Letters to the Editor: 12.20.12

Our readers' comments

Message in a Bottle
    East Hampton
    December 17, 2012
To the Editor,
    Like all of us, I went through a series of emotions after the shooting that took place at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
    First there was shock as the number of dead rose. Then, when it was reported that most of the victims were children, there was a sense of horror, an uncontrollable welling up with emotion, trying to catch a breath, and then tears.
    I turned on the radio and TV still not believing what the town of Newtown was going through. As I watched and listened, local newscasters were choking up, holding back tears. Citizens from around the country were calling radio shows, grief-stricken and asking the question all of us were asking: Why?
    Finally, President Obama, with tears in his eyes, delivered a speech to the nation about the events at Sandy Hook. On that day, we cried as a nation.
    There was also a sense that as a nation we have, in these tough economic times, been pushed to the limit. Somehow, this event was what finally broke all of us down, and in that moment, our collective humanity was exposed.
    Like many of us, I needed some space, a moment to reflect and grieve. The day after the shooting I hopped in my car and drove out to Montauk and began a hike at the end of Navy Road, along Fort Pond Bay.
    This stretch of shoreline is rocky. Some of the boulders that rest along the beach are massive and otherworldly, but it offered the solitude I was looking for.
    This is a tricky time of year for some of us, emotionally. The sun sets earlier, temperatures drop into the 20s, and there is that subtle recognition, with trees bare and skies gray, that another year has passed.
    As I made my way, I just couldn’t come to grips with why someone would take the lives of so many innocent, defenseless, beautiful children. Feeling overwhelmed, I sat down and wept.
    This tragedy felt so personal. These children were all of our children. In the impossible search for answers as to why this happened, many expressed the sentiment that we, as a nation, were responsible and that this senseless killing has to stop.
    Before setting off on my hike, I had picked up a map of Hither Hills State Park that is provided for free. I had been walking for some time and was curious to know how far I had gone.
    According to the map, I was now at what is called Quince Tree Landing. Looking up, I saw an object in the distance. I approached the object, lying on the beach, and realized it was a message in a bottle. I was roughly three miles from where I had parked my car. There wasn’t another living soul around.
    It was a white wine bottle. The glass was clear, its cork firmly in place, and I could see that someone had taken great care to neatly roll up his or her message.
    Getting the message out was a chore. I had to use little twigs and sticks to extract it and after about 10 minutes finally got it out.
    As I unfolded the message and began to read, I discovered that it had been placed in the bottle by an 8-year-old boy.
    The boy wrote that he was from Greenport, that he was in the second grade, and liked to play football. At the bottom of the message, he drew a picture of a car with different colored crayons, one that only an 8-year-old kid can draw.
    I couldn’t help but think that this young boy was around the same age as the victims at Sandy Hook. This was a moment of pure serendipity. I was feeling empty, but finding this bottle had lifted my spirits: the romantic imagination of a young boy, tossing his message into the sea, hoping that it would land on some far-off and exotic shore.
    The journey of this bottle was brief, but considering the tides and the geography of Long Island Sound, I was impressed that it had made it this far. I’m sure that at one point or another we have all tried to launch a message in a bottle, only to discover that it lands right back up on the shore from which we’d sent it.
    As the sun began to set, it was time to head back. I folded the message and placed it in my coat pocket.
    There are moments in all of our lives that we will never forget. For me, that day in Hither Hills will serve as a constant reminder that there is beauty in our world, that this chance encounter with a message in a bottle, sent by an 8-year-old boy, is evidence that we are all connected, that imagination, love, and our passion for life and caring for one another are the things that bind us all.

Senseless Tragedies
    East Hampton
    December 17, 2012
Dear Editor,
    There is no rational person who cannot be sickened by the tragedy that occurred in Newtown, Conn. on Friday, but unfortunately, the attempts to prevent the proliferation of inappropriate and illegal weapons has failed in this country due to politics and strong lobbies.
    I support Second Amendment rights and have no problem with properly qualified hunters and sportsmen owning weapons — or citizens having reasonable weapons to legally protect their homes and property. But the availability of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines is absolutely unnecessary for the above purposes and helps facilitate senseless tragedies.
    The federal ban on assault weapons expired in 2004 and should be reinstated. There should also be stronger legislation controlling weapons sold at gun shows or by private sellers, which are ­often able to avoid federal background checks. I urge you to express your ­support for this action to your repre­sentatives in the House and Senate. You can reach them by e-mail by going to the “contact” links on their Web ­sites: timbishop.house.gov, schumer.senate.gov, and gillibrand.senate.gov.

Corporate Subversion
    Sag Harbor
    December 17, 2012
Dear David,
    Sure, we’re stunned. We cry, we rail against gun nuts, we feel great anger that gun safety can be completely blocked by corporate gun manufacturers. Yet in Citizens United, the Supreme Court’s narrow decision gave corporations a blank check to now openly continue in their formerly covert bribing of our lawmakers.
    The gun manufacturers have underwritten the National Rifle Association and other right-wing-fanatic gun groups, giving huge sums to the modern Republican political machine that has made gun rights for individuals over the very health of Americans their most sacred, fundamental, uncompromising definition of what the Republican party stands for.
    The gun manufacturers, through their N.R.A. front group, first went after state legislatures in building their decades-old campaign to define the Second Amendment as a constitutional right of individuals. They determined that candidates had to pass their litmus test of pro-N.R.A. positions on public safety, and then funneled monies to elect them. With almost all state legislatures in their pocket, on their payroll, they then moved to the federal arena. It was this same right-wing Supreme Court, by the same narrow majority, that ruled the Second Amendment indeed meant that individuals, not just those belonging to a militia (a National Guard), had a constitutional right to bear arms.
    Their ruling was made in spite of every single preceding Supreme Court ruling on guns since the beginning of our history. So much for the Right’s much-vaunted constitutional theory of convenient “Originalism.”-
    We desperately need a Teddy Roosevelt (who doubtless would be thrown out of today’s teapartiers’ Republican Party) who can rally the nation once again against the large advantage and depredations of corporations and the rich to determine what is meant by American democracy. Let us all hope Obama can now step forward to move the nation against corporations’ immense, unyielding interference with and perversion of a great democracy. Let us all work to help Obama move with the courage and conviction against corporate subversion of our democracy with the same courage and conviction Teddy Roosevelt moved against the corporate trusts of his time.

Autumn in Bonac
    Falling leaves
    Those Winter thieves
    A child digs out
    the Pumpkin seeds
    Salt Box Freeze
    No evil deeds
    Chrysanthemum waits
    For a few stray bees
    Montauk Steve
    Knew the woods
    From Napeague to Springs
    He carried our goods
    The poet Frost
    His words not lost
    We work the ground
    The fields abound
    Now, on the skyway
    Flying geese above
    This Accabonac
    Place we love

Their Neighbors’ Needs
    East Hampton
    December 10, 2012
Dear Mr. Rattray:
    On Sunday, Dec. 9, the Springs Fire Department made available delicious holiday dinners for delivery to clients of East Hampton Meals on Wheels, and their family members or caregivers, who were unable to attend the dinner at the firehouse.
    This service filled a tremendous need in our community, because the clients who receive these holiday meals are homebound and unable to cook special holiday meals for themselves or for their families.
    We heartily thank all members of the Springs Fire Department, who skillfully coordinated the event with our organization, and who gave so generously of their time and energy to make this holiday season pleasurable for many lonely individuals.
    We are thankful to live in a community in which so many organizations and individuals are concerned for the needs of their neighbors.
    Thank you again, Springs Fire Department.
    Very truly yours,
    Meals on Wheels

There for Them
    East Hampton
    December 10, 2012
Dear David,
    The East Hampton Teachers’ Association held its annual holiday party at the East Hampton Point restaurant on Friday, Dec. 7. The party was a fund-raiser for a local family in need after Superstorm Sandy.
    The association would like to thank the community businesses for their donations to our raffle, which allowed us to raise the money.
    In addition to this fund-raiser and a part of our ongoing commitment to help local charities, the E.H.T.A. donates over $3,000 to the community each year, a community we love to serve in more ways than just education and instructing our children.
    Many of us believe the people we work for and with are our second families, and when it is brought to our attention to help families, we are there for them. The holiday event was a way to spend some time with our “family” and remember those in need in our community.
    For the holidays, Oren Arnold once wrote:
    To our enemies, forgiveness
    To our opponents, tolerance
    To our customers, service
    To all, charity
    To every child, an example
    To yourself, respect
    With that in mind, have a safe, warm, loving, and peaceful holiday season.
    Second Vice President
    East Hampton
    Teachers Association

Deer: Avoid Delay
    East Hampton
    December 15, 2012
To the Editor:
    I appreciated Russell Drumm’s detailed account last week of the Dec. 6 Town Hall hearing on deer policy, which I couldn’t attend.
    My own views on deer are ambivalent: a classic love-hate relationship. On the one hand, I care deeply about animals. Members of the little herd that spends part of each day grazing, browsing, or napping in my garden are now so comfortably at home that even my cats ignore them.
    I wish none of these gentle, graceful creatures any gratuitous harm or suffering. A couple of weeks ago I was distressed when a young doe with two broken legs collapsed just outside my front door. (Two admirable volunteers from the Wildlife Rescue Center came to sedate her and transport her to a veterinary hospital, where she was mercifully euthanized.)
    On the other hand, along with most town residents, I emphatically want to see the deer numbers slashed. I deplore what their population explosion over the past couple of decades has done to our landscapes, our woodlands, our road safety, and the environmental health of our community.
    Which policy? A professional cull, followed by ongoing efforts at contraception, seems the most sensible course. (It’s how they cope with overgrown elephant herds in parts of southern Africa.) Apart from my visceral aversion to sport hunting, I simply don’t trust recreational marksmen to dispatch their game with minimal fear and pain. Along with the fanatic right-to-lifers, I shudder at the thought of a deer being wounded by some clumsy weekend hunter, then staggering away in agony to bleed slowly to death. Skilled sharpshooters, however, are trained to target entire family groups and make a quick, clean, compassionate kill.
    The other excellent suggestion from the hearing: Act fast and avoid delay. Don’t put off the culling operation to conduct lengthy studies and bureaucratic analyses. The scientists and environmentalists can proceed with their head counts and migration comparisons at the same time the hired hunters have begun doing their work.
    Decisive speed and professional expertise, together, offer us the most effective and humane solution. Let’s not postpone it.

The Deer Around Us
    East Hampton
    December 16, 2012
Dear Editor,
    Thanks for your coverage of the town’s hearing on Dec. 6, 2012. I am always fascinated by just how wildly divergent people’s perceptions of one image, idea, or resolution can be. This meeting had people all over the place on the issue of deer management. Statistics held little to no integrity and the sense of another disastrous slam to the natural order of our ecosystem in its entirety appears a done deal.
    Many of us in the group felt the plan a substantial first step, but the plan was costly and ultimately will not provide the net result our community is hoping for. The net result is: we don’t want deer in our yards, streets, or spreading disease. Regardless of the percentage of deer that are to be exterminated this net result will not change, nor will the continued cohabitation our townsfolk seem to protest.
    It was never different. Herds ebb and flow. The only way to appease some of the deer management proponents and manifest their desired net result is to kill all the deer or build a fenced-in nature preserve where these malicious intruders can be held in captivity and forced to live their lives in misery. Outside of that, you will always have a missing rose bush, a dented fender, or poop in your yard.
    Lyme disease was being used as one of two hammers to put the final nail in the lid of our deer population. They are two separate issues, and believing that killing our deer herds will alleviate this problem is naive.
    Lyme was once thought to be an experiment at Plum Island which had escaped the controls of the facility and had traveled by bird to Connecticut.  While this is probably nonsense, it was determined that the infected tick(s) that took root in our community did come over on a tick from a cluster of infection from that state. Killing the deer will do little to alter the state of this epidemic. Birds do carry the tick. Every creature with blood and body heat will attract it and it will always find a host on which to feed. Rodents, squirrels, raccoons, dogs, and cats will bring the contagion up into our living spaces and into our very homes.
    When I was a youngster, Rocky Mountain spotted fever was the malady of the day. We played outside and were checked cautiously by my parents and grandparents. Controlled burns were done seasonally to maintain the woodland underbrush and fields in order to alleviate the rampant reproduction of the ticks. Ground birds such as pheasant, quail, and turkey ate the little monsters in massive numbers. Insecticides were not the scourge they are now considered, and so they were liberally applied.
    We have done away with virtually every method of control; killing off our ground bird population to the point of decimation. We reintroduced the wild turkeys with the knowledge they can help control the tick population and instantly some people are calling for their extinction! The deer are not the problem, nor is a mass murder the answer to the Lyme problem.
    When I hike I am always aware of the net result of man’s infringement and accelerating destruction of our wildlife habitat. While I was quoted as saying the deer population was actually on the wane, two hunters from the area spoke and felt the same. A gentleman named Lehman spoke of his many decades-long practice of hunting the woods out at Northwest Harbor. He knows what I know. The clusters of deer we complain of because they eat our hydrangeas, wander into the streets, and offend us by daring to lie dead by the road for days on end, are there because man has destroyed the natural order of things.
    As we complain that habitat destruction to our west has funneled the deer population into the compact communities of the North and South Forks, the accelerating, inappropriate, illegal overclearing of their homes is funneling the deer into populated areas which had been fairly virgin until the bomb dropped about a decade ago. We do not need a study. We do not need sharpshooters. We have our own highly dedicated and experienced hunters who are willing to create the same net result, at no cost to the town. The money proposed for expenditure could serve better elsewhere.
    The moratorium on building and the years of studies and impact statements beginning in the late ’70s led to a complete overhaul of subdivision maps, upzoning, and ordinances which were designed to protect the rural nature of the community, the water table, and the wildlife habitat around us. It was painful and unconstitutional, but the idea was sound and appeared to be working. The McMansion and the suburban mentality of the most recent waves of second-home owners has created a selfish and destructive scraping of the land.
    Ordinance enforcement seems indifferent, and I am stunned that despite a private discussion with a founding member of the deer management plan committee (well prior to final draft), there is absolutely no mechanism in the proposal to slam on the brakes of overclearing and other ordinance violations.
    Take a breath, take a look, and redefine what is needed at this last-chance opportunity to preserve our rural character, our water table, and the healthy habitat that still remains. We are five years away from a permanent change that will leave us just one more cheesy and cheap getaway.
    It is sad to note that no one spoke of the beauty and grace of the deer around us. Highly intelligent and social, they feel love, nurture their young, and suffer the pangs of fear and panic. They do teach us and our children that life is sacred and each creature special and unique. It is a dangerous change in society when we do not imbue our children with this reverence.

Doomsday Meeting?
    December 16, 2012
Dear David,
    Your editorial “Doomed Committee‚” regarding the new beach erosion committee, was right on target. This newly appointed group seems to be biased in the direction of Supervisor Wilkinson’s “drop rock” policy preference. The first meeting of this new committee is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 21.
    To those who aren’t in the know, 12/21/12 is the date when the Mayan calendar is supposed to run out, leading us to Doomsday! It is most ironic that Councilwoman Quigley has set this unfortunate date as the initial meeting of this seriously unbalanced committee. Let’s hope that our one Democratic councilman to this committee, Peter Van Scoyoc, will be able to add some trained and professional opinions to the discussion and that we, as a community, can stave off Doomsday!

Demands More
    East Hampton
    December 17, 2012
Dear David,
    Your editorial “Doomed Committee” (Dec. 13), regarding the people chosen to head up an erosion study, was completely accurate.
    Bill Wilkinson is incapable of change. You noticed that he always appoints the same loyal Republicans to every committee. He cannot conceive of ever including a Democrat or even an independent.
    Let’s see, motel owners and real estate salespeople who are interested primarily in how to increase their businesses and a lawyer who is a property-rights stalwart. As for the earth-moving member, we wonder what he has in mind before even sitting down. The two environmental folks will be lucky to get in a word.
    A discussion and decisions regarding coastal erosion policy demands more than the usual bodies who will mimic Mr. Wilkinson’s views. How about reaching out to universities, science groups, colleges, national environmental groups, engineers, even learn from the Army Corps of Engineers?
    A real estate person, land-mover, or motel owner are not qualified to deal with such an important problem, even though Mr. Wilkinson refers to it as a “snapshot in time.” The only folks the supervisor didn’t invite were from Disneyland. Perhaps he should have appointed Snow White to the committee; she would be just as knowledgeable as nearly everyone else in the group!
    Yours truly,

Right to Work
    East Hampton
    December 15, 2012
To the Editor:
    When the state of Michigan became a “right-to-work” state it stuck a large dagger into the heart of America’s middle class. Already reeling from declining wages, lost benefits, and a lousy economy, right-to-work is a major kick in the cojones.
    Rendering workers as disposable white trash has been at the heart of conservative Republican politics for the past 40 years, the lynchpin for the redistribution of wealth and the creation of a labor force that is cheap and disposable. Kind of like using HandiWipes instead of handkerchiefs.
    Why the U.S. public buys the right-to-work mantra is remarkable. True, it says “right to work,” which is a positive. But right to work for lower wages, no benefits, and no job security is really right to suck. True, companies would rather come to a right-to-work state. It’s like China without the language barrier. True, unions require dues and have been abusive (not compared to employers). But unions give workers strength to bargain collectively, get better wages, benefits, security. Right to work really means you’re on your own and screw you.
    Yet, while talking about freedoms that benefit only employers, right to work is a fraud. A scam that transfers our tax dollars as a form of corporate welfare when one combines the effects of the minimum wage, food stamps (SNAP program), and Medicaid. Our minimum wage is almost the lowest of all the industrialized countries. It is the standard for how little a worker can be paid. Companies don’t have to pay higher wages or benefits, because at $8 an hour or $16,000 pre-tax a year they are subsidized by the government in the form of food stamps and free health care. Instead of paying workers $12 or $15 an hour they count on available government assistance to make up the difference. So in reality, it’s the companies, not the workers, who are being subsidized by our tax dollars.
    Take McDonald’s, which pays its workers $8.75 an hour. Hardly a living wage. But add the $5,000 in available food stamps and another $3,000 in health care (younger people use the emergency room a lot less). The subsidies allow McDonald’s to keep its wages lower and sell a Big Mac for $.25 less than if it paid $12.75 an hour. If McDonald’s paid a quasi-living wage we could choose whether or not to spend the additional $.25. At $8.75 an hour we have no freedom of choice.
    Another aspect to the right-to-work scam is the increased benefits to one state over another. Cheaper labor will draw business from one state to another, but it’s simply moving business around and not creating new business. Michigan’s gain is Ohio’s loss, but the real losers are the middle classes, who see their incomes dropping accordingly. Not surprisingly, the unemployment rate in right-to-work states is higher than in the rest of the country.
    Right-to-work states (19 in all) pay lower taxes, lower wages, and give out more food stamps. They suck the rest of the country dry because they won’t pay a fair wage, and they rely on our tax dollars to subsidize their industries. Is this socialism or what? Are conservative Republicans really closet socialists?
    In closing, when our government doesn’t bring criminal charges against HSBC for laundering hundreds of billions of dollars in drug monies and we have two million people in prison for selling and possessing drugs, something is seriously amiss. If we can’t prosecute HSBC we have a moral obligation to empty our prisons.
    It’s always about who gets screwed in America. Whether it’s the right-to-work politicians or the HSBCs of the world, they always ask us to bend over and smile.

Toys for Tots
    East Hampton
    December 17, 2012
Dear Editor,
    I would like to thank all of the people who donated toward Toys for Tots at the One Stop Market this past season. With your help and support, this will put merry smiles on children’s faces.
    With much gratitude,
    On Behalf of All
    Santa’s Helpers