Letters to the Editor: 11.09.17

Our readers' comments

Find Another Way

East Hampton

November 6, 2017

To the Editor,

What could be more festive and ceremonial an expression of human delight than balloons? We use them to celebrate and decorate our family occasions, and to advertise our wares and creative talents, our new stores, and longevity. They come in every color and form. What parent hasn’t delighted at the look in a child’s eyes when they’re released into the air? (My wife assures me we never allowed that and her memory is keener than mine.) 

So why then have I come to hate the very idea of balloons? And why for the past several years do I stop walking on the ocean with my dog, Penelope, come mid-July, an activity we both cherish. My obsessive nature no doubt, because I cannot stop myself from picking up their remains, which are so plentiful during the summer, especially on weekends, that this activity leaves little time for anything else. Penelope, seeing me do this, sits down, knowing our walk is over, or certainly the fun part.  

Fully and semi-inflated, tied by their ribbons to logs, fences, and seaweed, they can be found everywhere all year round, but especially during what a friend calls the gypsy-moth season (that arrives on Memorial Day and leaves on Labor Day), their omnipresent ribbons entangled in kelp and driftwood after every storm. 

Fish mistake them for food and eat them, they carpet the bottom of the ocean, killing sea life of every species. I used to think they came mostly from the big estates that line the ocean beaches, but that’s not only unfair but untrue. On strong winds they can come from as far as Springs and maybe even Connecticut, from houses large and small, for balloons, like crows, are equal-opportunity scavengers.  

Can’t something be done? Not a law to limit consumption, of course, or a referendum against birthdays and anniversaries, or even a pause in childish delight — but maybe the merest possibility of hindsight and foresight and thought, a willingness to reduce pollution one or two balloons for every occasion? My intention here is not to scold human nature, but can’t we find another way to mark, sign, and memorialize ourselves? How about clowns, videos of past balloon orgies, papier-mâché or lead cutouts, or netting over our more rambunctious need to flaunt our excesses and spoil what remains of our most precious resource?  

PHILIP SCHULTZ

The Wild Sea

Amagansett

November 1, 2017

To the Editor,

Deepwater S(wind)le. The move from fossil fuels to renewables is long overdue. Solar, wind, and shallow geothermal are gaining the momentum they’ve long deserved. New wind turbines are appearing regularly in many places, including southern New England. The rest of what I am about to say risks being fundamentally misunderstood, so let me be clear that I very much favor the crucially needed switch to clean energy sources. Since we are in the early phases, there is a chance to be smart about it or to make a mess of it.  

Understanding that we need more sources of clean renewable energy doesn’t mean that any and all renewable-energy development is appropriate anywhere. The first water-based wind turbines on the East Coast have gone into the ocean off Block Island; more are planned off Montauk. These are not appropriate places. My first reason for saying so is aesthetic.

Better sites would include the multitude of places where the built environment is already part of the view. A good test for siting water-based turbines would be: Simply look across that water; if you easily see buildings on an opposite shore, that stretch of water would be a reasonable place. 

Here is a sampling of multitudinous places in our region that would qualify because the view already includes buildings: All of Long Island Sound — great. The entire Rhode Island shore — great. The south shore west of Jones Inlet off Long Beach — great.

Instead, we plan on erecting giant industrial installations in the open wild ocean where they mar, totally and essentially forever, the blue curve of the Earth. They can easily be seen for 20 miles in all directions. They rob one of the great sights that can meet any eye, the great relieving sweep of the vast shimmering sea. And totally unnecessarily. So one company can rake in a killing.

Aesthetics are often dismissed as a weak rationale. But why make the world uglier? Beauty itself is one of life’s most crucial considerations, because life without beauty is grim existence. Beauty is what makes living worth the time it takes. 

Beauty also happens to be the most fundamental commercial concern of the East End. When it comes down to it the East End has one main attraction: the beauty of sea and sky. That is very much our brand. People don’t flock to the East End because they like fighting the traffic or paying exorbitant real estate prices. They put up with those things because the sea and shore are beautiful. These turbines puncture that beauty. That weakens our brand. 

More generally, we must ask whether new energy development is planned to spread economic benefits. Must we go for more giant central industrialization? We all have roofs; that is as close to the user as it gets. There are shopping centers with huge flat roofs and parking lots that could all be sheltered by solar-power awnings. Why instead of what makes sense and has no aesthetic impact or threat to wildlife are we putting giant arrays of blades in the open ocean?

And why blades at all, since we know blades kill birds and bats. Google Vortex Bladeless you can read about “vibrating” turbines, rather than those that spin. That’s not what is planned.

There’s another thing. While I don’t want to see industrial development of any kind in what is left of the wild ocean, I also think we should see where our energy comes from. That is another reason to bring a new clean energy economy closer to where we actually live. Most of us have no idea where our food comes from, where our energy is generated, where our water wells are, and where things go when we flush. Our psychic disconnection from our life-support systems is near total. This alienation contributes to our psychological loss of traction in our bunkered bedroom communities and our everyday world. We should see where things come from. We seem to benefit psychologically by living among farms — one reason farms of the East End get preserved — and our daily lives should likewise be dotted with reminders of the origins of our energy. 

So we have: aesthetics, the East End’s brand, centralized industrialization, dead birds and bats, and fundamental connection to the sources of our lives. Just a few reasons.

Many environmentalists seem to be gleeful that the answer to dirty energy is new giant industrial erections in the wild sea. Some of my esteemed colleagues seem to have little connection to nature, scant sense of aesthetics, no interest in pushing for smaller-scale, multibusiness, decentralized clean-energy development that would mean thousands of jobs. Why aren’t they focusing on household solar, shallow home-by-home geothermal, and similar clean jobs stimulators? They’ve played right into the hands of these giant companies. We should all be wary of centralized anything.

Some recreational fishermen think there will be good fishing around the turbines. Perhaps. But I don’t want to go fishing underneath industrial construction. If that is the future of good fishing, I can do without good fishing. I like the natural world. The fishing, properly managed for recovery and maintained for abundance, will be great with just the ocean and the fish, as it’s supposed to be. 

I’ve recently heard one of our local politicians crowing that he’d been told that the ocean off Montauk “is the Saudi Arabia of wind.” Well excuse me, but I’d rather not make our beautiful home into the Saudi Arabia of anything. I’d rather we think of it, fiercely, as “America the Beautiful.” That’s what it should be, should remain, and must be kept.

To be clear: We need to move off fossil fuels for many reasons. Let’s put the alternatives where they belong, and decentralize, and use the new green economy as the jobs engine it can be.

Sincerely,

CARL SAFINA

Forgotten and Ignored

Montauk

November 6, 2017

David, 

Shore Road lies at the intersection of Industrial, North Shore, and Second House Road; it is the possible future site of a battery substation, and it is prone to flooding. This has been an ongoing problem since a certain local contractor filled in the wetlands, where the water use to drain naturally. 

If, in fact, the battery station site is raised, as described per plans submitted, even more water will be forced to Shore Road, which does not have a single storm drain or any form of drainage to relieve any rain or stormwaters. 

Residents of North Shore Road and Navy Road regularly have to ford as much as 15 inches of water that pools at the southerly end of Shore Road, and when colder weather arrives, the icing conditions are dangerous to all using the four-way intersection and, at times, almost impossible to use. The accumulated waters can persist up to a week after the initial weather event. 

Shore Road has been forgotten and ignored by the town officials, the Highway Department, and the zoning board, which let any contractor set up shop along Shore Road, park their equipment, and dump debris along the road or wherever they choose. 

Who in God’s name is responsible for what is happening to this area of our beautiful town? Is this going to continue? Are our elected officials going to start enforcing restrictions upon the contractors and create a much needed drainage plan? Or will the officials just blindly drive by this disgrace to the community? Or is this just Montauk’s forgotten slum? 

Thanks for letting me vent my frustrations on behalf of all my of neighbors who care about Montauk.

RICHARD GREEN

 

Those ‘Damn’ Deer

East Hampton

November 2, 2017

To the Editor:

Ticks and lyme disease, collisions, “disappearing” understory and the sound of birds — you name it and blame it on the deer! Yet another “observational,” anecdotal commentary on those “damn” deer. Science, solid, irrefutable studies, and statistics be damned!

Global climate change — droughts, storms, floods — pollution, acid rain, pesticides, tick-carrying rodent explosion, population growth with megamansions and unchecked development leading to increased loss of habitat, and a State Department of Environmental Conservation largely dependent on the sale of guns and hunting licenses. Nope, no effect whatsoever!

ZELDA PENZEL

Beetle Control    

East Hampton

November 6, 2017

To the Editor,

Generally found in the South, the southern pine beetle has found its way this season to East Hampton, perhaps due to our northern, warmer summer-fall. Beetle infestation spreads very rapidly. In some cases the beetle infestation can spread 50 feet per day, as it did along a three-mile front (U.S.D.A., Forest Service 1987). In other cases infestation grew 150 feet per day, prior to control. The trees involved in the Northwest Woods (Swamp Road between Route 114 and Bull Path) are considered a high priority due to the significant number of trees already infested.

Currently proposed by East Hampton Town Land Management is the “cut-and-leave” method of controlling beetle infestation. Cut and leave consists of cutting down the infested trees and leaving them on the ground. Less costly than the gold standard methods, studies show that significant reductions in beetle brood survival have not been consistently observed as a result of cut and leave. During the winter months beetle adults have been observed attacking the underside of felled trees, increasing the chance of brood survival in winter-felled trees.

Critics of the cut-and-leave method (proffered by East Hampton Land Management) have suggested that cut and leave may aggravate rather than alleviate the pest problem by inducing surviving beetles to create one or more new spots in adjacent stands. Others have noted that some mortality of beetle broods may occur in trees felled in cut-and-leave treatments, but this effect is not reliable.

There are two best-practice methods: Cut and remove or salvage and cut and burn. Cut and remove, also known as “salvage removal,” is one of the oldest beetle control tactics and continues to be the most recommended approach for the suppressing of beetle infestations. By harvesting and utilizing beetle-infested trees, plus a buffer strip of uninfected trees, spot growth is not only halted, but the beetle-affected trees can be harvested and thus reduce economic losses. Beetle broods within trees are removed and eliminated at the mill. If there are no mills willing to come forward to coordinate with Land Management to pick up these massive pine trees that stand straight and 100 feet tall, cut for them by Land Management, then we must pull together as a community and “cut and burn.” Cut and burn is the method of cutting down the infested trees, hauling them to the beach, field, or dump, and burning them.

Realistically we did not catch this infestation soon enough to allow us to rely on less effective methods of control such as cut and leave, currently proposed and being implemented by East Hampton Town Land Management.

My research shows that it is recommended that from May through October, buffer and fresh-attacked trees (Stage 1) should be removed (emphasis added) first, followed by the removal of trees with beetle brood (Stage 2) and vacated trees (Stage 3). This will assure that spot growth processes are halted. Unfortunately, we missed that summer window, making cut and leave an ineffective option.

In any case, during the remainder of the year (November through April), which is now, trees containing beetle brood (Stage 2) should be removed with the cut-and-remove or cut-and-burn method to eliminate overwintering beetle broods prior to emergence.

Apparently, the East Hampton Land Management team is defaulting into the “too late and least effective” method due to financial concerns and lack of a ommunity involvement to pitch in during this land management emergency, like in the old days, in order to halt the rapidly spreading infestation.

Communities, homeowners, land­owners, real estate companies, builders, the Highway Department, Fire Department, landscapers, and tree nurseries throughout East Hampton and Sag Harbor, might call Scott [Wilson] at the town’s Department of Land Acquisition and Management (631-324-7420) offering to support the more intense, yet best-practice method of cut and burn. Are you willing to pitch in as a community to haul away and burn the contaminated trees, or, if not a heavy lifter, add some shekels to the coffer so we can afford and implement the best practice before the infestation spreads to your backyard, Cedar Point Park, or your investment properties? Committing to the best practice to halt a disease in your own body before it takes hold applies to nature as well. Urgent action is needed, now!

Kindest regards,

EILEEN DANNEMANN

Director, National Coalition of 

Organized Women

Came in Third

Sebastian, Fla.

November 2, 2017

Dear David,

After reading all the serious letters in the Oct. 26 Star, I thought your readers would enjoy a little humor.

Many moons ago I was appointed town assessor to fill out the term of John Behan, who had gone on to greater things in Albany. It was necessary for me to be elected at the end of my term, and I ran in a three-way race against a couple of other guys.

My son Scott was living in New Jersey at the time, and I made sure he got an absentee ballot. He asked where we were going to be Election Night so he could find out the results and I got him the phone number in the phone booth in Cavagnaro’s, where we were gathering. The election did not go well for me and I think I came in third.

Scott called after the results were in and I informed him of my loss. He then asked me if it was close and I wondered why he asked. You guessed it. He didn’t send in his ballot.

Best regards,

WARD A. FREESE

Misconceptions

East Hampton

November 6, 2017

Dear David,    

As chairman of the East Hampton Town airport management advisory committee, I try to read all letters about the airport, do not respond, but try to include issues raised at upcoming meetings. 

The letters in The Star on Nov. 2 about the airport include the very legitimate concerns of several Wainscott residents. However, a few would leave the reader with some misconceptions about the recent Oct. 27 airport committee meeting that these residents attended.

1) Wainscott residents attending the airport committee meeting were not given a chance to voice their concerns. In fact, once we learned that more than a handful of people were expected, we had a sign-in sheet available that was signed by 11 of the attendees who indicated an interest in being heard (although more were actually accommodated and many were recognized more than once and for more than the three minutes usually allotted to speakers at town board meetings).

The sign-in sheet at the top said in bold letters, “Please remember we are strictly an advisory group appointed by and serving at the pleasure of the town board and have no authority to act for or bind the town in any matter. Any statements made by any member are strictly their personal views and may not reflect town policy.”

2) A vote was on the agenda to open a closed cross-wind runway 4/22 without consideration of how such reopening would have planes flying over nearby Wainscott homes: In fact, no such vote was on the agenda, which was distributed. What was on the agenda was the presentation of a “Wind Analysis Phase II” report from an airport engineering firm, which had reviewed about 26,000 wind readings at East Hampton Airport. 

After this review, the report stated that, among other things, in combination with the main runway, the closed 4/22 runway was only “marginally” better in the summer for cross-wind landings than the continued use of 16/34. Notably the report specifically stated that other factors, including the effect on the neighboring community, should be considered before a final decision is made on which secondary runway is most appropriate. As those who have attended airport committee meetings can attest, several members of the airport committee have strongly and consistently opposed reopening 4/22 because it would adversely affect a concentration of Wainscott homes — despite suggestions from aviation members for voluntary procedures to mitigate the effects. 

Also on the agenda was Reduction of 100LL. “100LL” is the low lead fuel used by small piston planes and is less than 10 percent of the fuel sold at the airport each year; jet fuel — used by jets and helicopters — does not contain lead. Airports in California are moving to replace 100LL as soon as alternatives are commercially available and piston planes can be retrofitted to accept it. 

The phase-in of alternatives to 100LL had been raised with the airport committee several months ago by the president of the East Hampton Pilots Association and the new fuel farm being completed at the airport will be able to accommodate an alternative to 100LL. We are hoping that its commercial availability locally can be accelerated. Frank Dalene, a local Wainscott resident at the meeting, who had been involved with airport matters, explained how he was using a special alternative to lead fuel for his race cars; but it is not clear if it is usable by most planes.

3) The public is not aware of airport committee proceedings: Airport committee meetings are open to the public, but unfortunately only a few people attend most meetings. Airport committee meetings are usually once a month at 9 a.m. at Town Hall on Fridays in the winter and on Thursdays in the summer. Airport committee minutes, along with a wealth of additional data about the airport, are available at the special town website htoplanning.com. As set forth in the most recent minutes, the next airport committee meetings are scheduled for Nov. 17, Dec. 15, and Jan. 19.

Regards,

ARTHUR MALMAN 

Smears of Q.S.C.

Springs

November 2, 2017

Dear David:

There’s no shortage of lies and hypocrisy in politics, but the recent advertising and mailing campaign by the Quiet Skies Coalition and its chair, the planning board member Kathy Cunningham, sets a new low. As chairman and treasurer of the East Hampton Town Republican Committee, we feel compelled to address these baseless smears against our committee and our candidates.

Leaving aside Q.S.C. and Ms. Cunningham’s flagrant disregard of the campaign finance laws, much less the gross hypocrisy of accusing our committee of “arrogance and greed,” when Q.S.C. refuses to disclose its donors whilst undertaking an illegal and unethical political effort to prop up a listing Democratic slate, and leaving aside the serious ethical issues of Ms. Cunningham’s dual role as a town official and chair of a dark money PAC, we wish to rebut some of the more outrageous smears.

In Herman Melville’s “The Confidence-Man,” a wily crook warns his marks of the danger of pickpockets at the very same time he lifts their wallets. Similarly, Q.S.C.’s literature asserts “the truth” about all sorts of issues, while they lie and distort. It’s cynical and shameful. 

First, neither the East Hampton Republican Committee nor any of its candidates have ever said, nor do we believe, that the Friends of the East Hampton Airport — or any airport interest — are our “most important supporter,” as Q.S.C. claims. That is false. 

Second, as this paper noted, the out-of-state helicopter operators, who were very active two years ago, have played a minimal role at most in this year’s elections. Of course, the vast bulk of their activity in 2015 was done independently of our committee and candidates. In fact, we were legally precluded from even contacting them once they formed their own group because that would be considered illegal coordination. But then again, we follow the letter and spirit of the law, unlike Ms. Cunningham and Q.S.C. Even the much maligned helicopter interests iled timely and apparently accurate disclosures in 2015.

Third, it is a gross distortion to suggest that the Republican slate supports expanding the airport, or that we do not appreciate the negative impact some airport users are having on the community. We support reasonable flight restrictions, noise abatement measures, and other strong and binding limits to mitigate the effect of airport noise on its neighbors. Period. Always have. Always will. 

Fourth, the appeals court ruled and the Supreme Court affirmed that the decision not to accept Federal Aviation Administration grant money does not release East Hampton Airport from F.A.A. rules; it’s a totally separate matter, and the issue of F.A.A. funding borne out of faulty legal advice has proven to be a costly canard as the town board doubles down and refuses to admit it got it wrong. Again, Q.S.C. lies. 

It was this town board’s own bungled and costly courtroom misadventures that are the primary reason why the problem of airport noise has not been addressed. These court efforts were not only wasteful and an abject failure, but also undercut any leverage the town had to negotiate binding restrictions with the operators in good faith. Claiming the $2.5 million and counting spent in legal fees aren’t coming out of the pockets of East Hampton taxpayers is ridiculous. 

Our candidates will negotiate anew in good faith, and with credibility, as proven public safety and environmental leaders, not special-interest hacks. Should we prove unable to reach an appropriate settlement that keeps the airport open and safe, while also addressing the quality-of-life and noise issues, all of our candidates — every single one — have said they would support using the Part 161 process to mandate restrictions. Asserting otherwise is a lie.

It’s a pity we can’t have an honest discussion and debate about the future of a critically important and valuable piece of infrastructure in our town without lies and distortions, much less illegal politicking. 

We urge voters to look at the records and positions of Manny Vilar, Jerry Larsen, and Paul Giardina and come to their own conclusions about “the truth about East Hampton Airport.” Voters on Nov. 7 should reject the shameful, illegal, and misleading smears of Q.S.C., and the discredited Democratic slate they seek to prop up.

REG CORNELIA

Chair

RICH GHERARDI

Treasurer


The letter above was received after deadline last week. Ed.

Fake News

Springs

November 6, 2017

Dear David,

The other day we received a letter from Manny Vilar, who is running for office in the local election, which will already have taken place by the time this letter gets in The Star.

We were very disturbed by this letter, as the writer somehow knows that we supported Zach Cohen in the Demo­cratic primary, as it addresses us as his supporters. So happens we now support the present Democratic ticket, but the letter is not interested in that. 

What is really disturbing is that Mr. Vilar suggests in the letter that we should support him and his platform because he and Zach are friends. It is my understanding that Zach is out of the country and I have no way of knowing if he okayed this letter or even agrees with its contents. If that is so, then I think this is very misleading and it worries me that this kind of fake news is now entering East Hampton politics.  

Whoever the winners are in this year’s election, I plead with them to put integrity back into our electoral politics. There is no place in our democracy for misleading, sneaky campaigning.

PEGGY BACKMAN

A Bag of Coal

Springs

November 6, 2017

Dear David:

Our congressman, Lee Zeldin, has made quite a splash over the past few days, extolling his opposition to the G.O.P. tax plan because it eliminates the deductibility of state and local taxes. All this because he professes to be fighting in Washington for his home district.

Like everything else in Zeldin-world, his position is nothing more than a charade. He is in lockstep with G.O.P. proposals that would devastate the East End economy. Other than singling out the SALT deduction, Mr. Zeldin is quite happy with other aspects of the G.O.P. plan. Once the SALT deduction is resolved, Mr. Zeldin would have us believe that we’ll be able to celebrate the holidays basking in a Christmas present of “big, beautiful tax cuts.”

Well, for us on the East End, he is promising a bag of coal. One of the deductions slashed by the G.O.P. plan is the deductibility of mortgage interest. The G.O.P. plan would cap this deduction to mortgage loans of $500,000 or less on one’s primary residence. 

Eliminating the deductibility of mortgage interest on second homes would decapitate the East End economy. Roughly 50 percent of the East End economy is attributable to second-home owners. No longer eligible for a tax break, interest in second homes on the East End would pale. Lack of buyer interest for our houses will, in turn, savage the property values of our homes (which will likely result in higher property taxes). On top of this direct hit, elimination of this deduction will result in job losses in the real estate industry, construction, landscaping, and all the other service businesses that depend on second-home owners and a vibrant real estate business.

Let us all remember Mr. Zeldin’s betrayal of our economy next November and send him our own holiday message, “Bah humbug,” at the ballot box.

Sincerely, 

BRUCE COLBATH

Tax Proposals

Springs

November 3, 2017

Dear David: 

Excuse me for being cynical, but the Republicans may be playing the long game that has nothing to do with the current issues being discussed around the proposed tax legislation. Yes, the proposal includes tax reductions for corporations and the wealthiest among us, while offering tax increases for blue states that more frequently have state and local taxes and higher property values.

  One needs to wonder why these tax proposals are being offered to corporations when they are already experiencing record-breaking profits, are sitting on huge cash reserves, and the actual tax corporations pay is much lower than the top statutory rate of 39 percent we hear mentioned time and again. 

But the end game the Republicans may be seeking is to lower tax revenues so drastically that Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid will need to be drastically cut when the ever-mounting deficit requires it. At that time, Demo­crats proposing tax increases to maintain these programs will be branded for doing so, making it impossible for them to win elections.

Lower taxes, reduced entitlements, and control of the legislative branch, what more could a Republican ask for? Yes, I am cynical and I don’t like being lied to and manipulated. Furthermore, I am not a gambler by nature, so I am not willing to “bet the house” on some ideological mandate.

Here are my suggestions: Take the same $1.5 trillion that is going toward this tax proposal and improve the infrastructure. Or how about reducing the taxes for all the middle class, who would then buy more with the extra cash in hand. Those sound like good economic growth concepts to me that would reduce unemployment, increase business profit, and increase tax revenues.

FRANK RIINA

On the Mark

Moneta, Va.

November 3, 2017

To the Editor:

I truly want to commend Neil Hausig for his letters to The Star.

Written in a clear, lucid, insightful manner, with impeccable style and sure sense of reason, his thoughts and ideas are on the mark. I look forward to reading him in every issue, and it is a main reason I welcome The Star each week.

ARTHUR THOMMEN

Drug Issues

East Hampton

November 4, 2017

Dear Dave,

In 1969 I took a job setting up a drug prevention and treatment program for Lutheran Community Services of New York. The guy who ran L.C.S. was smart enough to tell us that he knew nothing about drugs, but believed that we had the capacity to improve the human condition if we had the passion and the intellect to do so. Pastor Bauers was really smart. He conveyed to us that ignorance was only an obstacle if one refused to learn.

My knowledge about drugs was confined to the variety of drugs I had consumed in the previous five years. My co-workers were mostly in the same boat. So we shut our mouths and paid attention to what everyone in the drug treatment world was saying and doing. We quickly understood that no one knew what they were doing and that we were on our own in dealing with this problem.

What we quickly surmised, and what everyone who isn’t a brain-dead buffoon immediately grasps, is it’s not about the drugs.

A few years into the work, I was with a group of drug program directors and several buses filled with young supposed addicts on a trip to Albany to meet with Governor Rockefeller. Seeing the governor behind his desk, like a frozen statue, when we made our presentation, sent tremors through the group. Amphetamines was the first reaction. He was a pill head: “Let’s go home.”

What followed was the cruelest, most oppressive set of drug laws that ruined the lives of millions of black and Latino men and women. Rockefeller’s ignorance was so profound and his brain so completely fried that he went along with his advisers, who were even more ignorant than he was.

A few years later I worked on a project for the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, the precursor of today’s Drug Enforcement Administration. Some of my co-workers were quite brilliant regarding the problem. I learned from them that the problem had been grossly inflated and that the government was screaming epidemic because it had little or no idea about what was really happening in the world.

Over the years, I have watched the United States government deal with drug problems and the word that relentlessly repeated itself was “ignorance.” Too dumb to learn, incapable of learning, not interested in learning, or something more insidious, which people in the field will swear to if you bothered to ask them.

Racism plays a big part in the process. Ninety percent of the people incarcerated for drug-related crimes are black or brown, while whites are the largest drug consumers and mostly buy from white dealers. When crack took hold in the ’80s, the penalties for small quantities were obscenely high and directed at poor nonwhite communities. I remember a story of a rich white club owner in the city getting caught with two pounds of coke claiming it was for personal use. He got probation (six months).

So 50 years later we have an opioid problem. Between Christie, Sessions, and Trump there is one-quarter of a brain to deal with the problem. They almost make Rockefeller look good. Sessions wants to reboot the “War on Drugs,” the longest war and biggest failure in our history. Sessions can’t pee and chew gum at the same time. Christie wants to declare a national emergency and Christie’s urinary issues are about physical oversight. Trump would like all these people to sign absentee ballots and die. “Piss off,” he says in private.

Columbia professor Carl Hart has written extensively on the subject. He cites ignorance on the part of the drug users, mixing heroin and fentanyl or oxy with alcohol. Bad cocktails and O.D.s based on ignorance. But underneath the O.D.s are the reasons why people are taking these drugs. In 50 years we have not come to terms with this question.

When it was black and brown people, the official position was that we don’t give a rat. Now that it’s mostly white people, we have to pretend that we care when in truth we don’t. We can easily afford to lose 60,000 people a year to drug deaths. Why screw around with the pharmaceutical companies or the medical community that is over-prescribing?

The king of bullshit can’t talk his way out of the annual death toll. We don’t have a better health care system to deal with the problem. We don’t have new and better jobs. We don’t have higher wages. Bullshit doesn’t solve drug issues. You can’t smoke it.

NEIL HAUSIG 

Russian Killer Whales

Springs

November 5 2017 

To the Editor, 

Monday, Oct. 30, a very sad and disconcerting day in New Bedford, Mass.: The U.S.S. Collusion returned home after a long, extensive, and costly fishing expedition with the objective to hunt catch Russian killer whales, Capt. Robert Mueller C.F.L. (Congressional Fishing License) at the helm. 

This was the celebrated Collusion’s maiden expedition, specially prepared and outfitted with the latest state of the art searching equipment, sonar, radar, deep-sea and long-distance spotters, and much classified instrumentation. The anticipation apprehension for this hunt’s catch was/is paramount. However, from preliminary assessments, the results are very disappointing, somewhat puzzling. 

The captain and the crew are refusing (or are forbidden) to discuss any details concerning this expedition. However, via aggressive prying, delving, some very strange details are coming to light. No Russian killer whales at all in this catch, none, but lots of sardines, yes, sardines. And some beluga whales, the friendly ones. Puzzling because it is common knowledge that the Russian killer whales habitat is in the North Pacific of the Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia, between the Sea of Okhotsk and the Bering Sea. Stormy turbulence, cold weather, practically No Man’s Land.

Whereas the sardine hatcheries are in the Pacific of Mexico, California, and Canada, so far the beluga-friendly, balmy, and inviting climate, though it seems that sardine fishing in these areas is strictly restricted. 

Yes, puzzling and confusing. Are we heading (again) into another tortuous, unnecessary, irrelevant, and wasteful investigation circus? Faulty, expensive navigation equipment? Competence of the crew and captain? Violations of conservation laws? Fishing and hunting in wrong waters, are we? Please, God, help us. 

EDWARD A. WAGSCHAL