Straightening the Pictures
What I hope to do in future columns is show how these and other principles can be applied to problem-solving (or, better yet, problem-prevention) in our communities, so that we all become better at observing what is, and, then, coming up with ways to make things better.
Suggestion Box? Go Stuff It!
Oh, did I mention that suggestions for change are not always welcome? Whether it's inertia (being too lazy, complacent, or ingrained to want change)... or having one's turf stepped on... or even reasonable concerns about costs... there's a natural tendency for new ideas to be reflexively and defensively resisted by many.
Suggestions Re the Big-Box
So, the Napanoch Mall site is being considered as the location for a new Wal-Mart Supercenter.
Ideas Whose Time Had Come
Sometimes, all one can do is plant a seed, water it, and wait. An idea obvious to one (or a few) may need some incubation, or changed conditions, before others warm to it.
The Pause That Refreshes
Suggestion: A temporary Moratorium on large-scale development in the Town of Wawarsing, to give the Town time to properly review deficiencies in its zoning codes.
Strolling Through the Park, Some Day (Part 1)
Suggestion: Improving Ellenville's Resnick Park
Strolling Through the Park (Part 2)
Suggestion: More & greater park/recreation opportunities in Ellenville
Strolling Through the Park (Part 3: A Tale of Two Village Squares)
"The village square is a commons - it belongs to no one but is used by all."
Counting the Votes that Count
Suggestion: That Ulster County rejects electronic voting machines in favor of hand-countable paper ballots.
Dearth and Taxes (Part 1)
Suggestion: Increase tax fairness and efficiency by converting property-based municipal taxes to an income-based formula.
Dearth and Taxes (Part 2)
Eliminate or minimize local taxation based on property, in favor of a more equitable system, based more directly on one's ability to pay. The fairest and easiest way to do this is with a municipal income tax.
A Pre-Oil Past as our Future? (Part 1)
Suggestion: We should be preparing now for the potential impacts of peak oil, critical resource shortages, global climate chaos, and more people than the Earth can support.
Pre-Oil Past as our Future? (Part 2)
One evening this decade (and it may have happened already... as early as 2005), one-half of the two trillion barrels of oil that have ever existed on Earth will have been extracted and consumed by humanity. From then on, nothing we can do will ever let us again extract and refine more than that peak amount (80-85 million barrels of oil on that one day).
2020 Hindsight (Part 1)
FORT NAPANOCH, Rondout Cooperative Authority, 10 Spring 71 NE (May 31, 2020 CE) - It's hard to believe it's been only 13 years since I first wrote about peak oil and energy descent in the old Ellenville Journal; that life now seems as remote as, say, the Roman Empire.
2020 Hindsight (Part 2)
"The future ain't what it used to be!" Except, ironically, our present is, for most people in many ways, more like "what it used to be" in 1850 (or, alas, 1250, or even 12,500 BCE, depending on where you live!) than even how "it used to be" just a mere 20 years ago.
Flagging Enthusiasm (Part 1)
Flag Day is not an official federal holiday, and I approach it with similar indifference. I did not fly "Old Glory" on the bracket of my front porch or on my lawn flagpole. I did not wear a flag pin, nor stick a flag magnet on my car, nor did I buy a small made-in-China flag in anticipation of the July 4th parade... the flag's image no longer instills in me the old enthusiasm, patriotic fervor, or... pride.
Flagging Enthusiasm (Part 2)
Since the current Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional, robotic, coercive (which belies there even being "liberty and justice for all"!), and arguably is unnecessary, why do we even bother with it at all?
Flagging Enthusiasm (Part 3)
Does waving the flag and pledging to it the most really prove who's most "authentically" patriotic? Politicizing patriotism and piety has often punished those who have dared to dissent (or remain silent), whether for political or religious reasons.
Founding Facts vs. Fiction (Part 1)
Some of the myths regarding the Declaration of Independence may seem harmless in themselves, but, to the extent they grant the DoI near-supernatural status, its actual purposes and understandings get buried under a significance not then intended. Therefore, the facts: Nothing critical happened on July 4th! The DoI merely acknowledged what had already happened! The DoI didn't say anything unique or new!
Founding Facts vs. Fiction (Part 2)
The final DoI was not what Jefferson wrote! The DoI was not signed en masse on July 4th! The DoI was mainly a PR piece! The DoI founded no nation or government!
A "CIVICS" Test for Candidates
I came up with the following easy-to-remember formula, based on six critical traits of political leadership that I would have you measure all candidates against before giving any your precious vote: CIVICS = Competence, Integrity, Vision, Intelligence, Courage, Selflessness.
Let 'er Rep... resentative! (Part 1)
Are elected representatives merely to poll and rubber-stamp the will of their constituents, or do they have, once elected, the right and duty to act freely, using their own conscience and judgment, regardless of what the people of their district "feel" about an issue?
Road (Rally) Rage
When a bunch of self-indulgent big boys are desperately seeking a last-minute playground for their expensive toys, but disingenuously wrapping it in the flag of how they're doing us a favor, I say: 'Don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining.'
Let 'er Rep... resentative! (Part 2)
Let's agree the US is not a simple (or pure, or true) democracy. We were designed as a constitutional representative democratic republic; the nation doesn't have direct election of laws, and a constitution limits what laws can be enacted.
Let 'er Rep... resentative! (Part 3)
The voice of "constituents is a weighty and respectable opinion, which a representative ought always to rejoice to hear; and which he ought always most seriously to consider."
Let 'er Rep... resentative! (Part 4)
Contacting a legislator is just like talking to a friend whom you would like to influence. Even if you disagree with the bill, or the rep's stated position, be polite and positive, as if the person were in front of you... So, start a dialog and keep it open; you want the rep to display an open mind, so make sure you come across as a reasonable and flexible person. And, did I mention, say "Thanks!"?
Bearing (Up Under) Arms (Part 1)
"Since the Second Amendment right 'to keep and bear Arms' applies only to the right of the state to maintain a militia and not to the individual's right to bear arms, there can be no serious claim to any express constitutional right of an individual to possess a firearm..." - United States v. Warin
Bearing (Up Under) Arms (Part 2)
"The Second Amendment was inserted into the Bill of Rights to protect the role of the states in maintaining and arming the militia. It was designed to protect the state militias from federal legislation enacted to undermine the role of state militias." - United States v. Wright
Bearing (Up Under) Arms (Part 3)
"It is abundantly clear both from the discussions of this amendment contemporaneous with its proposal and adoption and those of learned writers since that this amendment, unlike those providing for protection of free speech and freedom of religion, was not adopted with individual rights in mind, but as a protection for the states in the maintenance of their militia organizations against possible encroachments by the federal power." - United States v. Tot
Bearing (Up Under) Arms (Part 4)
"...it seems clear that the right to bear arms is inextricably connected to the preservation of a militia. This is precisely the manner in which the Supreme Court interpreted the second amendment in United States v. Miller... There the Court held that the right to keep and bear arms extends only to those arms which are necessary to maintain a well regulated militia." - Quilici v. Village of Morton Grove
Bearing (Up Under) Arms (Part 5)
"The link that the amendment draws between the ability 'to keep and bear Arms' and 'A well regulated Militia' suggests that the right protected is limited, one that inures not to the individual but to the people collectively, its reach extending so far as is necessary to protect their common interest in protection by a militia... As such, the United States reasons, the right protected by the Second Amendment is indeed a collective rather than an individual one..." - Gillespie v City of Indianapolis
The Sovereign People
"In free states, the people form an artificial person, or body politic, the highest end [and] noblest that can be known. They form that moral person... as a complete body of free, natural persons, united together for their common benefit..." - Justice James Wilson (signer of the Declaration of Independence, delegate to the Constitutional Convention)
The People of Ellenville
The concept of "The People" is central to every level of organized representative democratic government and to each body politic that ordains it. The People, collectively, is a singular entity with perpetual existence, for as long as the citizens who comprise The People of a Nation, State, County, Town, City, or Village find it in their common interest to remain distinctly organized as such.
To Alter or to Abolish or...
As Noah Webster said, "A People cannot divest themselves of the sovereignty," nor should it be subject "to the encroachments of [its] more powerful neighbor." A Hamlet of Ellenville will be divested of sovereignty; oh, the buildings and streets and "people" will remain, but THE People of Ellenville will not. Simply put, I don't want The People of Wawarsing making The People of Ellenville - as a distinct and sovereign body politic - "vanish."
... when I post, I sign with my name and my email address; if you don't like what I say, you know who said it, and you have recourse to hold me accountable. However, the vast majority of the posts on the forum are anonymous, so it's too easy for hateful, vicious persons to say outrageous and slanderous things from behind the safety of unaccountability. Would these cowards say such things to my face? Unlikely.
Answering a Forum "Fan"...
"Steve: I am sure you have been asked, and I guess that you probably won't answer, but surprise me. Who are you voting for in the presidential election? Then who do you think will win the presidential election? While I am at it, another iffy question. Do you think marijuana should be a legalized, TAXED crop? If you say no, why not?"
"Won't You Be My Neighbor?"
Many of my columns dealt with abstract concepts of "The People" and "Community." You can speak of the will of The People, or the sense of the Community, but even that is just an approximation based on an election, or polling, or what the buzz in the media is that week. But we don't live in the abstract. We live in real rooms, on real streets, in real neighborhoods. We live in varying degrees of proximity to other real persons with their own lives...
(Probable) Odds & Ends
It was one year ago I concluded my series on Peak Oil with a fanciful "look backwards" from the year 2020. According to The Guardian (UK), "Across the world, a food crisis is now unfolding with frightening speed. Hundreds of millions of men and women who, only a few months ago, were able to provide food for their families have found rocketing prices of wheat, rice and cooking oil have left them facing the imminent prospect of starvation. The spectre of catastrophe now looms over much of the planet." Tick... tick... tick.
Bye George! I Think He Had It!
"If you have selfish, ignorant citizens, you're going to get selfish, ignorant leaders... So, maybe, maybe, maybe, it's not the politicians who suck. Maybe something else sucks around here... like, the public. Yeah, the public sucks." - George Carlin (1937-2008)
I'll Have a Ham(ilton) on Why
Surprisingly, the EC that exists today is nothing like what Alexander Hamilton proposed and described! Rather, we vote for an unnamed (to us) slate of electors pledged to a pre-selected party candidate. Thus, the winner-take-all slate in each state is essentially a rubber-stamp formality, not expected to think or act independently for themselves, or for a local district.
Beware the Sucker Bet (Part 1)
"I think the county and the town of Wawarsing need an expert on Indian gaming on their side so we know what questions to ask. We're in there asking questions, but we don't know what questions to ask because we've never been involved with it." - County Legislator Richard Parete, 2002
Beware the Sucker Bet (Part 2)
A Board, which ultimately must make decisions, needs all the diverse information it can get, and restricting it and massaging it to force a desired outcome is a recipe for bad government and bad policy... When I raised my hand... I was not recognized by the Mayor to speak, but bluntly told, pre-emptively, "I will not allow this to become a debate!" And there you have, in one sentence, much of what is wrong with how the Village runs its meetings and makes decisions.
Beware the Sucker Bet (Part 3)
"He has some kind of charm, some kind of charisma that people respond to. I find it amazing that someone could fool so many people for so long. It turns out there is no tribe and he's no chief" Several articles I've researched, even critical ones, speak of Roberts as "charismatic" and impressive. Even so, he hasn't persuaded everyone of his authenticity, trustworthiness, or sincerity of motives, and his history of outrageous claims, lawsuits, and self-admitted fraud is hard to gloss over or dismiss...
Beware the Sucker Bet (Part 4)
Even if there weren't a checkered and cautionary history of attempts to introduce casino gambling into Ulster County, going back to the Modocs... even if the credibility and motives of "Chief" Roberts and the Mohegans weren't tainted by suspect claims and spin... even if Wawarsing and Ellenville weren't desperate for any economic straw to grasp, no matter how flimsy or toxic... casino gambling would be bad for us.
Beware the Sucker Bet (Part 5)
"Studies overwhelmingly demonstrate that gambling's costs outweigh any economic benefit; that problem gambling rises as gambling opportunities proliferate; that economic hardship and crime likewise increase with more gambling; and that the level of wagering in this state and nation is increasing at a rate that is incompatible with true economic growth. It is the false promise of economic salvation. Any economic benefit realized from gambling is far outweighed by its economic and social costs." - Senator Frank Padavan, in All Gambling, All the Time
Beware the Sucker Bet (Part 6)
The case against casino gambling so far: it breeds crime and corruption; distorts local politics and encourages end-runs around proper procedure; drains resources and revenues from local governments and businesses; and fails to deliver promised jobs and economic development to the community. Though social costs to a town, region, or state can be measured in the dollars and collective pain borne by the community-at-large when casinos arrive, the costs to certain individuals and their families can become overwhelming, even all-encompassing.
Vote... If You Feel Like It
I mentioned earlier this year that I was seriously considering not voting at all for president... I decided to vote against the status quo by supporting the one candidate who actually stands on a platform I can get on board with, and, if Nader gets enough votes, by sending a message that not everyone is merely settling for the lesser of two evils. It may help, but I'm not optimistic, either for the nation, which has taken a very wrong turn, or our democratic experiment, which has clearly failed, and has become a national socialist fascist kleptocratic oligarchic plutocracy.
A Time for Serious People
Tim Pain is NOT Tom Paine; there is nothing I read in his column to make me think, reflect, or act, but, rather, an attempt to envelop me in a warm, fuzzy glow of Reader's Digest bathos and lump-in-throat, flag-waving, non-critical, non-thinking. This isn't conservatism as a political philosophy with principles and positions, but a knee-jerk angst at nothing specific, an uneasiness and sense of loss, but not of anything in particular.
Ignorance and Want (Part 1)
All that is needed to embolden and empower Ignorance is a trigger... and that trigger is often Want - economic, social, or psychological deprivation... Want unleashes Ignorance; Ignorance breeds Fear; Fear fuels Hate; Hate ignites Violence. Ugly times of Want give birth to ugly thoughts, words, and actions. The 20th century is littered with the spawn of ugly times.
Ignorance and Want (Part 2)
From the subtle to the blatant, Ignorance/Fear/Hate/Violence has taken its toll in our history, from the initial European invaders until today... And so we arrive at our current situation, where global depression finds us with a convenient new scapegoat to divert our attention from the real causes of our condition, as Muslims, and Islam itself, is seen as the greatest threat we face, as individuals and as a nation.
Ignorance and Want (Part 3)
So effective was the Orwellian morphing of anti-Soviet "freedom fighters" into "Islamo-fascist jihadists" responsible for nearly every attack or threat against the US or allies, that trillions of dollars to war funding, covert ops, and government expansion (and severe curtailment of "our freedoms") has been foisted on a terrified and (kept) ignorant populace. This is the geo-political and profit-driven strategy that grew into the broader cultural and social virus we now call Islamophobia. Opportunist demagogues and cranks latched onto this new scapegoat with a venomous fury unmatched for decades.
Ignorance and Want (Part 4)
Every ignorant and vicious bigoted letter to the editor that isn't rebutted (local dailies ran purple with them when the GZM was ginned up), every defacing, bullying, or taunting that isn't taken seriously, every myth that isn't debunked, only keeps the Ignorance/Fear/Hatred/Violence cauldron bubbling. Ultimately, as Martin Luther King once said, the greatest tragedy is "not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people."
In a recent forum posting, I opined on the just-completed "renovation" work at Ellenville's Liberty Square: "Liberty NON-Square -- Now that the work at Liberty Square and environs is essentially done, and the money gone, I have just three letters to express my take on the results, after all that: 'BFD!'"
My wife, reading that, said "BFD? Bad Financial Decision?"
Well, that too.
Be Kind, Rewind!
It occurred to me that some of us have not been properly introduced; when I re-started my usually-every-other-week column in September, it was after a nearly-two-year absence. During that time, The Journal broadened its geographic coverage and audience, and changed its name to reflect that expansion. Thus, there are likely many newer readers who only began reading the print version of The Journal after I began my extended hiatus.
Truther, Birther, Deather, Part 1
When I heard May 1st that Osama Bin Laden (OBL) was dead, my first reaction was, "What... again?" After all, sporadically since 2002, OBL had been reported dead by at least nine credible sources... The story out of Abbottabad (Abbott-a-bing) was already sounding like a lame Hollywood script, but this "sleeping with the fishes" Godfather touch told me something was really fishy.
Truther, Birther, Deather, Part 2
A professional graphic designer pointed out that if you took the PDF file of the long-form [Obama birth certificate] on the White House blog site, and opened it in Adobe Illustrator... there was clear evidence that the image was NOT a simple scan of a document, but... a computer-generated fabrication, poorly-done at that, with the seams still showing... That the posted "certificate" was now proven beyond doubt to be a fraud, should... have made news as a scandal as big as Watergate.
Truther, Birther, Deather, Part 3
Once you take credit for summarily offing the biggest, baddest, most evil arch-fiend on the planet, you have to maintain the original fable of his supreme evilness, or else you'd have a lot of 'splainin' to do to the World Court. Repeating Obama's slam: "And I think that anyone who would question that the perpetrator of mass murder on American soil didn't deserve what he got needs to have their head examined." Well, sir, may I humbly suggest that anyone who doesn't question the absurd official government conspiracy theory about the events of 9/11 has already put his head so far up his own rectum that it would require a proctologist rather than a psychiatrist to examine it.
Truther, Birther, Deather, Part 4
For me to have access to these and similar ultimate Truths, I'd have to be one of a very select elite few; but, if so, what would I be doing here telling you all this?!! As the movie line goes, “I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you.” Conversely, I could be part of a vast disinformation army, designed to sow confusion and misdirection, at the behest of the previously hinted-at “The Powers That Be” (TPTB)... Our so-called "real" world is increasingly less real, and more and more a Matrix-like construct of TV scripts and movie-like illusions, authored by TPTB and fabricated by the military-industrial-intelligence-media-drug complex.
Truther, Birther, Deather, Part 5
From Act I of my mini-movie, 9/11 - Dust of Death.
Card: "Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, or actual events, is purely coincidental... Perhaps."
Exterior shot: Twilight. A vast, palatial mansion.
Interior shot: A cavernous but luxurious room, lit only by a huge fireplace and candles. Three faceless men sit in shadows, various Masonic and occult symbols on the walls and tables. A beefy man in his early 70s stands before them in a rumpled white suit.
"Mr. H., we need your particular talents and discrete connections as former Deputy Chief of Mossad to stage an event for us. It has to be on a specific 2001 date at two iconic American sites that must appear to be under simultaneous but ambiguous attack."
Truther, Birther, Deather, Part 6
9/11 - Dust of Death, Act II (Remember, this is just a movie! No disrespect is meant to those who lost their lives, or their survivors, who, more than anyone, deserve a real, full-scale criminal investigation into the events surrounding 9/11.)
Truther, Birther, Deather, Part 7
9/11 - Dust of Death, Act III
Card: "9:59 AM"
Split-Screens of CGI graphic slow-mo, Exterior shot of WTC2, Interior shot of control room studio coordinating upper-story explosions: Nuclear device triggered, stats on side show time expired, temperature, dimensions as rock melts, cavity expands; 12 seconds later compression wave hits tower foundation and instantly pulverizes everything to 80th floor to dust. Building collapse from various angles. (Images from video of "dustified" WTC tower steel perimeter columns collapsing)
Truther, Birther, Deather, Part 8
Do you really want to honor the dead and "Remember 9/11" properly? Then demand JUSTICE! Demand honest, objective, international investigations with real experts in relevant fields of forensics, architecture, engineering, logic, chemistry, aviation, psy-ops, crime, etc. (not just political hacks and government-owned flunkies), to be given access to all evidence and all possible culprits, including higher-ups in government, military, intelligence, and media.
Don't Swallow De Bait
Let me suggest that the hours you might spend watching the three so-called "presidential debates" (and one for two VP candidates) are a complete waste of time, will make you less aware about what is important, and will make you complicit in a massive fraud designed to cripple democracy and stifle public questioning of serious issues... All the media and internet hand-wringing and heated cogitation over what was essentially a Kabuki performance in PeeWee's Political Playhouse reminds me of nothing so much as the detailed evaluation of flickering shadows on the walls of Plato's cave.