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A blog for all seasons; A blog for one; A blog for all. As the 11th most informative blog on the planet, I have a seared memory of throwing my Time 2006 Man of the Year Award over the railing at Time Warner Center. Justice. Only Justice Shall Thou Pursu



Updated: 2018-02-20T17:20:03.089-05:00

 



September 11, 2017 -- I Remember Capt. Daniel J. Brethel

2017-09-11T11:03:44.980-04:00

In my continued participation in Project 2,996, a tribute to the 2,996 innocent victims of 9/11, where bloggers eulogize each victim, today I remember Capt. Daniel J. Brethel.  Previously, I have remembered Pamela Chu, Donald H. Gregory, Steven Harris Russin, Lt. Col. Jerry Don Dickerson Jr., Mary Lenz Wieman, Mark Francis Broderick, Capt. Patrick J, Brown, Hagay Shefi, Alison Marie Wildman, Daniel Thomas Afflitto, and Donna Bernaerts-Kearns. Please visit my tributes to them as well today, as they deserve to be remembered too. FDNY Captain Daniel J. Brethel, of Ladder 24, was living his dreams.  He was a firefighter.  Something he had always wanted to be growing up on East Meadow, Long Island.  His brother remembers him as a 4 year old with a red firefighter hat and playing with firetrucks on Christmas Morning,  He would listen to his emergency scanner and often beat firetrucks to the scene on his bicycle.  At age 18, Daniel joined the East Meadow Fire department as a volunteer. At age 21, he joined the FDNY and asked to be placed in the City's busiest area, the South Bronx.  It was said that he had two families:  his wife and daughters who where his life, and his FDNY family.  Capt. Brethel was supposed to be finishing his shift on September 11.  But like the hero firefighter he was, he accompanied his ladder company to the World Trade Center that day.  It is believed that Capt. Brethel died while trying to save a fellow firefighter by pulling him under a firetruck.  They were both crushed.  That sense of sacrifice was not unusual for Capt. BREthel, who earlier in his career was severely burned on his neck and ears after taking off his helmet to save a fellow firefighter until medical personal arrived.Usually I chose the person I eulogise randomly, from a list maintained by the Project 2,996 website.  A few times I have selected  a name that I wanted to remember, such as Steven Russin, who lived on my street, and for whom the Town of Marlboro named my street for (much like the town of East Meadow did for Capt. Brethel.  However, this time I purposely picked a firefighter to remember.  New York's Fire Department lost 349 members on 9/11  An additional 159 have died since from 9/11 cancers, including 32 members who were recently added to the Fire Department Memorial.  It is for this reason that we need to make the Zydroga Act permanent.  We need to expand it to all persons who were at, near and around Ground Zero on that day, and the following days,weeks and months.  Our firefighters sacrificed their lives, and those that survived are still sacrificing their lives without proper medical treatment.  I have helped victims file their claims with the victims compensation fund.  However, many more have not filed, and many more do not know that they have become eligible to file for health care and health services, because the laws have changed, and more cancers and other diseases have been added.  Please, if you or someone you know was there, or around the site, please file.  There are bar associations and pro bono clinics that will help you if you can't do it yourself.  [...]



September 11, 2016 -- I Remember Pamela Chu

2016-09-11T22:01:01.044-04:00

In my continued participation in Project 2,996, a tribute to the 2,996 innocent victims of 9/11, where bloggers eulogize each victim, today I remember Pamela Chu.  Previously, I have remembered Donald H. Gregory, Steven Harris Russin, Lt. Col. Jerry Don Dickerson Jr., Mary Lenz Wieman, Mark Francis Broderick, Capt. Patrick J, Brown, Hagay Shefi, Alison Marie Wildman, Daniel Thomas Afflitto, and Donna Bernaerts-Kearns. Please check out these tributes as well today, as they deserve to be remembered too. Pamela was a 31 year old Vice President of Cantor Fitzgerald, the bond trading firm located in the World Trade Center, that lost so many people on 9/11.  Pamela was described as "beautiful, intelligent, modest, full of life, aggressive and honest."  Her friend Christiana Yu said of her "I never saw her stressed out, but she told me about customers barking, `This is what I want. Don't sell too low. Don't buy too high.' And there was a lot of trading going at one time. And she was the only female trader and only Asian in her department, and that was difficult, but she seemed so relaxed."In the months leading up to 9/11, Pamela moved from her parents' home in Queens to a recently renovated rental apartment five minutes from her office. By doing that, she said, she could get to work by 6:30 a.m.  That is was the dedication that she showed to her job.  The Cantor Fitzgerald remembrance page says of Pamela:Pamela enjoyed traveling and cooking. Every year for Thanksgiving, Pamela made the turkey and all the trimmings for the entire family. She was a really good cook. Her aunt and uncle did not particularly like turkey, but once they tried the exceptional turkey Pamela made, their minds changed forever. It will never be the same without Pamela celebrating the holidays.Pamela was born in Korea, and with her parents she moved to the United States when she was 2. After graduating from the University of Buffalo, she started working for Cantor Fitzgerald as a temporary clerk, working her way up to Vice President.Pamela was the personification of the American Dream.  Come to this country, work hard and succeed.  Pamela was survived by her parents, her brother, sister, and many friends.  Her[...]



A Long 15 Years: Remembering 9/11

2016-09-11T00:01:01.065-04:00

While I may not blog nearly as much as I used to, I feel drawn to do so in commemorating the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks by members of al Qaeda. It is unbelievable to believe it has been 15 years since that awful day. There are kids growing up who have never known or seen the World Trade Center as the Twin Towers; they see that only in photos or videos.Some of the feelings and memories are getting hazy, the further we get from that terrible day, and yet I can get yanked back to the days and weeks after the attacks with a simple smell - walking past construction sites where they're demolishing steel or welding metal. It's the scorched earth metallic smell that triggers a physical and emotional response for me.That and sometimes commuting into Hoboken and seeing a clear blue sky on a crisp sunny morning in the Fall, with planes and contrails in the sky.I'm sure I'm not alone in getting those feelings or memories. Many of us experienced this in real time - in real life. We worried about families, friends, and loved ones, and the strangers we knew commuted through to Manhattan. We worried about those who went up into the Towers to save lives and those who came plunging down and the families they left behind.We worried about the people whose cars stayed at park and rides for days and weeks after the attacks because their owners were among the victims. We worried about what might come next.It's for that reason I write about this every year. It's why we need to remember what happened, and how we got to where we are now. For instance, there's any number of books to be recommended for background on the site, the rebuilding efforts, and the politics behind all of it. Local and national media outlets are also ramping up their coverage for the 15th anniversary. For instance, the Record has devoted an entire area of their website to 9/11 coverage.I've written essentially the same opening each of the past few years. It's still appropriate to remember today, as it was when I first wrote this:September 11, 2001. New Yorkers were heading to the polls to vote in primary elections to determine the next mayor of the city. It was a morning full of promise and baseball fans were excited about the Yankees' chances of making the playoffs, the Mets thinking about the future, and the start of the new football season. In other words, it was a day not unlike the ones we've experienced once again this year.While everyone was focused on the day ahead, another group of people were thinking about the mission that would forever alter the skyline of NYC and alter history. Al Qaeda's terrorists were already on board four jets bound for New York and Washington DC and had already overpowered the crews.I was on a NJ Transit train with my dad when I first noticed something wrong at the WTC out of the corner of my eye; it was smoke coming from the upper reaches of the tower.It was just around 8:45.The world changed, and I didn't quite realize it. No one did.People watching the morning news didn't know it either at first. But they would soon be glued to broadcasts that showed the horrors of the worst terror attacks ever perpetrated.The damage done on that morning was nearly impossible to comprehend. In the mere blink of the eye, nearly 3,000 people were condemned to death and the World Trade Center would soon be reduced to a pile of rubble that would burn for weeks on end. Reports would come in that a third plane had struck and damaged the Pentagon.  But the death rattle of the Twin Towers would continue for just under two hours and victims trapped above the fires had to make the choice to stay and choke on the heat and smoke or jump to a certain death. All too many make that decision to jump. Firefighters on the ground also succumbed before the towers fell - falling debris hitting firefighters and fleeing people alike.Victim Number One would be there to comfort those who fell. Rev. Mychal Judge of the FDNY was comforting fallen firefighters and office workers alike when he was struc[...]



Memorial Day 2016

2016-05-30T08:55:18.196-04:00

A well deserved thank you to all who have served in our nation's armed forces. While all gave some, some gave their all, and you have my everlasting gratitude. It's not just a day to thank our service members for their service, but to remember that we owe it to them to make sure that they have our support beyond mere headlines and political punchlines.

We simply do not do enough to give our veterans the support they need. This takes several forms, but it boils down to not sufficiently paying them for their service while in uniform, and then not doing enough once they've separated from service.

It is the latter that is the most haunting given that politicians have essentially turned them into disposable heroes - they make great backdrops for political rallies and gatherings, but don't do nearly enough to make sure that they have sufficient mental health support and care. Far too many service members end up homeless, on the street, and or having mental illnesses that make it difficult for them to participate in the very society that they helped protect through their service.

Add to that the need to make sure that they have jobs with living wages after separation, and you've got two issues that should unite most Americans behind a plan that would give these service members the backing and support that they need and deserve.




So, while many of us sit back and enjoy the barbecues, the Indy 500, baseball, and other sporting events, take a few moments to remember all those who served and made it possible.

We Remember. And we give thanks.



Music City, Motoring, and Many Waterfalls

2016-04-13T21:30:36.560-04:00

It's time for yet another photo spread. This time, it's from Tennessee, Kentucky, and a bit of North Carolina. Specifically, we're talking about Nashville, Mammoth Caves National Park, Great Smoky Mountain National Park, and a few other famous spots, including The Hermitage and the Polk home. The Parthenon, which was a temporary structure as part of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition. It was such a hit, that the effort was made to make it a permanent structure, which was completed in 1931.A rain soaked ParthenonMammoth Caves - the historical entrance tour. We missed out on seeing more of the cave system because we didn't make reservations ahead of time. We'll know better next time. One of the many bears spotted during our trip through the Smoky Mountains.There were countless waterfalls along the way. This is one.Want to cross the Green River in Mammoth Caves National Park? Take a ferry. Grotto Falls, in Smoky Mountains NPAt the President James Polk home in Columbia, TN.Nashville at night.The Ernest Tubb Record Shop, home to one of the most famous radio shows in country music. Imagine the history told, the music strummed in those walls.The Kitchen Sinks at Great Smoky Mountains NP.Yet another waterfall in Great Smoky Mountains NP.Outside the Nashville Symphony.One of the many neon signs along the Honky Tonk Row in Nashville.Add captionAt the summit of Clingmans Dome.A natural bridge.Broadway after a rain soaked night in Nashville.[...]



The Day of Reckoning Fast Approaches in New Jersey

2016-03-06T07:45:12.245-05:00

New Jersey residents are about to feel the cold sting of a strike by NJ Transit rail workers. They've been without a contract for years and the matter has gone to federal mediators, who have ruled multiple times in favor of the unions:Several union representatives and elected officials speaking at the rally urged state leaders to accept recommendations from a Presidential Emergency Board, which sided with the unions. NJ Transit officials rejected those recommendations.At least one of the remaining sticking points surrounds health benefits, with the unions offering to pay 2.5 percent of their straight time salary for health benefits.NJ Transit wants employees to pay 10 to 20 percent of premiums, depending on which plan they're covered by.Transit and rail union officials sat down Friday with federal mediators National Mediation Board in Washington, D.C., where the two sides discussed a new offer from the agency to avert a March 13 strike or lockout.While the two sides failed to reach a settlement, a release from the National Mediation Board said the discussions were "positive and constructive."Asked if an agreement is in the offing, coalition spokesman Stephen Burkert declined to discuss details."We're closer now than we were months ago," Burkert said following the rally. "We want to settle this, and we want to do it at the bargaining table." The two sides will meet again Monday in Newark in hope of hammering out a final settlement, Burkett said.So far, Governor Chris Christie, fresh off kissing Donald Trump's ass in the GOP primaries after dropping out of the race himself because he couldn't generate any traction despite spending more time in New Hampshire than New Jersey, has been uncharacteristically silent about this major issue facing the state.It could be that Christie doesn't know what NJ Transit is, or that it is a major economic engine for the state. Or, he doesn't know how to deal with the problem. Either way, he's been MIA on transit issues and his GOP allies in the state legislature seem more interested in slashing or abolishing the estate tax than they are making sure that the transportation trust fund and pension fund obligations are met.Let's also point out that NJ has not raised the motor fuels tax in a generation, while NJ Transit riders have faced repeated increases in fares over the past decade because the state continues to reduce its support for transit. New Jersey is one of the states most heavily dependent on mass transit, and the cuts and fare hikes have combined to leave the agency without wiggle room to deal with contract matters with its employees.To help close an $80 million budget gap, NJ Transit has proposed to increase its fares an average of 9 percent, effective Oct. 1, 2015. This would be the first fare increase in five years; the last fare increase averaged 22 percent. As part of this proposal, some bus and train service would also be reduced. Meanwhile, the state’s gas taxes, already among the lowest in the nation, have not been raised since 1988.The motor fuel tax now purchases less than it did a generation ago, so there's even less money to go around.These workers deserve pay raises and it shouldn't be shouldered entirely by the commuters. Frankly, there's no easy answers here - but it starts with refocusing attention on how the state budgets transit. Gov. Christie went ahead and pulled money from the Port Authority to rebuild the Pulaski Skyway in a decision that the federal SEC is investigating as a potential violation of bonding with the Port Authority. That's because the state didn't have any money in the trust fund to pay for the work. All across the state, bridges and other infrastructure is crumbling, and there's no money to do all the work. This affects the ability of residents to get around the state, and affects public safety. After all, we shouldn't have to live in fear of concrete falling off bridges, bridge abutments collapsing, or struc[...]



Trump's Path to White Supremacy Is Now Complete

2016-02-28T10:59:18.432-05:00

We're going down the rabbit hole once again. The GOP frontrunner and presumptive nominee for the GOP nomination, Donald Trump, once again was caught quote-tweeting a white supremacist. This isn't a one-off instance.And quoting a guy who follows the US Fascist party. This is part of Trump's twitter strategy @howiewolf pic.twitter.com/wUVTGeZNi0— lawhawk (@lawhawk) February 28, 2016He keeps doing it.Every few days he finds some white supremacist or fascist account to quote-tweet.62% of the People Donald Trump RTed This Week Follow Multiple White Supremacist Accounts https://t.co/crOGRAhMci pic.twitter.com/QrIEVkxzoF— lawhawk (@lawhawk) January 28, 2016The source for @realDonaldTrump's tweet? An actual neo-Nazi. That's whose dangerous racist lies he wants to amplify: https://t.co/ubTBwIUOiI— Anil Dash (@anildash) November 23, 2015For any other candidate in any other year, this would have terminated their campaign. This isn't like any other election year, and Donald Trump isn't like any other candidate. Those tweets are actually garnering little in the way of opposition from within the GOP. And now, he's garnered support of noted racist/white supremacist and former Grand Dragon of the KKK David Duke and yet he keeps playing games.Donald Trump wouldn't disavow David Duke's support for his presidential bid, saying Sunday that he knows nothing about the white supremacist leader."Just so you understand, I don't know anything about David Duke, OK?" Trump told CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the Union.""I don't know anything about what you're even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists," he said. "So I don't know. I don't know -- did he endorse me, or what's going on? Because I know nothing about David Duke; I know nothing about white supremacists."You simply cannot make this stuff up.Trump claims to have a perfect memory, and can't recall that he went after Duke in 2000.Donald Trump knew David Duke was a klansman in 2000, yet denies knowledge of him now. https://t.co/P3eMUj3lWP pic.twitter.com/kJQUKqMxim— Justin Green (@JGreenDC) February 28, 2016Now, Trump refuses to disavow Duke.It's all part of a pattern that has long been undeniable for months. Trump is actively soliciting, and pandering to, white supremacists and racists that form a significant portion of the GOP base. It's part of the reason that the GOP isn't pushing back against the racist and white supremacist and fascist statements Trump has made over the past few months. They're increasingly worried that they'll lose critical votes.All of Trump's statements and actions, and the counter-actions by the GOP are symptomatic of the rot in the GOP itself. They've spent years cultivating anger, fear, and hatred among the GOP base. Now, they've found the guy that epitomizes all that in Trump.[...]



September 11, 2015 -- I Remember Donald H. Gregory

2015-09-11T10:52:11.026-04:00

This is the tenth year that I have participated in Project 2996, a tribute to the 2,996 innocent victims of 9/11, where bloggers eulogize each victim. Previously, I have remembered Steven Harris Russin, Lt. Col. Jerry Don Dickerson Jr., Mary Lenz Wieman, Mark Francis Broderick, Capt. Patrick J, Brown, Hagay Shefi, Alison Marie Wildman, Daniel Thomas Afflitto, and Donna Bernaerts-Kearns. Please check out these tributes as well today, as they deserve to be remembered too.  Also, please check out Lawhawk's post, where he continues to do an amazing job of detailing the progress of the WTC Site and the politics surrounding the site!As I look back on these tributes, I remember why this project was started.  To eulogize the 2,996 victims of 9/11.  However, as we have been learning since that day, the list of victims has grown.  Some 20,000+ people, first responders and people living and working in the area, are sick with various diseases, including respiratory illness, and cancer.  Just recently,  Marcy Borders, who was captured in a haunting photo, covered in toxic 9/11 dust, died of stomach cancer.  These people, dying all too often from toxins they encountered on 9/11 and in the immediate aftermath.  It is for this reason that all Americans, must put aside politics, and pressure our politicians expand the Zadroga Act, to include more help for these people.  To expand the list of covered illnesses to include cancers, lymphoma, leukemia, etc., as well as PTSD, and physical injuries. Moreover, Congress needs to take steps to make funding for this act permanent, and not subject to political whims!Today, I remember Donald H. Gregory.  as always, I select my tributes randomly from Project 2,996's website.  What struck me when I was going through the site is that even today, 10 years later, we still have names that were not selected by bloggers in the past.  So I selected Donald, from the list of names with no eulogy listed.  I hope that my words can capture the person.Donald was a survivor.  He survived the 1993 attacks on the World Trade Center, walking 104 floors down in the World Trade Center on the day that terrorists declared that New York City buildings and innocent people were not off limits.  While the 1993 attack did not leave an indelible mark on the ones sworn to protect us, it did on Donald, who had dreams thereafter that he was trapped in the building as it was collapsing.  Unfortunately, those nightmares became reality.On September 11, 2001, Donald wasn't supposed to be in his office, where he, like so many others, worked for Cantor Fitzgerald.  He had survived triple bypass bond surgery, which had kept him out of the office for several months.  He had survived circulatory issues related to diabetes, and had been out for several weeks.  But, the dedicated professional, wanted to return to work, and had come back only late in the week before the attack.  . Donald is survived by his wife Maureen, who he made a point of kissing every day.  Maureen remembered Donald as a man of "quiet faith".  "He had a generosity of spirit that extended to all in our family. Most importantly, he taught to believe in yourself."  Donald also has three children, Amanda, then 20, Sara, then 19, James, then 14, who inherited his father's love for sports,[...]



14 Years Later: Remembering 9/11 and Where We Are Today

2015-09-11T19:44:18.888-04:00

I can't believe that it's already been 14 years since 9/11. I remember it like it was yesterday, and yet there's an entire generation of kids whose only knowledge of the events of the days and weeks after the attacks is from books, videos, or personal recollections such as this. That's one of the reasons that I continue to write these annual remembrances. It's also for myself.I've written essentially the same opening each of the past few years. It's still appropriate to remember today, as it was when I first wrote this:September 11, 2001. New Yorkers were heading to the polls to vote in primary elections to determine the next mayor of the city. It was a morning full of promise and baseball fans were excited about the Yankees' chances of making the playoffs, the Mets thinking about the future, and the start of the new football season. In other words, it was a day not unlike the ones we've experienced once again this year.While everyone was focused on the day ahead, another group of people were thinking about the mission that would forever alter the skyline of NYC and alter history. Al Qaeda's terrorists were already on board four jets bound for New York and Washington DC and had already overpowered the crews.I was on a NJ Transit train with my dad when I first noticed something wrong at the WTC out of the corner of my eye; it was smoke coming from the upper reaches of the tower.It was just around 8:45.The world changed, and I didn't quite realize it. No one did.People watching the morning news didn't know it either at first. But they would soon be glued to broadcasts that showed the horrors of the worst terror attacks ever perpetrated.The damage done on that morning was nearly impossible to comprehend. In the mere blink of the eye, nearly 3,000 people were condemned to death and the World Trade Center would soon be reduced to a pile of rubble that would burn for weeks on end. Reports would come in that a third plane had struck and damaged the Pentagon.  But the death rattle of the Twin Towers would continue for just under two hours and victims trapped above the fires had to make the choice to stay and choke on the heat and smoke or jump to a certain death. All too many make that decision to jump. Firefighters on the ground also succumbed before the towers fell - falling debris hitting firefighters and fleeing people alike.Victim Number One would be there to comfort those who fell. Rev. Mychal Judge of the FDNY was comforting fallen firefighters and office workers alike when he was struck and killed by debris. So many people inside the Department and around the City thought so highly of him that he was honored as the first victim of the attacks - so that he could comfort and aid all those many others who were murdered on that day - to guide them to Heaven. There are continuing efforts to see him sainted, and his ministrations to those in need, especially on that day, certainly would do his memory justice.All too many would unfortunately follow him - and not by their own choice.Here are remembrances of a few of those killed on 9/11, as written by my friend legalbgl for Project 2,996:Steven Harris Russin (2014).Lt. Col. Jerry Don Dickerson Jr. (2013).Mary Lenz Wieman (2012).Mark Francis Broderick (2011).Captain Patrick J. Brown (2010).Hagay Shefi (2009).Alison Marie Wildman (2008).Daniel Thomas Afflito (2007).Donna Bernaerts-Kearns (2006).Local commemorations are already underway (and here and here) and will continue through the week throughout the region. This is the second year for which the WTC Museum is open on 9/11. While I still find the cost of going to the museum to be ridiculously expensive and think that the museum should be free for all who visit, it has quickly become one of the most visited museums in the city.While I don't need to be able to visit the museum myself, the museum is for those w[...]



Memorial Day 2015

2015-05-24T09:05:00.518-04:00

A well deserved thank you to all who have served in our nation's armed forces. And while all gave some, some gave their all, and you have my gratitude. It's not just a day to thank our service members for their service, but to remember that we owe it to them to make sure that they have our support beyond mere headlines and political punchlines.

We simply do not do enough to give our veterans the support they need. This takes several forms, but it boils down to not sufficiently paying them for their service while in uniform, and then not doing enough once they've separated from service.

It is the latter that is the most haunting given that politicians have essentially turned them into disposable heroes - they make great backdrops for political rallies and gatherings, but don't do nearly enough to make sure that they have sufficient mental health support and care. Far too many service members end up homeless, on the street, and or having mental illnesses that make it difficult for them to participate in the very society that they helped protect through their service.

Add to that the need to make sure that they have jobs with living wages after separation, and you've got two issues that should unite most Americans behind a plan that would give these service members the backing and support that they need and deserve.




So, while many of us sit back and enjoy the barbecues, the Indy 500, baseball, and other sporting events, take a few moments to remember all those who served and made it possible.

(image)
Iwo Jima Memorial at night.

We Remember. And we give thanks.




A Trip Through History - Civil War and Presidential History in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia

2015-04-19T11:55:38.890-04:00

Black Hawk Helicopters flying over Gettysburg National ParkGun emplacement at GettysburgMemorial at AntietamLooking down from the Observation Tower at Antietam National BattlefieldBurnside Bridge at Antietam.Belle Grove plantation; focal point of the last major battle in Shenandoah Valley.Dark Hollow Falls at Shenandoah National Park.The night sky from Skyland Resort in Shenandoah NP.Overexposed and light pollution from Luray in Shenandoah NP.Luray Caverns.Thomas Jefferson's masterpiece at Monticello.Ash-Highland (James Monroe's residence, the original bit of which is the building on the left).James Madison's Montpelier, which is undergoing ongoing archeological restoration and work to reveal slave quarters on the south side of the building.Partial rainbow over Manassas (Bull Run).Dramatic sky over Manassas.Old Stone Bridge at Manassas.[...]



A Colorful Open To Late Winter: NY Botanical Garden's Orchid Show

2015-03-23T22:17:12.386-04:00

The New York Botanical Garden in The Bronx puts on a fabulous orchid show every late winter/early spring, and this year was no different. While the weather outside was nearly frightful (coming just days after a substantial snowstorm) and still colder than normal, the Haupt Conservatory was filled to the brim with amazing and colorful orchids from the world over. Every color and shape was represented as seen by the photos below.







One thing I did manage to learn from the orchid show is that the orchids I've been trying to maintain over the past couple of years aren't really tolerant of the temperatures I leave the house with during the day. There are cold tolerant varieties that do much better against overnight low temps down into the 50s and low 60s, but those aren't nearly as common as the ones you'll find at most garden centers.




Great Falls on Ice

2015-02-21T15:48:37.512-05:00

The Great Falls of Paterson, New Jersey have been a national park for only a short time, but their power and size has been a draw since before the Revolutionary War. Alexander Hamilton saw the promise of the falls, and it became a generator for business making Paterson an industrial hub for decades to come. Paterson may have fallen on hard times, but the Falls endure. The Falls are now part of a National Historical Park, and I can only hope that people get to experience the falls up close to enjoy the wonder and the important role they played in our nation's development. There's also a move to include the nearby Hinchliffe Stadium into the national park for its role as host to Negro Leagues games. It is one of the few remaining stadiums from that era to still exist.The Great Falls iced over. The building on the left is a hydropower turbine room, which still produces power today.The snow was beginning to fall as we were out taking pictures.A closeup of the falls from the bridge seen in the photo above.Looking across the national park.Iced over.You can't tell from the photos, but you could see the water flowing in behind the ice.[...]



Longtime NYS Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver Surrenders to FBI

2015-01-22T09:38:22.730-05:00

NYS Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has been an Albany fixture for 2+ decades. He was Speaker back when I was working in the legislature. And he's survived and thrived despite multiple scandals. But this is one scandal too far.


The Manhattan Democrat, who is the longest running Speaker in state history, is being charged with corruption over payments from one law firm (he is of counsel with another firm too).

I've been saying for years that the legislature should stop being a part time gig; they pay full time wages ($79,500, plus perks on position). Yet, they allow members to work elsewhere - like law firms, and can serve up conflicts of interest in no time. Eliminate the outside work, and you eliminate a major source of conflicts of interest.

Silver has stood against those reforms for years, in part because he benefited from the status quo arrangement. According to the NYT:

While it is legal for lawmakers to hold outside jobs, investigators said Mr. Silver failed to list the payments from the firm, Goldberg & Iryami, on his annual financial disclosure filings with the state.

In the past, Mr. Silver has been criticized for his outside law practice, a lucrative career that supplements the $121,000 he earns as speaker.

In 2013, Mr. Silver earned at least $650,000 in legal income, including work for the personal injury law firm, Weitz & Luxenberg, according to his most recent financial disclosure filing.

But what he does to earn that income has long been a mystery in Albany, and Mr. Silver has refused to provide details about his work.

He also managed to survive threats to his speakership when there were multiple sexual harassment/sexual assault cases that his office bungled/fumbled/buried. These include the Michael Boxley matter (who was one of his top staffers), investigations into whether other Assembly members engaged in sexual harassment or inappropriate conduct, including Micah Kellner, Vito Lopez, and secret settlements to silence the scandals. Silver admits that he shouldn't have used public money to fund the Lopez settlement.

The Assembly has paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars in settlements over these and other sexual harassment cases involving members and staffers. That doesn't count the boatload of money spent on legal fees.

Silver's actions in those cases should have been grounds for his caucus to send him packing, but he used divide and conquer to split the caucus from picking a replacement.

But he couldn't outrun federal prosecutor Preet Bharara. He's managed to do more to roll up corruption in Albany than Gov. Cuomo's defanged Moreland Commission. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. I suspect there's lots more to come.



In the Wake of Charlie Hebdo

2015-01-09T10:24:06.403-05:00

As of this posting, there are at least two separate hostage standoff situations near Paris. One is at a kosher market (I've heard it referred to as a supermarket, deli, or grocery) on Ave Porte de Vincennes in the 13th Arr (that'd be Southeastern Paris). The other is near Charles de Gaulle airport. There have also been reports of an incident near the Eiffel Tower in the Trocadero, but so far news about that incident is limited.There have been casualties reported in one of the incidents, with at least two dead.The two standoff situations appear related to each other and to the Charlie Hebdo attacks, as well as a separate attack resulting in the death of a French policewoman the other day. It's likely all part of the same cell.Yet, there's something irking me about all this. We're being told that it required training and tactics to carry off the attacks, but yet the best that this cell could manage is to kill a bunch of unarmed journalists and a couple of cops who were caught by surprise and off-guard before engaging in standoffs at locations like a grocery store.Is this the best that al Qaeda in Yemen can do? I know that sounds off or somehow callous but if you're studying tactics, methods, and capabilities, al Qaeda has gone from being able to pull off spectacular attacks against the USS Cole (a military target no less), the African embassy bombings that killed hundreds of people, and 9/11, which killed nearly 3,000 people and injured thousands more, to now being able to attack a French satire paper. That's quite telling about the limits of what al Qaeda is able to do more than a decade after 9/11. It doesn't mean let your guard down, but it should also put things in perspective.Also putting things into perspective? That the cry and hue about Muslims overwhelming Europe are so vastly overblown that a handy dandy visual is needed to hammer it home:This is the best visualization I've yet seen of Europe's "Muslim tide" hysteria pic.twitter.com/a681LGp4yR— Doug Saunders (@DougSaunders) January 9, 2015Or, perhaps a few other statistics about the threats from terrorism:Less Than 2 Percent Of Terrorist Attacks In The E.U. Are Religiously Motivated. http://t.co/NAuKUyYXNn— lawhawk (@lawhawk) January 9, 2015And if you're listening closely, just substitute Jew for Muslim in all those calls for banning Muslims from entering the country because the acts of a handful are indicative of the intent of all (and that's the most limited kind of rhetoric streaming from the right, which also includes expulsion and flat out genocide). Even in France, where anti-Semitism is rampant, the fact is that most people - of all religions - just want to live in peace, and there are those who want to deny everyone that opportunity. They happen to include Islamist extremists who do not speak for all Muslims.So, while attention is rightly focused on Paris and the search for the Charlie Hebdo killers, there's Muslims living in fear of Islamic extremists the world over, and few places are more dangerous right now for Muslims than Nigeria where Boko Haram is operating with ruthless abandon. This terror group is rampaging across northeastern Nigeria, where reports of slaughter continue. That terror group is now threatening Cameroon as well, and Niger has now refused to assist Nigeria in retaking the area around Baga. Reports continue circulating that 2,000 or more people were killed by Boko Haram since the start of the year there, and that at least 20,000 people have been displaced. Some reportedly drowned attempting to flee across Lake Chad.Yet, the silence and lack of media reports and access means that this horrific attack isn't getting anywhere near the pre[...]



Justice. Only Justice Shall Thou Pursue

2014-12-22T14:25:16.361-05:00

I learned about the execution style killing of two NYPD officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, in Brooklyn while at a family gathering, and it is heartbreaking to learn under any circumstances.These officers were doing their jobs, trying to reduce crime in a high-crime area of Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn they weren't even from the local precinct but  rather called in from other parts of the city to help. The man who killed them had an agenda that had nothing to do with protests or protesters; he had a lengthy criminal record and had shot and nearly killed his girlfriend before coming up to NYC to engage in more mayhem.But NYPD supporters who ignore all that ails the Department and that there are bad officers in their midst, will try everything to link the killer to the protests. The PBA's Pat Lynch and others will try and blame the Mayor for the killings, claiming that the Mayor doesn't support the officers wholeheartedly and without reservations.The problem is that there's no truth to the matter asserted. The Mayor does support the police. He also doesn't want anyone to tolerate criminal behavior by the police. He wants justice applied evenly and fairly. He has to warn his son (who is black) that police might not respect him or treat him properly because of the color of his skin, even if he does nothing wrong. That's not disrespecting the police; that's stating an objective fact. Police in NYC, and nationally, do engage in racial profiling and they do stop blacks far more often than whites when adjusting for per capita.Justice. Only Justice Shall Thou Pursue. It's originally found in the Old Testament. It's a call for justice and to follow the law.It's not just an empty slogan.I've been referring to this belief quite frequently in the past several months, if only because it's become abundantly clear that there are some people who don't think that justice applies to everyone.Some people believe that law enforcement is immune from being responsible for their actions that result in the death of unarmed people and particularly unarmed black men and children. This belief extends to the police and prosecutors who are supposed to uphold the law.When the police and prosecutors fail to do their jobs properly, that harms everyone - it's a breach of the social compact that the police have with us. And they have to be responsible for their actions as well.It's pitiful that the police boosters are trying to pin blame on people like Al Sharpton or Mayor DeBlasio for the shooting of the two cops; we don't hear these same voices blaming right wingers like Rush or Hannity when white supremacists and sovereign citizens use the same rhetoric and vitriol in stalking and targeting law enforcement. There, those people are categorized as lone wolfs and not representative of everyone else.Personal responsibility.It cuts both ways. It is ultimately the responsibility of the shooters and criminals who carry out these acts. It is also the responsibility for everyone to call out those who use extreme rhetoric.Justice demands it.The need to seek justice for those who are killed at the hands of police is not mutually exclusive with the need respect or to mourn their losses in such horrible circumstances. The NYPD has done heroic things, such as running into the burning WTC before it came crashing down on 9/11, and they've killed unarmed black men including Sean Bell, Eric Garner, and Amadou Diallo. They've sodomized Abner Louima, and the fight for justice continues. Good cops shouldn't stand to see their ranks sullied by those who violate the social compact, and yet that's exactly the message we get from their union leadership who blames [...]



Fulton Center, 1WTC, and a Malfunctioning Scaffold

2014-11-15T09:20:00.637-05:00

This past week was a busy one in Lower Manhattan. Fulton Center finally opened after years of delays and cost overruns. Parts of the station have been open for some time now, but the central feature - the oculus that lets light stream down into the heart of the station - is now revealed, and the escalators and other areas are now open. Upper floors, however, are still off limits as they wont open until businesses move into retail spaces on those upper floors.The Fulton Center (previously called the Fulton Street Transit Hub), was meant to untangle and better connect a number of subway lines that were built at different times by different competing subway companies at the beginning of the 20th century. Some were built at different depths, and some cross over other lines in a tangle that would make Escher blush.The MTA did manage to improve the flow between some of the key lines, including the A/C and the 4/5, so that's a big improvement.What was left on the table is that while the oculus is already an architectural darling, the MTA could have used the space above the station to sell air rights that could help defray the costs for the station or permit construction of other capital projects elsewhere.What follows is a series of photos taken around Fulton Center:Interior as seen from Broadway and Fulton escalator bankArches and architectural detail of the Corbin building access to Fulton CenterLooking up at the OculusRetail space along the street level of the Fulton CenterLooking up and through the OculusInformation bank at Fulton CenterAfter viewing Fulton Center, I walked over to the WTC memorial to shoot some more photos, and a dramatic sky didn't hurt either:1WTC shrouded in breaking clouds. Note that scaffold on the south side. I'll come back to that later.Yellow roses adorn the names of those who served in the military and died on 9/11 as part of Veterans' Day remembrances.Looking towards the 9/11 Museum, the WTC transit hub, and 3WTC. Note that the spikes are nearly completely installed.Still my favorite view of the WTC - looking up the South side of 1WTC. Note the window washing scaffold high up in the center of the photo. This photo was taken 12:41PM. I didn't know it at the time, but within minutes, that scaffold would suffer a major malfunction requiring a high level FDNY emergency rescue operation more than 600 feet in the air.Scaffolds on the NW corner of 1WTC.Scaffolds and a hatch to allow a scaffold to deploy for the lower floors.The damaged scaffold dangling at a sharp angle; this was taken at 1:25PM, about an hour before the rescue was completed. The two men aboard the scaffold were rescued unharmed, and within 48 hours the window that had to be broken out to carry out the rescue had been replaced. The investigation into why the scaffold failed is underway.[...]



Sandy Related Repairs to Affect LIRR and Amtrak Service for Years

2014-10-02T09:25:25.759-04:00

New Yorkers have been trying to adjust to the new normal of MTA repairs to tunnels that were flooded by the storm surge from Superstorm Sandy. It included a 15-month closure of the Montague tunnel that affected many living in Brooklyn. There have been scattered closures to other tunnels and rerouted service elsewhere in the subway system, but now comes word that Amtrak is about to do its own remediation of the East River tunnels.These tunnels service not only Amtrak, but LIRR and NJ Transit. They connect Penn Station with Long Island through the Sunnyside Yards and Harold Interlocking. Amtrak has to take two of the tunnels out of service for a year each. This will reduce the service capacity by 25% (1 out of four tunnels will be out of service at any time during the duration of the project that is expected to start next year).The reconstruction will be similar to the work done on the Montague tunnels. It will include rebuilding the bench walls that include cable conduits for signals and power, plus railbed replacement and other work that can't be done while the tunnel is active.The MTA and Amtrak were able to get service restored, but have been seeing an increased amount of service disruptions due to corrosion of equipment in the affected tunnels. That's why this full rehabilitation must get done.But the East River tunnels are the easy part.Amtrak has said that they must do the same with the Hudson River tunnels.There are only two tunnels under the Hudson, and each are over 100 years old. They are functionally obsolete and need major rehabilitation, but that work can't be done until additional capacity is added.After Gov. Christie cancelled the fully funded ARC tunnel project, that left a gaping hole in capacity expansion. Amtrak proposed a better project, Gateway, that would directly link in with NY Penn Station and allow through trains to run and high speed rail once service improvements elsewhere in the system are made.Gateway is more than a decade away from seeing the light of day due to lack of funding. So New Jersey residents will be suffering with service delays for the foreseeable future.Now some will point to Christie being short sighted in his cancellation of the project, but it was the right thing to do because NJ Transit has never met a capital project it couldn't complete overbudget and years after the scheduled deadlines. Cost overruns were likely to be in the $1-2 billion range, and even the FTA warned about the cost containment.Gateway allows more capacity to the entire system - NJ Transit, Amtrak, and LIRR. ARC would have had limited capacity improvements for NJ Transit since the New York terminus was just that - a terminus. There was no place to store additional trains for rush hour, reducing actual customer capacity on the trains that would run to New Jersey.The fact that we need to get additional capacity to allow for both growth in customer demand and to fix existing infrastructure is well established. What's missing is the lack of support in New York and New Jersey to find the funding for this critical work. That falls on both Gov. Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Both have shown indifference to mass transit and infrastructure beyond a few car-centric projects like the new Tappan Zee bridge in New York and the Pulaski Skyway rehabilitation and NJ Turnpike expansion projects in New Jersey.This has to change in order to improve the economic competitiveness of the region against other world-class cities.[...]



The Failure of the WTC PATH Hub

2014-09-23T09:20:38.848-04:00

Construction of the Port Authority's PATH Transit Hub is still underway and Santiago Calatrava's design shows its final form, even as the cost pushes past a staggering $4 billion. That's nearly $2 billion over the original budget estimate. These inflated costs have sapped the Port Authority's ability to build new infrastructure in the region, which is its core mission. Instead, the agency has poured billions into a project that doesn't add any cross-river capacity.Set aside the architectural features of the exterior or the fact that the Port Authority is boasting about a transit hall that is larger than that of Grand Central Terminal in Midtown. I think that the design will ultimately be an iconic site in Lower Manhattan and become one of the more photographed sites in Manhattan, which is saying something.But the visuals can't overcome the serious flaws to the project that will saddle future commuters for generations to come.The view from Fulton Street.This is first and foremost a transit hub. So, the first question to be asked is whether it does that job well.I think I know the answer to this, even though the permanent design is still being unveiled in phases.The design is a failure.This week is proof of that.The new terminal cannot handle counter-commutes. It just can't do it.The new platforms are all shiny and clad in white marble and the steel ribs that peek out are also white, so you can be forgiven for the impression that you've walked into an Apple store with all the gleaming whiteness and sleek curves.But getting to the platform itself is a comedy of bad design.The mezzanine level for the PATH terminal; there is marble as far as the eye can see.There is currently one platform open, and there are two elevators, which is a significant improvement over the original station or even the temporary station built after the attacks but that's the extent of the positive news. The problem is that the Port Authority decided in its infinite wisdom to build two escalators that funnel into the center of the future transit hall. There are three sets of stairs. During the past two days, it has been next to impossible to get up the stairs or on to the platform level because there simply isn't any room for people to go.The escalators preclude any counter-commuting. You are forced to go to the stairs at the far ends of the platforms, but considering that we're talking about full trains, there's no extra room for people to squeeze through to get either up or down, so it takes extra time to navigate through the PATH platform level.That's inexcusable. The Port Authority chose to install costly escalators that they don't even operate full time (they shut down during midday) because of the cost, rather than stairs that would be much more amenable to counter commuting. What's sad is that it's actually easier to get from the platform levels to the mezzanine level from the old temporary platforms than it is from the gleaming new platform A. It's part of the mindset about the Port Authority thinking only in one direction, and not realizing that there is a significant number of people who commute from Manhattan to New Jersey for their jobs. It's a serious oversight and one that should be corrected with the remaining platforms, but I doubt that they're going to make those changes, even though it would be the prudent thing to do. So, who to blame for this? I have to put the blame squarely on the Port Authority, which apparently never bothered to look at how people actually commute, and what can happen when there are service disruptions elsewhere i[...]



September 11, 2014 -- I Remember Steven Harris Russin

2014-09-11T08:50:00.713-04:00

For several years now I have participated in Project 2996,    a tribute to the 2,996 innocent victims of 9/11, where bloggers eulogize each victim. Previously, I have remembered Lt. Col. Jerry Don Dickerson Jr., Mary Lenz Wieman, Mark Francis Broderick, Capt. Patrick J, Brown, Hagay Shefi, Alison Marie Wildman, Daniel Thomas Afflitto, and Donna Bernaerts-Kearns. Please check out these tributes as well today, as they deserve to be remembered too.  Today, I remember Steven Harris Russin.Steven was born in Marlboro, New Jersey, the town in which I live.  Two years ago, the town ceremonially renamed several streets after victims of 9/11.  My street was renamed Steven Russin Way.  Since the renaming, I wondered who Steven Russin was.  I was going to do last year's tribute to him, but decided that I needed to eulogize a victim from another location, other than the World Trade Center. Steven Russin was a child at heart.  That is how several online articles and eulogies about Steven start out.  Steven was born and raised in Marlboro, NJ, attended Marlboro High School, where he carried on a successful baseball card trading business, and later, Ithaca College, in upstate New York.  Like many of the victims on that faithful day, he worked for Cantor Fitzgerald, as a government securities trader.However, work was not what defined his life.  Steven's life was his son Alec and the unborn twin girls he never met, Ariella and Olivia, who were born four days after 9/11.  Ariella even wrote a letter to Steven, which was published in“The Legacy Letters: Messages of Life and Hope from 9/11 Family Members,” which she reads in the video below (the proceeds of sale of this book go to the Tuesday's Children organization.)Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economyLike Steven, I too am a child at heart.  I also would have been front and center in that water gun fight shown in the video.  From all accounts, Steven, like most of the victims I have written about, appears to be someone I truly wish I could have met.  I would have loved to have talked to him about his kids and share stories of my own children.  To discuss how we both balance demanding work lives with the desire to spend as much time with our children. While I have not met Steven, I am sure that several people I know have, and I hope they feel free to comment on his life here.Steven's family and friends have set up the The Steven Russin Children Assistance Program Fund, who's mission is to enrich the lives of children of families with financial limitations.  In addition, this child at heart has a playground named after him.  What a fitting tribute![...]



13 Years Later: Remembering 9/11

2014-09-11T08:51:14.613-04:00

I've written essentially the same opening each of the past few years. It's still appropriate to remember today, as it was when I first wrote this:September 11, 2001. New Yorkers were heading to the polls to vote in primary elections to determine the next mayor of the city. It was a morning full of promise and baseball fans were excited about the Yankees' chances of making the playoffs, the Mets thinking about the future, and the start of the new football season. In other words, it was a day not unlike the ones we've experienced once again this year.While everyone was focused on the day ahead, another group of people were thinking about the mission that would forever alter the skyline of NYC and alter history. Al Qaeda's terrorists were already on board four jets bound for New York and Washington DC and had already overpowered the crews.I was on a NJ Transit train with my dad when I first noticed something wrong at the WTC out of the corner of my eye; it was smoke coming from the upper reaches of the tower.It was just around 8:45.The world changed, and I didn't quite realize it. No one did.People watching the morning news didn't know it either at first. But they would soon be glued to broadcasts that showed the horrors of the worst terror attacks ever perpetrated.The damage done on that morning was nearly impossible to comprehend. In the mere blink of the eye, nearly 3,000 people were condemned to death and the World Trade Center would soon be reduced to a pile of rubble that would burn for weeks on end. Reports would come in that a third plane had struck and damaged the Pentagon.  But the death rattle of the Twin Towers would continue for just under two hours and victims trapped above the fires had to make the choice to stay and choke on the heat and smoke or jump to a certain death. All too many make that decision to jump. Firefighters on the ground also succumbed before the towers fell - falling debris hitting firefighters and fleeing people alike.Victim Number One would be there to comfort those who fell. Rev. Mychal Judge of the FDNY was comforting fallen firefighters and office workers alike when he was struck and killed by debris. So many people inside the Department and around the City thought so highly of him that he was honored as the first victim of the attacks - so that he could comfort and aid all those many others who were murdered on that day - to guide them to Heaven.All too many would unfortunately follow him - and not by their own choice.Here are remembrances of a few of those killed on 9/11, as written by my friend legalbgl for Project 2,996:Steven Harris Russin (2014).Lt. Col. Jerry Don Dickerson Jr. (2013).Mary Lenz Wieman (2012).Mark Francis Broderick (2011).Captain Patrick J. Brown (2010).Hagay Shefi (2009).Alison Marie Wildman (2008).Daniel Thomas Afflito (2007).By happenstance, I happened to come across Hagay Shefi's name, which was found on the North Memorial Pool:Stephen Siller, whose name is memorialized in the annual Tunnel to Towers Run to raise funds for responders. He's also memorialized at the Staten Island 9/11 Memorial thusly:Stephen Siller's memorial on Staten IslandComing full circle, on May 1, 2011, the United States finally caught up with Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan. In a daring raid on a compound near Pakistan's military academy, US special forces killed bin Laden and captured a treasure trove of intel.  That's small consolation for the thousands of families and friends who still grieve the senseless murder of their loved[...]



Meet Me In St. Louis

2014-08-08T11:07:56.115-04:00

Looking up at the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (aka the Gateway Arch). Definitely very impressive from the outside. Also impressive? The line to get in. Depending on time of day, you could spend more time waiting in line than actually riding the elevator to the observation deck.Inside Union Station. The station, repurposed as a hotel, is a grand space with a nightly light show. One of the more impressive public spaces in the City.At Busch Stadium with a view of the Arch, Court House, and downtown.A view from behind home plate.One of the great things about St. Louis is all the public art and sculptures on display. This is part of a larger display along Market Street. Soulard Market is a hidden gem near the Budweiser brewery (and tours and free tastings). However, this is more likely to leave a lasting impression with a copious amount of fresh food, spices, teas, and other local delicacies. More of the fresh food on display.From the top of the Gateway Arch looking West. There was a bit of haze plus the windows don't exactly give you the clearest views (and they're incredibly tiny - each one is less than a foot high and about 18 inches wide). Everyone gets wedged in tight up there trying to hunch over to get a view, let alone decent photos.Fountains outside Union Station at night. More fountains outside Union Station.The Lincoln home in Springfield, Illinois. It's where Lincoln accepted the nomination to lead the Republican Party in the 1861 presidential elections, which he won. We hit several stretches of Route 66 in and around St. Louis. This particular stretch was near the Lincoln National Historic Site.Inside the State Capitol of Illinois.Looking up at the State Capitol of Illinois.St. Charles, Missouri. Home to the first state capitol and first capital of Missouri.White Haven, the home owned by US Grant and where he lived prior to the Civil War. It's where he met his wife, who was from a family of slave holders. Inside the Budweiser Brewery.Inside the Court House where the state's Dred Scott cases played out.This space is recreating the look and feel of the court room at the time of the Dred Scott decision. The courtroom was originally several times larger than this.Walking through the Old Courthouse, you could really feel the history around you. Hitting these historic sites really did give you a sense of the importance of the St. Louis environs and why events turned out the way they did - it was where US Grant got his first exposure to slavery (via his wife's family). It's where the infamous Dred Scott case worked its way through the courts on its way to an abominable decision by the Taney court, and where the nation was at a crossroads- literally and figuratively as a central point on the way West.If you want to get a primer on civil rights and equal protection under the law, look no further than the courthouse downtown. The courtroom for Dred Scott leaves a lasting impression on those willing to learn - we are still a world away from truly having equal protection under the law, and minorities are still persecuted and not treated equally.That goes for religious as well as ethnic minorities. So, when I hear about how Christian persecution in the US, I have to wonder what planet these people are talking about, because Christians aren’t being persecuted here - they’re being exposed to the limits of separation of church and state as the Founders wanted because no religion shall be established, which means that Christians[...]



The Gaza War Continues: Where Do We Go From Here?

2014-07-22T20:40:00.416-04:00

The latest battle in the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas (Operation Protective Edge) continued without any sign of letup. Israel's military continues ground operations inside Gaza, while Hamas has continued firing rockets and missiles at Israel. Israeli ground forces have taken casualties while Gazan casualties continue to grow. Thus far, Palestinians living in Gaza have taken the brunt of the fighting. There have been hundreds of casualties and it is still unclear just how many of them are civilians and how many have been Hamas fighters. Media outlets are relying almost exclusively on Hamas and PA sources for casualty counts, and Hamas has been notorious with lying about who was killed and conflating their casualties with civilians. It is indisputable that Israel has hit civilians, including children in the course of the fighting and trying to hit at Hamas terrorists who are entrenched in urban areas and firing at Israel from within civilian areas. Israel reports that they've killed at least 270 terrorists, while the UN indicates that 479 have been killed overall, including 364 civilians, 76 militants, and 39 who they can't classify. Gaza's Health Ministry puts the tally at 632 killed and nearly 3,800 wounded. It is also indisputable that Hamas has no problem firing from civilian positions including schools and UN facilities. For the second time in a week, the UNRWA has found rocket caches in one of their facilities. https://twitter.com/lawhawk/status/491629164584112128Hamas has become more brazen in where they're storing their weapons, all while their leaders cower in underground bunkers while Gazans who aren't connected with the leadership and don't have the means to protect themselves are taking the brunt of the damage with no where else to go.It is also indisputable that but for Hamas firing rockets and missiles at Israel incessantly since even the last ceasefire in 2012 (all but one month had missile/mortar or rocket fire) that Israel would not have needed to invade Gaza once again after the latest rounds of barrages that have landed deep inside Israel, including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.The FAA may have succeeded in doing what Hamas couldn't do directly. After firing missiles in the direction of Ben Gurion Airport, Delta Airlines and a quick succession of other airlines decided that they didn't want to put their planes in harms' way. The FAA then ordered US airlines to halt flights to and from Israel for 24 hours. Other airlines also followed suit.The airlines rightfully don’t want to see their gear destroyed by the missiles or rockets, and that’ll be more than enough to keep them away though it is strange that they are not willing to fly into Israel but haven't had issues with flights to/from or over other war zones and conflict regions in recent years, including Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Ukraine (prior to the shoot down of Malaysian Air Flight 17).The FAA order and its effect on the conflict can play out in one of two ways. It could force Israel to a ceasefire while Israel has not achieved its goals militarily so as to get flights to resume. If the flights remain shut down, it would have the effect of imposing economic harms on Israel (lost tourism/commerce) and indirectly strengthens Hamas’ hand. However, the concern for Israel's economy is just as likely to move Israel to mount an even larger military campaign into Gaza so as to eliminate the threat to Israel's only international airport and crush Hamas' cap[...]



A Fair Lawn Fireworks Spectacular

2014-07-02T21:57:17.802-04:00

Happy early 4th of July to everyone! Fair Lawn did their annual fireworks spectacular yesterday at the Memorial Pool, and it was a rousing success.







All photos were taken with a Canon 60D and Sigma 8-16mm, 4.5-5.6, which I am still getting used to. I've taken shots from a similar vantage point for Fair Lawn fireworks in the past, but this was the first time I didn't have to worry about missing any fireworks that weren't in my potential field of view. Instead of worrying about losing photos, I can now crop the best shots down.

These photos, however, are unretouched and uncropped. No additional processing was done.



New York's Court of Appeals Kills Bloomberg's Soda Ban Legislation

2014-06-27T10:30:33.811-04:00

The top court in New York, the Court of Appeals, ruled against the Bloomberg era soda law that limited certain carbonated beverage sizes. The law was convoluted, hard to administer, and ignored that there were entire classes of beverages that delivered the same or greater amounts of sugar but were exempt from the size restriction.http://www.scribd.com/doc/231420602/134opn14-DecisionThe court properly ruled against the soda size ban both substantively and procedurally. Mayor Bloomberg seems to have targeted those products that he thought he could ban without a stiffer fight - rather than following the science.“By choosing among competing policy goals, without any legislative delegation or guidance, the Board engaged in law-making and thus infringed upon the legislative jurisdiction of the City Council of New York,” Judge Eugene F. Pigott wrote for the majority in 4-2 decision.The ruling likely strikes the final legal blow to the controversial policy enacted by Mayor Bloomberg’s administration to ban large sugary beverages over 16 ounces.Administration officials had argued the policy was necessary to combat the growing problem of obesity.In arguments before the court earlier this month, city attorney Richard Dearing argued the 2012 regulation was a reasonable and science-based effort to combat obesity.The ultimate goal was a worthy one, but that doesn't trump fact that the law was poorly written, it didn't follow the science, and infringed on personal rights and choices. The law was so poorly thought out that it would have added costs to restaurants and businesses selling drinks by the cup, but it wouldn't appear to ban refills, which is yet another way to circumvent the ban on portion size. It ignored those beverages that are sold at places like 7-11 like the Big Gulp, as well as 2-liter beverages sold in grocery stores, but targeted only those beverages sold by the cup in restaurants. That was a restriction unfairly targeting those businesses and put them at a disadvantage. A restaurant couldn't sell a 32 ounce soda beverage, but the 7-11 next door could. The law also ignored just how many calories were present in fruit juices, coffee products, and other products that are non-carbonated. That meant that sweetened ice tea wasn't restricted, but a soda beverage with the same calorie count per ounce would be restricted. It made no sense until you realize how the law was shaped by the need to get something passed and this was the path of least resistance; it had nothing to do with science.And, as I've noted before, the soda makers could rebut the empty calories claims by adding vitamins and minerals to the soda products (and we're already starting to see some of that). It also ignores that obesity isn't the product of drinking more soda - if anything consumption of soda has declined, but obesity rates have continued to increase. Even the shift to more sugar-free sodas hasn't reduced the obesity epidemic. It's because people substitute even more calories from other sources when they think that they're not getting calories from soda. They pile on to their plates when they think they're getting a calorie free soda. Obesity is a product of a sedentary lifestyle and consumption choices. Bloomberg seems to think that hiking the price of soda (which is what the ban on super-sized beverages would have) will result in reduced consumption and lower obesity levels. I expect that people [...]