Pick the Pockets
January 23, 2021
To the Editor,
In their continuing zeal to pick the pockets of East Hampton Town residents, the village trustees, having tested the waters with an outlandish increase of $100 for Main Beach stickers, and, receiving no major backlash to impede them, have now turned to an even nastier method of raising money for village maintenance. East Hampton Village will become that rarity among shopping areas across the nation, whether affluent or lower income, where to go to a supermarket one must pay for parking.
Are the trustees oblivious to the fact that the Stop and Shop lot, not only in beach season but year round, is sorely inadequate for the number of cars, and that most people must use the adjacent large lot or wait in the Stop and Shop’s narrow lot lanes creating gridlock in order to obtain one of the store’s coveted spaces?
“What is a mere $2 hourly charge to use the lot?” the trustees may have thought, reflecting a total insensitivity to the needs of financially struggling town residents. The answer is that a shopper, despite careful planning and having to pay a $4 levy for parking over an hour to obtain several days of food supply, often faces unanticipated food emergencies requiring other brief shopping trips to buy only one or two items. Thus, for example, what normally might be about $3.25 for a half-gallon of milk now jumps to $5.25, no longer pocket change at all, to those who must count pennies to survive the month. For the four-month parking fee season, the added cost for many town residents on low or fixed annual incomes is an unconscionable burden, well over $100 just for obtaining food, (and an additional hundred for the beach sticker,) “nothing much” evidently to trustees, but considerable to many people in our town.
My emphasis on food shopping as a highest priority reason for reconsidering hourly charges In the Reutershan lot should not diminish the fact that those on tight budgets might forgo, post-Covid, the occasional breakfast or lunch (at Papas) or an afternoon movie or browsing at the bookstore when they realize they must add an additional $4 for these pleasures.
Please do not impose this ill-thought-out levy on us who are branded the “nonresidents,” terminology on the beach sticker categorizing East Hampton Town taxpayers as if they were alien to this area. But if you do pursue this pay-for-your-food parking policy, my suggestion is that you establish an area reserved for only those who have a Stop and Shop receipt.
I remain a 40-year town taxpaying ”nonresident,”
January 22, 2021
To the Editor,
I hope you are further able to pursue a “deep dive” with the mayor on the subject of parking plans and fees in the village.
If a sewer project that will benefit only village residents is sincerely the target for funds raised then why would those who will benefit from the fees be the only individuals who don’t pay for parking? The question must be asked hand in hand with the inference that the businesses of the village rely on the residents of the township, who outnumber village residents by approximately 18 to 1! That is stated without even factoring in the net worth of village residents versus the average net worth of town residents.
Has the new village leadership ever been required to balance a budget to survive and report to a board? This isn’t reckless spending as much as an attack on the majority of the population. Consider town residents who work in stores, operate stores, shop in stores that are in the village. Will they ultimately drift to other hamlets with their spending dollars and the constituents in the village will be the injured party with their new sewer?
A Parking App
East Hampton Village
January 24, 2021
Dear East Hampton Star,
I know that there has been a small war going on over what to do about parking in East Hampton for decades. Now the village is considering something which would certainly disenfranchise me personally, as well as, I’m told, many other people who are village residents. Simply, they want to use an app for Smartphones. Problem is that I don’t have one! A Smartphone, that is.
Some of you who have followed my past letters will remember that in my case it’s not a matter of not wanting a cellphone but that I can’t. I suffer from the controversial but I assure you very real affliction of perceived electromagnetic hypersensitivity, which means that, among other things, cellular and Wi-Fi technology affect my inner ear, giving me a permanent case of seasickness. Even in my own home where there are no cellphones and no Wi-Fi, I’m still affected by the three cell towers each within a tenth of a mile of my house and my neighbors’ Wi-Fi. I can’t go to Times Square because the electromagnetic field pollution makes me lose all sense of equilibrium and I can’t walk.
My complaint is that I’m a full-time resident of East Hampton Village. I use the parking lot behind Village Hardware on a daily basis. My family has owned our house since 1968, and I’ve been a permanent resident since I turned 18 and enrolled at Southampton College. A lot has happened over the years that has made East Hampton Village an unattractive place to shop. I hate to say it but if they resort to a parking app, which I won’t be able to use, I just won’t shop in East Hampton at all. I already get my groceries from King Kullen and Citarella in Bridgehampton. My only reason to park in East Hampton would then be to go to my therapist.
What I wonder is what was so bad about the old days when a beat cop went around marking tires. That always seemed to work just fine. I would also point out that when I park in East Hampton, the only time I’m there for more than an hour is when I have the therapy sessions.
Ever since all the mom-and-pop stores were priced out in the early 1980s, there has not been a single store (other than the hardware store) where I could shop. And Bernard, if you’re reading this, I’m really sorry but if they do this parking app idea, I won’t be able to shop with you anymore, so you might want to make a stink.
The real problem, though no one wants to admit it, is that we just get too many people from out of town in the tourist season who want to park in town and walk to the beach. We should either limit their numbers (I know this is very unpopular) or else find a way to inconvenience or disenfranchise them. I feel that our community has lost too much for those of us who live here, especially the families who go back generations. It manifests as a loss of quality of life, which affects us all.
I’ve lost my favorite fishing spot at Louse Point to people who won’t leash their dogs. I can’t enjoy the David’s Lane duck pond because everyone goes there to yak on their cellphones and the Nature Trail is used as a bike path even though it’s posted that there should be no bikes at all! Before Covid, I already had been condemned to live life as a hermit thanks to the ever-growing presence of cellphones and Wi-Fi. Cutting me off from the parking lots in East Hampton will also cut me off from what little social life I have, which consists of saying hello to everyone who works at the hardware store and the Golden Pear.
To sum up, to make parking in East Hampton contingent on an app will disenfranchise people like me in in such a fundamental way that our lives could be seriously damaged by it. Thus I urge the village to consider using window stickers like the ones we have for the beaches. Personally, I’ve always thought that residents should have the privilege of a private parking area. But that’s another story.
Anyway, as usual, thanks for reading. Stay well, everyone.
January 22, 2021
To the Editor,
Dear dearly departed: Gathered at the pearly gates, family, friends, and old acquaintances shall welcome you home. When you are there, please pen a prayer “for auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne.” Until we meet again my friend, god speed.
Is No Reason
January 11, 2021
To the Editor,
While reading Newsday’s article announcing the big stories for 2021, I was not surprised to see their September headline, “The East Hampton Airport Could Close.” My immediate thought was there is no reason for it to stay open.
East Hampton Airport has been a big concern for the last 15 years, as the quantity of helicopters, seaplanes, and private jets have continually increased. The noise from these aircraft has made life intolerable for anyone living below the 20-mile KHTO arrival and departing routes.
The article stated the supporters for the airport are worried about hurting the economy and alienating some of its most influential and affluent residents. I don’t believe losing KHTO will even put a dent in the town economy. KHTO delivers less than .05 of 1 percent of the people traveling to East Hampton. The affluent residents will still make it to their East End homes. Why? Because where else will they find anything better? It may take a little longer but is still worth the visit.
In addition, the airport provides zero monetary benefits to East Hampton taxpayers, as 100 percent of the income goes back to the airport fund.
The supporters failed to mention the most import item the town would lose from the KHTO closure: pollution. KHTO’s toxic lead fuel usage has increased every year with the volume of air traffic. The usage has climbed to 900,000 gallons and could easily reach over one million gallons as the airport keeps growing its business. It’s also worth mentioning a portion of KHTO is already declared as a federal Superfund site and this same location sits on the main aquifer for all East End towns.
It is apparent the list of reasons for closure is much longer than the short list for staying open.
January 24, 2021
To the Editor,
I was impressed to see in the last week that the county had already updated local signs to point out there had been 621 deer collisions in 2020. This was up from a little over 500 the previous year and at the high end of the last four-year range. This figure probably understates the true number of accidents, but I know I at least reported my first collision that happened a few months ago.
I’m writing today since my wife and small child were jerked forward as I slammed on the brakes to just miss another fairly large buck by a few feet today on Three Mile Harbor — luckily this happened during the day, or I wouldn’t have had time to avoid the accident. Since I was only going 35 m.p.h., an accident probably wouldn’t have been life threatening, but I’m still surprised the town seems to take no steps to reduce this obvious problem.
Car accidents are not the only risk from the growing deer population. Its obvious to me at least that the large spike in Lyme disease cases in the last decade also correlates very closely to the spike in deer accidents. (Please don’t suggest this is a mouse problem.) My family doesn’t dare go anywhere near the woods in the spring or summer now because of this growing health issue. I’ve also had several neighbors come down with this disease in the last few years and one even moved away because of it.
I’m curious what it will take for the town to take real action to try to at least mitigate this problem, which clearly comes from a large increase in the local deer herd. There used to be fewer than 100 deer accidents annually a decade ago, and trees or shrubs used to have leaves below five feet back then too. The attempt at trying to spay deer obviously did not work, so when will the town finally begin to start a much-needed cull?
The growing deer population issue was the only one that all candidates seemed to agree needed action at the Good Government debate before the last local election. Hopefully, the current town board will live up to those pledges.
His Lying Letter
January 25, 2021
If we have learned anything over the last four years it is that lies, repeated over and over, unchecked and unchallenged, can become accepted as fact. And most of us have become familiar with the term “useful idiot,” i.e., an easy mark who is identified and cultivated by someone with nefarious intent to unwittingly do the bad guy’s dirty work. We generally associate the manipulation of useful idiots with Russia, but it now seems that we have our own local version of the useful idiot. Enter Larry Zombek. This person, in a letter to you published in last week’s paper, asserts that the group of us who comprise Win With Wind are “proxies” for Orsted, the Danish energy company, which, along with Massachusetts’s Eversource Corp., is working through the permitting process to build New York’s first offshore wind farm.
Mr. Zombek has never met any of the seven of us on Win With Wind’s steering committee. He seems to be parroting a conspiracy narrative promulgated by local anti-wind forces. Haven’t we had enough of bogus conspiracies served up as fact?
Thankfully for our reputations, we at Win With Wind are well known to our respective communities, where we engage in community, environmental, and philanthropic work, and everyone who does know us probably got quite a giggle out of Mr. Zombek’s ridiculous claim. Since we don’t know Mr. Zombek, and he doesn’t know us, the only plausible explanation I can think of for his lying letter is that someone put him up to it. I don’t know whether to be angry at Mr. Zombek or feel sorry for him.
To be clear, here are the facts: Win With Wind is a group of citizens who believe in the urgent necessity of renewable energy, including wind power, and we do our best to educate the public about the potential benefits of the South Fork Wind Farm. We deserve an apology from Mr. Zombek. But since he apparently does the bidding of others with dishonest and dishonorable intent, I’m not holding my breath.
January 24, 2021
Last week, a letter claimed that Win With Wind is an Orsted proxy. So, let me set everyone straight.
Win With Wind is an independent, nonpartisan group of private citizens of the Town of East Hampton that is not affiliated with or funded by Orsted or any other wind or energy development company. Win With Wind aims to produce fact-based information regarding the benefits of offshore wind energy and is working to advocate for South Fork Wind.
South Fork Wind has the support of Win With Wind and many environmental organizations both local and national, as well as the New York State authorities reviewing the project.
South Fork Wind is in the public interest. It will provide clean renewable energy to 70,000 homes and businesses on the South Fork and will serve a vital role in addressing climate change.
JEREMIAH T. MULLIGAN
Win With Wind
January 20, 2021
To the editor:
On Day Three of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s State of the State address, he detailed his plan to tackle climate change and economic disruption with public-private investment in renewable energy. This is the state’s top priority, morally and economically, and we get our own piece of the action right here on the East End.
It’s all hands on board to make New York the green energy leader of the nation. For us, here, offshore turbines now in the planning stages will make our state a global wind energy powerhouse, harnessing not only our natural wind resources, but the state’s manufacturing and logistics capabilities and people power.
While turbines will be built in the Ports of Albany and Coeymans and staged in South Brooklyn, Port Jefferson and the Port of Montauk Harbor will see the creation of ongoing jobs in operations and maintenance, well-paying ones that will keep families in the community.
As Montauk is forced to retreat from the rising waters, we’ll be solving that very problem in our own backyard, creating renewable energy to replace climate-destroying fossil fuels. We’ll have a 70-percent renewable electric grid within 10 years, and a carbon neutral one by 2040. The cheer of the day should be Yimby! Yes, in my backyard!
January 25, 2021
I write this in my private capacity, and not as a representative of the town or the town planning board, which I chair.
Yesterday, in response to the town board voting to grant an easement to allow an electrical cable beneath Beach Lane, the Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott (C.P.W.) sent an email which attacked everyone and everything with which C.P.W. disagrees, and promised that C.P.W. “will not be bullied any longer by the Supervisor and his allies, including the so-called Wainscott United. Wainscott United will do anything to stop incorporation because they have their own agenda linked to the Supervisor, as evidenced by their founders’ massive contributions to the Supervisor’s and Trustees’ political campaign.”
C.P.W.’s hypocrisy knows no bounds. As reported in the New York Post on Saturday, C.P.W. “amassed nearly $1 million in donations during its first year in operation and spent $307,734 to hire high-powered Mercury Public Affairs in Manhattan to represent it, according to its tax filing.” I doubt whether the total of all campaign contributions made by every member of Wainscott United to the supervisor and trustees amounts to even 1 percent of the genuinely massive war chest which C.P.W. plans to unleash against the town. Indeed, C.P.W. promises, without a care about the legal costs to the town, “we expect to move forward with litigation in the coming days.”
Wainscott United’s only agenda is to bring the truth to Wainscott voters about the serious, long-term dangers of incorporation, and to shine a light on C.P.W.’s false promises and fictional financial projections. C.P.W.’s only real agenda is to prevent the Beach Lane cable landing, and it is ruthless in its efforts to achieve this singular goal. C.P.W. has proposed a boundary that deprives nearly 100 of our neighbors access to the ocean beach closest to their homes, thus decimating their property values. C.P.W. bemoans the town board’s “rush” to grant the Beach Lane easement, yet C.P.W. insists on bringing its incorporation petition in the midst of a pandemic. C.P.W.’s big money ad campaign and its intimidation tactics have divided our once-harmonious hamlet. Yet C.P.W. does not seem to care, just as long as the Beach Lane cable landing is stopped.
I shudder to imagine what life will be like if Wainscott is incorporated and the self-appointed guardians of democracy at C.P.W. are put in charge.
Very truly yours,
January 23, 2021
Nowhere in the town code does it say residents of Wainscott are forbidden from running for town board. Nor does any law say they may not be appointed to any board within the town. For all of the residents who are complaining that Wainscott has no representation in town government I say: Run for office! Be the government you want instead of complaining. Step up.
Wainscott residents have always participated in town government. For all of the new people who have no knowledge of our history, here are some names: Diana Weir, Nancy McCaffrey, Richard Myers, James McCaffrey, Sam Kramer, and we even had a congressman to the United States House of Representatives from Wainscott!
While you are all complaining on Zoom about lack of representation, the rest of us are happily enjoying all the benefits of what East Hampton Town has accomplished for the residents of Wainscott, like our delicious $24 million clean water. Or we are out biking, walking, or just enjoying the views looking at the $50 million invested in Wainscott for over 750 acres of land preservation, agricultural preserves, and open vistas.
We are content in the arms of the good governance and very competent Town of East Hampton. It is a government that functions, has a triple-A bond rating, and has treated us well. For those of you who are not happy: Run for office!
DOREEN A. NIGGLES
January 25, 2021
As a longtime Wainscott resident and a member of Wainscott United, a group of Wainscott residents opposed to incorporating our 350-year-old hamlet, I am deeply offended by the spurious claims made by Mr. Zombek in his Jan. 21 letter to the editor. Contrary to his assertions, Wainscott United has no connection to Orsted, and our organization takes no position on the cable landing. (Like many of our members, I’ve personally remained neutral on the cable landing.)
Wainscott United’s sole purpose is to expose the facts regarding the real and damaging consequences of incorporating Wainscott, information you won’t find in the glossy materials prepared by the high-priced consultants retained by the promoters of incorporation, Citizens for the Protection of Wainscott.
Mr. Zombek’s implications regarding Wainscott United’s finances are as egregious as they are absurd. Our “P.R.” consists mainly of volunteers sitting behind a plastic table at the Wainscott Post Office, where they offer residents the truth about the considerable pitfalls of incorporation, which include having to pay skyrocketing taxes for an unnecessary layer of government.
Wainscott United’s finances stand in stark contrast to those of C.P.W. As the New York Post just reported, in its first year C.P.W. raised nearly $1 million and spent more than $300,000 on a high-powered N.Y.C. public relations firm.
I had hoped the events of Jan. 6 would usher in a new era where facts and truth would once again matter. Sadly, and to the detriment of our community, that’s not yet the case for those pushing incorporation. Thank you.
A Million Dollars
January 17, 2021
Last week I wrote to you about one of the many reasons that cause me to encourage my neighbors in Wainscott to vote against incorporation should it ever come to that. I mentioned in that letter that the proponents of incorporation have oddly skipped over the fact that when another hamlet on Long Island tried the same maneuver, it wound up facing economic ruin with property tax bills threatening to increase by 400 percent and a Moody’s bond rating that would have made it outlandishly expensive just to run the village. Of course, the citizens of that failed attempt to see benefit from a village incorporation soon reversed their decision when they grasped they’d been sold a simply untrue promise for who knows what reasons.
Gee, I haven’t been able to find that fact in the mailings and website of the Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott. Is it because it doesn’t fit their narrative and might make the rest of us wonder why they are spending such huge sums on public relations and lawyers and why were they for the longest time so difficult to identify? What’s with the glossing over of difficult truths? And what’s with the secrecy?
So, that’s another reason I began to reconsider my position and go public with my opposition to the incorporation of Wainscott (I have other objections as well). I found the C.P.W. and what was driving it to be wanting in “transparency,” as we like to say nowadays.
I had to undertake focused research and spend a lot of time trying to find out who, precisely, were these Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott. Is this a grassroots organization, a local group that represents a cross-section of the population, demographics, and opinions of people who live here in our hamlet? Why wasn’t I, a voter and taxpayer here in Wainscott, invited to their meetings? Who was?
What I learned in this research led me to suspect that my letter that appeared in last week’s Star might well have sparked the proponents of incorporation to rev up their costly, Washington D.C.-based P.R. machine. In fact, there might well be a number of letters in this very Letters section this week which purport to refute any truths that might call into question the rash and unnecessary drive to incorporate and to provide only the facts and figures that tell the story they wish to tell, rather than the full story. As you read them, full of the “sky is falling” drama, you might wish to wonder if their real source is a big P.R. company that has benefited from a massive expenditure of the C.P.W..
Let me explain. You can find online the C.P.W.’s 990 form. It’s an elegant, public document that shows the C.P.W. has in fact come out and stated who they are and where they are spending their money. That’s good, but of course it’s required by law and there are questions.
Whenever there is an organization that wants to think of itself as nonprofit or educational, it can gather in contributions and grants a large amount of money and then form itself into a tax-exempt entity such as a 501(c)(4) and submit said 990 form to the I.R.S. Some people I have known are very fond of these well-funded tax-exempt entities. In the 990, the C.P.W. must disclose to the public who’s involved at a certain level how much income they got, and where the largest chunks of their expenses went.
The most recent 990 for the C.P.W. I could find online (and feel free to use Google to search this information yourself) was for the period ending September 2019 and submitted in October 2020. It shows just how important our hamlet is, and how much money it seems to be worth to some people.
The “contributions and grants” line shows $920,250. That’s right — nearly a million dollars was contributed or granted to the organization, but where that money came from isn’t identified. Was it civic-minded individuals who didn’t mind giving that much? I hope the C.P.W. steps forward and tells the rest of us, their neighbors who also own in Wainscott, how the coffers were funded at such an impressive level by what or by whom. Why not tell us?
What is identified in this public document is that Gouri Edlich is listed as chair/treasurer; Carol T. Finley is listed as secretary; Brooke Garber Neidich is listed as director; Vanessa Cornell is listed as director, and Alexander Edlich is listed as former chair. All of that, then, is just fine and aboveboard, though many people I know in Wainscott could never before figure out who these citizens were. Now we know. (To be continued next week.)
January 22, 2021
To the Editor,
Whether we have a two-party or multiparty system, there must be a representation of the majority and minority for there to be healthy and robust governance. Bipartisan governance is what fosters where ideas are freely exchanged and give voice to all. Today, East Hampton is a one-party government that has very publicly gone to great lengths to marginalize dissenting representatives within town government.
Let’s look at Wainscott — groundwater pollution, failure to address concerns of the airport, and a hamlet study that calls for unwanted development and cluster housing in the age of Covid. If that was not bad enough, the town supervisor removed a town board liaison that the community liked while refusing to address community concerns over the hamlet’s industrialization to accommodate the South Fork windmills’ power cables.
After years of mistreatment and dismissal, the Wainscott community seeks to incorporate their hamlet into a village to get out from under the East Hampton Town Board’s control.
This is no way to run town government, but then again, what do you expect from a town board that is 100 percent controlled by one political party that is so rigid it crushes its committee members at the first signs of dissent to the party’s doctrine?
East Hampton Town
January 21, 2021
To the Editor,
In reference to a letter I sent to the chairman of the board of Optimum and to the corporation’s general counsel, no one in the corporate suite has seen fit to contact me about my concerns.
Following the events of Jan. 6, many corporations have seen fit to withdraw their financial support from persons and entities who foment insurrection and disseminate lies of election fraud, finally acknowledging the role that they have played in passively and actively supporting the politicians and organizations that put our democracy in jeopardy.
Optimum should demonstrate its commitment to upholding our democracy and, as an act of corporate responsibility, remove Newsmax and any other station that disseminates insurrectionist lies. I urge your readers and the editorial board of The Star to join me in calling upon Optimum to remove Newsmax from all of its channel lineups.
SARA R. THRONE
Stroke of a Pen
January 23, 2021
To the Editor,
Politically speaking, is there anything that we can agree on? Let’s see.
There is something wrong in the political process and I think it has a lot to do with the erosion of the process itself. In the first few days of President Biden’s administration I’ve been surprised by the stack of executive orders he has signed. All types of issues from the pipeline to the minimum wage to immigration policy have been dealt with at breakneck speed and the stroke of a pen. My purpose is not to argue the merits of his policy decisions but rather to pause and consider the process itself. Intentionally, let’s avoid the comparative language of better or worse.
In terms of process, President Trump was no different, issuing edicts with the stroke of a pen. Some may say, well, Trump was much better, or Biden worse, or vice versa, but that would have to do with how your sensibilities align with the content of their executive orders rather than the process by which they’re enacted. What is essentially law is now determined by the stroke of a pen. Some say that President Obama really got the ball rolling on stretching the boundaries of executive orders. But his were overturned by his successor, and now President Trump is being overturned by his successor. Does anyone see a problem here?
Canada (our pipeline business partner) does, and so do the families who picked up and moved to work on the pipeline project. Huge investments had been at first mobilized and then completely devalued by a signature, on two different occasions less than four years apart. To stay focused on the process problem and avoid debate about the merits of either of the two decisions, consider this: You begin to build a house after securing permissions and permits. The next elected official in office, before your house is done, says “Nah, this is no good for the neighborhood. I’m revoking your permits.” What happened? Well, no one represented your interests before the decision was made. No one debated the need to hang your interests in the balance with the competing sensibilities. There was no integrity in the original permits and no integrity in the decision-making process that nullified them. The value of stability was ignored. How do we solve for this unreliable, unstable, inconsistent, knee-jerk, stroke of a pen, spur of the moment, politically expedient, virtue signaling, ever pandering, weathervaning, impulsive, self-aggrandizing, last opinion heard, nonsense? We should all say not so fast!
What if we had a functioning representative democracy?
The point of my writing is that I fear we have resorted to electing and empowering kings who are way too comfortable exercising judgment without considerable debate or constraining checks and balances. We call them presidents; we call them governors. It’s as if, once elected, they’ve been entrusted with supreme authority and ever-decreasing constraint. Can they really or rather, should they really, be able to “accomplish” so much with the stroke of a pen? Why have other government officials abdicated the authority of their offices in our representative democracy? Is it enough for our elected officials to make noise, applauding or criticizing the decisions of a single president, when their role is to be actively engaged and accountable in the process of consideration and debate?
The president and executive branch do play an important role in executing the laws of the land much as the C.E.O. of a company approves and facilitates the execution of an agreed-upon (by the shareholders) corporate strategy. But should presidential power extend to their doing whatever they think is best? Maybe in a time of crisis. But we’d better define what defines a crisis and for how long. Think snowstorm, not global warming. (Don’t get me started on what’s happened in Albany.)
It is time to recalibrate. Obama, Trump, Biden — whoever! Why are the passions running so high? Because they have too much power. They are too consequential. Take away the stroke of the pen. Insist on constitutional process. Make our other elected representatives accountable to do their jobs. Too many of them are posers at best, freeloaders at worst. Does anyone even read what they sign?
Let’s get every executive order reviewed and voted on by both the House and the Senate regardless of who signed them. Let’s put the toothpaste back in the tube regarding executive power by re-establishing law as law and the process of making laws as a non-circumventable process. Some executive orders should be reviewed by the Supreme Court, but all should be pressure tested as to whether they are in fact accept-able and validated as law. We should also revisit the limits of executive authority.
As Americans, I think we can agree to follow and be governed by established laws, like it or not, but we’re pushed to the point of anger when we’re just expected to follow orders. We don’t have rulers, now, do we? We should value the consistency, stability, and integrity afforded by good process in government. We don’t have to reinvent it. It’s our inheritance.
Can we agree?
January 23, 2021
To the Editor,
I am glad our elected officials spoke out against the attack on our Capitol. The people who did this are against everything our government stands for. We decide by voting, not mob rule, who will lead our country. Not a bully. Glad he is gone. Now our country can join the world again.
Disease Is Within
January 25, 2021
Let’s celebrate, but it’s no time to fall asleep. We are not one full week after the unusual, but dignified and safe, inauguration of our 46th president of the United States of America, Joe Biden, and V.P. Harris; and only a little more than two weeks after the historic invasion of the Capitol of the United States of America that caused extensive deliberate destruction and loss of life.
Ronna McDaniel (The New York Times: “A Romney Who Is Unfailingly Loyal to Trump”) has been re-elected chairwoman of the Republican National Committee. I left the Republican Party years ago, but their letters and emails follow me everywhere. I continue to receive vile propaganda from them today that is exactly equivalent to the garbage I received from Trump and his crowd before. Ronna also seems to have taken over the ugly Twitter storm that was Trump’s specialty, until he got cut off. Nothing much at the R.N.C. has changed.
Except for those individuals deliberately immune to facts, the worldwide spectacle at the Capitol confirmed the dangerous threat that ignorance, propaganda, and the corruption of government and law enforcement have become to civilization and democracy.
Unfortunately, many of the perpetrators remain at large and will likely avoid meaningful prosecution. This includes those who have already infiltrated Congress and law enforcement. They blatantly used their respected status as a cover for their revolting behavior and many continue their plan, despite the public’s outrage.
My point today is that the disease that is within our government remains alive and active, and those dark forces continue to plot the destruction of our orderly democracy. These people never quit, and we should not think the removal of Trump was a “magic cure.” We cannot allow ourselves to be fooled by the sudden quiet and peace.
Mitch McConnell always hated Trump, but found him most useful as the president. He just dumped him as useless and toxic, but Mitch hasn’t suddenly become our friend, or a fan of honest democracy. These folks intend to destroy the Biden efforts to rehabilitate democracy and already are aggressively fund-raising by spreading their lies and misinformation.
The R.N.C. messages I now get show that nothing has changed. Negotiation and compromise are not in their vocabulary, just a desperate need to regain power for their greedy agenda — and a continuation of “alternate reality” lies and a hatred of all things Biden.
Our hard-won advantage is fragile, and we should not expect Biden and Harris to fight this battle for us successfully without our continued support and attention.
January 21, 2021
Our congressman, Lee Zeldin, keeps some very dangerous company.
Have you ever heard of the Oath Keepers? Neither had I until the aftermath of the siege of the Capitol on Jan. 6. As the F.B.I. began its roundup arrests of the Jan. 6 rioters, it ratcheted up its investigation into the role extremist groups played in the siege of the Capitol.
One of the extremist groups targeted by the F.B.I. was the Oath Keepers — and its splinter groups. Oath Keepers patches and logos were worn by many of the Capitol rioters. And, so far, several members of the group have been arrested, including members who assaulted federal officers with baseball bats and chemical spray.
The Oath Keepers is about as extremist as a far-right group can get. In November, one of the arrested group members promised “a lot of bloodshed” if the Biden-Harris team won the election, claiming that the country is being pushed to “a point where we have no choice” but to resort to violence. Now “resist and nullify” seems to be a new call to action. To its members, the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre was a hoax, President Obama is a Muslim extremist, and Senator John McCain was “a traitor who should be hung by the neck until dead.” Not surprisingly, its members are virulently anti-Semitic.
You know who has heard of the Oath Keepers? You guessed it — our congressman, Lee Zeldin. Back in 2015, Mr. Zeldin even addressed the Long Island chapter of the group. It is truly incomprehensible that Mr. Zeldin, who swore an oath to uphold and protect our Constitution, would openly embrace a group that was committed to fighting the tyranny they find in our local, state, and federal governments — in other words, anarchy is its goal. And white supremacy. At the time, Mr. Zeldin’s spokesperson incredibly likened these extremists to the Sierra Club, a group whose goal is environmental protection. He has never denounced the group.
As the night of Jan. 6 gave way to Jan. 7, Mr. Zeldin kept faith with the Oath Keepers, doing his part from the House floor to overthrow the 2020 election and allow anarchy to reign.
There can now be no doubt that Mr. Zeldin has been blinded by an amoral ambition that has sucked from him whatever shreds of decency he once harbored. While Mr. Zeldin often labels his Democratic brethren as extremist left-wing nut jobs, it is he who openly brandishes an extremism that has no place in the halls of Congress.
January 23, 2021
It is important to recognize that the reliance on lies by Donald Trump was not an aberration within the Republican Party. Rather, it was the culmination of the only strategy available to a party that wants to win elections despite policies harmful to the overwhelming majority of Americans.
To be clear: I’m not referring to the Fox News viewer or the Rush Limbaugh listener, who is a victim rather than a perpetrator. I’m talking about the strategists, lobbyists, and think tanks that concoct the language and arguments that Fox News parrots on behalf of the monied interests who fund the Republican Party: big oil, the Kochs, the Mercers, and the semi-rich who believe in their heart of hearts that they should not be taxed. (Or even have a cable buried in their neighborhood that would deliver clean energy to their entire town.)
Even Republican President George Bush Sr. called trickle-down economics “voodoo economics.” This is the argument that reducing taxes on the rich and corporations results in the betterment of the less affluent. Yet it has remained the argument and strategy of Republicans during the intervening 30 years. Result: The poor and middle class gleaned no economic benefit of prosperity and were squeezed into poverty as the financial share of the rich ballooned to an unprecedented percentage of private wealth.
It is the Republican strategy of education policy called by the misleading name, “school choice,” wherein money is diverted to support of religious schools as a buy-out for evangelical Christians at the same time they starve public education of funding. Poorly educated citizens are more easily misled and manipulated.
It is the Republican strategy of claiming that climate change is not a problem, despite clear and overwhelming scientific consensus that it is an urgent and existential threat to civilization and the longer it is ignored, the closer it comes to unstoppable.
It is the Republican strategy of demonizing “Socialism!” when describing programs that every other thriving capitalistic country on earth has implemented to make capitalism function better: universal health care, public transportation infrastructure, even Social Security, which Republicans have long sought to destroy.
Donald Trump’s Big Lie, that the election was fraudulent, abetted by the vocal support of more than half of the Republican House caucus, led to a mob of deluded citizens attacking the Capitol, bludgeoning a cop to death, with intent to lynch the vice president. This was the logical and predictable culmination of the party that averted its eyes from his thousands of lies throughout his campaign and presidency.
Lee Zeldin has been one of the most culpable in supporting Trump throughout his four years in office. What did Zeldin get in return? Lots of campaign cash from the Kochs, et al., and the devotion of the same deluded voters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6.
I believe that Zeldin is too smart to be so deluded. As a lawyer, he could not have missed that every attempt by Trump’s minions to get the courts to agree that the election was flawed had been summarily dismissed, even by Trump-appointed judges on the Supreme Court. Zeldin knew he was pushing a lie when he voted for wholesale disenfranchisement of American voters. A man who would steal votes deserves no votes from us, yet I hear no call from Republicans for Zeldin to step down.
A Southern expression describes the Republican Party post-Trump: “The last bird is gone, but we still can’t get the stink out of the henhouse.”
January 21, 2021
To the Editor
When people are confronted with a political movement that promotes fear, hatred, and bigotry, they have several options. They can join the movement because they agree with its ideology or see it as a way to increase their social and economic status. They can fight it with nonviolent or violent methods. Another option is to do nothing and remain silent.
The riot that occurred on Jan. 6 should not have been a surprise to anyone. It was the logical apex of four years of the Trump presidency and its success at promoting the Big Lie. Indeed, Trumpism began with the “birther” lie and ended with the election lie. Trump was successful in promoting Joseph Goebbels’s belief that the more outrageous the lie, the more likely people are to believe it. For millions of Americans the truth became a lie, and the lie became the truth.
For four years House and Senate Republicans turned a blind eye to Trump’s contempt for democracy, his love of American enemies, his disdain for our allies, and his encouragement of violence by right-wing extremists. They did nothing when he tried to extort a foreign leader to get dirt on Biden’s son. They refused to criticize Trump when he called Covid-19 a Democratic hoax and helped to bring about the deaths of 450,000 Americans, the closure of businesses, and the unemployment of millions.
The only time congressional Republicans did speak out was after the Jan. 6 riot that was organized and endorsed by Trump and carried out by Nazis, white supremacists, the Proud Boys (who did not “stand down”), anti-Semites (still “very fine people”), and other domestic terrorists.
As a result of the riot, five people are dead including a Capitol Police officer who was beaten to death by the mob. To most Americans, the angry Republican words directed to Trump after the riot were due to the threat to their own safety rather than a repudiation of Trumpist ideology. Cruz, Hawley, McConnell, Scalise, Collins, McCarthy, and many others seem to have forgotten their endorsement of Trumpism or their silence for the past four years. It seems rather duplicitous that they were now aghast at Trump’s behavior.
The fact that McConnell, Pence, and other Republican leaders attended Biden’s inauguration does not mitigate their four years of accommodating and promoting the lies of Donald Trump. They had an opportunity to disavow Trump when he was impeached and chose not to do so. Their sycophancy and silence culminated in Trump’s seditious and treasonous attempt to overthrow the government on Jan. 6.
Rather sadly, congressional Republicans were deaf to Elie Wiesel’s words that “Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the oppressed. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
God bless our republic,
His ‘Genius Brain’
January 22, 2021
To the Editor,
If Donald Trump had ever tested his boast, “I could shoot somebody in the middle of Fifth Avenue and not lose any voters” by actually shooting someone, how many of his 74 million voters would still have voted for him?
How many of his 74 million voters would have still voted for him if he had incited the attack on our Capitol before Election Day, and before early voting and absentee balloting had begun?
How many of his 74 million voters believe that he personally used his “genius” brain to do all-nighters inside the White House, dressed in a white lab coat, creating, developing, testing, and manufacturing the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines at “warp speed”? And do any of his 74 million voters assign him any blame for the crap speed at which it is way too slowly being injected into the 660 million arms of 330 million Americans?
And finally, if (former!) President Trump survives his second (record!) impeachment and does a Grover Cleveland by winning a second nonconsecutive term in 2024, will our nation survive four more years of what he calls “winning”— especially if he is succeeded by eight years apiece of President Don Jr. (2029-37), President Ivanka (2037-45), President Eric (2045-53), President Tiffany (2053-61), and President Barron (2061-69)?
Not to Impose
January 25, 2021
The Biden-Harris inauguration was a much-awaited return to the normalcy of U.S. politics. There was a calm purposeful sense that ran through the process with none of the mindless egomania and bullshit that characterized the past four years. There was, however, a strong sense of religion and the presence of God. That is more than a little troubling.
The assault by religious institutions on our democracy under the guise of religious freedom has haunted us during the Trump reign of terror. We have become a nation that refuses to deal with truth and fact but relies on equivocation as its primary form of debating issues.
Reality isn’t based on a set of facts but on what someone says it is, fabricating reality from small bits of truth and juxtaposing them against proven fact. Separating church and state is one of our most egregious equivocations. Claiming certainty in the face of mythology and repetition.
Is there a God or a chosen people or a set of religious principles that are different from secular principles? The nation’s founders and the Constitution are unambiguous without equivocation. Imagining a democracy based on a set of facts and principles was diametrically opposed to the divine right of kings. The concept of a governing body being the head of the church diminished rational and fact-based decision making from the governing process. God’s will can only be irrational. Separating church and state, in 1789, was absolutely essential to craft a democracy. The concession to religion was the freedom to practice, but not to impose.
Religion has a role in our Democracy. It is a force for order and a source for individuals to attain a level of personal well-being. It is enormously useful but not essential. It is almost always threatened by its fragility, which causes it to put survival ahead of service. We will do anything we can to survive and in the name of religion that willingness has been expressed forever. After all, despite God’s intentions, it is man-made.
Never in our history has religious freedom been so perverse and subversive. The betrayal of the Constitution with phantasmagorical ideas that the founders of our country didn’t believe in the total separation of church and state highlights the egregious intermingling of Christianity and fascism. “In God we trust” has always been a recipe for disaster. We seem unable to accept this God-given truth.