August 27, 2012
In response to Matthew Sprung’s Aug. 16 article “Algal Tides Threaten Local Waters,” I offer the following:
Nitrogen and phosphorus pollution is the leading cause of water-quality impairments in the United States. With the thousands of residences existing within our region’s watersheds, the collective nitrogen loadings add up.
Our bays were once known for clear waters, vast underwater eelgrass meadows, and abundant shellfish harvests. Today, one is more likely to find them murky from algal blooms and closed to shellfishing. With the failure to limit housing densities, the impacts to water quality from conventional septic systems were bound to catch up.
As mandated by the federal Clean Water Act, state water-quality standards are the foundation for protecting the nation’s surface waters. Currently, New York State has a narrative standard for nitrogen and phosphorus that sets forth limits to these nutrients as follows: “None in amounts that will result in the growth of algae, weeds, and slimes that will impair the waters for their best usages.”
So how well are our surface waters protected under these narrative standards? Let’s look at the numeric results. There are currently over 100 water bodies (and climbing) in Suffolk County alone that the state has deemed as impaired (read: polluted). Unlike the ambiguity of the current water-quality standards, when a water body is classified as impaired the meaning is crystal clear — the surface water no longer supports designated uses, and for Long Island this means activities like swimming, boating, fishing, and shellfishing.
The results are in on narrative standards and it is apparent they neither identify the pollution problem nor set in motion corrective actions. Conversely, numeric nutrient standards would establish a meaningful benchmark for defining and determining water quality.
This is not a new idea. In 1998, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, through its National Strategy for the Development of Regional Nutrient Criteria, affirmed the importance of adopting numeric nutrient standards. With narrative standards, we are playing a losing game, so how many more of our surface waters need to become polluted before we take meaningful steps to protect our waters?
August 27, 2012
To the Editor:
The signs are gone.
I watched five intrepid cyclists leave the Babylon train station before dawn on Friday to begin the last 100-mile journey of the Tour for the Shore.
On my way to Montauk to welcome the riders, as well as Margo Pellegrino who paddled her outrigger canoe all the way from Cape May, I put up my few remaining road signs. As the very last one was going up by La Fondita, former Highway Superintendent Chris Russo pulled over and gave me a piece of his mind. “Those signs are garbage! They’re trash! They’re pollution!” he shouted. “They’re illegal! They’re against the town code! They’re garbage!”
I said, “Chris, it’s only one more day. They’ll all be gone tomorrow.”
“No they won’t!” he said.
The traffic moved and Chris drove off in a huff. He wasn’t the only one angered by my heavy-handed placement of those Tour for the Shore signs. I took a lot of heat in Montauk from friends and foes alike and had my share of sleepless nights because of it. I kept asking myself, “Am I helping or hurting the cause of protecting the ocean?”
On Saturday, I kept my promise and removed all the signs I placed from Manorville to Montauk. I picked up other trash too — plenty of it — cigarette butts, beer bottles, soda cans, plastic bags, and Styrofoam cups. Roadside pollution is a problem I know how to deal with. I just pick it up myself. I get a little exercise, the road shoulder looks good again, my eyes are soothed, and so are everybody else’s.
What I can’t clean up after is an oil spill. That’s why I put up all those damned signs. I can’t clean up after a natural-gas explosion. Nor can I clean up after toxic dredge spoils or medical waste. If I could, I wouldn’t have bothered you.
Right now there is seismic oil exploration planned off the coast of Delaware. We saw what BP did to the Gulf. Big energy is chomping at the bit to industrialize the ocean. For the past five years they’ve been trying to place liquefied natural gas tankers off our shore. The Tour for the Shore was about calling your attention to this and getting you in motion for the ocean.
We urgently need a “clean-ocean” zone to preserve Cape May to Montauk from the beach to the Continental Shelf. We urgently need to protect over 300 species of fish, 350 species of birds, 25 species of whales and marine mammals, and 5 species of sea turtles from oil spills and ocean industrialization. We need to provide for safe, clean, renewable energy. We need to prohibit dumping, oil and gas drilling, L.N.G. ports, and pollution. We urgently need to promote clean coastal economies and a clean ocean for today and for future generations of swimmers, surfers, divers, fishermen, and tourists.
While the signs are gone, the tour continues. Andy Sabin, one of the 100-mile cyclists, and one of the leaders of our community, is delivering the message to the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Willie Young, president of the Montauk Surfcaster Association, is delivering it to his members. Bonnie Brady is delivering it to the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association. Rick Etzel and Mike Potts are delivering it to the Montauk Boatmen and Captains Association. Cindy Zipf of Clean Ocean Action, Sean Dixon (who peddled 700 miles of the tour), April Gornik, and yours truly are taking it to Senator Gillibrand’s Long Island office on Tuesday.
The big question is what will you do?
We urgently need everybody to go on the Cleanoceanzone.org Web site and write to their congressmen and senators and tell them they want a clean-ocean zone to protect the New York-New Jersey Bight. Please visit Cleanoceanzone.org and get in motion for the ocean!
August 26, 2012
The obituary of Robert Brynes was well written. He and I became acquainted in World War II, as we both voluntarily joined the United States Coast Guard. I do know that he possessed something that is hard to explain, a character that is rare. He was a man who never blew his own whistle.
Bob volunteered to go on a special mission to crew on a sailing ship, unarmed, with only a radio. The destination was a hundred-mile area off New York City. The patrol was never to come ashore and to be the eyes and ears, 24 hours a day, to protect our coastline in all kinds of weather.
At the time, Air Marshall Goring was convincing Hitler the only way to win the war was a surprise air attack on New York City, which was the lifeline of England, by using long-range German bombers. It had all been planned out and could have been done. The only thing is Hitler had taken on Russia, and Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor, which brought America into World War II.
It has been told how the German submarines would come alongside the sailing ships and tell the Coast Guard if they called on the radio to report an air strike they would only make one call, as the ship and men would have been blown out of the water. Bob was one of these men. He had been briefed on what would have happened prior to sailing, and he would carry out his orders to the letter. It would have to be done, and he was man enough to do it — an unsung hero.
CAPT. MILTON L. MILLER SR.
August 25, 2012
The Montauk Chamber of Commerce would like to thank the participating boats, their captains, and mates for their extreme generosity and support during our first 2012 Take a Kid Fishing for Free program. The purpose of this trial program was to promote fishing by encouraging children to try fishing.
As a fishing community we want to see this industry remain a vibrant, popular recreation. We wanted to rekindle the interest in fishing by getting kids to actually go fishing. By the looks of it and all the positive feedback, I think it worked!
About 200 people benefited from the good-natured captains and their mates, who made sure all of their passengers had a great experience. The boat captains took the time out of their busy days to give the kids a fishing trip to remember for a lifetime. Those who participated did so without regard to the current high fuel costs.
The charter boats that participated in the program included the Double D, Breakaway, Sea Spray, Blue Fin IV, My Joyce, My Mate, Oh Brother, Grand Slam, Blue Crush, and Susie E. The party boats were the Viking Fleet, Ebb Tide, and Miss Montauk. Bait was donated by the West Lake Fishing Marina to the boat captains as needed. To make this event happen, Pat Shea, event coordinator of the Montauk Chamber of Commerce, organized the program as the go-between for the parents and captains.
One father shared with me that his two children, Michael, 10, and Victoria, 8, said they’ve already “shared some best moments from their boat trip on the Suzie E with their friends. That just reinforces the notion that this was a successful program. Way to go!”
Another 8-year-old boy, Logan, was fishing with his grandmother on My Mate. He caught four fish at one time and couldn’t stop talking about it. “This was the best day of my life,” he said, more than once. Do you think Logan will ever forget his experience on My Mate? This is what Montauk is all about.
Thank you, captains and mates, for all you did for these children and their parents. They will never forget you.
To view some of the photos you can go to the Montauk Chamber Facebook page.
Montauk Chamber of Commerce
Need New People
August 27, 2012
Dear Mr. Rattray:
East Hampton Meals on Wheels needs volunteers now!
With the East Hampton Meals on Wheels program growing larger, and the loss of our summer volunteers, we continue to need new people to deliver meals Monday through Friday. Helping requires only about an hour and a half each week from 10:30 a.m. until noon. Our volunteers derive enormous satisfaction from helping their neighbors.
East Hampton Meals on Wheels is a nonprofit organization that receives no federal, state, or local funding, and, although we employ two people to help in the office, volunteers make up the bulk of our program.
If you are interested in joining this wonderful group of people who are taking meals to our homebound neighbors, please call Meals on Wheels in East Hampton at 329-1669 today. We look forward to hearing from you.
CYNTHIA P. KABACK
August 26, 2012
What a rich week! Ever alert for opportunities to be helpful, let me comment on a few of this week’s “Also on the Logs” items.
First, Christine Cronin of Amagansett reported seeing a man with a lit cigarette leaving her driveway with some of her belongings. Now this is amazing: That very man was recently behind me in line at an A.T.M.! If the police review Chase’s security tapes for last week, they’ll have the perp.
Next, Laura Gendron’s clutch was stolen from the Stephen Talkhouse bar at 3 a.m., when she left it “for no more than five minutes.” Laura, Laura, when will you learn? If you can’t hold your pee until the bar closes, just get someone without visible tattoos to stand guard over your purse for you.
Then, two elderly ladies driving a 2012 Mercedes-Benz ran out of Gurney’s without paying for their buffet lunches. I know these women. They are retired widows on fixed incomes. Their children never call, and their grandchildren never send thank-you notes. What they did was wrong, yes, but they were just trying to brighten their cheerless lives by boosting a little free lobster salad. I myself was at the movies that afternoon.
Finally, to the couple who were fighting while walking home in the rain after missing the movie because Citarella took too long to prepare their food, I offer this advice: Keep walking. When you get to Montauk Point, keep going. And don’t come back.
August 20, 2012
So Rian White of Maidstone Park is once again in hot water for his community and town’s condemnation of his artistic expression at his house. As he and his situation have been made public over the past several years, I have driven by (as have many of my friends) just to take a look. While the junk was a bit much, it did have a certain charm to it and what it represented. The fact that his home became a canvas for friends and neighbors to express themselves and enjoy a bonding moment is part of what the artistic community of Springs and certainly all of East Hampton had always revered and honored.
It is alleged that Mr. White has created an offense to the community. With that in mind, the concept of art in the public’s path should be looked over with a new light. I contend (as do many with a sense of humor and tolerance) that the parameters defining “offensive” are sadly slanted against those in a certain social and economic status.
As I meander the public path, I am often offended by art in my eye’s sightline. I call to attention the mammoth albino penis on the cliffs at Montauk. I find the structure devoid of artistic merit, ugly, and vulgar. While completely pornographic and sited with disregard and malice, unfortunately the owner is wealthy and, after all, it is his property. Guild Hall for years exposed the public to Willem De Kooning’s “Lady on a Bench,” a nude study. We jokingly retitled it “Turd on a Stick,” as it was so ugly and without merit it was offensive to the eye and sensibilities. Once again it was accepted as legitimate due to the social and economic status of its advocates.
In Water Mill, on the green, sits a malformed “Vagina on a Rock” (retitled from “Seed”). A lovely old tree used to be the focal point. It is now gone, and the “art” that now greets tourist and local community alike is a glaring distraction from the stunning historic windmill and village surrounding. A publicly held space provides protection for this offender.
I hold little interest in these public displays due to the unpleasant aesthetic they contain. I do not care that they are pornographic or offensive — I do care that Rian White does not receive the same courtesy and protections. It is his property, and as long as the expression of his neighbors and himself are not a danger to the community, are not pornographic or bigoted, I feel he is entitled to paint his house in any manner or color he deems his pleasure.
I do know the town told me it had no power over these situations when one of our neighborhood homeowners constructed and then painted her house in psychedelic tangerine. This intrusion completely changed the character of a tiny enclave of woodland houses and has forever created bad blood in the neighborhood. The reason might be that they are wealthy in a wealthy area while Rian White is just an old local out in “that area” of Springs.
There is a certain charm to Rian White, his plight and his artistic or political expression!
Morning of Aug. 13
August 14, 2012
After a specific report of aircraft noise disturbance below, I offer simple remedial suggestions from the viewpoint of a locally knowledgeable land-use planner.
First my account of 1 hour and 22 minutes of disturbing, low-flying, aircraft-noise nuisance (helicopters, jets, prop) that interrupted sleep and peaceful quiet enjoyment of my premises on Monday morning, Aug. 13, between the hours of 6:45 and 8:10 a.m. It is presented as a specific illustration about what is going on from the viewpoint of a resident of the Town of East Hampton living along Briar Patch Road, east side of Georgica Pond. People all over our community have similar unfortunate experience:
Low and noisy flights in the immediate vicinity of my house in the early morning of Aug. 13 were recorded at: 6:44, 6:45, 6:54, 7:02, 7:15, 7:17, 7:18, 7:31, 7:33, 7:34, 7:37, 7:42, 7:48, 7:49, 7:54, 7:56, 7:59, 8:10, and 8:12 a.m. This is 19 flights in that brief period. All of this activity can be verified by the air control system at the airport.
The persistent, unwarranted disturbance of a very large number of residents by a very few aircraft patrons and owners is an extremely inequitable use of our common airspace. A few simple regulations would go a long way to returning our community to a more civil society in which the rights and interests and enjoyment of everyone were honored.
• Controlled hours of operation at the airport, restricted to 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
• Required reservations for the use of the airport and airspace so that volume is distributed and restricted to a certain number of flights per hour during legal hours of operation.
Everyone knows that the impact area of noise nuisance is very broad, way beyond the designated corridors. Everyone knows that pilots do not restrict their flight patterns to designated corridors. Everyone knows we have an intolerable environmental problem — more data to substantiate is unnecessary.
What is necessary is the political will at the local level to restrict a generator of immense negative environmental impact the same way construction hours are regulated, the same way large parties in residential areas are regulated, and so on.
Our community has a fine record of equitable regulation, going all the way back to zoning and land-use controls of various sorts. This is no different, and we should proceed to amend an egregious area of irresponsible infraction.
The problem is not the fault of pilots or aircraft owners. Just as the problem of overbuilding is not the fault of land developers. The problem is in the lack of courage and good judgment on the part of town management whose job it is to represent the entire population in the most thoughtful and equitable way possible by establishing appropriate regulation.
PETER M. WOLF
Right of Ownership
August 27, 2012
Last night the Noyac Community Civic Council held a meeting to air complaints about horrific helicopter noise, which our community has been lately subject to at an unprecedented level. Congressman Tim Bishop attended and promised to sit down with all parties to the dispute and stay the night until a “reasonable” resolution was reached. I asked the congressman what he meant by “reasonable” and got no real reply.
What was upsetting and frustrating about Thursday night’s meeting was the way everyone in elected office seemed to speak as if this was a dispute between two interest groups with equal but opposing objectives, each of which was to be balanced against the other. This is why I asked Congressman Bishop what he meant by “reasonable” when he said he’d be looking for a reasonable resolution of the conflict.
There are not, in fact, two opposing but equal interests here.
As property owners who pay taxes to support a government, we hold fundamental rights to the peaceful enjoyment of our property. These are terms of law going back to the beginnings of law in England and have been in use in this country since its founding. The right of ownership is, if nothing else, a right to peaceful enjoyment of the property.
The property taxes we pay are for the support and enforcement of this basic right. Fire and police protection, roads giving access to and from our properties . . . all these services are to sustain our peaceful enjoyment of our property.
The helicopter transportation industry, on the other hand, has no rights whatsoever.
The New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law makes clear that driving on public roads is not a right, but a privilege. That means that the state permits the use of its roads pursuant to compliance with certain rules and regulations set by the state for the benefit of the public. We must license ourselves and our vehicles, maintain our vehicles, and ensure them in order to keep the privilege of driving.
The municipality can, if it so chooses, forbid the use of helicopters for private transportation in our airspace and can do so without violating or abridging anyone’s rights.
Therefore, the interests of the property owners who have a fundamental right to peaceful enjoyment and the “rights” of the helicopter industry are in no conceivable way equal or in need of balancing. The helicopter industry is here at our sufferance.
Just as we forbid the use of cars that do not meet pollution standards, we can forbid the use of helicopters that cannot fly safely at altitudes that keep all noise from interfering with our basic rights, altitudes that, studies have shown, are in the neighborhood of 5,000 feet.
We need not concern ourselves with the safety of pilots; we need only tell them our demands and leave it to them to meet our demands in ways that are safe for themselves. If they cannot employ helicopters that comply with our standards, they cannot fly over our homes.
This is why it seems utterly beside the point to me for us to be doing data collection and surveys for the Town of East Hampton’s airport. The airport keeps logs of which helicopters take off, when, and in what direction. They know better than we how many are flying over our homes. It doesn’t matter how many people call in to complain: If even one person’s basic right to peaceful enjoyment is abridged, the helicopter doing so is in violation of fundamental property rights. This is not a balancing act.
The view that Noyac is low-density and therefore a good place to violate people’s peaceful enjoyment of their property is the most cynical and distracting proposition I’ve heard in this entire debate. We in Noyac are already driven to distraction with the unfair burden of helicopter noise. Why should we be further burdened with this distracting ploy of having to report what the airport already knows from its records?
Finally, I was appalled by the comments of one of the Southampton Town representatives who said the town currently lacks enforcement mechanisms for its noise-abatement ordinance. She seemed to suggest that apprehending and penalizing helicopters that pollute with noise would require a flying policeman to catch the helicopter in mid-flight.
Nonsense! A simple audio device can record the noise level at several locations and register the time of the violation. The airport flight records can trace the source to a specific flight and pilot. What the town needs to do is pass legislation immediately that will impose a staggering penalty on flights that violate our rights to peaceful enjoyment of our property. As Mayor Koch once said, if we pass a law allowing us to shoot double-parkers, we’d only have to rely on that law once and all New York’s traffic problems would go away. The fine has to be sufficient to severely injure the business of those who flout the law. An elected official who does not understand that financial penalties are a means of enforcement should not be in office.
What will happen if the town drags its feet in passing such legislation and in purchasing the simple audio equipment needed to enforce it?
First, we will all know that our elected officials are deriving some personal benefit from the pilots and the helicopter industry such that they actually view the property rights of citizens and the privileges of helicopter companies as of equal significance.
Second, we will be compelled to place our property taxes in escrow pending passage of appropriate legislation. This is justified because the right to quiet enjoyment of our property is the sine qua non of property ownership; it is the reason all local government is in place to begin with.
When Congressman Bishop meets with the various players — and stays the night with them, as he’s promised to do to reach a reasonable resolution — I hope he understands what a “reasonable” outcome would look like to his constituents.
Turn Its Attention
August 27, 2012
It is commendable that the East Hampton Town Board got an A+ in arithmetic and accounting procedures. And a surplus — that certainly seems like good news. So why do some citizens seem unappreciative of this accomplishment? Perhaps it’s because they realize that this surplus has been created by ignoring some realities, like the actual cost of the waste transfer station. Or perhaps it’s because it has been achieved through the short-changing of essential services.
Of course a reasonable surplus is necessary, but so are enough personnel to respond to reports of cars zooming past speed limits, boats discharging waste into beautiful harbors, cars driving on protected areas of beaches, clammers without licenses, beach partiers whose drinking makes the restrooms unusable, and codes that are not enforced despite many, many complaints.
Now that the deficit has been made up, perhaps the board will turn its attention to the quality-of-life issues that taxpayers also care about.
August 23, 2012
To the Editor,
I would like to thank East Hampton Town Councilwoman Sylvia Overby for leading the effort to more fully address a dangerous traffic problem in the neighborhood around Miller Lanes East and West.
Past town board members either failed to follow through or made only half-hearted efforts to help. Ms. Overby instead pulled together a team comprising the town engineer, Thomas Talmage, Town Highway Superintendent Steven Lynch, Town Police Chief Edward V. Ecker, and the town’s draftsman and illustrator, Ronn Pirrelli. I would like to thank all of them for their expertise and cooperation, but especially Ms. Overby for her persistence in pushing toward a lasting, comprehensive solution.
In 2003, more than 70 neighborhood residents signed a petition asking the town board to address what was already a dangerous situation. The roads here — Miller Lane, Miller Lanes East and West, and Indian Hill Road — are narrow, have no sidewalks, no shoulders in places, and poor sight distance on some corners. Those are not ideal conditions for the many pedestrians and bicyclists who use these roads, including children from the Oakview Highway trailer park, Whalebone Woods and Whalebone Village, headed to and from the village.
The situation worsened after the village board banned heavy trucks and through traffic on the residential streets on the other side of Cedar Street. More cars and trucks began using our neighborhood instead as a shortcut around the light at Cedar and North Main streets.
The town board responded in 2004 by erecting a stop sign at the head of Miller Lane where it forks into Miller West and East and promising a more comprehensive approach in the context of the North Main Street Corridor Study. That study was never completed.
The Miller Lane stop sign is often ignored, as is one at the top of Indian Hill. While walking my dog there last Friday morning, I counted 18 cars in a row that zipped past the Indian Hill sign and turned left toward Cedar Street as I waited to cross. Near that corner live two lively little girls who, despite my warnings, still love to dash out to pet my golden retriever. As we have seen too many times in East Hampton, all it takes is one impatient or distracted driver for tragedy to ensue.
But the proposal largely devised by Mr. Talmage and sponsored by Ms. Overby would prohibit all through-traffic and ban trucks weighing nine tons or more, except for deliveries within the neighborhood. Stepped-up police enforcement would, we hope, also deter speeding and failure to observe the stop signs — the two most common dangers.
I’d also respectfully ask Mr. Lynch to work with the owners of properties on the Miller East and West curves to find some agreeable solution where shrubs and hedges are growing right up to the asphalt, leaving no safe place for pedestrians and bicyclists.
The details of that proposal are depicted on a map distributed yesterday to the town board. I hope the town clerk’s office will make one available for the public, and I have a copy as well should any of my neighbors want to take a look. It’s a terrific plan that, in my view, will help make our neighborhood much safer. I urge all five members of the town board to support this plan, first by voting next Thursday to schedule the required public hearing for Sept. 20 and then to adopt these changes at the close of that hearing.
JULIA C. MEAD
Stony Hill Woods
August 20, 2012
To the Editor,
I live in East Hampton. I walked the Stony Hill Woods yesterday with some friends and was shocked to find that an entire section of the woods was gone right next to the Signature Tree.
It was so sad to see that section of the woods cleared out. I am not an environmentalist, but I actually surprised myself and cried for the loss. Not only is it sad for the animals and trees, but I am told the whole area sits atop a natural water supply, so I’m sure the eventual building there would affect that.
I also heard that the people who bought the land would like to work with others to save the water supply and environment. I hope this means they will cease with all further building. I’m sure they are kind people and I hope they would not risk my health and the health and lives of hundreds of residents by contaminating our water supply. That would be cruel — and just for the pleasure of a vacation house. It would be quite the letdown for them to build this special place, only to find that they can’t even drink the water — and that all the destruction only brought harm.
I hope they are people of their word and will negotiate something to make sure no further damage is done.
SOOZY G. MILLER
August 26, 2012
Gunshots startle me awake at 2 a.m. I wait and the next round sounds more like loud fireworks, so I go back to sleep, but they go off again and again at random times for over an hour.
The babies and animals need to be comforted. My anger mounts, then turns to sadness pondering what kind of mind thinks this is a right.
August 26, 2012
Dear David and Jack,
I am writing to both of you in the same letter to save space.
David: The letters to The Star seem to be getting longer every week. In last week’s Star one of them actually measured 34 inches! Another, 24 inches. And there seem to be more letters every week. By Election Day you will probably need a dozen pages for letters to the editor. You set a word limit for Guestwords and fiction. Why not do the same for letters? Think of all the ink, paper, and trees you will save.
Jack: I was delighted to read in the first lines of your Aug. 23 column about the problem you are having understanding the fast-talkers on “Newsroom.” I have the same problem and I’ll bet thousands of other viewers do too. Most people don’t talk that way. Not even reporters or columnists. Does the staff of The Star talk that way?
I think if we want that program not to lose all but its fast-speaking listeners we should take some action — like sending HBO a petition with thousands of signatures. Or inventing a remote control device with a slow-speech button.
August 22, 2012
Another year and another successful Writers Read at the East Hampton library. Some of the stories read first appeared in The East Hampton Star. We always get wonderful feedback, and often it’s not just from faithful locals, but also from New Yorkers and other visitors enjoying our town on their vacations.
East Hampton can always be counted on to encourage artists and writers. That’s one of the many blessings that helps us forget about the traffic on the Montauk highway and the movie lines, etc., in summer. Many thanks to The Star and the library for supporting and encouraging us — and for making us realize yet again how blessed we are to call East Hampton home!
Ashawagh Hall Writers’ Workshop
August 24, 2012
To the Editor:
Well, big duh: Government regulators knuckle under to political pressure. Usually it’s done under orders from high (like the White House), or voluntarily in the face of corporate lobbyists whose bosses’ deep pockets tempt congressmen. In this case, we had the whole contingent of regulators fall under the steamroller at the request of one un-influential congressman for a piddling few thousand dollars.
It’s not news that special interests brandishing thick wallets usually win out. What smells here is the fact that half a dozen federal regulatory agencies fell in line for one small congressman, despite the clear evidence that granting the fireworks permit would endanger nesting piping plovers. One gutsy Fish and Wildlife scientist had the integrity to say so. So let’s ask: Who overruled him?
Fish and Wildlife Service, Army Corps of Engineers, the Coast Guard, the Department of Environmental Conservation, town officials, all rolled over and played dead. Who told them to?
It wasn’t just Tim Bishop, folks. Let’s speculate that it was the Democratic Party and/or the Democratic National Committee seeking to help Mr. Bishop keep his seat in the House of Representatives, in a very touch-and-go election year.
Congressmen routinely do favors for their constituents, but rarely do so many government agencies bend over for something so patently illegal. The smell from this is wafting down from Capitol Hill and Albany. There were bigger guns brandished than a call from an unimportant congressman.
This is a multifaceted scandal, and the favor-for-donation is arguably the least of it. It’s not news that rich East End people or Grucci Fireworks or our congressman would sweep aside any consideration of the law or the threat to an endangered species. What is outrageous is that our own government agencies — at whose behest we need to know — were all derelict in their duty. Those who authorized the permit or approval in all of those agencies should be fired.
Imagine this kind of complicity in a human context, where the consequences might be the rights, health, and safety of an individual, which of course was the case with the piping plovers. And by the way, D.E.C., did you inspect the nesting site the day after the fireworks? What did you find?
When I ran as a Suffolk County Green Party candidate for the First Congressional District in 2002, against Mr. Bishop and Felix Grucci, I was lambasted by colleagues, old friends, and The East Hampton Star itself for daring to run against a Democrat! My environmental record was untarnished; Mr. Bishop’s record was nonexistent. Yet he was supported by local Dems not only because Felix Grucci was a joke but because they judged Mr. Bishop only on his record on war and peace and nothing else.
If constituents make only minimal demands on candidates, they will inevitably be disappointed. And it appears that local Democrats really don’t care about the environment at all. In this respect they are no better than the pro-business Republicans. This is why there is a U.S. Green Party.
Someone needs to get to the bottom of this. It’s a lot deeper than it seems.
August 24, 2012
Regarding your front-page story on Randy Altschuler’s attack on Tim Bishop, here’s what I know about the way Tim Bishop responds to his constituents: When my husband and I needed help navigating a legal maze in Washington, I called Mr. Bishop’s office blind, stated my problem, and received a return call the same day from his chief of staff. I was consistently treated with prompt, helpful attention, though the problem we had affected many others.
We were not big donors and are in no position to be. However, I am making calls this election season for Tim Bishop. I cannot imagine a more responsive congressman. We really do have a proven friend in Washington who goes to bat for All his constituents.
A Hard Scam
August 26, 2012
To the Editor,
Following the Todd Akin fiasco it seems necessary to inject a modicum of sanity into the abortion issue. The confusion around Mr. Akin is that his claims to be pro-life are a distortion of reality; he is anti-abortion, which is a tiny, tiny piece of being pro-life since it deals only with the unborn and not the living.
The need to get rid of the “pro-life” mantra of the anti-abortion movement is critical to understanding and accepting the anti-abortion position. Pro-life is about the sanctity of life for everyone born or unborn. It is about the continuity of life and about the quality of life as well. It touches everything from the death penalty to the environment, to wars, to racism, to the proliferation of arms. The idea that the United States or the Christian church is pro-life is oxymoronic by any definition of what life is all about.
Historically we have never shown the slightest tendencies to be pro-life. Nor have we ever expressed any remorse or contrition for millions of people who died as a function of our national development. So if one counts the death toll from Indians, indentured servants, and slaves, the numbers range from 10 to 15 million, depending on the source. Add up the numbers of people who are dead because we can’t control the dissemination of guns in the country, the drug overdoses, people dying of starvation, and of course the death penalty.
Think about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and we enter the realm of killing to save lives. The dozens of wars, good and bad, that we eagerly participate in, the proxy wars that have killed millions of people in Latin America (see Chile’s Salvador Allende), and the proliferation of arms all over the world used to kill people everywhere. The red in our flag certainly is about blood. But all this doesn’t mean we are worse than other countries. They don’t babble about being pro-life.
From a religious perspective pro-life might in some way be related to Buddhism. Jesus was absolutely pro-life. But the level of insanity for anyone to think that Christianity could be pro-life, in the light of all the death it has perpetuated and supported in its history, is absurd. The list of crimes against humanity from the Crusades, religious wars, Inquisition, the Holocaust is enormous. Maybe it’s the concept of an afterlife that allows the church to devalue human life so amazingly. For anyone to say that their religion is pro-life, the response is, “Prove it.”
For the Republican Party to call itself pro-life is a hard scam to swallow. Its whiteness alone would disqualify it, but its support for the death penalty and the proliferation of arms and war makes the case seem absurd. The general lack of humanity and compassion that typifies conservative Republicans is lot closer to Atilla the Hun than to Jesus.
Individual beliefs on abortion are completely legitimate. People’s sense of rightness, morality, and conscience are reasonable and rational. But being against abortion has very little to do with being pro-life.
We love money, drugs, sometimes sex, power, and killing. That’s who we are and no matter how much we pretend, how much we delude, and how much we fantasize, it can’t add up to being pro-life.
August 22, 2012
Will American Jews never be fed up with Israel? Its mendacity, its warmongering? Its back-stabbing, its insatiable greed?
Shouldn’t Americans of every race and creed be disgusted by the fact that at any given time the most powerful person in our government, by far, is the sitting prime minister of Israel? Even when that person is as loathsome a liar and creep as Benjamin Netanyahu?
Shouldn’t Jews and gentiles alike be livid that a country we have given so much, Israel, seems hell-bent on destroying us?
The fact is all America should be up in arms over the power of Israel and its insidious lobby. There will be two huge losers if America in any way participates in an attack on Iran: American Jews and America itself. Doesn’t even matter which will lose most; each will lose everything. And fighting back begins with making a single phone call to our representatives in Washington, with one simple message: Israel, enough.
Interestingly, the lead character in the novel “Malvern” (available at lulu), a former editor at The East Hampton Star, in fact, does fight back. And in doing so he pulls off something quite remarkable. He brings down the government.
Not all happy endings need be fiction.
Voted for a Lie
August 27, 2012
To the Editor;
It is increasingly clear that when America voted for “hope and change” in 2008, they voted for a lie. Today Barack Obama has all but abandoned his once-famous catchphrase and now marches to the tune of divide and deceit. Also true is the notion that Mr. Obama lacked the experience to be an effective leader, a fact that has been demonstrated throughout his presidency.
Time after time, the president has abdicated any responsibility and handed that mantle to partisan Democratic leaders in Congress. Barack Obama is now running against an “ineffective Congress,” and members of his own party are only far too willing to fall on their swords for their leader and shoulder the blame for his failure of leadership.
The president is now campaigning like the last four years did not happen, like he did not have absolute power for two years and failed to accomplish anything. He managed to force through Congress his stimulus plan and the Affordable Care Act. The first failed to deliver as billions were wasted away, and the latter was little more than a glorified tax increase. The stimulus plan was supposed to reduce unemployment below 7 percent; it did not. Obamacare was supposed to be the solution to the deficiencies of our health care system and rising costs; it is not. Despite raiding Medicare of $700 billion and front-loading of taxes, costs of the program are soaring far and above the early estimates.
If Barack Obama was so wrong about the two signature accomplishments of his first four years, how can we believe anything he says about the next four years? Can our country afford four more years of guesswork from a man whose field of expertise lies in constitutional law? The four years of on-the-job training that were granted to Barack Obama have been wasted. Unlike Bill Clinton, who was wise enough to make adjustments to the political winds, Mr. Obama has clung to his ill-conceived notions and threatens the very future of this nation. It was because of his failure in leadership that this country, for the first time ever in its history, saw its credit rating downgraded.
There is no choice this year; Mitt Romney is the man America has been waiting for, the man America needs. He has the experience, he has the know-how, and he has the leadership qualities uniquely suited to the issues this nation faces. We need to get our economy moving again, we need to get Americans back to work, and we need to give the idea of real hope to a people hungry for change.
America needs to take a long hard look in the mirror and come to grips with the reality of today. We cannot afford a lack of will to tackle the tough issues, which is why we need President Mitt Romney.
MICHAEL D. BOUKER
August 26, 2012
Oh my, oh my, what have I wrought? A Walter Donway tome of a letter consisting of three columns, responding to criticism I leveled at his elevating David Koch (and his brother Charles) to the level of sainthood.
Mr. Donway, it seems, never met the Koch brothers, was not present at the fund-raiser for Mitt Romney held recently in Southampton, and his letter characterizing those protesting the event as wayward loudmouths was based entirely on the Star’s reportage. Strange, Mr. Donway wrote the letter as if he was a close friend or relative of David Koch.
Mr. Donway has now confessed that he has no relationship with the Kochs, but nevertheless resents their names appearing in the same letter along with that of Sheldon Adelson.
You know, Mr. Donway, Sheldon Adelson’s motives for seeking the end of Barack Obama’s presidency are apparent, open, and understandable. He is contributing millions of dollars to the Romney campaign because he needs help avoiding criminal and civil charges that may be brought against him and his associates by the Justice Department.
The Kochs? They do not seem to have any violations of the criminal codes, just the moral ones. They do not deny that they will spend $400 million to elect Mitt Romney, so the country can be free to pursue the long-abandoned and mocked philosophy of Ayn Rand.
To showcase this philosophy, these two return-to-the-1880s stalwarts have actually, according to news sources, bought a town to exhibit their way of small-government life. They will exhibit their idea of a society of government limited to essential services, with no restraints on free market capitalism, no regulations, no oversight, everyone with money out to make more of it in any way possible — screw the middle class, the working class.
I have no idea about Mr. Donway’s support or non-support of the personal issues of the day. Does he like Mitt Romney’s no-tax-return policy? Does he like Todd Akin and Paul Ryan’s stance on no abortion or their avowed feelings on rape, incest, and the health of women, which was positively voted on by every Republican congressman on more than one occasion? He doesn’t say, but I can guess.
I have heard people like Mr. Donway try to compare the fiscal crisis in Greece and Europe to us here in the United States. What total balderdash! We are not Greece or Spain or France or Great Britain! Our economy is down, but not out, and is recovering. Theirs have mountainous problems brought on by overzealous use of the entitlement philosophy.
We have guarded against that with such programs as Welfare-to-Work, paid Medicare, and reasonable workplace rules for vacations and sick leave, so don’t use that hooey, Mr. Donway.
The Constitution is a framework to follow, Mr. Donway, not an absolute. It has its shortcomings, as would any document written 300 years ago.
Genuine liberalism means those with the dough get to play while the rest of us watch and wait for the droppings.
Seems like the Kochs made, and make, an awful lot of lucre with the rules of the country the way they are. But they and their billionaire Republican friends cannot continue to foster policies that prevent government from participating in studies of our education system, global warming, air pollution, food contamination, safety on highways and in the air, evolution, energy production, as the Kochs’, with Mr. Donway’s support, would like.
No, Mr. Donway, I am not a “statist”; I am a progressive.
By the way, for all of us who took the time to read Mr. Donway’s lengthy detailed defense of the criticism of him I leveled, be it known that Mr. Donway is a founder of the Atlas Society, the spokespeople and supporters of Ayn Rand’s discredited and off-beat theories of libertarianism, atheism, and total laissez-faire capitalism.
Having learned this, I now more fully understand Mr. Donway’s support and admiration for the Koch brothers and the failure to mention his Atlas Society connection in his three-column letter to the editor.
RICHARD P. HIGER
August 24, 2012
To the Editor,
You never know what to expect in The New York Times on a daily basis. The following is a brief summary of a caption on Aug. 8, 2012, “Break-in at a Nuclear Site”: An 82-year old nun, Sister Rice, and two fellow nonviolent activists who penetrated the defenses of the nation’s most important nuclear weapons facility and are due in federal court in Knoxville, Tenn. to face charges of trespassing and spray-painting antiwar slogans on a building that houses nuclear bomb fuel.
The activists, who got past fences, security sensors, and video cameras not working before dawn, spent hours in the Y-2 National Security Complex before they were stopped by a lone guard as they used a Bible and candles in total darkness in a Christian peace ritual.
Yes, there are still Christians after over 2,000 years of war, who remembered Jesus also taught nonviolence. Oddly enough, the Wall Street occupiers have called for a nonviolent revolution, another breakthrough.
A lapse in security at a complex holding 100 tons of enriched uranium and we’re concerned about whether Iran has some enriched uranium and is apparently ready to begin World War III. A tragic comedy.