According to Legend
May 19, 2020
In the letters to the editor section of the April 30 edition of The Star, Dianne Benson voices her support of the Fish Hooks Party candidates, and then adds, referring to the party, “despite its ridiculous name.”
If memory serves me well, the party is named for Capt. Samuel Mulford (1644-1725), East Hampton whaler, patriot, member of the Colonial Assembly, and fighter against an unjust British tax on whale oil. In the early 1700s, Captain Mulford traveled to London to protest the tax in person. As he was waiting in a crowd to meet with an official, his pockets were picked. That night, according to legend, he sewed fish hooks in his pockets, and the next day a thief was caught. The resulting hubbub led to an audience with an official, and eventually the tax was repealed. As a result, he became a local hero and has been known over the years as “Fish Hooks Mulford.” His story has been told through academic theses, lectures, articles, and even, years ago, in a television program.
Although I am taking no position in the village election, I thought newer residents would be interested to know what I believe to be the origin of the party name.
DAVID E. MULFORD
May 19, 2020
To The Star:
This time of year, time travel is possible. It usually happens in May, just before Memorial Day, when the sighing, soggy earth has been cooked just enough to tip the tide warm, and the air smells like the promise of summer and mischief.
I can smell crushes and friendships long forgotten. I walk through rooms that cease to be and put on shoes that no longer fit me.
Technically, it is the faintly musty, permanent mildew of a seaside landscape mixed with the verdant nuptials of trees floating on the breeze —but it is permanence and perfection to me.
This delicate deliciousness of fragile fertility reappears year after year. I may have started to wrinkle and gray, but this scent is a perpetual baby and will never be anything but. Its sweet vigor and decadence are enough to make me cry. If I could capture it, bottle it, market it for just three easy payments of $19.95, I’d have a patented fountain of youth. But to do so would murder the magic.
It is a remembrance I forget I’ve forgotten until it reappears annually, as consistently as Christmas. It is specific to this place, and it is wholeness inhaled. With it, come the ghost selves I’ve long since buried as fertilizer to germinate the me that is now. They waft in through the windows at night to tickle my memory and giggle at what they’ve created, unsure of what would become of me as they left me to forge on through harsher seasons.
I’d like to think they’re proud of their offspring, these haunting visitors, these specters of spring. To go back and be them would most assuredly rain their disapproval, this much I know. But this time of year, time travel is possible. And I relish it, more and more, with each annual inhale.
Challenge to Ride
May 25, 2020
The group of people bicycling, running, and walking along our roadways was growing each year before the corona virus occurred. Now, their use of East Hampton roads has grown dramatically. Bicycling is a wonderful way to get exercise and lovely views but without exposure to the virus.
But East Hampton does nothing to help the bicyclists on the road unless another government owns the road and is doing its work. Suffolk County does good work on their roads, such as the wide shoulder on Long Lane. They will do a good job on the soon to be built southern part of Springs-Fireplace Road, and already are discussing how to coordinate that bicycling with Three Mile Harbor Road, which they will redo next. And the state does a nice wide job on Montauk Highway and Route 114 to Sag Harbor.
Compare those to the town’s northern section of Springs-Fireplace Road or almost any road owned solely by the town. The town road shoulder often disappears and its width undulates from zero to a foot or two. It is a challenge to ride it, which is not supposed to be how bicyclists are tested.
Our roads and shoulders reduce safety. Even though more cyclists are on the road, there is a huge number of former riders who dropped out because of the bad road situation. Many of them had accidents or close calls with cars.
We need the town to improve our roads for parents, children, singles, and employees going to work. Plus, the state law changed 10 years ago requiring the town to support all the width of road for all the users. The town should support bicyclists (who are legal vehicles) and walkers within the road’s legal width (which is usually nearly twice the width of the paved road). But the town makes no statement or requirement of spending some of the annual budget for anything other than what will give cars access.
I looked at, and often rode my bicycle, in several hundred cities and towns. East Hampton is significantly behind any that I experienced or studied (I was chairman of the town’s bicycle committee in 2012 and 2013, and I raced on major teams in this country and in France). I cannot think of any town government in the United States that is less good with bicycle routes than East Hampton. We are even significantly less advanced than New York City, which has done improvements for bicyclists and walkers.
It is an important that East Hampton has become active in keeping people safe from being exposed to or harmed by the virus. The virus in East Hampton will pass towards zero in months (hopefully) yet more bicyclists will remain on the road than the year before. We need to make them safe. We should improve the road to bring back our former riders. We should make all bicycling as enjoyable as it can be.
May 19, 2020
To the Editor:
My husband and I have been part of the Amagansett community for more than 40 years and we have lived here full time for more than 25 years. We are familiar with the many groups that involve themselves in our community and appreciate the important role the Amagansett School plays in the village’s success. We believe Meredith Cairns would be a significant asset to the Amagansett School Board.
Our community now faces many challenges that will influence the school’s success. Gansett Meadow housing is likely to result in an increase in the school’s enrollment, as will the growing number of families who are choosing to move here from other locations. Covid-19 will also have consequences for our school. How should we prepare for remote learning? How do we set up classrooms to accommodate proper social distancing? These issues and many more require board members who have the requisite skills and experiences to navigate these situations.
Meredith Cairns has been a member of our community since 2007. She is a member of the New York State bar and prior to moving here she served as a highly respected prosecutor in the Manhattan district attorney’s office. She speaks fluent Spanish and Japanese. Since her arrival, Meredith has committed herself to Amagansett life. Early on she established a Girl Scout troop for younger girls and continues to serve a troop leader in the community. She is currently serving on the board of the Amagansett School library. Within the school she serves as parent liaison for the P.T.A., and is a member of the shared decision-making committee.
In conclusion, I would like to say that Meredith Cairns is someone who is always ready to serve. She is hard working, creative, practical, and of the highest moral values. I believe we would be very fortunate to have her as a member of the Amagansett School Board.
May 16, 2020
To the Editor:
While the pandemic has changed every aspect of the way we conduct our lives, education is primary to our future. The upcoming school board elections on the East End will be of utmost importance as these elected officials will have to find new ways to overcome challenges of social distancing, technology, and most likely increased enrollment from those who choose to avoid returning to New York City.
As a former 13-year Amagansett School Board member, I would like to urge Amagansett residents to vote for Meredith Cairns and to support the all- important school and library budgets. This vote will also be different from what our residents have experienced, as the ballots are to be mailed out and mailed back in.
Meredith has the skills needed in this new world order that we will all be facing. She has owned a home in our district since 2007 and moved here full time in 2012. Her daughter has attended the school since 2013 and Meredith has been an engaged, thoughtful parent. She has been an active member of the PTA, is the PTA class parent liaison, sits on the shared decision-making committee and has been a Girl Scout troop leader for the past four years. She is also a member of the Amagansett Library board.
Meredith has taken the time to get to know our community and is considerate and thoughtful about embracing the East End culture while using her skills to enhance it. She is an experienced prosecutor with a strong passion and longstanding commitment to advocacy on behalf of women and children. Previously, she worked at the Manhattan district attorney’s office, specializing in sex crimes and domestic violence prosecution. She is committed to doing pro bono work addressing domestic violence, children’s rights, and sexual assault policy.
Meredith is also a fluent speaker of Spanish. I find her to be open-minded, fair, and someone who has common sense. She would truly be an asset to our school board.
May 20, 2020
To the Editor:
I have just received an absentee ballot for the Springs School District budget and school board member election and am absolutely appalled at the process. The voter is instructed to mark the ballot and then place it in an envelope on which appears the voter’s name and address. Whatever happened to the notion of a secret ballot? The district seems to have totally misunderstood the double-envelope process.
I have taken part in numerous elections with mail-in ballots and never have I experienced an election in which the ballot is placed in an envelope that identifies the voter. The double-envelope procedure has always involved placing the ballot in an envelope that is then sealed without any identifying information on it about the voter. Then the envelope with the ballot is placed in a second mailing envelope that provides the identifying information needed to verify that the voter is, indeed, an eligible voter. Prior to the counting of the ballots, the envelopes with the ballots are separated from the envelopes with the identifying information so that no one can identify from whom each ballot came or how an individual voter voted.
Although I feel very uncomfortable sending in this ballot, I am going to vote. I hope, however, that the Springs School District, in counting the ballots, makes every effort to preserve the secrecy of each individual’s vote and that any future mail-in voting procedure — by the Springs School District as well as any other entity — ensures a secret ballot.
May 25, 2020
Dear Mr. Rattray,
I had the honor of being asked to deliver the commencement address to the graduating pre-k students of Our Lady of Joyful Light Elementary School in Huntington. A college friend of mine, Tim, is the assistant principal at the school, and he’d contacted me two weeks ago, saying that, sadly, the kids in the class of 2020 would be unable to have a proper commencement gathering, as with millions of grads around our country, but it would be great if something special could be done to mark their achievements in their first year of school. And would I be willing to share some inspiring words with the kids in a virtual commencement ceremony on Zoom?
In a somewhat full disclosure, my friend also let me know that I had not been his first choice. Congressman Lee Zeldin had declined the invitation, suggesting it was inappropriate to address 4-year-old children with a serious message. Billy Joel had also declined, though my friend admitted that getting Billy was a long shot. “Yes,” I said, “he’s pretty busy now writing a new song.” Anyway, I took no offense at being a back-up choice, and agreed to deliver the address, which took place on Saturday, May 16, at noon.
I have to admit, Mr. Rattray, I was nervous about this. Normally I’m writing for 12-year-olds, or 80-somethings, so I’m not used to thinking about the hopes and dreams of very young people who may not be familiar with the kinds of words I frequently use, such as systemic or hypothesize or freaking. But I wanted to do my best and not disappoint my college mate nor the young ones and their parents. Thankfully, Tim let me know that it turned out fine and both the parents and kids seemed happy with their pre-k commencement.
Whew! Twenty-three families showed up for the Zoom gathering, along with two teachers, the school custodian, and, of course, the assistant principal. I thought it might be fun to share the transcript of my address with your readers, in case any of them have just finished pre-k or “The Good Place” on Netflix. Here you go:
“Hello and congratulations to all of you pre-k graduates of Our Lady of Joyful Light! (I pause while the kids squirm for a few seconds.) It’s an honor to be speaking to you on this very special day, girls and boys, for you’ve accomplished something that will stay with you and help chart your path forward for the rest of your lives. Let’s all give each other a big round of applause for making it through year one of school!” (I see parents applauding with me. Nice!)
“As you are well aware, these are challenging times for us all. It can seem as though the dark clouds will never go away, that the door to the future has been closed forever, that our room will never be clean again, that we will never get a new bike. But things aren’t always what they seem, graduates. For example, were Elsa and Olaf really frozen forever? The end? No! Anna used her ice powers to destroy the dam, lift the curse, and Elsa thawed out, and then Elsa used her water memory powers to revive Olaf! Yay! And that’s what you will all do for the rest of us, and we thank your for that! For the youngest have always been our brightest hope, lighting the path forward for all to follow. You make us want to be stronger, more-faithful guardians of the universe we live in so that you will be able to live and be with your friends and play and take up saltwater fly fishing and have babies if you want. Or not, up to you.”
“Yes, the road ahead will not be without obstacles, some seemingly insurmountable. For example, there will be very few summer jobs awaiting you following graduation, and Congress has yet to finalize stimulus numbers for 4-year-olds, or even the criteria for application, much less details on payback. And why should there even be a payback if there are no jobs, am I right? I see we are in agreement. Good. And you’ll face a shortage of bicycles in these difficult times. No child should have to choose between toilet paper and a bicycle. And let’s not talk about “hand sanitizer.”
“Instead, let’s focus on the bright future that is actually your super power. In 2034, you will be able to vote! And many of the people who hold powerful positions today will have gone off to a special place prepared for them by Our Lady of Joyful Light. Or some other place. And in 2052, one of you will be president of the United States. There will be freedom and equality of opportunity for all, you will make sure of that. There will be clean air and clean water for all, you will make sure of that. There will be peace and good will among neighbors, you will make sure of that. It will be possible to hold each other tight. And everyone who wants a bicycle will get a bicycle. So congratulations pre-k grads of 2020. And thank you in advance for making our world a better place.”
“To all the graduates: Thank you for making everything better!”
Live and Taped
May 24, 2020
The League of Woman Voters has always sponsored candidate debates prior to elections. We continue that today but under different circumstances and without a live audience. We will have two debates in June, both via Zoom and facilitated by SeaTV, Southampton.
The first will be on June 1, starting at 7 p.m. This debate is between hopefuls in the Democratic primary running to be the Democratic candidate in the race for Congressional District 1. There are four candidates: Gregory-John Fischer, Bridget Fleming, Perry Gershon, and Nancy Goroff. It will be taped and broadcast live on June 1 at 7 p.m. and thereafter available for viewing the next day. Viewing for both the live and taped version are at “SeaTV Southampton — YouTube.”
The second debate will be on June 8 at 7 p.m. to become the Democratic candidate for New York State Senatorial District 1. Five candidates are running: Laura Ahern, Valerie Cartright, Nora Higgins, Skyler Johnson, and Thomas Schiavoni. This will be taped and shown live on June 8 at 7 p.m. and thereafter available for viewing the next day. Viewing for the live and taped debate will be on SeaTV Southampton — YouTube.
In New York State we have a closed primary system and only registered members of the Democratic Party are eligible to vote in these races. You may vote early, from June 13 to June 21, and on Primary Day, June 23, at your polling places. Additionally, following Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order, all registered voters will receive an absentee ballot application in the mail. If you wish to use this method, cite “temporary illness” as the reason for this request. These need to be completed and returned to the Suffolk County Board of Elections. An absentee ballot will then be sent to each voter, to be completed.
We hope voters will take advantage of this opportunity to see and hear these candidates and then vote. Remember, democracy is not a spectator sport.
Voter Services Committee
Hamptons, Shelter Island, and North Fork League of Women Voters
Full of Ifs
May 21, 2020
To the Editor:
A lot of people today are thinking, if only things would get back to normal again quickly. If only they had their job back. If only this dreadful virus will soon pass. Life is full of ifs.
One thing is certain. We have to be cautious and take it slow, because what if there is a second wave of the virus? It could be more deadly than the first. The second wave of the Spanish flu virus of 1918 was far more deadly than the first wave. It was a stronger strain; the virus had mutated to a much more deadly form. What if this happens again? What if we are not precautious enough? What if we don’t prepare ourselves?
The Spanish flu actually had three major waves; the second wave the deadliest. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about 500 million people worldwide, one-third of the world’s population, became infected with the virus, and at least 50 million people died from it, 675,000 deaths in the United States alone.
Yes, life is full of ifs. In fact, if you dissect the word L-I-F-E, half of it, the middle half, is the word if. The center two letters of the four-letter word representing existence create a notion of uncertainty. And the potency of “if” is accentuated every day in the language of many people as indicated above. “If I do this,” “If I don’t do that,” etc. Half of life is an if. Therefore, more reason to commandeer a firmer control of life’s uncertainties, the ifs, and guide them into certainties, contributing to, rather than detracting from, our success rate in defeating the virus.
Aside from ifs, life is full of constants. It is a constant that deadly viruses will recur.
Little Edie Bouvier Beale of Grey Gardens fame, lying on the beach near her home in East Hampton, while being filmed by the Maysles brothers, reflected on life and said, “There is one thing that remains the same. Nature. Man changes and is variable. But nature remains the same. The sun and the moon and all the things go on, in spite of man. He crumbles.”
Because nature remains the same, man needs to make sacrifices and adjustments in life when nature startles us, so that we do not crumble, and that we live eternally. Live eternally. “L.E.,” the second half and outer components of the word life.
May 24, 2020
To the Editor,
My best friends are Armin and Judy. I bought 1970 Montauk Highway and leased it to them. They built a beautiful restaurant, Armin and Judy. But the food, service, and all else go beyond superior. They had just two months before the virus shutdown but were really on the way to stardom.
The review in The Star was as good as any restaurant I ever saw, and I was a backing partner in four-star Chanterelle, which never gets a better one.
All that said, here is what I want out there in print: They have a state-of-the-art bakery on premises. Their baguette is as good as any in the world, including Paris! (See comments on Instagram and Facebook.) Not to mention the other breads and pastries. Two weeks ago they decided to do pickup as many others are doing.
It has been a major success, and in preparation each day so as to have no disappointments, they, in my opinion, massively overproduce, with sometimes 50 or more loaves of bread left over.
Armin calls up as many of the charities in these towns as he can, to donate to the Retreat, churches, and anywhere food is provided for those in need.
Can’t believe the excuses as to why they can’t come get these donations. “It’s a bad day,” “The car is in use,” “Why can’t you deliver?” “We want cash donations.”
Won’t bother here with all these stories. So those in need should go to ArminandJudy.com and give a name and email or phone number to be called when there are bakery items for donation.
Behind the Curve
May 24, 2020
It would appear that after weeks of criticism by The East Hampton Star and community at large, the East Hampton Town Board has come alive from their Covid-19 slumber, and this is a welcome sight.
Sadly though, once again, town policy is behind the curve and reactionary. Rather than have a system that addresses the uniqueness of our township and each of its hamlets, the town board has chosen a plan last minute that is out of sync with the dynamics in our community.
Our town civilian employees, police, marine patrols, and volunteer first responders whom we owe a debt of gratitude to for the exemplary jobs they have performed since the start of the pandemic are all left in a lurch. These dedicated essential employees are not policy makers as they must implement the town board’s policy and ensure public safety.
On Friday of Memorial Day weekend Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo issued a statewide executive order that now allows any non-essential gathering of 10 or fewer individuals for any lawful purpose or reason. The protocols for social distancing, cleaning, and disinfection must be met.
In short, the new executive order now legalizes all small gatherings, including indoor house parties, all outdoor gatherings such as barbecues, picnics, and weddings, as long as there are 10 people or fewer.
We all know East Hampton’s primary industry is tourism, and many in our community depend on those tourism dollars to make ends meet. Yet the town board failed to adjust its policy. Benches were roped off, outdoor seating was closed off, access to beaches was limited or closed, and a prohibition against gathering remained in place.
With town policy counter to state policy, town employees, especially those on the enforcement side, are placed in a precarious position. Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to speak to several town employees, and it is clear we ask a lot of our town employees, but asking them to navigate conflicting policies should not be one of them.
Even though they are trying the best they can, the East Hampton Town Board needs to do better. There are too many year-round livelihoods at stake.
May 25, 2020
Our country is not well. I am not referring to the obvious malaise of the coronavirus, but rather to the values and motivations underlying major governmental policy decisions.
Late last week, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said that one of the major obstacles to dealing with the coronavirus is the lack of global cooperation and coordination. As the United States continues to veer away from multi-country agreements and initiatives, does a subsequent posture of nationalism and isolationism really equip us to deal with this humanitarian crisis, let alone the next one?
Roughly a month ago, an Op-Ed piece in the Sunday New York Times suggested that the impact of coronavirus gives us a unique opportunity to examine underlying social and economic inequities in this country. The U.S. Treasury can keep printing money, but that tax bill will come due for our children and subsequent generations. We can debate the value of lockdown versus reopening for days, but these are short-term issues, and short- term conflicts generally lead to short-term solutions. Is much thought being given as to the tenor and composition of America on the far side of this crisis, if we can manage to navigate the rough waters?
If you view our country as a collective patient, it is time for the intake interview followed by prescriptive measures. Unfortunately, I don’t know that there is a doctor in the house.
PERRY DURYEA III
May 19, 2020
As a business owner in Montauk, it would be devastating financially and emotionally to shut us down this season. A lot of business owners would be permanently losing their shops and also their houses. The Hamptons would become another Detroit. There are over three million New Yorkers who have had the virus and have the antibodies, which means they cannot give or get the virus. I, for one, have had it in February, never went to a doctor or a hospital, didn’t need to, and was tested on May 6, by Quest Laboratories, for the antibodies. The test came back positive: I have the antibodies. I and the other three million New Yorkers who have the antibodies should have the right to vacation and travel if we choose. We live in a democracy and our rights should not be taken away. It is illegal to take our rights away. Traveling or quarantining should be the choice of the individual. Going to a motel or not should be by choice. Don’t take my right to choose away. There are a lot of other New Yorkers and Americans not afraid of traveling who should have the right to choose.
If the town takes business people’s income away for the year, our real-estate taxes for the year should be taken away. We should not have to pay them, plus any other government fees. The Town of East Hampton should also subsidize all businesses’ insurance premiums, which still have to be paid. Business lease and rent payments should also be subsidized. Hotels and businesses are under the supervision of the Suffolk County Board of Health. Private homes being allowed to rent are not inspected; hotels and motels have regular inspections.
Very truly yours,
May 11, 2020
Tens of millions of Americans are yearning for a vaccine to protect us from Covid-19 so that life can begin to resemble the old normal. But will our congressman, Lee Zeldin, join us in the effort to vaccinate America? Shockingly, the answer is unclear. Mr. Zeldin may find it more politically expedient to align himself with a key donor instead of his constituents.
As Governor Cuomo prepares a statewide plan to reopen New York safely, a key Zeldin donor, Rita Palma, demanded the governor end the stay-at-home order even earlier. Any alliance between Mr. Zeldin and Ms. Palma should cause us all to feel uneasy. Ms. Palma, who fattened Mr. Zeldin’s coffers with a contribution of $2,000 last year alone, is a staunch anti-vaccine advocate. And, last year, Mr. Zeldin hewed to his donor’s anti-vaccine stance by opposing legislative efforts to fight vaccine misinformation.
While demanding an earlier reopening than the governor’s May 15 goal, Ms. Palma also openly opposes mandatory Covid-19 vaccination, if and when a vaccine becomes available. Her rallying cry is an ultra-selfish demand that she be free to “exercise [her] right to life and liberty,” utterly ignoring both the health risk her position poses to everyone else and that it also may harm the country’s response to the pandemic.
For his part, Mr. Zeldin has not openly disowned the anti-vaccination movement, perhaps giving tacit support to Ms. Palma’s efforts. Nor has Mr. Zeldin expressed any opposition to reopening New York against the advice of health experts. Nor is that likely. Mr. Zeldin (who has no medical or business expertise) has been named to Mr. Trump’s Task Force on Reopening the Economy. Mr. Zeldin has been one of Mr. Trump’s most ardent sycophants and cannot be trusted to put the interests of his constituents ahead of his fealty to Mr. Trump and his ill-conceived policies.
Suffolk County has been one of the counties hardest hit by the pandemic, and we constituents deserve to know where Mr. Zeldin stands on efforts, such as by his donor Ms. Palma, to continue to put our lives at further risk.
Waiting for Us
May 19, 2020
There was good news from Covid-19 for this Memorial Day. We won’t be getting stuck in traffic jams. And the meat shortage will keep us safe from our outdoor grills.
Folks who grill hamburgers and hot dogs face a nasty choice. The U.S. meat and poultry hotline advises grilling at high temperature to avoid food poisoning by E. coli and salmonella bacteria. But the National Cancer Institute warns that high-temperature grilling of processed meats generates cancer-causing compounds.
Fortunately, we no longer need to choose between food poisoning and cancer! A bunch of enterprising U.S. food processors have met this challenge head-on by developing a rich variety of convenient, healthful, delicious plant-based veggie burgers, veggie dogs, and soy nuggets. These products don’t harbor nasty bugs or cancer-causing compounds. They are missing the cholesterol, saturated fats, drugs, hormones, and pesticides of their animal-based alternatives. And, they are waiting for us in the frozen-food section of our favorite supermarket, along with nut-based ice creams, and other dairy-free desserts.
This Memorial Day, in the shadow of Covid-19, let’s stay safe in more ways than one!
Vote Him Out
May 25, 2020
To The Star:
As Covid-19 continues its killing spree, the president’s interest lies elsewhere. Retweeting a now viral video of a News 12 Long Island reporter being physically intimidated and verbally assaulted during an anti-lockdown protest, the president chimed in with “Fake news is not essential.” The next day he tweeted that the reporter, who was simply walking through the crowd, “was an enemy of the people.” One only has to watch the video to be astounded by the level of hatred on display.
And what does Lee Zeldin have to say about all of this? Absolutely nothing, although he was at Camp David the weekend the president tweeted about it.
In November, it will be up to those of us who see the president for what he is, a divisive twitter troll totally out of his league, to vote him out of office. And let’s send Lee Zeldin on his way as well. If he can’t even defend the rights of a free press on Long Island, he does not represent us.
May 24, 2020
To the Editor:
As the nation closed in this week on 100,000 deaths from the SARS-Covid-2 virus in less than three months, it seems that the country is becoming numb to the number of people dying from the virus. In a way that’s understandable; it’s only human. Large numbers in and of themselves become difficult to comprehend and begin to lose their meaningfulness because they become unrelatable and outside of our everyday experience.
As a simple example, the blue whale is the largest mammal in the world, for that matter it is the largest mammal to have ever existed on the planet and has been known to grow over 110 feet in length — a measurement that is difficult to imagine by itself if you never see a blue whale or think about its size only in terms of numbers of feet. But if we express that length in a more relatable way by saying the blue whale is as long as 10 Toyota Corolla cars placed end to end or as long as an 11-story building lying on its side, the size of the blue whale becomes more relatable and its bigness more greatly appreciated.
The same is true when it comes to understanding large amounts of money and the inequities of wealth distribution in the world. Everybody has a fairly good sense of what $1 million is. That barely buys an average house here in the Hamptons. That’s why being a millionaire doesn’t have the cachet it used to have, and why being a billionaire today is yesterday’s millionaire. With $1 billion you could buy a thousand $1 million houses in the Hamptons. That’s actually almost half of all the housing stock for sale in the Hamptons this week.
Another way to look at it is: If I gave you $1 million and told you that you could spend $1,000 a day until it was all gone you would be out of money in 2.7 years. $1 billion spent at the same rate of $1,000 a day would last you [almost] 3,000 years.
Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and the wealthiest man in the world, could spend $1,000 a day for over 330,000 years. The first Homo sapiens appeared in Africa only 300,000 years ago.
So how can we make 100,000 deaths from Covid-19 in less than three months in this country more relatable, more impactful? There has been much talk about how we are at war with the virus and that this is our generation’s World War II. Perhaps that’s a good place to turn to in making these 100,000 Covid-19 deaths more relatable and meaningful in more ways than one, including our response to Covid-19.
On Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, killing 2,400 people. Covid-19 has been taking almost that many lives relentlessly day in and day out for the past month. The highest one-day death toll in the nation from Covid-19 so far was 2,800 people. Where’s the outrage?
Those 2,400 deaths at Pearl Harbor so outraged this nation that the United States was shaken from its strong isolationist stance at the time and immediately declared war on Japan the very next morning, on Dec. 8. Four days later Germany declared war on the United States, plunging us into a bloody, catastrophic, and very difficult two-front world war that lasted three years and nine months.
The next day after the attack on Pearl Harbor the entire country mobilized to fight the war, starting with a smattering of national curfews around the country and the blacking out of many West and East Coast cities and towns that very night, which continued nightly until the end of the war in 1945. Hawaii was immediately placed under martial law until the end of the war. Some 120,000 Japanese-Americans were quickly and unjustly rounded up and interned in concentration camps. Rationing began six months later, in May 1942, and even lasted until after the war ended. Looking back, the war years makes sheltering in place for six weeks because of Covid-19 look like a cakewalk.
The country immediately mobilized and concentrated its industrial might toward the war effort. Within a year after Pearl Harbor the nation had built three Essex-class aircraft carriers from the keel up to their commissions. At the time, they were the largest aircraft carriers in the world. It also replaced or repaired within the same year the five battleships and two heavy cruisers it had lost at Pearl Harbor. At the same time the Navy and nation started building as fast as it could a vast armada of all kinds of warships, small and large, from landing craft to the largest battleships ever built.
At war’s end the American Navy and the nation had put to sea over 7,000 ships, which included 28 Essex-class aircraft carriers, 23 battleships, 70 escort aircraft carriers, 370 destroyers, over 300 submarines, and 72 light and heavy cruisers.
The country was soon building B17-bombers at the rate of 16 a day, and a B24-bomber every 56 minutes, 24 hours a day. By the end of the war the country had built nearly 90,000 tanks, building a finished tank every 20 minutes all day and night for almost four years. From December 1941 until the end of the war the nation launched three Liberty ships every two days. Not to mention starting the Manhattan Project involving 130,000 people to build the first atomic weapons going from unproven mathematical theories on paper to working weapons.
We say we are at war with Covid-19, which on a daily basis for a month has been killing more Americans than were killed in a single day at Pearl Harbor. Yet we haven’t reacted the same way to the virus, or with the same outrage or a true and serious declaration of war on it in January when it first attacked the country. We didn’t follow up immediately with national mobilization efforts to build ventilators, secure the personal protective equipment gear we need, scale up a national standardized testing regime, or raise a vast army of contact tracers to keep the virus in check, or amazingly until last week even a Manhattan-like project to secure a vaccine.
Four hundred thousand American servicemen and women died in World War II in just under four years of war. Already in three months, at 100,000 deaths, we have amazingly reached a quarter of those combat deaths already. Averaged over the three years and nine months of the war, about 285 Americans died every day from combat. Covid-19 has been killing five to seven times that many people every day in this country for almost two months. Morbidly, laid end to end, that’s enough bodies to cover the distance between New York City and Philadelphia.
The virus has taken more American lives in four months than the seven costliest and bloodiest American campaigns and battles combined in World War II, starting with the 29,000 American soldiers killed on the beaches and in the hedgerows of Normandy, the 26,000 soldiers who died in the deep snowdrifts during the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium, the 14,000 Americans who died in the ruthless, brutal, hand-to-hand fighting on the Japanese home island of Okinawa, the 1,200 airborne soldiers and army troopers who died in the icy, cold Hurtgen forest in Germany, the 7,100 Marines and Army soldiers who died in the fetid malaria-ridden swamps of Guadalcanal, the 7,000 Marines who died on the coarse black volcanic beaches of Iwo Jima, and finally the 6,000 trapped American soldiers who died on the blood-soaked beaches of Anzio in Italy.
Thankfully though, the one great thing we can say about the 400,000 American men and women who sacrificed their lives in the Second World War and the support the homeland gave them is that they all fought together for the noblest of causes, not for conquest, land, or treasure, but against fascism and dictators to secure freedom and democracy, not just for us, but for many others in the world today, including in the end even our former enemies Germany, Japan, and Italy. It’s why they are rightfully called the Greatest Generation.
I’m not sure I know why 100,000 Americans have died in this pandemic or for what purpose or for what sacrifice. All I know is it doesn’t feel right. It just numbs the soul.
Rather than unite and fight the virus as the Greatest Generation did against fascism and dictators, we have descended into bitter political recriminations and we have retreated into extreme political, ideological camps that have tragically paralyzed us as a nation over the course of action we should take to defeat Covid-19.
When compared to how we reacted as a nation in the Second World War it seems to me we are a long way from anything that the Greatest Generation did when they were faced with an existential threat. Worse, I fear for many of us that we have only lived up to Thomas Wolfe’s low estimation of us baby boomers, the children of the Greatest Generation, and we have only cemented our reputation and legacy for all time as he coined us the “me” generation.
We have failed terribly the 100,000 of our fellow citizens who have died from this virus. Worse than anything, it is killing older people at a frightening rate as it ravages elder care and veterans homes. Eighty percent of all Covid-19 deaths are people over 65 and the cruelest irony of all is it is killing off in droves the very last of the Greatest Generation still among us, including many who survived some of those bloodiest battles and campaigns of World War II.
Unlike the Greatest Generation, we have also failed the rest of the world by not leading the way in this so-called war against the virus as we did so gloriously against fascism and the dictators in the Second World War. On both counts, for failing ourselves and the world, shame on us.
May 24, 2020
To The Star:
In the early 1960s, the U.S.S.R. criticized the U.S. as a fake democracy because its electoral process was seriously flawed. They cited voter turnout — in the U.S.S.R. 99 percent and in the U.S. 60 percent — as the rationale. They said that Americans were more interested in talking about democracy than practicing it. Of course, in the U.S.S.R. everyone was obligated to vote and candidates came from only one party. Elections didn’t make them less fascist nor did they make us more democratic.
Our failure to be a real democracy in which 50 percent of the electorate, not the voters, chooses the winner has never happened. Worse, however, is that we don’t aspire to this concept of everyone voting. At least half of our political establishment doesn’t.
Historically, we have used different mechanisms to defraud the electoral process. Southern and Midwestern states used race, poll taxes, and intellectual competence to limit voters. In the big cities political organizations encouraged everyone to vote and then threw out the ballots of opposition parties. The more voters you controlled the more power you accrued. While both sides were criminal, one clearly encouraged voting and the other suppressed it.
Where we stand today in our quasi-democratic miasma is one party still suppressing the vote and the other trying to expand it. Fortunately, only one side remains criminal. Better than having two criminal parties.
The solution to our democracy lies in the issue of voter fraud. There is none. Nothing. Nada. If it existed we could solve the problem and move on. But because it is a fantasy with no basis in reality, it has an eternal lifeline, a before and an after life combined. A religious dementia that repeats itself every two years.
(A short primer on voter fraud in the U.S. In the 2016 election there were 12 reported cases of voter fraud out of 120 million voters; 36 out of one billion votes in a long-term study. There were also 2,145,063 reported cases of voter suppression in 2016, 2 percent more or less.) “Where’s Waldo” as opposed to “Holy shit.”
Furthermore, voter fraud is such obvious, insidious garbage that people who actually believe that it exists are an enormous problem. It’s about people aspiring to be ignorant. Seeing ignorance as a positive alternative to knowledge. Is this level of blatant stupidity indicative of some kind of genetic malfunction or intellectual dysfunction? Do we really want these people voting? Didn’t we used to have literacy testing?
When we dig deeper, we find a thread of venal perversion running through and sustaining voter fraud, perverting the electoral process, perverting our quest to be a democracy, taking pleasure from the deranged nature of the process. Normalized perversion is just another definition of fascism. Proudly wearing an invisible “P” badge attached to their MAGA hats.
The only apparent solution to our anemic and democracy-distorting voting system is a radical new testament to the purpose of the process. If we want to be a democracy, which implies an electoral-majority determinism, we need to trust the electorate. Take away the useless safeguards. Unleash our true Christian souls?
Allow everyone who is a U.S. citizen above the age of 18 to vote. Accept all IDs and proofs of who someone is. Expand voting times and places to vote. Establish voting holidays. Incorporate anything and everything that will induce or seduce people to vote, including bribery, drugs, sexual favors, and chewing gum. We might then have a solvable voter-fraud problem. Since we already know who the fraudsters are likely to be, it would be an easy fix.
Voter fraud is to our Democracy what Covid-19 is to our nation’s health. Fascism is about people doing bad things. Some of them are good and some are really bad. There is an image of Trump and evangelical leader Ken Eldred discussing the evils of voting by mail that comes to mind, political and religious fascism in its lowest form. We give in to them, and our country goes to crap. Indifference to evil is sometimes worse than the evil itself.