Let Us Not Forget
September 4, 2011
It has been 10 years since the terrorist attacks on our country. At the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and in the field in Pennsylvania many innocent lives were lost.
Let us remember those brave firemen and policemen who risked and lost their lives trying to rescue the victims.
Let us fly the American flag proudly as we did just after the attacks. Do you remember our flag flew along the highways, on overpasses, and from homes and businesses? The flag was everywhere.
Let us not forget, ever, what happened here. Perhaps the reciting of Fr. Mychal Judge’s prayer, found in his pocket when he died giving the last rites to victims would be appropriate:
Lord, send me where You want me to go.
Let me meet whom You want me to meet.
Tell me what You want me to say.
And keep me out of Your way.
May God bless America.
September 5, 2011
To the Editor,
Yesterday, I finally made it to the Hampton Classic, which has become the end-of-the-summer tradition for me and my friends, both riders and walkers. It has also become, over the years, a traditional “grandma shopping day,” when we would go to lunch at the overcrowded but festive food tents and shop for our growing grandchildren, picking up horsey-styled clothes and toys for our future baby equestrians. And each year, there have been fewer and fewer even barely affordable stores.
Of course the Classic is also a terrific horseback riding event (despite the draw of the infamous shopping). We get to watch Olympian riders and horses perform brilliantly and experience the wonderful, heart-stopping tension of the Grand Prix for the very affordable price of $25. And we also get to cheer on our local children, on their braided ponies and dolled-up quarter horses, who have been working so hard all year in the neighborhood stables for their day of fame. So, the Classic becomes (or had been) both an international event and a small-town-at-heart local tradition.
To follow the mixed metaphor of our Hamptons, the Classic had represented a true melting ground for the very, very wealthy and the, well, rest of us. But as my friends and I roamed around the Boutique Garden, we found not one children’s store, no toy stores selling horsey-related raincoats, school items, personalized pony posters, nothing, except the beautiful stuffed animal store in the middle of the garden that has always and traditionally sold the most exquisite, lifelike and well-made animals at reasonable prices. We were disappointed and amazed. There weren’t even any affordable stores for us to pick up a little trinket or piece of jewelry that wouldn’t deplete our savings. Those, too, were gone.
It follows the sad theme of our town: East Hampton now resembles more of a luxurious port of call than a small, New England community. Long gone are the quaint craft stores and affordable clothing and toy stores. Forget getting something to eat in town that doesn’t dent your budget painfully (except, thank God, our pizza joint). The rents are so exorbitant that only the large and prestigious chain stores (and, yes, Ralph Lauren, London Jewelers, J. Crew, etc., are chain stores) can afford to exist here.
So we leave the Hampton Classic after enjoying the riding events and head off to T.J. Maxx to see what we can find for our waiting grandchildren. I find this all sad. Americans can’t afford America anymore.
September 5, 2011
As a follow-up to your editorial of Sept. 1, I would like to elaborate on the effort to secure our little neighborhood on the Napeague stretch against the onslaught of Hurricane Irene (and last year’s Hurricane Earl) and to thank all those involved.
Many of us have lived in this special beach colony for a long time, some for generations, others are newer neighbors. I have been here since 1975 and while I have seen the neighborhood grow and change, I have seen it stay so much the same‚ so seeing everyone work together to preserve our homes and secure our safety is not all surprising to me.
Over the years the beach itself has evolved. We have been lucky as a new, high primary dune has built up over the decades. It gets eroded by the big storms but has, thank goodness, always protected the oceanfront houses and those of us who live on the inner streets as well. The beach depth fluctuates with time. It got shorter over the past few winters (though it is wider again now) so the potential threat of storm surf at high tides breaching through the emergency access in the dunes at Atlantic Drive has become a possibility.
Last year, during the threat of Hurricane Earl, our very active neighborhood association, headed by our neighbor, Marty Ligorner, received permission from the powers-that-be to create a temporary barrier of sand and sandbags. It held well and this year when the experts were predicting a potential direct hit from Irene, permission to build our protection was again granted by Larry Penny.
Charlie and Sue Schmidgall, who now live here year round, have a small earth-moving machine. With full respect to staying off the dune itself, Charlie and his machine became the centerpiece of the effort. Maureen Satinsky, who also lives here year round, acquired all the sand bags.
After an exhausting few days of securing our houses and battening down the hatches, neighbors gathered at the beach at 2 p.m. on Friday. The King family came en masse, adults and children, Louis and his daughter, Anthony and his whole family, Don Einsidler, who waited to leave to make sure we had enough help. Renters from the neighborhood, folks who live in Springs but love our beach all pitched right in. I personally sat in a beach chair and held the bags while those who were younger and stronger manned the shovels. (I also yelled at Marty not to shovel and schlep.) Last year some of the neighbors were different but the effort was the same‚ everyone here deserves equal credit.
On Napeague when we are threatened it is all hands on deck, young and old‚ those of us who live in our cozy beach cottages and the owners of grander oceanfront houses all pull together. This year’s barrier was strong. Charlie created a good 10-foot-thick, 6-to-8-foot-high wall of sand and then the neighbors filled close to 500 bags, which were moved by machine and lots of King family brawn to both sides and the top of the wall.
At the last high tide of the storm, a bit of ocean foam and water spilled over and trickled around, but the wall held fast. Right after the storm, Charlie and his trusty earth mover cleared the access as we had promised Mr. Penny — lucky, too, because as we all sat on the beach Sunday celebrating summer’s end with a neighborhood sandcastle contest, a kite surfer got in trouble, and the town emergency vehicles came through that access at full speed to be there to help.
The thing about living in a beach colony way out on the stretch is that your neighbors are your friends and people still care about one another and work together and kids learn from this kind of life experience. They learn respect and community. There are no politics, no agendas, just neighbors doing the right thing for each other and enjoying it too. God Bless America.
September 2, 2011
To the Editor,
Both the town and village did an outstanding job in preparing for Irene. The Town and Village of East Hampton’s coordination with Suffolk County in contacting people with special needs and those living in low-lying areas was outstanding.
Supervisor Bill Wilkinson’s individual effort during the storm to reach out to individuals, as well as his attempts to get answers from the Long Island Power Authority, is to be commended. Larry Cantwell, the village administrator, was very responsive to residents’ inquiries.
I am sure that post-mortem reviews of the events and damage caused by Irene will indicate that there are improvements that can be made in responding to and preparing for future tropical storms and hurricanes.
It would appear that the American Red Cross could have been better prepared; it had a shortage of staff at the Montauk shelter, and the Ladies Auxiliary of the Montauk Fire Department stepped in to fill the void. When the town requested the American Red Cross to use East Hampton High School as a shelter instead of the John M. Marshall Elementary School, LIPA asked the town to move its equipment left at the elementary school to the high school. When the town went to the school, the equipment was not there. So, both LIPA and the East Hampton Board of Education owe the residents of East Hampton an explanation.
Praise should be given to the linemen of LIPA who were out in the field during the storm. But the same cannot be said of LIPA management who told our supervisor and residents that headquarters was not in touch with the substations or crews in the field and could give no information about the status of power outages in East Hampton. When they did give information, it was incorrect.
There are other disturbing facts about LIPA. While they had crews from other parts of the country working to restore power, these crews told residents that the equipment used by LIPA was substandard.
What is shocking about that is that following a major storm in the 1980s, there was a crew from Con Edison working on a power line a few feet away from my house in the village and they made the same comment about Long Island Lighting’s equipment. Clearly, LIPA has made little or no effort to upgrade its equipment.
Irene was just a tropical storm and left much of our town without power and many uprooted trees. One can only imagine what will happen here when we are exposed to a category 1 or 2 hurricane.
We are at the early stages of the hurricane season and it is imperative that both LIPA and the American Red Cross improve their performance.
Where Were They?
September 4, 2011
Dear Mr. Rattray:
I am compelled to respond to Alec Baldwin’s letter of last week.
Mr. Baldwin tries to make an interesting analogy between a guy named Sam Zell and Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson. Listed as number 60 on the Forbes list of 400 richest people in America (a comparison I am sure Bill would be very happy to have made, if it applied), Mr. Zell and Supervisor Wilkinson took over essentially bankrupt institutions to save them. Unfortunately Mr. Zell, as of today, has not succeeded. Fortunately for the people of the Town of East Hampton, Supervisor Wilkinson succeeded beyond all expectations.
In less than the 20 short months he has been supervisor, Bill has stabilized the town’s finances. He reduced the town budget by about $8 million, reduced the size of government through attrition, and he cut taxes for all East Hampton residents. Stunningly, he accomplished all of this during a crushing national recession.
The issues in this election are dramatically different from those in 2009 when, facing financial ruin, scandal, and criminal indictments, the Town of East Hampton was fodder for the national and international press. Years before, in the election of 2007, Bill Wilkinson sounded the alarm that irregularities were taking place with the community preservation fund and that East Hampton was headed into a serious financial deficit. Democratic town leaders denied and discounted his warnings.
Now, Mr. Baldwin takes a swipe at the past Democratic administration, writing “a 12-year-old is more fiscally responsible than the previous administration,” four years late and a whopping tax increase short. Talk about a Monday-morning quarterback. (As an aside, Mr. Baldwin, if you are going to run for mayor of New York City you will need to be a little more informed on municipal budgets and finances, but I digress.)
My real question and concern is as the financial crisis ripened, where were Mr. Baldwin and, more important, his friends Sylvia Overby and Peter Van Scoyoc, the current Democratic nominees for town board? Did not one of them even wonder if problems did exist? They are obsessive critics of the Wilkinson administration now and claim to have all of the answers for everything, but where were they during this crisis?
As the town’s financial condition spiraled toward insolvency, both Ms. Overby and Mr. Van Scoyoc were on the planning board (she was chairwoman), an experience both candidates tout as a major reason they should be elected to the town board. Yet, neither of them had the intellectual curiosity or enough concern for the community to investigate whether the town was on the precipice of financial ruin and to look into the actions of the then-administration regarding the C.P.F. Why? Both have rather weak résumés, so I guess their lack of experience played a big part in their inaction.
Or, did they have a suspicion that all was not right with the town’s finances and the C.P.F.? If that is the case why didn’t either one of them speak up for the taxpayers? Was it because they feared for their appointments? Is Democratic Party loyalty more important than East Hampton residents? In either case, if they were in la-la land or worse, they deliberately sat on their hands for political purposes as the town’s deficit grew to $28 million and taxpayers were assessed a 24-percent tax increase, why in God’s name would we even consider voting them on the town board? Perhaps though, there is an explanation and if there is, voters should be aware of the reasons they did nothing.
Bill and his team on the town board have stabilized the town’s finances, but because the damage was so extraordinary, much work still needs to done. Strong, competent leadership and support for Mr. Wilkinson and the taxpayers need to continue. So, as Mr. Baldwin put in a plug for his friend, let me talk about Richard Haeg running for town board, who has an incredibly strong résumé and who will make an excellent council member. He is one of two exceptional candidates running for town board with Mr. Wilkinson. Steven Gaines, an author, activist, small-business man, and entrepreneur is the other. (More on Mr. Gaines at another time.)
Mr. Haeg is a decorated war hero and retired Suffolk County detective, literally tested under fire. He is a successful small-business owner and entrepreneur, raised and schooled on eastern Long Island. He knows budgets, knows how government works, knows East Hampton, and knows the problems facing our business owners on land and sea. He is a man of unquestioned integrity and exemplifies the marines code of duty, honor, country. I urge all East Hampton residents to vote for Mr. Haeg on Election Day, Nov. 8. He will be an independent, knowledgeable, and tough voice representing all East Hampton residents.
Now, Mr. Baldwin, given your obvious lack of municipal financial knowledge, one would think you would be embarrassed to even venture further into a discussion about creative accounting and fiscal responsibility. But, I and surely all of East Hampton, await your next missive.
Ms. Campolo is a member of the East Hampton Town Republican Committee. Ed.
September 4, 2011
To the Editor:
During the last year or so of the McGintee administration, when revelations of the alarming financial situation of the town were coming to light at an increasing rate, it seemed almost daily, one wanted to understand what was going on and what had happened. I found Zach Cohen’s frequent letters to The Star about the only source of insight into the situation and the only realistic portrayal of the enormity of it and the mechanics of it, and Mr. Cohen’s figures turned out to be basically accurate.
On the whole, others’ lengthy reports seemed too mired in partisanship to be convincingly clear. For my money the understanding and insight in Mr. Cohen’s letters to The Star alone prove his qualifications for acting as town supervisor. It is not a job in which most candidates are able to gain hands-on experience before they take on East Hampton (though the voters did pass up a candidate with exactly those qualifications at the last election.)
There seems to be an attempt to portray Mr. Cohen as a kind of lapdog of the McGintee administration, when in fact he was one of the people who helped expose what was going on. His candidacy for this job was basically created by the town’s Independence Party, of which he is a member, but a back-room deal has kept him off that line on the ballot. I think he has demonstrated that he would come to the job as a true nonpartisan, fighting for the town and its citizens, rather than for any single party agenda. Isn’t that what we need right now?
September 4, 2011
After six days of living in the dark in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene, with only the light of my laptop, fumbling to write in the dark, I am keenly aware that this is the way our supervisor and his team have operated since they took office — in the dark.
The nightmare “team” has blindly made decisions that pierce through the heart of the lives of residents based on little or no knowledge, scant research, limited understanding of the needs and/or aspirations of the people, and absolutely no regard for the wishes of the citizenry of East Hampton. The public be damned is their scathing cry as they hack away at all the systems that the town boards of the past of both parties established over the years to make this town the best place to live, grow up, work, and, yes, even vacation.
Perusing the letters written to The Star the past weeks, one after another voiced serious complaints. The gambit ran from the dismantling of the leaf program, waffling on the disruptive noise coming from the airport and the nightclubs in Montauk, the almost-bilking of two concert hustlers, the intent to reverse the dark-skies protocols already in place, access rights to our beaches, the constant underhanded day-to-day operation of their board that borders on being illegal to favoring those who grease their palms, and the inability to grasp the desperate plight of the water resources of East Hampton, and, indeed, of Long Island. And that was only a couple of weeks’ letters!
The list of the deep, scathing dissatisfaction by the electorate is astonishing. Zach Cohen and his running mates, Sylvia Overby and Peter Van Scoyoc, are the antithesis of our present leaders. Intelligent, insightful, experienced, they are beholden to none but their own vision of the future of this town and commitment to our unique way life. They understand that our economy is the environment of East Hampton.
PHYLLIS I. MALLAH
September 4, 2011
In a letter last week, Peter Wadsworth, both a member of the now defunct Airport Noise Abatement Citizens Advisory Committee and the founder of Citizens for a Quieter Airport, calls public attention to something only known to those who pay close attention to the problem of East Hampton Airport. The environmental impact statement that was prepared for the new airport master plan concluded that there is “no significant noise” outside the boundary of the airport itself.
That is indeed the main reason why the Committee to Stop Airport Expansion has brought suit against the town for the failure, again, to comply with the State Environmental Quality Review Act. The environmental impact statement is a work of fiction, and the town can only justify its latest airport plans based on fiction.
In the course of the preparation of the environmental impact statement for the airport master plan update, the Committee to Stop Airport Expansion hired its own aviation-noise expert. Using the same computer noise-modeling software used by the F.A.A. and by the author of the town’s E.I.S. and analyzing the town’s own data on expected airport usage, including aircraft types, flight tracks, altitudes, and frequency of use, the expert asked and answered this question: How many times do aircraft using East Hampton Airport create what would be a violation of East Hampton’s own noise ordinance if aircraft were not specifically exempted?
The noise ordinance makes it a violation, subject to fine and, in the case of repeated violation, criminal prosecution, to project noise across a residential property line that exceeds 65 decibels from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and 50 decibels from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. The answer? 9.8 million times per year! Airport noise adversely impacts 114 square miles and a resident population of 39,000 (including residents of Southampton).
But the study went further and actually counted the number of such incidents house by house. The areas most heavily impacted, with more than 1,000 “noise events” per year per household, include an area of 31 square miles with a population of more than 6,000. Households impacted between 6,000 and 25,000 times per year cover an area of 18 square miles with a population of more than 3,000.
How can the town’s environmental impact statement reach the astonishing conclusion that there is “no significant noise” outside of the airport in the face of these facts, the tabulation of the town’s own airport usage data, and the direct experience of thousands of residents?
It does so by using an F.A.A. method of measuring noise, called 65 DNL, that averages noisy periods with quiet periods. The town’s noise ordinance makes any projection across a boundary of noise in excess of 65 decibels a violation.
In contrast, under the F.A.A. method, the average noise must exceed 65 decibels 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If noise violating the local East Hampton ordinance were just above 65 decibels 24 hours a day for 364 days a year and there were perfect quiet just one day a year, then, by the F.A.A’s method, there would be no significant noise.
It is as if you were pulled over for speeding and told the officer, “But officer, I was home in bed all morning. So, on average I was only going 2 miles an hour today.” Do you suppose the officer would offer an apology and put his ticket book away?
The F.A.A. standard, as applied to a small, rural airport like East Hampton, is so gross that it amounts to trying to examine a fly with a telescope. Nothing at all can be seen because the measuring tool is inappropriate. What is worse, the town knows this and admits it in its statement.
The town says of the 65 DNL standard that it is “insensitive to ambient noise levels in communities such as East Hampton, which are low (as low as 40dB), resulting in aircraft noise having a much greater effect than in urban areas with higher ambient sound levels. Federal standards and procedures are relatively insensitive to circumstances that exist in East Hampton. This is to be an expected consequence of a regulatory regime that must accommodate the environmental impacts of large air carrier airports such as J.F.K. and La Guardia.”
The statement goes further in explaining why the 65 DNL standard is inadequate to satisfy a SEQRA requirement noting that the standard was only sufficient to protect public health. The statement admits that the F.A.A. method does not address the more widespread concern of noise-related annoyance.
Having explained just why the 65 DNL method is inappropriate, the statement then blithely goes on to use it anyway, thereby reaching an absurd conclusion. The crazy statement says that the airport property boundary itself represents “a reasonable boundary for estimating adverse reactions from local residents especially during summer months when considerable time may be spent outdoors.” In other words, there is no noise outside of the airport!
This is all blatantly illegal. SEQRA defines the environment as including separately both noise and human health. And the statement must describe environmental impacts “at a level of detail that reflects the severity of the impacts and the likelihood of their occurrence.”
What has been clear for years is that the town can only foist airport noise on town residents year after year with chicanery. We had the 1998 main runway project in direct violation of the 1989 Airport Master Plan, and based upon subsequent plans that were never adopted by the town, both as found by the New York Supreme Court. In 2001, we had the jet apron project based on documents that were actually falsified and the subject of a federal grand jury investigation. Now we have a new plan based on the fiction that there is no airport noise.
In one important respect, I disagree with Mr. Wadsworth. He says that the F.A.A. is a formidable obstacle to solving the problem and ridding the town of the most noxious aircraft. That is not true. The town hides behind the F.A.A. to justify its failure to act. The only formidable obstacle is the lack of political will on the town board. If the town decided to rid us of helicopters and similarly noisy aircraft, it could do so by no longer accepting F.A.A. grants for airport capital projects and thereby regaining full local control of airport access. What we need is a town board with the will to do so.
September 4, 2011
It has come to my attention that East Hampton Town Councilman Dominick Stanzione has suggested routing more air traffic on a southern path to and from East Hampton Airport. This fills me with trepidation as I live south of the airport on Wainscott-Northwest Road, and the noise is already tremendous, entailing being woken up early in the morning on a daily basis (but the worst is Monday morning) to being kept awake late at night and not being able to hold a conversation until whatever aircraft is flying past clears the area.
The noise is not only from helicopters, but also from plane traffic. The amount of noise has definitely increased in the last two years and now, with the thought of even more noise, I am not sure what kind of quality of life the people who live south of the airport can hope to have. It is a fact that some kind of aircraft flies over my house, on average, less than five minutes in between “noise events” from early morning to late at night (sometimes up to 2 a.m.). It is my strong belief that instead of relocating an existing problem to an area where a problem already exists, something needs to be done about the problem itself.
I have sent a letter to the town board to encourage it, for the sake of all the residents of East Hampton and all other Long Islanders affected, to not accept grant money from the Federal Aviation Administration when the current deal expires and retake local control of our airport.
If there is an answer to this problem in sight, why not seriously consider it instead of prolonging a problem the residents will have to continue to fight for another 20 noise-impacted years?
Let’s bring East Hampton back to a place people can come to and live in for rest and relaxation, and possibly an afternoon nap on a weekend, not constant noise and a sense of helpless anger and frustration. I would encourage all residents to be heard on this point before it is too late.
September 3, 2011
I am writing as chairman of Quiet Skies Coalition, quietskiescoalition.org. In the rising debate over our now-metropolitan airport, we would like to make the following point. We believe that it is unnecessary for us to defend our argument as to why we oppose aircraft (jet, helicopter, sea plane) that are loud, noxious, invasive, dangerous (when flying absurdly low and deciding willy-nilly where to land and take off), wasteful, and destructive. Rather it is incumbent on those who use and operate these aircraft to justify their behavior.
But of course they cannot rationally do so. For there are only two counterarguments that we are aware of: 1) “I am making profits on this loud, noxious, invasive, dangerous, wasteful, and destructive form of transport,” or 2) “I use this loud, noxious, invasive, dangerous, wasteful, and destructive form of transport for personal convenience.” Both arguments are rather thin when weighed against the common good.
And by the way, Q.S.C. is not a handful of folks who foolishly built houses near the airport last spring. I grew up in Amagansett. Susan and I built our first house on Two Holes of Water Road in 1979, and 17 years ago my family built our current house almost two miles from the airport — and nowhere near any flight paths. There were no helicopters or sea planes anywhere near us or our neighbors. And no jet ever screamed 200 feet overhead. Now we have all of these awful things, and often at 30-second intervals.
We, and virtually all other members of Q.S.C., were here long before the current blight of giant jets, horrid helicopters, and sorry sea planes, thank you very much.
Our airport should be returned to its original intended use — as a clear case of the greatest good for the greatest number.
August 30, 2011
Just a note of thanks to all who made the first season of the Block Island Writers Workshop such a success.
Not one blocked writer showed up, and we never had to meet.
Any blocked writers looking for no place to go next summer should sign up now or get someone to do it for them.
Block Island Writers Workshop
September 4, 2011
I believe in free speech and the rights of the sponsors of the full-page ad in the Sept. 1 Issue to run an ad asserting that “President Obama: Not Pro Israel.” The ad also shows a photo of Mr. Obama and Mahmoud Abbas shaking hands. But apparently the sponsors of the ad didn’t believe in free speech enough to tell us who they are and who was doing the free speech.
Only after going on the Web site that accompanied the ad did we find out that it was sponsored by a neoconservative, Christian fundamentalist group and linked to the Weekly Standard. These are the same guys who still think invading Iraq was the right move.
But in truth the issue they bring up is a complicated one. I am proudly a supporter of Israel. I believe that the two-state solution proposed by Mr. Obama is the only way to resolve this issue. It will require tough negotiations and compromises by both sides but it is a far better path than the upcoming attempt by Abbas to have the United Nations unilaterally declare a Palestinian state in October. This would be a disaster!
And guess what? In all independent polls conducted in Israel, a majority of Israelis agree with with a negotiated settlement based upon a two-state solution with mutual recognition and agreed-upon border swaps. So with Mr. Obama agreeing with a majority of Israelis, and the group sponsoring the ad not agreeing with the majority of Israelis, who is really not pro-Israel?
September 3, 2011
To the Editor,
A couple of years ago the editor of The Star told me he was banning letters on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict because a) most readers weren’t interested in them and b) the letters often reached a level of vituperation that was offensive.
Though it violated the paper’s stated policy for publishing letters, he was probably right. I wonder if he will grant me a pardon by publishing this letter since I cannot afford the thousands of dollars needed to publish an ad in response to the one appearing in last week’s Star by the inadvertently accurately named ECI — not proisrael.com. (Its ad certainly isn’t in Israel’s best interests.)
In a few weeks, when the United Nations becomes the battleground for the movement to grant nationhood to Palestine, remember this ad as the United States representative prevents the U.N. from adopting this very powerful anti-Israeli issue, an issue that is favored by over 100 countries, and it will be the United States and only the United States that will stop it in its tracks.
This ad seems to reflect the thinking of the uber-mensch supporters of Israel who believe their acts and desires are not subject to review or criticism by anyone, least of all by the president of the United States without whose support Israel would cease to exist. Barack Obama’s great crime, in their eyes, is to acknowledge that Arabs and Palestinians are human beings and they have rights and grievances that should be addressed.
Published reports have stated that Israel has allocated over $60 million dollars to wage a public relations campaign in America and Western Europe to create a more positive image of the country than the one that has evolved in the past few years since the Gaza invasion and the killings on the Turkish ship. I certainly hope this isn’t an example of how that money is being spent. I suspect, but don’t really know, that this ad and the money behind it come from some lunatic fringe Republicans who think they can turn American Jews (Mr. Obama’s second largest voting block in 2008) away from Mr. Obama next year with this sort of lying propaganda.
JOSEPH D. POLICANO
The editor does not recall the conversation that Mr. Policano recounts, but defers to his memory. Letters on any subject are welcome in The Star, provided they meet the criteria set forth each week on the first letters page. Additionally, the paper asks that letter-writers keep them short and refrain from direct personal insults. Ed.
Lobby Growing Scared
September 3, 2011
I see that “swift-boating” has come to East Hampton, like a poisonous non-native snake in the grass. I have no idea who or what eci-NotProIsrael.com. is, but it most certainly is not home-grown and is clearly a political action committee with gobs of money behind it. Probably it’s backed by some very rich right-wing types who like to play fast and loose with the truth. There is not a single word of it on that huge page, which comes at you from the midst of our local letter-writers, with the killer instinct that is today the mark of the Republican Party.
To set the matter straight, all we have to do is refute every sentence. President Obama has never told the Jews they cannot build in Jerusalem. What is at stake here is the illegal takeover, in East Jerusalem, of the houses owned for many decades by native Palestinians. And protests by Israeli citizens have marked these takeovers for months now. (But you don’t read that in The New York Times.)
Mr. Obama has never attacked Israel at the United Nations. In fact he has gone (too far) out of his way to placate Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israel lobby. The call for a divided Jerusalem has been on the table at every attempt at peace negotiations since these began.
Saying the president has been “Joining Arab Dictators on the U.N. Human Rights Council” is also a falsehood. One could only hope that this were true, since human rights groups all over the world have been condemning the Israeli occupation for years now and Israel has become more and more isolated in the region, which is a greater threat to it than making peace along lines that have long been proposed, and which Israelis generally understand to be more vital to their security than an army that regularly inflicts unspeakable suffering on the Palestinians. You don’t read about that in The Times either. To get the truth one has to go to Israeli sources — there are quite a lot of them — speaking truth to power and taking the word of our prophets to heart. (“Justice, justice shall you pursue,” is part of this week’s Torah portion.)
Which brings me to the photo at the top of the page, which I don’t believe either. Ever since we learned in pre-Photoshop days that the Stalinists could alter photos at will, subtracting out-of-favor or liquidated Politburo members from a group picture, I have studied political photos and TV footage carefully. I am certain this picture is not genuine but has been skillfully faked. You can see it in the direction and size of the two figures, and the way one’s eye is drawn to the handshake, which probably comes from somewhere else all together.
The Israel lobby is growing scared, and I don’t blame them. If only they could recognize that they are digging their own grave. With the Arab spring it has become clear that citizens under the heavy boot of an oppressor are beginning to seek freedom. It is a damn shame that the U.S.A., which crows forever about our freedoms, finds itself too often on the side of the oppressor.
Free Summer Trips
New York City
August 30, 2011
To the Editor,
I love the Long Island Rail Road. It is the only way I know of getting to and from the Hamptons for nothing or almost nothing on Fridays in the summer.
Now I am not complaining about the fare that I pay when I pay it. As a senior citizen I only pay $12.50 and there is no penalty for a senior to purchase a ticket on the train from the conductor. I think that $12.50 is quite reasonable to travel over 100 miles to get to East Hampton. However, even if I were not a senior and had to pay full fare, the 4:06 p.m. from Hunters Point on Friday, the Cannonball, the fastest and most popular of all the trains, is an off-peak train.
I like the logic of the Long Island Rail Road of making the most peak of all peak trains off-peak. A later, slower train has a peak fare and on Friday evenings the Hampton Jitney costs $30, or $24 using the value pack.
The issue is to travel for free in the summer. The way to do it is to take the 4:06, the Cannonball, from Hunters Point. Since the train departs from Hunters Point, it is possible to get a seat.
Since many now know that the trick is to take the Number 7 to Hunters Point to get the Cannonball, the train is completely full before arriving at Jamaica Station. At Jamaica the multitude of passengers that arrives from Penn Station on the 3:58 transfers to the Cannonball and has to stand all the way to the Hamptons. However, frequently the conductors don’t collect the fares when the aisles are jam-packed with unhappy travelers. So this summer more than half the time, I have taken the Cannonball for free to East Hampton.
I have taken this train for years and I have never heard any talk of the L.I.R.R. putting on another Cannonball on Friday night. So I look forward to frequent free summer trips to the Hamptons for years to come.
September 5, 2011
To the Editor,
Robert Reich’s “The Limping Middle Class” in The Sunday Times Op-Ed section is the most lucid, spot-on description of the economic problems facing the nation. The structural changes that have taken place in the country over the last 30 years as a result of conservative Republican free-market policies have led to the near collapse of America’s middle class. Shrinking wages, increased debt, no credit, and a remarkable loss of wealth characterize the heart of the economy. Add Don Peck’s Atlantic Monthly articles on the disappearing middle class, which explain how males with only a high school education or less are becoming increasingly unemployable, and a complete picture of the new United States economy emerges. The greatest economic power in the world is trending toward Honduras or Banana Republicanism.
Naomi Klein would call it capitalism at its very worst when it’s unregulated and out of control. Marx would say it’s simply capitalism cannibalizing itself. Eric Cantor would say tough noogies. All hyperbole aside, it’s a disaster. Accepting the reality of the new economy is the first step to finding a solution.
Our middle class is too broken and indebted to consume at a level that will convince companies to hire workers. Companies respond to demand, not vice versa.
So two options to improve our economy exist. The free market purists say let the market take care of itself. In 6 to 10 years we will come out of the doldrums and be much stronger. Much of the bottom 95 percent of the country will be battered but they will eventually recover. The entire burden will fall on the middle and working poor as it would in any Banana Republican nation.
The second option is to redistribute wealth through the tax code. Lower middle class taxes from an average of 30 percent to 15 percent and increase taxes on the top 2 percent from what they really pay from 16 percent to 32 percent. No additional revenues pass to the government. This will redress the transfer of wealth that has transpired in the past 30 years and guarantee an influx of spending into the system as long as the additional income isn’t used to pay off debts.
Otherwise, we are screwed. Since a new tax code would benefit the bottom 98 percent in the short run and the top 2 percent in the long run, the entire country could easily get behind it.
Finding the political will might require some kind of public humiliation of our politicians by tar and feathering or public lashing. Since they are already useless, losing a few for a good cause wouldn’t be a problem. In extreme times we need to take extreme measures.
Chained to His Record
September 5, 2011
To the Editor,
Hope and change. Remember those words and the promise they held for so many Americans in 2008? America was going to be different; it was going to be better. A colossus had stepped into the political void, a great man who was going to change Washington and put an end to the politics of old and usher in a new era. Remember when Barack Obama stood in front of the columns that reminded you of a Greek temple and how like a god he lorded over his rapturous followers promising to cool the planet and lower the seas? He promised everyone everything and raised expectations to Biblical heights.
How fitting it seems to now find Mr. Obama chained like Prometheus but not to a mountain, he is chained to his record of incompetence and failure. He is linked forever to his broken promises and empty rhetoric. Words, beautiful words, read with passion and fire from his ever-handy and boon companions, the teleprompter of the United States and the vice-teleprompter of the United States, but hollow and empty words in the end. Never forget how he went bowing and apologizing for America on the futile hope that repressed nations would suddenly flock to us.
Now last week we were treated to one of this paper’s weekly apologists for the Obama regime opining on whether or not we should vote for someone new in 2012 for the office of president or stick with Mr. Obama and hope he learned something his first four years in office. Excuse me? You want to hope he may have learned something in the four years he will have been president? You want to hope he’ll do things differently, better, when he has given no indication that he thinks he is doing anything wrong?
Is this not exactly the argument that was made against Mr. Obama prior to the election, that he had no experience, that he had no record of substance? Is not what we see exactly what we should have expected when enough gullible and weak-minded fools voted for a political neophyte, a lackluster junior senator from Illinois who was a no-show state legislator who liked to vote present and before that was a community organizer for groups like Acorn and was friends with an avowed and unapologetic terrorist.
Now, just two and a half years into his presidency, when for two of those years he and his party held absolute power, got everything they wanted, wasted trillions on a failed stimulus plan, passed health care reform no one wanted, added almost $10 billion in regulation to struggling businesses, and has pretty much accomplished nothing in terms of economic recovery after last year’s “summer of recover,” as Joe Biden put it. Mr. Obama has added almost $4 trillion to the national debt in those same two and a half years and has nothing to show for an out-of-control bureaucracy.
I know it is not his fault; nothing is ever Barack Obama’s fault. There was an earthquake in Japan, floods in the Midwest, fires in Texas, hurricanes, civil strife in the Middle East, oil spills, a dog ate his homework, it is Congress’s fault even though his party was in control for 24 of the last 30 months, the list of excuses goes on and on. All of this is why we find ourselves where we are at, a broken nation struggling to redefine itself, trying to decide what it wants to be at a time when our president is a weak and ineffectual scholar with no ideas and a clouded vision of what America should be.
What does the future hold for us, for your children? No one knows as uncertainty grows daily, as the world we live in convulses under the weight of seismic shifts in political geology and the rise and fall of nations. We face the challenges of a struggling economy and a weak economic forecast, the prospect that every parent hopes that their children have a better tomorrow will not be so, that the American dream has turned into a national nightmare. We have a divided government that seems incapable of serving the people and a president who seems out of touch with the people he is supposed to serve and the reality they live in. It gives us the new slogan for the future.
Hoax and Blame: Obama 2012.
MICHAEL D. BOUKER