Archive for April, 2012

Coming Attraction

Saturday, April 21st, 2012

By Jeffrey Page

Word that a developer is turning the old movie house at the Monticello Mall into a modern five-plex recalls the curious, and sometimes outrageous history of movie theaters in Sullivan County.

On the gentle side of things in the Seventies were the Rivoli in South Fallsburg and the Strand in Loch Sheldrake, both owned at the time by Sam Rosenshein, who also served as the Fallsburg supervisor. The theaters had long passed their glory days and were brooding hulks. Still, Rosenshein kept them open. But they were only crowded on Saturday nights in summer, when they were patronized mostly by tourists. Rainy days brought kids from camps.

When you went to the Rivoli in those days, your shoes stuck to the floor, you sensed that the seats were rarely if ever cleaned, you knew that the popcorn didn’t exactly taste like it was just made, and that if you breathed deeply you were inhaling air that smelled like something swampy.

But what was it? Ahh, it was a dampish combination of muskiness and mildew. That odor and the fact that no theater in the county ever showed the Marx Brothers was why I would take my daughter to the movies in Middletown or Chester, or down to the city if we needed a touch of Groucho to brighten our day.

Sam Rosenshein, an older gent and a genuinely nice guy, kept the Rivoli and Strand open year round. This might have had to do with the fact that he also owned Poppy’s, a popular-priced restaurant just a few blocks from the theater. Rosenshein would lock the Rivoli and then join his customers for coffee and Danish at the restaurant.

Though the Rivoli was quite unpleasant, I still recall it was there that I saw “The Late Show” with Lily Tomlin and Art Carney, having missed it in its initial run of the county. I have no idea why I remember this.

It was at the Rialto Theater in Monticello that the owner, Rick Dames – he would later gain a rep for showing porn – played “Travels With My Aunt” for an audience of seven on a blustery cold night. Dames said the old comedies would never draw an audience. He was right. Once he played a W.C. Fields double bill and said the crowd amounted to 12, which included a friend of mine and me.

Later at the Rialto, he showed pornographic features and then offered the movie “Snuff.” Snuff films, designed for the sickest among moviegoers, purportedly showed the actual murder of women. Some  advertising copy for “Snuff” ran: “The film that could only be made in South America where life is cheap.” This resulted in some local feminists bringing obscenity charges against Dames, who eventually left the county.

The county used to be rich in movie houses – the Roscoe, the Ritz in White Lake, four in Monticello, two in Liberty, the Peace Palace in Woodbourne, among others – but as summer tourism declined so did its theaters. The only active movie house in the county nowadays is in Callicoon.

The prospect of a new theater in Monticello is a treat for anyone who loves film.

Gigli’s Photo of the Week

Friday, April 20th, 2012


Photography by Rich Gigli

Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

Under the Maple Tree

By Rich Gigli  – Nov. 20, 2002

A young boy asked the old man, who was sitting under the maple tree, for wisdom.

Young boy:      I want to see the world?

Old Man:           Learn to see each new day unfold.


Young boy:      I want to climb the highest mountain?

Old man:            Learn to walk in the valley.


Little boy:        I want to hear all the great sounds in the world?

Old man:           Learn to hear the voice in your heart.


Young boy:      I want to find love.

Old man:            Learn how to mend a broken heart?


Young boy:       I want to be strong?

Old man:             Learn how to bend.


Little boy:          I want to be rich?

Old man:             Learn to desire nothing.


Young boy:        I want happiness?

Old man:              Learn to feel its kindly presence near.


Young boy:        I want to travel the world?

Old man:              Learn to walk on the narrow path.


Young boy:        I want to be famous?

Old man:              Learn to be kind.


Young boy:        I want to fly like an eagle?

Old man:              Learn how to dream.


Young boy:         I want to be spiritual?

Old man:               Learn from the whispering wind.


Young boy:          I want to be good?

Old man:                Learn not to fool yourself.


Young boy:          I want to be humble?

Old man:                Learn from the mighty ocean.


Young boy:         I want to be noticed?

Old man:               Learn from the budding flower.


Young boy:         I want to know all the stars in the sky?

Old man:              Learn to count the grains of sand on the beach.


Young boy:         I want not to have any pain in my life?

Old man:              Learn to catch a baby robin falling from its nest.


Then the young boy said to the old man, sitting under the maple tree, give me all your wisdom. Ha! The old man said, laughing; then learn to give me your youth.

Gigli’s Photo of the Week

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

Photography by Rich Gigli

Cooks Falls, N.Y.

Spring Embrace – (Gigli 1997)

 Silent colors of spring

 the eye can not hear.

 Pinions of birds in flight

 the ear can not see.

 Boundless sky radiant

 the hand can not touch.

 Oh ancient beauty in your fleeting moments awaken

 rest upon the withered soul embrace.









Why Not Teach to the List?

Monday, April 16th, 2012

By Bob Gaydos

Memo from: New York City Dept. of Education

To: Makers of standardized tests to be used in the New York City public school system:

“There should be no mention of dinosaurs in the tests. No birthdays either. No Christmas, Halloween or Ramadan questions. No mention of divorce, disease or death. Politics and religion should be avoided. Also violence, poverty, junk food and homes with computers or swimming pools. Come to think of it, let’s also leave out television and video games, war and homelessness. Also rock and roll. In fact, we’ve provided a comprehensive list of words and subjects to be avoided in standardized tests because we don’t want the kids who grow up in the largest city in the country to feel uncomfortable or unpleasant while taking the tests.”

Relax. While that memo — or some version of it — may have been sent to providers of standardized tests, the list of banned words did not became policy in New York City. Yet.

The story, which broke a few weeks back, fortunately, had a short shelf life. After a couple of days of incredulous headlines, the city education officials responsible for putting together a list of suggested words to be banned relented and decided to let the test writers do their job.

That job, by the way, routinely involves avoiding words or subjects because of possibly justifiable geographical or cultural differences or wholly arbitrary decisions to avoid offending some group. And we wonder why American kids test so poorly when compared to those in other countries. Our tests may be standardized, but they omit a good deal of the actual lives our kids lead.

New York City’s list made headlines because it was long and, well, stupid. (It’s at the bottom of this column, so you can make you own judgment.) NYC Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said the intent was merely to give guidance to the test developers. “So we’re not an outlier in being politically correct,” he said. “This is just making sure that test makers are sensitive in the development of their tests.”

Good lord, many of them are already wary of including anything on dinosaurs (which kids love) on the tests because that would suggest that evolution is indeed a fact. Can’t have that in Tennessee. Halloween (and other topics that suggest the occult or witchcraft) is also routinely avoided, even though it is the second biggest holiday in the country after Christmas. Which is also verboten. And, of course, any mention of birthdays is off limits in many places because Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t celebrate them.

Maybe not, but they do know that other people do. And it’s not as if Christmas or Halloween are underground holidays, whatever one’s religious beliefs.

Rich? Poor? Married? Divorced? Healthy? Sick? Are these not universal topics? How are slavery and terrorism part of this nation’s history but not fit topics for a standardized test?

Children today are exposed to all of life on a daily basis as never before through TV and the Internet. It could be argued that kids who grow up in New York City are even more exposed to all of life because of the vastness and diversity of the city — things city officials like to brag about. So why hold that against the kids?

No, you don’t have to go out of your way to make kids feel uncomfortable with topics such as sexual abuse, bullying, addiction, suicide or even natural disasters. The people who create the tests should be skilled enough to know what those words or topics are. But they shouldn’t be pressured to go beyond common sense to try to make their tests so innocent of life as to avoid offending any possible group.

Children learn to make judgments and distinctions as they grow up. They meet new people and hear new ideas all the time. Learning to assimilate those ideas into their lives and to adjust to a world in which they exist is a major part of maturing. We could use more of it in America.

People die. They get divorced. Countries fight wars. Celebrities do stupid things. Politicians, too. There are people for whom poverty and hunger are primary concerns every day. Others vacation in Aruba. Children don’t need to be shielded from the “uncomfortable” facts of life. Instead, they need to be taught about them and how to deal with them in proper settings.

Chancellor Walcott should take that now-abandoned list and try to figure out how to incorporate lessons on each topic at the appropriate place in the city schools’ curriculum. Then he can test the kids on it.

* * *

 Here’s the list:

Abuse (physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological)

Alcohol (beer and liquor), tobacco, or drugs

Birthday celebrations (and birthdays)

Bodily functions

Cancer (and other diseases)

Catastrophes/disasters (tsunamis and hurricanes)


Children dealing with serious issues

Cigarettes (and other smoking paraphernalia)

Computers in the home (acceptable in a school or library setting)


Death and disease



Expensive gifts, vacations, and prizes

Gambling involving money



Homes with swimming pools


Junk food

In-depth discussions of sports that require prior knowledge

Loss of employment

Nuclear weapons

Occult topics (i.e. fortune-telling)





Rap Music


Religious holidays and festivals (including but not limited to Christmas, Yom Kippur, and Ramadan)

Rock-and-Roll music

Running away




Television and video games (excessive use)

Traumatic material (including material that may be particularly upsetting such as animal shelters)

Vermin (rats and roaches)


War and bloodshed

Weapons (guns, knives, etc.)

Witchcraft, sorcery, etc.

*  *  *

What do you think?


The Mommy Wars

Sunday, April 15th, 2012

By Emily Theroux

The “Mommy Wars of 2012” are over, a mere week after they began.

If you’re surprised, you’re giving Mitt Romney and his manufactured controversy operation too much credit. Approximately a week is about all it takes for Mitt to trip over the coattails of his own latest advantage in the presidential race. Mitt, you see, likes gloating so much that he inevitably blows it by simply opening his mouth again to utter unscripted speech.

After an early April poll revealed an 18-point gender gap between President Obama (54 percent) and Romney (36 percent) in 12 swing states, Romney turned to his wife, Ann, who continued to assure him that women were really interested in the national debt and the deficit, not in a raft of extremist Republican bills targeting women’s reproductive rights. Feeling his oats about what he considered a successful counterattack, Romney decided to hold a conference call between reporters and campaign staffers. The candidate, who tends to stray off-script during “press availabilities,” was wisely not included in what was touted as a confab about “issues of vital concern to women.” But simply not putting Romney himself on the line wasn’t enough of a “stop-gaffe” measure. When Sam Stein of The Huffington Post asked whether Romney supported the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the line went dead for a full six seconds, before a staffer spluttered, “Sam, we’ll get back to you on that.”

Fortunately for the dumbstruck Romney camp, they didn’t have to wait long to seize the next opportunity for oneupsmanship that fell into their laps. Enter minor Democratic operative turned CNN commentator Hilary Rosen, who appeared that very night on CNN to offer the token liberal perspective on the equal pay flap. “Guess what? His wife has actually never worked a day in her life,” Rosen said when asked about the advisability of Romney having relied on his wife as an adviser on the economy and “women’s issues.” Most pundits left out what Rosen said next: “She’s never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing.”

The GOP, finding itself backed into a corner, simply changed the subject. It wasn’t a Republican war against women; it was a Democratic war against motherhood! The mainstream media, seeking fuel for their next ratings bonfire, followed the GOP’s lead over the cliff as fast as their little lemming-legs would carry them. Rosen struck a match, as one salivating women’s magazine editor later described it, and inadvertently ignited the media firestorm that was hailed for an entire week as “the new Mommy Wars.” Although Rosen has no connection to either the DNC or the Obama reelection campaign, conservative pundits called her an Obama campaign adviser. Chief Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod told CNN’s John King, “She is actually your employee, not ours.” Both the president and the vice president got right out in front of the “issue,” deploring Rosen’s slights against stay-at-home mothers.

The TV machine was abuzz with tendentious commentary from the right about the trumped-up controversy. Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann, without a hint of irony, said that the left should respect women’s choices. A representative of Bill Donohoe’s Catholic League tweeted: “Lesbian Dem Hilary Rosen tells Ann Romney she never worked a day in her life. Unlike Rosen, who had to adopt kids, Ann raised 5 of her own.” Sean Spicer, communications director for the Republican National Committee, added his own nonsensical retort: “The Catholic League should be encouraging adoption, not demeaning the parents who are blessed to raise these children.”

The whole ruse was working brilliantly – at least until that perpetual gaffe machine, Mitt Romney, screwed up once more and forfeited whatever “moral” ascendancy over Obama had caused everyone in the known universe to throw poor Hilary Rosen under the bus. First, Mitt trotted out his wife to praise “all working moms” at an unlikely venue – the annual convention of the National Rifle Association. Next, an enterprising NBC reporter captured on audiotape the overly loud remarks of Motormouth Mitt, addressing wealthy supporters at a Florida fund-raiser about his plans for two cabinet departments viewed by conservatives as obstacles to the emerging plutocracy. Far from being genuinely outraged about Hilary Rosen’s criticism, Ann Romney revealed on the same tape that she was delighted by the controversy and considered it her “early birthday present.” Finally, both Romneys, during an interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer, appeared to be measuring the White House drapes when Mitt said Obama should “start packing” and Ann said, “I believe it’s Mitt’s time,” and “It’s our turn now.” No humility for America’s would-be “First Mom,” apparently.

The jury is still out on whether the phony Mommy Wars controversy boosted Romney or hurt Obama with women voters. While a Pew Research Center poll released on April 17 revealed that Obama’s lead among all women slipped five percentage points since March to 13 points, subgroup data suggest a staggering gender gap among younger women that could become truly daunting for Republicans in the future. Among women aged 18 to 29, Obama is leading Romney by 45 points (70 to 25 percent)! If you expand that group to include men of the same age, Obama still leads Romney by 28 points (61 to 33 percent). As Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post points out, “Not since 1988 has a Republican presidential candidate won the women’s vote (and George H.W. Bush won women by only a single point).”

Our children are weathering this cultural crucible admirably, recycling that timeworn battle cry of earlier generations: “Don’t trust any (Republicans) over 30!” (Looking back on it, that’s what we really meant all along. We were just too young to realize it.)

Earth Day

Saturday, April 14th, 2012

By Shawn Dell Joyce

The first Earth Day, April 22, 1970, came on the heels of the Vietnam peace movement. This was a volatile era of monumental social change fueled by sit-ins and teach-ins, demonstrations, rallies, and a changing political consciousness. Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson modeled the first U.S. Earth Day as an environmental “teach-in.” More than 2,000 colleges and universities, roughly 10,000 primary and secondary schools, and hundreds of communities across the country participated.

It was also the first time we saw the famous picture of the Earth photographed from the moon by the Apollo astronauts. It was then that many of us first saw the earth in its entirety, and likened it as U Thant did to a spaceship.

Earth Day “brought 20 million Americans out into the spring sunshine for peaceful demonstrations in favor of environmental reform,” noted Senator Nelson. Legendary singer and activist Pete Seeger performed and was the keynote speaker at the Washington D.C. event. Ali McGraw and Paul Newman attended the New York City event.

Senator Nelson gave credit to the first Earth Day for persuading U.S. politicians to pass important environmental legislation. Many important laws were passed by the Congress in the wake of that first Earth Day, including amendments to the Clean Air Act, and laws to protect drinking water, wild lands and the ocean. Many of these laws are being attacked right now in Congress.

“Earth Day worked because of the spontaneous response at the grassroots level,” Senator Nelson said. “That was the remarkable thing about Earth Day. It organized itself. Earth Day has become the largest secular holiday in the world, celebrated in 175 countries by more than 5 million people.”

Celebrate Earth Day this Sunday by attending Trees for Tribs – short for tributaries – with the Conservation Advisory Council. Meet at Wooster Grove Park in Walden at noon, and join other volunteers helping plant the 200 trees and shrubs along the Tin Brook in Walden.  If you can help, call Patricia Henighan at 778-0214 or contact by email

Then, attend a free screening of “FRESH” an independent documentary film at the Wallkill River School of Art in Montgomery, from 3 p.m. to 5 on Sunday. Afterwards, will be a discussion with two local farmers about ways to localize our food system and possibly set up a purchasing cooperative.

Shawn Dell Joyce is the director of the Wallkill River School of Art in Montgomery, and a nationally-syndicated newspaper columnist.


Dealing With Bullies

Friday, April 13th, 2012

By Jeffrey Page

One of these days, boards of education are going to wake up and deal with bullying in locker rooms and corridors with the same intensity they’d employ if they discovered an extortion ring in the physics lab. To do less is to cheapen the lives of children.

Moreover, some recent cases have shown that bullying can be deadly or life changing for the child, and can be extremely expensive for the school district.

In Massachusetts two years ago, a girl couldn’t take the abuse from school mates any longer and hanged herself. In Ramsey, a student known to be a bully, attacked a 12-year old boy by punching him in the stomach. As a result, the victim is paralyzed for life and the school district’s insurance carrier had to fork over $4.2 million in a settlement.

But some courageous members of a high school football team in Texas have shown that there are effective ways of dealing with bullies – who often are cowards. At a school in San Antonio, a freshman was the victim of several bullies last fall, around the start of the school year, and this, as reported by the San Antonio Express-News,  is how a guidance counselor handled it.

She asked the coach of the football team if he knew of some members of the squad who might agree to simply walk from class to class with the bullying victim. Three players – the starting quarterback, right guard and right tackle – volunteered. The plan was simple. They’d pick the victim up at one class and walk with him to the next while chatting it up. Apparently there was just one confrontation.

And then it was over, and the previously tormented student became a regular with the players and their circle of buddies.

Now, the school administration has picked up the plan with athletes doing nothing more than lending a hand and being a friend with victims of bullies.

Meanwhile, The Record of Hackensack reported this week that the victim in Ramsey, Sawyer Rosenstein, had written detailed accounts of being bullied in school, and still was victimized.

Rosenstein’s tormentor had a known history of bullying and went right on even after the school board was informed. His final attack was in 2006 when he punched Sawyer in the stomach with enough force to cause a clot in a spinal artery. Sawyer was paralyzed from the waist down. He was 12 years old. Now he’s a first-year student at Syracuse University, remains paralyzed, and likely will be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

In reporting the settlement, The Record quoted the president of the Board of Education as saying that “character education” is part of the curriculum. But Sawyer suggested that “character education” hasn’t worked. “If they had taken corrective measures in the past maybe this would have been preventable,” he said, and noted that as a result of his life-changing injury, his attacker suffered the inconvenience of a few days on suspension.

New Jersey has strong anti-bullying laws but schools must enforce the rules if the law is to have meaning. It was Sawyer’s mother who placed her son’s experience in perspective.

“I wonder how many kids cried out for help,” Cheri Rosenstein said. “There are many Sawyers out there.”

Remember Phoebe Prince, the Irish immigrant in South Hadley, Mass. who was labeled an “Irish slut” and a “whore” by a group of students known as the Mean Girls? Through some perversion of logic, the Mean Girls conducted a cyber war against Phoebe because she dated a popular guy at school. They also attacked her with a beer can.

The abuse of Phoebe Prince reached her breaking point and she took her own life.

Several students were charged in connection with her death. Here’s how seriously the case was taken. One of the students, facing a rape charge, was allowed to plead guilty to a charge of criminal harassment, and was sentenced to one year on probation and 100 hours of community service.

Worse, the prosecutor said her investigation revealed that Phoebe’s torment had been observed by some teachers and administrators, who did nothing to stop it or to prevent its recurrence.

The next board of education needing to do something about bullying could do worse than speaking with a bunch of Texas football players who made school tolerable for some of their classmates.

Thank You, Keith Olbermann

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

By Michael Kaufman

Something has been gnawing at my brain ever since I read about Keith Olbermann being fired by the Current television network. I was struck by the smug tone of many of the articles, even from news sources generally regarded as progressive or left-leaning. Few voices have been raised on Olbermann’s behalf, perhaps because one of Current’s founders and co-owners is Al Gore, who has done a meritorious job of raising public awareness of the challenges posed by environmental pollution and climate change.

Coverage of the firing, Olbermann’s lawsuit and the countersuit filed by the network, tends to hone on Olbermann’s “stormy” relationships with previous employers, ESPN and MSNBC. One article contained an anecdote about Olbermann yelling impatiently at a limo driver who possessed limited English language skills. The same article said he yelled at staff members.

Some folks don’t like Olbermann because he has a big head, which is true of both his hat size and his ego. (His fight with Current is often described as a “clash of egos,” Olbermann versus Gore and his partner Joel Hyatt.) Yes, his style can sometimes be grating and abrasive. And as much as I agree with him, it isn’t necessary to conclude every report of Sara Palin’s latest antics with, “That woman is an idiot.”

But something else needs to be said here. When no other commentator on national television dared speak out against the U.S.invasion of Iraq, Olbermann did so, boldly and eloquently. That is how I first became aware of him as anything other than a clever sports commentator. Someone forwarded me a link to one of his commentaries on MSNBC….and then another…until I started watching “Countdown” every night for myself. I had stopped watching MSNBC in 2003 after they fired Phil Donahue, host of the highest rated show on the network at the time because he allowed some guests on his program to express antiwar sentiments.

A study commissioned by parent company NBC had described Donahue as “a tired, left-wing liberal out of touch with the current marketplace” who would be a “difficult public face for NBC in a time of war.” The report warned that the Donahue show could be “a home for the liberal antiwar agenda at the same time that our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity.”

In an email leaked at the time, one executive suggested that MSNBC could take advantage of the “anticipated larger audience who will tune in during a time of war” to “reinvent itself” and “cross-pollinate our programming” by linking pundits to war coverage. “It’s unlikely that we can use Phil in this way, particularly given his public stance on the advisability of the war effort,” the email said.

This was a time of unprecedented censorship, of embedded reporters (no David Halberstams or Pete Hamills covering this war). Instead we were given deceitful propaganda about “weapons of mass destruction,” fed by unnamed government sources to Judith Miller and dutifully printed by The New York Times. Retired generals who questioned the policy were silenced and smeared. There would be no photos of body bags or coffins bringing home our dead. You couldn’t even hear the Dixie Chicks singing on the radio: One of them had spoken out against the war. And if you wanted to see the day-to-day devastation and ruin caused by “Shock and Awe” you had to watch the news fromFrance with English subtitles on WNYC.

It took guts for Olbermann to speak out then…..maybe not quite on the order of Ed Murrow taking on Joe McCarthy, but close enough in my book. And when “Countdown” became the highest-rated show on MSNBC the network bosses decided it was good business to identify the station with the “liberal antiwar agenda.”  Thanks to Keith we can now tune in to the likes of  Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz, Lawrence O’Donnell, Melissa Harris-Perry, and Chris Hayes….at least until the next time the marketplace requires cheerleading for war.

Michael can be reached at










Gigli’s Photo of the Week

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

Photography by Rich Gigli

Flight of the Bumble Bee

The Bee

By Emily Dickinson

Like trains of cars on tracks of plush
I hear the level bee:
A jar across the flowers goes,
Their velvet masonry

Withstands until the sweet assault
Their chivalry consumes,
While he, victorious, tilts away
To vanquish other blooms.

His feet are shod with gauze,
His helmet is of gold;
His breast, a single onyx
With chrysoprase, inlaid.

His labor is a chant,
His idleness a tune;
Oh, for a bee’s experience
Of clovers and of noon!



Chris Strikes Out

Monday, April 9th, 2012

By Emily Theroux

I’ve been sacked out on the couch for the past week, trying to recover from a nasty chest cold. As a result, I’ve been watching entirely too much cable television.

By last night, I was already dazed and confused by cough medicine and feeling downright irritable, when I happened upon Chris Matthews going all “Cold War” on a Cuban-American guest during a “Hardball” discussion of Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen’s recent remarks about Fidel Castro. Guillen has been widely reviled in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood in recent days for telling Time magazine that he “loved” Castro [Time’s translation] and adding, “I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that [expletive] is still here.”

Guillen is not Cuban-American, although why he would utter such a careless and incendiary remark in a hypersensitive region like Little Havana remains hard to explain. Ironically, Guillen was hired in large part because of his reckless charm; as a genuine character and a fellow Latino, Guillen was expected to bolster the Marlins’ flagging image, especially among the Cuban-American population. The team built an expensive new stadium, hired star Dominican shortstop Jose Reyes, and brought in Guillen only months ago to manage the team.

In 2005, Guillen (who managed the Chicago White Sox for eight years) was lauded as the first Latino manager in major league history to win a World Series. Looking back on his career, however, the Marlins’ owners might have observed a penchant for blustery talk and coarse language. The team’s owners wanted a Latino coach, but they got a little more than they bargained for by hiring this cheeky Venezuelan who has described himself as “the Charlie Sheen of baseball minus the drugs and the prostitutes” and was quoted as saying, “When you have success, you can talk all the [crap] you want.”

Guillen’s career has been tarnished by previous political controversy. In 2006, he was fined and ordered to undergo sensitivity training for referring to Chicago Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti with a homophobic slur. Guillen, an inveterate loudmouth, apologized to gays in general yet refused to express any remorse to Mariotti. When the White Sox won the Series, Guillen declined to participate in the traditional team visit to the White House, then occupied by George W. Bush. While he was criticized for holding up a Venezuelan flag during the trophy ceremony , Guillen became an American citizen a year later and has denied rumors  that he is politically supportive of pugnacious President Hugo Chávez. Now, the largely conservative Cuban-American expatriate community in Miami has erupted, calling for Guillen’s job and comparing him to baseball outcasts Al Campanis, John Rocker, and Marge Schott, all of whom were sanctioned for making racist remarks. Guillen – whom everyone acknowledges said nothing about race or ethnicity – has apologized and accepted his five-game suspension, but he insists that he was mistranslated and claims he was only expressing a sort of grudging respect for Castro because he has somehow managed to avoid assassination for the past five decades. A boycott is underway in Miami, and many sportswriters and pundits have predicted Guillen’s tenure in Miami will prove short-lived.

Chris Matthews waded into the controversy by inviting Miami City Commissioner Francis Suarez to appear on his MSNBC show. After Suarez condemned Guillen’s remarks, Matthews, always ready to suck up to conservative guests to prove he doesn’t harbor any “liberal media bias,” jumped right in with: “Well, my view is that this guy bought the wrong ticket in the Cold War, and if the other side had won, if the Communists had won, that guy would have been standing in Central Park watching the execution of anybody with any political talent in this country. So I’m with you guys on this one. Castro was no good.”

Now I am no fan of Tweety, as progressive bloggers have long called Matthews because of the conspicuous shade of canary yellow he dyes his hair. The man has a well-documented propensity for a hale-fellow-well-met kind of “male bonding” with controversial conservative figureheads – among them, disgraced former House Majority Leader Tom Delay; Family Research Council President Tony Perkins; former Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo, and paleoconservative political analyst Pat Buchanan. During his interview with Suarez, Matthews bluntly remarked, “It’s not a capital offense; I mean, you’re not gonna torture the guy.” This offhand and absurd pander to his Republican guest is quintessential Tweety. It’s a stance he takes when he’s angling to be viewed as going mano a mano with an adversary, when he “likes the cut of the guy’s jib,” as he is fond of saying. How convenient for him that his guest this time was a conservative Cuban-American politician with whom Chris could presume to act macho and chummy over “commies.”

Neither Suarez nor Guillen was even a twinkle in his father’s eye when Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba. Matthews himself was a newborn in 1945. Still, nothing seems to prevent him from masquerading as an unparalleled expert on the era.

But perhaps Chris Matthews is right. Maybe the Red Scare really is on its way back. This week, notorious Tea Party Rep. Allen West announced that he’s “heard” that up to 80 House Democrats are members of the Communist Party.

This is how it starts – with a whisper campaign. When a Palm Beach Post reporter asked him to back up his assertion, West refused to “name names” – but a Fox News staffer later tweeted that West’s flack told him the congressman was referring to members of the House’s Progressive Caucus.

Chris Matthews will probably try to convince us that he had a sneaking suspicion about those Netroots types all along.

Emily Theroux, the newest member of  Zest of Orange, is a former magazine editor at The Times Herald-Record and writes occasional political commentary on social media sites.