Upstream. A Mohawk Valley Blogzine.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Senator Clinton Visits Amsterdam

Hillary was in Amsterdam yesterday, and for once I found myself in agreement with her. Of course, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that the new government prescription plan or Medicare D is a fiasco. It’s a pretty safe topic for a politician to talk about, especially in front of a group of senior citizens. The question is what is going to be done about it? And, if the government has made such a hash of prescription drug coverage, what would national health coverage look like?

Someone in the audience had to mention the possibility of Hillary becoming the next president. A Siena Research Institute poll released on Feb 20 shows that support for Hillary for president has dropped since last year, while support for Condoleezza Rice has grown.

Anyway, it was good to see that one of our two downstate U. S. Senators remembered that New York State’s northern boundary is not the northern boundary of Westchester County and came up for a visit. Not that the Mohawk Valley will change any because of it, anymore than it changed when Al Gore visited Amsterdam several years ago. And I am certainly not going to change my overall assessment of Hillary.

Monday, February 27, 2006

More Old Local Photographs

Today's Gazette had an article about a digital photo database that I did not know about. It contains 2000+ old photos from Fulton and Montgomery Counties. More photos are going to be added to the database. It's worth checking out.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Our Newest Contributor.

"It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer." William Blackstone

Upstream considers it a privilege to have Justice Now come on board as a contributor. Justice Now is the voice of an organization with the same name, an organization that I have posted about in the past. Justice Now is devoted to speaking and working in behalf of people who have been falsely accused and wrongfully imprisoned. I hope you will pay careful attention to what Justice Now posts on this blog.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Old Local Photographs

On occasion, Upstream will feature an old photo taken somewhere in the Mohawk Valley. Today's photograph is of shoppers in downtown Amsterdam. My guess is that it was taken in the 1940s. Shoppers in downtown Amsterdam are, of course, almost non-existent now. The photograph was taken by famous photographer John Collier. Richard Doud conducted an interview with Collier in 1965. The interview was transcribed, and you can read it on-line. I found this photograph in the extensive collection of on-line photos in the Library of Congress.

Posted by Picasa

Trying it out!

You know what you do when you step up to a microphone and you're not sure the mike is on? Usually I blow on it a few times and see if I hear the sound come back at me from the speaker. Then maybe I say "Testing...one...two...three.."

Well that's what I'm doing right. Testing to see if this blog is on. Dan, very graciously has invited the folks from Justice Now to post now and then on this very excellent blog. I intend to do just that and I hope some of our other JN people will also because I know they have a lot to say about what we think are some very serious problems in our justice system. I'll be writing something very soon.

In the meantime I hope you watch our Justice Now and Metro programs, Sundays at 11AM on Cable Channel4 WNYA. If you don't have cable you can pick us up on VHF Channel 15.

Six Not Very Angry Men. The Jury Is In On The Suicide Of Officer William Marhafer

If William Marhafer II had been admitted to Saratoga Hospital with chest pains and then had died of a heart attack 24 hours after being released, you can bet a jury would have found the hospital and doctors responsible for his death. But Mr. Marhafer went into Saratoga Hospital on Oct. 1, 2001 for severe depression. He was released on Oct. 5. On Oct. 6 he went to the Schenectady Police Department where he worked as a police officer and killed himself with his own gun.

While it seems obvious to me that a man who kills himself 24 hours after being released from a psychiatric ward was not ready to be released, not everyone sees it that way. On Tuesday of this week, a six member jury cleared Saratoga Hospital and three of its mental health workers of any responsibility in Marhafer's death.

In 1997 Four Winds Hospital in Saratoga paid money to the widower of Kelly Hayward, 32, of Cohoes, who committed suicide after obtaining a day pass from the hospital where she was being treated for severe depression.

Four Winds accepted responsibility for its errors, Saratoga Hospital has not. In my opinion, Four Winds continues to be the best place to go in the area if you are suffering from mental illness.

By not accepting any responsibility for the death of Officer Marhafer, Saratoga Hospital may have saved itself some money, but in the long run it will be hurt by this "victory." I for one would not want to send anyone to a psychiatric ward, where the mental health workers are incapable of spotting suicide signals being sent out from an individual who is only 24 hours away from killing himself.

Note: This post contains some initial thoughts I had after reading about the jury verdict on the lawsuit that the widow of Officer Marhafer brought against the medical staff at Saratoga Hospital. I am working on a longer, more detailed piece which I will post at a later date.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

VP Dick Cheney & Assemblyman Paul Tonko

The unflappable, affable, unbeatable Assemblyman Paul Tonko of Amsterdam is known best for appearing in photos in all of the local newspapers. These photo-ops include visits to the region by other politicians, local disasters, kindergarten graduations, confirmations, boy scout groups, you name it.

This past week Mr. Tonko has actually suggested a piece of new legislation. Never one to miss an opportunity, the Assemblyman wants a new law that requires New York State hunters to report accidents and to report them in a timely fashion. So Dick Cheney shoots his buddy in Texas and our Assemblyman uses it to get in the news. Our first question is how many hunting accidents don't get reported? How many don't get reported in a timely fashion? Will a piece of legislation make a difference?

It seems to me that when a hunter gets injured, what is most important is that he gets to the the hospital in a hurry and gets proper treatment.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Misguided Law Not An Answer To A Serious Problem

Does Saratoga County really think that passing a law prohibiting sex offenders from living within 1500 feet of a school is even a partial solution to the serious problem we face with sex offenders? Did anyone do any research to see how many sex offenses take place by strangers at schools? How is living 1500 or even 5000 feet from a school going to stop a pedophile from hanging around a school if he is intent on doing so? Should we now pass laws restricting released bank robbers from living within 1500 feet of a bank? Do children only hang out at schools? Should we pass laws prohibiting sex offenders from living near churches with Sunday Schools, malls where kids hang out, etc? Has anyone considered that the internet, not the school playground, is the most dangerous hangout for kids?

Saratoga County isn’t the only county attempting to pass such laws. Many cities and counties are in the process of passing them. Assemblyman Jim Tedisco has come out in support of such laws. Such laws are a waste of time and money. It wouldn’t be so bad if these laws provided a partial solution to the problem of sex offenders, but they don’t even do that.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Storm & The Flu

The flu hit my daughter and me on Friday, just about the same time and with the same vengeance that the wind storm hit. We moved to a safer part of the house away from the locust trees that would fall on the house if they came down.

We survived the storm with minor damage. We lost a beautiful Norway Spruce that the former owner, John Swart, planted some 50-60 years ago. The spruce took out our picnic table and just missed the cement mixer I purchased a few months ago. A locust also fell, but it was too far away to hit the house.

We lost power twice, once for fifteen minutes and once for an hour and a half. We have a propane fireplace that doesn't need electricity to run so we were able to keep warm.

Meanwhile the flu was doing more damage than the storm. My daughter got it worse than I did, and we had to take her to the hospital. Thankfully, my wife did not get it. I had a flu shot a couple of months ago, so I don't understand how I got the flu. Yesterday was the worst day for me. I couldn't even drag myself to the computer to post to this blog.

I hope everyone who reads this blog survived the storm and have your power back.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Preservation League of NYS & The Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy


I received two responses from my article in The Sunday Gazette on preserving the Mohawk Valley. The first response was a letter to The Gazette by the president of the Preservation League Of New York State. The primary focus of his letter was that tax credits will soon be available for individuals who are restoring old houses. Currently there are no grants, tax credits or any financial incentives available in New York State for individuals who are restoring old houses. There are grants available for non-profit groups who are restoring old houses.

This is good news for those of us who are thinking about or in the process of restoring old houses, although in my case it comes a little too late, since we are quite far along in restoring our house. Furthermore, in order to take advantage of many tax credits, you have to be in a certain tax bracket. People who are unable to itemize on their New York State tax form, may not be eligible for tax credits.

The second response to my article was a phone call from a member of the board The Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy (formerly the Albany County Land Conservancy). The purpose of the call was to make me aware of the work that the Conservancy is doing and, of course, to recruit me to help out.

Whether I join the Conservancy or not, I thought I would at least bring the work of the Conservancy to your attention. The Conservancy has just begun working in the Mohawk Valley as the following quotes from Vistas Newsletter Vol. 10. No.1. Spring 2005 and Viewpoints Vol. 2. No. 2 June 2005 show.

In the Mohawk Valley. The Conservancy already owns one preserve in Montgomery County, our Schoharie Creek Preserve, and we have been working on acquiring several easements in Wolf Hollow in Schenectady County. We have also been approached by a landowner in Amsterdam with the offer of a gift of land, and a landowner in Cranes Hollow has offered an easement. The Board decided to create a Mohawk ValleyCommittee to pursue these opportunities. The Committee has already formed a Neighbors Committee for the Schoharie Creek Preserve; it is working on the Wolf Hollow easements; and it is completing work on the proposed Amsterdam acquisition with the help of a group of interested neighbors. An important partner in the Mohawk Valley is the Environmental Clearinghouse of Schenectady (ECOS). ECOS is the organization that publishes Natural Areas of Albany County, which describes about 60 natural areas in the County. The Conservancy provided a no-interest loan of $5000.00 to support ECOS’s publication of a new edition of the book. The new edition has maps of most ACLC preserves, and includes a tear-out ACLC membership form.



Our New Name and Logo
Those who attended our recent annual meeting know that we are now the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy. This is more than a cosmetic change. Our name now reflects our growing efforts in the Mohawk Valley and our roots in the Capital District at the confluence of the rivers. As we reported in April, the Conservancy has been involved beyond the boundaries of Albany County for some time. The Schoharie Creek Preserve in Montgomery County was acquired in 1998. MHLC’s new Mohawk Valley Committee is working now with a number of landowners to protect other properties west of Albany County, including a preserve in Amsterdam and easements in Cranes Hollow and Wolf Hollow.

Looking west we saw scenic vistas, farmland, and wildlife habitat, a rich variety of land in the Mohawk watershed. While other land trusts operate in the Catskills and further west in the Mohawk Valley, important resources remained unprotected. The MHLC Board thought it wise to move quickly.

Learn more about the Schoharie Creek Preserve.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

2,158 Visitors. Part 4 Of 4.

Was there any lasting effect on Upstream’s traffic after jumping from 55 visitors to 2,158 on Feb 7? While Upstream’s daily average has improved, it is still shy of the 100 mark. It’s obvious that most people who stopped by to view the Muslim cartoons were not interested in Upstream or the Mohawk Valley.

It seems to me that you can approach blogging in two ways. The first way is to make increasing traffic to your blog your paramount concern and make content secondary. It’s probably not that hard to increase the number of visitors to your blog, if you make that your primary goal. Not only are there a number of gimmicks you can use, but you can increase it simply by being as outrageous as you possibly can. You can start a blogbloid and become the Jerry Springer or Howard Stern of the blogosphere.

But the kind of readers who would flock to such a blog are not the kind of readers that I am looking for. That leaves making content primary and increasing traffic secondary. By focusing on content, I believe Upstream will get the kind of readers I am looking for--readers who love and care for the Mohawk Valley and Upstate New York, readers who don’t just stop by for a quick look and then surf on to another blog. I want readers who are voyagers not voyeurs, readers who are willing to make the trip daily with me--upstream from Albany to Utica.

Friday, February 17, 2006

The Kidnapping of the President (1980) - Film Review

My exposure to foreign cinema has been, sadly, limited. Despite the fact that film is my first love, I still have yet to see anything by Fellini, Kurosawa, Godard, or Bergman. I am especially lacking when it comes to Canadian cinema. I have seen a handful of Canadian films, but since they are, almost without exception, complete garbage, I know I must be missing out on some classics. I’ll admit freely that the television movie "Anne of Green Gables" (1985) and its sequel "Anne of Avonlea" (1988) are two of the greatest films ever made and that "The Grey Fox" (1982) is a mini-masterpiece. But the rest of my experiences north of the border--"The Mask" (1961), "Deadly Harvest" (1977), "Def-Con 4" (1985), the abysmal public television film "Overdrawn at the Memory Bank" (1985), and today’s reviewed film--have been less rewarding.

"The Kidnapping of the President" (based on a Charles Templeton novel) opens in South America, where general purpose terrorist and rebel insurgent Roberto Assanti (Miguel Fernandes in a role that has John Saxon written all over it) brutally murders three people, one of whom is a female compatriot. It turns out that these unlucky victims knew too much about Assanti’s upcoming plan to....kidnap the president.

As our film progresses, we find out that our president is not Gerald Ford or Jimmy Carter, but none other than Adam Scott (a very good president name), played by the great Hal Holbrook. Holbrook had, four years earlier, played Deep Throat in "All the President’s Men"...so you can insert your own political cinema joke at this point. Pres. Scott is that classic, "morally flawless president put in crisis" character type we saw previously in such films as "Fail Safe" (1964, played by Henry Fonda) and "Virus" (1980, played by Glenn Ford). Scott, we find out, is about to make a visit to....Toronto!! The stated reason for said trip has to do with the then topical energy crisis issue, but we really know that the only reason he’s going there is because it’s a lot cheaper for the filmmakers than having to shoot in D.C. or make Toronto LOOK like D.C.

Well, it turns out that despite Assanti’s blood-spilling, word of his plan has made its way to government officials, specifically Secret Service agent Jerry O’Connor, played by Canada’s greatest son: William Shatner. At this point, I would like to go into my spiel about how Shatner is one of the greatest, most underrated and entertaining actors ever (which I really believe)...but I won’t. O’Connor is that classic character type who knows there will be impending danger, warns everyone of impending danger, but is never listened to until it’s too late and he has to save the day. If this film had had a bigger budget, this role would have been handed off to the self-righteous likes of Henry Fonda or Sidney Poitier. But anyway...O’Connor insists that, despite reports that Assanti is dead, he is actually alive and well and planning imminent harm for the president. He is not taken seriously by the president or that character who is a high ranking official who contemptuously scoffs at every piece of common sense until he is made to look like an utter fool. In this case, that character is a member of the FBI named Deitrich (Gary Reineke). For comparison, I refer you to characters such as those played by Dana Andrews in "Battle of the Bulge" (1965), Martin Landau in "Meteor" (1979), and Andrew Robinson in "Cobra" (1986).

Because creating genuine suspense would apparently be too much of a feat for this film to accomplish, it instead takes the ol’ "paint by numbers/fill in the blanks" approach to storytelling. The rest of the film unfolds with nary a surprise in store. Pres. Scott IS kidnapped. Agent O’Connor DOES take charge. Deitrich is made to look like an UTTER FOOL. And O’Connor SAVES the day.

This is definitely one of those "Why did they bother?" efforts. The idea of the president being kidnapped has possibilities, but this film doesn’t. It lacks the over-the-top approach needed for a good disaster film and the tension and intricacy of a classic suspense piece, not to mention any sense of style. The whole ordeal is sloppily constructed, with more than one plot hole in sight. For example: after being taken hostage, Pres. Scott is handcuffed inside an armored truck which has been rigged to explode if it is physically tampered with from the outside. Logic would dictate that it might be wise to cordon off the area around the truck, to prevent it from being accidentally detonated by a Secret Service agent tripping over himself and falling against the vehicle. O’Connor, though, feels that police lines hundreds of feet away from the vehicle provide sufficient protection, leaving not even a single policeman, agent, or even mountie between the police lines and the truck. As a result, when a tripped-out hippie seeing himself as the president’s savior breaks through the line and runs toward the truck, O’Connor is forced to shoot him dead. The whole purpose of this is to arouse suspense and create some bitter human drama...but all it succeeds in doing is showing how the filmmakers were too lazy to create a believable scenario. I wouldn’t expect much else from director George Mendeluk, whose contributions include such classics as "Meatballs III" (1987). But it IS really disappointing that this whole cobjob was written by none other than Richard Murphy, who had received a Best Screenplay Academy Award nomination for the 1947 classic "Boomerang!", one of my favorite movies.

One of the few positive aspects of the film is its cast. But even this compliment can be made only half-heartedly. Ava Gardner, as the vice president’s wife, is a treat to see...for the two seconds she’s in the film. Shatner’s performance isn’t really bad, but generally devoid of the classic Shatnerisms (the emphasized pauses in speech, the overemoting) that make his work so entertaining. Holbrook and Van Johnson (playing the VP) come off the best, with solid support from such Canadian cinema regulars as Jackie Burroughs and Maury Chaykin.

In the future, I hope to unearth better Canadian treasures than this. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy watching the film...as with many films, it was fun to watch because it was so bad. But from a critical point of view, I can’t help but observe that Roger Corman on a bad day could have made twice as good a film as this with half the budget. Two stars.

A Different Approach To The Gender Gap

The Center for Women in Government & Civil Society at the University at Albany has been griping because women only hold 24.5% of the top jobs in New York State government. No one has said a word, however, about the fact that women occupy only 4.5% of the lowest rungs of New York State society. As of July 2005 there were 60,320 men in New York State prisons, making up 95.5% of the prison population, while only 2,813 women were incarcerated.

Obviously, I don’t want to see more women in prison, in order to close this gender gap. It does seem to me, however, that we need to study male and female populations at all levels of society, if we are going to understand why there is a gender gap. It could be that there is a connection between the low numbers of women in high places and the low numbers of women in low places. It could be that in spite of the efforts by extreme feminists to insist that we are all the same, men really are from Mars and women from Venus.

Capital District & Mohawk Valley Web Cams.

I have mixed feelings about the proliferation of web cams. Nevertheless, as a public service I list all of the web cams I could find in the Capital Region and the Mohawk Valley. At some point I will be adding these to my links in the sidebar. If you know of any others (no porn cams please), let me know, and I will add them to the list.


Willow Pond PondCam™ Averill Park, NY

Camera On Utica’s WKTV Tower

Albany Area Traffic Cams

Union College Web Cam

Cohoes Falls On The Mohawk River

Dan Morgan of Schenectady’s Cat Cam

Thursday, February 16, 2006

George Pataki, MCI & The Hidden Tax On Families Of Prisoners

How much do you pay for a 19 minute phone call? $1.90 at most, but probably a lot less. However, if you have a loved one in a New York State prison, a 19 minute phone call from him or her will cost you $6. Many prison families end up paying $300 or more each month to keep in touch with an incarcerated family member.

Family members cannot call a prisoner directly, and the only way prisoners can call out is by calling collect. The only company they can call through is MCI. And guess who gets 57.5% of the gross profits on each call? The government of New York State.

This is one more way that Governor Pataki and New York State attempt to balance the budget, while at the same time telling us that they have lowered taxes. The only tax that gets lowered from time to time is the income tax. Meanwhile the sales tax, property taxes, and user fees continue to go up.

In ancient times, sometimes an entire family was punished for one member’s crime. It seems to me that New York State has embraced the old tribal concept that “the sins of the fathers must be visited upon the children.” While prisoners deserve punishment, their families don’t. Life for families who have a family member in prison is hard enough.

Today, as they do on the 16th of every month, many prison families will be boycotting the state and MCI, by refusing to accept phone calls from prisoners. The idea is to send a message to MCI and New York State.

But the only real solution to the problem is legislation, and there is a bill in the State Assembly, the Family Connections Bill (A 7231) which would end this hidden tax on families of prisoners.

If this situation bothers you as it does me, you can sign a petition on-line or send an e-mail to the Governor to support the Family Connections Bill.





Wednesday, February 15, 2006

2,158 Visitors. Part 3 of 4.

Although I started this blog over a year ago, I am still a novice blogger. My first attempt at blogging lasted only a few months, I only posted a half dozen times, and the only comments I received were from my kind hearted sister.

The reason I quit blogging is I didn’t think anyone was reading my blog and I had no way of knowing whether or not anyone was. I mistakenly thought that if I wasn’t receiving any comments, then no one was reading what I was writing.

I decided to start blogging again in October of 2005. I began posting heavily even though I didn’t know if anyone was reading my blog. After looking at other blogs, I realized that I needed some way to find out if anyone was reading (or at least visiting) mine so I added a site meter and found that a few people were indeed stopping by.

Then it dawned on me that I might increase traffic by linking with other bloggers in the Mohawk Valley and vicinity. A google search turned up a few and by visiting those I found a few more. Democratus over at The Troy Polloi was the first to respond to my request for a link and even wrote a post about Upstream. Others soon followed.

By February 7, I was averaging 50-60 visits a day, and I was satisfied with that. I was also starting to get a few comments. But, as I stated in an earlier post on this subject, I was not prepared for the number of visits and comments that I received when I published one of the Muslim cartoons on my blog.

In my last post in this series, I explained why I decided to post the cartoons. I also said that later that day I made another decision which I am not very proud of. That decision was to drive as much traffic to my blog as possible. In other words, my first post on the Muslim cartoon controversy came from pure motives. Mixed motives were behind subsequent posts on the subject.
It’s not that there is anything wrong with attempting to drive traffic to your blog. We have to find ways to get people to our blog if we want it to be read. Reciprocal links are a legitimate way of doing so.

One way I figured I could drive more traffic to my blog on Feb. 7 was to post often. By posting often, my blog would remain visible when people did searches. Since I was recovering from surgery rather than working, I had the ability to post often.

Another way I tried to increase traffic to my blog was to use tags in each post. The tags “muslim cartoon” and “Mohammed cartoon” were two of the most popular Technorati tags that day. It makes sense that if you choose the most popular Technorati tag of the day as your post topic, you will most likely increase your traffic. But isn’t that approach to blogging like the tail wagging the dog?

The question is did posting often and using tags work? I really don’t know. I had already received a large number of visitors before making the decision to post often. One thing that did help is that John Stith at Security Pro News wrote an article about Muslim extremists hacking into Danish web sites. In his article, he referred to my blog as a place where people could view the cartoons. Many people came to my blog through this article. In fact, I am still getting referrals from it.

To be continued...

Animal Hoarders Need Psychiatric Help Not Jail Time

Note: I wrote this post nearly a year ago, and it appeared as an opinion piece in The Sunday Gazette during May of 2005. I re-publish here because I still have a strong interest in the subject and want to write some follow-up posts, which won't make a lot of sense unless you have read this post first.

If you use drugs, then you should move to Fulton County because if you are arrested for drug use District Attorney Louise Sira will not send you to jail. However, if you are mentally ill, then you should not move to Fulton County because recent comments by Ms. Sira suggest that you should go to jail.

I applaud Sira’s decision to offer treatment rather than jail to a large number of drug users who were arrested last week in a massive raid. Certainly, jail is not the solution for most drug users. As a conservative with increasingly libertarian leanings, I believe that prison time should be primarily for violent offenders.

I strongly disagree, however, with Sira’s statements which suggested that mentally ill people belong in jail. They were made in the context of Fulton County’s recent “summit” on animal hoarding. During the summit, Sira stated that people who collect and neglect large numbers of animals are mentally ill. Few people, including myself, would argue with this statement, and the recognition that animal collectors are mentally ill was a positive aspect of this conference. However, Sira also stated that animal collectors need jail time.

Sira’s comments are baffling. First, if a person is mentally ill, then the proper place for treatment is in a mental health facility not a jail. Treatment for mentally ill people is inadequate under normal conditions, in jail it‘s even worse. And, if jail is not appropriate for drug users, neither is it appropriate for animal hoarders.

Secondly, if animal hoarding is a mental illness, then why didn’t the summit include mental health professionals who specialize in the treatment of animal hoarding. If the focus of the summit was deterrence, then mental health professionals should have taken center stage, not law enforcement and SPCA officials. None of these are truly involved in deterrence. SPCA SWAT style raids on area farms may be necessary to rescue animals from abysmal conditions, but at best, to revise an old proverb, it is only locking the barn door after the horse has been neglected.

Thirdly, the comments on mental illness and animal hoarding by Sira and other Fulton County officials were both misleading and inadequate. For example, they did not mention that without treatment animal hoarders have an almost 100% recidivism rate. The reason for this recidivism rate is that animal hoarding is a compulsion, a compulsion as powerful as the addiction of those drug users that Sira wants to keep out of jail.

Sira claims that people hoard animals because they have lost control over their lives and regain a sense of control by controlling large numbers of animals. While I am not a mental health professional, I have researched Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder a lot over the years. One compulsion that some people with OCD have is the compulsion to hoard. Often they hoard inanimate objects. These things may be valueless or in some cases even harmful. People have been known to fill their houses with so much detritus that they can hardly move about. The professional websites and journals that I have read suggest OCD may be the cause of animal hoarding.

Only one journal I read indicated that a need for control might be part of the cause. As the owner of one horse and two goats, I can tell you that you don’t gain a sense of control by owning animals. Trying to keep up with the two ton annual output from the south end of a north going horse makes one quickly realize that the animals are in control, not the other way around.

Sira’s theory for why people collect and neglect large numbers of animals better supports why people own one or two animals and then abuse them, a situation addressed by Buster’s Law. While the results may be the same, animal abuse and animal neglect are not the same; neither are their causes and cures. This is an important distinction that must be maintained.

According to Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine 76% of animal hoarders are women and 46% are over 60 years old. OCD studies of hoarders show a similar gender and age gap. Research shows that people who hoard and neglect animals, often neglect themselves and live in the same squalor their animals do. These facts suggest that a summit on animal hoarding might also benefit from having representatives attend from social service agencies and agencies which serve the elderly.

If a summit is the top of a mountain, then the Fulton County Summit did not get far from the base. For a true summit on animal hoarding, I recommend the Orange County, California conference held in 2004 and open to the public (unlike Fulton County’s). It had to be held twice because it sparked so much interest. Three of the four main speakers were mental health officials who specialize in animal hoarding. This is as it should be because if animal hoarding is to end, it has to be stopped at its source, which is the highly complex but wrongly wired brains of some members of that other species known as man.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Quail Hunting In Fulton County

Vice-President Dick Cheney was lucky his hunting accident didn’t take place in Fulton County, New York. Just a year or two ago, Fulton County District Attorney Louise Sira prosecuted a teenager for injuring another teen in a gun accident. The teen, represented by J. Gerard MacAuliffe of Johnstown, ended up serving time in jail.

Am I saying that Dick Cheney should serve time in jail? Absolutely not. Neither should have the teen from Fulton County. If he had been Vice-President, or if Fulton County had a different D.A. or if the teen had had a better attorney, he probably wouldn’t have served time.

I don’t want to minimize hunting accidents, but guns being what they are and boys being boys, accidents will happen.

You might like to know that you are a lot more likely to die accidentally when you are out walking than by the accidental discharge of a gun.

It seems like those pedestrian training courses are not working.







Upstream Looks Inside Amsterdam High Via Myspace

Myspace.com is a cyber mall where teenagers hang out with each other, and it’s a place where sexual predators hunt for vulnerable teens, and there are a lot of them on myspace. It’s also a place where the police go to hunt down predators.

One of the more important but neglected aspects of Myspace, however, is that it is an uncurtained window into the minds of our teenagers. Instead of the usual yes, no, I dunno or grunt when responding to parent’s questions, on myspace teens are positively logorrheic. This gives parents, educators, sociologists, psychologists and anyone else concerned about young people today an unprecedented opportunity to find out what our teens are thinking and what they are doing.

Yesterday, Upstream took a look inside Amsterdam High School via myspace. We were surprised at what we found.

In the following paragraph, one of the students describes himself. Similar descriptions abound.

“Im awesome... Umm i like to hang out with friends and i hate Fat people, Skanks, Sluts, Hores, Bitches, Losers, skumbags, perverts, wiggers, fake people, goths, ugly people, stupid people, retards, jerks, immature people. im a very nice person... unless i hate you... But i love ducks... “

Another student describes her heroes.

“HERO'S well myself and Brittny and squashA........ because we are all gonna kick the shit out of ewwwwy gothic freaky pieces of crap Omg i hate gothic people they annoy the crap out of me omg i wish they would all die like they all say they want to PATHETIC people omg it's pissing me off to no end so i have to stop talking about them before i walk to this bitchs house and kill her KK bye.......”

Because I have such an interest in books, I couldn’t help pass on the following comments that some Amsterdam High students made about reading.

“Books: i do not read who does theese days*hehe*”

“Books: come on now... this is Bg your talkin about.... I read See Spot Run...”

“Books: don't really readd:o)”

Just how serious should we take what students are saying on myspace. Certainly, they seem to talk with a freedom that they don’t when around adults. But on the other hand, I sense a lot of the bragging and posturing that went on when I was hanging out with other teens in the late 60s and early 70s.

Anyway, I have included links below to six Amsterdam High School students on myspace so you can see for yourself what I am talking about.


Profile #1

Profile #2

Profile #3

Profile #4

Profile #5

Profile #6











Monday, February 13, 2006

2,158 View Upstream on 02/07/06. Why?

Obviously, what drove more than 2,000 people to visit Upstream on February 7 was my decision to publish the now notorious Muslim cartoons. I made the decision after spending more than an hour in a fruitless search for them on the web sites of most of the leading news sources in the country. Like many people, I wanted to see them simply out of curiosity. What cartoons could be so bad that they would cause death and destruction by Islamic extremists?


I became more frustrated as I searched. Finally, many pages into a google search and way down in the bowels of a non-profit organization called Jihad Watch, I found the cartoons. By now, I was very disturbed as I sensed hypocrisy on the part of the American press. Many instances of newspapers publishing anti-Christian and other offensive material in the past came immediately to mind.


It was then that I decided to post the cartoons on my site. But did I have the right to publish them? Were they copyrighted? If so, were they protected by United States copyright laws? I don’t believe bloggers should lift text, photos or other copyrighted materials and post them on their site. Bloggers should obey copyright laws. There is such a thing as fair use however, which allows you to use copyrighted materials in limited ways. Now that the cartoons were news items and not simply works of art, and because I felt that publishing them would not only be protected by the fair usage clause of our copyright laws, and because I believed the public had a right to view the cartoons, I decided to publish one cartoon on my site with some commentary of my own.

But I was not prepared for the response. During the morning of the 7th, I was getting my usual 4-6 people per hour stopping by. In the early afternoon, I checked my stats and was shocked to find that 92 people had visited the blog in the last hour. Between three and four o’clock, Upstream had 385 visitors from around the globe. There were even visitors from Iran and Afghanistan. Over at our sister blog, the same phenomenon was taking place. Obviously, I wasn’t the only person who wanted to see these cartoons.

Sometime after seeing how many people were stopping by to view Upstream, I made another decision, one I am not so proud of. I will tell you about it in part three of this series.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Gilboa Dam Strains Relations Between Upstate & New York City

You might not have known this, but there are New York City police stations in Upstate New York. I didn’t know it until a few years ago, when I was driving up through Delaware and Schoharie Counties on Route 10 and drove by one. To be sure, these stations are manned by New York City En-Con cops, whose job is to protect the Gilboa Dam and the many other City reservoirs located in Upstate New York, but they have full police powers and they aren’t afraid to use them.

The presence of New York City cops in Upstate New York has caused a lot of resentment by local residents, especially by those who have been issued traffic tickets by them. One does wonder how well the dams and watershed areas are being guarded, if the Big Apple’s finest are running around handing out traffic tickets to local residents.

The presence of the New York City Police Department was felt even more strongly in Upstate New York recently, when City police raided a Muslim cleric’s office in the Town of Bethlehem without first notifying local authorities.

There has always been resentment between Upstate and Downstate and probably always will be. Every so often, it gets a little more noticeable. The weakened state of the Gilboa Dam has brought that resentment back into the open again when Schenectady County officials lit into New York City officials at a state Assembly hearing on Thursday, Feb. 10. Schenectady officials as well as many residents feel that New York City is not taking the condition of the dam seriously.

According to an article that appeared in Friday’s edition of The Daily Gazette, New York City Department Of Environmental Protection officials did calculations to show what would happen if the dam burst. A break in the dam would send 19 billion gallons of water down the Schoharie Creek. New York city calculations failed, however, to show what would happen once the water hit the Mohawk River. The calculations failed to show the damage that would be done to Scotia and Schenectady.

Schenectady County Legislature Chairwoman Susan Savage said, “The planning seemed to think that [the water] was going to hit the Mohawk and evaporate.”

In any event, every public official I have heard comment on the dam, has said that even in its weakened state the dam is not likely to break. Small comfort if you live in Schoharie, Middleburgh, Esperance, Burtonsville, Lost Valley, Fort Hunter, Amsterdam, Scotia and Schenectady.

One things for certain, if Gilboa fails, it won’t just be "water over the dam." And it won’t just be water and debris that will make its way to the East River via the Schoharie Creek and the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers. It will be followed by a tide of resentment towards New York City that will damage relations between Upstate and Downstate for many years to come.



Saturday, February 11, 2006

2,158 View Upstream On Feb. 7. So What?

2,158 people stopped by to look at Upstream on Feb. 7--1,431 at mohawkvalley.blogspot.com and 727 at our sister site, mohawkvalley.wordpress.com. That’s nothing compared to the big bloggers out there, who have more people than that stop by every hour. But it took me by surprise because until Feb. 7, my biggest day was when 140 people stopped by following the review that Albany Eye wrote on Upstream.

Some bloggers say that statistics don’t matter, but unless we are like the poet Emily Dickinson, who said that “publication is the auction of the mind,” I think most bloggers write to be read and write to be read by as many people as possible.

I will be honest with you. I want to be read by as many people as possible. Even though on this giant, rotating, revolving ant hill we call Earth, I am known only to a few; and even though when I die the only biography about me will be chiseled on cold stone, paid for by my relatives at so many dollars per word, I still want to have my say. And if there is no one to listen, or no one to read, will I have said it? Will I have written it?

Anyway, this is the first of a series of posts about my blogging experiences during the past week. These posts may not be of interest to the non-blogger, but from the e-mails I have received from fellow bloggers, I know that other bloggers are interested in comparing notes.

In case you think this post is an exercise in hubris, wait until I share with you my statistics from the past day or two.

For those of you not interested in the subject of blogging, I will be posting on other topics in between. Upcoming topics include: How New York State Balances Its Budget On The Backs Of Prisoners' Families, Animal Hoarders Need Psychiatric Help Not Prison Time, Books As An Alternative Fuel Source and a whole host of other subjects that are swirling around in this restless mind of mine.

Hopefully, my fellow contributors to this blog will chip in with a post or two as well.


Friday, February 10, 2006

Lemuel Smith And The Other Side Of Black History Month

I could easily write about Martin Luther King or Coretta Scott King, or Frederick Douglas’s magnificent speech at Rochester, New York, or how after preaching in a Black church in South Carolina in the 1940s my father was escorted to the edge of town and told by the police chief to never come back, or a whole host of other things for Black History Month.

But the fact is, where I live there is only one Black who has dominated our history, and that is convicted serial killer, Lemuel Smith.


Smith, a native of Amsterdam, is a frightening man and the killer of six people, including Donna Payant, the first and only female prison guard to be murdered in New York State. Judge John Clyne called Smith the “Poster Boy for Capital Punishment.” Smith terrorized this area for years. Not only was he a killer, he was a rapist and a thief.


I understand that Black History Month is about celebrating Black people who have not only advanced the lives of Black people, but the lives of all of us. Nevertheless, can we truly understand the Black Experience if we don’t try to understand Smith as well as King? Why is it that after forty years of Civil Rights, a young Black male is safer on patrol in Iraq than in Albany’s Arbor Hill or Schenectady’s Hamilton Hill?

Posted by Picasa

Union College Professor, Denis Foley, published a book on Smith a couple of years ago. The title is Lemuel Smith and the Compulsion to Kill: The Forensic Story Of A Multiple Personality Serial Killer. It’s a well-written but scary book. I recommend it, providing you have a strong stomach. Foley spent two decades corresponding with Smith and also interviewed him in person. What I like is the way Foley deals with the psychiatric aspects of crime.

Foley stopped on occasion and bought books at the book store I used to operate in Amsterdam. I sold his book in the store, and we talked about it a few times. He said that writing it was an emotionally draining experience.

I haven’t seen Denis for a few years. Currently he is involved in excavating the Erie Canal near Albany. The last time I talked to him he was writing a book on the Erie Canal. When writing about Lemuel Smith, Foley was going into uncharted territory. His challenge was to forge a relationship with Smith so that Smith would open up to him. He succeeded in doing that. His challenge in writing about the Erie Canal will be to tell us something that hasn’t already been said.

Nimrod On The Trail Of The Neo-Con.

Yesterday I was referred to as a Nimrod in an e-mail read on The Bob Cudmore Show on WVTL for having the audacity to say many conservatives today have stepped aside from traditional conservatism.

First, I accept as a compliment what the conservative writer of this e-mail intended to be an insult. The only reference I know of to Nimrod is in The Bible, where Nimrod is described as “a mighty one in the earth“ and “a mighty hunter before the Lord.”

Secondly, I stand by my conviction that conservatives are aping liberals by expanding government at an unprecedented rate. Conservatives, including myself, were very upset when President Carter created The Department Of Education. But no one complained when President Bush created The Department Of Homeland Security. Isn’t The Department Of Defense already our Department of Homeland Security?

On the state level we have a donkey in elephant’s clothing sitting in the governor’s chair. In fact, it is very difficult to tell the Republican Party from the Democratic Party in New York State. Governor Pataki signed a death penalty bill (which I support) when he came into office, but that was the last conservative gesture he made. Since then it’s been tax, borrow, spend and increase the size, power and role of the government. A new word has been coined for Republicans like Govenor Pataki--Rino-an acronym for Republican in name only.

Following are some thoughts that Ronald Reagan had on the size and role of government.

  • Concentrated power has always been the enemy of liberty.
  • Government is like a baby. An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other.
  • No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!
  • Protecting the rights of even the least individual among us is basically the only excuse the government has for even existing.
  • Today, if you invent a better mousetrap, the government comes along with a better mouse.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Valentines Day and Writers block

I couldn't think of anything extremely interesting to write about because writer's block disease has yet again infected me with it's virus. So I decided to talk a little bit about Valentine's Day. This holiday has someone gained this weird idea that love is only between two romantic people. This of course is far from the truth. I love people in my life but not in a romantic way and that doesn't make it not love. I love my father, my brothers, my Grandma, my aunt and uncle, my best friend Aida, and my friend Zack quite a lot.
Teenagers somehow have the idea that if your not going out with anyone on Valentine's Day then your asumed to be somewhat of a loser. I'll probally hang out with my friend Zack for some of Valentine's Day and then spend the rest of the evening with family. I don't really see how that makes me a loser.
This post was completely pointless and a waste of bandwidth but I don't believe in blog burning.

Alabama Burning. Terrorism In The Deep South.

As a lifelong Baptist, I am more than interested in the terrorism going on in Alabama. So far nine Baptist churches have been burned this week, all apparently by the same people.

Who is doing it? The KKK? Not likely since four of the Baptist churches had predominantly White congregations. The Muslims? Again, not likely. I think they would target synagogues before churches. That leaves home grown terrorists or some good ole boys tanked up on Billy Beer and out for what they consider a good time.

As a side note, not every Baptist church in the south is a Southern Baptist church. Also we do have some Southern Baptist churches right here in the Mohawk Valley. We even have a Southern Baptist seminary in Rotterdam.

The Philadelphia Inquirer Takes A Stand On The Muslim Cartoons

Note: If you have come to this site to view the Muslim cartoons, you can find them by scrolling down this page.

The Inquirer's senior editors decided at yesterday's afternoon news meeting to publish the most controversial image in today's editions. The cartoon was being published "discreetly" with a note explaining the rationale, said Amanda Bennett, The Inquirer's editor.

"This is the kind of work that newspapers are in business to do," Bennett said. "We're running this in order to give people a perspective of what the controversy's about, not to titillate, and we have done that with a whole wide range of images throughout our history."

Bennett compared it to decisions in the past to publish photographs of the bodies of burned Americans hung from a bridge in Iraq, as well as a photograph by Andres Serrano showing a crucifix submerged in a jar of urine.

"You run it because there's a news reason to run it," Bennett said. "The controversy does not appear to have died down. It's still a news issue."



Read the full story.






The Death Of Bill Edwardsen & The Death Of Local Talk Radio

Yesterday’s Daily Gazette and Times-Union both reported the death of local radio legend, William “Bill” Edwardsen. Edwardsen was famous locally for his morning radio show “Breakfast With Bill.” He was on WGY from 1954-1970. He also did stints at WQBK, WMVI, WABY, WGNA, and WVCR. His radio career spanned half a century.

Until I read yesterdays obituaries and articles, I can’t say I really knew much about Mr. Edwardsen. What I can say is that it is getting harder and harder to find local radio worth listening to, especially local talk radio. Now that the nationally syndicated shows have taken over, there is not much variety.

I spend my mornings jumping back and forth between Bob Cudmore at WVTL and Paul Vandenburgh at WROW. After they go off the air, I generally shut the radio off.

If anyone knows of any other local talk programs worth listening to, please let me know.

The Daily Gazette Takes A Stand

Yesterday The Daily Gazette in Schenectady decided to take a stand on the issue of the Muslim cartoons, in an editorial with the title, Stand Up To Extremism Over Cartoons. Since The Daily Gazette is one of the few newspapers that charges for their on-line edition, I can’t link you to the editorial.

Anyway, the editorial pointed out the double standards of Muslim countries complaining about the cartoons of Mohammed while their state owned newspapers regularly publish anti-Christian and anti-Jewish cartoons. The editorial also urged Western democracies to “stand up to the mobs and against censorship. “

But when it came to The Daily Gazette’s responsibility to provide its readers with the cartoons the editorial provided no answers.

The editorial skirted the whole issue of whether or not the cartoons should have been published in the first place, stating “One could argue about whether the newspaper should have published the cartoons, but most people in Western democracies would agree that it had a right to.”

As Belle says to young Scrooge in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, “What a safe and terrible answer.”



Wednesday, February 08, 2006

It's Time To Spread Manure Again

Agriculture has been one of the largest industries in the Mohawk Valley, at least the Middle Mohawk, for over two centuries, so we are good at spreading manure. Since the Islamic cartoon controversy is starting to die down a little, it’s time we got back at it.


I have been wanting to point out a post by a Valley Farmer over at Northview Diary for some time, that shows just how difficult it is for farmers to make a living around here. It’s a good post from someone who knows what she is talking about.

The Swarm (1978) - Film Review

In 1970, the release of the film "Airport" had two immediate effects. First, it provided moviegoers with an exciting mixture of drama and suspense. Second, it gave birth to a decade long cycle of disaster films.

Disaster films followed a specific pattern. Some sort of epic mishap would put a who’s who of celebrities through two or more hours of peril, with the majority of them being killed off one at a time in generally grisly ways before the few survivors finally escaped harm. The first entries were well-made, entertaining flicks, such as "Airport", "The Poseidon Adventure" (1972), and "The Towering Inferno" (1974). But, quickly enough, the well of creativity ran dry and, though disaster films were still made, they became lumbering, cheesy (but still star laden) disasters themselves. Films like "Airport 1975" (which came out in 1974), "Earthquake" (1974), "Avalanche" (1978), "Beyond the Poseidon Adventure" (1979), "The Concorde-Airport ‘79" (1979), "When Time Ran Out..." (1980), and our featured title, "The Swarm" (1978). By this time, disaster films were even popping up in the form of television movies. They followed the same formula as their big screen forerunners with two exceptions: the stars of the cast were a little dimmer and ALL of the television disaster movies sucked.

Responsible for producing (and sometimes directing) the bulk of these films, good and bad, was a man named Irwin Allen. Allen started his film career as a producer in the early 1950s. Before long, he had earned a Best Documentary Academy Award for producing "The Sea Around Us" (1952). In the 1960s, he made a significant mark in the television arena, producing such popular series as "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea" (1964-68), "Lost in Space" (1965-68), "The Time Tunnel" (1966-67), and "Land of the Giants" (1968-70). But it was his production of "The Poseidon Adventure" and "The Towering Inferno", which together earned five Oscars and twelve nominations (including a Best Picture nod for Allen for the latter), that launched his career in the disaster film genre.

After having put the likes of Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, Gene Hackman, and Ernest Borgnine through a capsized ship and a burning skyscraper, Allen turned his disaster powers towards television. There he produced the lesser films "Flood!" (1976) and "Fire!" (1977), before returning once more to the big screen. This time, though, he would not only produce but also direct, thus allowing us to lay even more than usual blame at his feet for what would be one of the worst movies ever made.

"The Swarm" hit all the appropriate disaster film marks. It featured a jaw-dropping cast: Michael Caine, Katharine Ross, Richard Widmark, Jose Ferrer, Richard Chamberlain, Fred MacMurray, Patty Duke, Olivia de Havilland, Ben Johnson, Slim Pickens, Lee Grant, Henry Fonda, and Bradford Dillman. It had a script by Stirling Silliphant, who had won a Best Screenplay Oscar for "In the Heat of the Night" (1967) and who had written both "Poseidon" and "Inferno". And it had a gargantuan running length: two hours in its initial release and two and a half hours in the uncut international version. From a distance, it might seem Allen had his act together. But he didn’t.

The plot of our opus revolves around a swarm of killer African bees terrorizing Texas, a swarm whose venom is so lethal that one attacked would die after only two or three stings. Before the film’s end, they have wiped out the crew manning an ICBM missile base, massacred a town, derailed a train, caused the explosion of a nuclear reactor, invaded Houston, and killed many of our major players.

The potential for a good film was here. In 1976, director Bruce Geller (the creator of the TV classic "Mission: Impossible"), had taken the same topic and utilized it to good end with the mini-classic television movie "The Savage Bees", in which a deadly swarm runs amok in Louisiana. This film (which also starred Ben Johnson) was well-acted, atmospheric, and a pleasure to watch. But all the pleasure derived from watching "The Swarm" is the result of seeing a cast and crew of respected artisans, equipped with a $21 million budget, totally embarrass themselves.

Let us see how each component of the film is fatally flawed.

ACTING: There is not a single major cast member who wasn’t a leading member of the acting class. In fact, of the film’s thirteen stars, all but four (MacMurray, Chamberlain, Dillman, and Pickens) have either won or been nominated for an Academy Award. Yet, each one of them delivers a poor (or, at best, slightly disappointing) performance. Chamberlain (as a scientist) smothers his lines with a toxic, cliched southern accent, while Widmark (as the military leader) roars, yells, and growls each of his lines as he did in the overrated "Judgment at Nuremburg" (1961). Caine, our hero, carries the same facial expression for the length of the film. Even legends such as Fonda and de Havilland falter, though their performances rank among the better.

DIRECTION: Allen’s strength came from his talents as a producer. He had the ability to secure large budgets and top-drawer casts and turn out entertaining films. But as a director, he was slightly less skilled. Admittedly, his 1962 directorial effort "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea", makes for a very good watch. But critics weren’t so kind to "The Story of Mankind" (1957) or "Beyond the Poseidon Adventure". With "The Swarm", Allen displays his inability to bring forth even one decent performance from over a dozen megawatt stars. If just one of the big name cast members had been sloppy in their work, you would blame the performer. But when thirteen of cinema’s giants fall down on the job simultaneously, you realize they were pushed.

SCREENPLAY: The primary cause of death, though, was the film’s writing. Silliphant is without excuse for this atrocity. Anyone who can pen such classics as "Village of the Damned" (1960), "In the Heat of the Night", and "Charly" (1968), should have been able to do at least a serviceable job here. But Silliphant’s script is one of the worst ever from a respected writer. The film abounds with inaccuracies, plot holes, ridiculous story developments (Houston is evacuated in a day!), and atrocious dialogue ("Houston on fire. Will history blame me, or the bees?"). The characters are poorly drawn, with scientists portrayed as environmentally-conscious saviors of mankind while the military officers are depicted as intellectually-challenged, "pave the rainforest" morons. From opening to closing, Silliphant shows nothing but complete contempt for his own work and the audience. The audience, apparently aware of this, refused to turn out in significant numbers, with the film failing to recover even half of its budget. Within a few years, the disaster genre would breathe its last.

To see such incredible mishandling of so much talent and money is appalling. When a film written, produced, directed, and edited by Ed Wood fails, you don’t think twice. But when an Irwin Allen-produced, Jerry Goldsmith-scored, Stirling Silliphant-written film with a cast to rival that of "How the West Was Won" (1962) turns out just as bad, one is left awestruck. At least those involved with the film can rest easy knowing that the film will never cease to be viewed...if only to be seen by those wanting to know what not to do. One star (though I would give it three and a half for its unintentional hilarity if this was a less objective rating system).

For a hilarious, in depth review of "The Swarm" by Ken Begg, please check out the second link posted above.

Thank God The Muslim Cartoons Weren't Soaked In Urine!

In an effort to be somewhat fair, I should report that Christians have gone on the attack against what they perceive as blasphemous images. However, they have attacked the art work itself, not people.

Can you imagine what kind of riots we would have if a picture of Mohammed was soaked in urine?

In case you have forgotten, most of the American press was offended by the closing of the Piss Christ display. They were not offended by the image itself.



The Last Temptation Of Mohammed.

Yesterday it was announced in Copenhagen that a famous Danish filmmaker was secretly working on a film tentatively titled The Last Temptation Of Mohammed. The name of the film, borrowed from the highly successful and highly acclaimed The Last Temptation Of Christ, which sparked massive, non-violent protests by Christians throughout The United States in 1988, purports to be about the prophet’s alleged relations with young girls.

Dan DiNicola, film critic for The Daily Gazette in Schenectady, New York immediately issued a press release stating “I will neither see the movie nor review it. It is offensive to Muslims, and liberals, and should not be made.”

Upstream caught up with DiNicola late last night at a local pub. After a few beers, Upstream asked DiNicola why he was boycotting the film, especially after writing a rave review for The Last Temptation of Christ. In a rare moment of humility and honesty, DiNicola expressed his real reason for boycotting the one film but not the other, “I knew those right-wing Christian boobs would protest The Last Temptation, but I also knew that as nutty as they are, they wouldn’t burn my house down or kill me.”




Tuesday, February 07, 2006

View the original Muslim cartoon newspaper page. Read my earlier posts for my views on this controversy. Bookmark this blog and return for further posts on this controversy. Posted by Picasa

Muslim Cartoon. View All Twelve Here & Original Newspaper. Read my earlier posts for my views on this controversy. Bookmark this blog and return for further posts on this controversy. Posted by Picasa

Muslim Cartoon. View All Twelve Here & Original Newpaper. Read my earlier posts for my views on this controversy. Book Mark This Blog and return for further posts on the controversy. Posted by Picasa

View Muslim Cartoon Here. What Might Have Happened If The Press Had Dared To Print Them.

If you want to see the cartoons that have set the Muslim world and Danish embassies on fire, view my earlier posts.

I commented earlier on why I thought the American press should have printed the cartoons. Now I would like to project what might have happened if they had been printed nationwide. No doubt, there would have been protests--non-violent ones by responsible, intelligent Muslims and violent ones by fanatical Muslims.

I would welcome both kinds of protests. Here's why. Non-violent protests are part of the American way and would give moderate Muslims the opportunity to show that they have embraced our system of democracy. Printing the cartoons would bring fanatical Muslims out of the closet. They would engage in violence, which would give the police and FBI a chance to round them up without using illegal wire taps, iffy sting operations and other unconstitutional means to capture them. A few people might get hurt in the process, but a lot more are going to get hurt if we don't get the radical segment of Islam under control.





View Here Another Muslim Cartoon That The American Press Is Afraid To Print

Another Muslim cartoon the American press won't print. This will be the last cartoon we post, although I have more to say about this whole controversy. Posted by Picasa

Monday, February 06, 2006

Another Muslim Cartoon The American Press Is Afraid To Print.

Another Muslim cartoon the American Press is afraid to print. Please read my earlier post before making a knee jerk reaction to this post. Posted by Picasa


And Another Muslim Cartoon The American Press Is Afraid To Print.

And another Muslim cartoon the American Press is afraid to print. Please read my early post before making a knee jerk reaction to this post. Posted by Picasa


Muslim Cartoon. View Here What The New York Times, The Times-Union And The Rest Of The Press Are Afraid To Print

The cover of RollingStone that the press did not mind printing.
Copyright 2006 RollingStone

The Cartoon That The Free Press Is Afraid To Print Posted by Picasa




Upstream neither approves or disapproves of the cartoon that appears above. Actually as cartoons go, it is not that exciting. The cartoon is posted here for a number of reasons. First, our so called free press has not published it, primarily because the press is not free. Too many newspapers are shackled by fear of revenue loss through advertising boycotts. Many are also shackled by political ideologies that dictate what they feel is fit to print. Secondly, it should be printed simply to show we really believe in the First Amendment of the U. S. Constitution. Finally, if we are going to have an intelligent conversation and debate over the cartoon, it is necessary for people to view the offending material.

The clash between Islam and the Western world cannot be ignored by those of us in The Mohawk Valley. There are a growing number of Islamic immigrants in the valley. Many leading doctors and businessmen in the valley are Muslim and are assets to our communities. We now have an Islamic Center in Schenectady.

As a person who posts often on the subject of injustice, I have been very disturbed about the way two Muslim leaders in Schenectady were setup and arrested.

Equally disturbing is how New York City police invaded a Muslim cleric's home in in nearby Bethlehem , NY.

If you are a Muslim and are offended at my posting these cartoons here, I understand your feelings. I was offended by the recent portrayal of Kayne West as Jesus on the cover of Rolling Stone (see above). I grew up in a Fundamentalist Baptist Church that believed it was a sin to portray Jesus or God in any pictorial or graven form.

As much as I would like to burn down the corporate headquarters of The Rolling Stone Magazine, I am not going to do so. In the end I believe that the truth of Christianity, Islam or any other religious or political ideology will prevail by the persuasiveness of its arguments.


Christians have been split over the years as to whether or not Jesus and God should be portrayed in portraits or sculpture. The debate is not as strong as it once was. Oliver Cromwell's hatred of portrayals of Jesus, the saints and other religious art, which he considered idolatry, led to the destruction of much art in Scotland and Ireland and gave rise to the word iconoclast.

Anyway, if you are going to respond to this post, I hope you will do so after thinking long, writing, revising, waiting and re-reading your comments before posting.


Good Housekeeping & Smithsonian Articles Worth Reading

The imprisonment of people for crimes against children that they did not commit, or crimes that never even took place, is not confined to our area, nor is it a dead issue. In this month’s issue (Feb. 2006) of Good Housekeeping, there is an article on Margaret Mignano, falsely imprisoned for the murder of her disabled daughter.

Here is an excerpt from the article, “She Was Our Baby,” by Amy Engler.

“Margaret cried as she was paraded past the reporters. Shackled, she sat in the waiting area all day with her head down, trying to make the nightmare go away. She could hear [Investigator] Warren boasting to other police officers that he had “bagged the big one.”

Around midnight, guards led her to a tiny cell with a metal shelf for a bed, a sink, and a camera trained on the toilet. Margaret wondered how long it would take before everyone realized what a huge mistake had been made--that rather than kill Ashley, she’d done everything in her power to keep her alive. She knew she hadn’t given her daughter an overdose--Margaret was compulsive about checking and rechecking the pills she set out in little paper cups for each hour of the day. But who would take her word over the results of a laboratory test?”
Copyright 2006 Good Housekeeping.

Good Housekeeping has featured similar articles in other recent issues.


This month’s issue (Feb. 2006) of Smithsonian features an Amish family who had all of their children removed by Child Protective Services, supposedly because the parents abused them. Social workers and prosecutors, completely ignorant of Amish culture, placed all of these children with non-Amish families. It took real experts--a doctor who specializes in diseases specific to the close knit Amish and a sociologist who has spent a lifetime studying the Amish--to show that the children were not abused but suffered from a rare medical condition.

A Great Day Trip

I don't know about you, but with the price of gas being what it is I will be making a lot of local day trips this year instead of going away for vacation. Some of them will be in the Mohawk Valley, some outside.

In writing my post the other day about Upstream's Mohawk Valley Blog Cemetery, I got thinking about the Hope Cemetery in Barre, Vermont. It's the only cemetery I have been in, besides Arlington, that I would recommend taking a whole day to go see. Take lots of camera batteries with you. Most of the gravestones are sculptures--fantastic works of art by some of the best Italian stone masons to emigrate to America.

Preview the cemetery here.

Justice Now's Improved Web Site

If you haven’t stopped by the Justice Now web site in awhile, I urge you to do so. The webmaster has done a good job making the site look more professional. You will also see that a post from Upstream made it on their front page.

More importantly, if you have never read about the case of Jack Carroll from Troy who is in prison, not only for a crime that he did not commit, but for a crime that never took place, you can read about it there in full detail.

Actually, Jack is in prison for a crime that was committed. That crime was committed by D. A. Patricia DeAngelis, Judge Patrick McGrath, Detective Steven Weber, State Trooper Edward Girtler, Jane Szary, and “expert” witness Eileen Treacy, who was also responsible for sending Kelly Michaels to prison. (Kelly is now free.)

The troubling thing is that when Jack is finally freed, no one will be held accountable for the crime committed against him. Sure, Rennselaer County taxpayers will pay him something for his pain and suffering, but Patricia DeAngelis, Eileen Treacy and the rest will go scott free, free to prey on other innocent victims

By the way, Justice Now’s site contains information on other cases where people have been falsely accused.

Consider giving a donation also. Unless you are Michael Jackson or O. J. Simpson, the State can always outspend you, when you are on trial.

The road to justice is not a freeway; it’s a toll road.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Are You In Danger Of Being Falsely Accused? Risk Factors.

Are you in danger of being falsely accused of sexual abuse, child abuse or neglect? If you find yourself in any of the situations below, your chances of being a victim are increased. I wrote these down as they came to mind, and did not list them in any order of priority.

1. You are in the midst of a bitter divorce with a vengeful spouse.

2. You work with children--day care, school, church, boy scouts, etc.

3. You have a child who does not want to follow your rules, wants out of your house and knows what he or she has to say in order to get out.

4. You belong to a religious minority--Mormons, Amish, Wiccans, etc.

5. You homeschool your children.

6. Your child has a mental illness.

7. Your child's therapist believes strongly in pseudo-science: repressed memories and other forms of spectral evidence, dreams, body language, and Freudian psychology.

8. Your children have a medical condition in which they bruise easily.

9. Your child skips school regularly. (It doesn't matter that you may drop him off everyday and watch him go through the front door).

10. You are the foster parent of a troubled child.

11. You allow yourself to be in situations where you are alone with children, especially troubled children.

12. Your local D.A. and Child Protective Workers are radical feminists and radical child advocates.

13. You believe in firm but loving discipline (I am not even talking about corporate punishment here.)

14. You dare challenge your local Social Services Department when they start an investigation.

16. The prevailing attitude among social workers and public officials where you live is that children belong to the state not the parent.

17. You have made an enemy somewhere, who knows how the anonymous hot-line and follow-up investigation works.

18. You live in a county where the D.A. is trying to advance his or her career by being tough on crime, loves media attention, has a flair for the histrionic and will do anything to get ahead, even if it means running roughshod over the rights of accused people.

19. You question your child's therapist about a proposed plan of treatment.

20. You switch doctors and therapists often, instead of staying with ones who have come to know you and your family over many years.

Undoubtedly there are more risk factors than these. I will expand on some of these in later posts.

Comparative Religions 101

Muslims have been busy this weekend burning embassies because their prophet was portrayed in cartoons.

When an ancient statute of Bhudda was blasted from the face of a mountain by Muslims in Afghanistan a few years ago, Bhuddists protested but there was no violent response.

Need I say more.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Upstream Now Available At Two Cyber News Stands

After trying unsuccessfully to access mohawkvalley.blogspot.com last night for several hours, it became apparent that I need to let readers of Upstream know that Upstream can also be read at mohawkvalley.wordpress.com.

Essentially, these are mirror sites with minor differences. The advantage to the wordpress site is that articles can be categorized. In essence that means posts are indexed by subject matter, making it possible to click on a category and read every post on that subject matter. Wordpress also makes it possible to search for a word or phrase and find every post on that subject. This makes finding old posts a lot easier than reading through old archives.

I am still in the process of categorizing the older posts. I was not going to say anything about mohawkvalley.wordpress.com until after I had all of the posts categorized. But the fact that I could not access Upstream on blogspot or any other blogspot blog tonight made me decide to announce it now.

I cut and paste the posts from mohawkvalley.blogspot.com so you are getting the same posts. However, I am not transferring the comments because of the amount of work involved. There may be some other bugs as well, but we will work them out as time goes on.

Justice For Just Us or Justice For All.

Finished reading No Crueler Tyrannies. Accusation, False Witness, and Other Terrors of Our Times by Pulitzer Prize Winner, Dorothy Rabinowitz of The Wall Street Journal. (You can read an excerpt on-line). I sit here so filled with anger that I don’t know how to get this post rolling, except to say that you ought to read this book. It’s especially important that people in this area read it because there is a chapter on Jack Carroll of Troy, who is now serving time for a sex crime he never committed.

What’s even scarier is that Jack, and everyone else portrayed in this book, were convicted of crimes that never even happened.

In all of these cases, what is compelling is the lack of physical evidence of sexual abuse in each case. One minister was supposed to have had sex with numerous children on the church floor every Sunday during worship service while the whole congregation watched. Yet an intensive examination of the church carpet showed no evidence on sexual activity of any kind.

The book covers the sex abuse cases of the Amirault family who ran the Fells Acre Day School in Malden, Massachusetts; the Kelly Michaels case, the case of Grant Snowden, a top notch cop in South Miami, Florida; the Wenatchee, Washington case in which forty citizens were arrested on sex abuse charges in just the first few months of the investigation (one woman alone was charged with 3,200 counts of child rape--an extremely busy woman to say the least), the case of Dr. Patrick Griffin, and, of course, Jack Carroll of Troy.

The professional reviews on amazon.com give Rabinowitz high praise for the book. Some of the amateurs are not so kind, although overall they gave the book 3.5 stars out of 5. The biggest complaint was the slimness of the book and the slenderness of the evidence presented by Rabinowitz.

But these reviewers are approaching the book in the wrong way. Rabinowitz’s book is meant to be a primer on false accusation, not an exhaustive treatise. Each case deserves a book of its own; some need more than one book to tell the story. Rabinowitz is trying to show us the witch hunt like atmosphere of these trials, which peaked in the 1980s and 1990s, but which has not completely died out.

It would have been impossible in such a book for Rabinowitz to have gone into the detail that all readers might want. But here is what makes Rabinowitz’s work important. In it she brings us face to face with well over one hundred people who were falsely accused of sex abuse in a variety of cases in different parts of the country. In each case, even though there was no evidence, prosecutors and social workers followed a similar plan to deny justice to the accused. In most cases the accused were found guilty, but in the end, except for Jack Carroll and Gerald Amirault, they all had their sentences overturned. And there is still a lot of hope for Jack.

Trials of large numbers of people for crimes that they did not commit are not new to America--this mass hysteria, beginning with the Salem Witch Trials, pokes its ugly head up with every new generation of Americans, seemingly oblivious of history.

We are not done with the sex abuse hysteria, but we are already into a new hysteria. As one amazon.com reviewer said, “The post-9/11 environment is ripe for similar cases - this time targeting those who are perceived to be soft on homeland security. Books like Rabinowitz's, however imperfect, serve as cautionary tales of our paranoid propensity to believe the worst about each other.”

The sad thing is that while people were being prosecuted for sex crimes that never happened, real sex crimes were taking place, and going undetected because the police, social workers, prosecuting attorneys and Child Protective workers were using all of their resources to prosecute innocent people.

I have been promising to write on this topic for a long time. Now that I have begun, I will be posting frequently on it because I have a lot I to say. I have waited a long time to say what I want to say. It took me awhile to find the right forum and this blog seems to be it.

If you are one of those people who are skeptical about false accusations and innocent people going to prison, I hope you will keep an open mind and continue to read these posts. I was like you once. I wanted to castrate everyone accused of sex crimes before they even had a trial. (Even now I believe that sex offenders who murder should receive the death penalty). Then one day Child Protective Services of Montgomery County showed up at my door and investigated me for alleged neglect. (Neglect differs from abuse and is a nebulous allegation which includes emotional neglect, truancy and a host of other things which I will discuss in a future post).

I was a law abiding, hard working, well respected citizen who thought this could never happen to me, but it did.

It can happen to you too.

Lives Of The Gay Cowboys

Call me old fashioned. Call me homophobic. I don’t care. I’ll take Cold Mountain over Brokeback Mountain any day. I will never understand how a man is attracted to another man.

I will have to listen to Garrison Keillor tonight on The Prairie Home Companion to see if he has changed his Lives of the Cowboys series to Lives of the Gay Cowboys. Gay cowboys? What’s next?

I wonder if John Wayne would have been willing to star in Brokeback Mountain if he were alive? All I know is I am going to be watching all of those old cowboy movies with a different point of view now?

My son, the film critic, disagrees with me on this. Maybe, he will enlighten me with a post on the subject.

Mohawk Valley Blog Cemetery

Upstream is now the site of the Mohawk Valley's first blog cemetery. (See under our links). The following blogs have been buried there in the hopes of their resurrection. Still Alive In The Mohawk Valley was born on 12/23/05 and after great promise succumbed to an early death on 1/03/06, even after Upstream's editor tried to give him CPR through an encouraging comment. Maybe he just found another Window Of Opportunity.

Mohawk-Valley-New-York.Com not only had died, but its body has been stolen by the devil.

Friday, February 03, 2006

WVTL Radio Heats Up

The Bob Cudmore Show on WVTL radio is usually a low blood pressure type show. This morning it got about as heated as its ever going to when Peter Olsen, Editor of The Weekly out of Glenville, called in with his weekly Small Talk column, and began to defend the government’s intrusion into people’s privacy. Bob does not normally practice conversational interruptus, but he frequently broke in on Peter to disagree with him.

I found myself siding with Bob. I particularly don’t care for Peter’s argument that if you aren’t saying anything wrong or doing anything wrong, you have nothing to fear from the government tapping your phone or searching your belongings. As many innocent people have found out, investigators have a way of turning the most benign conversation, note or whatever they find into something sinister. Furthermore, there are things we want to keep private because they are intimate, important, may I even use the word precious.

Peter’s thinking reflects the confused thinking of the typical conservative today. Conservatives in the past stood for small government. Conservatives traditionally held that you should think twice before giving the government any more power than it has. The U. S. Government is the most powerful government in the world. How much more power does our government need to combat terrorism?

The U.S. is still one of the most free nations in the world, but you cannot keep giving your government more and more power and expect to maintain that freedom. As the government’s power grows, its list of enemies (suspected or real) will grow along with it. Who knows, one of them might turn out to be Peter Olsen.

Defining The Mohawk Valley. Final Post??

Note: This is an edited compilation of my four earlier posts on defining the Mohawk Valley, with some additional paragraphs to bring the subject to a close, for now anyway.

It's not easy to define the Mohawk Valley. The Mohawk Valley Heritage Commission defines the valley in terms of political geography. The Mohawk Valley, according to the commission, includes the Oneida Indian Nation and the following eight counties: Albany, Fulton, Herkimer, Montgomery, Oneida, Saratoga, Schenectady and Schoharie.

One of the problems with the Mohawk Valley Heritage Commission's definition of the Mohawk Valley is that it leaves out places with a strong connection to the valley and includes places with very little connection. Troy while on the east bank of the Hudson River is clearly in the Hudson Valley, however, it had a strong connection with the Mohawk Valley, particularly when the Erie Canal was going strong and Troy was a terminus for goods shipped through the canal. Troy is not part of the Mohawk Valley Heritage Corridor yet has a stronger connection to the Mohawk Valley than does northern Saratoga County which is part of the corridor. Troy has much in common with such Mohawk Valley cities as Schenectady, Amsterdam and Utica.

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.

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.

Codman's 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.

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.

I don't think we can define the Mohawk Valley with any precision. Nevertheless, a definition as nebulous as the Mohawk Valley is a state of mind is not very useful. While I have pointed out the problems with defining the valley in terms of its political geography or physical geography, both of those definitions provide us with a starting point for defining the valley. In the end, however, the valley is both narrower and wider than both of those definitions.

Even though defining the valley in nebulous terms alone is not helpful, there is a sense in which the valley is defined in each person's mind. Your geographical orientation influences whether or not you live in the valley. I touched on this some earlier, when I said that some people living in the lower valley associate themselves with the Capital District rather than the Mohawk Valley. Similarly, some people in southern Fulton County are more oriented towards the Adirondacks than the Mohawk Valley. It is in this sense that the valley can be defined in narrower terms than either physical or political geography.

On the other hand, the valley is wider than these definitions because there are many people who moved from the valley years ago, for a variety of reasons. Many of them still have a great interest in the area. Relocation due to declining industry has forced many to go, even though they would rather be here. It seems to me that these people still live in the Mohawk Valley, even if they might be living in Albany, Georgia rather than Albany, New York or Amsterdam, Ohio instead of Amsterdam, New York.

Obviously, this post is not the final word on the subject which is why I put a question mark at the end of the post's title. Hopefully, it will get people to think about what it means to live in the valley, comment on it and maybe we will pick up the thread of this discussion again down the road.