April 15, 2021
Remember when Sag Harbor — quite proudly, as I recall — considered itself “the UnHampton?” Sag Harbor was the fun Hampton, even the funky Hampton (and I mean that as a compliment).
True, we won’t be seeing the likes of Ivan’s Shoe Store or the Black Buoy ever again, but, please, enough is enough!
ALICE C. RAGUSA
April 17, 2021
I was excited watching the Bay Street Theater’s short online presentation and seeing the renderings unveiled for their new building at 22 Long Island Avenue and West Water Street, where the 7-Eleven is located. What a spectacular gateway to the village that will be, especially if 2 Main Street is included and torn down to include that parcel as an addition to the new John Steinbeck Park.
The 7-Eleven complex and 2 Main Street have always been eyesores that don’t mix architecturally with the historic character of the village. The new Bay Street Theater design is a far better nod to the feeling of East End architecture with its double gabled roofs that feel familiar and echo the shapes of barns, existing buildings, and even the Parrish Museum. It’s a big building, but the long profile feels low with its sloping roofs and the horizontal slats covering the windows. It’s light and airy and the view looking down the wharf from inside should be spectacular.
I love the rendering looking at the building from the water, portions of it are very light and transparent. With glass on both sides, you will be able to look through much of the building.
First-time visitors entering Sag Harbor via 114, coming over the bridge from the Cross Sound Ferry or the North Fork, or folks arriving by boat, whether it’s a small boat tying up for the afternoon or a large yacht planning a longer stay, will be treated to a dramatic, welcoming sight. Imagine the sensational impression the theater and park will make.
I hope the acquisition of the 2 Main Street property becomes part of the plan. If they remove that unattractive building and make that parcel part of the new Steinbeck Park the newly resulted complex will literally become the entrance to, and the center of, Sag Harbor. It will be Sag Harbor’s new front yard.
The renderings of the new park on the Sag Harbor website look spectacular. I’m confident that Ed Hollander will create a world class design that will become symbolic of Sag Harbor, along with the charming, historic houses, windmill, Watch Case, American Hotel, and the wonderful, newly restored Sag Harbor Cinema. I eagerly look forward to the final design of the park. It’s good that we waited to come up with a plan, because the addition of the theater property in the mix will change the concept.
Between the Sag Harbor Cinema and the new Bay Street Theater and the plans they both have to involve the community year round, Sag Harbor is destined to become the cultural hub of Long Island.
I live in East Hampton, but I consider Sag Harbor my back yard. I’m proud of Sag Harbor and love to take houseguests to visit the village. There is so much to see and do, strolling the streets of charming houses, visiting the unique shops, great restaurants, interesting museums, and a stroll down Long Wharf with an ice cream cone. With the new theater and cinema, there will be so much more once we get back to normal. These wonderful plans only make Sag Harbor even more of a destination.
I encourage everyone to enthusiastically contribute what they can to making this a reality. It will enrich our lifestyle in the Hamptons.
April 19, 2021
To the Editor:
I write this letter in memory of my mother, Tina Fredericks. She was a proud and longstanding member of the Ladies Village Improvement Society, and even on her longest workdays of driving around showing houses in East Hampton, she would often say, “Look where my office is: Around every corner is a beautiful view, old trees, foggy ocean, and green fields.” Tina felt the mission of the L.V.I.S. — to maintain the natural beauty of our town — was well worth supporting, and she did.
She also believed in the old adage, “beauty is as beauty does” — and what the L.V.I.S. is now doing and saying to several longstanding members (volunteers all) is not beautiful!
Several L.V.I.S. members have publicly spoken out against the recent hiring of Russell Kratoville. Why did they hire a man for this position? Why do they seem so uninterested in his litigious past? Most important, why are they threatening people who speak out against him by saying that they risk termination from the L.V.I.S.?
Every year the L.V.I.S. sends out a fund-raising letter to secure the wherewithal to do their good works. I will not be sending any money this year, and I urge everyone who loves the beauty that comes from community participation, volunteerism, and speaking truth to power to do the same.
Should Have Expected
April 16, 2021
To the Editor:
One has to wonder how the Ladies Village Improvement Society can reconcile suppressing freedom of expression with improving the quality of life in the Town of East Hampton. It’s not as if the people who spoke out about the hiring of a male executive director accused him of a crime or questioned his ability to handle the job; they only expressed their consternation about hiring a male for the job.
Surely, the search committee and the board should have expected blowback from their decision. It’s hard to believe that, in this day and age, they couldn’t have found a qualified woman for the job.
I will no longer feel any guilt about tossing all those endless requests for donations from the L.V.I.S. directly into the trash, and I suspect other women offended by the L.V.I.S. board’s actions will do the same.
April 19, 2021
This is the fourth year that Montauk’s Third House Nature Center has been hatching and releasing once-plentiful, northern bobwhite quail in an effort to re-establish wild populations on Montauk. We have released over 700 birds to date.
We are asking for community help in assessing the program before we begin releasing this year’s birds, which starts in June. If anyone sees, or hears the distinctive call, of bobwhite (on Montauk only) we would love to hear about it. Please note the location, date and time of day, and if you get close enough to see whether the bird is wearing a leg band, that would be helpful information. Leg bands are placed on either the right or left leg and are either light blue or metal-colored. The placement and color indicate which year they were released.
Please visit thirdhousenaturecenter.org for program details and our contact information.
Montauk Quail Restoration Project
Third House Nature Center
East Hampton Village
April 13, 2021
Dear East Hampton Star,
Time for something cheerful. Believe it or not, it’s hummingbird season again. I’m writing this on April 13, and as of this morning ruby-throated hummingbirds are already as far north as Maine and Nova Scotia! The first New York State report was more than a month ago at Jamaica Bay. My own feeders have been out since I saw that first report but, as usual, no hummers yet. The “magic” day is supposed to be April 14 for eastern Long Island, but this doesn’t take into account that the birds have been moving north earlier every year for the past decade. I generally see my first hummingbirds in May, usually after the 15th. Last year, however, my first personal sighting was on May 2. The point is that if you want to try to attract hummingbirds this year, now is the time to put the feeders out.
Hummingbird nectar is easy to make at home as long as you have ordinary, plain, white table sugar. The ratio if sugar to water is 1:4, so to make 1 cup of nectar, you add 1/4 cup sugar to 1 cup water. Many sources recommend boiling the water before measuring and mixing. I find this is not necessary. Not only does the sugar dissolve in cold water reasonably rapidly, but then there is no need to work ahead. I just mix nectar as I need it. Important note: never color the nectar. It’s not necessary and there is strong evidence that it can actually cause the birds kidney problems. If you buy nectar, make sure it doesn’t contain preservatives, colorants or anything which is not either glucose or sucrose. And remember, artificial sweeteners are not sugar and so are completely unacceptable. Just as unacceptable are honey, agave nectar, brown sugar of any kind, especially unrefined sugar.
Nectar can spoil and it does so more rapidly as temperatures rise. Now, you can probably get away with leaving the feeder out for a week at the most without changing the nectar. Once the daytime temperatures get into the 70s, nectar will need to be changed every two to three days. Above 80 degrees, it’s advisable to change the nectar daily. Out West, where they have hummingbirds year-round, many hummingbird enthusiasts will actually change the nectar two or three times a day if the temperature is above 90 degrees. The two things to watch out for are fermentation and black mold. Fermentation is a process where bacteria picked up from the air turn the sugar in the nectar into alcohol, which the birds then drink and get drunk. The black mold that inevitably turns up on most casually hung feeders can be deadly to the birds. The best way to deal with it is soak the feeder for 20 minutes in 10 percent chlorine bleach solution and then rinse very well. I like to have a bunch of back-up feeders so that I can replace one that needs this kind of maintenance if necessary and keep my clientele.
Stay away from inverted-bottle feeders, the ones that have a stopper and a clear-glass tube at the bottom. These drip and many don’t hold nectar very well and the result is lots of ants under the feeder. The best feeders in my opinion are fountain-style feeders which, though similar to inverted-bottle style feeders, are much less drippy and a lot easier to maintain. The best of these feeders in my opinion is made by a Texas company called Best-1 which you can find at Wild Bird Crossing in Bridgehampton. But if you can’t get there, Perky Pet makes a number of good hummer feeders, as do Droll Yankees and Aspects. If you are looking for a bit of elegance, go for the hand-blown glass feeders from Par*A*Sol (again, don’t be tempted by the inverted bottle feeders, go for the “bouquet” feeders instead.
The only hummingbird species we see during breeding season on Long Island is the ruby-throated hummingbird. What’s more, we are not blessed with a large population even at the best of times. This means that they are generally difficult to attract initially and it takes patience. That being said, there is reason to believe that the Eastern Long Island population is actually growing thanks to gardens full of nectar-rich flowers and the presence of feeders throughout the breeding season. This means that there is every reason you should expect to be able to attract hummingbirds to your yard within a few weeks of first putting out the feeder. And the earlier in the season you start, the better your chances. In other words, now is the time to start! And remember that in this case more is better. The more feeders we put out, the more likely the birds will be to seek us out.
The last thing you need to know is that the males tend to be gone by September and the females and immature birds from the last brood will generally be gone by mid-October. While it is okay to put the feeder away for the Winter, you can also leave it up in which case you might actually see stray rufous hummingbirds or the even more rare black-chinned hummingbird. These are birds that are lost and trying to find their way south. There is also evidence that some birds may winter as far north as the Carolinas and in the West, at least two reports of year-round sightings of ruby-throats in Washington State. If they can survive there year round, they can certainly survive here too.
Anyway, I hope you consider putting out a feeder for these magnificent little birds. They can really cheer you up when you see them.
April 19, 2021
Exactly three years ago The East Hampton Star ran an article about my husband, Dr. James Meyer. In your article you discussed how James had begun to get another advanced degree, this time from the prestigious Oxford University in Great Britain.
I am thrilled to inform you that James has finished the Master of Science. This program, M.Sc. in evidence-based health care (medical statistics) was completed by Dr. Meyer with an overall distinction, the highest mark possible.
“An appraisal of the heterogeneity and its potential causes in a diagnostic test accuracy meta-analysis of the biomarker ACTH for the diagnosis of PPID in the horse” is the title of Dr. Meyer’s 124-page thesis submitted to Oxford University.
Dr. Meyer’s thesis was so well received by Oxford, the university contacted him and has asked to use his manuscript as a sample for the university for the next academic year.
To our knowledge, Dr. Meyer has become the first board-certified large animal veterinarian worldwide to receive this degree in human medicine.
Due to Covid guidelines, we will not be traveling to England to see James receive his diploma in person this June, but it will hang with pride of place in our home.
I cannot begin to express how immensely proud I am of James. His hard work and dedication to achieving this degree has paid off and he is the best example that anyone can do anything if they try.
April 12, 2021
I write this in my private capacity and not as a representative of the town or the town planning board, which I chair.
On March 4, Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc rejected the petition authored by the Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott to incorporate a 4.4-square mile portion of Wainscott. New York Village Law 2-208 requires that “If no proceeding be instituted to review such decision within thirty days after such filing of the original copy thereof, the decision shall be final and conclusive.” That deadline passed last week, and no proceeding was instituted, thus ending C.P.W.’s second incorporation effort.
But rather than fade away and allow the hamlet to heal, it seems that C.P.W. is hell-bent on dragging Wainscott through another round of divisiveness. In an email to supporters that it published on Sunday, C.P.W. ignored the myriad, significant failures of its petition and launched yet another partisan attack with the false claim that the “supervisor manufactured minor technical issues.” C.P.W. promises a new petition later this year. It seems quite clear that C.P.W. knows the supervisor’s decision was correct and that a challenge to it would have failed in court.
It is a shame that C.P.W. continues to manufacture a controversy and promises to resume its selfish, narrow-minded agenda, with a dose of politics added. But C.P.W.’s latest, highly public failure has made it clear to those of us who call Wainscott home that regardless how much C.P.W. tweaks its petition’s language or trims its village’s boundaries, incorporation remains a bad idea. No amount of C.P.W.’s deceptive emails can change that.
Very truly yours,
April 19, 2021
Following up on Redjeb Jordania’s letter to the editor on April 15 — what a good idea to turn Newtown Lane into a pedestrian mall. Shops would thrive, and people would have a place to enjoy eating outside, conversing and relaxing without worrying about getting hit by a car. The pandemic has resulted in the beginning of this trend — let’s continue it.
Chance to Survive
East Hampton Village
April 19, 2021
Dear Mr. Rattray,
I met Jerry Larsen for the first time in 2018. We were hosting the P.B.A.’s Christmas Party and he was in attendance. He popped into the kitchen, introduced himself, and the conversation about the future of East Hampton Village began.
Jerry said all the right things as I went on and on about the illogical and illegal decision of the board to shut us down, about the blatant and most callous disregard for the families affected. We spoke about the continued tightening of restriction around already struggling businesses. And about the absurdity of the super scary, threatening inn narrative being passed around the village. Though I had had this talk numerous times and with many people in the months prior, this conversation felt different. This conversation felt real. I believed what he said, and I quickly came to understand that Jerry is a man of action and a man of his word.
Nearly two and half years after that fateful meeting, Mayor Larsen, Deputy Mayor Minardi, and Trustee Melendez have given the inns the chance to survive. Jerry’s continued support for all the businesses with the understanding that we are vital to the prosperity of East Hampton has been unwavering. And though you wouldn’t think this stance would be one of such controversy, he has remained steadfast and committed to it despite opposition from two other members of the board.
We at the Hedges are forever indebted to him, and we are looking forward to a busy and successful season. We will continue to operate as considerate, law abiding, good neighbors going forward.
With sincere gratitude
April 19, 2021
To the Editor:
Over the past several weeks (months?), the pages of The Star have come to resemble game boards, articles and opinions concerning the above comprising various type-filled squares and rectangles. But none have focused on the one force driving all of these issues: greed. Let’s start with parking permits.
If a private monopoly raised its prices by 25 percent with no warning and little explanation, it would rightfully be charged with price gouging. In fact this recently happened to some drug companies; notably the makers of EpiPen. But the $100 rise in village parking stickers has gone unchallenged because the village traces its despotic authority to an old English despot. Interestingly, today the queen of England has virtually no power over her subjects, let alone the citizens of neighboring countries. The village, on the other hand, treats its neighbors — those of us who live in the Town of East Hampton — as an inexhaustible resource from which many more dollars can be extracted. That the $500 parking stickers won’t even include the same privileges given villagers shines a spotlight on the village’s blind greed and gimlet-eyed focus on revenue.
As for parking itself, it seems the only sure bet is that we will have to pay. Exactly how much and by what mechanism has yet to be made public. Which should be expected. After all, royalty need not communicate with its subjects. Of course, unlike the beaches controlled by the village, the free parking lots and legibly lined curbs in Sag Harbor and Amagansett are more than a match for those in the village. So village businesses will, in effect, suffer a hidden rent increase, because fewer eyes will see their windows. But the village has decided to help.
It will do so by eliminating basketball courts from the park (where they belong), and converting that farthest end of the park into an area to be used by farm stands, which would not only eliminate a teenage amenity, but draw even more shoppers away from Newtown Lane. And my guess is that village strolls will become less frequent and shorter once people realize their time is the village’s money!
Which gives me an idea the village could quickly implement. You know those wooden benches you can rest on for free. . . .
April 19, 2021
In the March 18 East Hampton Star, a letter from the vice chairwoman of the East Hampton Democratic Committee made an error in her comment that “The committee is one of 10 subcommittees of the Suffolk County Democratic committee and we are bound by its bylaws to nominate candidates for local office.”
The bylaws of the Suffolk County Democratic Committee do not require any of the town or county Democratic committees to make nominations in Democratic primaries. In fact, that was not allowed until around 2005 when a legal challenge made it possible for a town committee to be active in a primary.
Though it is legal for a Democratic committee to endorse individuals in a primary, it is not necessary, and generally not appropriate if there are more candidates than allowed in the general election. Many town and county officials do not make endorsements prior to a primary — last year none of the four Democrat candidates were endorsed by the county for the Congressional District 1 Democratic primary.
While the East Hampton Democratic Committee initially showed some interest in supporting one of those four congressional candidates, a few of us wrote or spoke with a few other committee members and said that a selection would disrupt the impartiality needed in a Democratic primary. I thanked the local committee, as no selection was given.
Unfortunately, the East Hampton Democratic Committee has made choices already as to which Democrats they want to win, and which to lose, in the local primary that will be held this June. I do not believe that the Democratic committee should push its chosen candidates to Democratic voters as the best choices.
A Democrat primary election in June, in which only Democrats vote, is fundamentally different from the general election in November that is between political parties. We live and vote in a democracy, and our Democratic committee endorsements for a primary should not occur.
We members of the East Hampton Democratic Committee should assume that we can give good and accurate information to the public. But we should not assume that we have knowledge that is superior.
April 18, 2021
Tuesday’s boneheaded-moron incident, flying so low over Sag Harbor, is not an isolated incident. His sense of “having fun” could have killed people, and a crash could have set the village on fire. No need to mention the polluted water we drank and the air quality. Look at the size of the jets!
The East Hampton Aviation Association’s remarks are just as stupid. I have lived here for 32 years and have had hundreds of incidents, including one where a plane taking off clipped a tree and deposited the branch in my pool. I have called Flight Standards and nothing was ever done. Running into the house to open the website to report and learn the altitude, takes time and the information is not available because the plane is off the screen.
It still continues, as low-flying helicopters come at all hours and small planes doing “touch and go’s” fly over homes at dangerous levels with repetitious pass-overs. More arrests are needed.
I attended airport management advisory committe meetings, and mentioned the branch incident. Of course, a jackass on the panel waved me off with, “That never happened.” I don’t recall inviting him to my party. Was he hiding in the bushes? Mr. Malman’s comment was head scratching. I gave up attending the AMAC meetings as a waste of time.
If someone drives down Newtown Lane at 80 they would be charged with reckless endangerment and their car would be impounded and the driver arrested.
There is a resident who lives near the facility and has hours of videos showing the reckless flying over his home. Pure reckless endangerment, as are the tree-hopping occurrences. Impossible to get tail numbers at that speed and calling Flight Standards is futile.
Their so-called voluntary compliance they brag about is pure B.S. The fact that the police chief may file felony charges is a beacon, focusing on the source of dangerous conditions that exist every time a flight starts or ends. The safety of people who have to live in fear because of the increasing traffic is real, not only here but in neighboring areas. Many pilots aren’t even town residents, but endanger any tranquillity and safety.
It is well beyond the time that the safety of those of us on the ground should be the only priority. There is a big airport in Westhampton that is better suited. It’s past the time for residents’ safety over those who put us at risk. Close the damn thing as soon as the grant assurances expire. Safety and peace will be the winner.
ARTHUR J. FRENCH
April 16, 2021
On Feb. 13 (at 2:50 a.m!), after numerous failed attempts to obtain newly available CVS vaccine appointments, I sent CVS the following online page comment: “HELP! Please contact me, so that this 77-year-old and his 74-year-old wife can get an appointment for a Covid-19 first dose of vaccine—- because ever since your 777 South Oyster Bay Road, Bethpage NY 11714 pharmacy (5 minutes from my house) came online for appointments, it’s always listed as “fully booked.” I’ve now tried in the middle of the night twice (3:47 a.m. and now 2:45 a.m.) to no avail. We have been loyal CVS customers for at least 30 years, so we’d really appreciate a ‘shot’ at the vaccine. Thank you.” But I never received any response.
About two weeks later (after managing to get my wife appointments at a Walgreens), I finally managed to get my own March 1 appointment for a first dose at that same Bethpage CVS. On March 7 they emailed me a questionnaire on which I gave them a perfect 10, giving these reasons: I didn’t have to drive 2,016 miles to and from the New York State site in Buffalo (in two round trips from Long Island) in order to obtain my two required doses, nor hundreds of miles to and from any of the other state vaccination sites. Nor did I have to wait in a long line, either indoors, or outdoors in the cold or rain, And my vaccinator made me sit for 15 minutes after my shot, socially distant from others, which some other sites do not enforce, even though it is medically recommended! Thanks, and kudos to CVS. The only thing that could have made my first dose experience better would have been if the CVS vaccinator had given me a lollipop like my family doctor gave me after he vaccinated me against polio back in the 1950s, or, perhaps she could have given me a complimentary pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to take away the (slight) sting of the needle. I submitted that online evaluation to CVS on March 7, not expecting any response and didn’t receive any.
I went back to the same Bethpage CVS on April 1 for my scheduled second dose. Because it was April Fools Day, I was a tiny bit worried I might show up and be told, “April fools! ! instead of receiving a possibly life-saving needle jab but knew that was silly. (Perhaps a more valid concern was that newly eligible “young whippersnappers” like 50, 40, 30, 20, or even 16-year-olds might end up getting “my” injection.) To express my appreciation for my first-dose experience, I brought photocopies of the “Extremely Satisfied” evaluation I had submitted online, and handed them to the four employees I interacted with. The woman who checked me in, Nicole, read it and said she’d give me a lollipop after my injection. But then, while I walked to the back of the store, she followed me and asked what kind of ice cream I liked best and what flavor my wife (who had driven me to the CVS just in case I had a bad allergic reaction to the seond dose) liked best.
I named two of my many favorites, but thought nothing of it as I walked to the vaccination aisle and had my temperature checked. But later, when I had just five minutes of post-injection waiting time left, Nicole again appeared — holding a bag containing the exact two pints of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream i had named: Mint Chocolate Cookie and Half Baked! Days later, when I called the store to thank Nicole, I learned that she was not just one of the two store employees assigned to check customers in for their vaccines that day, but she happened to be Nicole Russell-White, the store manager. Suddenly, at age 77, my usual no luck or bad luck, had turned to good luck (so maybe 7 is a lucky number after all). When I had initially typed that joking “complimentary ice cream” suggestion in my March 7 email, I never expected it to come true. And I doubt that anyone at the faraway state sites in Buffalo, Plattsburgh, Potsdam, Binghamton, or Albany would have even given me a lollipop — much less two pints of premium ice cream. (Too bad I already got my two new shingles shots a few years ago.)
Ironically, more than 30 years earlier (1989), I had encouraged the students in my Oyster Bay-East Norwich School District’s “G.I.F.T.E.D.” program to enter a Ben & Jerry’s contest to create a new flavor for them, and 6th grader William Walker’s creative idea (“Totally Tubular Tootsie Roll”) had won him and his family 10 pints of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. But, because he received his prize pints in the middle of the summer, I never got to taste even one spoonful. But now I had been gifted with both 32 free fluid ounces of Ben & Jerry’s — plus one free ounce of life-saving Moderna Covid-19 vaccine!
Nothing Makes Sense
April 18, 2021
Has Joe Biden been hiding as a medium Democrat, for 40 years, while clips of him when he first became a senator proves the following: He’s nothing but a liar, a plagiarist, a two-faced talk out of both sides of his mean mouth. He’s a cheat and hiding as sweet uncle Joe.
In Washington, Biden is destroying the institutions he served and defended for 40 years. He’s lying about the new voting law in Georgia and falsely naming it’s Jim Crow on steroids. Don’t let the media brainwash you. Read the bill for yourself.
Biden contradicts himself so much, he’s very confusing as to what he stands for. There is no doctrine for him, as to what he’s doing because nothing makes sense.
Democrats condemned a law they didn’t read even before it became law and, in the process, hurt the state and the voters. Biden, Abrams, and some media realize harsh and false words on the new voting law have disastrous consequences for minority communities.
Now we are facing aggressive tensions from Russia, China, and Iran. Would love to know how Washington is going to handle these problems.
The border totally out of control because Biden hates Trump so much, he eliminated all the good Trump did for America. We have past crisis. How does he fix this? No one from the White House is even going to the border. Ms. Harris what are you saying now? You got the title, do the job
In God and country
War on Drugs
April 17, 2021
The Biden administration’s decision to punish marijuana users in his government brings back horrific nightmares from New York in the late 1960s and the War on Drugs. Of all the bad wars we initiated as a country, this is certainly the longest running and most obscene of the lot. It was beyond dumb, beyond racist and as typically American as apple pie. Without firing a shot it destroyed more lives and families than all of our wars since the Civil War combined. Calling it an obscenity is being way too generous.
I remember walking into my parents bedroom and seeing my mothers bottle of Librium on a night table. Librium and a slew of calming downer drugs were the drug of choices of American housewives during the 1950s and ‘60s. Depressed from taking care of their families and buying appliances and playing mahjong they popped pills, kept smiling, and cleaned their houses. When depression got too heavy they added a cocktail.
Skip to the present and we are in oxycontin heaven, not for depressed housewives but for working class men who have gone over the edge. What the two eras share is the role of the government and Big Pharma played in creating acceptable forms of drug reliance and addiction.
Nixon’s War on Drugs was, perhaps, the most remarkable achievement in our entire history. It doesn’t measure up to slavery and the native American genocide because they were the core statements of our Democracy and essential to our development as a nation. However, for something as irrelevant and unimportant as people wanting to get high and feel good, it was a mind-boggling effort. We consciously and willfully destroyed the lives of millions of people because the drugs they were using or wanted to use or dreamed about using weren’t produced by a certified, accredited pharmaceutical company. Follow the money.
Hillary Clintons book “It Takes a Village” is an almost perfect analogy for choosing the many drug czars who led the war on drugs. “It Takes a Village Idiot” is the only valid reference to the men who wore the epaulets. Most of them were innocuous clowns, until Bill Bennett came along. Bennett was so dumb and so steeped in fascist conservatism that he embodied an organization of Third Reichian grandeur.
While it seems unfair to use Bennett as the poster boy for the drug war it really isn’t. Bennett was addicted to alcohol, cigarettes, and gambling. Yet, he had a messianic obsession with drug abuse. Drug abusers were like pornography to him. Like many evangelicals, the most pervasive porn purveyors in the country, Bennett got his jollies off on drug abuse, an insidious kind of self-hatred that stimulated his absurd crusade.
Why was there a war on drugs in the first place? How has it lasted more than 50 years?
The history is pathetic and lame. Drugs replaced alcohol as a national prohibition to maintain and occupy the prohibition machine. But, by the 1960s we were over this self-serving piety and moving onward and upward as a nation. Drug use in minority communities was never a big deal, and no one cared about what these people did to themselves. College kids getting high wasn’t much of a concern because it kept them off the streets instead of protesting. And the government knew that this wasn’t really a problem.
Furthermore, if you weren’t a complete village idiot it was obvious that the solution to this problem, if there was one, was legalization.
Yet, both the Dems and the Repubs climbed on board the drug war train. Led by Rockefeller, a renowned pill-head, and Nixon, a paranoiac schizophrenic, they out id themselves. Three strikes and you’re out for selling an ounce of weed, 25 years in prison. Neither of our two heroes or anyone who worked with them had ever gotten high or knew someone who had gotten high. It was an idiots’ convention and barely a whimper to the contrary. (Rockie wasn’t high, he was unconscious)
With almost universal political approval, the drug war went onto automatic pilot. Millions of people were arrested and imprisoned. The rationale of imprisonment was based on two concepts. Therapeutic communities in the U.S. had never worked with poor people and even less so with African Americans, and treatment costs were astronomical. Incarceration was easy and available and fit into the country’s historic racial profile (60 percent of drug incarcerations were African American).
Every year the drug war received more funding and became part of doing business as usual. The toll on minority communities was catastrophic, less than slavery but more than Jim Crow. It was once compared to Hiroshima 10 times over.
When Bush One made Bennett the drug czar, he took it to another level. Like terrorists and communists, drug dealers and users were classified as subhuman and no longer deserving of basic constitutional protections. He unleashed the attack dogs on the local population but never got to the sources of the problem. Thirty years later, when Trump was found to have extensive dealings with Columbian drug lords in his Panama hotels and condos, it was no big deal.
When we sit down and seriously analyze the war on drugs it is obvious that this war never made any sense, had no basis in reality, and was a fabrication of a situation that merited concern but not much more. We bought the bullshit and went about destroying the lives of millions of Americans who haven’t recovered from the treatment they received. The human cost, 450,000 people still incarcerated for nonviolent drug-related crimes, is staggering. Wasted lives, destroyed families, generations of kids without parents. If that was the original purpose, it was brilliantly executed.
In 2018 the Trump administration added a new chapter to the drug war by creating minimum sentences relating to the use and sale of fentanyl. The number of arrests increased almost 4,000 times. It was a major step into authoritarian darkness and stupidity. How long does a policy have to fail before Americans recognize they screwed up. Fifty years isn’t long enough?
So, when Biden does this incredibly scary, dumb, marijuana redux it unleashes nightmares of 50 years of intense mindless cruelty. If only the Sackler family had gotten into heroine, coke, crack, and pot instead of oxy-C. Seems so hopeless that maybe prayer is the answer.