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Letters to the Editor: 02.27.20

Wed, 02/26/2020 - 10:40

Plentiful Numbers
East Hampton
February 22, 2020

To the Editor:

Not quite knowing how to comment I just wanted to let Mr Harnick know that the blue jays are certainly around. I have a feeder in front of my house in Northwest near Cedar Point Park, and whenever I put seeds in, the blue jays [come] in plentiful numbers. I have had up to eight all at once. They take over and typically for their type, they tend to harass the other little birds: chickadees, wrens, woodpeckers, cardinals, finches, and others, as these, too, try to feed.

So they have not disappeared. Be happy.


February 24, 2020

To The Star:

Well, Larry, what an interesting story headline (“To Kill or Not to Kill”). Don’t you think the word “harvest” might better serve? And why the mention of Fire Island when they don’t allow hunting there? Why not discuss the problems we have with the deer population all over East Hampton?

Years back, when you were involved with town government, you did all you could to slow down hunting and now the problem has worsened. I’m sure you have noticed the increased amount of roadkill this year, brought on by the lack of woodland browse. Anything that grows is quickly eaten to ground level. Additionally, the lack of a mast crop for the last two years, with the exception of hickory nuts (not favored by deer), have caused the deer to move into residential properties, living in small vacant wooded lots and eating grass, birdseed, home gardens, and expensive landscape plants. Without deer fencing, the homeowner stands no chance.

As a hunter and harvester who enjoys venison, I find it impossible to locate deer in the areas that are open to hunting. Hunters, both archery and gun, cannot help to bring the population down if the deer are not present!


Call to Abstain
East Hampton
February 18, 2020

To The Star:

Feb. 26 marks the beginning of Lent, the period leading up to Easter when devout Christians abstain from animal foods in remembrance of Jesus’s 40 days of fasting in the wilderness.

The call to abstain from eating animals is as traditional as Genesis 1:29, yet as current as the teaching of evangelical leader Franklin Graham. Earlier religious leaders like Methodist founder John Wesley, Salvation Army pioneers William and Catherine Booth, and Seventh Day Adventist Church founder Ellen White, all abstained from animal flesh.

A plant-based diet is not just about Christian devotion. Dozens of medical studies have linked consumption of animal products with elevated risk of heart failure, stroke, cancer, and other killer diseases. A United Nations report named meat production as the largest source of greenhouse gases and water pollution. Undercover investigations have documented routine mutilation, deprivation, and beating of animals on factory farms.

Today’s supermarkets offer a rich array of plant-based meats, milks, cheeses, and ice creams, as well as traditional vegetables, fruits, and grains. Entering “vegan” in our favorite search engine provides lots of suitable products, recipes, and transition tips.



Just Animals
February 23, 2020

To the Editor:

For many of us who defend nonhuman animals, this year’s Academy Awards ceremony provided a moment that seemed almost too good to be true. In his acceptance speech, Joaquin Phoenix called attention to the oppression of nonhuman species. He brought their plight to the national stage.

Prior to the ceremony, I thought if Phoenix won the best actor award he might say something about animal rights, but I doubted that he would do so. I felt it was too much to hope for in our society, which has generally considered the widespread oppression of animals to be of minor importance.

We have placed other animals beneath us, separating ourselves from the animal kingdom. As we often hear, “They’re just animals.” The treatment of nonhuman animals has yet to be a topic considered worthy of a national election debate. Indeed, other species are generally considered so inferior to humans that to call a person “an animal” is to hurl an insult.

Will Joaquin Phoenix’s speech be a watershed moment? Will our mainstream society begin to respect our nonhuman relatives?



East Hampton Group for Wildlife

So Hot
Sag Harbor
February 21, 2020

To the Editor,

As I was eating lunch at the Springs General Store, I heard one of the female employees breathing hard as she was mopping the floor. I said to her, “I hope you’re not breathing hard because of me.”

She laughed and kept right on mopping.

Kristie, the owner, however, reacted to what I had said and explained to me that, by implying that I was so hot that I could cause a woman to breathe harder, it could be interpreted as being both sexually offensive and egotistical.

I thanked Kristie for her sagacious advice. I realized that not only was she an incredible chef, she was a very intelligent, caring person and advocate for the #MeToo movement.

I also realized that it would be impossible for me to enjoy her cooking with my foot in my mouth!


Bad Driving
East Hampton
February 17, 2020

Dear East Hampton Star,

It seems a bit early in the year to be writing about this. It’s mid-February, which is traditionally thought of as our quiet season. So it comes as a bit of a surprise that even in this supposed off-season people insist on driving dangerously. I’ve tried going out at all hours of the day between 5:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. and there is no difference. As soon as I’m on 27, someone is tailgating me seemingly two inches off my bumper.

More often than not, I get the accompanying honking and light flashing of the driver who can’t wait to pass me. If it’s only one car, I do let it past. But more often it’s a whole string of impatient bozos who seem to think that speed limits are optional. The simple fact is that even at this time of year, there are joggers and bicycles out and about. There are always deer and turkeys crossing the roads. And almost as many people ignoring traffic lights and stop signs as there are speed-demons. Even a short trip between my house and Village Hardware can leave me with jangled nerves!

So it turns out that the bad driving phenomenon has spread to locals. I know plenty of other people who have the same complaint. The thing is that it’s not going to get any better unless the police really crack down — and I don’t think the village or town boards would stand for it.

The Tuesday afternoon pileup near Huntting Lane on Main Street was no surprise to me. It’s just lucky no one was seriously hurt or killed. My own way of dealing with the problem is to drive only as fast as I feel safe. If someone is riding my tail, I’m certainly not going to exceed the speed limit and the closer they are, the slower I’m going to go. If I have to brake for any reason, and I’m going to be rear-ended, I would rather it be at a speed where I’m less likely to be seriously injured or my car seriously damaged. This means I might be going 30 miles per hour in a 45 zone and if you don’t like it then either back off to three car lengths, or tough luck. Maybe you should think ahead and leave a bit earlier. I’m not going to compromise safety (mine and yours) so you can get where you’re going a few minutes sooner.

Thanks for reading.



Cannabis Consumption
East Hampton
February 23, 2020

Dear David:

Your editorial “State Action Needed” (Feb. 20, 2020) rightly points out that cannabis is coming to New York State in the form of legalized adult-use pot under legislation advocated by Governor Cuomo. Such a move will indeed have profound consequences not only for the nascent marijuana industry but also for state revenues, and, of course, consumers, who will be sold a wide range of pot products that are more powerful today than ever before.

Yet the promise of legalized marijuana as imagined by industry lobbyists and politicians is an illusion. Marijuana tax revenues in many states with legal pot have fallen short. At the same time, these states report increases in emergency room visits, driving under the influence of drugs violations, and cases of cannabis-use disorder. Eventually, the state will have to pick up the tab for increased law enforcement and public health services as cannabis consumption spikes.

All too often the debate over marijuana legalization focuses more on how to divvy up the expected spoils — and gleeful anticipation of plugging state budget gaps — and less on the obvious health dangers, especially for young people. As legalization appears to be inevitable, your call for regulation and taxation is appropriate, but that must include strict oversight of how, where, and to whom pot products are sold. It’s time to be more realistic about what legalized marijuana will bring to our state, and the risks it poses.


President Rosenthal Center

for Addiction

Unneeded Law
East Hampton
February 22, 2020

To the Editor,

Oh, the horror! A local merchant cited for violating an antiquated village sign code awaits her fate from (are you ready?) a court of law! The code was enforced when a small “welcome” sign was spotted by code-enforcement authorities hanging from what was construed to be an item of merchandise for sale. Because this horrific display was positioned outside the merchant’s store, citations were issued, primarily for having a sign outdoors but another determined the stuffed animal it was hanging from was also illegally outside the retailer’s designated interior assigned usable square footage. Or something like that, I think.

Nevertheless, businesses in our village need support. Unneeded law and restrictive codes need to be reviewed, and in some cases done away with. We need to aid in the promotion of business, and recognize what is believed to be a declining business environment in our village. Perhaps we should reconsider such restrictions and seek to better assist the few remaining merchants with less government intervention?


Couldn’t Be Clearer
February 24, 2020

Dear David,

This is a story about local heroes. Our town board has moved to purchase all remaining seven lots on Acorn. They will never now be developed and will forever provide some breathing room and filtering power to our precious aquifer below. Our Stony Hill aquifer is the only clean source of drinking, bathing, and cooking water left in our town, and many say the last unpoisoned aquifer left on Long Island. We must keep it that way, continuing to purchase undeveloped lots and remove unwanted houses that dump sewage into this invaluable water source.

This town board has now preserved 10 times as much vital watershed land as the previous Larry Cantwell administration. Thank you Super Pete, Sylvia, Jeffrey, Kathee, and David. Every townsperson, from North East Hampton, Amagansett, Springs, Napeague, and Montauk, who drinks the water from the Stony Hill aquifer thanks you as well. And mazel tov to Joe Kazickas, who did the right thing and engineered the deal with the town. Thank you, tremendously, to Scott Wilson, our magnificent land acquisitions god, who is making it happen.

On the other hand, the head of the East Hampton Town Republican Committee just sold a beautiful and vital towering beech-forest lot with tremendous morainal value, which would have filtered the aquifer, to a developer right at the end of Town Lane. They destroyed it, and the forest has been turned into logs for a ridiculous spec house. The choice between the two parties couldn’t be clearer.



Amagansett Springs

Aquifer Protection

Move to 5G
East Hampton
February 24, 2020

To the Editor:

The Star’s article summarizing the Feb. 5 East Hampton town planning board hearing about the proposed cell tower gave no indication that the decision will take into account this year’s nationwide launch of 5G service.

It is hard to believe East Hampton residents will not want to receive the significant upgraded benefits from this new technology. Also, I would think our emergency responders will want to move to 5G.

Importantly, as it relates to the new tower proposal, 5G service will require as many as four times the number of cells as the older technology. The height of these new transmission devices will be less critical than the distance between them. This means streetlights and telephone poles may work instead of adding more tall towers. If that is indeed the case, the proposed Iacono arrangement will not be a meaningful precedent for the needed new cell antenna applications.

Instead of erecting an unsightly antenna in a residential neighborhood, the planning commission should approve the existing Iacono wind tower as a short-term solution, and conduct the necessary research to create a comprehensive plan for townwide 5G coverage.



Unexpected Tax Bill
East Hampton
February 22, 2020

Dear Mr. Rattray,

A few days ago my daughter, a young woman who recently purchased a 4,50­-­square-foot fixer-upper cottage in Springs, received a 1099 for $34,000. A 1099 indicates income and is taxed as such by the I.R.S. The $34,000 was grant money she received for the installation of a new nitrogen-reducing septic system the Town of East Hampton is asking homeowners to voluntarily put in.

The town now requires these systems on all new installations and for the replacement of old systems. The goal of these systems is to remove nitrogen from our septic waste, which ultimately ends up in our bays and estuaries, causing harmful algae blooms and diminished water quality in wells.

Paying income tax on this $34,000 is going to be financially disastrous for my daughter, as well as to a young couple I know from Southampton, who also had a system installed. It’s going to be a financial hardship to anyone who had a system installed.

When I attended a meeting at East Hampton Town Hall before she decided to put this system in, I asked one of the speakers, Justin Jobin from the Suffolk County grant office, about the problems concerning homeowners being taxed on the grant money in the past. He replied that the problem had been dealt with and solved and the grant money would not be reported to the I.R.S. as taxable income. This was absolutely misinformation.

My suggestion to any homeowners who are contemplating the installation of these systems is this: Don’t do it! Besides the income tax liability, there is electricity usage to consider. We will be turning the electricity to the system off; the system will then function as a traditional cesspool, not removing any nitrogen as intended. Turning the electricity off will be a money-saving necessity, as every penny saved will help her pay this unexpected tax bill.

I understand Representative Lee Zeldin supports the taxation of the grant money to both the homeowner and the installer. I also understand that the grant money for these systems in other parts of New York State is not being taxed. Maryland also has a grant system for these septic systems and that money isn’t taxed there either.

Come on, Mr. Zeldin, step up to the plate for your constituents and petition the I.R.S. to do the right thing and remove these grants from homeowners’ tax burdens. The installer is already paying income tax on the same money.

My final point it this: People who install green energy alternatives, like solar, get a tax break. People who put these water-protecting systems in are taxed and penalized. What sense does that make?

I think Mr. Zeldin should be voted out and replaced with either Bridget Fleming or Perry Gershon. Both of these candidates support the I.R.S. standing down on this issue.



Support for Greta
February 24, 2020

Dear Mr. Rattray:

Tomorrow will be the ninth week of showing my support for Greta Thunberg and the global environmental awareness movement she has inspired. It will be Greta’s 80th week of striking to wake up the world to the pending crisis that awaits the still slumbering population of Planet Earth.

Here we are, the end of February, reveling in the springtime weather during what has been the mildest winter in these parts in my 60-plus-year memory. How many are thinking, “Well, gee, maybe this global warming isn’t so bad!”? I personally hope not many. In fact, no one should entertain that exceedingly shortsighted and selfish thought! This is an emergency and you’re not listening.

I have had a few people stop and stand with me these past eight weeks, and I am truly thankful for their effort. I get my perfunctory 20 or so horn honks and waves. Everyone in this community, state, country, and world needs to be:

• Aware of the scientific facts. This is very real people!

• Scared about the future of their children’s children’s children,

• And coming together to demand immediate change from businesses and politicians. Individually, we are relatively powerless (and hopeless). Together we are unstoppable. Together.imagine!

Please come stand with me and Mother Earth. East Hampton Town Hall, 9 a.m. to noon, Feb. 28. (Be there or be square.)


Holding Position
February 23, 2020
North Babylon

Dear Mr. Rattray:

The development of Long Island’s important offshore wind facilities is in big trouble, and from much larger forces than local Wainscott vacation homeowners. This time it’s the federal government, led by a climate denialist president who thinks wind turbines cause cancer, which has hit the pause button.

It’s no secret that our president has it in for New York and other coastal blue states. He’s sending us Border Control swat teams, and taken away trusted travel programs. Now he’s coming down on offshore wind farms, which are a key aspect of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s plan to bring New York to a nearly carbon-free future by 2050. In particular, a planned 9 megawatts of offshore wind by 2035 was to bring our electric grid to carbon neutral by 2040.

Facilities that were to become operational by 2022 are now in a holding position. Governor Cuomo was not successful making a deal with Trump on lifting the ban on the trusted travel programs. He’s got to fight for New York’s right to develop renewable power, even in a nation that’s promoting climate destruction.



February 24, 2020

Dear David,

Thank you for your article “Wind Farm Plan Is Paused,” which offers an excellent summary of the current situation with the South Fork Wind Farm.

One overriding question, which remains unanswered at least for me, is why this particular project has been exempted from review by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. All other proposed wind farms coming onto New York State lands must undergo a review by them.

Perhaps someone from Win With Wind or another organization can explain to me why the South Fork Wind Farm does not need the same evaluation as do the other proposed wind farms.



Absurd Decision
East Hampton
February 24, 2020

Dear David,

The East Hampton town board and trustees, as well as more of the town’s residents, should realize that approving the Deepwater Wind South Fork project has moved from a poor choice to an absurd decision.

Leaders should not accept this project because 1) Long Island’s new and much larger wind farms will be constructed sooner, probably in 2023; 2) The maximum output of each wind farm that will be built to the south and east of Long Island will be at least 800 megawatt instead of Deepwater Wind’s small two-part combination of 90 and 40 megawatt output; 3) The new large wind farms will be selling their energy at about 8 cents per megawatt which is one half of the 16-cent price demanded by Deepwater Wind South Fork’s 90 megawatt wind farm (Why is that original 90 megawatts even being considered when on the same Deepwater Wind South Fork farm there will be 40 megawatts produced with the same construction and same owner who will charge only about 9 cents per megawatt); 4) The new large Long Island wind farms have been accepted and promoted by New York State while Deepwater Wind South Fork has not even been accepted for construction by the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

The companies that own Deepwater Wind South Fork are at least two years behind their original schedule. Their original prediction was to be in operation by December 2022. Now, the earliest construction will be December 2024 or early 2025. Given that the lawsuit on their designs and prices will be lasting several more months, and many more if there are legal appeals to the first decisions, an opening of the Deepwater Wind South Fork would be years late. It would be best for the public if this Deepwater project never opens.

The Long Island Power Authority has one and only one residential cable system from the edges of Queens to Montauk and Orient Point. Their increases in cable size and capacity are already in progress in various areas from Riverhead to East Hampton. LIPA made its first publication of these 10 separate cable projects all the way back in its 2016 publication about Deepwater Wind. There is no need for the cable changes and substation that are proposed by Deepwater Wind South Fork and its supporters.

The Deepwater Wind South Fork project needs approval from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to construct its wind farm. They have not received that yet. The East Hampton Star article states they have re-entered another submission. That is their third; the first submission was made in June of 2018, and there was a revision in May of 2019. In November of 2018 I sent a strong scientific and financial analysis of the inaccuracy or insufficiency of the Deepwater Wind South Fork submission. So far, this unneeded and very small wind farm has not supplied a single respectable application.

I strongly support clean energy inside our electrical cables. But I also strongly support the ability of the general public, not just wealthy people, to be able to afford to use clean energy. New York State is moving in that direction for Long Island since it stopped promoting Deepwater South Fork after 2017, and has moved forward with recommendations declaring that the projects should be 800 megawatts or more.

Let’s stop wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars that are being spent on stopping the unneeded and not yet approved wind farm, cable, and substation installation of Deepwater Wind South Fork. That design is too small, overpriced, and unneeded for clean energy improvements for Long Island and East Hampton.


Faraway Time
February 22, 2020

Dear Mr. Rattray,

A few weeks ago Mary and I were out for a long walk, through the Lanes in Amagansett, along Bluff, down to Indian Wells Beach. Just to stare at the ocean, the sky, remark on the beauty of it all, count the weeks till spring, turn around and walk on. But where the parking lot meets the beach, we were literally ambushed by the amazing Joan Tulp, legendary siren and pillar of our community (a.k.a., co-president, Amagansett Village Improvement Society).

But before I continue, Mr. Rattray, let me just say, I hope you’ve been well. Okay, back to Joan. I don’t know why, but it’s always about the letters. “Where have you two been? And why haven’t I seen any letters from you, Lyle, I miss them!” I’m paraphrasing, of course. I didn’t write down exactly what Joan said, but you get the idea.

Then the artist Peter Dayton appeared, I believe with his dog, and joined the conversation. “You haven’t written any letters lately, Lyle. Is everything all right?” I think it was something like that. I was a little embarrassed, having almost gotten over myself in recent months, though not entirely.

Anyway, to the hundreds, perhaps thousands of readers who’ve wondered why I haven’t written a letter to The Star since August of 2019, there are two reasons, the first practical, the second psychological.

First, Mary and I have been away much of the time since mid-September. You may recall, but probably do not, that last spring while on a brief vacation to the island of St. Barth, Mary saw an ad in a local paper posted by a small, private school seeking an English teacher. I said, “Do you want to check it out? I mean, who would be more qualified than you?” (Twenty-five years’ teaching experience, and a master’s degree in English as a Second Language.) “I guess so!”

(So what happened, Lyle? Shut up! I’m getting to that!)

Pierre Giraud, owner of the school, was amazed to meet someone with Mary’s qualifications and offered her a position on the spot, teaching English to French children as well as adults who needed better English-language skills for their jobs (serving their many American customers). They negotiated a three-month contract period, commencing in mid-September, which would be followed by an evaluation by both parties. It took many weeks for Mary’s work visa to come through, but it did, so off we flew, in the height of tropical storm season, missing all of autumn (and Thanksgiving) in Amagansett, returning just in time for my company’s holiday dinner and for Christmas in Denver with all of Mary’s daughters, sons-in-law, and grandbabies. Then we went back to St. Barth for two weeks in January, and by the time you’re not reading this we’ll be back to the island for another two weeks.

Before we return to my side of this story, let’s stay with Mary’s. This was a full-time job, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., five-and-a-half days each week. We’d decided on renting an apartment in the port of Gustavia so she’d be able to walk to school each day, which turned out to be a brilliant decision. I’d never imagined not staying by the beach on St. Barth. Never imagined falling into a work “routine” in a place I’d only vacationed for 36 years! But it was amazing, and I think Mary had one of the most fulfilling professional experiences of her career in that short period. The kids loved her, their parents adored her — everyone looked forward to their classes with Mary Jane.

On an island I had introduced Mary to 15 years ago, now she had become the “local,” and me the “this is my husband Lyle.” On the streets, in the supermarché, students, moms, and dads were always saying “Bonjour, Mary Jane!” It was kind of fantastic. An added bonus: No hurricanes or tropical storms struck the island during our stay. (Even today the work of rebuilding after 2017’s Hurricane Irma continues.)

(And what did you do while Mary was teaching, Lyle?)

That’s a question many of my friends and colleagues asked me (but in the future tense, of course). I knew I couldn’t sit on a beach every day while my wife was teaching so I decided to start writing another book. This one about my experiences and stories from 36 years of visiting St. Barth, and the stories of remarkable people I’ve met over the years including chef Jean-Georges, Msr. Bruno Magras, président de la Collectivité de Saint Barthélemy, artist and designer Pati Guyot. I wrote every day, for at least five hours and have completed maybe two-thirds of the book, uncharacteristically disciplined for me, I assure you. The working title of this book: “1000 Days in St. Barth.” (See Instagram account of the same name.)

(So where were we?)

Oh yes, all of that faraway time was the first reason I haven’t written a letter to The Star since August. And the “psychological” reason? Honestly, I didn’t feel I had enough worthy content to contribute to your pages, Mr. Rattray, particularly in these very perilous times for our country and the world. I know, that never stopped me before from sending some wise-ass remarks your way — always for my own amusement — or epistles filled with my passionately held liberal worldview.

To those personal doubts throw in a nagging sense that maybe the writing —mine — just isn’t that good. That part is especially painful, like a canker sore on your lower gum. You’ve got one now, don’t you, Mr. Rattray? Sucks! But stop feeling it with your tongue. Anyway, enough with the excuses, personal doubts and all. This is the letter that marks the end of the dark period during which there were no letters from me. Blame Joan and Peter.

So, let me begin the letter by applauding you as we approach the end of Black History Month. I’m referring to your role in the Plain Sight Project, whose mission is to uncover the buried history of a forgotten African-American population that was once enslaved in the Northeastern states, as recently as the early 1800s, on farms, in shops, and in households, including in our township. I believe it’s an absolutely essential effort if we’re to truly know ourselves.

I was raised in upstate New York, in a suburb of Rochester, never, ever imagining that slavery existed anywhere but “down there.” You may recall a news item I’d brought to your attention a few weeks ago, regarding a community of free blacks that existed for just over 25 years within the grounds of what is now Central Park in New York City. Approximately 264 residents occupied this town, known as Seneca Village. They’d built simple, wood-frame houses, three churches, two schools, and two cemeteries.

This population had been drawn to the site for several reasons, most important to escape the squalid conditions and treatment they lived in and received in downtown New York, and because the land was cheap. Why did they leave their village? They were forced to leave because of the city’s declaration of eminent domain (though some of the landowners were paid for their lots), to make room for Central Park. The city had also considered areas of Fifth Avenue and Madison for the park, but the outcry from the righteous (white) landowners nixed that idea quickly.

There’s a plaque marking the site of Seneca Village now. And there have been some ongoing archaeological digs in search of remnants from the lives of the inhabitants. I should add that Irish immigrants also came into the village, in the late 1840s, fleeing from their own country’s great potato famine, another ethnic group treated with disrespect and scorn even in their new American “home.”

From what I’ve read it’s been nearly impossible to locate living descendants of Seneca Village, though they surely exist. And in my liberal, white brain I wonder if there is no reparation for the kind of cultural theft that took place in our greatest city less than 150 years ago? I don’t know what it could be, but I’m pleased to have learned a few things during this Black History Month, including what you and others involved in the Plain Sight Project are now sharing. So thank you.

But enough praise for you, Mr. Rattray. Time to return to a topic of lesser importance: my writing. Now you will certainly recall that you yourself wrote a brief jacket blurb for my self-published collection of stories and letters, “The Soul Mate Expeditions.” I believe I’ve shown great restraint in not attempting to promote this book in your pages (available on in hardcover, paperback, and eBook), and maybe it’s a good thing neither you nor The Star’s book reviewer has ever written about this collection. I mean, how would it look if a book consisting of, among other things, many letters addressed to you in The Star received a bad review in The Star? Not freaking good at all!

Yet, I have been somewhat relieved by the feedback from many who’ve read the thing. And just a few weeks ago Frank Bruni, columnist for The New York Times, described “The Soul Mate Expeditions” as a “wild, unpredictable journey of both heartbreaking emotional depth and soaring flights of fantasy.” Okay, Frank Bruni did not write that. He probably didn’t even read the book, but now that I think of it had he actually said these things I would have to agree.

What Frank Bruni did suggest recently, in the after-mess of the recent Democratic debate out west, was that the “Democrats Are Bound for Disaster.” And if you viewed that debate as more blood sport than actual debate, you might reach a similar conclusion. Can you imagine any university in the country permitting that sort of behavior, the interruptions, the heated accusations and petty piling on, instead of convincingly arguing policy and points of view? I cannot. Still, I’m holding out hope for the future.

A few weeks ago the sea along our beaches was wild and wind blown, the sands drifting like snow in a blizzard. Yesterday, the ocean seemed more like a pond, a few seabirds drifting calmly on the glassy surface. I’m still an optimist, believing that the cyclonic winds pounding against our democratic institutions — and citizens — will move out to sea. Till then, we’re looking for a leader. We all get a vote. No excuses.

P.S.: Back to the island. We see so many people with remarkable tattoos on the beach I decided to include a photo chapter called “Everybody’s Got a Tattoo.” One in particular comes to mind just now: a fairly tall, bearded guy with a tattoo of the Virgin Mary covering the entire length and width of his back, and the words “GOOD LUCK” above her head. As a former Catholic, I question whether she ever said that. On the other hand, we could use some right now.

Good luck,


Thank you, as always.

February 24, 2020

Dear David:

Why doesn’t Bernie Sanders level with voters as to how he plans to pay for his flagship “Medicare for All” plan? The answer is simple: He can’t.

Take a look at Sanders’s official campaign website and take a look at his program for Medicare for All. If as Senator Warren says Pete Buttigieg’s plan is nothing more than a “Post-it,” the Sanders plan is more like a postage stamp. Nowhere does his campaign site include a plan for paying for his pie-in-the-sky program. After spending seven-plus years of foisting this plan on voters, one would think he would be able to explain it to us. He can’t, because it is unworkably expensive.

In short, it is nothing but political vaporware. What is vaporware? When the term was in vogue it described efforts by software companies to promise a non-existent product to deceptively discourage customers from buying an existing competitive product (or discourage competitors from developing one). So what Sanders is doing is deceptively attracting voters to a Medicare for All plan that promises everything but will deliver nothing.

And what’s even worse is that there is proof of his plan’s nonviability from an actual attempt to launch a similar plan. And guess where that plan was tried? Vermont (Bernie’s home state)! In 2011, then-Governor Pete Shumlin euphorically promised a single-payer plan, dubbed Green Mountain Care. Backed by advocates bordering on the “theological,” Green Mountain Care (encouraged by Senator Sanders) promised a system of health care for all that would save money, even though no one knew what it would cost when it passed in 2014.

That belief proved hopelessly naïve. As the Green Mountain plan moved into implementation, it became clear that the plan would double Vermont’s budget, would require raising state income taxes by up to 9.5 percent, and imposing an 11.5-percent payroll tax on employers.

The Green Mountain Plan crashed in flames in 2014, after the governor realized that the only economically viable plan would offer Vermonters less protection than they already had.

So there is every reason for Senator Sanders to avoid discussing how his Medicare for All plan would be financed (other than in the broadest of generalities, like “taxes would go up.” (Yes, but how much?) There is an equally obvious reason why he fails to even mention the failed Vermont plan, and a mysterious absence of any explanation of how his plan would correct the deficiencies of the Vermont plan he touted at the time.

Given Senator Sanders’s evasions, it is incumbent upon voters (and his competitors) to put his feet to the fire and force him to explain in detail, with data, how his plan would be paid for and why it would behoove 150 million Americans to vote for a candidate who would deprive them of their existing health care for an unknown product. Until he comes clean, it’s vaporware, and voters should beware of being duped. Taking him on faith could not be more dangerous.



Insatiable Greed
East Hampton
February 24, 2020

Dear Star Readers:

Watching Bill Maher, NPR, and FOX last night I was amazed at how they all did the same number on Bernie Sanders and the American people. He’s too radical and not willing to compromise. Way too far left for the center of America. A “socialist,” maybe even a communist. Branded, dismissed, debased, and his message along with him. Democracy in action. All of them knowing that Bernie’s “Medicare for All” is a pipe dream that will never happen in his lifetime.

To really understand Bernie it is necessary to clearly and fairly observe our political landscape. The Republican Party is Donald Trump in all his glorious repugnancy. This group of neutered white men with no moral or political compass beyond its insatiable greed has been waiting for him since Nixon fell out. The Democratic Party has a slightly more human quality to it, but is only marginally better (at this point in time), petrified that Bernie will fracture its Wall Street connections.

What’s scary about Sanders is that he threatened the established Democratic hierarchy, and they won’t stand for it. The Democrats and their corporate backers feel that with Sanders they will lose control. His antiwar, pro-worker positions are really frightening. His support of health care as a right, as in most western countries, freaks out the Dems because of their connections to health care companies and big pharma.

But most scary about Sanders is his refusal to lie and be corrupt, and to have real bloody principles that he stands by. He is 100 percent not a scumbag. We’ve never had a president who got to 75 percent. (Trump is a minus 17 percent on the scumbag counter.)

What Sanders drones on relentlessly about are fair wages for working people, health care as a right, free college if possible, everyone paying their taxes, wealth equality. Good housing, paid leave, vacations. Build the economy from the bottom up so that the benefits are fairly distributed. It’s about the people controlling the economic mechanisms in the system. Sounds like Jesus. Yikes.

There may be socialist ideas in his policies, but rejecting them is like rejecting a cure for cancer because it comes from Germany.

In terms of the socialist, communist, capitalist equation, China is 75 percent capitalist to 25 percent communist; the U.S. is 65 percent capitalist to 35 percent socialist. The usage of these terms assumes that the audience is functionally illiterate. When politicians and pundits use them check your wallets and your zippers.

Disrespecting the American people by assuming that they are too dumb to understand the world is standard behavior. “Making America Great Again” is like making the sky bluer (pollution not the issue). Blue skies means life is better. Is anyone against blue skies? Telling people that Sanders is too radical for them is the same amorphous drivel. Radical means that they have to be scared because they can’t possibly understand what he wants to do. Un-American.

Bernie wants to screw up our lives by giving us a better standard of living through fair play. He wants to rein in corporate excesses which only profit corporations and get them to pay their taxes. He wants cleaner air and water, etc., etc. Now that stuff is definitely un-American.

So the Democratic establishment tries to emulate the nearly perfect repugnance of the Republican opposition. Unfortunately for them, and for us, they are missing that neo-fascist edge which prevents then from descending into a more perfect kind of piggery. Someone has to come and save our sorry asses. Why not Bernie?


A Good Idea
February 23. 2020

Dear David:

The Democratic forum last Monday at LTV in Wainscott was a great success. A crowd of more than 300 showed great interest and enthusiasm while listening to three candidates in the Democratic primary, Bridget Fleming, Perry Gershon, and Nancy Goroff declaring their interest in running as a Democrat against Lee Zeldin.

The event was well organized and Andrew Strong did an impressive job as the moderator. The questions were well thought out and covered national and local concerns as well as personal qualifications. The availability of headphones for those who preferred to listen in Spanish was a good idea and recognized the importance of the local Hispanic community.

The residents of East Hampton are showing the importance of being actively engaged in the removal of Lee Zeldin and Donald Trump from office this November. We need a congressional representative who will truly represent the needs of Congressional District 1.



February 21, 2020

To the Editor:

I just received a personal (“Dear Richard”) letter, Sharpie-signed “Donald J. Trump” from President Trump, in which he clearly states that it is “absolutely essential” and “critical” for me to send him a gift anywhere between $15 and $5,000, which is the “only way (to) pave the way for my re-election,” and, without which “I cannot win re-election.”

Assuming that his letter to me is just as “perfect” as his July 25 phone call to Ukraine President Zelensky, this definitively means that he will soon be out of office due to my principled refusal to send him even 15 cents.



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