Archive for May, 2014

Carrie’s Painting of the Week – 5/16/2014

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014
Flight Oil on canvas, 24x24

Oil on canvas, 24×24

By Carrie Jacobson

A couple years ago, my dad told me that his father’s brother had been a hobo. A real, honest to God, rail-riding hobo. He’d gone all over this country, on trains and on foot, and had traveled and bummed around Europe, as well.

When he came home, irregularly and not often, to the family’s house in Philadelphia, my great-grandparents wouldn’t let him sleep in the house. He slept on the porch, and, I imagine, ate his meals there.

He had lots of issues, including alcoholism, and he died young. And no one ever talked about him. I was 56 when I heard about him for the first time.

But it explained a lot to me.

Before we were married, Peter lived in the same apartment for 13 years. In the next 20 years, we moved 12 times. Some of the moves were for work – that’s the way it is in newspapers. If you want to climb quickly, you have to move. But some, I admit, were because I was itching to see something new.

I’ve promised Peter we won’t move from Wachapreague, here on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. If he wants to move, we’ll move. But I won’t instigate it.

And I don’t have to. This artist’s life involves more driving and more traveling than I’d ever imagined. I leave today for Indianapolis and the Broad Ripple Art Fair, then head to Northampton, MA, for the Paradise City Arts Festival. A week later, I’m headed to Annapolis, and shortly after that, Rhode Island.

So I get explore my hobo heritage – and Peter gets to stay here, settled and rooted and happy being at home.

And the best part of it is that when I’m away I miss home. And when I’m home, I know there’s nowhere better on the planet.


The Kidnapping the World Ignored

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

By Bob Gaydos

Abubakar Shekau

Abubakar Shekau, leader of Boko Haram

Now, the world notices. Now, the world calls it an outrage. Now, it is not just an act of terrorism, it is a crime against all humanity.

But where was the world then, three weeks ago, when the outrage occurred? Where were we when members of the Boko Haram terrorist group swept down on a boarding school in Nigeria and kidnapped 276 of that African nation’s brightest girls from their dorms? Where were we a mere week ago when the leader of the extreme Islamist group threatened to sell the teenaged girls as “wives” for $12 apiece?

A lot of us, myself included, were focused on the words and actions of a man who shelled out millions to enjoy the company of women, a man who also owned a professional basketball team and who happened to be a racist as well as a misogynist. While Donald Sterling, whom I dubbed “the NBA plantation owner’’ in my blog, was being vilified and ridiculed in the media and on the Internet, Abubakar Shekau, commander of Boko Haram, was leading his bloodthirsty group on deadly attacks on Nigerian villages, government buildings, mosques and churches and kidnapping eight more girls.

For the most part, major media, electronic and print, downplayed or ignored the kidnapping story and hyped the Sterling fiasco. After all, Los Angeles, where Sterling’s team plays, is familiar and glamorous and Nigeria is, well, way over there in Africa somewhere. And Sterling had insulted a team of talented, male, black athletes while Shekau had kidnapped a group of young black girls. Double standard hardly seems to cover it.

It took — as it increasingly does these days — a social media campaign for, not just the news media, but other nations to learn about the plight of the Nigerian girls and to muster the moral outrage to offer to help the inept Nigerian government find and return them to their families.

The “#Bring Back Our Girls” campaign on Twitter began in Nigeria as a response to the failure of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to mount any effort to rescue the girls, 53 of whom escaped on the night of their abduction. The hapless president at first said only a few girls had been kidnapped and they had been rescued. When the girls’ parents refuted that story, he said he had no idea where the girls were and even faulted the fearful parents for not giving police enough information on their daughters. (The girls had returned to school to take final exams. Virtually all other girls schools in Nigeria were closed because of threats from Boko Haram.) Jonathan’s wife, Patience, actually ordered the arrest of parents protesting the government inaction because they made her husband look bad.

As the Internet campaign drew more support (more than a million tweets on May 8), the rest of the world — and news media — became aware of what was really happening in Nigeria. A ruthless group of extremist Muslims was trying to take over Africa’s largest country through sheer terror. Nigeria is an oil rich, half-Christian, half-Muslim nation whose people, as demonstrated by many protests, are united in their desire to find the girls. Now, Jonathan, whose army says it is outgunned by Boko Haram, has accepted offers of help from the United States, United Kingdom, China and France in finding the girls and punishing the extremist kidnappers.

Save for members of Boko Haram and other groups with similar extreme views of women’s “place” under Islam (such as the Taliban), a successful resolution to this crisis wished by most would be the safe return of all the girls, unharmed, with no ransom paid and the terrorists either dead or in prison. Doesn’t matter which.

Beyond that, however, lies the bigger challenge of recognizing and educating the world on the continuing lack of basic rights for women in many Muslim societies. Boko Haram loosely translated means “Western education is sinful.” The group supposedly believes its violence is justified by its religion, although Islamist scholars and millions of Muslims say this is not what their religion teaches. Unfortunately, the rare occasions in which Western media mention Islam tend to be in connection with groups like Boko Haram who use their extremist views to justify violence.

Furthermore, major media reporting on women’s rights and issues in general remains woefully inadequate, especially considering we’re talking about more than half the world’s population. Even in the Sterling story, the focus of reporting was on his racist comments while his misogynistic behavior was ignored by most media outlets.

As I said, I am guilty of having missed the Nigerian girls story while getting wrapped up in Sterling. It’s not that Sterling didn’t deserve to be revealed and reviled for the person he is. He did and I’m glad I did. But there’s no reason I couldn’t have been more aware of the Nigerian girls’ plight and raised my voice on their behalf as well.

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani school girl who survived a shooting by Taliban extremists for daring to speak out for the right of girls in her country to get an education, said it simply, “If we remain silent then this will spread. It will happen more and more and more.”

More and more and more, it appears that major media institutions in America have forsaken their function of informing the public of injustices wherever and whenever they occur in favor of reporting the most convenient, easily explainable stories, preferably those with some celebrity name-recognition. That leaves it to the rest of us to demand more of our press and ourselves. Social media will undoubtedly lead the way. Bring Back Our Girls is on Facebook. It had more than 100,000 likes on May 8.




Oops, There Goes the First Amendment

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

By Jeffrey Page

U.S. Supreme Court Building

U.S. Supreme Court Building

I’m not a constitutional lawyer. I’m just an American watching the U.S. Supreme Court change my country in ways that once would have been unimaginable.

For example, in Citizens United, the court decreed that corporations have the same rights as human beings. And now, the court holds that it’s essentially permissible for government to endorse one religion over another and put an end to the concept of religious neutrality.

Once, we were a nation of reason, a sanctuary for the tempest-tossed, a place where immigrants, no matter their faith, seeking peace and maybe even a little understanding, could go to get away from the mob. 

Once, we took the opening clause of the Bill of Rights seriously: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” We didn’t know of any other countries that offered such extraordinary protections to minorities and nonbelievers. The United States was really special.

Sometimes, the great American experiment didn’t work, but such failure was usually corrected fairly quickly. In any case, at least the guarantee of religious freedom was written down and signed; at least we knew how things were supposed to be.

Oh, America! Where else was religious freedom so clearly stated?

This has been a country where the official rule is that a Jew can be a Jew, a Sikh can be a Sikh. And if anyone made being a Jew or a Sikh in America a problem, there was the Supreme Court – with no agenda of its own – to set matters straight. We believed that certain truths were self-evident. You want to pray? Go ahead and pray. Just don’t force it on everyone else.

But now the Supreme Court has decided – in yet another 5-4 decision – that a prayer at the opening of town board meetings in Greece, N.Y. is no violation of the First Amendment because atheists and ministers of all faiths are welcome to register on the board’s “chaplain of the month” roster. The “chaplain of the month” gets to recite the invocation at town board meetings in Greece.

The New York Times has reported that the “chaplain of the month” in Greece was almost always a Christian, that two-thirds of the “chaplains of the month” made reference to “Jesus Christ,” “Jesus,” “your son,” or “the holy spirit,” and that one prayer ended: “We acknowledge the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.”

That sure sounds like the establishment of a religion, a point the Greece Town Board naturally denies.

If the town board is serious about representing all its constituents and if it had noticed – how could it not? – that almost all prayers were Christian in nature, it would have made a stronger effort towards inclusivity.

All the board had to do was to get out into the neighborhoods of Greece and proactively invite Jewish, Sikh, Muslim, Buddhist, Shintoist, and clergy or laity of other faiths to sign up on the “chaplain of the month” list. And since God is everywhere, board members could even have ventured into neighboring towns if, for example, there was no Buddhist temple in Greece but one in the next town over. Incidentally, Rochester, a city of about 211,000 people, is just eight miles east of Greece and is home to 12 synagogues, a Sikh temple, five mosques, and a Baha’i community among other places of worship.

Just hours after the Supreme Court ruling, the Greece Town Board opened its meeting with a prayer by the Rev. Peter Enyan-Boadu, who, the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle reported, “asked God to guide the board’s hearts and minds in the spirit of fairness.” He also called on God to bless the minds of the members of the town board, and finished with: “Thank you Lord, for being our source of guidance today.”

The Rev. Enyan-Boadu was from St. John the Evangelist Church.

Look What They Call ‘Independent’

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

By Michael Kaufman

What’s wrong with this sentence, which appeared the other day in a daily newspaper in our region? “The independent board formed last month to sell Orange County’s nursing home is expected to solicit offers from prospective buyers next week and have bids by mid-June.” If you haven’t figured it out yet the answer appears in the next sentence: “Meeting for the first time Monday since being appointed by County Executive Steve Neuhaus and legislative leaders, the six volunteers initially named to the Orange Valley View Development Corporation picked a seventh member and the officers for their board, as the attorney advising them laid out a rapid timetable for their work.”

A more accurate way to put it would be, “The bunch of toadies appointed to solicit bids to sell the 360-bed Valley View Center for Nursing Care and Rehabilitation to a private, for-profit corporation is working fast because this thing stinks to high heaven and everyone in Orange County knows it.”

A bit later in the article we learn that the attorney doing the advising (also appointed by Neuhaus) is affiliated with the Harris Beach law firm, the same people hired by the county to set up the local development corporation (LDC). The stench gets even worse as readers are informed that the board’s inaugural meeting was open to the public, “except for a private session” during which the members chose officers and spoke with attorney Shawn Griffin of Harris Beach. Oh, and by the way, any future discussions about purchase offers “are expected to take place behind closed doors.”

Only one sentence mentioned perhaps the most important point: “Unless a lawsuit brought by privatization opponents invalidates the move, the LDC board can decide which bidder buys and takes over the operation of Valley View without further action by the Legislature.” That lawsuit, filed by Michael Sussman on behalf of Valley View residents, employees, not to mention most people in Orange County, has yet to be decided. But the last time the county legislators tangled with Sussman they didn’t do so hot. Our local Republicans, taking a cue from their counterparts at higher levels of government, had gerrymandered a couple of districts so as to ensure that people of color would not constitute the majority of voters. They ended up with egg on their lily-white faces after Sussman got through with them.

I hope that wolf-in-sheep’s clothing Neuhaus, who had pledged not to sell Valley View during his election campaign, and the cowardly weasels among the Republican majority in the county legislature (with the notable exception of Mike Anagnostakis) meet a similar fate.  Anagnostakis deserves special recognition for his courageous and principled stand on this issue.  As for the rest, what else can you call them but cowardly after they set up an LDC to do the deed and pretend it is independent when it is anything but? And just to put the stinko icing on the cake, here is the last paragraph of the news article in its entirety: “Griffin told the Times Herald-Record that the board will likely make public the names of all bidders — but not the prices they are offering — once the solicitation period ends. The identity and price of the winning bidder would be released once the county and buyer have signed a sale contract, he said.”

In other words, they will meet in secret, make their decision in secret, and only tell the public about it after the contract has been signed. I guess that’s one way to be independent: independent of public oversight or scrutiny. 

Michael can be reached at








Carrie’s Painting of the Week – 5/9/2014

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014
Help Me with the Title!  Oil on canvas, 30x40

Help Me with the Title!
Oil on canvas, 30×40

By Carrie Jacobson

Sometimes titles come easily to me … sometimes not. This is one of the nots.

I love the painting! Love the big cow, the ripples on the water, the huge, towering clouds. I’m really happy with it. But I can’t come up with a title. I’d love your input! Please put your title ideas in the comment area below.

The whole business of putting titles to paintings is a little mystifying. Titles are not headlines, in the same way that headlines are not titles (a confusion that used to drive me a little crazy when I worked in newspapers). Titles need to say something about the painting – and also, I think, suggest something, a feeling, an atmosphere. Sometimes I skip this last and just put a sturdy, workmanlike title on a painting… But I have a “Big Cows” painting right now, so that won’t work… and I have a “Storm Rolling In” painting, too, so that won’t work, either.

For a while, I tried lines of poetry, or lines from songs. But none of those comes to mind for this piece.

I did think of something like – – “Shouldn’t You Be Lying Down?”  So far, that’s the best I’ve got.

What’s your best?



Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

oligBill Hogan

Donald Sterling: NBA Plantation Owner

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

By Bob Gaydos

Donald Sterling

Donald Sterling

Once again sports, which are supposed to be diversions from real life for most of us, have delivered a morality play. There is no title for this tragi-comedy, nor indeed, a final act. What there is is a villainous main character who offers many reasons for hating him, a crucial supporting character who will win no accolades for her own behavior, and a host of bit players, who find common ground in attacking the main character.

The villain is Donald Sterling, a narcissistic white male, 80-year-old, pot-bellied, misogynistic, racist, adulterer, liar, ingrate, real estate tycoon, lawyer, multi-millionaire, who owns the Los Angeles Clippers professional basketball team.

Sterling would have been right at home as a plantation owner in the Old South. Until recently, he had a 31-year-old girlfriend/mistress (the latest in a succession of women to whom he admits he gave lavish gifts in exchange for sex). The girlfriend, V. Stiviano, is the supporting character.

In a taped private conversation made public, Sterling tells Stiviano he doesn’t want her posting photos on the Internet of herself with “black men” or coming to Clippers games with black men, including Magic Johnson. Stiviano is of Mexican and African-American heritage. Sterling’s basketball team is composed of African-American men. Indeed, more than 90 percent of the players in the National Basketball Association, in which the Clippers play, are African-American.

Sterling’s comments grabbed headlines, dominated TV news and the Internet and caused a furor within the NBA. The new commissioner of the NBA, Adam Silver, acted quickly, banning Sterling from the league for life, fining him $2.5 million and asking other team owners to demand that Sterling sell his team. Silver is as close to a hero as we get in this play because he is new to his job and took decisive action.

But the thing is, no one in the NBA — owners, officials, players, coaches — should have been surprised by Sterling’s remarks. In fact, most probably weren’t. He has been sued more than once for discrimination against minorities in his housing projects and paid millions of dollars to settle the cases. He was sued in 2009 for wrongful job termination on the basis of race and age by a former team general manager, Elgin Baylor. Baylor, 79, a member of the NBA Hall of Fame, said in his lawsuit that Sterling had a “vision of a Southern plantation-type structure,” of instilling a “pervasive and ongoing racist attitude towards his team and that Sterling wanted the team to be ”composed of ‘poor black boys from the South’ and a white head coach.” Baylor further said his salary was frozen at $350,000 a year for six years while the white head coach, who theoretically reported to Baylor, was given a $22 million contract.

Sterling also sued one of his former mistresses for the return of gifts he gave her. His deposition includes him referring to her as a “piece of trash” and “a total freak,’’ whom he called “honey.” He said he calls “everybody” honey, especially women with whom he’s having sex “because you can’t remember her name.”

That was in 2004, a time when he was running the cheapest plantation-style organization in the NBA. He wouldn’t pay for good players. Nobody said or did anything about Sterling then. Not much fuss was made about Baylor’s suit (from which he dropped the racism claim and which he eventually lost). The NBA — and the media — also apparently didn’t see any problem with the bias lawsuits that Sterling settled out of court. And no one said a word about his attitude toward women. Shhh, that’s just Donald being Donald.

Sterling is the classic example of something we have seen too much of lately in America, in politics and business as well as sports: the rich white guy who believes he can do as he pleases because, well, he’s a rich white guy. He feels entitled to treat people as he wishes. So he can have a girlfriend 50 years his junior, of mixed racial heritage, and tell her not to hang out with black men — because he’s given her two Bentleys, a condominium, lots of cash and who knows what else. He can boast about feeding and clothing his team of talented black athletes because, after all, those are his boys out there on the court. And that’s his beautiful half-black mistress at his side. I pay you. I own you.

Except that V. Stiviano was no innocent. She got her lavish gifts (Sterling’s wife is suing to get them back, claiming her estranged husband was sought out and enticed). And Stiviano taped his racist remarks, though her lawyer claims she didn’t release the tape to the TV show TMZ and others.

In the age of instant communication, the NBA’s secret — Donald Sterling, who owns a team composed of black athletes, is a racist — was now public. The NBA players, many of whom are millionaires themselves, are unionized. Not exactly chattel. They talked about boycotting the league’s showcase event — the playoffs. Advertisers dropped like flies from the Clippers’ account. Even the president of the United States was condemning Sterling. Suddenly, he was no longer just an embarrassment that the rest of the league could try to hide or ignore; he was a threat to the image and financial well-being of the other wealthy owners. Oh yeah, and for the record, he’s a racist and virtually all our players — who are, after all, the lure of the league — are black. The misogyny apparently still gets a pass from the league and the press.

So, the era of complicity in the NBA regarding Donald Sterling is over. But he says he has no intention of selling his team and might challenge any such demand from other owners in court. He might have a case, but if he sells he’ll make a huge profit. Stiviano says she didn’t mean to harm Sterling. She is also fighting Sterling wife’s demand to return his lavish gifts. Potential suitors are emerging to buy the Clippers, who are now a good team. And Clippers players and coaches are still trying to win basketball games.

More remains to be revealed in this saga. But what is abundantly and depressingly clear is the arrogance of Sterling and the license his wealth gave him to flaunt it for years. The NBA’s silence for so long on him is as much an indictment of the league — owners, officials, players, coaches –as Sterling’s words and behavior are of him. Ignoring racism, hoping it will somehow go away of its own accord, never works.

As for Sterling, he apparently believed so strongly that his wealth gives him power to do and say as he pleases and make other people do as he pleases, that he didn’t hide his racist feelings from Stiviano. It was second nature to him. Nor, in his arrogance, did he suspect that she might try to set him up by taping their private conversation. Which in the end may go to prove that there’s still no fool like an old fool. Rich white guy or not.


11 Thoughts on Casino Gambling

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

By Jeffrey Pageroulette wheel

— A gaming corporation says that part of its proposal for a casino in Sterling Forest would be the construction – at its own expense – of Thruway Exit 15B about halfway between the New Jersey state line and Harriman, the Times Herald-Record reported this week.

— The impact of such construction on Harriman State Park would be significant. In fact, Exit 15B arose as an issue about 20 years ago and most people understood that such a project would probably force the state to widen Route 17A, whose hilliness and narrowness just west of the Thruway are what keeps Warwick and some other towns as rural as they’ve remained. Expand Route 17A and kiss Warwick’s charm goodbye.

— The Times Herald-Record said that such a casino would create 2,000 jobs. But the paper didn’t differentiate between construction jobs and permanent staff positions. On the matter of permanent jobs, the paper says nothing about the number of croupiers and chambermaids – never known to be career-starting positions – who are included in that group of 2,000.

— Something else I haven’t seen – maybe I missed it – is a serious investigation into what casino gambling has cost other host municipalities. Supporters frequently talk up gaming’s positive effect on property taxes. But I wonder how much in new expenses is added to municipal budgets – and, of course, to local taxes – as a result of casino gambling. This would include such costs as additional police officers, more assistant prosecutors, and more social services and public assistance caseworkers.

— Have there been any studies on the possible increase in prostitution and drug use?

— It is not unreasonable to assume that local traffic would be nightmarish.

— Does the value of your home go up because more people want to move close to the casino for fun and/or jobs? Or does it decrease because of the very existence of a casino just minutes away?

— I can’t be the only one to understand that there’s no quiet time when it comes to casinos. The longer the house stays open, the more of your money it can squeeze out of you. The roulette wheels never stop turning, the dice never stop being tossed, the blackjack decks never stop being shuffled.

— Sure, placing a pile of chips on No. 9 at the roulette wheel is a lot of fun and might even give you a snazzy return. But who was the last person you know personally who played at the blackjack table and went home significantly richer?

— Question: Does anyone living in southern Orange County really wish to have a casino just down the road?

— Finally, we should remember that Sterling Forest is both a water source for 2 million people in northern New Jersey as well as a pristine New York state park of 22,000 acres. When Sterling Forest was saved from large scale development nearly 20 years ago, when it was in private hands, it was the complicated result of two states working together even including New Jersey’s buying a small tract in New York’s forest. It was understood that New Jersey needed its water and we needed our park.