Archive for April, 2013

The Endless Fight for Women’s Rights

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

By Bob Gaydos

Malala Yousafzai

Back when Time magazine was deciding on its “Person of the Year,” the editors went with the safe, boring and incorrect choice — Barack Obama. In doing so, they avoided the exciting, correct, popular choice — Malala Yousafzai.

Now, in promoting their other effort to pump-up sales — “The 100 Most Influential People” issue — the Time editors are also trying to cover their erring butts by putting Malala on the cover, suggesting that even in such, umm, influential company, some people are more influential than others and that Miss Yousafzai is, perhaps, the most influential of all.

I don’t know that she is. In this case, President Obama, as predictable as he may be on the list and as hamstrung as he is by Republicans in Congress, is probably the most influential person on the planet by virtue of the fact that he is president of the United States of America.

But I’m not talking about influence here; I’m talking about perception, maybe even predilection or pre-conditioning. It’s my belief that Malala, 15, got short-changed in the “Person of the Year” selection because even the progressive, fair-minded, liberal-thinking editors of Time were pre-programmed and could not get past the fact that she is a teen-aged girl and Obama is a grown man. A man of accomplishment and history, to be sure, but a man.

So, despite igniting a firestorm of international outrage and support when she was shot by the Taliban for daring to promote educational freedom for girls in Pakistan, Malala didn’t quite measure up to a two-time president, as far as Time was concerned.

But, as often happens with “influential” women, second and third looks have produced different reactions. Maybe she was a teenaged girl, but she had displayed remarkable courage and dedication to continue to fight for “education, freedom and self-determination for girls and women,” as Chelsea Clinton wrote in her piece on Malala for Time. Interesting phrase that: “self-determination for girls and women.’’

Another phrase that caught my eye in Time was Madeleine Albright’s description of Aung San Suu Kyi, a political leader fighting for democracy in Burma, as “this indomitable woman.” I don’t believe I have ever heard a man referred to that way — “this indomitable man.” Even a dictionary check turned up this: “indomitable: impossible to subdue or defeat: a woman of indomitable spirit.” Even a woman fighting for self-determination for everyone can’t escape also being identified as a spunky woman. It may be subtle, but it strikes me as simply another example of a pre-programmed perception of women as being, not simply different from men, but not quite equal.

Now, I recognize that I am venturing into tricky territory for a male, especially one who has also been exposed to the very pre-programming I mentioned above, but think about it. When have you ever heard the phrase “men’s rights” used in a discussion of some issue in a serious manner? In decades in journalism and now writing a blog, I have never heard it used, other than by some group of disgruntled men with a warped sense of reality.

But women have been fighting for equal rights in this country for centuries. Once upon a time it was for the right to vote, one would think a basic right for all in a country that boasts of equality for all. Today, the social media sites on the Internet are full of groups dedicated to fighting for “women’s rights.”

What kind of “rights“? The same pay for the same job as men. The same opportunity for advancement in a company, even though being of child-bearing age. The right to control decisions about her own body. The right to express views on important issues aggressively without being referred to as a “b****.” The right not to be raped or beaten or be treated as sex slaves. The right to a good education and equal job opportunities. In sum, all the rights men take for granted.

Legally, that doesn’t quite exist in the United States. Despite a widespread impression and numerous attempts since 1923, the Equal Rights Amendment has never been approved by the required number of states — 38 — to become law. The amendment is refreshingly simple: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex.” It has fallen three states short of approval and its opponents consider it to be dead, the 1982 deadline for approval having passed. Its proponents have adopted a “three state strategy,’’ believing if they can get those three approvals it will indeed become the law of the land. Political rallies are being organized to promote these efforts.

I support the pro-ERA goals and efforts to educate women to simply claim their rights without asking permission. But I’m not sure that’s enough. I also think there needs to be a fundamental change in the way we teach our children to value themselves, regardless of gender. In fact, even if the ERA were somehow to pass after all this time, the fight for “women’s rights” would have to continue, I believe, so long as a significant percentage of men and women look upon females as less equal than males. It comes down to power and the fear of losing it, or the perception of it, I think, and many men, trained from childhood as to the ‘‘proper” roles for men and women in society, will not easily change.

It is smart and right and crucial to educate young girls about being independent and the equal of any other person, male or female. Malala is a classic example of such upbringing. But, I fear, until we start showing young boys and girls how to treat everyone with respect and dignity, regardless of gender, no constitutional amendment will guarantee equal rights in this country.





Carrie’s Painting of the Week: 04/24/13

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

Springtime on the Eastern Shore

By Carrie Jacobson

It’s a chilly spring here on the Eastern Shore, but it is spring nonetheless. Daffodils, dogwoods, azaleas, tulips, forsythia – for them, I guess it’s the sun more than the temperature that matters. Cardinals are here, and bluebirds, and the hummingbirds began arriving this week. And one day, soon, it will be warm.

On Tuesday, I learned that Charlie Harris, husband of Karen Harris, a friend from the Record, had died. He was young – well, what I think of now as young. Mid-50s, maybe.

He was young for death.

Charlie’s passing has shaken me deeply, not because we were especially close, but because, I think, he always seemed so very much alive. He always seemed full of energy, full of smiles, full of vigor and enthusiasm and life. It seemed that he had so much life in him that he would, he must, live for a long, long time.

But none of us does.

As this wintry spring comes and goes, all too quickly, all to briefly, I will plant a thought of Charlie Harris, and be glad that I knew a man who was so full of life.

Why USA Ignores WHO on Cell Phones

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

 By Michael Kaufman

After an extensive review of research worldwide, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the World Health Organization (WHO) has published its findings on the cancer risk to humans posed by exposure to cell-phone radiation and other devices involving radiofrequency electromagnetic fields, such as Wi-Fi.  The conclusions suggest that “it is time for all nations to review their cell-phone regulatory standards and testing procedures in order to protect their citizens from preventable risks,” says Joel M. Moskowitz, Ph.D., of the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley. Also, adds Moskowitz, who has read the entire 471-page WHO monograph, “It is critical that governments provide ample warnings to cell-phone users how to use their phones safely.”

In a press release posted April 19, Moskowitz points out that according to the IARC, “Radiofrequency electromagnetic fields are possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B).”  Children are particularly vulnerable because “the average exposure from use of the same mobile phone is higher by a factor of two in a child’s brain and higher by a factor of 10 in the bone marrow of the skull.” Moreover, he notes, a child’s brain develops at a greater rate than the adult brain, adding to the risk.

The report represents the consensus of a “Working Group” of 31 international experts who met in Lyon, France, in May 2011. Moskowitz says that some recent studies that provide further evidence for increased cancer risk due to exposure to cell-phone radiation were not reviewed. Meanwhile, other recent studies have linked cell-phone radiation with other harmful effects on humans, “especially on sperm and the fetus.” The IARC reviewed research involving users of legally-acquired cell phones that had passed regulatory standards. Although users were exposed to “non-thermal doses of microwave radiation,” the IARC concluded there is some evidence that these exposures caused increased risk of glioma (a type of brain tumor that is often malignant) and acoustic neuroma (a benign tumor affecting nerves that run from the inner ear to the brain).  “Thus,” says Moskowitz, “it is time for all nations to review their cell-phone regulatory standards and testing procedures in order to protect their citizens from preventable risks. Also, it is critical that governments provide ample warnings to cell-phone users how to use their phones safely.”

According to Moskowitz, 15 nations and the European Union have already issued precautionary warnings about cell-phone radiation. “Many of these warnings strongly encourage limiting use by children and teenagers, as well as adherence to cell phone manufacturers’ recommendations that you must keep the phone away from your body when it is turned on,” he explained, adding, “It is amazing what you can find in small print!”

So why has the WHO report fallen on deaf ears so to speak in the United States? Moskowitz thinks federal agencies have been in denial about health risks from cell-phone radiation because of “tremendous political and economic power” exerted by the wireless industry. “The industry has been very successful in co-opting many scientists worldwide and employs many of the tactics developed by the tobacco industry,” he maintains. Thus, despite numerous attempts, no state has been able to pass cell-phone precautionary legislation and San Francisco is the only city that has adopted a precautionary cell-phone ordinance. Even that may be gone soon, says Moskowitz, because of a lawsuit filed on behalf of the wireless industry in the federal courts. It appears that the “free speech rights of industry trump the public’s right to know.” The irony, he says, is that no one is suggesting that anyone give up using cell phones or Wi-Fi. “We are simply arguing we need to develop safer technologies, stronger regulations, and teach people how to use these technologies in a safe manner.”

My wife Eva-Lynne has already been putting all her calls on speaker phone at home and in the car, especially since her recent surgery to remove a parotid tumor adjacent to her right ear—the one she always used to put against the phone. It is a minor annoyance to have to listen to some conversations (especially when I hear her talking to her mother and suspect they’re talking about me) when I’m trying to focus on work. But it is well worth it if it can reduce the risk of cancer. And now I have no choice but to urge our kids to follow suit. The thought of listening to some of their conversations makes me shudder….. but it sure as hell beats cancer.

Michael can be reached at

What Do We Do with Tsarnaev?

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013


By Jeffrey Page

Once again, America has been attacked from within and again, some of the victims were the little ones, the defenseless ones.

And again we confront the vexing question that arises whenever there is a mass shooting or, as in the Boston case, a bombing: What do we do with the killers who steal young lives as casually as they’d swipe an extra after-dinner mint from a restaurant?

The question is a fair one. In fact, you’d have to be a raving optimist to believe that the work of the Tsarnaev brothers at the finish line of the Boston Marathon will be the last such atrocity. Based on a report in a recent issue of Mother Jones Magazine on mass killings in America, it is reasonable to conclude that such acts against America will happen again. Mother Jones found that there have been about 62 such incidents over the last 30 years in 30 states. In those attacks, 513 people were killed and 736 injured. Additionally, Mother Jones found, the rate of such attacks has increased in recent years.

Citing sources, The Boston Globe has reported the younger brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, admitted planting the two bombs that killed three people and injured 170 others. What is a civilized society do with the likes of him?

–Some Americans would wish him a sentence of life imprisonment, not for his sake but for ours. They believe – and ultimately are correct – that every time the American justice system puts a criminal to death, it coarsens the nation as a whole and diminishes the humanity of each of us, its citizens and residents.

–Eye-for-eye types would send Tsarnaev to the death house forthwith.

–Some people argue against capital punishment by suggesting that Tsarnaev would suffer more by spending the rest of his life in prison – knowing he will never walk free – than by being put to death.

–There are people – good ones, sincere ones – who oppose capital punishment but have an asterisk in their souls that shouts the impossibility of mercy for someone with a gun and a cause who kills children. Clemency for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev? What about clemency for Martin Richard?

I look at the pictures of Martin, the 8-year old boy who was killed by one of Tsarnaev’s bombs. In the photos I have seen, Martin is smiling. He is the toothy kid with the hand-made sign that said, “No More Hurting People. Peace.” He’s the kid whose sister and mother were gravely injured in the bombing. I think about Martin and his family a lot.

And after two decades, I still think a lot about Baylee Almon, the year-old baby who was among the dead in Oklahoma City in 1995, and about Veronica Moser-Sullivan, who was killed in the movie house massacre in Aurora, Col. last July. She was 6.

And there are Charlotte, Daniel, Olivia, Josephine, Ana, Dylan, Madeleine, Catherine, Chase, Jesse, James, Grace, Emilie, Jack, Noah, Caroline, Jessica, Aveille, Benjamin and Allison at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Conn. Every one of them was either 6 years old or 7.

A few questions for Zest readers: If we sentence ordinary one-victim murderers to life imprisonment, are we bound to refrain from imposing the death penalty on someone who kills children? What should be done with such a criminal?

And so, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. I have heard some arguments for sparing Tsarnaev. He’s only 19. He was probably under the influence of his angrier, older brother. Capital punishment diminishes all of us.

Yes, yes, and yes.

So what do we do with him?

Where Have All the Honey Bees Gone?

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

By Bob Gaydos

Despite many years of observing and commenting on the human condition, I continue to be amazed (though no longer surprised) at the ignorance and arrogance (fellow travelers) we humans often display with regard to our own well-being. And no, I’m not talking about the Tea Party and its hostages in the Republican Party. At least not exclusively them.

Rather, I’m talking about the people who, in the name of commerce, science, progress, even good health, look upon nature as something to be improved upon, to be conquered, to be shown, in effect, who’s boss. The folks at Monsanto, who feel compelled to alter the genetic makeup of so much of the food we eat, are a prime example of this attitude. Growing more and hardier crops in smaller spaces means more profits, even though no one can say for certain that the science behind the profits will eventually prove to be safe for humans. Their arrogance bought the ignorance of a feckless Congress, which protected the company from revealing its GMOs on food labels.

But, I have another example of humans recklessly meddling with nature in mind here. We’re talking about honey bees, which are dying at a rate that cannot be good for the planet or those who live on it.

In fact, honey bees have been disappearing at an alarming rate for more than a decade. Some say a million colonies a year. Gone. No trace. It’s the kind of things most people don’t notice. After all, we‘re just talking about bees here, right? But those who grow fruits and vegetables depend on the bees for cross-pollination, the process that allows fertilization and productions of seeds. These food producers have been well aware of the growing bees crisis.

Last year, scientists said they believe they finally figured out the culprit — a group of pesticides known as neonicotinoids. Produced mainly by the chemical giant, Bayer, these pesticides are present in commonly used home gardening products and are regularly sprayed on millions of acres of corn, soy, wheat and cotton seeds in the United States alone.

Scientific reports say the insecticides act as a nerve poison, infecting the pollen and nectar of plants, disorienting the bees and making it impossible for them to find their way back to their hives. In addition, scientists believe aggressive land development and the destruction of natural bee habitats has added to the disappearance. Plus, some of those genetically modified organism crops have had toxic insecticides introduced into their genetic structure, in the name of making them hardier. But scientists think the toxins may also be poisoning the bees.

Here’s where the ignorance and arrogance come in. Do we want to depend on chemical giants like Monsanto and Bayer to guarantee a healthful supply of fruits and vegetables, or would we rather depend on the stewards nature provided — the honey bees? My money’s on the bees, but commercial beekeepers can’t compete with the money the chemical companies spend on gaining protection from state and federal government agencies. Still, the beekeepers last month sued the Environmental Protection Agency, asking it to remove its approval of two widely used neonicotinoids. (Germany and France have done so.) Bayer continues to insist they are safe. The EPA’s lukewarm response was to send a team to California, where millions of commercial hives are needed yearly, to talk about the problem.

Talk is cheap. The EPA, which relies on the chemical companies’ testing to determine the safety of their own products, needs to launch a full scale review of these pesticides, as well as the toxins spliced into crops, to determine if they are, in fact, killing off millions of bees and jeopardizing the bountiful food supply nature has provided without any help from humans. We would do well to listen to the warnings of the honey bees and the people who know how to work with and nurture them, rather than the profit-driven assurances of giant purveyors of better farming through chemicals.

If you care about the food you eat, write the EPA to take meaningful action, via their web site: Or, sign a petition at Help the bees find their way home.


Jackie Robinson at Career’s End

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

By Jeffrey Page

I saw the movie “42” over the weekend and was stunned by its depiction of Jackie Robinson’s ordeal when he broke the color line and became the first black ballplayer in the major leagues. What’s needed now is a portrayal of the shabby way he was treated in 1956 as his career with the Brooklyn Dodgers came to an end.

Over his 10 seasons, Robinson mostly played second base and was one of the game’s most ferocious competitors. You didn’t want to be playing second base when Robinson got the sign to steal from first, and you didn’t want to be pitching with Jackie coming to bat in a clutch situation.

By the end of the 1956 season, Jackie Robinson had racked up a lifetime batting average of .311, had smacked 137 homeruns and stolen 197 bases. It would be instructive to count how many hits and runs his teammates made as a result of his ability to drive opposing pitchers crazy as he danced off the bases, threatening to steal, but I know of no such statistic.

He was an old 28 when he played his first game for Brooklyn and an ancient 37 when he played his last regular season game. Yet in that last game, even at 37, he went one for four at the plate, scored a run and drove in another as the Dodgers beat the Pirates at Ebbets Field.

We boys of Eastern Queens had watched Jackie Robinson for years. We loved his nerve, his talent, his determination, and maybe most of all, his courage to have survived the racist intimidation that major league baseball and some of its fans dished out so easily. We tried to run like him. We tried to stand at the plate like him. Soon, we knew he was slowing and wondered if he would wind up as a Dodger coach (maybe), the first black manager (was baseball ready for that?), maybe hold down a front office job in Brooklyn.

But no, none of the above.

In the highly skilled way that baseball club owners have of breaking their fans’ hearts, the Brooklyn front office had other ideas about Robinson and about the team. In the Dodgers’ case, the words “front office” meant only one man: Walter F. O’Malley, the team’s principal owner and a man who never understood the meaning of the word “loyalty.”

The Dodgers won the ’56 National League pennant and would again face the Yankees in the World Series. Admittedly, Robinson had a terrible post season, batting an anemic .174 in that seven-game series. Yet he also drew seven walks, stole two bases, scored four runs and drove in two more.

One month later, Walter F. O’Malley announced that Jackie’s days in Brooklyn were over. He had traded the great Jackie Robinson to the New York Giants. For Jackie, O’Malley got Dick Littlefield, a journeyman pitcher, and $10,000. Littlefield for Robinson? Was Walter F. O’Malley out of his mind?

Now I don’t pretend to know the nature of the discussions between Robinson and the Dodgers. Did he make unreasonable salary demands? Did he rub Walter F. O’Malley the wrong way? Was he demanding a long-term contract at age 37?

It didn’t matter. We were aghast to know that he wouldn’t be back. That he would be tantalizingly close uptown at the Polo Grounds. That we would root for him to get on base every time he faced a Dodgerpitcher. That, for better or worse, he was ours and we were his, and that’s the way it was supposed to be and the way it would have to be.

What is it about club owners? Remember when the Braves moved from Boston to Milwaukee and then from Milwaukee to Atlanta telling the fans along the way to go to hell?

Remember when the Yankees unceremoniously dumped Elston Howard? After 12 years in the Bronx, they sent Ellie Howard, a fine catcher with a .273 lifetime batting average, to the Red Sox. What could be worse than that?

Early in January of 1957, Jackie Robinson made his own announcement. He was retiring from baseball and would not be available to be toyed with by the likes of Walter F. O’Malley.

Later that year, as though to prove his perfidy was boundless, Walter F. O’Malley moved the Dodgers, a money-making team, from Brooklyn to Los Angeles. It was a terrible time, and gave rise to the often reported colloquy between Jack Newfield and Pete Hamill.

Who were the three worst men in history? Hitler, Stalin and O’Malley.

What would you do if you had a gun with just two bullets and the three of them were together in a small room?

Shoot O’Malley twice of course.

Living the Iron Lady’s Legacy

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

President Barack Obama slipped the controversial "chained CPI" formula for cutting Social Security cost-of-living increases into his 2014 budget, angering liberal Democrats in the Senate, the House, and progressive organizations.

By Emily Theroux

When Barack Obama introduced his 2014 budget today, one controversial item made it look more like the kind of austerity plan that might have been devised by formidable British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher than a fiscal proposal by a “stateside” Democratic president.

That’s because, for the first time, a Democratic president has dared to propose cutting increases in Social Security benefits — the linchpin of the American social safety net. His inclusion in the budget of “$230 billion in savings from using a chained measure of inflation for cost-of-living adjustments” broke a campaign promise not to cut benefits for current or near-term retirees. The move infuriated progressives, who delivered 2 million petition signatures to the White House yesterday, demanding that the item be expunged.

An Obama adviser termed the infamous “chained CPI” budget item a “goodwill gesture” to Republicans. The president himself, according to Politico, viewed it as serving “a tactical purpose” by proving he’s not afraid to “flout party orthodoxy.” Liberal organizations like MoveOn, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, the National Organization for Women, and the Campaign for America’s Future called it a betrayal.

I call using the left (by goading them into a heated public confrontation purely to score points with his opposition) unmitigated, full-throttle political posturing.


New formula would cost retirees $112 billion

Robert Reich

President George W. Bush, barnstorming the country to hawk his much-maligned Social Security privatization plan in 2005, got zero, zilch, nada for his trouble. No one was buying Dubya’s scheme to turn the popular entitlement program into a high-stakes casino.

Obama might have paid more heed to the lessons of recent history before attempting to foist chained CPI on the American electorate. This ill-advised modification of the formula for calculating the consumer price index — a “market basket” of goods and services on which annual cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) to Social Security are based — would result in what the AARP has understated as “not a small benefit change” for the oldest and most vulnerable retirees, as well as for military veterans.

As economist Robert Reich observed in a videotape last week introducing an anti-CCPI petition later submitted to the president:

“The idea is that when prices go up, most people substitute lower-cost items. So a true calculation of the cost of living should take account of this substitution effect. This makes no sense for seniors, because they spend 20 to 40 percent of their incomes on health care, and they can’t substitute lower-cost alternatives.”

AARP estimates that chained CPI will cost Social Security beneficiaries $112 billion and veterans $25 billion during the next decade. Because the formula compounds benefit reductions over time, it will result in an annual benefit that is “roughly $1,000 (in 2012 dollars) lower by the time a beneficiary reaches age 85,” according to AARP’s Josh Rosenblum. “Eventually, … beneficiaries would lose a month’s worth of benefits every year.”

For veterans, the cuts are even worse. “Permanently disabled veterans who started receiving disability benefits at age 30 would see their benefits cut by … $3,200 a year at age 65,” wrote AARP’s David Certner.


CCPI ‘an idea not befitting a Democratic president’

“Mr. President, the chained CPI is a cut to Social Security benefits that would hurt seniors. It’s an idea not befitting a Democratic president. If you want to reform Social Security, make the wealthy pay their fair share by lifting the cap on income subject to Social Security taxes.”

That was the message delivered by former Secretary of Labor Reich’s petition. On this side of the pond, liberal economists like Reich and  Paul Krugman agree with advocacy groups for retirees and veterans that CCPI is a raw deal for Social Security recipients.

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher/Getty Images

Yet Thatcher, who died Monday at age 87, would no doubt have applauded Obama’s heartless formula. (Thatcher, Reich tweeted, “gave Ronald Reagan the courage of his misguided conviction.”) She didn’t cotton to coddling “the less fortunate,” whom she regarded, as many on the extreme right do, as moochers, malingerers, and reprobates. Baroness Thatcher would have been right at home with Mitt Romney’s opinion of the “47 percent” of Americans who, in his flawed estimation, “believe that government has a responsibility to care for them.”

Mme. Thatcher once opined:

“I think we have gone through a period when too many children and people have been given to understand, ‘I have a problem; it is the government’s job to cope with it,’ or ‘I have a problem; I will go and get a grant to cope with it’; ‘I am homeless, the government must house me!’ … They are casting their problems on society, and who is society? There is no such thing. There are individual men and women, and there are families.”


Even tax-averse millionaires hate chained CPI

Chained CPI has a single dubious claim to fame: virtually everyone loathes it, from wealthy investors to veterans, from aged “pensioners,” as the Baroness would have called them, to hordes of boomers on the brink of retirement.

Everyone, of course, except Thatcherites “dismissing Britons in need as parasites and wastrels” (in the words of progressive blogger Richard Eskow), like-minded congressional Republicans  — and, now, our own inconstant leader. The Barack Obama of hope and change has transformed himself into someone that his once-loyal liberal base no longer recognizes.

Our peerless 2008 presidential nominee, whom we hurried to endow with shimmering waves of potentiality and purpose, turned out to be a mirage. Like the Nobel committee did a year later, we pinned on Candidate Obama our most quixotic aspirations, as the seemingly interminable nightmare of the Bush/Cheney oligarchy neared its bitter denouement.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker/AP photo

But our champion inevitably let us down. President Obama didn’t prosecute the torture-mongers for war crimes or the Wall Street banksters for the financial crisis. He didn’t slip on that pair of comfortable shoes and march with union members protesting Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s legislative assault on collective bargaining rights. He didn’t advocate single-payer health insurance, fight institutional racism, or battle poverty. He didn’t swoop in to advance gay civil rights or create a pathway to citizenship for immigrants. He didn’t close Guantanamo or reject indefinite detention of prisoners or halt drone warfare, but instead took their precepts to lengths no one could have envisioned.

Despite an impressive record of policy achievements, Barack Obama is not now, nor has he likely ever been, the transformative president he vowed he would become if we worked our collective asses off to put him in office. Home safe after his successful reelection; dissed and thwarted by GOP obstructionists so many times, you’d think he swear off any notion of a “grand bargain,” he’s still trying to burnish his bipartisan cred. The far right may brand him a socialist, but Obama governs, as many on the left complain, like a predictable, center-right Clintonian Democrat or a moderate Republican — not the progressive icon we so badly needed him to be.


Congressional firebrands take action

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders/AP photo

I’m not alone in uttering this heresy. The din of disillusionment has been almost deafening in the blogosphere and on Twitter for the past week. If Congress cuts Social Security by implementing this callous adjustment — a deliberate and unnecessary “sacrifice” that, as Reich points out, the Republicans haven’t even asked for —– Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, as well as members of progressive groups, have suggested there may be 2014 primary challenges to Democratic members of Congress who vote for it. As for the House, Representatives Alan Grayson and Mark Takano collected the signatures of 29 progressives who vowed to vote against any bill that includes Social Security benefit cuts.

Florida Rep. Alan Grayson

Did Obama at least mean well, before ascending to the tantalizing pinnacle of power? We’ll have to leave that question to history. No one can imagine, before the fact, what it’s going to be like up there, in that rarefied stratum that’s only been attained by 44 Americans in the brief span of almost 237 years.

In the words of the troubadour, it’s lonely at the top, and — as I’m sure the Iron Lady could have told us if her lips weren’t sealed against anyone’s ears but Saint Ronnie’s —– as magnetic as the polar north.

Opus 40 Needs Your Help

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

By Michael Kaufman

Brendan Gill, whose prose graced the pages of The New Yorker for more than 60 years, described Opus 40 as “the greatest earthwork sculpture I have ever seen” and deemed it “one of the largest and most beguiling works of art on the entire continent. “ Opus 40 has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places since 2001. The register is maintained by the National Park Service, a branch of the U.S. Department of the Interior, but that is the extent of the government’s contribution to maintenance of the 6 ½-acre bluestone sculpture created by Harvey Fite over a period of 37 years in an abandoned quarry in Saugerties. (This is where I would be inserting a photograph or two were it not for bandwidth issues that occasionally bedevil the Zest of Orange site. So here is a link to the Opus 40 home page, where you can see for yourself and read more about the history of the place:

Opus 40 has special meaning for me: Next week Eva-Lynne and I will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of our wedding, which took place there. But it has even more meaning to Tad Richards. “This is an important and beautiful work of art, created by my stepfather Harvey Fite, and it’s been my major concern for the last quarter century,” Richards wrote in a recent email. “Our literature says that ‘with proper care and maintenance, Opus 40 could still be standing a thousand years from now,’ and this is true, but the proper care and maintenance is the key. We do a lot of maintenance every year…But there are some areas which need more than that… areas that will naturally sink, and there are areas that over time get clogged so that water can’t pass through freely, and it backs up and causes pressure.

“There are two places where there have been slight bulges for as long as I can remember – probably 50 years,” he continued. “With Hurricane Irene and the severe weather that came on the fringes of Hurricane Sandy, one of those areas finally blew out, and the other – on the main ramp – has gotten much worse, and needs to be attended to.

“We want to address these important issues this spring. The work will be supervised by a local master stonemason, Timothy Smith of Hudson… Now we need the money to do all this work. Won’t you please help?”

Richards knows these are difficult times for a lot of people in our region. “Any donation, however small, will make a difference,” he says. “If you can give more, that would be wonderful.” Donations to Opus 40 are tax deductible.

You can donate with Paypal or a credit card at — or you can also call Opus 40 at 845-246-3400 to donate by credit card, or send a check to Opus 40, 50 Fite Road, Saugerties, NY 12477.

“Or,” wrote Richards, “stop by so we can thank you in person! All of the money you donate will go directly to the fund. Our management fees are zero.” I will be making a donation as soon as I finish this post.

Michael can be reached at

So How’s That Diet Going? Just Fine

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

By Bob Gaydos

Last December, in a burst of, oh I don’t know, foolhardy enthusiasm, I wrote about my decision to re-enter the world of the healthy. No more sugar, salt, butter, red meat, French fries, etc. would pass over these lips. Knock off the bread; bring on the greens and beans. And Greek yogurt. Lots of veggies and brown rice and fruit. Some chicken and fish. And exercise, too. Plenty of exercise. I promised to give updates.

So here it is: I feel great.

People I’ve known for years come up to me and ask: “Did you lose weight?” Yes, 40 pounds. “Are you sick?” No, it’s intentional, thank you. “Are you working out?” Yes.

Oh my god, yes.

The thing about losing weight is that if you don’t do something to tone up your body, you wind up being a thinner person with a bunch of loose skin. Not a good look, and what’s the sense of losing weight and looking sick? I can say in all humility that I do not look sick. Believe me, it has not been a picnic. Nor has it been torture. It has been, as I said in my first report, humbling. But also surprisingly rewarding (to me, not my coach).

I mentioned starting out with weekly walks, one to two miles. I still do that, but not as often, due to physical conditions not related to what I’m talking about here. The walks are still good for the fresh air and sunshine, so they will continue.

It’s the inside workout regimen that is paying tremendous dividends. In December, I dismissed pushups with a “forget about it” comment. Could not do one. Did 60 the other day in six, ten-rep sets. (Even picking up the lingo.) I also talked about crunches being the only thing I had some success with early on. Turns out that’s because I wasn’t doing them correctly. Effort counts, but so does form, my coach informed me. Now that I do them the correct way, they are much tougher. But the results are also more obvious. And I have learned such things as reverse crunches (woof!) and bicycle crunches (we’re going to forget about them for a while).

Throw in weight training with barbells (progressing slowly but steadily), leg-lifts, leg-lowerings, squats, 40 minutes on a stationary bike and lots of stretching and, slowly but surely, muscle has appeared where once there was flab. It feels good. I feel good. I have more energy, more endurance and, in fact, a generally healthier outlook on life.

I can’t stress enough that none of this has been a surprise to my coach, who predicted the progress and encouraged me, gently or firmly, as needed.

As for the food, I am still learning, but no longer struggling, to find healthful, tasty, filling choices. I am not a fanatic. I have a slice of pizza from time to time (no pepperoni). I never finished the “Wheat Belly” book, but I try hard to avoid bread and gluten. I have rediscovered the sweetness of fruit and, bless their hearts, Ben and Jerry have introduced a line of frozen Greek yogurt that is as rich and satisfying as any ice cream. Better yet, they have competition in the slowly emerging market for more healthful food choices.

The fast food chains lag in this development, but demand could drive competition with them. Supermarkets are adding more organic and gluten-free sections as people (especially younger people) become more conscious of wanting to eat real food, with no surprises mixed in. Of course, I still can’t figure out food establishments that offer egg white entrees or veggie entrees and pair them with French fries or hash browns. Offer alternatives, folks.

Anyway, that’s my follow up report. So far, so good. Blood pressure in check. Weight down. Muscles emerging. Clothes too big (new wardrobe coming). A deep bow of appreciation to my fantastic coach, because I knew nothing about how to do this. And a final word to anyone who may be thinking about, “some day,” doing some exercise or losing some weight. Don’t wait. Life is really too short to waste on “coulda-shouldas.” Find a source of support and motivation and go for it. Change is not easy, but healthy change can be surprisingly rewarding in many ways. (I know, coach, not to you.)

Improving Military Justice

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013


By Jeffrey Page

So antiquated and one-sided is the American form of military law that a Canadian judge refused to return a U.S. soldier who had been charged with deserting across the northern border. This comes at a time when Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has called for a revamping of the classically oxymoronic system of military justice.

One aspect of the system that galls critics is the power of high-ranking commanding officers to insert themselves into the process and exercise their prerogative to alter the charges brought by prosecutors and the verdicts returned by juries. The most notorious recent example of this, as noted in The New York Times, was an Air Force general’s nullifying a subordinate officer’s conviction on charges of sexual assault.

Many people who have faced the military justice system in matters serious as well as frivolous understand that it is, at its core, an absurdity. Note that the Air Force lieutenant colonel convicted of aggravated sexual assault had been sentenced to a mere one year in prison.

Without suggesting that rape and the refusal to carry out an order are in any way comparable, let me present an example of how military justice often works.

Once, a long time ago, at Fort Dix, N.J., I was charged with sleeping while at parade rest. Explanation follows.

One hot day in July of 1964, Tango Company, part of a basic training regiment, was marching to breakfast. We had to wait outside the mess hall until another company finished their meal and departed. An Army Reserve sergeant doing his two-week summer training, ordered us to stand at parade rest, which is a slightly relaxed form of standing at attention. We were on a construction site where the Army was building new barracks and I found myself atop a small pile of bricks. I looked down to get my bearings and to adjust my stance.

That was when the sergeant ordered me to perform 10 pushups, a mild punishment when you do something the wrong way.

For what, I asked.

He said, “For sleeping at parade rest,” which is as close to a physical impossibility as you can get. I refused – a very stupid move. And sure enough, later that morning, a clerk told me the company commander, a captain named Dixon, wanted to see me.

“You disobeyed the lawful order of a noncommissioned officer,” Dixon said gravely.

“The man is insane,” I began.

“Shut up, Troop,” he said and proceeded to inform me that we don’t disobey orders in this man’s army. Capt. Dixon yelled a lot and stopped every so often to ask if I understood the seriousness of what I had done. It was clear he didn’t care one way or the other about what the reserve sergeant had ordered, or why.

Finally, the captain told me I could choose my punishment.

“You can have a court martial, at which you will be convicted and sentenced to 45 days in the stockade,” he said, while shaking his head slightly. A signal?

Or, he said while continuing that head-shake, I could choose non-judicial punishment as described in Article 15 of the Universal Code of Military Justice. This would involve a hearing before this very same very angry Captain Dixon. “It would not be a court martial, but you will be convicted and you will lose a month’s pay,” he said. That would have been $78.

The third choice? I could report to Tango Company’s headquarters at 3 o’clock in the morning for three days running, sweep the floor, wash the floor, dust the furniture, and tidy up the place, he explained while nodding slightly. Then I would report to my platoon for a full day’s training and a loss of two precious hours of sleep. Reveille was at 5 a.m. I would start my cleaning at 3:15 a.m. I would be exhausted. And that’s the punishment I elected.

In going before Congress to change the system that allows commanders to ride roughshod over common justice – or finesse it, Hegel should be applauded. Justice should not be booted around in serious cases, but commanders like Dixon should have the right – the obligation, in fact, to get to the bottom of minor, piddling cases like mine and send the wrongdoer on his way.

I concede I was saved from doing time in an army jail by the same wink-and-nod system of military justice that saved the lieutenant colonel from prison. But military justice sometimes seems not interested in justice.

The system needs repair when a guilty-verdict in a felony case is tossed aside and a recruit comes this-close to spending 45 days in jail for disobeying an idiot sergeant.

That’s not justice, military or otherwise.