Archive for September, 2011

Beware Nibiru, the Death Planet

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Look! Up in the sky! Our ancestors.

By Bob Gaydos

So, you know about Nibiru, right? Planet X?

Why are you giving me a blank stare? Nibiru. Or maybe you prefer Elenin. C’mon, it’s this freaky big planet hiding behind the sun that’s supposed to crash into Earth in December of 2011 killing us all. It’s all over the Internet, man. Don’t you ever watch YouTube?

This thing is so big and so scary that NASA and Google have formed a conspiracy to hide the information from us. They don’t want us to know when the end of the world is coming because, well, that’s part of the conspiracy, too.

I can understand your confusion. I am embarrassed to admit that I hadn’t heard of Nibiru either until about a week ago when my son, Zack, and I were watching TV. Something, perhaps some power of suggestion implanted in him hundreds of years ago by aliens, compelled him to ask me: “You know about that, right? That planet that’s supposed to hit the Earth?”

“Uh, no. How do you know this?”

“It’s on YouTube.“

‘‘Oh. And how do you know it’s true?” (Force of habit.)

“There’s a black rectangle on GoogleSky where it’s supposed to be.”

“So it’s a conspiracy?”

“Uh huh.”

(Disclaimer for Zack: He is a very bright 17-year-old with a particularly sadistic sense of humor on occasion. He will go right for your weak spot. Ergo: “How do you know it’s true?” “It’s all over the Internet.”

Of course, it is. David Morrison, a planetary astronomer at NASA and senior scientist at the NASA Astrobiology Institute, estimates that there are 2 million websites discussing Nibiru. It has been the source of countless wasted hours as people either expanded the hoax or wasted precious time trying to convince believers it was nonsense.

For the life of me, after four-plus decades in journalism, I still don’t get people’s attraction for conspiracy theories, the wilder the better. One of my operating principles has always been that the more complex, outrageous the theory being proposed, the simpler the probable answer: It’s about money; it’s about sex; it’s about fear/ignorance. It’s B.S.

So, personally, I am inclined to accept NASA’s statement that there is no mysterious planet hurtling to Earth because they — or one of the millions of other humans who scan the night skies with really good telescopes would have seen it by now. And I accept Google’s explanation that the blank spot on its sky photo was the result of technical problems involving one of their many source for the data. I add credence to this explanation by also accepting the argument that, since GoogleSky is a picture of the actual sky, anyone could simply go outside, look through their telescope at the area in question and see what was there and take their own picture. Apparently no one has thought of doing this.

Simple, common sense explanations.

I also subscribe to the late Carl Sagan’s principle that “extraordinary claims demand extraordinary levels of evidence if they are to be believed.”

And the claims about Nibiru are nothing if not extraordinary. Still, I ventured relatively objectively into the Internet universe to research the subject until I stumbled on the origin of the Nibiru story.

In a nutshell: The doomsday scenario of collision with another planet was first described in 1995 by Nancy Lieder, a self-described “contactee.” She claims to be able to receive messages through an implant in her brain from aliens in the Zeta Reticuli star system. She says she was chosen to warn mankind of an impending planetary collision which would wipe out humanity in May 2003. Oh yeah, this catastrophe was supposed to happen eight years ago, but when it didn’t, the doomsday fans looked around and found the Mayan calendar prediction of a 2012 cataclysmic end. Convenient, no?

Lieder gave the planet the name “Planet X,” which astronomers traditionally reserve for planets yet undiscovered. She further attached it to a popular book, “The Twelfth Planet,” which pinned the Nibiru story on ancient Sumerians, who supposedly believed humans evolved on Nibiru and stopped briefly on Earth to colonize it.

At this point, I was becoming somewhat less objective. I found more support for the Nibiru theory on websites that also wrote about extraterrestrials, the Illuminati, mind control, Freemasons, the matrix, and other prophecies. The constant theme was that, despite its size, no one could see Nibiru — and thus prove its existence — because of a grand conspiracy by government and science (and apparently Google) to hide it from us, to what end I still cannot fathom.

I leave it to psychologists to explain why some people feel the need to create grand hoaxes and conspiracy theories and why so many more people feel the need to believe them. I suppose it makes life more interesting, but I’m a “keep it simple stupid” kind of guy. Plus — and this is just between you and me — I know the U.S. government has a massive, secret, anti-alien unit that will make toast of Nibiru. It’s under the Denver Airport. Zack saw it on YouTube.

A ‘Raindrop’ for Economic Justice

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

By Michael Kaufman

Bennett Weiss points to the front-page story in the New Canaan News with mixed emotions. Weiss, a longtime Newburgh resident, was organizer of a recent Rally for Economic Justice in New Canaan, a suburban Connecticut burgh that is home to more than a few well-to-do corporate executives and rich celebrities.

“It’s an accurate report,” says Weiss. “Of course I was disappointed in the turnout.” But Weiss adds that the event was “hugely successful” in other ways. “As part of the big picture … it was one raindrop in what I hope is a gathering tsunami.”

According to the New Canaan News article, “Over the weekend, a slew of protests against wealthy corporations and individuals took place on Wall Street. But the financial district was not the only setting for these rallies. New Canaan Town Hall served as another backdrop for around 40 individuals who wanted ‘to protest against the concentration of wealth in the very places where that wealth is concentrated.’”

The Wall Street protests have continued despite being largely ignored by corporate-owned media until recently, when video of an ugly incident of police brutality went viral over the internet. It remains to be seen whether they will grow to “tsunami” or even small flood proportions.

Back in New Canaan, Weiss told a reporter, “We are not here to throw barbs at any particular people. This is to just keep the conversation going and hopefully by having it in New Canaan, we’ll perk up some ears that might have been deaf to this issue for a little too long. As far as particulars about New Canaan, well we have Jeffery Immelt (CEO of General Electric) and a whole lot of other people that we consider part of the problem.”

Immelt and some 6,000+ other readers of the News were provided with the link to the Economic Justice Now website (, as well as a quote from the site: “Economic Justice means medical care and jobs for all. It means an end to the gross imbalance of political power between the haves and have-nots. It means ending wars of empire. It means putting people before profit. It means putting our common needs ahead of individual luxury.”

“The protesters gathered on the lawn in front of Town Hall listened to speakers tell stories, recite poetry and even sing a few songs,” the article continued. “Their hope was to raise awareness in New Canaan and solicit assistance from anyone willing to join the cause.”

Speakers included Richard Duffee of the Green Party, who urged attendees to “sign up to create and work with an organization that will advocate equality in Connecticut.”

Ralph Nazareth, an English professor from Nassau Community College, said, “The wolves of double speak, ravenous greed and blind power are not just at the door. They are in the house and they are mauling us. That is why we are here on this beautiful day.”

Trudy Goldberg, of the National Jobs for All Coalition, said the best way to tackle unemployment is for the government to directly create new jobs. “The best and only solution is direct job creation by the federal government modeled on the work programs of the Great Depression,” said Goldberg. “This not only gave jobs to the unemployed but did much to improve the nation’s physical, social and cultural resources.”

Goldberg also spoke of the threat to democracy posed by the influence of money on democratic elections. “The great influence of wealth on our political system subverts political democracy,” she observed. “Money influences how we vote through its very substantial influence on the media. It influences who can run for office and who is likely to win because you know that campaigns are extraordinarily expensive and most of the time, those who have the most money win those campaigns. Then after they are in office, they are influenced and may be beholden to those who have contributed most to them…”

Weiss said those who attended the New Canaan rally share the same goal of those gathering in New York’s financial district. “Right now, as we’re meeting there is a similar meeting down in Wall Street,” he said. “People are demonstrating against the same issues we are demonstrating against but the difference is they are doing it where these people work and we are doing it where these people live.”

Will these efforts amount to more than a drop in the bucket? Weiss and fellow activists in Orange County are doing their part to make it so.

Michael can be reached at

Carrie’s Painting of the Week, 9/28/2011

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Our Old House

By Carrie Jacobson

This peaceful-looking little stream ran through a culvert below our driveway at our house in Cuddebackville.  The driveway dipped from the level of the house, down to cross the stream and culvert, and then up again to meet the street.

Behind our house, the Neversink River ran, its water tea-colored and clean. Birds flew up and down it regularly, and ducks swam on its surface. Great blue herons fished nearly daily, and from time to time, you could see and hear eagles.

And then there were the floods. The river would rise quickly, pushing its way up toward our house. And at a certain point, the river would split and come around in front, turning this usually quiet creek into a raging torrent that would tear up our driveway, breaking concrete into chunks, throwing boulders downstream and, potentially, trapping us in our home.

Most of the time, this was a beautiful, lovely place to live. In the floods, it was a terrifying, horrible, frightening spot.

I’ve gotten over my fear of heavy rain, and now, I can think of our house in New York with pleasure, remembering how beautiful it was, how much fun it was to listen to the river, and see its wildlife, and live along its banks.

Think Local for a Stronger Economy

Monday, September 26th, 2011

By Shawn Dell Joyce

We are all suffering from the recession, but some communities are suffering less than others. In communities with a strong localized economy, there is less fluctuation and more money flowing from local business to local business. These communities tend to have a higher quality of life, lower crime rates, and a friendlier, more neighborly attitude. What makes these towns different? They think local!

Many towns are realizing that local independent businesses return more money to the local economy than the national chain stores. Towns that are able to grow a good amount of their food, and source many of their consumer goods and services through local manufacturing and businesses are much more financially stable in uncertain times. They are also more sustainable, and have a lower carbon footprint.

Local businesses are not shipping goods over thousands of miles and paying the higher fuel costs, also they tend to bank local, advertise in local papers, purchase local, use local contractors, and pay good wages and benefits to local people. That keeps money bouncing around longer in the local community. Each time that money passes through another pair of local hands, it improves the local economy a little more.

A recent study revealed that $1 earned by a local farmer had the impact of $2 on the farmer’s community because it changed hands so many times locally.

“About 42 percent of our economy is “place based” or created through small, locally-owned businesses,” notes Economist and author Michael Shuman. He estimates that we could expand this figure to 70 percent or more, by localizing some of our main expenditures. In the process, we would boost our local economy, and save money at the same time.

—–Local Food-Most of our urban areas are surrounded by farms that produce lots of local foods, that are shipped thousands of miles away. Ironically, 75 percent of fresh apples eaten in New York City come from Washington State, and foreign countries. Meanwhile, a few miles upstate in New York farmers grow 10 times more apples than the Big Apple consumes. If we all started eating closer to home; say within a 100 mile radius, eating in season, and lower on the food chain, we could localize our food system.

—–Local Electricity-The electricity for our houses and businesses most often flows through hundreds of miles of power lines from the source to our home. Imagine if cul-de-sac residents teamed up and purchased a communal wind turbine, or set up solar panels on all the southern-facing garage roofs. We could create a series of small-scale energy providers that could potentially meet their own power needs.

In my community, a waste recycling entrepreneur has found a way to generate electricity from bagged household garbage.  Also, a farmer has developed a way to turn old hay and agricultural waste into pellets for home heating. Two huge leaks in my local economy could be met locally if we start using heat and power more efficiently.

—–Suburban Renewal-If we relocalized our towns so that residents could walk to the farmer’s market, hardware store, library, and post office all in the same area, we wouldn’t have to drive so much. Driving is expensive, and environmentally devastating. When you walk or bicycle, you go slower, appreciate the architecture and history, wave to the neighbors, and possibly engage in conversation. This kind of walkable downtown encourages local spending and reinforces community bonds.

—–Local Currency-If you want to stimulate economic growth in a geographic region, one tried-and-true method is to generate a local currency. It functions like the good old dollar, but is not legal tender; instead it is more like a local barter. The people who use local currency make a conscious commitment to buy local first. They are taking personal responsibility for the health and well-being of their community. This also distinguishes local businesses who accept the currency as ones who have made the same commitment.

The state of Vermont recently issued its own currency; Vermont Freedom Currency, which is a silver coin worth 10 Credits.  Vermonters can use the coin for any service, fee or tax through the state, or as barter currency accepted by certain individuals and businesses. These coins circulate through Vermont and have proven to be a real economic stimulus as people have less qualms about spending the Vermont currency freely.

While you may not be able to buy everything you want locally, chances are if you can’t find it in a local store, at a yard sale, or could probably do without it.

Gigli’s Photo of the Week, 9/25/2011

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

Photography by Rich Gigli

Morning Glory


Florence Earle Coats – [1850-1927]

Was it worth while to paint so fair
Thy every leaf – to vein with faultless art
Each petal, taking the boon light and air
Of summer so to heart?

To bring thy beauty unto perfect flower,
Then, like a passing fragrance or a smile,
Vanish away, beyond recovery’s power –
Was it, frail bloom, worth while?

Thy silence answers: “Life was mine!
And I, who pass without regret or grief,
Have cared the more to make my moment fine,
Because it was so brief.

“In its first radiance I have seen
The sun! – why tarry then till comes the night?
I go my way, content that I have been
Part of the morning light!”

Class Warfare in the Bayou State

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

Rep. John Fleming

By Bob Gaydos

Poor John Fleming. He lives in Louisiana, generally regarded as one of the worst — if not the worst — state in which to live, yet he has been specifically targeted by President Obama as someone who should pay more taxes to the federal government. What’s a poor millionaire member of Congress to do?

Apparently what all conservative Republican politicians do today: Go on TV to rip Obama with absurd claims that only further serve to illustrate how far removed the Tea Party and its GOP sycophants are from reality.

Fleming appeared on MSNBC to criticize Obama’s jobs plan, which includes a provision for a higher tax rate for millionaires. That’s a concept that sits well as fair and just with a solid majority of Americans every time it is proposed. But the anti-tax party, which is what the Tea Party really is, will have none of it. When Fleming was asked why he shouldn’t pay more taxes on the $6.3 million he makes each year as a family physician, congressman and owner of several Subway and UPS franchises, he said: “My net income is more like $600,000 of that $6.3 million… By the time I feed my family I have maybe $400,000 left over to invest in new locations, upgrade my locations, buy more equipment.”

OK, you’re trying to figure out how he manages to feed his family on only $200,000 a year, right? And getting by on a mere $400,000 a year after everything is paid for? Every year? Seeing as this was not FOX News, the interviewer challenged him: “You do understand, congressman, that the average person out there who’s making maybe 40, 50, $60,000 out there, when they hear you only have $400,000 left over, it’s not exactly a sympathetic position. You understand that?”

“Class warfare has never created a job.” Fleming replied. “This is all about creating jobs, not about attacking people who make certain incomes. You know in this country, most people feel that being successful in their business is a virtue, not a vice, and once we begin to identify it as a vice, this country is going down.”

Poor successful John Fleming. Even if he believes what he says, you would think he would be smart enough to display some compassion for the majority of Americans who would be happy to have a mere $400,000 left over to play with at the end of their working careers, never mind each year. But maybe he’s not concerned with the average American, or those struggling to survive on the poverty level income of $22,000 a year for a family of four. He brags on his website: “I have never believed in the fallacy that the federal government can buy its way out of economic troubles through needless spending. For that reason, I am proud to oppose ‘stimulus‘ packages and endless corporate bailouts, which will do little but weaken the long term integrity of the American economy.”

Fleming, of course, argues that taxing wealthy business owners more makes it harder for them to create more jobs. It’s a rewrite of “trickle down.” Let us keep our money and we’ll create jobs. Except that they don’t. And Fleming ignores the fact that Obama wants to provide tax cuts for businesses that actually create jobs.

John Fleming is a family physician who owns businesses that employ about 500 people. He is in his second term in Congress. He has been a church deacon and Sunday school teacher. He and his wife have been married 33 years. They have four adult children and two grandchildren. I get this from his website. What I don’t get is how he can live such an apparently successful life and seem to be so unsympathetic to the lives of so many of his fellow Louisianans.

I mentioned Louisiana was at the bottom of the list of best states to live.* It is also 48th out of 50 in median household income, second in percent of people living below the poverty level, and next to last in an interesting category — next egg index. That means how much people have put away in savings, investments and other assets to live their lives. Like the $400,000 a year in “leftovers” Fleming complains about.

Since he’s a doctor, it should be noted that his state had the highest gonorrhea rate in the country and the second highest chlamydia rate and was dead last in the prevalence of poor mental health. Its health index, which measures a variety of factors, was the worst in the country. It also was second among states in firearms death rate and alcohol-related traffic fatalities. Among the 50 states and Washington, D.C., Louisiana is next to last in percentage of residents with a high school diploma or higher and, not surprisingly, next to last in percentage of children under age 6 who are read to every day.

These are Fleming’s people. His constituents. I certainly don’t blame him for all of Louisiana’s ills. But I do fault him for seemingly being unsympathetic to the real life problems his neighbors face. Simply being automatically opposed to all tax increases, even when common sense and consensus say some are necessary, is not a viable management principle. It’s dumb and Republicans at some point are going to have to acknowledge it. But pleading poverty on top of that when you’re netting 400 grand a year (and feeding your family for 200 grand) is worse. It suggests you have no clue as to what real life is like for millions of Americans, or that you don’t care.

If you want to find class warfare, Mr. Congressman, go home to Louisiana and look around.

* Data from

Gigli’s Photo Of The Week

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Photography by Rich Gigli

Autumn's Golden Light

By William Shakespeare (1609)
clr gif
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.

What’s Good for the Gander

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

Sarah Palin ... time to come clean

By Jeffrey Page
All during the birther escapades I waited for one honest Republican with a big name to step forward and say it was an outrage to hound President Obama into spending even as little as a minute a day dealing with the place of his birth.

I waited for a Republican with guts to say the birthers were loony, and to remind the nation that no other GOP candidate or possible candidate – not Newt or Michelle, not Ron or Mitt, not Sarah – had been asked to prove where they were born. (The question of John McCain’s birth in the Canal Zone was resolved quickly during the 2008 campaign.)

But the silence was profound, and then in April along came Palin speaking about Donald Trump’s personal crusade – using his very own money! – to prove that Obama was not what he seemed. “I appreciate that The Donald wants to spend his resources in getting to the bottom of something that so interests him and many Americans,” The Sarah was quoted by The Times. “You know, more power to him.”

Finally, Obama released his Hawaii birth certificate – I wish he had had the nerve to tell the birthers where to stick their doubts – and the issue seems to have died down. Doubtless it will be revived when the 2012 campaign gets started in earnest.

However, thanks to Joe McGinniss, many Americans have questions about Palin’s background.

McGinness, in his new book “The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin,” declares that before her marriage to Todd Palin, Sarah Heath had a one-night stand with Glen Rice when Rice still played basketball for the University of Michigan and she was a television sports reporter. After her marriage to Todd, Palin carried on an affair with her husband’s business partner, says McGinness, who further alleges that Palin smoked marijuana with a college professor and snorted cocaine from the top of an oil drum.

Palin has some explaining to do. Or some law suits to file. Anything less is a cop-out.

Allow me to employ some birther logic. First of all, she says she was born in Idaho in 1964, but how do we know this is the case? We don’t. Isn’t it possible that Palin was really born in her later home state of Alaska, especially when you remember that Alaska only became a state in 1959, a mere five years before Palin was born. Meaning that maybe – just maybe – Palin is not really the 47 years old she claims, but 52 and that she was born in Alaska when Alaska was just a territory?

It’s time for Sarah Palin to come clean and produce her birth certificate. A marriage certificate would be nice as well – just to be on the safe side.

And in the matter of a fling with Rice, Palin claims to be a believer in birth control through abstinence. So obviously, she owes it to the American people to assure us that if she had sex with Glen Rice, it would have occurred without benefit of condom because you know those condoms; they make everything so easy.

Palin must call a news conference on the subject of her premarital and marital sex lives. What an opportunity to clear the air and reassure her followers.

Of course, standing before all those reporters, Palin might be asked about McGinness’ assertion that she carried on with Todd’s partner. Since she has not provided evidence that she did not have this affair it stands to birther-reasoning that she’s guilty until she satisfies America that she is not.

Omnivore, Vegetarian or Vegan?

Monday, September 19th, 2011

By Shawn Dell Joyce
Picture in your mind the food ladder. Starting at the bottom rung, we have the most abundant and free source of energy on the planet; solar, which is consumed by plants (next rung) to make food energy, which is consumed by animals (next rung) to make protein, which is consumed by man. Except in a few rare cases involving bears, sharks, wild dingoes or cannibals, the food ladder ends with us humans.

Each rung on the ladder represents about a 10 percent loss of resources. The plants waste 10 percent of the sun, growing things the animals won’t eat. The animals waste 10 percent of the plant by growing things like feathers, fur and bones that we won’t eat. You get the picture. What does that innocuous 10 percent really look like?

To produce a pound of wheat takes about 25 gallons of water, a lot of sun, and less than an acre of land. Yet it takes 16 pounds of that wheat (plus soy), and 2,500 gallons of water fed to a cow to make one pound of beef. More than half our farm land and half our water consumption is currently devoted to the meat industry. A 10-acre farm could feed 60 people growing soybeans, 24 people growing wheat, 10 people growing corn but only two producing cattle, according to the British group Vegfam. We eat most of our grain in the form of meat, 90 percent actually, which translates into 2,000 pounds of grain a year. In poorer countries, grain is consumed directly, skipping a rung on the ladder.

“Imagine sitting down to an eight-ounce steak dinner,” writes author Frances Moore Lappé in Diet for a Small Planet. “Then imagine the room filled with 45 to 50 people with empty bowls in front of them. For the ‘feed cost’ of your steak, each of their bowls could be filled with a full cup of cooked cereal grains.” We Americans don’t often see the unappetizing effects of eating 260 pounds of meat per person, per year. We waste 90 percent of the carbs, fiber, and plant protein by cycling grain through animals for meat.

Harvard nutritionist Jean Mayer estimates that reducing meat consumption by just 10 percent in the U.S. would free enough grain to feed 60 million people. This year, about 20 million people, mostly children, will starve to death.

We don’t often see the hungry and malnourished in our culture, so it’s difficult to make that connection when standing by the grill waiting for your hamburger. Consider ways to replace meat for two or three main meals a week. Marge Corriere, a Blooming Hill Farm customer, said recently: “Treat meat like a condiment. Use just a small amount for a meal, much like they do in other countries.” By eating lower on the food chain, even just a few meals a week, we reduce our risks for heart disease, obesity, hypertension, colon (and other) cancers, and save valuable resources that could be put to better uses elsewhere.

“It boils down to a simple equation,” says Alan Durning, head of the Northwest Environment Watch. “We currently consume close to our own body weight in natural resources every day. These resources are extracted from farms, forests, fisheries, mines and grasslands, all of which are essential to the health of the planet — and to the health of human beings.”

Adding more vegan meals to your diet, and treating animal products (meat, dairy, eggs) as condiments and using very little, improves your health and the health of the planet.

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

Carrie’s Painting of the Week

Sunday, September 18th, 2011

Charlestown Breachway

By Carrie Jacobson

I’ve embarked on a project that’s taken hold of me, though I can’t quite explain why. It’s a project to make 100 10-inch by 10-inch paintings, each priced at $100.

I have done a lot of dawdling around in my head, trying to set some interesting limits on the project (Should I use only three colors? Should I make 100 paintings of dogs? Should I paint the same field on 100 different days?) and again, I can’t really determine the source of my interest/fascination.

I think it’s enough to say that it’s there, and then set out and see where it takes me.

There are parts of life that are just like this, aren’t there? Why are we drawn to certain people, to certain ideas, to certain projects? Who knows! It could be God, it could be synchronicity, it could be time and place and sheer circumstance.

And it could be that our very focus is what changes and sharpens the idea. Or perhaps these special ideas really do force themselves into our consciousness in very special ways.

Whatever, I am on a new path, on a new challenge, and I am excited. That, in itself, is worth worlds.

Interested in this painting? Please contact me at