Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

Legalizing prostitution has its merits

December 16, 2013

Things we don’t like to talk about.

So SHOULD prostitution be legalized? The great blues artist Bessie Smith once sang, “There are lots of ways to sell it, baby,” and she was certainly right about that. If the sex industry is legalized, it can be taxed and regulated. Prison populations will decline and the crime rate will drop.

Given the existence of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, doesn’t it make sense to ensure that sex workers are healthy and not infecting their clients? Of course, some will object to this idea on moral grounds, seeing legalized prostitution as inconsistent with their religious principles.

This debate has been going on since biblical times and before. Hey, they don’t call it the “world’s oldest profession” for nothing. And what was it that Jesus said about throwing the first stone?

To me, there seems to be a great deal of hypocrisy around this issue. Just what constitutes prostitution, anyway? Where is the line? If a young woman marries a wealthy older man, isn’t that just another case of trading sex for worldly riches? Is “marrying for money” prostitution?

We lock up sex workers for doing what people do legally every day. We know from our experiences with alcohol and drugs that as soon as you make anything illegal, people will still want it and you’ll create an illegal marketplace for that substance or service, or the “Full Employment for the Mob Act.” As Casey Stengel used to say, “You could look it up.”

Just consider how the various underworld organizations made their money. They ran stables of prostitutes, offering them protection as well as abuse. The profits are going to the mob, not the government. Prostitution has been legal in Nevada for years and has hardly caused social or political revolution.

Also before us is the revolution in the Ukraine. The president of that country, Viktor Yanukovych, refused to sign a long-anticipated agreement with the European Union that would foster a closer economic relationship. The Russians objected and at the last minute the president folded, not wishing to alienate the Russians.

All hell broke loose and there were violent protests led by thugs wearing masks. So who were these guys? Who was paying them? Heaven forbid that we even suggest that foreign governments, including our own CIA, were involved.

Don’t get me wrong. I think that Vladimir Putin, the current Russian czar, is turning out to be a vile and despicable man. When bad things happen, you had better believe that Putin is probably calling the shots.

On the other hand, look at our own history. Did our government put the deposed shah of Iran on the Peacock Throne? Did we oppose Nelson Mandela because we labeled him a terrorist? Did we lose thousands of young American soldiers because we were putting out the information that if Vietnam went Communist, the dominos would start to fall and all the other governments would collapse?

When you read accounts of what is going on in the Ukraine, is it ever suggested that the agencies of this government might have something to do with it? Is the history of our involvement in this kind of thing ever mentioned? That’s why operations like WikiLeaks and similar disseminators of information that is not generally available tend to serve the public interest. I’ve said it a thousand times — you can’t have a democracy unless the people who are voting have information.

We know that throughout our history, there have been times when the people would have said no, had they been given all the facts. We can always call ourselves a democracy, and in a relative sense we are. But when what we don’t know is crucially important and when we are lied to — as in the case of “Weapons of Mass Destruction” in Iraq — we are being led around blindfolded. When that happens, bad things follow.

Originally published in the Berkshire Eagle, 12/16/13

I can’t wait to see what Cuomo will do now

December 10, 2013

Everybody was waiting to see what the governor’s anti-corruption Moreland Act Commission would come up with. The idea was to trace the money, no matter from what source, to see if there was endemic corruption throughout New York state government. The governor made it clear that he thought there was. To find it he chose some of the best minds in New York including a group of district attorneys charged with fighting crime in their counties, towns and villages. The governor’s instructions were to follow the money no matter where it was. To make sure that the Legislature was covered Attorney General Eric Schneiderman deputized the members of the Moreland Commission which is empowered under the state constitution to study the executive branch only. With Schneiderman’s help jurisdiction of the group was extended to the legislative branch. No one expected, however, that the executive branch would be left out of the investigation.

So, it was with some surprise when Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney appeared on a television show and announced that the reason that the commission had gone after the legislative branch of government only was that it was never supposed to investigate the executive branch. This was news to many people who had never heard that. No sooner had Mahoney said that then Attorney General Schneiderman took issue and said that no such agreement had ever been made and that the executive branch of government had never been excluded from investigation. However, people like Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Group said that he was surprised at how little attention was paid to the executive branch. This was pretty embarrassing stuff for Governor Cuomo. After all his very healthy campaign account had something like $30 million in it.

The whole point is that no one gives you huge amounts of money who doesn’t want something back for it. This is exactly the kind of legal bribery that Governor Cuomo has been bemoaning. Just a few days back Governor Cuomo had been given a concert by Billy Joel in which the top seats were said to be going for fifty thousand dollars. Now I like Billy Joel’s, music but it sure isn’t worth fifty grand to hear it. Nope, when someone gives you that amount of money they want something. If the real estate industry wants breaks on building luxury Manhattan condominiums and/or co-ops and gets what they want from the government one might surmise that the money they invested in someone’s campaign was well worth it.

In any case the first Moreland Act report is done and is already on the shelf where it is already collecting dust. There are those who believe that this was the game all along. The governor gets credit for taking on the forces of evil but, some are suggesting, he never really wanted a change in the rules. In fact, when the main conclusion of the Commission, calling for a system of campaign financing was announced there were reporters who thought that Cuomo was slow to endorse the recommendation even though he had been proposing it all along. It took him a few breaths to endorse the idea. All of this came after Ken Lovett of the New York Daily News, in the story of the year reported that Cuomo’s agents had been calling in plays to the so called independent commission suggesting who should NOT be subpoenaed by the group. Some of these groups were friends of the governor.

The Moreland Act group says that this first report was just preliminary. Cuomo is to be congratulated for appointing and charging the group with its important mission. Cuomo was swept into office promising to clean up government. So what does Cuomo do now? If Cuomo is suspected of playing it fast and loose he will lose credibility and potential votes. But, if he goes for broke to clean things up, his credibility and popularity will rise. What do you think he’ll do? I can’t wait to see.

Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 12/9/13

Successful ventures born of passion

December 9, 2013

The older I get, the more I appreciate younger people who work hard and have something special to offer. I have written many times about Café Adam in Great Barrington, one of my favorite places to eat. Adam Zieminski, who with his terrific wife-partner, Sylvia, owns and operates the place, is an incredible chef. He is always on the lookout for the creative and mouth-watering concoctions that are drawing a lot of people into his establishment.

There are two ways to partake in Adam’s fare — the regular menu and the lunch menu on weekends, starting at 11:30.

For quite a while, Adam and Sylvia ran the café out of the space across the street from their present digs where Haven now sits. There just wasn’t enough space so they decided to move. It cost them a fair amount of money but it was worth it. Now the place has a full bar where locals of a certain age congregate at the end of stressful days and a beautiful dining room. It is working to the point that when Adam and Sylvia take off for their almost-annual trip to her native Poland, people shrug their shoulders and say, “Now what do we do?”

Once an elite crowd finds a restaurant, there is inevitably a tendency by the proprietors to raise the prices. While Café Adam is not cheap, a similar restaurant in New York would cost a great deal more. I love the fact that the young proprietors started out with nothing and have now built their restaurant into a major operation. When young people complain that there are no jobs out there, I always advise them to follow their passion. It may be playing the fiddle in a bluegrass band or it may be opening a store that sells stuff that you really can’t get anywhere else.

Mercantile, next to the Castle Street Café, is one such place. In this case, another beautiful twosome, Abby Webster and Andy Pruhenski, have teamed up to create a store that I really love. Abby and Andy are both natives. Andy was born and raised in Great Barrington and Abby is a New Marlborough girl. Her parents run Webster Landscaping. Says Abby, “Their business has inspired me all along to want to have my own business.” According to Abby, Andy “has always had the entrepreneurial spirit.”

Coming up with their business plan was crucial. They had to be flexible in what they carried and the space helped determine how much they could do. The building owners wanted a store that wouldn’t compete with their businesses in the building. They wanted a retail operation that would spill over to other existing businesses. Michael Ballon, who owns and runs Castle Street Café, invented a drink using their unique coffee syrup told people where they could get it.

The store features lots of things that you seldom see anywhere else. It also is one of the few stores that men will love as much as women. It has beautiful ukuleles to make music making easy. It features a large collection of jars and bottles that have been made into drinking glasses with built in straws. It has wonderful Indian antique fabric made into Kantha quilts. It has unique and colorful men’s bow ties. It has lots of good baby and children’s stuff. Everything is fairly priced and the proprietors will spend lots of time with you. Most of all, it allows us to support a local business, something that we all want to do. You really can’t walk out of the place without buying something and in the unlikely event that you do, you’ll certainly be back.

Originally published in the Berkshire Eagle, 12/9/13

2016 presidential election will be one for the books

December 3, 2013

The race for president of the United States is on. It seems pretty clear to me that the Republicans will nominate Chris Christie and the Democratic candidate will be Hillary Clinton. It will be one hell of a race.

Hillary wants the nomination and it is hers for the taking. The other potential Democratic contender, Joseph Biden, pales in the polls against Hillary. The super campaign team of Bill and Hillary is already out on the gate. They are identifying key ethnic and religious groups and showing us the type of A+ politics that left Bill Clinton one of the most popular presidents ever at the time of his last day in office. Of course, you can count on the evil tabloid press to find compromising pictures of Bill at cocktail parties with other women, but no one will do anything but yawn, as in “Been there done that.”

The Clintons have a conservative fiscal Democratic ideology and progressive social ideas. The number one issue for Hillary Clinton will be breaking the glass ceiling for women. She will raise all the money she needs to run and she will have mended fences with the black community who didn’t like the big fight that led up to Barack Obama’s nomination. Since that time, Hillary has done a tour as Secretary of State where she distinguished herself as a loyal lieutenant to Obama. She also picked up a set of creds as the top foreign policy expert in the United States, bar none. Recent photo opportunities with President Obama have left little doubt that he will be there for her when the time comes, despite the fact that she will have to distance herself from Obama on some of his latest difficulties, including the health care mess.

A recent poll showed Hillary beating Chris Christie in New York but showed Christie besting Andrew Cuomo. Apparently, New Yorkers remember their former senator with great fondness. In considering a vice presidential nominee, I suspect they will take a long hard look at Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts who has distinguished himself in office. He is brilliant, a top lawyer and guaranteed to prove attractive to the African American voters who helped the Democrats when Obama ran.

On the Republican side, Chris Christie has proven himself to be a top vote getter. He is the head of the Republican Governors Association, evidence that he has been forgiven for cooperating with President Obama in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. The moment he hugged Obama, a lot of Democrats and independents said, “Hmmm, I could vote for that guy.” Many people think Christie could never win the nomination because of his relationship with the president, but I suspect American voters have had enough of shrill, partisan politics. Here is a guy who knows how to cooperate. He also knows how to make contact with the average voter, which is something that others, including Hillary Clinton, have trouble with. Because he is corpulent and struggles with his weight, he has a lot in common with the rest of us in the fight against fat. As for those Republicans who have been out in the cold for years with no patronage or judgeships, one can only believe that they would like to win. Christie has never given up his conservative credentials and while he has backtracked on some of them, he still has the bragging rights he will need to win. If he gets the nomination, you can bet that Republicans and conservative independents will choose him over Hillary.

Just think about what a debate between these two will look like. Christie will talk about his mother and how thrilled she would have been to see him up on that podium. Hillary will talk policy. Let me assure you that this race will be very close and one for the books.

Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 12/3/13

New chief, stolen leather, Bulger moved

December 2, 2013

Answering the headlines:

New Stockbridge police chief
chosen:
From the eyes of an outside observer, it would appear that the selection committee did a first-rate job.

There are always well-meaning people who will push for selection of a local. Arguments can be made on both sides.

A professional, chosen from outside, is less likely to play favorites or to pay off old debts, even inadvertently. On the other hand, a local person might be more sensitive to town problems or local characters with special needs.

The chosen candidate (pending the usual personnel checks) is Robert Eaton, a captain on the Smithfield, R.I., police force and a recent graduate of the FBI Academy. He will have big shoes to fill. Retiring Stockbridge Chief Rick Wilcox has always been my favorite law enforcement person in the Berkshires. Everyone knows him, respects and honors him.

Frankly, I can’t imagine the town of Stockbridge without him. I have seen him provide security for James and Kim Taylor, and he has always seemed at ease and non-intrusive. He isn’t authoritarian, but is still clearly in charge. He is truly a great man.

$500,000 in leather stolen from outlet mall: This was obviously a planned job. Usually, someone wanders into a store or a business, cases the place and then comes back to rob it.

Some years back, we had a very good friend whose fur store was robbed and it was quite clear that their store had been staked out.

Police believe that, in this case, the gang goes from state to state committing these crimes. And it’s not just businesses that are being robbed. You have no idea how many people in the Berkshires leave their houses unlocked or their keys in their cars. There are really some degenerate people out there.

I have a very good friend who argues about this stuff with me all the time. She tells me that she has lived in the Berkshires for over 40 years and no one has ever robbed her house or her car. I tell her that it only takes once. When I lived in New York, my apartment was robbed twice and the sense of violation is unimaginable. Back then, the police would show up and tell you how to fill out a crime report for insurance purposes, if you had insurance. I didn’t.

If you are reading this and your keys are in an unlocked car in your driveway, take warning.

Of course, we now have previously unimagined technological home protection devices. After an unfortunate incident at our home, we had television monitors installed. We can see our house and grounds from several angles, even when we are abroad. Naturally, not everybody is going to go for this level of security and this can cause some limited marital discord.

Whitey Bulger moved to Brooklyn lockup: Anyone who knows anything knows that Brooklyn is the new hot spot. Brooklyn is where the hipsters live and I could give you the names of a whole lot of Berkshireites whose children have moved to the borough that was once shunned as a place to be moved out of.

But every place has its time and now it’s Brooklyn. The Bronx is still waiting for its chance. Manhattan is unaffordable and has too often lost the sense of neighborhoods that characterized the New York City hub when I grew up there.

So, with that in mind, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has moved octogenarian James “Whitey” Bulger to Brooklyn until they move him to maybe North Dakota or Montana or Florida. After all, there is one thing we know about this guy — he has always had friends in high places.

Originally published in the Berkshire Eagle, 12/02/13

Now we will see who wants to clean things up

November 26, 2013

Andrew Cuomo says he wants Albany cleaned up. I believe him, to an extent. If he is able to insist that we limit the use of outside money by those who wish to feather their own nests, he will go down in history as a great Governor, having achieved what no one up to this time has been able to do. Remember, this same Governor has played the game the way the rules are now written. Published reports tell us that he has collected somewhere between twenty-nine and thirty million dollars for his own campaign fund. I, for one, take him at his word that he wants to apply a heavy dose of antiseptic to the system and that his intentions are real. There are those who believe it’s all show and not that much tell. One piece of evidence that Cuomo means business is his appointment of a special Moreland Act Commission that has been empanelled to “follow the money.” In this, he has the assistance of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman who, in his own words, “deputized” the members of the commission so that they could cross over the “separation of powers” barrier and investigate the great monetary marketplace known as the legislature.

We know that this is a high stakes poker game and we know that it is considered quite dangerous by the members of the legislative branch. Indeed, they have taken the Governor to court for having the nerve to appoint a commission that will investigate their piggery. The legislature knows that if Cuomo and his commission get their way and clean up the system, they will be unable to continue conducting the business that has so far brought great wealth and prestige to at least some of them. So in order to protect themselves, they need a theory to give to the state’s high court.

Of course, judges are people with their own political needs. For example, the judges want to stay on the bench after they reach the age of seventy. The people just voted to keep things the way they were and force them to retire. I personally thought that was a mistake. The Governor said very little on the matter but hinted that he was opposed to the constitutional amendment allowing them to stay on. In addition, the Chief Judge, the honorable Jonathan Lippman, is said to be a good friend of Speaker Sheldon Silver, the chief protagonist in keeping the system the way it is now.

The argument made by the legislature is that the separation of powers between the various branches is sacrosanct and the Moreland Commission has no right to subpoena their records to find out who is getting what or playing the game of “legal bribery.”

The ace reporter for the Daily News, Ken Lovett, broke a story a while back, reporting that the Governor’s office was protecting some of his political friends from the embarrassing subpoenas. That is a serious charge. Either the Governor is committed to letting the chips fall where they may or he is not. In trying to quash what they are calling unconstitutional subpoenas, the legislature is arguing that this is all a power play on the Governor’s part to get his way in passing meaningful ethics reform. It would seem so and the people of the state should be supporting him. It’s time to clean up the mess.

There was a story in the New York Times last week about people who bring dogs into the city for rat hunting. One little dog is put into garbage bins and the rats run for their lives out a hole in the bin where bigger dogs grab them. Obviously, most legislators are not rats. Nevertheless, now is the time to see who wants to clean things up and who wants to play nonsensical games allowing the dirt to stay put.

Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 11/25/13

High school project costs prohibitive for some

November 26, 2013

I was sitting in the kitchen when Murray the dog walked over. He sat down beside my chair, looked up at me and said, “Hey, Pops, I have a few questions for you.” I love Murray and when he asks, I am always happy to answer. After all, he spent time with the Literacy Network of South Berkshire, where they taught him not only to speak several languages but to write them as well.

“Sure, Murray,” I said. “What do you want to know?”

“Well, my brother Jonas and sister Sarah had terrific educations at Monument Mountain Regional High School. The folks who run the place wanted to bring it up to snuff with terrific up-to-date science labs and security improvements but the project didn’t get all the votes it needed under the law in Massachusetts. Since the voters gave the go-ahead to our huge new fire house and our improved library and sewer system and the Main Street reconstruction process, how come they didn’t go along with this project? Seems to me that education is very important,” he said.

“Murray,” I said to the little fur ball, “the project seemed just too big for the Great Barrington voters. It would have meant really substantial increases in the tax bills and they knew it. I have no doubt they wanted to do right by the town’s children but I guess you can’t always get what you want. The wonderful thing about Great Barrington is that it has always been a mixed economy town and I think that some of the folks who live here are getting very close to not being able to make ends meet. I suspect that’s the best answer I can give you.”

“Well, Pops, did you vote for the project?”

“I did, Murray,” I said, “but I knew that our tax bill would have risen substantially. I wanted to make sure that the kids who are growing up in the neighborhood had their shot.”

“But, Pops,” said the world’s cutest dog, “a lot of kids in our neighborhood go to private schools like Rudolph Steiner. Maybe those parents didn’t vote for schools that their kids might not go to.”

“Maybe,” I said,” but a lot of those kids do go on to Monument Mountain and they have wonderful parents who would never be so selfish.”

“Well, Pops, Jimmy the dachshund from down the street said he heard about a meeting where the educational leaders were discussing getting another vote or downsizing the project. Do you think that will happen?”

“It probably will, Murray dear, but those pushing it will have a big problem. They have already implied that the state matching funds would not be available for a lesser project. Now if it turns out that the state will kick something in, people might scratch their beards and think they had been led astray. Also, they might think that their votes don’t mean much. On the other hand, they might just be satisfied that a more reasonable project was proposed. I will certainly vote for it.”

“Maybe just one more question, Pops?” Isn’t Tony Simotes at Shakespeare and Company doing a great job over there? My friend Wolfy Wolfhound told me that a few members of their board aren’t happy with him.”

“Murray, Tony is doing a great job. He’s much in demand as a director and he’s got Shakespeare in the black. What more could they want? I hope that he’s not being undercut by the people who used to run the place before he got there. They’re the ones who got Shakespeare and Company into financial difficulty in the first place. I’ll look into the rumor, Murray, and I’ll be back to you with a more complete answer.”

“Thanks, Pops, I love you.”

Originally published in the Berkshire Eagle, 11/23/13

As 2014 nears, all eyes are on Paladino

November 19, 2013

Spoilers have a particular place in our politics. A spoiler, of course, is a political candidate who gets into an election for one reason or another — usually a sanctimonious belief that he or she should be the candidate rather than the person the party actually chose. Ralph Nader comes to mind when you talk about potential spoilers.

The Tea Party branch of the Republican Party is presently calling the regular Republicans a series of names, basically accusing them of being sellouts. In New York, we even see the Tea Party types accusing some Conservative Party people of being sellouts. In listening to them you get the idea that these are true believers who would lose elections in order to defend their own rigid principles. This runs directly contrary to the American democratic ideology of “win at all costs.” Since the middle class and middle range voters determine whether the Republicans or the Democrats win, the name of the game is to capture that middle. That’s why we are hearing so little about the forty (plus) million people who are being put on the health care rolls as a result of the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare). The middle class, by and large, doesn’t like giving what they perceive as handouts to those who they think are below them in social status, and the rich don’t like paying for anything that may raise their taxes.

The law in New York state says that you are assigned a ballot position in elections based on how your party did in the last statewide gubernatorial election. So if the Democratic candidate for governor got the most votes, as Andrew Cuomo did the last time out, his party, the Democrats, gets Row A until the next gubernatorial vote. At present, the Democrats have Row A, the Republicans Row B and the Conservatives Row C with the relatively new, progressive and union-friendly, Working Families Party on Row D. The Working Families Party was established to help keep the Democratic Party in the progressive tradition, just as the old Liberal Party used to do until it grew tired and inept.

It is the Conservative Party that has everyone talking now. That’s because Carl Paladino, who ran for governor as a Republican the last time out and got trounced by Andrew Cuomo, says he may run again. This time he’ll run on the Conservative line where he may have to win a primary. If the Conservatives do as well upstate this time out as Paladino did the last time around, Paladino could insure that the Conservatives would move from Row C to Row B and that would be really bad news for the Republicans who Paladino calls RINO’s (Republicans in name only). They would lose prestige as well as some of the legal benefits that are written into the states election laws.

It might also be very good for Democrat Cuomo because it would split the Republican and Conservative vote, bringing us back to the concept of the spoiler. It could also disgust many middle range Republican voters who might just vote for the neo-conservative Democrat, Cuomo.

Paladino would have no chance of winning the election but he’s apparently got a ton of money. He’s in his sixties and has been touched by the fickle finger of fame. Once you’ve had a taste of that, it becomes narcotic in its power over you. So much so that Paladino, after running for governor, next ran for his local Board of Education. Paladino has his eyes on Senate Republican Majority Leader Dean Skelos, who he suggests has sold out to Democrat Cuomo. On the face of it, that would seem so. If he succeeds in forcing Skelos out, the Senate Republicans would all undoubtedly face conservative opponents and that would scare them to death.

To put it mildly, everyone has their eyes on Paladino.

Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 11/18/13

Two great women left vast legacies

November 18, 2013

Two wonderful women have passed. The first, Jane Fitzpatrick, was one hell of a lady. She and her late husband, Jack, were the First Family of the Berkshires. Jane has never received the credit she deserves for her business acumen. Not only did she start Country Curtains, but she took the Red Lion and restored it to its place as the crown jewel of the Berkshires.

I like to tell people that you can’t understand the Berkshires until you’ve been to the Red Lion. Jane always appeared to be more formal than Jack (The Senator). I really liked talking to him — he was one of those larger-than-life kind of people. I think of Jane as almost magisterial. I made a point of always paying my respects to her whenever I saw her at an event and she was always nice to me. Put another way, you don’t walk up to the Queen of England and slap her on the back but she really did like people.

No one in the Berkshires gave more to her community than Jane Fitzpatrick. She had such a major role at the Berkshire Theatre Festival that it is hard for me to conceive how the enterprise could have stayed alive without her.

If you look carefully at the names of people who support our nonprofits, you will always see the Fitzpatricks’ names. There wasn’t a cause that they didn’t support. I simply can’t believe the breadth of their generosity. It was never-ending. It was extraordinary. It was part of their humanness and decency. In addition to providing for their accomplished children, they provided for all of us.

The second incredible woman, Marge Gulick, was a real force in our area. People love their pets and Marge, a terrific veterinarian who set a standard for women in the profession, took care of them. She sure took care of the Chartocks’ animals and her kids have continued to do so.

She was smart and literate and could be acerbic. On more than one occasion, she called me up to contest something I had written or said. Marge really knew her stuff. When we got to the Berkshires (part-time) in 1969, she and her husband, Bill, ran the practice. In those days there were a lot of large animals around. Bill handled the big ones and some of the smaller ones, and Marge specialized in the little ones.

I can tell you that our dogs loved her and we did, too. More than one person at her memorial service mentioned that there was no dog, big or small, that didn’t know not to mess with Marge. She was in charge and it didn’t take the animals who came to her practice long to figure that out.

She was extraordinarily active in good causes including the Girl Scouts and St. James Church. As far as we are concerned, she was one of the people who cement a town. She was opinionated and thoughtful and a character. She must have been doing something right because she lived for 92 years.

Her kids were devoted to her. Her son, Don, took over the practice with his wife, Claire, and they are both incredibly sensitive and wonderful. When the kids come out being sensitive and wonderful, you know that the parents had something to do with it. Her kids had to learn to contest with her because, as I have already said, she had her own ideas and stuck with them.

She was really a force in our community. She helped break the glass ceiling in a field that now has a lot of women in it. We will miss Marge. Her passing brings a lot of memories to all of us.

These two women really made a difference in all of our lives. We were lucky to have them.

Originally published in the Berkshire Eagle, 11/16/13

Will casinos benefit NY? We’ll get back to you

November 13, 2013

New Yorkers have gone and done it. We’re going to have new gambling emporiums in the Empire State.

Andrew Cuomo pushed for it and the voters listened. It wasn’t a rout but New Yorkers seemed to accept the basic rationales set forth by the governor. The idea that clinched the deal with the voters was that if people wanted to gamble, they should be allowed to do so. Some of the gambling money would stay in New York. People wouldn’t have to go across the Hudson to New Jersey or Connecticut or Massachusetts or to the Indian gaming facilities in New York. Naturally, there was a promise of money coming into the state tax coffers and that, in the minds of some, was money that taxpayers like you and me wouldn’t be responsible for paying. If people are hell bent on gambling, they’ll find a way to do it, one way or the other. If the choice comes down to giving all the gambling money to a bunch of gangsters or having state sanctioned facilities, then by all means, give the taxpayers a break.

The idea also dovetails nicely with Andrew Cuomo’s upstate strategy. He really needs upstate votes in the upcoming gubernatorial election and he insisted to the Legislature that the more economically distressed upstate regions should be first in line for the new casinos. While there are some regions in the state where the proposition failed because people thought the whole idea of gambling was morally corrupt, the state voted for it. Some places like the southern tier of the state really like the idea. Hey, if they weren’t going to get fracking, how about gambling? Some of the old Borscht Belt hotels, which have been closed for years, now have the potential for rejuvenation.

Naturally, the politicians have visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads. Anyone who doesn’t think that the lobbyists representing gambling enterprises will try to get all the help they can from tin horn politicians looking for handouts in order to secure their elected positions doesn’t know who they are dealing with. In what seemed like a good idea, the original proposal for legislation enabling gambling had a provision stipulating that people seeking help to build casinos could not donate money to politicians. Of course, that provision was struck from the bill. Big surprise there. These people in the Legislature are so shameless that they are not going to tie their hands behind their backs when it comes to legal bribery. If the money is there, they figured, why would we not allow ourselves to put our filthy hands in the cookie jar?

Now we have to sit back and wait as the process plays out. We’ll have to keep a sharp eye on who gives what and who gets what in return. We’ll also have to see what these establishments do to the communities that house them. Are they really going to be fostering new economic development in the form of jobs or will the gaming institutions simply import the professional gaming community into new localities? Will the new gaming palaces be responsible for ancillary business development around them or will the model be more like Atlantic City where casual observation does not confirm adjacent development? Will a new class of gambling addicts develop in the winning communities and become a drain on the local mental health and criminal justice services? Will other enterprises that aren’t legal, like drugs and prostitution, follow along as they have in certain other localities? Does a bear walk in the woods? Will organized crime attempt to make inroads into these new gaming establishments? I mean, who wants a horse’s head in their bed?

We’ll get back to you as things unfold.

Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 11/12/13


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