, and make your reservations now. Once a year, fine dining becomes very affordable, and you don’t want to miss it.

Restaurant week is a brilliant event where restaurateurs team up for mutual benefit. A side benefit is that most of these fine restaurants will be incorporating local ingredients from area farms.  In Montgomery, my hometown, two restaurants will be participating in Restaurant Week: Wildfire Grill and Backyard Bistro. Both chefs specialize in seasonal menus featuring locally-grown ingredients.

When you patronize these, or any other restaurant that uses local products, your money floats around in the local economy longer. The restaurant deposits that money in a local bank, pays the local farmers, pays employees, pays for local advertising, and donates part of that money to local schools and charities. Those farmers, employees, bankers, schools and charities, then spend that same money at other local businesses like the deli, babysitter, bakery, auto mechanic, and so on. Each time your $100 is spent again at a local business, it multiplies more wealth in the community, growing and enriching with each transaction. Hence money spent locally generates twice the economic impact of money spent in a corporate chain.

Chefs tend to be more conscious about the need to support local farms, and reduce the miles our food travels to reach our plate. But not all restaurants share this philosophy since it is often much cheaper, and more convenient, to buy from commercial food distributors than from local farms. Customers are also not accustomed to seasonal eating, and expect to find asparagus in autumn and musk melon in May. Eating locally requires thinking locally, and asking what grows in our soil, and what’s in season now? The restaurants that serve local also think local, and are demonstrating their commitment to the community. Increase your community’s vitality by asking your favorite restaurant for local menu items, or by frequenting eateries that serve local foods. 

I have often run across chefs like Jerry Crocker from Backyard Bistro and Holbert’s Catering at Blooming Hill Farm, and other farm markets. The Holberts also buy direct from Hoeffner’s Farm (Montgomery), Lynn’s Goat Cheese (Pine Bush), and Sprout Creek (Poughkeepsie). Wildfire Chef Krista Wild often features local cheese tastings from Bob-o-link Dairy, and other tasty artisanal treats.

To find a restaurant near you participating in Hudson Valley Restaurant Week, check out their website at To increase local foods on the menu of your favorite restaurant, ask the manager to point out what ingredients are sourced locally.

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