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Letters to the Editor for March 21, 2024

Wed, 03/20/2024 - 16:36

Forty Cents
        March 13, 2024
To the Editor,
        I love the Jitney and appreciate its convenience, comfort, and even its price. According to your front-page story, soon, congestion pricing will go into effect and tolls on buses will increase. Municipal busses will be exempt from the increase but the Hampton Jitney does not fall into that category. The owners are asking riders to lobby for a reduction of what is described as a 30-percent increase in its toll. But although that sounds alarming, let's look at the numbers. The toll will go up for each bus $12. The Ambassador has 30 seats; the Jitney has more. The Ambassador increase, if passed on to passengers, would raise the price of a ticket 40 cents. It would be even less on the regular Jitney. And since all the money will go to the M.T.A., it does not seem like a large burden. I will save lobbying my representatives for other issues.

Mahalo Nui Loa
        Haiku, Hawaii
        March 18, 2024
To the Editor,
        Aloha and greetings from Maui. It has been seven months since the devastating fires of Lahaina and Kula, leaving many families still without permanent housing, job insecurity, and lack of financial or government support. Despite the challenges these families are experiencing, the Ohana community support has been incredible, both here in Hawaii, on the mainland, and throughout the world. The local community has come together as a powerful group of committed residents determined to rebuild their homes, protect their rights for land and water access, as well as providing emotional/mental health support and guidance to those in need. This resilient community appreciates all the love and support given from those near and far.
        I wanted to take this opportunity to thank my hometown of Springs, East Hampton, and Montauk, for supporting the Maui Strong benefits held this past fall.
        The benefit held at the Stephen Talkhouse (organized by Will Ryan and Peter Honerkamp) directly supported two organizations : the Lahaina Giving Circle and the Art Centered Foundation. Both organizations are working closely with the community distributing direct financial assistance to individuals in need as well as creating spaces for gathering, creating art, and sharing support programs that are currently available to residents. They were deeply grateful for the financial support given and, more important, for your commitment to supporting the Hawaiian community.
        The second benefit, for the Maui Art Bag Program, was held at the AB NY Gallery (owned by Bill Quigley, organized by over 30 local artists, and in collaboration with the Anna Mirabai Lytton Foundation) and was an overwhelming success, exceeding any expectations we could have imagined. Thanks to Bill Quigley and to all the artists and community members who came out to support this silent auction. As of today we have distributed over 350 Art to Go Bags to various organizations such as the Village of Hope (who work with the foster-care community), Na Keiki O Emalia (providing peer grief support for children and teens), as well as local school counselors and educators in the public, private, and homeschooling communities.
        In addition, your generous donations have funded a startup program for a mother-child art group where mothers can bring their young children to a safe, supervised environment and have the opportunity to take free ceramics/art classes.
        Funding has also provided paints, canvases, brushes, and additional art supplies to a nonprofit organization called Art Centered. A.C. travels to different locations on the island where families are temporarily placed and does pop-up art events which are free to the community. It has been met with great interest and enthusiasm.
        Your donations have also provided local grief facilitators with puppet-making kits to assist the younger children in moving through their trauma as they gather and "talk story" with their peers. We will continue to support these organizations as they continue to grow and expand.
        All of this would not be possible without the love and support you have shown toward the residents of Maui. Many thanks go out to Will Ryan, an East Hampton artist and Maui neighbor, who shares a deep respect for this amazing community and is also committed to providing meaningful art experiences for the children and their families.
        I couldn’t be prouder of our East End community for spreading the love, empathy, and compassion you have shown. A shoutout to all the artists, musicians, family, friends, former colleagues at the Springs School, Paul and Sharon at the Springs Farmers Market, Stephen Talkhouse, AB NY Gallery, and the Anna Mirabai Lytton Foundation. To an amazing East Hampton community, thank you for making this all become a reality. Look forward to keeping you updated in the near future. Till then . . .
        Mahalo nui loa, 

Business Over Residents
        East Hampton Village
        March 18, 2024
To the Editor,
        Well, now I'm scared.
        At the last meeting of the East Hampton Village Zoning Board of Appeals, Landry's L.L.C., the owners of the Huntting Inn, persisted in including a pool and spa in the variance application for their historic site. I suppose this is not surprising given that, to date, they have not been advised that a pool is not appropriate for two of our historical districts adjacent to residential properties.
        I think it's fair to say that the natural beauty, charm, and history of our village are officially in jeopardy. The zoning board has received over 50 letters of opposition from residents, in addition to witnessing countless appearances from those opposing the inn's request for this pool and spa. What more do our village administrators need us to do to show them that we want the very elements that define our village to be preserved?
        Why is this aspect of their variance still under consideration? Is the majority no longer relevant? Are the special interests of one big business now taking priority over the rights and concerns of many village residents? If so, what entity is looking out for us, the residents?
        The village's own planner, Billy Hajek, stated "that while the addition would not be visible from either Main Street or Huntting Lane, a variance is required because it represents an expansion of a non-conforming use. The inn is located in a residential area and could not be built at that location today." If the inn could not be built there today, why is there even contemplation about making its very existence more substantial, and more detrimental to the residential surroundings? Why are the pool and spa still part of the application, unless the concerns of the residents simply don't matter? I don't think it's hard at all for the board to argue that a pool is not permissible or customary for a village inn that is located in two of its historic districts, and adjacent to a residential neighborhood that opposes it. No other variance application would be granted approval with this level of opposition.
        Landry's does not require a pool or spa to ensure a successful business. They are doing just fine, as is witnessed by all on a daily basis. Pools may be appropriate for the other properties they own; like their many Golden Nugget casinos scattered around the country. However, no one should confuse their other establishments with the Huntting Inn or mistake Atlantic City and Las Vegas for the Village of East Hampton.
        As residents, we need to pay close attention. Is our bucolic existence in East Hampton changing? How much will get chipped away this year? Or next? Head on over to Montauk or Sag Harbor during the summer months if you want to see the potential of what's in store for us if we allow business to take priority over residents. The residential component of our village has been protected and maintained for over a hundred years by those who govern our village -- for a reason. It is part of what makes our historic village special. In a world where special places are being minimized regularly, I think we can all agree that special is worth protecting and preserving.
        Absent the board's rejection of the Landry's pool and spa, which they have proven no actual need for, the residents will have to conclude that those who govern have placed us at the bottom of the priority list. If this approval occurs, all residents should be asking themselves, what village entity is looking out for us and our quality of life?

And a Hot Tub
        East Hampton Village
        March 18, 2024
Dear Sir,
        Thank you for reporting on the Huntting Inn's continued plans for a pool and hot tub before the East Hampton Zoning board of Appeals. The fundamental issue is that the neighbors and other East Hampton residents do not want a pool and hot tub of any size. Here are reasons why this is objectionable: 
        1. The Huntting Inn is located in two historic districts which were established to preserve and protect these locations. A commercial pool, and certainly a hot tub, is not in keeping with that designation and violates the village code.
        2. The inn is a nonconforming structure in a residential neighborhood. It would never receive permission to become an inn today.
        3. The Huntting Inn's property, with its massive parking lot, is already overbuilt. Adding a pool, hot tub, and terraces significantly reduces the green space surrounding the historic house.
        4. A commercial pool is very different from a residential pool. It is difficult to monitor noise and behavior and there is no significant method to enforce compliance with any rules adopted. 
        5. The inn sits in the middle of a pre-existing residential neighborhood where noise and behavior will create a nuisance, will devalue these homes, and infringe on the owners' ability to enjoy their yards, porches, and open windows. 
        6. More than fifty neighbors and concerned residents have written to the Z.B.A. opposing the pool (at any size). I believe this to be the largest public opposition in the village's history. The Z.B.A. should give serious consideration to so much opposition by residents, and to the violation of their own village code. 
        7. Though the Huntting Inn has promised it will close the pool and hot tub at certain hours, who will enforce that? The inn has a long history of not honoring past covenants on its property. 
        8. The pool and hot tub will have a public path from the street to the side yard leading to the pool and hot tub. Who will monitor strangers wandering into the pool area?
        9. The addition of a pool and hot tub fundamentally alters the nature of the village. Think of those arriving in East Hampton on the Jitney. They will now be greeted with people in bathing suits and screaming children. Not the look most people desire in our quaint village, nor the reason people are attracted to visit.   
        10. Granting a pool and hot tub at the Huntting Inn sets a precedent to all other inns and beds-and-breakfast to add pools and hot tubs to their properties. 
        11. Every historical preservation expert has opposed this plan. 
        This is the wrong direction for the Z.B.A. I hope they will have the presence of mind to honor their obligations to protect the charm and residential tranquility of our village. I urge you all to contact Mr. McGuirk and the other members of the Z.B.A. to stop the plans for a pool and hot tub at the Huntting Inn. 

Why They Left
        East Hampton
        March 16, 2024 
Dear David, 
        I just wanted to clarify a couple of facts about the East Hampton Village Ambulance Association. 
        The first fact is there was no "coup." The volunteer members did not want to be part of the new village E.M.S. department. 
        The second fact is that it wasn't "two disgruntled" volunteer members who left; it was 23 volunteer members who chose to not take part in the new village E.M.S. Some of them are: 
        With 24 to 30 years of service: Dan Reichl, 35 years; Barbara Borsack, 33 years; Sheila Dunlop, 32 years; Ann Grabowski, 29 years; Sandra Vorpahl, 27 years, and Lisa Charde, 25 years. 
        With 15 to 20 years of service: Tracy Hillman (dismissed), 20 years; Olger Arya, 20 years; Donna Collins, 17 years, and Kathy Weiss 15 years. 
        With two to 14 years of service: Pablo Betancur, 13 years; Paul D'Andrea, 10 years; Andrew Hart, 10 years; Teresa Bertha (dismissed), nine years; Bess Rattray, five years; Randy Hoffman, five years; Geraldine Merola, two years; Juliette Logie, two years, and Doreen Quaranto (chaplain for the ambulance), two years. 
        All these members enjoyed volunteering and helping their community. Ask any of the former E.H.V.A.A. members listed above why they left.
        Thank you, 

Forever Grateful
        East Hampton
        March 12, 2024
Dear David,
        On February 20, my husband suffered a medical emergency that required an immediate response. 
        The East Hampton village Ambulance crew together with a number of East Hampton Fire Department volunteers answered our call within minutes, providing assistance, support, and the treatment necessary for transport to Stony Brook Southampton Hospital.
        We would like to extend our appreciation to the village ambulance corps and our town and village volunteers for the outstanding service they provide to our community.
        We are forever grateful.
        With thanks,

A Concrete Anomaly
        East Hampton
        March 15, 2024
Dear David,
        I sincerely hope that a roundabout at the intersection of Stephen Hand's Path, Long Lane, and Two Holes of Water Road is not a done deal. The only thing more egregious than a concrete anomaly on a scenic country road, at the corner of some of our last remaining agricultural fields, is the proposed $1.55 million to build it.
        That intersection is hazardous, to be sure. Put up two more stop signs and be done with it. It's never a bad thing to slow down traffic, especially in the summer. Four-way stop signs are used to great effect on the back roads behind Bridgehampton when summer traffic is at its height.
        Let's keep East Hampton bucolic where we can and use the $1.55 million where it will be most needed.
        Yours sincerely,

Unnecessary Plastic
        East Hampton
        March 18, 2024
Dear David,
        I have written to The Star previously regarding Surfrider Foundation's Skip the Stuff Campaign. This campaign strives to decrease the unnecessary use of plastic utensils, condiment packets, napkins, and other takeout accessories unless requested. Based on our beach cleanup data, nine out of 10 items that we find are food-related. New York City has passed an ordinance and now so has East Hampton Village, amending Chapter 231 to take effect in April. Thank you to Deputy Mayor Chris Minardi and Trustee Sarah Amaden for spearheading this project with the rest of the East Hampton Village Board. Thank you to everyone who wrote letters, made signs, showed up to a public hearing, and/or shared a testimony. We believe that we can build on this success to reduce plastic throughout the East End region, saving restaurants money and protecting ocean, coastal, and human health from the impacts of plastic pollution. 
        Eastern Long Island Chapter
        Surfrider Foundation

People Need Help
        East Hampton
        March 18, 2024
To the Editor,
        My name is Pamela Willoughby and I got a home at Windmill Village after breast cancer. I don’t know how I would have survived without this. "Grateful" doesn’t even come close to the way I feel about Windmill Village. 
        I have gone through numerous and complicated health issues, before and after moving here. Without this home, I honestly didn't know how I would have survived.
        Prior to that, I was at the whim and mercy of my landlord for years. After eight years, he decided he didn’t want renters. Just like that. I put my things in storage and started looking. It was an utter godsend to finally get a call to move in here, from the long list of applicants and waiting time.
        It’s no surprise to anyone that the working class can barely afford to buy or rent . . . new families, people with disabilities, seniors, the workers who provide our daily services. 
        Please help Windmill with their vision of this expansion project, building 20 additional apartments on the property, as the property is already zoned for affordable housing. Windmill owns the land already. People need help.
        Kindly and for your consideration,

Hometown Retirement
        March 18, 2024
Dear David,
        As a third-generation local resident I’ve seen a significant change in the ability of locals to retire securely in their hometown. Previous generations such as my parents and grandparents remained close to family and friends without worry. Not only is that no longer true, but it has also become virtually impossible for seniors to find affordable housing.
        In the late 1990s I was fortunate to be on the board of Windmill II during the design, construction, and opening of the project. I was heartened to see that project and, later, St. Michael’s, come to fruition.
        What was an urgent need then has become a crisis, as housing opportunities for seniors have become virtually nonexistent. I can only imagine the stress of being on a waitlist of 160-plus people for secure housing in a town I’ve always called home. All the while also realizing I may have to leave friends and trusted doctors of many years, to relocate as a stranger.
        Having been disabled for most of my adult life I understand the need to be close to people you can depend on. Many seniors face physical, mental, and/or financial challenges, making the need for a supportive community with affordable and accessible housing imperative.
        We have the land, we have the resources -- we need the will to move forward!

R.F.K. for President
        Sag Harbor
        March 17, 2024
Dear David,
        I am enjoying reading The Star again after renewing my subscription. Thank you for working out the kinks. 
        I am also writing to share my excitement about supporting Robert F. Kennedy Jr. for president. 
        I am tired of being told to vote one way to prevent someone else from getting elected. 
        I am supporting a candidate whose policies I want to see established in our blessed country. I am for R.F.K. Jr.'s policies. I think he will bring America back to the promise that is in our founding documents.
        We will be walking and canvassing along the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Montauk next Sunday, March 24.
        If anyone wants to join us, please get in touch with me: [email protected].
        Thank you again.
        KATE PLUMB

Thin Green Line
        East Hampton
        March 18, 2024
Dear Editor,
        The planning board sensibly decided to be lead agency in the state environmental review which accompanies local review for the proposed $32.5-million senior center. 
        Given that decision, the town board should abandon its efforts to eliminate local board decision-making to ensure a speedy approval. Independent planning-board review is a must for one of the town's most massive and expensive projects. 
        As long ago as June 14, 2023, the head of the Planning Department plainly told the planning board that it had no decision-making power over town projects. That claim was wrong. 
        Months later, in October and November, the town board publicly announced that project clearing would begin in February 2024. The statements telegraphed that approval was inevitable.
        Further town board actions suggest an effort to squelch public comment. Town board meetings launching the project were scheduled during the Thanksgiving and New Year's holidays. Predictably, only two residents attended the Dec. 7 public hearing. 
        Also, on several occasions, the town board misled the public, obscuring its intention to eliminate local board decision-making.  
        At the December public hearing, I outlined the process required to exempt town projects from local review. They included a separate public hearing and other legal requirements.   
        The town board's attorney immediately responded that the project would be subject to local board decision-making, and therefore no such hearing was required. Those statements proved to be untrue. 
        At a work session which quickly followed, the town board's attorney outlined the process required to eliminate local board decision-making. Inexplicably, both the attorney and several board members stated that the comments were not related to the senior center project! 
        Yet, just two days later, the town board scheduled a public hearing to exempt itself from local zoning and take sole planning control. When the hearing was conducted and before the record closed, all board members expressed support for eliminating local review.  
        The record reveals the town board's persistent efforts to inject politics into planning. Those efforts could continue behind closed doors, perhaps with blandishments that a compromise between the boards would be desirable. The planning board should not agree, and the town board should simply cease efforts to thwart local review. 
        The planning board, not the town board, has the authority and independence to manage planning review. Tailoring that review to advance political goals sullies the process and diminishes planning board independence. Instead, the law requires that the planning board promptly submit the lead agency disagreement to the Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner, the designated neutral decision maker. 
        Planning board review is a "thin green line" which protects against political pressure and influence. If the town board will not drop efforts to bulldoze local board control, the planning board should show the way by staying the course. 

With a Straight Face
        March 18, 2024
Dear David,
        So many letters that are opposed to the $32-million Taj Mahal proposed senior citizen center seem to be ignored. Why was a gratis design by a local architect not selected, considering that the design is more suited to the area? It was astonishing that the outside designer, when questioned about heating and cooling, defied the laws of physics in stating that she would only heat the first six feet of [a space with] 25-foot ceilings. Uttered with a straight face?
        The cavernous entrance, the stainless-steel shingled windmill design that can only be seen from the sky -- it surely doesn't fit or better serve this community. What, no flashing casino lights or gold-lettered huge sign advertising the design firm? The alternate no-cost design surely fits the area. 
        No mention of yearly maintenance costs? I assume all the glass and interior are self-cleaning?
        Yes, a functional senior center is needed, for sure. In my visits there, the usual comments from attendees are, "We don't need that" and "No one even asked us." "Is there room at the current site?" a few remarked. Clear-cutting seven acres of trees is not environmentally sound. Why are their teeth on fire to start clearing? The Levittown look is fast approaching.
        Time to take a step back and consider a fiscally sound approach. I do not see any statement about the tax burden that will be heaped upon all residents. I witnessed a discussion outside the post office and there was an older woman crying, "They are forcing me to leave the town I was born in." How sad is that?
        With the inflation rate currently at 28 percent, how much more can we seniors endure? With school taxes on the increase, how do fixed-income residents absorb this? 
        Our elected officials are sworn to operate on a fiscally sound basis, to keep operating expenses within reason. Did they forget?

Only 240 Seniors
        March 18, 2024
Dear David,
        I loved the "Just a Thought" letter to the editor written by Alice Henry Whitmore. It was an insightful letter regarding the proposed senior center in East Hampton Town. Her great analysis of the numbers was an important consideration. She brought up important mathematical facts about whether the proposed center is truly the best use of taxpayer funds. It inspired me to do a little research into the town's demographics.
        Based on East Hampton demographics, according to Suffolk County figures, 12 percent of the people in East Hampton Town are aged 60 to 69 and 4 percent of the people are 70 to 80-plus. Based on the Suffolk County figure of 16 percent, and according to the town, there are only 240 seniors who supposedly use the center. There appear to be lots of questions about this actual use figure. A town survey showed that 50 percent of respondents didn't use the current center and those who used it did so one to three days a week (and not every day). Therefore, it is certainly valid for Ms. Whitmore to question this cost of 240 seniors' use of the center being $133,333 apiece for chair yoga and mindful meditation. It certainly questions whether the money could be better spent directly benefiting the seniors in need. The demographics also pose the question of whether there are even 240 seniors who use the current center. A new town survey would certainly provide valuable insight into the actual number of seniors that use the current facility. 
        Maybe the town could hear from the approximate 240 seniors who currently use the center and get their opinion on whether they prefer the new center or if they have other needs that could be met with the funds allocated for the project. The town has consistently failed to employ staff to manage its facilities and that, too, should be considered for such a large, designed building. This town government needs to have a more thoughtful approach to addressing the needs of the seniors and the community rather than building a 22,000-square-foot Taj Mahal in the center of East Hampton.

Error, Mistake, or Blunder
        East Hampton
        March 18, 2024
Dear Reader,
        The town’s plan to clear-cut 92 percent of a critical habitat of a United States Fish and Wildlife Service endangered species is blatantly wrongheaded, and leaves the town open to federal and state intervention, fines, and lawsuits.
        The town could achieve the goal of a new senior center by taking a step back to re-evaluate possibilities. Some local senior citizens are discussing this rationale: Why not temporarily move the existing facility to the town’s Child Development Center of the Hamptons building and raze the old center, replacing it with the one designed by a local architect who would gift the plans to the town board. The many millions of dollars saved would go a long way in public opinion toward tolerating the hassle of moving activities to Stephen Hand's Path. The town’s 2016 engineering report on C.D.C.H. said it was a perfect building for a senior center.
        Seemingly off-topic, but not really: The differences among an error, a mistake, and a blunder. An error would be a misplaced decimal point; quickly discovered and corrected, no harm done. A mistake would be a misjudged decision or action based on incomplete or flawed information; setting things to rights after a mistake is recognized can be a slog, and lesson learned. A blunder, however, is a deluded and unsound decision or action purposely taken in spite of having the complete and correct information.
        A $32-million blunder paid for by local taxpayers -- the stuff of legend.

Choices I Made
        March 12, 2024
To the Editor,
        I have always been very proud and honored to vote in every local election for over 50 years, leaving the voting booth feeling good about the choices I made. Until this last election, when I voted for Tom Flight, my first mistake. 
        (Lifelong Democrat)
Future Generations' Problem
        March 17, 2024
To the Editor,
        Now that Montauk has sand on the beach after waiting an astonishing 60-odd years, what of the talk of retreat? Is it a problem that won't be addressed for the next 30? A thought that was on the brink only to fall to the wayside -- as long as new sand comes along every few years to the tune of tens of millions of dollars? I suppose the problem is for our future generations. 
        Still here,

A New McCarthyism
        March 14, 2024
To the Editor,
        Last week, I wrote that billionaire Marc Rowan is metaphorically an ichneumon wasp feeding within the living body of East Hampton. (Good one, right?)
        It is not much of a coincidence that Rowan, who has what we called in Brooklyn "crazy money," is also hollowing out his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania. A donor and chairman of the board of advisers of the business school, Rowan has called for a donor boycott and run a fund-raiser for Representative Foxx, whose House committee (a wannabe HUAC) summoned U. Penn president Magill and forced her resignation within days and then in a victory lap published a list of questions for the Penn administration which communicated a transparent agenda of smashing the university and remaking it in a far right image of an obedient institution lacking in diversity of thought, faculty, or student body.
        More than 1,000 Penn faculty have pushed back in writing against this unprecedented interference in academic freedom. As The Daily Pennsylvanian reported, one professor accelerating his retirement stated: "I don't want to teach on a campus that has accepted these premises of outsiders being able to say what slogans mean, what can be taught, or who can be teaching things." The local chapter of the venerable American Association of University Professors, formed a century ago to defend academia from similar attacks after World War I, wrote that campaigns "to close academic departments, constrain hiring, discipline faculty members for political reasons and without due process, censor faculty's intramural or extramural speech, or impose new McCarthyite speech codes on faculty and students would constitute the most flagrant violations imaginable of the core principles of academic freedom and faculty governance. Those principles are not negotiable."
        Full disclosure: I just filed a lawsuit on behalf of Penn faculty against the university, citing the surging up of a new McCarthyism and fear and confusion on campus about whether nuanced history of the Middle East, Palestinian literature, or the history of colonialism can still be safely taught there.
        Rowan's attacks on East Hampton and the university use similar tactics and have the same agenda: depriving the target of any autonomy or agency to run its own affairs, and bending it to his thought. Rowan is proof that billionaires are able at will to act unilaterally as existential threats to democratic institutions like the town or the university. In a system created by the framers to be one of checks and balances, the only visible check right now on billionaire assaults on our institutions would be self-control, based on respect for our values and ability to make our own decisions, which is entirely lacking.
        For democracy in America,

Long, Mighty Tradition
        March 18, 2024
Dear David,
        Every Sunday since mid-October a group of East End residents has stood in vigil at the windmill in Sag Harbor, calling for a cease-fire in Gaza. Some who pass by thank us, honk in support. We are also regularly harassed and interrupted with hostility by a small group who say they are standing with Israel. In those moments we remind ourselves of our purpose. We show up, bear witness, and go on record, as ordinary people have done in the face of incomprehensible violence for centuries. 
        More than 32,000 Palestinian people have been killed; hospitals, universities, crops, and infrastructure destroyed. We spend our lives striving to eradicate all forms of hate, bias, racism, and injustice. It’s painful that we must continue to defend our commitment to ending antisemitism or for those of us who are Jewish, to defend our Jewishness. 
        East End for Peace begins our vigil each Sunday with these words: "We welcome those who are here for the first time, we welcome back those who have been with us past Sundays. We are a community group committed to nonviolence, here to call for a cease-fire in Gaza. We will not engage should anyone attempt to interrupt or disrupt our vigil. We gather in the long and mighty tradition of nonviolent practice. We join together in public spaces to enact our sovereign democratic right to speak out. . . ."
        We won’t look away during genocide. We will support each other, as we continue to show up together in our community.
        Please join us. 

        East Hampton
        March 18, 2024
To the Editor,
        Reaching a solution requires eliminating the religious lunacy that has always justified barbarity. Rationalizing insane behavior by blaming it on God. Humanoids don't feel, so religion isn't required, but in the Israel/Gaza debacle the existence of both serves to exacerbate the violence.
        Can the world step up and create a plan that satisfies both sides, or does the killing continue and develop the next generation of radicals to continue the assault? Does the next generation get to live in peace and security? Does anyone really care?
        So, Chuck Schumer somehow finds the courage to step up and show how much he loves and believes in the State of Israel. Does the U.S. and the rest of the world have the courage to follow his Lead?
        Lots of questions. Few answers. Impossible to think or hear anything when the noise of war explodes our brains.

Thought Leaders
        East Hampton
        March 18, 2024
To the Editor,
        The visit of Viktor Orban, dictator of Hungary, to the convicted predator Trump recently was a sideshow. More important was his meeting at the Heritage Society, which included right wing politicians and media. 
        The stated goal of the Heritage Society, who placed most of our formerly Supreme Court, is to convert the United States into a "Christian Nationalist" country -- which is both undemocratic and unchristian and, of course, against our Constitution. 
        Orban and Putin are the thought leaders of the right wing. Former conservatives are nowhere to be found. 
        This is serious. 
        TOM MACKEY

Breathtaking Accusations
        March 18, 2024
Dear Editor, 
        It is difficult to square much of the content of the letters from Reg Cornelia published in The Star recently with the man I met when my children attended Springs School and Mr. Cornelia was a member of the board of education. Reg and I have rarely seen eye to eye on any issue but despite some over-the-top hyperbole that his letters often contained I admired his record of military service as well as his very long involvement in local and regional politics. His letter published in the March 14 issue of The Star is breathtaking in that all the accusations Mr. Cornelia directs at President Biden and the Democratic Party are either completely untrue or faults that are manifested by former President Trump and the Republican Party.
        Mr. Cornelia references the Biden crime family. Hunter Biden, sure thing, but no credible evidence has been presented to the House committee that President Biden had any involvement. Representative Ken Buck (R-Colo.) a member of the House Freedom Caucus and by no measure a Biden supporter (Mr. Buck recently called on Vice-President Harris to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove President Biden from office) said, "Republicans in the House who are itching for an impeachment are relying on an imagined history." What does Mr. Cornelia know that Representative Buck does not?
        The same House committee has steadfastly refused to look at Jared Kushner, who secured a $2 billion investment from a fund led by the Saudi Crown Price Mohammed bin Salman.
        Mr. Cornelia claims the Democratic Party is in the embrace of anti-American, antisemitic radicals. He missed the 195 Democratic members of the House who voted to pass a resolution condemning antisemitism and expressing support for Israel. He also chose to ignore the 43 House Democrats who publicly denounced Representative Pramila Jayapal's (D-Wash.) remarks calling Israel a "racist state."
        I am unable to find any record of 43 elected Republicans together calling out Marjorie Taylor Greene or former President Trump for antisemitic or racist remarks. On the contrary, former President Trump has endorsed North Carolina Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson for governor. Robinson has used the word "hogwash" to describe the Holocaust. Mr. Robinson has also called survivors of the Parkland school shooting who dared to speak out for gun control "spoiled, angry, know-it-all children" who "are trying to tell law-abiding adults that we must give up our constitutional right to own certain weapons. . . . David Hogg and the rest of these silly little immature 'media prosti-tots' need to grab a passy, have a seat in time out, and shut up."
        Mr. Cornelia characterized "Ruskin" (Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland?) and Representative Bowman as "out and out Communists." Like all of the assertions contained in Mr. Cornelia's letter no evidence is offered to back up the accusation. Marjorie Taylor Greene did call Representative Raskin a Communist.
        On the other hand, eight Republican members of Congress were the lone votes against legislation to remove "most favored nation" trade status for Russia and Belarus over the invasion of Ukraine. I do understand that the Soviet Union no longer exists. I recall no headline indicating that Putin renounced Communism.
        I also missed the reporting on Fox, or anywhere else, about the F.B.I. midnight raids on families.
        My quick Google search turned up the raid on Mayor Adams's home and the headline "Georgia police and F.B.I. conduct S.W.A.T.-style raids on 'Cop City' activists' homes." Again, no evidence to support the allegation of raids against those aggrieved by drag shows in schools or anti-choice protesters. 
        No one can argue that illegal immigration is a crisis. That the Biden administration has badly handled the issue is indisputable. When House Republicans were first presented with legislation, negotiated by Republican James Lankford of Oklahoma, Democrat Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Kyrsten Sinema, an Arizona independent, that represented actual legislating, with the endorsement of the National Border Patrol Council, House Speaker Mike Johnson declared the legislation would be "dead on arrival" in the House if it passed in the Senate. House Republicans picked apart the legislation but the death blow came with former President Trump's opposition to the bill. Better to have the border crisis to campaign on. "Let me tell you, I'm not willing to do too damn much right now to help a Democrat and to help Joe Biden's approval rating," Representative Troy Nehls, a Texas Republican, told CNN. "I will not help the Democrats try to improve this man's dismal approval ratings. I'm not going to do it."
        Mr. Cornelia's attempt to garner sympathy for Peter Navarro, former director of the White House National Trade Council, is outstanding in that no mention is made of his being found guilty by a jury on both counts of criminal contempt of Congress -- one for failure to provide documents and one for failure to appear for a deposition. He was sentenced to four months in a federal prison. Mr. Navarro strayed from his lane when he was a key promoter and architect of the "Green Bay Sweep," the Jan. 6 plot to block Congress from certifying the 2020 election results. Mr. Navarro was briefly leg-shackled when he first appeared for arraignment. He was not shackled when he was arrested.
        Mr. Navarro also turned down a plea deal before trial that would have required him to plead guilty to one of two contempt-of-Congress charges for not cooperating with the House's ongoing Jan. 6 investigation as well as requiring him to testify before Congress. Acceptance of the plea bargain would have limited his sentence to 30 days.
        "We're getting rid of the Romneys of the world. We want to get Romneys and those out."
        "Anybody that makes a 'Contribution' to Birdbrain" -- that is, Nikki Haley -- "from this moment forth, will be permanently barred from the MAGA camp. We don't want them, and will not accept them, because we Put America First, and always will!"
        These statements by Mr. Trump, as well as his refusal to debate any Republican challengers, make it difficult to believe the idea that Mr. Cornelia has of Republicans "sorting themselves out through the open and vigorous debate we are now witnessing."
        Lastly Mr. Cornelia should know better than to trot out the fascist label. As a former teacher he knows what weight that word carries and neither party should so recklessly employ it. Some definitions found after a quick web search: "Although fascist parties and movements differed significantly from one another, they had many characteristics in common, including extreme militaristic nationalism, contempt for electoral democracy and political and cultural liberalism, a belief in natural social hierarchy and the rule of elites." And "a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition." Mr. Trump has said on two occasions that he just wants to be a dictator on day one of his presidency. 
        I do apologize for the length of this letter but not for the content. When someone as well-known and respected as Mr. Cornelia stretches the boundaries of truth and reasonable discourse time after time, prudence dictates a response. I know I am not the first to challenge Mr. Cornelia's writing and I am certain I will not be the last.  
        Thank you,

Goal of Dictatorship
        North Haven
        March 18, 2024
Dear David,
        Is there a rabid raccoon on the loose, biting everyone? Or is it just Trump himself? His recent public behavior and obvious mental meltdowns during recent rallies suggest there is something seriously wrong with him.
        Trump actually threatens "a bloodbath" if he isn't re-elected. His wild rants also promised being a dictator. He referred to immigrants as "not people." He loves the "strongmen" -- Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Viktor Orban, Adolf Hitler, Xi Jinping, and Kim Jong-un.
        This guy is rabid and poisonous, not only for his promises, but for his past crimes. Close to half our voting population seems infected with his bite. They claim "alternate facts" and think he deserves another term as POTUS, and seem okay that he has been personally charged with 91 criminal offenses in four criminal cases.
        Our stacked Supreme Court was bitten, and is helping him by deliberately delaying the lower courts from their necessary speedy trials.
        Trump now owns the Republican National Committee and many lower-court judges. He's well on his way to taking over all the courts, immigration, and even law enforcement. If re-elected, the military is next. His clearly stated goal of dictatorship is obviously underway, unimpeded.
        Mitch McConnell, the right-wing Senate puppet, just announced his plan to quit his leadership position, leaving the opportunity for right-wing Trumpers to replace him with an even more dangerous and compliant Senate leader.
        The House Mouse and "Speaker," Mike Johnson, is already in place, and under the complete control of the radical right-wingnuts.
        President Biden delivered a cogent and encouraging State of the Union address last week, but Trump’s rabid defenders chose to disrespect and trash Biden with vulgar lies and ugly prejudice.
        The official Republican response to Biden's respectful address was assigned to an unknown junior senator, Katie Britt of Alabama, who delivered a dystopian breathless litany of lies, staged from her kitchen. She seemed to have a serious anger management problem, and only an arsenal of the usual, tired right-wing "alternate facts."
        George Santos is again running for Congress, despite having been thrown out.
        Something has seriously infected Republicans and the R.N.C. that once could be proud of itself as actually being Republican in its principles.
        Are the Republicans so afraid of Trump’s venomous bite that they cooperate with his crimes, or perhaps they are the infectious and powerful force behind Trump, using him as a puppet?
        Ever try to hear anything next to a leaf blower? Trump is a leaf blower. His strategy is to drown out anything else, and exhaust all opposition.
        When will Democrats get the courage and common sense to aggressively respond to these criminal lying bullies?
        It's time for that gimmick to meet its challenge. It's time for Democrats to actually get some teeth, come out swinging, and directly confront the lies and B.S. that the right-wingnut zealots have been getting away with.
        Spring is here, it's time to clean up the House, and everything else.

A Boldfaced Lie
        March 13, 2024
Dear David,
        How many noticed "Thursday's Thought" on bottom front, section B, of the March 7 Star? "Donald Trump said that he turned down the offer to be Person of the Year in 2017. Time Magazine replied saying there was not a speck of truth to that."
        Such a boldfaced lie so easily debunked, however trivial, tells us more than just the utter lack of trust we should put in anything D.T. says. It tells us how little this man thinks of his mass of followers. He thinks they are so ignorant that they will believe anything he says. The extent to which that is true is thanks to the craven leadership of the Republican Party and Fox News pundits who have repeated or ignored his lies since 2016.
        We all know Republicans who know better. Hell, half the pundits and guests on MSNBC these days are lifelong Republican leaders who couldn't stand the stench of incompetence and prevarication in D.T.'s administration and bolted for the doors. In the House and Senate those few who have refused to pretend this emperor is wearing clothes have left government or been pilloried and primaried out of office. The Republicans who remain in power remain submissive even in the face of D.T. hosting the Hungarian dictator Viktor Orban at Mar-a-Lago on the night of Biden's State of the Union, and hailing Orban as the model of how he intends to rule if elected in November.
        We can only hope that defecting Republicans and Independents will say "Enough already," and join Democrats to send a clear message that we prefer living with the ebb and flow of Democracy to the cult of autocracy that has infected the Republican Party.

Four Years Ago
        East Hampton
        March 17, 2024
Dear David:
        It is now apparent that the MAGA Kool-Aid kills brain cells.
        Last week, Elise Stefanik picked the wrong fight. During a Capitol Hill press conference Ms. Stefanik nostalgically asked, "Are you better off today than you were four years ago?" Ever the Trump sycophant, she answered her own question: For Americans across the country the answer is no.
        Unfortunately for Ms. Stefanik, we all remember the horror of March 2020 as the terror of the Covid-19 virus gripped the country. My wife and I had Broadway tickets for March 13, when the theater canceled the performance. A day or two later the fear triggered by Covid shut down all of Broadway. Daily news shows showed patients dying alone as tragically overworked health care workers were struggling to keep patients alive. City residents banged pots and pans every night at 7 p.m. to salute their efforts. Corpses were piled into refrigerator trucks outside a Queens hospital. During the last year of the Trump presidency, thousands of Americans died daily; and Mr. Trump suggested ludicrous potential cures, which killed more. Trump will no doubt take credit for fast-tracking the development of vaccines (which he deserves) only to make a mess of distribution and in the face of that failure begin belittling the efficacy of those vaccines, leading only to thousands more deaths.
        The idea that conditions for Americans have worsened during the Biden administration is ludicrous. For the first time in more than 50 years, the nation's unemployment rate has stayed below 4 percent. Workers' wages have increased. The level of Americans without health insurance fell. The cost of many prescription drugs fell under Biden. Infrastructure investments, an empty promise under Trump, became a reality under Biden. The budget deficit improved under Biden. Domestic oil production soared under Biden. And, most importantly, America's global standing soared after President Biden replaced Trump.
        Of course, Ms. Stefanik could not have cared less about the catastrophe that was the Trump presidency. Nor would she honestly assess Biden's accomplishments. All she wanted was the optics of the question and the Pavlovian response it usually engenders.
        The poetic irony of Ms. Stefanik's question was found in the response by Michael Whatley, Mr. Trump's newly installed co-head of the Republican National Committee. In response to the same question, his response: "The answer for this entire country is 'no.' I mean yes." 
        Mr. Whatley got it right.

Come On In
        March 17, 2024
Dear David,
        Joe Biden claims he can do nothing about the crisis he created without Congress, and that it's all Donald Trump's fault. However, if you go back and visit the 2020 campaign website and its promises on immigration you will find truth. Before the election he promised to do exactly what he did: throw open our border to anyone.
        The 2020 policy page was called "the Biden plan for securing our values as a Nation of Immigrants," and web archives show it was full of promises about what candidate Joe Biden would do if elected president to reverse what he called "Trump's misguided policies."
        Biden promises to welcome immigrants in our communities. This is exactly what he did, to the tune of more than 5,000,000 illegal immigrants.
        Biden mocks the real danger of the financial and social burdens his policies are causing, he mocks its real dangers. Deaths are far from the only tragedies experienced by migrants seeking to enter the United States illegally, lured here by the administration's border release policies.
        Because of the Biden administration more than 890 migrants were found dead at the border, 80 percent of female migrants from Central American were either raped or sexually abused. Due to the Biden/Harris invitation to come on in, maybe these crimes could have been avoided.
        In God and country,

Alien Podmaster
        March 14, 2024
Dear David,
        Despite what the United States Air Force has stated regarding extraterrestrials, the existence of Marjorie Taylor Greene and Donald Trump prove beyond a reasonable doubt that aliens are already amongst us. 
        I would suggest that these two aliens have viewed the 1956 film "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers" for inspiration on how to create millions of "pod people" on Planet Earth. The plot revolved around alien attempts to use plant pods to take over the bodies of Americans and destroy their humanity. The lead in the movie was the actor Kevin McCarthy.
        Trump and Taylor were well aware that the cost of individual plant pods to create millions of human replicas would be exorbitant so they turned to three 20th-century cheaper historical antecedents for inspiration. The first was the Hitlerite concept of the "Big Lie." Tell an outrageous lie that could not possibly be true, and tell it frequently enough and people will eventually believe it. Why? Because it is so outrageous that it must be true.
        The second inspiration was the Stalinist revision of history. Stalin was brilliant at "inspiring" Russian historians to rewrite history as he saw fit. If the historians were not inspired, they were shot.
        The third inspiration, as told to Trump and Greene by advisers (neither is an avid reader), was the dystopian Orwellian vision outlined in "1984" where Big Brother convinces citizens that Peace Is War and Love Is Hate.
        To carry out their program of creating "pod people" they turned to their passionate supporters in the news-media companies that were eager to increase their number of viewers. Fox News, with their great journalists Bill O'Reilly, Tucker Carlson, and Sean Hannity, and Newsmax were most happy to convey the Big Lie, the revision of history, and the dystopian vision. The result was the creation of millions of "pod people" at no cost whatsoever.
        According to recent polls, there are now millions of "pod people" who will vote for Alien Podmaster Trump. They include a slight majority of members of the House of Representatives who now bleat on command because they can no longer engage in independent rational thought.
        BRIAN POPE

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