Archive for March, 2012

Sad News on Top of Bad

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

By Michael Kaufman

Is it just me or are we being inundated by an unusually large amount of bad news lately? Trayvon Martin….the murderous attack on Jewish schoolchildren in France….the ongoing carnage in Syria….escalating oil and gas prices…the right-wing legislative assault on women’s healthcare….Need I go on?

And speaking of healthcare: Will the Supreme Court really strike down the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”) so insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and for-profit healthcare institutions and providers can go back to doing “business as usual”? (Business as usual: denying coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and sons and daughters above age 21;  restoring the “donut hole” so prescription drug costs will soar for many people with chronic diseases; and millions of Americans having to go without care because they can’t afford it.)

Closer to home, we see Orange County political officials planning to sell Valley View (the county nursing home renowned for providing quality care) to a private, for-profit business. At the same time, Orange County Executive Ed Diana is still pushing for construction of a new, multimillion dollar government office building rather than repair the existing storm-damaged facility in Goshen. I happen to agree with those who think the building is a funny-looking eyesore rather than a historic landmark and/or work of art….but that is beside the point. As lawn signs around the county proclaim: Just fix it!

And the Valley View situation is a reflection of the ongoing underfunding of public health at all levels of government. An analysis released by Trust for America’s Health, a think tank supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, found that federal funding for public health has been “insufficient” for the past six years. At the same time, public health budgets at the state and local levels have been cut at drastic rates.  A recent study conducted by the National Association of County and City Health Officials found significant cuts to programs, workforce and budgets at local health departments around the country. Since 2008, those departments have lost a total of 34,400 jobs due to layoffs and attrition. Combined state and local public health job losses total 49,310 since 2008.

Also closer to home, Governor Cuomo has refused to order an independent investigation into the fatal shooting of Michael Lembhard by police in Newburgh. Upon learning of the governor’s decision, Michael Sussman, attorney for the Lembhard family, said, “Today is a sad day and a day of a missed opportunity.  The governor has chosen not to appoint a special prosecutor…. The result is that our community must trust the results of an investigation conducted by an agency, the Orange County DA’s office, with very close ties to the City of Newburgh Police Department, which relies on that department for many of its cases and which has every institutional interest in exonerating that department and its members in this and every other case.”

Sussman, who represented the family of D.J. Henry, the Pace College quarterback shot and killed by police in Westchester in October 2010, said “Michael’s death brings to mind other great tragedies which have affected too many families.” Nevertheless, he urged family members and witnesses to cooperate with the local investigation and he called on Newburgh residents to use “peaceful and non-violent means to demonstrate their profound anger at Michael’s death. Only by the exercise of restraint and respect for human life can we honor the fallen.

“The City of Newburgh, said Sussman, should hire an independent law firm to investigate and determine whether the officers who killed Lembhard violated departmental rules and regulations “and, if so, should take disciplinary measures….in a manner consistent with the rule of law and the due process rights of the officers.” Lemnhard’s family, he noted, “is deeply angry and frustrated at the loss of Michael…. Our imperative as their brothers and sisters and our responsibility as residents of this county remains to see that justice is done….We will spare no resource toward that objective.”

Sussman heads up the Orange County Democratic Alliance (, which is active on a number of fronts to make life in our county better for all of its residents. And for those interested, Occupy Orange will meet Thursday, March 29, at 6:30 theInteractive Museum, 23 Center St., Middletown. Organizers request that you bring “a positive spirit, and your ideas about what we can accomplish together.” Maybe some good news will emerge as a result of their activities.

Michael can be reached at












If This Offends Anyone, I ‘Apologize’

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Geraldo Rivera ... "apologizes"

By Bob Gaydos

The B.S. meter, already recalibrated to measure record-level intensity since the Republican primary season began, reached new highs this past week thanks in large part to a TV personality who has been spewing hot air for decades and some professional football folks who are the reigning champion gas bags of the NFL.

We’ll start with Geraldo Rivera, but don’t worry, we’ll get to the New York Jets.

One of the most insulting and depressing developments of our Spin Age Society is the ascension of the non-apology apology. You hear it all the time now, from politicians, performers, athletes, commentators. The basic outline goes like this: “If I hurt or offended anyone with my remarks about (fill in the blank), I apologize. That was not my intent.”

That is pure bull and anyone who hears it knows it. Yet we let people get away with it all the time. What the “apologist” is really saying is: “If I hurt or offended anyone with my remarks, too bad, live with it. I am issuing this apology only because my advisers tell me it will soften the overwhelmingly negative reaction to my (a. hateful; b. bigoted; c. insensitive; d. ignorant; e. provocative; f. untrue; g. self-serving …) statements. I am not sorry for what I said, only for the reaction to it. I hope this puts an end to all this nonsense so I can continue to go about doing what I always do.”

Rivera weighed in on the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin by blaming the black teenager at least partially for his own death because he wore a hoodie. “I’ll bet you money, if he didn’t have that hoodie on, that nutty neighborhood watch guy wouldn’t have responded in that violent and aggressive way,” Rivera said on his Fox News TV show.

When his own son told him he was ashamed of what Dad had said, Rivera “apologized.” On Twitter: “Heard petition demands my apology to Trayvon’s parents. Save effort: I deeply apologize for any hurt I caused-that is not my goal or intent.” He later sent an e-mail to the Politico web site: “I apologize to anyone offended by what one prominent black conservative called my ‘very practical and potentially life-saving campaign urging black and Hispanic parents not to let their children go around wearing hoodies.’ ”

He added that he had been told his remarks “obscured the main point that someone shot and killed an unarmed teenager,” and explained that his comments were part of his “crusade to warn minority families of the danger to their young sons inherent in ‘gangsta’ style clothing; like hoodies.”

A day later, after a torrent of negative Tweets to his Tweet and more grief from his family, Rivera added : “[M]y own family and friends believe [that] I have obscured or diverted attention from the principal fact, which is that an unarmed 17-year-old was shot dead by a man who was never seriously investigated by local police. And if that is true, I apologize.”

If that is true? Apparently his news sense disappeared along with his common sense when he joined Fox.

Note that at no time does Rivera ever simply say, “I’m sorry. What I said was terribly insensitive.” Nor does he ever seem to recognize the racism at the center of his “crusade.’’ Talk about forgetting your roots. He should go back to calling himself Gerry Rivers.

* * *

OK, before we get to the Jets, the more egregious football B.S. (because it involved potential physical harm to people) issued forth from one of the few head coaches in the NFL who can go toe-to-toe with Rex Ryan in smugness — Sean Payton, head coach of the ironically named New Orleans Saints. Payton was recently suspended for a year, without pay, for allowing a bounty system to exist, wherein defensive players on his team could win cash bonuses up to $1,500 for knocking a star player from the opposing team out of the game.

A lot of macho type talking heads and fans, whose careers and health were not on the line, said this was no big deal, that it went on all the time in the NFL. Commissioner Roger Goodell thought otherwise. He saw a sharp rise in concussions and a string of lawsuits from ex-players charging that the league was not concerned with the safety if its players. And here the Saints were targeting some of the league’s best players for injury. Talk about self-destructive.

Well, Payton and the Saints lied to Goodell about the bounties and when he caught them, he leveled the boom. Payton is the first head coach to be suspended for a year. When his punishment was announced, he said: “As the head coach, anything that happens within the framework of your team and your program you’re responsible for. And that’s a lesson I’ve learned.” … It’s easy to get carried away in regards to a certain side of the ball, or more involved offensively or defensively, and that’s something I regret.”

Huh? He regrets paying too much attention to the offense over the defense? Not that he might have ended the career of MVP Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay if one of the Saints defensive linemen (or two) hit him just right?

Payton never admitted lying to Goodell, but did say, “You’re disappointed, you’re disappointed in yourself that it got to this point.”

You’re disappointed? For what, that you got caught? How about, “I’m disappointed in myself and I’m sorry for my actions”?

* * *

OK, now the Jets. Really, compared to the first two, this is the least important offense in the scheme of things, but it is a so typically, insultingly Jet-like offense it can’t be ignored.

If you just got back from Mars, let me tell you that the Jets hired Tim Tebow, rock star, Christian athlete icon, to be their “backup” quarterback to Mark Sanchez, their three-year starter. In a week in which the pope was visiting Mexico and Cuba, Tebow (who seems to be pathologically “excited” to be a Jet) far eclipsed the pontiff in media coverage in the U.S.

The irritating thing with the Jets — and that includes their owner, Woody Johnson, general manager Mike Tannenbaum and coach Rex Ryan — is that they always say stuff that all their fans know is bull. For example, that getting Tebow was a “football decision” not a business-driven PR stunt to combat the coverage of their co-tenant New York Giants who just won their second Super Bowl title in four years.

Or that Sanchez, who wasn’t told about Tebow until he was signed, is fine with finding out he will be sharing game duties with a “backup quarterback“ who has guaranteed snaps in every game. Or that Tebow, who always talks of himself as a starting quarterback, is even considered to be a good quarterback by NFL standards. Or that the Jets actually have “a vision” on how to play offense with two quarterbacks (but with only a guaranteed scheme for Tebow) when Ryan is a defensive specialist who didn’t even know that his star wide receiver took himself out of the team’s most important game last year — against the Giants.

The sports commentators politely called all this B.S. from the Jets “disingenuous.” But heck, I doubt Ryan can even spell it, much less be it. I prefer the more accurate: “Liar, liar, pants on fire.” That can be their next HBO special.

And by the way, don’t expect Johnson, Ryan or Tannenbaum to say, “I’m sorry” to fans when this Spin Age tactic implodes. Of course, Johnson, as owner, will “regret” having to let Ryan and Tannenbaum go. They, of course, will say, “You’re disappointed when things don’t work out.”

Gentlemen, you have no idea.

ALEC and the 2nd Amendment

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

By Emily Theroux

The National Rifle Association has long relied on a catchy bumper-sticker slogan to justify its campaign to defeat gun control and thereby help corporate giants like Walmart sell more guns: “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.”

In Florida, unfortunately, the two opposing premises don’t cancel each other out. The state’s “Stand Your Ground” law makes it possible for people to kill people, using guns, and theoretically “get away with murder” (or manslaughter, or the “justifiable homicide” designations that tripled between 2006, the year the law went into effect, and 2010. As long as they claim they felt “threatened” in some indeterminate way and that they acted in self-defense, shooters are immune from civil suits and criminal prosecution.

It’s been one month since Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager walking alone through an unfamiliar gated community, was shot to death in Sanford, Fla. by self-designated “neighborhood watch captain” George Zimmerman, who maintained, in the absence of eyewitnesses, that he acted in self-defense after Trayvon attacked him. Since that tragic night, a maelstrom of strident and conflicting opinions about whether the shooting was racially motivated and which man was the real “victim” have turned the case into a media circus.

This week, the news broke that lead investigator Chris Serino didn’t believe Zimmerman’s story from the outset and wanted to charge him with homicide or negligent manslaughter. The Seminole County State Attorney’s office informed Serino, however, that the “Stand Your Ground” law required more evidence than the investigator had yet gathered in order for him to make an arrest. The measure was signed into law by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush in 2005. And that’s where the NRA – and a little-known legislative lobbying organization that spends as much as $7 million a year to spin conservative ideology into law – come into the picture.

If the NRA hadn’t collaborated for years with the secretive American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to lobby for passage by state legislatures of the “Stand Your Ground” law’s almost identically worded precursor, the “Castle Doctrine,” Zimmerman may not have even considered using deadly force against another human being whom he encountered in a public place. Last summer, the Center for Media and Democracy, a non-profit investigative reporting group, put up its latest website,, to shed light on the shadowy group. ALEC officially masquerades as America’s largest group of state legislators, yet 98 percent of its budget comes from corporate donors like Walmart (the top seller of guns and ammunition in the country), Altria (the parent company of Philip Morris), Coors, Bell South, Verizon, and Koch Industries. ALEC’s activities are also underwritten by the Koch-funded Heritage Foundation. ALEC pushes its far-right agenda by drafting “model” bills, many of which are later adopted by state legislatures virtually as written – in one case, so hastily that the lawmaker who proposed the bill reportedly forgot to remove ALEC’s mission statement from the copy she submitted for a vote.

After New York Times columnist Paul Krugman made the connection between Trayvon Martin’s death and ALEC’s  “Stand Your Ground” model, I listened intently to that night’s cable TV commentary. My knee-jerk reaction was as follows: You could have heard the grubs foraging in the lawns around the headquarters of television broadcasting outlets. I didn’t hear a single left-leaning cable TV pundit bring up ALEC on that evening’s prime-time programming – not even Rachel Maddow, whose silence on the subject initially stunned me. Later, I typed “Any reaction to Paul Krugman’s column about ALEC?” into Google’s search engine. What surfaced first were a few comments by fellow economists and progressive bloggers, along with a handful of tweets from the Netroots faithful. Digging deeper, I discovered that John Nichols of “The Nation,” who had written extensively last summer about ALEC’s entanglement in other state laws, discussed his findings on Current TV’s “Countdown” with Keith Olbermann. In addition, Lawrence O’Donnell did a segment about ALEC’s model bills on his MSNBC show last May.

Nicole Belle of the progressive blog “Crooks and Liars” showered praise on MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, who delved into ALEC’s sponsorship of the “Stand Your Ground” law a day before Krugman’s column appeared. “While other Sunday morning bobbleheads contented themselves to debate whether President Obama was politicizing the Trayvon Martin death by speaking on it, Hayes opted to talk about something no other news outlet thus far has been brave enough to raise,” Belle wrote.

It’s true that programs like “Meet the Press,” “Face the Nation,” and Chris Matthews’ “Hardball” don’t often venture into the netherworld of controversial organizations like ALEC – which, of course, denies that it has a partisan agenda. After all, the mainstream media have been accused of “liberal media bias” for so long by Fox News and right-wing radio hosts that they’ve overreacted by kowtowing to their critics and failing to challenge guests who answer direct questions by spouting evasive Republican talking points. The braver pundits cited above, however, dared to expose the underbelly of an organization that feeds on class and racial anxiety in order to scare more affluent citizens into arming themselves to the teeth.

The mainstream media have long maintained an uncomfortable truce with popular corporate mainstays like Coca-Cola, UPS, and AT&T, by declining to bring up their financial backing of right-wing political activities. (It’s not surprising that the same corporations support large media conglomerates by running advertisements, both in print and on the air.) “Big Think” blogger Kris Broughton recently applauded a local Omaha TV reporter for asking a Nebraska state senator why a bill he had sponsored sounded exactly like a model bill from the “ALEC Exposed” website. Broughton then speculated about “why NBC wastes good money on David Gregory and his lap dog routine” when feistier journalists are out on their beats demanding real answers.

On the right-wing blogs I visited, ugly invective against Paul Krugman surged like larvae from beneath a jagged rock. Like ALEC itself, the “creepy cronyism” Krugman described tends to shun the disinfecting power of sunlight. Meanwhile, at the “Rally for Trayvon Martin” being held tomorrow at high noon in front of ALEC’s D.C. headquarters, a coalition of gun-control advocates will wage yet another battle against what organizers are calling “Kill at Will” bills. The protesters stand to score a minor victory even if all they do is expose ALEC’s machinations to the flesh-and-blood world beyond the blogosphere – a world where, when lobbyists’ hypothetical guns are fired, real people die.

Note: Tomorrow’s rally is being sponsored by the Center for Media and Democracy, the National Urban League, the NAACP,, the AFL-CIO, SEIU, Common Cause, People for the American Way, and the National Council of Churches, among other organizations.

Life Imitates Art

Monday, March 26th, 2012

By Jeffrey Page

Meet the imperious Mr. Henry Gatewood, manager of the Cattlemen’s and Miners’ Bank branch in Tonto, a dusty outpost in southeastern Arizona. Listen to the words of Gatewood and those of some 21st century politicians and bankers and you see they are his direct descendants.

It is several years after the Civil War, and the better ladies of Tonto are running a hooker and a drunken doctor out on the next stagecoach east. The other passengers include an outlaw, the sheriff, a gambler, a whiskey salesman, the wife of a wounded cavalry officer, and Gatewood, played Berton Churchill.

This is the set-up for “Stagecoach,” the 1939 movie by John Ford, a terrific show all around, but with one scene that deserves a special look.

Gatewood sits between the two women on the stagecoach and speak s a deliciously ironic – not to mention prescient – soliloquy. At this point, we know Gatewood’s felonious secret; the passengers do not.

“I don’t know what the government is coming to,” he blusters. “Instead of protecting businessmen, it pokes its nose into business. Why, they’re even talking now about having bank examiners. As if we bankers don’t know how to run our own banks. Why, at home I actually had a letter from a popinjay official saying they were going to inspect my books.

“I have a slogan that should be emblazoned on every newspaper in this country: ‘America for the Americans.’ The government must not interfere with business. Reduce taxes. Our national debt is something shocking, over $1 billion a year. What this country needs is a businessman for president,” he says. In another 100 years or so, it would be the regulation-hating Ronald Reagan declaring in his first inaugural address: “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

Reagan’s groupies still quote that ignorant line. They forget, like Henry Gatewood forgot, that while an unregulated business class may rail against government oversight, working people and the middle class need such protection to survive.

Gatewood would have the passengers believe he’s a great American. Except that inside the little valise Gatewood holds close to his chest is the $50,000 he has just stolen from his bank.

Gatewood was a man before his time, and parsing his words is instructive.

–Like today’s bankers, Gatewood wants protection from the government, not regulation. But it’s the rabble of Tonto who stand to lose that uninsured $50,000.

–“As if we bankers don’t know how to run our own banks,” he harrumphs. The last few years have shown that, indeed, lots of bankers don’t know the first thing about running a bank.

–Gatewood complains about popinjay officials demanding to inspect his books. In fact, a lot of misery could have been avoided in America over the last few years if scores more regulators had been on the job.

–Then, Gatewood’s final words. First his nativist call for “America for the Americans.” Then his demand that government get the hell out of the way of business. And then the inevitable “Reduce taxes.”

And at last, he says the country needs a businessman for president – someone to protect all the Henry Gatewoods who take the money and run.

10 Reasons to Join CSA

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

By Shawn Dell Joyce

A new model of agriculture is catching on in our region; Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) offers farmers a guaranteed income during these uncertain economic times, and gives supporters part of the bounty of fresh produce.

In CSA, a shopper buys a weekly “share” of a participating farm’s harvest, and in return receives an assortment of locally grown fruits and vegetables. If the glorious taste of that isn’t enough to convince you about the worthiness of CSA, here are 10 more good reasons to join a local participating farm:

–The typical American forkful of food has traveled 1,500 miles from the farm to your mouth. When you join a CSA farm, you avoid all those diesel emissions from transporting the food. Additionally, because the produce hasn’t been commuting for a week to get to you, it’s much fresher and tastier.

–You know what you’re getting when you buy from a local farm. Many conventional farming practices are cruel and unhealthy. When you buy locally, you can see how the animals live. Most of these farms are run by small scale producers who allow animals to roam freely, graze on grasses (which is much healthier for them and us), nurse their young, and live a good life. The farms I buy from treat animals with respect and honor, which is important to me.

–Being a member of a farm helps to build a closer community. When share members come to pick up their weekly box of produce, they swap recipes, chat with the farmer, and discuss the weekly bounty. CSA farms often become gathering places, hosting potluck dinners, special events and even classes. The operators of Phillies Bridge Farm in Gardiner often show movies in their barn for share members.

–You create memories for your children and yourself. Some of my fondest recollections are picking ripe grape tomatoes with my young son on a hot summer day. The tomato plants, laden with deep red fruits, towered over our heads. Some were so ripe they would split in your fingers as you pulled them from the vine. We popped the lovely little split ones right into our mouths, and the flavor burst on our tongues. I’ll never forget the taste of those tomatoes, warm from the sun, dribbling down our chins.

–Connect yourself to the land and the season. Nothing tastes quite like a crisp apple on a cool fall day, or hot buttered corn off a summer grill, or baked squash in mid-winter. When your family is a member of a farm, you are treated to seasonal produce. Things naturally taste better in their season.

–Get to know your region. Farms are beautiful, and fun to visit. Be a tourist in your hometown. Many of our small farms rely on agri-tourism. Visiting a working farm gives your family a taste of our region’s history and local flavor.

–Money spent at a local farm stays local and grows. British researchers found that money spent at local farms multiplied because the farmer used a local bank, bought seed and supplies locally, advertised in local papers, and paid local employees. These “farm dollars” had twice the economic impact of the same amount of money spent at a chain grocer. Farmers tend to help and support one another rather than compete. As a result, CSA farms often offer produce grown on other farms.

–You acquire a taste for new flavors. Have you ever eaten a sunchoke? How about tossing some fresh purslane into a salad? When you read the word “sorrel” does a lemony flavor come to mind? Broaden your palate by joining a farm. The farm gives you a bit of everything it grows, which often includes a few things you may not have heard of. This is a great way to find your new favorite vegetable. Mine is the spicy hot daikon radish, long as your arm and white as potatoes.

–Preserve open spaces. When you participate in CSA, you support a farming family. This helps preserve the farmlands as well. If you appreciate the view of pumpkins and vines growing in the fields along Route 211 in Wallkill, support Sycamore Farms. The only way our farmers can afford to pay the taxes on those picturesque views is if we support the farms.

–An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Eating fresh, organic vegetables makes your family healthier, and saves you sick time and medical expenses. The fresher your vegetables, the higher the vitamin content, according to nutritionists.

For a list of CSA farms in your area, visit or stop into the Wallkill River School of Art in Montgomery for personal recommendations.

Carrie’s Painting of the Week

Saturday, March 24th, 2012

Not So Sunny Sunflowers

By Carrie Jacobson

Here at the end of March, a March that’s felt like May for the most part, the world seems finally to have slipped back into place. A biting wind – a March wind – slices across our yard, taking last year’s leaves with it. The yard is hard and gray, and it seems there is more dirt than grass.

I think that all this feeling came out in this sunflower painting – and to my surprise, I like it! I like the feeling of the last days of spring, of color washed away and muffled, but promising, promising. Friends and family have urged me to seek some darkness now and then. It’s hard to wrench myself from the blue skies and bright sunflower fields – but there is wisdom in what you all help me see.

Shawn Dell Joyce and I will be showing our work during the month of April at the Wallkill River School gallery. The opening reception is April 14 – but the show is up for the whole month. I hope you come by and check it out! The Wallkill River School is at 232 Route 17K (Ward St.) in Montgomery.


Gigli’s Photo of the Week

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Photography by Rich Gigli

Horton Brook, New York

Spring Carol by Robert Louis Stevenson

WHEN loud by landside streamlets gush,
And clear in the greenwood quires the thrush,
With sun on the meadows
And songs in the shadows
Comes again to me
The gift of the tongues of the lea,
The gift of the tongues of meadows.

“The JOBS Act: Just Offer BS”

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

By Emily Theroux

Two weeks ago, House Republicans made alphabet soup by stirring the unemployment crisis into their own hearty stew of Orwellian Newspeak. In the interim, between the passage of the 2012 “JOBS” Act in the House and the defeat of the thin gruel that detractors swapped out for it during yesterday’s Senate vote, enough lawmakers refused to eat the nasty stuff that the bill has now become a nondescript porridge that nobody wants to taste.

After the House passed the “JOBS” Act in a bipartisan vote of 390-23, President Obama urged the Senate to follow suit. During an election year, after all, who could oppose the first jobs legislation widely supported on both sides of the aisle of a contentious Congress? Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senator Chuck Schumer led the bill’s Democratic cheering squad, but others feared the measure would scuttle regulatory protections for investors, particularly elderly people targeted by scam artists. The bill’s detractors offered a variation that proved more palatable to labor leaders, consumer advocates, securities experts, and pension fund managers. The watery broth that resulted made a splashy mess all over the Senate floor in a 55-44 defeat.

Shades of Eric Cantor! Can’t you just smell the piquant aroma of ambiguous right-wing talking points? The bill’s guarded family recipe calls for a teaspoon of feigned regard for the kitchen-table concerns of ordinary Americans, a pinch of  “small business” demagoguery, and a dollop of pandering about “job-killing regulations.” Simply whisk this equivocal mumbo-jumbo into a stockpot simmering with doctrinaire anti-regulatory fervor, and voila! Gumbo’s on!

The result is the 2012 JOBS Act, an unsavory dish that has proven relatively easy for Republicans to disguise as cooked to order by “job creators” – and for Democrats with campaign-dollar signs in their eyes to gag down. Forbes speculated about whether the bill might unleash fraud. New York Times columnist Gail Collins thought “JOBS” could really stand for the “Just Open Bucket Shops” Act. Democratic Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, who declined to endorse the bill after Cantor, the House Majority Leader, sucked up to him, quipped, “I call it ‘Just Old Bills.’” But Robert Kuttner of The American Prospect, appearing on a “Countdown” segment, came up with the pithiest translation: “Just Offer BS.”

While the legislation promises to create jobs by removing that standard right-wing bogeyman, “burdensome regulations” – which its proponents claim prevent generously defined “small” business start-ups from going public – its detractors remain suspicious of its ingenious conservative acronym: J.O.B.S., which stands for “Jump-start Our Business Start-ups.” A recent New York Times editorial says the so-called “jobs” bill won’t create jobs; another points out that “reams of Congressional testimony, market analysis and academic research have shown that regulation has not been an impediment to raising capital.” If passed, the JOBS Act might well encourage the same type of frontier regulatory fiasco that led to the dot-com crash, the Enron debacle, and the mortgage meltdown, which ultimately caused massive unemployment.

In the “reality-based world,” this transparent Republican ploy doesn’t fly. Through the right-wing looking glass, however, words and phrases are easily twisted into a brand of doublespeak that turns the meaning of language on its head. Those evil geniuses who sit around in conservative think tanks and brainstorm the right wing’s ubiquitous dog-whistle code words really outdid themselves this time. If I had been a fly on the wall in one of those erstwhile “smoke-filled rooms” when the JOBS Act was being concocted, this is the kind of prattle I would have expected to hear:

“Let’s see … the Democrats keep ragging us about not passing a single piece of jobs legislation after we made jobs our campaign centerpiece in 2010 so we could swamp the House with Tea Party patriots. The lefties piss and moan that we’ve spent the past couple of years subduing immoral women, dumping geezer freeloaders from the cushy ‘social safety net,’ badgering lazy slobs who would rather be couch potatoes than get off their fat duffs and find a job, exposing welfare queens, blaming the ‘Democrat Party’ for increasing the national debt (and by the way, what’s that baloney about paying off debts we ran up last year? Oh, right – we’ve voted to raise the damn debt ceiling every time the president’s been one of ours, but far be it from any of us to say so), and tagging that uppity socialist Barack Obama with destroying America’s Triple A credit rating (don’t blame us – Mitt said it first!). So let’s pass a bill that secretly gets rid of even more regulations and guts SarBox (that’s what us conservatives call the Sarbanes-Oxley Act). Billion-dollar IPOs? No problem. Just call ’em ‘Mom & Pop start-ups.’ Then we can palm it off on the Dems as a ‘jobs bill’ by coming up with a wicked-cool acronym that hides what’s really in there. So what if ‘Jump-start Our Business Start-ups’ sounds a little forced? The true believers will decode our cues, Obama will chug it to improve his poll numbers, and the huddled masses will never know the difference.

“The real kicker is that almost every last one of those hungry House Dems is gonna swallow our hype whole. They can already taste the fear of those thundering attack ads sabotaging Independents’ brains come September. Now that I think of it, throw a few stones in that ‘crock’-pot, Mr. Cantor, and call it Lobster Bisque!”

The Baptism of Jews

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

By Jeffrey Page

Allow me to speak on behalf of Mr. Abraham Shubinsky, a man who traveled to the United States in 1909, not to escape his Judaism but to make distance between himself and groups of dangerous home-grown anti-Semites.

In a small town about 100 miles southwest of Kiev, he managed a mill and was subjected to verbal violence as a result of the combination of his faith and position.

He traveled alone to New York, got a job and saved money. In 1911 he had enough to send to his wife back in Ukraine so she and their two young daughters could join him in New York.

He was an orthodox Jew. He kept the Sabbath. He went to the synagogue. He kept the commandments. He and his wife kept a kosher kitchen. He presided over a crowded Seder every year at Passover. In America he would be safe.

So on behalf of Abraham Shubinsky – he died in 1961 – I, his grandson, do hereby renounce and reject any move by any member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to baptize him.

I don’t know if the Mormons – they have been reported several times to baptize dead Jews with whom they had no connection – ever got to my grandfather. The story doesn’t change; whenever it has been told, the baptizers feel saintly and Jews feel rage.

And now, Anne Frank and Daniel Pearl have been baptized by some individual Mormons with overheated senses of duty at churches in the Dominican Republic and in Idaho.

How dare they? Anne Frank spent two years hiding from the Nazis, then six months in Auschwitz where she died. Daniel Pearl was a reporter for The Wall Street Journal murdered by al-Qaeda in 2002.

The Mormons have no problem with posthumous baptism, though a letter from the leadership to Mormon churches throughout the world reiterates the official position that Mormons seek out members of their own families for posthumous baptism and refrain baptizing celebrities and victims of the Holocaust. So the people who baptized Anne Frank and Daniel Pearl ran counter to church doctrine.

Because baptism of dead Jews has occurred before, the letter is hardly reassuring to the relatives of Jews who died under gentler circumstances and who now could be selected for baptism after death.

Such baptism is a velvety form of anti-Semitism. The message to a dead Jew is: Your god failed you; ours would not. The message to living Jews is: See how much we love you? Enough that we would rescue you from the unhelpful clutches of Judaism.

Abraham Shubinsky, who died at 84, wouldn’t have bought it for a moment, and wouldn’t have chosen to spend eternity hanging out with Brigham Young and Joseph Smith. Nor would Anne Frank. Nor, I suspect, would the overwhelming majority of the 6 million other Jews who died in the Holocaust.

They suffered for their faith. We, their survivors, and other people of good will, suffer for their pain, for their lives cut short, for the lunatic ignorance that sent them to the camps, and for their terrible inability to rescue their children and parents, sisters and uncles, friends from the fires.

The Mormons should walk away and allow Jews to rest in peace.

Grey Water

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

By Shawn Dell Joyce
Each of us uses up to 36,000 gallons of water a year, topping over 146,000 for a family of four, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

That’s a lot of freshwater funneled down the drain and into overflowing septic tanks and sewers. At least half that water could be recycled and used again. That half is called grey water.

Grey water is not to be confused with black water, which flows from toilets and kitchen sinks. It is from the bathtub, shower, sink, laundry and dishwasher, and contains very few pathogens.

While this water is not for human consumption, it is fine for watering landscaping, flushing toilets or washing clothes. People who travel in recreational vehicles understand this concept very well.
Some water-conscious homeowners are designing grey water plumbing systems into their new homes. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing (PATH) program, installing a grey water reuse system in a new home costs from $500 to $2,500. Homeowners’ costs may vary depending on local code requirements for grey water and the costs of monthly treatment and water quality tests.

A built-in home grey water system separates the grey from black water and drinking water. It filters and sterilizes grey water without using chemicals then pipes it into a cistern for use in exterior watering and clothes washing. A screen catches hair and fibers. Then, special biocultures in a second chamber filter out organic compounds. An ultraviolet light sterilizes the grey water on its way to storage.

While that’s all nice if you’re building a new home, it’s not as easy to retrofit an existing house. Many people have taken to building their own simple grey water systems. You can watch a simple “how-to” video on You Tube about building a sink into the back of a toilet. Water from the sink fills the tank for the next flush. There’s a wonderful website and book produced by the Grey Water Guerrillas called “Dam Nation” which offers plans for simple grey water systems, and an overview of the politics of water.

Right now, more than a quarter of the world’s population has no access to safe drinking water. That’s one out of every four children, men and women. As one of its millennium goals, the United Nations is determined to reduce that statistic by half. If we all made a little effort to conserve and reuse water, each of us could save enough water to quench the thirst of 300 people a year.

If you would like to learn how to make your own rain barrel, and use grey water in your gardens, contact the Conservation Advisory Council for the Town of Montgomery, or take Cornell Cooperative Extension’s “Create Your Own Rain Barrel” workshop on March 31 at the Extension Office in Middletown.