Letters to the Editor: 01.23.14

Our readers' comments

Dogs Don’t Talk’
    New York City
    January 18, 2014

To the Editor:
    Last Thursday morning at Guild Hall’s John Drew Theater, I and a packed audience of schoolchildren and adults went to the dogs and loved every minute of it.
    As The Star noted, we were all “wowed” by “Dogs Don’t Talk,” this year’s production of the Springs School’s True Blue 52 Opera Company. As a writer, director, producer, and professor of children’s media for over 40 years, I was extremely impressed by the professionalism of the ensemble of young people under the direction of Sue O’Connor and an amazing staff.
    The entire creative process, from the writing of the opera, which, as presented in the program, wonderfully explored the theme of team spirit, pets, and friendship, to the composing of music, designing the sets, and costumes, especially the dogs (could identify each breed), and, finally to the performance, was a truly collaborative and successful endeavor among the students.
    For me, also a co-director of the Fearless Theater Company, made up of young people with and without disabilities, one of the most empowering ways to bring reality to art for schoolchildren is to have them engage in making their own work of art from experiences from their own lives, in this case following the principles of the Metropolitan Opera Guild. I applaud the Springs School for continuing to foster such an extracurricular activity, and Ms. O’Connor for her commitment and leadership over the last 17 years to this exciting and highly worthwhile program. It is a real model for the value of the arts in young people’s education.
    I look forward to next year’s, as I’m sure does the East Hampton community, and, of course, future creators of very original opera.

    Associate Professor
    Undergraduate Film/Television
    Department, Tisch School of the Arts
    New York University

Friendly and Loyal
    East Hampton
    January 18, 2014

Dear David,
    As we prepare to leave Egypt Lane, but not East Hampton, after 45 memorable years in this house built in 1910 for the Woodhouse family’s chauffeur, I would like to record my appreciation for those whose competent services have helped us maintain our home and its grounds in good condition throughout the passing seasons.
    Some, including Vincent Byrnes, Ernie Dayton, Dick Herrlin and Roger Tiska, have passed on. Others, including Fred Brandes, Rob Byrnes, Josh Dayton, John Grant, Josh and Alexis Lafferty, Manuel Loja, John Ott, and Carmita Valdespino, continue to give us friendly and loyal service for which we are truly grateful.


A ‘Sterling’ Example
    East Hampton
    January 14, 2014

Dear Editor,
    Once more our village mayor, Paul Rickenbach, utters the phrase, “a sterling example of democracy in action.”
    I have heard him use that phrase before, most recently at a hearing regarding banning dogs from village beaches. In that case nearly 800 people in favor of leaving the dogs alone swamped those few (under one dozen) people who felt strongly enough to voice their views publicly. A reasonable middle ground was imposed by the village administration. In a “sterling” example of democracy in action, the dogs would have been left alone.
    With over 10,000 signatures in favor of banning the process of “culling,” will democracy finally be practiced here in the Hamptons?
    Dell Cullum is a nice guy! His name and the family name itself has long standing in the community. I am delighted to see he has invested so heavily in so inspirational a project. His is truly a “sterling” example.
    During the past few weeks, friends were warning me my letters and public statements regarding the deer cull, and the offensive disregard for woodland habitat by ordinance enforcement and the town, had become redundant, ineffective, and had left me labeled a nut job, so I held back. I want to personally thank Mr. Cullum for his efforts on behalf of the community. I know how proud he must have been to share his nature photographs with curious parents and children at the Village Nature Trail. It must have hurt a bit to ask for their removal, in protest to the proposed path to a deer slaughter. I would not have had the fortitude to film cars speeding in areas highly trafficked by deer herds.
    I also learned from personal experience, and firmly believe, that cutting my driving speed and maintaining the laws that dictate safe driving (speed limits are laws), have kept me safer on the roads. Mr. Cullum’s results are no surprise, as virtually everyone violates the posted speed limits.


Deer Are Not Pets
    East Hampton
    January 17, 2014

To the Editor:
    Growing up on a farm, in love with animals since boyhood, I thrill to see deer around East Hampton. Even 50 years ago, they were rare in my part of rural Massachusetts. Discovering them on Long Island was a great pleasure. The turkeys are even more exciting; growing up, I never dreamed I would see them in the wild.
    But these feelings do not lead me to agree with the emotional appeals now being raised by the plan to reduce Long Island’s bulging, exceedingly troublesome, deer population. After much argument, East Hampton seems to be going ahead with a systematic “cull” of deer. Federal animal biologists and wildlife specialists trained by the Department of Agriculture will undertake the cull, shooting from fixed positions at deer drawn by bait. The hunt will be at night, when the deer come out, but the rifles will be silenced in deference to the sensitivities of the townspeople.
    You can imagine the uproar, which in East Hampton is led by a rock-concert impresario. The cull, he says, has given him the vapors so badly he has taken up meditation. He wants to emigrate to New Zealand.
    Today, I received an email in very large type calling for me to march in East Hampton this weekend against the cull. The cull, it said, is inhumane. But it offered no argument. Is hunting per se inhumane? Because this is systematic hunting, not for pleasure but to deal with an urgent problem. Others, not in this email, call it heinous, barbaric, and murder. Arguments? None.
    Later, the same email said that the cull would be “a horror” for the deer. That is pure projection of human emotion onto the deer. There is no evidence that deer are aware of death. Yes, they have evolved, like all species, to startle at threats in nature. But the entire natural order is based upon a balance kept between predators and prey. The usual way that deer in the wild die — brought down and torn by wolves, or dying of starvation in the winter, or dying of disease — is not a horror. It is the way the natural system works.
    After having appealed to emotion about “inhumane” and “horror,” the email argues that the cull is statistically unnecessary; the deer population is in decline. This has been argued and studied at length and decided, but my point here is that the emotional and statistical arguments are inconsistent. If the cull, in fact, is inhumane, then statistics don’t matter; we can’t do it. But there is no rational, only an emotional, case for the inhumanity.
    Has humankind, then, caused the deer problem by reducing their habitat? The Cornell University Extension Service writes that “the recovery of deer populations from only about 500,000 nationwide in the early 1900s to more than 15 million today is considered a wildlife management success story . . . .”
    The problem isn’t that deer, when there is a natural balance of prey and predator, are killed in the wild, or, in a few cases, die slowly when they become too old to survive. The problem is that on Long Island the deer have no natural predators; that they feed heavily on agricultural crops and in everyone’s backyard, and so multiply, bringing huge problems.
    PBS, certainly no advocate of inhumane horror, wrote in August: “Around 300,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with Lyme disease annually, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Sunday, 10 times more than previously thought.”
    “Using a trio of indicators including medical insurance claims, an analysis of clinical labs and a survey of the general public, the C.D.C. concluded previous estimates of 20,000 to 30,000 cases a year based on physician’s reports to states was only a drop in the bucket.”
    “Three hundred thousand cases a year would put Lyme disease on the same scale as gonorrhea, which at 322,000 cases was the secondmost commonly reported infectious disease in 2011.” (Chlamydia is No. 1 at 1.4 million infections.)
    “ ‘This new preliminary estimate confirms that Lyme disease is a tremendous public health problem in the United States, and clearly highlights the urgent need for prevention,’ Paul Mead, chief of epidemiology and surveillance for the C.D.C.’s Lyme disease program, said in a statement.”
    Now there you have something closer to a horror.
    Lyme disease is a chronic, crippling, painful, and ultimately deadly disease, spread, as we all know, by the deer tick. Lyme disease appeared and became a public health problem in precisely those states where the deer population soared because of the decline of hunting, and because deer became accustomed to eating crops and other human plantings in an atmosphere where no one bothered them. And where there was and is much emotionalism about hunting.
    Although tick-borne Lyme disease is a huge problem, the cull, which will occur throughout much of Long Island, has been initiated and directed by the Department of Agriculture because deer are eating our food in huge amounts‚ amounts discouraging to farmers, who in some cases no longer bother to plant their fields. Again, the Cornell University Extension Service:
    “Annual estimates of deer damage are reported to exceed $2 billion nationwide, including $1 billion in car damages, more than $100 million in agricultural crop damage, $750 million in damage to the timber industry, and more than $250 million in damage to metropolitan households (e.g., landscape plantings). These estimates are conservative.”
    But the majority of this damage is in New England, New York, and a few other states; on Long Island, the problems are intense.
    Actually, the arguments about the size of the deer population seem near to irrelevant, because everyone, by his or her own observation, realizes that the deer population has become wholly, unnaturally, large. Every backyard not sealed tight by high fences is grazed every night by deer. The incidence of Lyme disease is soaring. Deer lie dead on all our roads. I walk along Route 114 from Stephen Hand’s Path to the railroad overpass. There never is a time when the bodies of does and fawns are not rotting beside the road. I can show you the bones and teeth in half a dozen places. It is obvious that for a wild animal that is timid by nature, avoiding humans, this presence indicates much too large a population for the area.
    The cull is not eliminating deer; it is reducing the population to what biologists estimate our area can handle. Deer are not pets, and, although they have large eyes (all prey animals have evolved with them) and graceful bodies, they are not sensitive souls. They are a wild animal population now badly out of balance — bad for them, bad for us.
    Find something important for a march. And give a thought to your fellow human beings: farmers, drivers, homeowners, and, above all, those now threatened by the genuine epidemic of Lyme disease.


Too Many Deer
    Sag Harbor
    January 14, 2014

Dear Sir or Madam,
    On this we must all agree: The East End is suffering from a plague of too many deer. Deer overpopulation has dire effects on our environment, our health, and our safety. I am relieved to see that our political leadership is finally taking this plague seriously with the plans to cull the teeming herds.
    Local populations of deer are estimated to be at least 20 times “natural” carrying capacity, the sustainable levels found in healthy environments with normal predation. A healthy herd would be less than one deer for every five acres. On the East End we have at least four deer per acre.
    Deer overpopulation is an ecological catastrophe. Local naturalist Hugh McGuinness has said that the deer plague has become “the single most important factor reducing biodiversity on Long Island, displacing development.”
    A walk through the Long Pond Greenbelt, or virtually anywhere on the East End, shows a forest stripped to the browse line. This is killing our native shrubs since they cannot regrow; much of the underbrush may die out within the next few years. The dying native landscape encourages invasive species, which in turn has a cascade effect on the whole ecosystem, wiping out native insects and birds. Even groundwater is affected since the native bushes are best at holding rainwater.
    Deer are also a growing threat to our safety, with several lives already lost to collisions on the East End. Every one of us has a story of a hit or a near miss. Deer are far more deadly than cougars, bears, or sharks. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration records one million car crashes with deer every year that kill over 200 Americans, cause more thousands of injuries, and result in $1 billion in damage.
    Deer are the vector for devastating tick-borne disease. My own spouse has suffered from Bell’s palsy, thanks to Lyme disease and more recently the terrifying malaria-like babesiosis. In our household we think of the deer swarming the land, beautiful though they may be, as akin to the rats that carried the bubonic plague. We wonder why they are not treated as such.
    Pesticide to treat ticks is a mistake: It is expensive, non-specific, and adds more poisons to our water systems. Culling the deer herd is the most effective way to get rid of tick-borne diseases. In Bridgeport, Conn., the deer population was culled by 74 percent and the number of nymphal ticks dropped by 94 percent. On Monhegan Island in Maine, the deer population was eliminated. Within three years Lyme disease disappeared.
    The crowded herds are prone to prion diseases similar to mad cow. Chronic wasting disease has now spread from mule deer to the eastern white-tailed herds: It reached New York State in 2005. Culling the herd now may halt its spread to Long Island.
    What is the best way to control this terrible plague of swarming deer? The most effective way would be to bring back their natural predators, wolves and cougars (yes, Long Island had cougars before the Europeans came). However, given the propensity of these keystone predators to take house pets and possibly the occasional 3-year old human, reintroduction is not likely to go over well with voters.
    The next best way is to deploy the other predator that has been culling deer in North America for the last 20,000 years: homo sapiens. From all that I have read, the proposed targeted hunts are the cheapest and most effective means of reducing herds. And with great effect: A two-year controlled hunt in Mumford Cove, a neighborhood in Groton, Conn., dropped the deer count from 80 deer per square mile to about 10 per square mile. Lyme disease among residents dropped 83 percent and remains low.
    Plus, as in the controlled hunts planned here on the East End, the resulting venison is donated to those in need.
    I have trouble understanding those who recommend birth control as a more humane solution. Deer are not human. They were not meant to live to old age in urban density. No elderly and infirm antelope graze the Serengeti: Predators weed them out, keeping numbers in check and the ecology healthy. Would those against killing deer propose caging the lions on the plains, or muzzling the wolves in Yellowstone?
    If contraception were cheaper and more effective than culling, I would have no problem with it. But the evidence is overwhelming that it is not (see articles in The New York Times and Smithsonian, to name a few). Contraception takes multiple attempts, is hard to track, and is often ineffective. Estimates begin at over $1,000 per doe. With a herd of 25,000 we could be talking millions to begin the slow reduction that contraception promises. If those who oppose the culling can raise the needed millions quickly, let’s try both solutions, perhaps on either side of the canal as a test.
    But whatever we do, we must act quickly before the damage and disease that the deer are causing become irrevocable.


Who is Liable?
    East Hampton
    January 20, 2014

Dear Editor,
    Question: Cull or sterilize? 
    While culling may give an area immediate relief, evidence shows the deer numbers will increase with fawning. So is culling a business? Businesses create needs, and their objective is to generate profits while minimizing liability. How convenient to create a situation in which taxpayers have to pay for an annual cull in order to manage the annual reproduction of deer! Furthermore, how convenient if it is the municipality and not the “business” that is liable in the event some citizen gets shot?
    Nothing like men with silenced high-powered rifles and night-vision goggles in high density human population areas! Remember Shock and Awe? Outcomes are sometimes not what we expect. What about the kid who sneaks out for a private walk in the woods? He’s not going to hear those silenced guns. What about him or her? What will the liability be to our community if just one citizen gets seriously injured or killed? Just imagine that lawsuit!
    So I ask: Who is liable?
    Has the town ensured that whatever “shooter” or whatever organization doing the shooting also holds the liability? If not, then this cull should not happen. The townspeople need to see a clear document that relieves the township or village of any and all liability resulting from a bullet-human collision. 
    Research provides evidence that culling only works in conjunction with sterilization, and sterilization is an option without culling, while culling is not an option without sterilization, not unless you want to pay for it on a regular basis. Furthermore, there is evidence that hunting combined with sterilization is effective. We have many hunters in our community.
    So, while sterilization is more expensive up front, the effective outcomes are more enduring, and ultimately more cost-effective. Furthermore, the process does not pose a safety risk to members of our community, particularly to our children.
    I wonder. Will taxpayers have to come up with the money at some future date to compensate a bereaved family for the “accidental death” of a loved one caused by a shooter with a silenced, high-powered rifle? 


Humane Alternative
    East Hampton
    January 20, 2014

Dear Editor,
    I have not written a letter to The Star since the one concerning the 2012 tragedy in Newtown, Conn., but I feel it is important to weigh in on the deer control issue. Later in this letter, I address why I think reducing the deer population is necessary, so I first want to write about the method.
    If you haven’t read it, go back to the Jan. 16 issue of The Star and read the letter written by Patricia Hope, which describes the P.Z.P. vaccine delivered by darts to control deer population by nonlethal means. An article worth reading can be found at humanesociety.org.
    One of the things it states is that due to recent improvements in the vaccine, only one treatment is now necessary to achieve significant results, and that makes it much more practical to consider. At the end of this article there is a link to a more scientific study with many references to support it: “Field testing of immunocontraception on white-tailed deer on Fire Island National Seashore, NY.”
    As far as the dispute over the need to reduce the deer population, some people have pointed to the recent aerial survey showing a much lower count than the ground survey done seven years earlier. I do enough driving in different parts of the town at night that, although it’s unscientific, I can say with absolute certainty that the number of deer I see from the road has dramatically increased over that time. It would be a waste of time and money to do more surveys to verify this. Even if it’s due to loss of their natural habitat, restoring that is not going to be practical or quickly achieved. Although other animals can spread ticks and cause collisions with cars, deer are a large contributor.
    East Hampton Town and Village should spend the necessary time and money to seriously study this humane alternative to the planned cull. If the main reason against it turns out to be increased cost, it would not be hard to raise funding for it through private sources, if necessary. Money should not be spent to fight a lawsuit to proceed with the cull before looking into this alternative, which might be able to achieve the same result, and be agreeable to both sides of the current dispute.


Up in Arms
    Water Mill
    January 19, 2014

To the Editor:
    The deer population is a huge problem. The best way to solve it and most humane way is to shoot them by trained personnel. These people who are protesting this method have not lost a loved one or had their car wrecked by one.
    I guess it is okay to have our men and women come home from a ridiculous war without arms or legs or not at all. They should be up in arms about that, instead of worrying about a few dumb animals that have cost people thousands of dollars and injury. Where the hell are your priorities?


So Many Stupids
    January 11, 2014

Dear David,
    So here’s a plan: Round up the recently counted 844 East Hampton deer and slaughter them. The proposed budget for this is $40,000 ($25,000 town, $15,000 village). That’s about 50 bucks each animal. Then you have to butcher the meat (c. $50 each). Find proper storage and decimate. The fantasy of some civic leaders is that lines of the grateful hungry with cupped hands will happily walk off with lots of hundred-dollar Bambi Burgers.
    I ran this plan by a recent Romanian house guest who responded, “Why in America, are there so many stupids?” I ran this plan by my grandson, who responded “That’s dumb. Nobody my age eats meat, and old people can’t chew. Why not give the female deer birth control?” Why not, indeed?
    I call upon the women of East Hampton to dig out their unneeded birth control pills, mix with a little kale, spread on a bagel, place near a hydrangea, and. . . .

    All good things,

Change in Climate
    East Hampton
    January 18, 2014

Dear David,
    Again, the idea that the change in climate is due to carbon dioxide, and anthropogenic CO2 is driving it, is not correct. We live in a glacial climate and are in the tail end of the interglacial warm period. The idea of sea rise is obviously very overstated. Florida would be awash across the state had the sea come up one foot since the 1500s. Three Mile Harbor is just as it was 76 years ago — same erratic boulders in Gardiner’s Bay, Lion Head rock has the same amount of stone out of the water.
    Things are changing and over the next 1,000 to 2,000 years it is going to cool off. This is being driven by a more round orbit around the sun, a cooler sun.


Only in New Jersey
    East Hampton
    January 16, 2014

Dear Editor,
    Ah yes, another political marriage made in heaven and blessed by the fickle finger of politics to screw the public.
    While the fires of scandal and criticism burn brightly around the corpulent figure of the governor of New Jersey, and threaten to destroy his political career, he is not without defenders and supporters, foremost amongst whom is that paragon of virtue and credibility, Rudolph Giuliani. You remember him, right? The guy who followed a somewhat identical path to political heights as the governor has?
    Bullying his way through as a U.S. district attorney in New York, then to the mayoralty of the city, and at the end of his term left a legacy of disruption and division in the city which still exists.
    Who better to stand by your side and be a friend and supporter in this fight for credibility and your political life, than the pompous ass, former Mayor Giuliani?
    That wonderful husband and father who strongly recommended Bernard Kerik, his close friend and former police commissioner, to President Bush as director of homeland security, only to have that sneaky effort shortcircuited by Kerik’s arrest and conviction for fraud and tax evasion.
    Whew, the country dodged a bullet, no thanks to Giuliani.
    Now Governor Christie hires a “loyal and trustworthy lawyer,” to whom we are not sure, associated with and no doubt recommended by his friend and mentor Rudy Giuliani, to investigate the conduct of his administration in an ever-increasing number of allegations and homegrown scandals.
    Only in New Jersey can a governor be implicated in vengeful, illegal wrongdoing, created, admittedly, by his own “loyal and supposedly truthful appointees,” and then have to pay for a lawyer to investigate and report what we already know.
    Oh well, time will tell if these stories amount to anything more than blips in the career of Mr. Christie, and what the hell, as Christie’s warm and compassionate staff (historic compassionate conservatives) said, most of the kids kept out of school for four hours the first day and hours every day for three more, were from Democratic voting parents anyway. And the people damaged by Hurricane Sandy will eventually get the money intended for them.


My Time and Trouble
    January 20, 2014

Dear Editor:
    I’ve been having health issues, therefore I’m just catching up with the newspapers. An ignorant letter writer seems to be angry with me for my truthful statements. It seems all the left-wing morons sound the same. Reading your letters reminds me of the sounds coming from the mouths of fools, like eyeblinking fast-talking Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Chris Hahn, another fast speaker Alan Combs, this list goes on and on but you could understand me if you comprehend what you read.
    I went to the pharmacy, paid $54 for a script. Who else but the pharmacist would tell me about the increase since Obamacare kicked in. You think people are standing around the pharmacy to give out this information? It was the pharmacist.
    Four Americans were killed, murdered, in Benghazi. Next statement is not a nice one regardless of what word I use, dead is dead, and the ambassador to Libya was one of them. If you want my sources so bad, it is definitely not the rag paper The New York Times run by one of the worst left liberals that exists. Judge Jeanine Pirro is my source. You can understand the media is so protective of the administration that they can spend 35 minutes on Christie and spend zero time on the new unclassified Senate Intelligence Committee findings. Cables from Ambassador Stevens stating that “strategic warnings” for security in Eastern Libya was deteriorating and U.S. personnel was at risk. They begged for help. All could have been avoided, if help would have been sent immediately. On 8/16 cables from Ambassador Stevens raised security concerns about prior attacks on Westerners in Benghazi. In spite of all, the deteriorating security situation the U.S. Government simply did not do enough to prevent those attacks and ensure  safety of those serving in Benghazi. Gregory Hicks asked, begged Hillary Clinton for help on the night of the attacks. Her answer, “What do you want me to do.” This was a piece of his testimony at the hearings. This is the woman that wants to be president so she can answer the 3 a.m. phone call.
    When all was said and done meetings were held, and enter Susan Rice. Of course Hillary wasn’t going on the morning shows and tell me how does she live with herself, hugging the parents of the murdered victims and telling these parents we are going to get the people who made the video, when the entire administration knew within a blink of an eye, it was a terrorist attack.
    So, angry ignorant letter writer, you are not worth my time and trouble. Keep reading The Times that failed to mention points of importance on their so-called investigation. And perhaps you could inform them by letter or phone that Al Qaeda is not on the run, they’re taking over.

    For God and country,

Cycle of Violence
    Sag Harbor
    January 20, 2014

Dear David,
    Men in power have gone stark raving mad drowning in a cycle of violence.
    Collateral damage: the poor, the innocent, the children, post-traumatic stress disorder, and the millions of refugees destabilizing the Middle East and beyond.
    In the United States mission to the United Nations a plaque hangs on the wall. “The greatest prayer for humankind is not victory but peace.”

In peace as always,