Upstream. A Mohawk Valley Blogzine.

Saturday, December 31, 2005

230th Anniversary Of General Montgomery's Death Today.

In 1775, the British repulsed an attack by Continental Army generals Richard Montgomery and Benedict Arnold at Quebec; Montgomery was killed. Montgomery County, New York was, of course, named after General Montgomery as are the other Montgomery Counties scattered throughout the United States.

Oink. Squeal. Sizzle. Presents From Hugh's Pork Barrel.

Much of the bacon that Senator Hugh Farley handed out at the end of the year seems justified--most of it went to various libraries in the Mohawk Valley. However, I am not happy with his gift of $12,500 of our money to the Wrestling Hall of Fame in Amsterdam. The Wrestling Hall of Fame should make its way with private money, just as I and many other people had to when we started businesses in Amsterdam.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Bigamy in Oppenheim and the Definition of Marriage.

The arrest of an Oppenheim woman, Lisa D. Siver, for bigamy is important, not just because it is the first bigamy case in Fulton County for a long time. But it could be the very last case of bigamy to be prosecuted in Fulton County if the long accepted definition of marriage as a legal relationship entered into by one man and one woman is changed as some want it to be. Clearly, if marriage is allowed between two people of the same sex, it won't be long before others will be challenging the marriage laws to allow bigamy, polygamy, polyandry and other relationships.

The arrest of Lisa D. Siver is important because it reveals that current bigamy laws (which I support) do underscore the traditional definition of marriage. If the laws on marriage are to change, clearly the definition of the word marriage will have to be stretched and given a new meaning. But that's not unusual. Generally, good laws cannot be twisted and abused until the English language is first twisted and abused.

The abuse of language is always the first step towards abuse of the law and abuse of people. A simple study of totalitarian governments shows this to be true.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Defining The Mohawk Valley. Part 4. Identity Confusion.

The Mohawk Valley is generally divided into three sections. The first section, or the lower Mohawk covers Waterford to Schenectady. The second section, or the middle Mohawk, covers Schenectady to St. Johnsville, and the third section, or the upper Mohawk, covers St. Johnsville to Utica.

The problem is that the lower Mohawk is part of the Capital District and is more often referred to as the Capital District than the Mohawk Valley. Similarly, the upper Mohawk is often called the Utica-Rome area.

The middle Mohawk has no such identity confusion. Maybe that's why in my mind I often think of the middle Mohawk as the real Mohawk Valley. Of course, I live in the middle Mohawk which may prejudice me a little.

Are High Speed Police Chases Really Necessary?

In pursuit of a stolen car, Amsterdam city police reached speeds of up to 112 mph this past week, some of it on Guy Park Avenue. Thankfully, this took place in the wee hours of the morning. Is it really necessary for the police to endanger their own lives and other people's lives and property in order to pursue a stolen car? It would be one thing if the guy who stole the car was a violent criminal or had hostages, but even then I am not sure that a high speed pursuit would be the best solution.

Similarly, local police and emergency vehicles have created problems by responding too fast to emergencies. We already lost one policeman in Schenectady because of this. He slammed into a stone abutment while responding to a call. He was going faster than departmental guidelines which call for a maximum of 40 mph within Schenectady when responding to calls.

This past week another accident took place in Schenectady while a policeman was responding to a call. The driver of the other vehicle was taken to the hospital. The accident is still under investigation.

In an earlier post, I mentioned the five accidents involving deputy sheriffs in Fulton County.

A study of accidents involving emergency vehicles needs to be done and statewide guidelines for speed limits for emergency vehicles need to be established.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Montgomery County Supervisor Beth Schumann On Supervisor Tom Dimezza.

"This is a perfect example of bully politics; it's my way or the high way," Schumann said. "Tom DiMezza is not about compromise, Tom DiMezza is not about government by the people for the people. Tom DiMezza is about government by the people for Tom DiMezza."

Schumann seems to have hit the nail on the head with her comments on DiMezza in Sunday's Leader-Herald. There are too many DiMezzas in the Mohawk Valley and not enough Schumanns.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Another Blog Recommendation.

Since agriculture is still one of the Mohawk Valley's top businesses, I recommend reading and/or subscribing to Northview Diary (yes that's diary not dairy. I keep wanting to read it as dairy) to keep abreast of farm life in the valley.

I live on ten acres of what was once a 100 acre working farm. I live in the original farmhouse built sometime before the American Revolution. Our only connection to farming now is my daughter's horse, the burned out barn foundation across the road, and the two acres of hay that we let a local farmer take so that the field doesn't go back to nature. Eventually, I want to fence it in for pasture for my daughter's horse.

We did have two goats and showed them at the fair, but their constant noise got on my nerves so we got rid of them. Anyway, I appreciate farmers and know that I was not cut out for that kind of life. Just taking care of one horse is taxing.

Although I am not enamored with farm life, I am fascinated by tractors and barns. I own a 1950 Case. It has a snow plow that I have not used to plow snow with, but I have used it to clear brush. By keeping the blade an inch or two off the ground, I can clear brush up to a couple inches in diameter.

Its sad to see so many barns falling down in the Valley. They are fantastic structures in their own right. The state does have a program now where you can get up to $25,000 to restore a barn. Unfortunately, that doesn't go far today. My goal is to build a replica Dutch barn on our property some day.

A couple of years ago, I made an offer on a barn and seven acres that once were part of the Danascara estate on Mohawk Drive in Tribes Hill. I wanted to turn the barn into a house. The owner and I could not agree on a price (eventually it was sold for less than what I offered). The barn blocks one of the most stunning views in the valley. Behind the barn is a gorge, with steep, rock walls through which a stream runs. Whoever bought the barn hasn't done anything with it, except to put plastic over the one missing window. I do hope they restore it.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Santa & Sam Stratton's Son.

Brian Stratton, mayor of Schenectady got an early Christmas present in the form of a 46% raise. Not bad. Even Rennselaer County officials didn't dare go that high with their recent raises. Would Brian's father, the late Congressman Sam Stratton have approved? He was a Democrat, but a fiscal conservative, so I doubt it. I kind of miss Congressman Stratton. Neither Michael McNulty, who now sits where Sam sat, nor Stratton's son Brian, have the same moxie that Sam had. I am an registered independent voter who votes mostly for Republicans, but I always voted for Sam when he was running for office. It is highly unlikely that I would do the same for Brian if given the opportunity.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Northeast Parent & Child Society Needs To Be Investigated!

A little over a year ago, Berkshire Farm was investigated for staff members abusing drugs and children. The abuse was found to be real and Berkshire has been affected by the scandal and has had to lay off workers.

If there is an institution in the Mohawk Valley that needs to be investigated, it is Northeast Parent & Child Society, particularly its home for children on Park Avenue in Schenectady. The Society houses male juvenile sex offenders and young girls in the same building. They do have times in which they are allowed together, and on more than one occasion, juvenile sex offenders have taken advantage of young girls there.

There is no security at the home. People can come and go as they please. Bags are not checked, and contraband can easily be brought in. If a teen or younger child decides to walk out of the home, the staff members are not allowed to restrain them. They have to call the police.

For seventeen hours or so each day and all weekend, the kids are looked after by staff members whose only requirements for their jobs is that they have a high school education and a driver’s license. Of course, they are underpaid.

While the administrative staff of Northeast Parent & Child Society have a beautiful, brand new building to work in, the children live in a half-century old, dreary building on Park Avenue. There is a huge wage differential between those who administer the programs and those most directly involved with the day to day care of the children.

Most of the counties in the Mohawk Valley send children to this home. The heads of the foster care units in these counties don’t have a clue as to what the home is like or what goes on there. I talked to the head of the foster care unit in Montgomery County. He has been in foster care work all of his adult life and has only visited Northeast once.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Mohawk Valley The Next Step Project.

The Utica Observer Dispatch has an ongoing project called Mohawk Valley The Next Step. The newspaper commissioned a Zogby poll on the future of the valley. It also hosted a live discussion with stations WKTV & WIBX. It's a great project. I only have one problem with it--the project only deals with the upper Mohawk Valley or the Utica-Rome region. It completely ignores the rest of the Mohawk Valley. Still its worth reading the articles and the poll results.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Defining The Mohawk Valley. Part 3.

In his book The Mohawk Codman Hislop defines the Mohawk Valley in terms of physical geography. The Mohawk Valley, according to this definition is the area covering the Mohawk River watershed. This area encompasses most of Schenectady, Schoharie, Herkimer and Montgomery Counties, about half of Fulton and Oneida Counties, and a tiny portion of Albany, Saratoga, Otsego, Hamilton and Lewis Counties.

Codman's book is part of the Rivers Of America Series. It was published in 1948 so is somewhat dated now in parts, but still is an enjoyable book.

The Schoharie Creek is the largest tributary of the Mohawk River. The Schoharie Valley does have its own identity. In some ways it is more beautiful than the Mohawk Valley proper, having not been spoiled as much. A great deal of the water from the Schoharie ends up coming out of taps in New York City, thanks to the Gilboa Dam and reservoir.

This definition, like all definitions of the valley, is not without its difficulties. If the Mohawk Valley is the area covered by the Mohawk River watershed, then the Hudson Valley is the area covered by the Hudson Valley watershed. This would mean that the Mohawk Valley is part of the Hudson Valley, just as the Schoharie Valley is part of the Mohawk Valley.

In any event, my blog does cover the Schoharie Valley as well as the Mohawk Valley because they have always had such a close connection. By the way, Codman's book does have a chapter on the Schoharie Valley.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Rep. John Sweeney & The Patriot Act

Congratulations to Republican Congressman John Sweeney from Clifton Park for voting against the renewal of the Patriot Act. Although his reason for voting against the Act was different than mine would be if I were a congressman, it was a legitimate one. Sweeney's concern is that not enough money is going to those areas most vulnerable to a terrorist attack; instead money is going everywhere, even to places unlikely to ever get hit by an attack. He makes a good point. Still, I wish he would say something about the tremendous power the act gives to police agencies, and its threat to civil liberties.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

New Daniel Cady Web Site

I would like to recommend a new historical web site that will be of interest to anyone who cares about the history of The Mohawk Valley. It has to do with Daniel Cady, one of New York State’s most important lawyers in the late 18th century and early 19th century, and who was elected to NY State’s Supreme Court. He was also at one time a NYS Assemblyman and a US Congressman. He had dealings with such famous men as Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton. Cady began his practice in the Town of Florida, Montgomery County, where some of the Cady family still lives. He then moved to Johnstown in Fulton County.

Better known than Judge Cady, is one of his six daughters, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, campaigner for women‘s rights.

The Daniel Cady web site has only one entry right now, but it’s worth reading and bookmarking so that you can continue to check it out as the site grows. Currently, the site is uploading letters of Daniel Cady. They are being entered to make it look as if Judge Cady was writing a blog, which I like.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Ernie Tetrault, Carl Strock, Jack Carroll & Justice Now.

I appreciate Ernie Tetrault's response to my blog of Dec. 4, Roy Dumar & Civil Rights in Montgomery County. I am familiar with Jack Carroll's case and hope it gets overturned. If you are not familiar with Carroll's case and other people who have been wrongly imprisoned, check out Justice Now's web site. Paul Vandenburgh keeps making the silly statement that Jack Carroll must be guilty because two separate juries found him guilty. Over 250 people in the United States have had cases overturned based on new DNA evidence alone. Some of them sat in prison for a long time. One man was positively identified by a woman who said he repeatedly raped her, but after a quarter century in prison, DNA tests proved that another man raped her. Some of them were convicted with as little evidence as the police had against Jack Carroll. Some of these innocent people were found guilty by more than one jury. Some of them lost appeal after appeal.

This does not mean that most people in prison shouldn't be there. But enough innocent people have gone to prison and even been executed, that we need to think carefully about this issue. I believe that putting an innocent man or woman in prison is as much a criminal act as not punishing a guilty person. More should be done to rein in prosecutors like Patricia DeAngelis as well as those cops who are unethical in the way they deal with people. When Jack gets out of jail, and I believe he will, I hope he sues everone who had anything to do with putting him there.

Carl Strock has done a good job following this case and has presented powerful proof of Carroll's innocence. You can read all of his columns on Carroll at Justice Now.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Cabbage Patch Used To Be In The Mohawk Valley.

After a quarter century Cabbage Patch Dolls are still selling well, although nothing like they did in the mid-1980s when people stood in line for hours to buy one. I was working for Coleco Industries in Amsterdam when they began to manufacture the dolls. The dolls were actually manufactured in Asia and simply boxed up and shipped out from Amsterdam. Ed Bubniak and I were working the dock when the first shipment came in. We had never seen a Cabbage Patch doll before. When we opened a carton and looked at the first one, I said, "Who is going to want to buy this ugly thing." Ed agreed. It was quite obvious that we were out of touch with what girls liked.

Even though the Cabbage Patch doll was very successful, Coleco had lost so much money from its precipitate entry into the home computer field that it closed its doors in 1988. I hope to blog a little more about Coleco in the future. Meanwhile, you might be interested to know that there is a new Coleco Company making toys again. They have no connection with the former company. The do have the same Coleco logo and are marketing similar games.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Rap Not Rails Amsterdam's Biggest Noise Problem

I'm not sure why all of a sudden a lot of people in Amsterdam are complaining about the noise from trains blowing their whistles. It has been going on for years. I lived in Amsterdam until this past year. I was never woken out of sleep by a train whistle. In fact I found the train whistles a comforting sound. However, numerous times I woke up to the sound of a car going by the house with rap music blaring so loudly that the windows in my house were rattling. If the Amsterdam alderpeople want to get rid of noise pollution, they should start by cracking down on cars with cranked up radios.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Times-Union's Holiday Fund

The Times-Union has been running a great series profiling elderly people who were referred to The Times-Union's Holiday Fund for help. These simple stories make me more inclined to give than all of the begging, whining, bell ringing and tin cupping that other charities do to try to get people to give. I highly recommend reading these stories and giving to the fund.

Big Brother Brian Is Watching You!

While installing more anti-crime cameras in Schenectady might sound like a good idea on the surface, it is a violation of privacy rights and civil rights of those of us who do not commit crime. Schenectady used to be called "The City That Hauls And Lights The World," and it was a nice place to live. Now it is better known as "The City Where Men Get Lit And Women Haul A** (for a fee)," and is not such a nice place to live. The cameras are not going to make it any better. Schenectady would be better off spending the money cleaning up its corrupt police department. Maybe then there would be a decrease in crime.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Roy Dumar & Civil Rights in Montgomery County

Even though Roy Dumar appeared on the front page of The Daily Gazette on the same day as Rosa Parks (November 3), he is an unlikely civil rights hero. Nevertheless, this former justice of the Town of Mohawk in Montgomery County won a small battle recently in the war to protect the rights of people who have been falsely accused of child abuse. Dumar’s victory came about when a jury sided with him in a defamation lawsuit against his wife’s ex-husband, Thomas W. Fudger. The jury clearly believed Fudger was fudging when he accused Dumar of sexually molesting a child of Fudger’s. An investigation by Child Protective Services also failed to find any basis for Fudger’s accusations.

What makes Dumar’s case important is that very few people who are falsely accused of abusing children ever receive full justice, even though falsely reporting child abuse is a crime. According to statistics provided by New York State to the United States Department of Health and Human Services in 2002, there were 155,678 reports of child abuse in New York that year. 107,859 reports or almost 70% were found to have no substance.

New York State chose not to report any cases of intentionally false reports to the federal government in 2002 while Illinois reported 3,772 such cases. If Illinois with a population of 14.5 million reported almost 4,000 cases of intentionally false reports that year, then we must assume that New York with a population of almost 19 million must have had many more. Furthermore, most of the 107, 859 unsubstantiated reports in New York must be considered false as well, even if made by people with good intentions.

Even though almost 70% of the child abuse reports in New York are unsubstantiated and even though making false child abuse reports is a crime, rarely does anyone get arrested for filing false reports. Let me suggest some reasons why.

First, if you are falsely accused of child abuse or neglect, you have to know the name of your accuser before you can sue or bring charges against him or her. Almost all accusations made against people are done through a hotline and the name of the caller is kept confidential.

Secondly, while Child Protective Services is quick to move against you if you have been accused of abuse or neglect, they generally will not help you if you have been falsely accused, even though it is their duty to do so. According to NY State Social Services Law Section 424, Paragraph 8, Child Protective Services is to “refer suspected cases of falsely reporting child abuse and maltreatment in violation of subdivision three of section 240.55 of the penal law to the appropriate law enforcement agency or district attorney;” but it is rarely done. Generally, you have to go to your local D.A. and see if he or she will prosecute. Furthermore, falsely reporting child abuse is a misdemeanor, and if a D.A. has a heavy case load, it is not likely that he or she is going to take on yours.

Thirdly, many people who have been falsely accused and found innocent are too worn out from their ordeal to pursue the false accuser, and wonder if its worth it since the accuser will only receive a fine.

Finally, some child advocates don’t want to see people who file false reports prosecuted because they are afraid that it will frighten people into keeping silence about real abuse.

Dumar was fortunate in that he knew his accuser. He also was wise in that he didn’t go through the D.A. Instead he filed a suit against Fudger and the jury awarded him $1,000. This was only a small portion of the amount Dumar was seeking, nevertheless, it is still a victory for Dumar, whose goal was clearing his name, not obtaining money.

The question now is will Child Protective Services turn over information to the D.A. in order that Fudger be prosecuted for making a false report? The law allows for making a false report with good intentions, but it appears there is strong evidence that Fudger made the false report with malicious intention. According to The Daily Gazette article on Nov. 3, Mrs. Dumar testified in Mr. Dumar’s lawsuit that after she and Fudger separated in 2002, Fudger told her he was going to accuse Dumar of molesting their child.

It is important that Dumar won his lawsuit, but it is also important that Fudger be prosecuted. Why? Because valuable time and money was spent investigating a false report. Even with an extensive reporting and investigation system in place in our state, horrific child abuse still takes place. Child Protective Services often misses some of the worst cases (e. g. the scalding deaths of two boys in Westchester County recently while their parents were in a drug induced stupor). Could it be that the time spent on false reports is hindering investigators from dealing with real abuse?

As Dean Tong, a victim of false child abuse charges and now an expert witness in abuse cases, has said, “We will not win the war against child abuse, until we first win the battle against false accusations.”

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Elizabeth Halstead's Privacy Rights

So much for HIPAA protecting a sick person’s privacy rights. We now know the following about Elizabeth Halstead, besides the fact that she disappeared for awhile and was found: We know that she has schizophrenia and is depressed, lives in Clifton Park, has two daughters and a son, the son lives in Norfolk, VA, has been estranged from her husband for two years, has not been taking her medicine, is 40 years old, owns a 1994 Chrysler New Yorker and is currently in the North Adams Massachusetts Regional Hospital.
And why did The Daily Gazette feel it necessary to publish a photograph of her after she was found. I can understand publishing it when she was lost. It might have been helpful in finding her, but to publish it after she was found served no purpose, and is simply and invasion of her privacy.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Local History Web Sites.

Here are some great Mohawk Valley historical web sites, many which have links to other great sites:

Fort Klock

Local Talk Show Host, Columnist and Historian, Bob Cudmore

Mohawk Valley Searchable Databases

Fort Johnson

I will add these to my links at some point and will add additional sites from time to time.