Upstream. A Mohawk Valley Blogzine.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Defending Our Constitution vs. Defending Our Country.

Below are some of the oaths that elected and appointed officials have to take in the United States. I post them here without commentary and simply ask the question: Does it make any difference that the oath specifices that these officials protect the Constitution of the United States against enemies foreign and domestic as opposed to protecting our country from enemies foreign and domestic? Is protecting our country and its constitution one and the same? If so, how? If not, why not?

The Presidential Oath of Office.

Article II, Section 1, of the Constitution:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Oath Taken by Senators and Congressmen:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.

Oath for Supreme Court and District Court Justices

I do solemnly swear (or affirm), that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent on me, according to the best of my abilities and understanding, agreeably to the Constitution, and laws of the United States. So help me God.

Oath for the Military and Civil Servants:

An individual, except the President, elected or appointed to an office of honor or profit in the civil service or uniformed services, shall take the following oath: “I, AB, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.” This section does not affect other oaths required by law.

Oath for New York State Public Officials:

ARTICLE XIII Public Officers Section of the New York State Constitution:
1. Members of the legislature, and all officers, executive and judicial, except such inferior officers as shall be by law exempted, shall, before they enter on the duties of their respective offices, take and subscribe the following oath or affirmation: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the constitution of the United States, and the constitution of the State of New York, and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of ............, according to the best of my ability; " and no other oath, declaration or test shall be required as a qualification for any office of public trust, except that any committee of a political party may, by rule, provide for equal representation of the sexes on any such committee, and a state convention of a political party, at which candidates for public office are nominated, may, by rule, provide for equal representation of the sexes on any committee of such party.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

More On How Investigators Abuse Children

I said several posts ago that in the process of interviewing children, interviewers often commit abuse. The interview below took place in the Kelly Michaels case in New Jersey. Eventually, after she served time in prison, it was determined that she was innocent and that no children had been abused at the daycare where she worked. Of course, they had been abused, by the very investigators who filled the children's minds with pornography while trying to build a case out of nothing. The questions and answers below are mild compared to some others.

Q: Do you think that Kelly was not good when she was hurting you all?
A: Wasn't hurting me. I like her
Q: I can't hear you, you got to look at me when you talk to me. Now when Kelly was bothering kids in the music room
A: I got socks off
Q: Did she make anybody else take their clothes off in the music room?
A: No
Q: Yes
A: No
Q: Did you ever see Kelly have blood in her vagina?
A: This is blood
Q: Kelly had blood in her vagina
A: Yeah
Q: She did? Did you ever get any of that blood on your penis?
A: No. Green blood
Q: Did you ever see any of your friends get blood on their penis from her vagina?
A: Not green blood but red blood
Q: Tell me something, tell me about the piss box. The piss box that's in the music room?
A: No, up there. All the way up there
Q: Is the piss box the bench at the piano? When you open up the bench: is that the piss box?
A: Yeah
Q: It is?
A: Yeah
Q: And what happened, she would open it up?
A: And, popped it up
A: She popped it up and then what would you do?
A: Jump in it?
Q: Jump in it?
A: Yeah
Q: And would you have to pee in it? AL Yeah (about 10 questions later, the topic comes up again)
Q: So the pee-pee box is the bench at the piano and you flip it open?
A: No
Q: What is the pee-pee box?
A: This is the pee-pee box
Q: That's not a pee-pee box. That's a crayon box
Q: Did Kelly ever make you kiss her on the butt?
A: No
Q: Did Kelly ever say--I'll tell you want. When did Kelly say these words? Piss, shit, sugar?
A: Piss, shit sugar?
Q: Yeah, when did she say that, what did you have to do in order for her to say that?
A: I didn't say that.
Q: I know, she said it, but what did you have to do?

Read more interviews with children in the Michaels case.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

WVTL Reaching Out To Latino Community

I received the following press release from Bob Cudmore:

Bob Cudmore, WVTL, 346-6657
Gene Rodriguez, Hispanic Outreach Services, 843-0004 x3137

Latino co-hosts on AM 1570 WVTL morning show this Friday

Two Latino co-hosts will join AM 1570 WVTL personality Bob Cudmore for his morning show from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Friday, March 31.

Gene Rodriguez is the coordinator of the “Proyecto Extenderse” at Hispanic Outreach Services in Amsterdam, an agency of Catholic Charities/Diocese of Albany. Lynette Rodriguez-Stec is a bilingual voice talent who will provide Spanish translations of some WVTL news stories and community announcements during the broadcast.

Cudmore has featured co-hosts from the Mohawk Valley one day a week for the past several weeks on his news/talk morning show.

“This Friday’s broadcast with Gene and Lynette is an effort to reach out to an important and growing segment of the population in the Amsterdam area,” Cudmore said.

Latino community leaders are being asked to participate in Friday’s broadcast.

The Bob Cudmore Show
6-10 a.m. weekdays
AM 1570, WVTL
Amsterdam, N.Y.

Focus on History

History columns archived at:

The Route 30 Poverty Corridor

From Hancock in Delaware County, on the Pennsylvania border, Route 30 travels north through six counties until it reaches the Canadian border. My initial research shows what I have always suspected, that these six counties form a poverty corridor that traverses the entire state from top to bottom. For now here is the median family income from the six counties from the U.S. Census Bureau for 2003, along with its ranking among the 62 counties of New York State.

County. Median Income. Ranking.
Schoharie 35,759 43
Hamilton $34,949 47
Fulton $34851 50
Montgomery $34,641 51
Delaware $32,742 59
Franklin $32, 531 60

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Saratoga Hospital Fails Suicidal Police Officer. Expert Witness Perverts Justice.

Note: This article of mine appeared in The Sunday Gazette this past weekend. One thing that often perverts justice is the "expert" witness. Often a little research shows that they are not as expert as they would like you to believe.

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 February 21, 2006, a six member jury cleared Saratoga Hospital and three of its mental health workers of any responsibility in Marhafer's death. Although I don’t know the Marhafer family, nor am I familiar with Saratoga Hospital, I cannot accept the jury’s verdict.

It seems to me that there were at least two issues that were not adequately addressed by the hospital, its staff and by anyone in the subsequent trial. These issues are the special needs of police officers when they require mental health treatment and the access that police officers have to firearms.

Dr. Douglas G. Jacobs, a professor at Harvard Medical School, was paid $20,000 by Saratoga Hospital to be an expert witness at the trial. Dr. Douglas edited The Harvard Medical School Guide to Suicide Assessment and Intervention. A careful perusal of this book reveals two problems with it. First, by its own admission the purpose of the book is not only to be a guide to suicide prevention but it is to help the mental health professional avoid malpractice suits. It would require another article to explain how these two goals can work against one another. The more important problem with this book, however, as it pertains to the trial, is that it reveals that Dr. Douglas may be an expert on suicide, but he is not an expert on police suicide. Indeed, the only reference to a police officer committing suicide in the book is only four paragraphs long.

The National Police Suicide Foundation and, on the other hand, have a number of articles and a great deal of information about suicide among cops--information from mental health professionals, police officers themselves and their families. Most studies indicate that police commit suicide at twice the rate of the civilian population, even though police go through psychological screening before being hired. These sites gives the criteria for the typical suicide of a police officer. Marhafer met many of these criteria--white, male, around 35 years old, working patrol, and a recent loss or disappointment (Mahafer was under investigation at the time of his death).

Furthermore, these web sites make it clear why police suicide intervention is different from civilian suicide intervention. Police are trained to always be in control, often consider themselves indestructible, mistrust mental health professionals and are reluctant to confide in them, work a job with long stretches of boredom punctuated by short, high stress crisis situations, and often suffer from post traumatic stress syndrome among. These factors, among others, make police suicide intervention a specialty.

While Dr. Jacobs testified that Saratoga Hospital and its staff followed all the standard protocols for suicide prevention and intervention, it is clear that standard protocols are not adequate in dealing with police officers who are depressed or suicidal. Suicide intervention for police officers is a specialty that Saratoga Hospital does not seem equipped to handle.

If the hospital were equipped to deal with the special needs of depressed and suicidal police officers, how was it that Officer Marhafer ended up at the police station the day following his release, where he had access to a gun. While supposedly Marhafer was doing better, he was still clearly depressed and had an appointment for more outpatient treatment. Didn’t someone at the hospital talk to Marhafer’s superiors at the Schenectady Police Station about keeping him away from guns until he at least had his first follow-up appointment?

One thing Dr. Jacobs makes clear in his book is that access to lethal weapons strongly increases the risk of suicide. There are nearly fifty references to the role firearms play in suicides. These references point out that firearms are the most common means of committing suicide (57% of all suicides involve firearms), and that firearms are the most lethal method of suicide. 92% of people who attempt suicide with a firearm succeed as opposed to 78% who use carbon monoxide, 67% by drowning, and 23% by poisoning.

I believe Saratoga Hospital failed Officer Marhafer, but it’s too late to do anything about that now. However, it’s not to late too late to do something about preventing what happened to Officer Marhafer from happening to another police officer. In the April 1, 2003 issue of The Journal of Employee Assistance, Dr. Jacobs wrote an article titled Suicide and male workers. In it Jacobs states that “In May 2001, the Office of the Surgeon General of the United States launched an encourage the development of suicide prevention programs.” If there is a suicide prevention program that needs development at Saratoga Hospital, it is one for police officers. Maybe Dr. Jacobs will donate some of the $20,000 he got from being an expert witness at the trial in order to start one.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Mad Dogs & Assemblymen

I wouldn’t mind Assemblyman Jim Tedisco’s (and PETA’s) proposed legislation that would require all people convicted of animal cruelty under Buster’s Law to get a psychiatric examination and would prohibit them from ever owing pets again, if he would also support legislation that would:

1. Require that all people convicted of cruelty towards other people (murder, rape, torture, etc.) get a psychiatric examination.

2. Prohibit a pet owner whose animal attacks a human being from ever owning an animal again.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Not All Upstream Subscribers Getting Their Subscriptions

Some of you who subscribe to Upstream rather than read it on-line have not been getting your subscriptions. I am trying to resolve this issue. Meanwhile you can read Upstream on-line.

Mechanicville, Cohoes & Watervliet Are Plug Ugly

Yesterday we went to Old Saratoga Books in Schuylerville, then traveled to The Book Barn in Latham via Routes 4 and 32. My apologies to the residents of Mechanicville, Cohoes and Watervliet, but your cities make Amsterdam look good. Take some lessons from Waterford and Schuylerville and begin a beautification project immediately, if you haven't already.

By the way, Old Saratoga Books and The Book Barn are great places to buy used, out-of-print and rare books.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

More On Poverty In The Mohawk Valley

Here are some more statistics from the New York State Association of Realtors that show the poverty in the western Mohawk Valley. Below are the eight counties (plus Rensselaer) of the Mohawk Valley showing the median price of single family homes sold in 2005. The number after the price is the ranking of the county out of the 58 New York State counties that the NYSAR lists. (Apparently there are four counties in NYC that don’t have any single family homes).

Once again you can see the economic gap between the eastern part of the valley and the western part of the valley.

County. Median Price. Ranking
Saratoga $230,000 12
Albany $189,000 13
Rensselaer $155,000 19
Schenectady $141,850 20

Schoharie $120,000 24
Oneida $91,050 38
Montgomery $77,500 48
Fulton $75,000 51
Herkimer $74,900 52

Friday, March 24, 2006

Down & Out In The Mohawk Valley. Poverty In Northern Appalachia.

I didn’t realize until I did some more research that one of the eight counties in the Mohawk Valley, Schoharie County, is one of the counties that is part of Appalachia, according to the Appalachia Regional Commission. Schoharie County borders Montgomery County on the south.

If you look at U.S. Census Bureau poverty statistics, surprisingly Schoharie County is not the poorest county in the Mohawk Valley. Below in order from wealthiest to poorest, I have listed the eight counties of the Mohawk Valley based on median household income and percentage of people living below the poverty level. (I’ve thrown in Rensselaer County as well). The number at the end of each row is the county’s ranking out of New York State’s 62 counties. These statistics are from 2003, the latest statistics that the Census Bureau has. Notice the gap between the eastern and western halves of the Mohawk Valley, which I have emphasized by leaving white space between them.

Sorry but blogger compressed all of my nice neat columns, and I don't know enough about html to fix them. Hopefully, you can read these statistics anyway.

County. Median Income. State Ranking.
Saratoga $53,653 8
Albany $44,245 12
Rensselaer $44,245 13
Schenectady $43,321 17

Oneida $36,165 41
Schoharie $35,759 44
Fulton $34,851 51
Montgomery $34,641 52
Herkimer $33,967 56

County. Percent Below Poverty. State Ranking (Least % of poverty)
Saratoga 6.3% 3
Rensselaer 9.8% 12
Albany 10.8% 22
Schenectady 11.6 29 (Tied with Schoharie)

Schoharie 11.6 29
Herkimer 12.4 32
Fulton 12.7 38
Oneida 12.8 40
Montgomery 13.0 46

While the data about Oneida and Herkimer Counties are a little confusing, Fulton and Montgomery Counties are consistently at the bottom. Even though Saratoga County, one of the wealthiest counties in the state, borders both Fulton and Montgomery Counties, there is no trickle down effect.

It’s interesting to compare some of these statistics with Kentucky and West Virginia, which usually come to mind when people think of Appalachia. In percentage below the poverty level, there are 31 out of Kentucky’s 120 counties and 9 out of West Virginia’s 55 counties that are equal to or fare better than Montgomery County, New York. There are 48 out of Kentucky’s 120 counties and 11 out of West Virginia’s 55 counties that are equal to or fare better than Herkimer County, New York when it comes to median family income.

While not all of Kentucky’s counties are designated as part of Appalachia, all of West Virginia’s counties are. That makes the comparison between New York and West Virginia more significant. 20% of West Virginia’s counties have a higher median family income than Herkimer County, New York and 16% of West Virginia’s counties have less people under the poverty level than Montgomery County, New York.

So the question still remains, if several of the counties in the Mohawk Valley, particularly the western part of the valley, meet both the geographical and economic standards for being part of Appalachia, why are they not designated such by the Appalachian Regional Commission?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Mohawk Valley Is In Appalachia!

While I am a little late posting about Eliot Spitzer's comments on how Upstate New York looks like Appalachia (a Times-Union blog and NYCO blog have already made excellent comments on it), I have thought about our relationship with Appalachia for a long time.

According to Newsday, here is was Spitzer said:

"If you drive from Schenectady to Niagara Falls, you'll see an economy that is devastated," Spitzer says on the tape. "It looks like Appalachia. This is not the New York we dream of."

It seems like a lot of New Yorkers, including people at the learned New York Times, learned this week that part of New York State is in Appalachia according to the Appalachia Regional Commission. I guess the staff there is too young to remember the massive police raid on a Mafia summit in the village of Apalachin, New York in November of 1957.

But the real question is why isn't more of New York State designated part of the Appalachian Region. Since the Appalachian Mountains stretch from Quebec to Georgia, and the Appalachian Trail stretches from Maine to Georgia, and the Mohawk Valley is described as the only natural gateway through the Appalachian Mountains, then why aren't the Mohawk Valley and other areas of Upstate New York part of the Appalachian Region?

The Mohawk Valley is not only the corridor through which immigrants poured through the Appalachian Mountains to the west, much of it is rural and has the same poverty and sense of hopelessness that parts of Central and Southern Appalachia have. At least we do here in Fulton and Montgomery Counties.

Central and Southern Appalachia were forgotten areas until they were rediscovered back in the 1960s and 70s. Here in Northern Appalachia, we are still waiting to be discovered.

Has Assemblyman Jim Tedisco Become A PETA-phile?

I doubt anyone feels good about how Edward Fletcher and his mother, Jane Fletcher, of Oppenheim in Fulton County, poisoned their dogs for a week before tying them up and shooting them in the face. There is little need for me to comment on such blatant cruelty.

What is interesting, however, is Assemblyman Jim Tedisco’s response. Anytime an unusual event occurs, particularly one that gets a lot of media attention, Tedisco jumps on the band wagon and begins proposing new legislation immediately.

His latest proposals, in response to the Oppenheim animal cruelty case, would require people like the Fletchers to have a psychiatric evaluation and would bar them from ever owning animals again. I’m not saying that these are necessarily bad proposals. It’s just interesting how Tedisco uses these events to grab media attention. What is also interesting is that Tedisco’s proposals sound exactly like what PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals)proposed in a letter it sent to news organizations in this area.

I actually like a lot of what Tedisco says and does, but as a legislator he sees only the law as a solution to society’s problems. Furthermore, if he is going to be a parrot for PETA, it is going to be a lot harder for me to respect him.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Foster Parents Falsely Accused Of Child Abuse

More news happens than one person can possibly comment on. Consequently, I have a folder full of news clippings that I would like to write about but never will. One item, however, which was published in The Daily Gazette on Jan. 13, 2006, I need to say something about because, while the primary focus of this blog is the Mohawk Valley, another focus is injustice.

The title of the article is Couple files lawsuit against foster care agency about teen. The gist of the story is this. Tammy and Charles Albrecht of Northumberland in Saratoga County took a foster child into their home from Northeast Parent & Child Society in Schenectady in September of 2003. The child, actually a 16 year old male, then accused the foster parents of abuse. The Albrechts were charged with abuse and spent $35,000 to defend themselves. They were found innocent and now have brought suit against Northeast Parent & Child Society for failing to communicate to them “the teen’s history of emotional and/or metal problems and/or afflictions.”

The lawsuit also claims that the society “breached its contractual relationship with the Albrechts in failing to represent, indemnify and protect them against the wrongful and improper allegations made by the child.”

Could this lawsuit partly explain why there is a continual shortage of foster parents, why Northeast Parent & Child Society has to continually advertise far and wide for foster parents and why KidsPeace has a huge billboard on Route 5 advertising for foster parents?

Children, teens in particular, have been given increased power by our society over the past three decades, but not always with an increased sense of responsibility. Many teens, including foster teens, know that if they want to get their way, all they have to do is holler abuse and everyone will drop what they are doing and come running.

While the media focuses continually on child abuse, which is admittedly a serious problem, they rarely focus on parents and families that have been destroyed by false allegations of abuse. This in spite of the fact, that for every three reports of child abuse and neglect, two are found to be without substance. The investigative process alone, even if no charges are brought, can exhaust a family's financial and psychological resources.

Indeed, it is possible to make the argument that the people involved in protecting our children and investigating charges of child abuse and neglect--social workers, Department of Social Services workers, Child Protective investigators, police and D.A.s--in the process of investigating complaints (mostly made by anonymous callers to a hotline) commit child abuse themselves. The notorious Fells Acres Day School case in Massachusetts and the Kelly Michaels case in New Jersey are good examples of this. Although the defendants were eventually found innocent, after being railroaded and spending years in jail, much damage was done not only to the defendants but to the children they were accused of molesting but did not molest. Investigators using what could only be called pornography filled these children's minds with stuff that they should never have known about at their age.

When you read or hear about people who have been accused of child neglect or abuse, don't be too quick to judge. The real abusers might be the people bringing the charges.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Another Mohawk Valley Blog Recommendation

Here is another Mohawk Valley blog that I recommend, not only because it's done well and interesting, but for other reasons, which I may--or may not--divulge at a later date.

Monday, March 20, 2006

In Defense of Chartock

I have to say this about Alan Chartock. Although I do not share his liberal mindset and believe it's a mistake for him to let it show on the air, he is the only local broadcaster willing to do something about our seriously flawed justice system.

In particular I speak of the Jack Carroll case in Rensselaer County. Like many others, I believe Carroll was railroaded to jail eight years ago by a Rensselaer County DA who seems to care only about convictions no matter what she has to do or say to get them. She's been cited over and over for prosecutorial misconduct. I was very happy to have had a small part in her defeat in the election of Bob Jacon as Rensselaer County Judge.

Chartock is the only local broadcaster who has been willing to give the case the airing it deserves. Chartock moderated two, hour long discussion programs on the Jack Carroll case on WAMC. Many listeners to those programs came away believing, as I do, that Carroll was probably innocent and did not get a fair trial.

So let's give Alan the credit he deserves. I wonder what other area radio or TV station manager could go on the air and persuade listeners and viewers to donate the money needed to keep their stations running.

Ernie Tetrault-Justice Now

Bargeman's wife and child on the Erie Canal circa 1940. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress. Posted by Picasa

No Matter What His *?@#!@#! First Name Is, He's Still A Heller, By George.

A reader kindly pointed out by e-mail, rather than with a nasty comment, that I have been calling Glenn Heller, George Heller in my posts. (I've since corrected the posts). Even though Mr. Heller left two comments on my blog, sent me an e-mail, and even though I carefully examined his multitudinous websites and carefully read over my posts before posting, I still did not catch the error. Would any of you psychology majors like to take a stab at explaining this Freudian slip?

Glenn Heller, Alan Chartock & The WAMC Pirate Network

If Albany Eye had not mentioned Glenn Heller and his anti-WAMC website the other day, I would not have known about Heller or his site. Even though I have searched for WAMC many times via google, I never accidently stumbled on instead of

This weekend I spent more time than I should have trying to analyze Glen Heller, his website and his blog, or rather I should say his websites and his blogs. What I found is that Heller is not simply a gadfly, obsessed with attacking WAMC and Alan Chartock, but he is an intelligent man who raises serious questions about Chartock and his network of radio stations. Furthermore, Heller is not a man entirely too focused on Chartock and WAMC. Indeed, in some ways, Heller is not focused enough.

For starters Heller has too many websites and too many blogs. Here is a partial list of them. (Sorry but I don’t have time to link directly to all of these).

Because Heller has so many blogs and websites, he in unable to keep them all updated. He needs to consolidate them.

Heller has two primary focuses scattered over several sites. The first is the liberal media of western Massachusetts and eastern New York. His second focus is G.E. and its pollution of the Hudson River. Heller’s attack on G.E. and his desire to see the Hudson River cleaned up is not typical of someone with Heller’s conservative bent, and is something his liberal detractors ignore. In many respects, Heller’s web site about G.E. and the Hudson River is his best work. I would like to see a liberal look at it and find something to complain about.

It’s easy to take a superficial look at someone like Heller and dismiss him as a gadfly because he questions Alan Chartock‘s enormous pay raise in 2004, forgetting that Schenectady gadfly Pat Zollinger, through sheer persistence, managed to get Mayor Sam Stratton to forgo his pay raise this year. The truth is Heller raises intelligent questions about WAMC and Alan Chartock and questions that should not only be asked about Chartock’s network of stations but about the media in general. As more and more radio stations, newspapers, television stations and other news outlets are bought up by fewer and fewer people, people like Heller and the questions he asks become increasingly important.

If there is any event in broadcast history that reminds me of Glenn Heller vs. Alan Chartock it is Charlotte Observer reporter, Charles Shepard, vs. PTL executive director Jim Bakker. I doubt Chartock will like the comparison, but he and Bakker are alike in many ways. Both are very talented men who can wear several hats at the same time. Both created empires through their organizational and leadership skills. Both are extremely gifted fund raisers. When The Charlotte Observer began attacking and reporting about PTL--the way it was organized, it’s executive salaries and perks, possible illegal activities, etc--Jim Bakker responded much in the way Chartock has.

The difference between Chartock and Bakker, besides the fact that Bakker ended up in prison as a result of The Charlotte Observer’s investigation, is that most of the media supported The Charlotte Observer, while around here the media for the most part has not been supportive of Heller. Is that because of liberal media bias or because of bias against bloggers and other web based forms of journalism?

All of this makes me wonder if Chartock’s attack on the First Amendment rights of internet users on March 6, was not because people have attacked his friends in politics, but because of Glenn Heller’s attacks on Chartock and WAMC.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Upstream Reviews Alan Chartock - Blog

One of the most positive things about Alan Chartock’s blog is the simplicity of its style--no photographs, no links to other web sites, no pop-up ads, no flashing text, no rolling eyeballs, no clutter--just plain black text on a vanilla background. That’s more important than you think. One reason I don’t bother to read a lot of blogs, as interesting as they might be, is I have a hard time reading purple text on a green background, and I have a hard time reading a 6 point font. There are several reasons why most books are published using a simple 10 or 12 point black font on a white background, not the least of these being it has proven itself to be very readable.

Moving from style to substance, there is another reason why Chartock’s blog is worth reading. Chartock, like his nemesis Fred Dicker, is an astute, albeit very biased, political observer of New York State politics. Whatever you think of his politics, if you are interested in New York State politics, Chartock needs to be listened to, keeping in mind his liberal bias.

Having said that, the question comes up as to whether Chartock’s blog is even a blog. While it purports to be giving us Chartock’s thoughts for the day, most of the posts are warmed over material, cut and pasted from the pages of The Legislative Gazette and The Berkshire Eagle. Often it is material that was published two or three days earlier, so the posts can hardly be called Alan‘s thoughts for today. Chartock doesn’t even post his own material, someone named Ken does.

I sense also from reading many of these “posts” that they are not extremely well thought out. I get the feeling that Chartock dictates them into a tape recorder on the drive home from work and doesn’t bother to revise or edit them. Someone does spell and grammar check them.

Finally, with all of the talent at WAMC, couldn’t someone have come up with a better name for the blog. The name of the blog is not even Alan Chartock’s Blog. It is Alan Chartock - Blog. One thing that makes me a little jealous sometimes is the incredibly creative names people come up with for their blogs. Maybe Chartock’s blog could have been called Char Talk (a take off on his name and the very popular WAMC program Car Talk not to mention that char is the material leftover when the fire goes out) or When Alan Mesmerizes Chartock (WAMC).

In spite of all this, if you don’t subscribe to The Berkshire Eagle or The Legislative Gazette, Alan Chartock - Blog is a good way to keep up with “Alan’s thoughts for yesterday, or the day before.”

Saturday, March 18, 2006

When goes down, Upstream is still up.

Just a reminder that when blogger goes down, as it did yesterday (not all blogs were affected), you can still read Upstream at our sister site.

WAMC, Alan Chartock & The First Amendment

Below is the complete text of Alan Chartock’s post on his blog for Monday, March 06, 2006 titled Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet. The only difference is, I have substituted the word radio for internet, listener for reader and made one other change--I changed the reference to Hillary Clinton to George Bush. Now read my post and compare it with Alan’s original post.

Don’t assume from this post that I am a WAMC and Alan Chartock basher, or a George Bush supporter. My main concern about Alan Chartock right now is his post of March 06 which supports quashing the First Amendment rights of internet users. I will be posting more about Chartock, WAMC, and also, a web site dedicated to opposing Chartock.

Alan Chartock shares his thoughts for today....
Monday, March 06, 2006

Don't believe everything you hear on the Radio

We all love the Age of Radio, right? Not so fast. As much as radio has made life easier in a lot of ways, with it comes increasing political mischief and risk. As politicians and just plain malevolent citizens begin to understand how much potential there exists for dirtying other politicians on radio programs, we are now seeing a rash of absolutely despicable radio programs and talk show programs designed solely to destroy others. Lying by omission, commission and just plain, old-fashioned outright lying is now an everyday occurrence. There are many reasons why stop-at-nothing politicians will utilize these awful techniques, which debase not only their intended targets but all of us as a society. The main one is that it sometimes works. Once the genie is released from the bottle in the form of lie or slander, there is really no good way of getting it back in again.

Of course, this is nothing new. We’ve seen lies and slander from the time of the first American broadsheets and newspapers. Politicians were accused of fathering illegitimate children (sometimes true, often not.) They were accused of specific crimes they did not commit. In some cases, politicians used the power of the press to stifle opposition. The infamous Alien and Sedition Acts were passed during the John Adams administration, and he probably lost his bid for re-election, at least in part, because of them. Americans want their slander and they don’t like it when its dissemination is halted or impeded.

Today, secret groups are concocting the most dastardly lies and half truths and, with the flip of a microphone switch, massive disinformation is disseminated to thousands of people and there is precious little that can be done about it.

There are a number of reasons why we’re helpless in the face of this. The first is that it’s pretty easy to call talk show program anonymously and that anonymity protects the sick cowards, who are all too willing to destroy lives and reputations. The second problem is a landmark Supreme Court case called New York Times V. Sullivan. This case, and others coming after it, held the First Amendment protects the publication of all statements, even false ones, about the conduct of public officials. In other words, people who put themselves into the public eye, like actors and politicians, are fair game. Proving libel is so difficult that it is almost impossible for a vulnerable politician to win against these insidious radio crooks. The reason why we have the ruling is that the court, at the time, believed that to do less would be to rob the American people of the right to a free and unfettered press and to cast a chill on our right to call our politicians into account.

Even though we may recognize the public good that came out of Sullivan, it’s clear that all it takes is a few despicable, worm-eating no-good-niks to turn the court’s very good ruling into a nightmare. A lot of these politicians hardly deserve what they are getting and I know more than a few public persons who rue the day they decided to get into their own unprotected class. I am confident that many people will never enter the political fray because they recognize the danger that could come to themselves and their families.

In other countries like Great Britain, libel is much easier to prove and journalistic predators have been held accountable for their actions. That is how it should be. Look at it this way. In this country, if you are sitting in your living room and a truck comes through the wall and cuts off your legs, you have the right to sue just as everyone else does. If you are a public person who has been libeled, you do not have the same right as everyone else. Oh, you can sue, all right, but you are now in a class of people that will have a much harder, if not impossible, time of proving their case. We now have double classes of citizenship. If you don’t understand what I am saying, just go look at what the scoundrels have been saying about George Bush. Anyone with a fair sense of play will be appalled. Politicians without very thick skins had better fold their tents.

Most people who listen to this purposeful radio libel will hear what they are hearing for what it is rubbish. But some, who just need to fuel their own hateful natures, will repeat the lie, again and again. I have a Congressman friend who has been subjected to this type of political mischief and I feel incredibly sorry for him and his family. While history might suggest otherwise, this stuff is foul play and the antithesis of the sense of fairness and justice we as Americans hold precious. I truly hope that someone, some court, some brilliant soul, can somehow make this right.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Three Letters To NY State About Northeast Parent & Child Society

Note: Below are three letters that have come into my possession, written by a parent to the State of New York concerning Northeast Parent & Child Society. The letters have been edited to protect confidentiality.


Feb 19, 2005

NYS Office Of Children & Family Services
Albany Regional Office
155 Washington Ave. 3rd Floor
Albany, NY 12210

To Whom It May Concern:

On , 2004 we temporarily transferred custody of our daughter to the County Department of Social Services. She was subsequently placed in the Children’s Home run by Northeast Parent & Child Society in Schenectady.

It was our understanding that she would be in a safe and secure environment there. We were not told ahead of time that juvenile sex offenders and arsonists were housed in another wing of the same building.

When we did find out, we assumed that our daughter, who has mental health not criminal problems, would have no contact with sex offenders. To our dismay we have found out that she not only has contact with them on a regular basis, but also she has formed an emotional bond with one of them. He is a Senior in high school; our daughter is an eighth grader.

We discussed this issue with our daughter’s clinician at Northeast, but did not feel there was an adequate response. We had a meeting with and relayed our concerns about our daughter’s contact with sex offenders at Northeast. N. said she was told that non sex offenders and sex offenders were not allowed any contact at Northeast, including written contact. We told her that our daughter has an inch thick stack of letters from this guy. Also that our daughter had contact with him in the gymnasium and elsewhere on campus.

County DSS has not acted on our complaints to date. Last night my wife visited my daughter at Northeast and my daughter showed her photos of herself and the sex offender taken at the Valentine’s Day dance at Northeast.

As parents we are seriously concerned about our daughter’s safety. Some of the problems that sent her to Northeast revolve around sex, including a relationship with a 19 year old who has since been arrested. At this point we are not asking that our daughter be transferred out of Northeast, nor is this letter intended to be a blanket criticism of everything that Northeast does, but we are asking that an investigation be started immediately and our concerns be addressed before our fear for our daughter‘s safety becomes reality.

We need to know clearly what Northeast’s policy is concerning contact between sex offenders and other residents who are placed there because of mental health reasons. We would like to know what NYS Office of Children & Family Services’ policy is on this as well.

We strongly believe that sex offenders and non sex offenders should be segregated at Northeast, and that steps should be taken to see that they are. If we had known ahead of time that they weren’t kept apart, we would not have so readily agreed to transferring custody of our daughter to County.

Thank you for listening to our concerns.



March 10, 2005

NYS Office Of Children & Family Services
Albany Regional Office
155 Washington Ave. 3rd Floor
Albany, NY 12210

To Whom It May Concern:

This is a follow up letter to a letter I mailed you last Friday concerning our daughter’s relationship with a sex offender at Northeast Parent & Child Society’s children’s home on Park Avenue in Schenectady. In that letter I expressed concern for my daughter’s safety.

Around 9:00 p.m. on Saturday March 5, 2005, within twenty-four hours of mailing my previous letter to you, my wife called Northeast to see how our daughter was doing, only to find out that she had run away from the children’s home with two older guys from the sex offender unit.

Before I tell you more of what happened on that night, let me give some background leading up to it. On January 10, in a meeting with my daughter’s clinician, we told her about our daughter’s relationship with a sex offender. We also said that because of some of the letters the sex offender had written to our daughter, we believed that the two were going to make an attempt to run away together. Our fears were pooh-poohed by both the clinician and another staff member.

On the morning of February 23, 2005, my wife and I had a meeting with our daughter and her clinician at Seneca Dorm. Our daughter’s clinician said that our daughter had been manipulative lately and had tried to sneak out of the dorm to meet with the sex offender. On the afternoon of the same day, , a staff member at the children’s home, called to tell us that our daughter ran away, and it was believed she was trying to hook up with the sex offender off campus.

Knowing that our daughter had run away during her first week at Northeast and that the police had taken more than three hours to find her and then found her at the bus station on State Street at midnight, my wife and I were fearful that some harm could come to her. Because of that fear, I drove to Schenectady and after searching awhile found my daughter in the Holy Name Of Jesus Cemetery. She was with three other kids, but the sex offender was not one of them. I then drove her back to the dorm, and later on had a telephone conversation with her clinician concerning my daughter’s running away and her relationship with the sex offender.

Returning to the night of March 5, 2005, my wife and I again drove to Schenectady out of fear for our daughter’s safety, even though a report had been filed with the police and the police were supposed to be looking for her. We arrived in Schenectady about an hour after being told that our daughter had run away. We found her within fifteen minutes of being in Schenectady. She and the two guys were walking up State Street. One of the guys had a big yellow blanket wrapped around him. I was surprised that no one had found them, since the thing that attracted my attention to them was that yellow blanket.

I tried to persuade my daughter to get into the car so we could take her back to the children’s home, but she refused. My wife drove up to the home to notify them, while I followed the three run-aways from a distance. They went down a side street and into The Holy Name Of Jesus Cemetery. Several times I tried to persuade my daughter to come with me, but she refused. When I sensed I was getting nowhere, I walked back to State Street where my wife picked me up and we went to the children’s home, and a staff member called the police to tell them the kids had gone into the cemetery.

I then asked the staff to place a call to my daughter’s clinician which they did. The clinician called back, and I talked to her about the situation and expressed my concerns that my daughter’s relationship with a sex offender and her running away were not being taken seriously enough. , the clinician, suggested I call the police myself and talk to them.

By now it had been about 2 1/2 hours since our daughter ran away, and it was after midnight. I called the police and asked them to tell the officers trying to locate our daughter that she was with two boys that were older and from the sex offender dorm. The information about the age and status of the boys had not been given to the police previously. Within thirty minutes of my phone call, the police found the kids.

According to my daughter, kids frequently run away from the children’s home. (Northeast uses the euphemism “out-of-program” for running away.) Some don’t go far or for very long, but others are gone for weeks. According to my daughter’s clinician, staff is not allowed to stop kids when they run. All they can do is call the police. It seems to me that the police have better things to do. Furthermore, the kids run so often, I am not sure that even the police take it that seriously. I don’t know if anything bad has happened to any of the kids who have run away, but the potential is there, and I certainly don’t want my daughter roaming the streets of Schenectady at night with sex offenders. Furthermore, when the kids leave they often walk across Route 7, which is a very busy and dangerous four lane highway.

Why doesn’t Northeast have a system where people have to be buzzed in and out of the facility like other residential treatment facilities? It seems to me that if they did, the number of run-aways would be reduced. Security is virtually non-existent at the children’s home. People can come in and walk down the halls without anyone asking what they are doing there. Bags and parcels aren’t checked when people come in, and it would be very easy for someone to smuggle in contraband.

As I said in my previous letter, this is not a blanket criticism of Northeast. The place has many fine points, but taking my daughter’s health and safety seriously is not one of them. When I brought these issues up at a meeting with County Social Services, , said we could call the neglect and abuse hotline to report these things, but that did not seem to be the appropriate thing to do. Also since he is a representative of County and they currently have custody of our daughter, it seemed to me that he should be doing the calling and investigating. In any event, since no one seems to be taking this seriously and things have gotten worse since my previous letter, I do wish you would handle this letter in the same way you would a hotline call and investigate this situation.

I would like to hear from someone in your office concerning this situation.

Thank you for listening to our concerns.


Note: The parent who wrote the above letters, received an answer to them from Mr. Glenn Humphreys of the NYS Office Of Children & Family Services, who said he would look into the matter. It is not known what he did in the way of an investigation and the parent believes that no changes were made at Northeast Parent & Child Society as a result of the above letters and the final letter below.


March 26, 2005

Mr. Glenn Humphreys, Director
Division of Development and Prevention Services
NYS Office Of Children & Family Services
Albany Regional Office
155 Washington Ave. 3rd Floor
Albany, NY 12210

Dear Mr. Humphreys:

Thank you for responding to my letters concerning my daughter.

In my last letter, I told you that my daughter had run away on March 5 from Northeast Parent & Child Society’s Seneca Dorm with , a sex offender who is also in the care of Northeast. On the evening of March 17, we were notified by Northeast that had had sex with our daughter while AWOL from Northeast. This was extremely upsetting to my wife and me, as our daughter is very vulnerable right now and easily taken advantage of by others. Our daughter was tested for STDS this week, and we are waiting for the results.

Even though what happened is most likely a criminal action on the part of , due to their age difference and other factors, ,clinician at Northeast told me that Northeast has no responsibility to ask the police to investigate this incident. We do believe they have a responsibility to do so, and we believe County does as well. My wife and I will pursue this matter ourselves if Northeast or the County does not act.

I have asked Northeast what steps have been taken to ensure that this does not happen again. Apparently, steps have been taken to make sure and do not have contact in the children’s home, but no assurances were made concerning keeping them apart at Grout Park School (aka The School At Northeast), which they both attend.

Since you are the Director of Development and Prevention Services, I would like to respectfully recommend the following policy changes at Northeast and other Residential Treatment Facilities that might prevent what happened to my daughter from happening again.

1. When residents run away from the facility, the police be more fully notified of each resident’s age, gender, status (e.g. sex offender), and any other information that might make the police react more quickly so that crimes are not committed while residents are AWOL and so that residents’ lives and health are not jeopardized.

2. If any action by any resident of the facility commits or appears to have committed a crime, that the facility notify the police immediately.

3. That a policy be put in place whereby parents’ concerns for their children’s health and safety be taken seriously. That these concerns be looked into and addressed by a committee rather than just one employee of the facility.

4. That a policy be put in place whereby the County, Municipality or Agency that placed the child in the residential treatment facility also be required to investigate and address parents’ concerns when parents bring them to their attention.

Thank you again for listening to our concerns.


Final Note: The parent who wrote these letter filed an incident report with the Schenectady Police Department. A year later, and after making many phone calls to the Schenectady Police Department, they have not heard anything from the officer who was supposed to investigate the incident.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Amsterdam Should Change Its Name To Amsterdump

Amsterdam’s carpet mills closed a long time ago. It’s retail base was destroyed by a former Common Council when they voted to put a mall in the middle of Main Street. It’s housing stock is deteriorating so it is hard for Amsterdam to be a bedroom community for the Capital District. Now the Common Council has gotten rid of three Amsterdam Industrial Development Agency’s board members, so they can build a landfill in the fourth ward. The three members--Norberta Krupczak, Barbara Johnson and Joseph Isabel--all were opposed to the landfill.

Amsterdam used to be called Veddersburgh. It has had several nicknames over the years, including The Carpet City and AmsterRico, which is a pejorative term aimed at Amsterdam’s large Hispanic population. Now that Amsterdam will not only have the distinction of being one of the few cities in New York State with a downtown mall and a landfill within its city limits, I propose that Amsterdam change its name to Amsterdump.

There will be several advantages to this name change. People will no longer confuse the City of Amsterdam with The Town of Amsterdam, which is a completely separate entity, one which is flourishing by the way. Furthermore, when people do internet searches for Amsterdump, New York instead of Amsterdam, New York, they will no longer have to wade through thousands of results for Amsterdam, Holland; Amsterdam, Ohio; or Amsterdam Avenue in New York City.

A Mother's Cry For Help

The long quotation below is an anonymous comment made in response to my posts voicing concerns about whether or not Northeast Parent & Child Society of Schenectady is doing a good job looking after our children. I felt the comment deserved more attention, so I have posted it here. I will be posting a lot more about Northeast over the next week. While I will be writing about Northeast, most of what I will be saying will apply to other residential treatment centers as well.

We also are going through the same thing with our 14 year old daughter. She has mental health issues, diagnosised w/ Bipolar Disorder, has been acting up at home. She was place on PINS and sent to the Park Ave Childrens Home 1/25/06. Since being there she has gone AWOL out of the home 7 times, 4 of which were for all night. We have complained; asked to get her out of there. All to be told we can't move her until the evaluation is over. She is still there on this date 3/3/06. We sent our daughter there a virgin and she has admitted to having sex with 2 separate boys now. We are unsure if they also were residents of the home or someone she meet outside of the home. I have called News 13 in Albany asking that they look into this place. Should anyone out there want to be a part of the investigation (hopefully) email me.

Albany Eye & I Publius

Although Albany Eye makes a strong but not entirely convincing case for Alan Chartock’s 41% raise in 2005, I wish Albany Eye would cast its unflinching gaze on Chartock’s blog. Particularly disturbing is Chartock’s entry for March 6, titled Don't believe everything you read on the Internet, in which he seems to want to curb the First Amendment rights of bloggers and other internet users.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Records Released Under The Ellis Hospital Label

I said awhile ago that when I die, my entire biography will be the words my family chisels on my tombstone. But I had forgotten that I have medical, educational and other kinds of records that say something about my life. I was reminded of that the other day when I went to Ellis Hospital to review some medical records. I had never reviewed any medical records before, particularly any relating to me. I was appalled at what I found.

But first let me tell you about the process of reviewing your records. While the law allows you to review and have copies of your records, obstacles are placed in your way, similar to those obstacles that people put in your way when you file a Freedom Of Information request.

To review your records, you first must fill out a form or send a letter to the hospital. The hospital will then call you to set up an appointment. Ellis Hospital only gives you one hour to review your records, whether this is legal or not I don’t know, but it is not always enough time to adequately review your records. If you want any copies of your records, the hospital charges 75 cents a page. If you want all of your records copied, your bill will be high because hospitals keep such voluminous records.

After you choose the pages you want copied, they go to someone in the hospital for review to make sure the hospital isn’t releasing information you aren’t supposed to have. For example if you have records in Ellis Hospital that came from Albany Med, Ellis can’t release them to you. You have to go to Albany Med for those records. If you have been in many hospitals, you will have to make many trips and spend a lot of money to obtain all of your medical records. After the person reviews the records and makes the copies, he or she calls you and you can pick up the copies or have them mailed to you, along with the bill of course.

What I found in the records I reviewed was not only the poor grammar and spelling so typical of educated people today, but information about myself that was completely inaccurate, sometimes to the point I can only call it prevarication.

Reviewing these records raised a lot of questions in my mind, not the least being about the ethics of people in the medical profession. But also questions such as if a person is writing a biography or historical book, are medical records considered primary or secondary sources? If they are considered primary documents, how can we be sure of their accuracy? If a person keeps his or her own record of their medical treatment, would that be given as much weight in a court of law as the medical record kept by medical professionals?

I advise people strongly to document their own medical treatment, whether your treatment is medical or psychological in nature. You can do it by writing things down right after each visit, or you can take a notebook with you to your visits. Be prepared for some flack if you take a notebook and pen with you when you go for any kind of treatment. I had a medical professional get very upset when I brought a notebook and pen to a meeting, even though the whole time she was talking to me, she was sitting there with a notebook and pen in her own lap. She finally saw the logic of my argument, that I had the same right to document the session as she did, and calmed down.

People who are fond of record keeping are fond of saying, “If it isn’t written down, it didn’t happen.” But of course we know that just because something is written down, that doesn’t mean it happened either. The only way to counteract inaccurate records about yourself is to make sure you are carefully making your own record at the same time
In any event, I plan to review all of my medical and school records now, in order to learn more new things about myself that I didn’t know previously. It should prove interesting.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Don't Steal, The Government Doesn't Like Competition

I got a chuckle out of a bumper sticker I saw the other day. It said "DON'T STEAL, THE GOVERNMENT DOESN'T LIKE COMPETITION". Like a lot of bumper stickers there's some truth to that. Think of the $25 million dollar profit the Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) makes from inmate calls to their families. You and I can make long distance calls for two three cents a minute or less. For inmates making calls to their families or lawyers it's three or four times more expensive. Through what can only be termed a sweetheart deal with the phone company the state skims off (steals?) many millions of dollars. Mary Carroll , whose husband Jack was railroaded to jail for a crime I don't think he committed, spends $300 a month to talk to her husband on a regular basis. There is another family I've heard of, that spends $1000 a month to speak to their son. If an inmate's family is poor, as many of them are, the inmate is cut off from the support of his loved ones.

Speaking of the Department of Correctional Services, that's an organization that needs some attention from the State's Inspector General, Dineen Ann Riviezzo. She should find out which top officials at DOCS are spending two and three hour lunch hours at OTB on Central Avenue in Albany and other watering holes, drinking and betting. I am told this sort of thing goes on all the time with officials at several agencies. A friend and I observed a couple DOCS higher ups at the OTB bar not too long ago and luckily I was able to get a few pictures. You may hear and see more about this in the near future.
Ernie Tetrault-Justice Now

Kathryn McCary Tries But Fails To Kill A Mockingbird

Just when you get around to reading a book, and you conclude that the book is one of the best of the many thousands that you have read, some would-be literary critic comes along and says it doesn’t have any literary value. That’s what happened in Sunday’s Gazette when Kathryn McCary of Schenectady, a regular contributor to The Sunday Gazette, wasted a lot of space trashing To Kill A Mockingbird.

While I had seen the film version several times, I never got around to reading the book until last Summer. Harper Lee, the author, was only 32 years old when she submitted the book and 34 years old when it was published. It was the first and only book she ever wrote, and it won the Pulitzer Prize.

McCary argues that the book should never have won the Pulitzer Prize when the likes of William Faulkner, John Barth and Flannery O’Connor were writing at the same time. I would give my right arm to write a book like To Kill A Mockingbird. Although I have enjoyed some of O’Connor’s stories, I wouldn’t give the little finger on my left hand to write like she does. The same goes for Barth and Faulkner.

My guess is that McCary is one of those literary snobs who feels that if a book is popular, it can’t possible be literature--that if it is to be literature, it must be opaque, difficult to read and only enjoyed by a few people. The impetus for McCary’s opinion piece was Schenectady County’s “One County, One Book” program. The “One County, One Book” or “One City, One Book” programs are not new to places like Saratoga Springs and Rochester, however, this is Schenectady’s first year in the program. The idea is to get as many people in a city or a county to read a particular book and get together and discuss it. Supposedly, this will foster a sense of community.

McCary would have been better off if she had challenged the whole idea of the “One County, One Book” program. The idea that one book can foster community is naive. So few people read today, that it is impossible for a book to create much of a sense of community except among those who read. And Ms. McCary’s op-ed piece demonstrates clearly how difficult it is to get a large number of the small number of people who not just can read, but who do read, to agree on the kind of book that will foster community.

The truth is that the days of one book fostering community are almost gone, except in the Muslim world where The Koran is a powerful uniting force. The Bible created a powerful sense of community among a large number of Americas in the 1700s and 1800s, but its waning influence now only unites a minority.

You might say that Mein Kampf fostered community in Nazi Germany, but hardly anyone every read it. If you have ever read it, it is extremely difficult to read. And it was Hitler’s oratorical and political skills that united Germany into one community, not his writings. If more people in England and America had read Mein Kampf before Hitler came to power and taken what it said seriously, maybe the evil community that Hitler created via his oratory and evil genius would never have come into being.

In attacking Harper Lee, McCary was doing what Atticus Finch said not to do in the novel--she was shooting at a mockingbird. The mockingbird’s only purpose in life is to sing. Harper was a mockingbird with only one song. She sang it beautifully, and she is one mockingbird that the literary critics will never kill.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Disabled Foster Children Illegally Placed In Nursing Homes

The Associated Press broke the news yesterday that at least thirteen disabled foster children and maybe more have been placed illegally and literally raised in nursing homes in New York, without proper care for their needs. Just one more example of what happens when the State attempts to parent our children.

Read the press release by New York Lawyers For The Public Interest.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Canajoharie, NY A Model Village

The Village of Canajoharie seems to have a vision of its future that is rare among the many villages and cities in the Mohawk Valley. The village has a master plan in place, has put a moratorium on certain types of development until more planning can be done, and has built a beautiful park and pavilion next to the river. It has a beautiful new high school and the Canajoharie Library and Art Museum, one of the best small art museums in the country, is undergoing expansion.

After ten years of study, the bridge over the Mohawk River between Canajoharie and Palatine Bridge is going to be replaced. A lot of thought has gone into the bridge, and it sounds like it is going to be one of the best bridges on the Mohawk River. It will have a walkway for pedestrians on both sides of the bridge. It will also have “bumpouts” on both sides of the bridge with benches for people who want to sit and rest or contemplate the river.

Canajoharie suffers somewhat from having the Beech-Nut Factory in its downtown. Also the State hurt Canajoharie by running the Thru-Way right through it, instead of around it. Nevertheless, Canajoharie is doing a good job at keeping its historic charm while continuing to add to its beauty.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

"The Boss" Sings About The Erie Canal

For the first time I may have to go out and buy a Bruce Springsteen album. His latest album, to be released on April 25, is dedicated to folk singer Pete Seeger and contains fifteen American folk songs, one of them having a strong connection to the Mohawk Valley. Track six is the Erie Canal song that most of us had to learn in elementary school.

Here is the complete 'We Shall Overcome The Seeger Sessions' Track Listing

1. Old Dan Tucker
2. Jessie James
3. Mrs. McGrath
4. Oh, Mary, Don't You Weep
5. John Henry
6. Erie Canal
7. Jacob's Ladder
8. My Oklahoma Home
9. Eyes On The Prize
10. Shenandoah
11. Pay Me My Money Down
12. We Shall Overcome
13. Froggie Went A-Courtin'

Bonus Tracks:

Buffalo Gals
How Can I Keep From Singing

There have been other important songs relating to the Mohawk Valley in the past. I have a copy of Jack Patton And Friends recording of Mohawk River Valley on the Gold Tone label. Eventually this song was changed to The Red River Valley, and that is how most people know it today.

Here is a song about Christmas In The Mohawk Valley that I had not heard of until recently. The song is by Dillinger and was produced by Mark Werchowski. It is primarily a song about the Upper Mohawk Valley.

Here are the words:

Fall has fell and the leaves are gone and the stores are crowded at Sangertown. Santa's on his way and the kids can't wait from Dolgeville to the Griffiss gate. Waterville and Camden too, you can feel it in the air it's that Christmas mood. Never know what to buy for the family in Little Falls and Oriskany. It's Christmas in the Valley again, it's Christmas in the Mohawk Valley again. All our friends will come back home, see the kids and how they've grown and it's Christmas in the valley once again. In Boonville and in Ilion, mailing letters to Santa and cards to friends. Rudolfs coming to Utica/Rome last year he stopped at Uncle Jeff's farm, down Route 12 past Riverside, over Deerfield Hills see them reindeer fly, goodwill and presents for everyone, the valley's Santa's favorite stop; and it's Christmas in the valley again, Christmas in the Mohawk Valley again, snowflakes dance raise a glass to friends, count our blessings we're together again, and it's Christmas in the valley once again. Down Erie Blvd. West on Dominick, look up in the sky it's old St. Nick, look after your neighbors take care of your friends you'd better be good so Santa comes back again. In Schuyler and in Sylvan Beach, good people good times never out of reach, rock and roll radio playing loud on the sleigh, let's gather 'round the tree it's Christmas day. It's Christmas in the valley again, Christmas in the Mohawk Valley again, 'round the Parkway down Genesee, Christmas spirit is all you'll see and it's Christmas in the valley once again. Christmas in the Mohawk Valley again. All our friends will come back home, see the kids and how they've grown; it's Christmas in the valley once again, Christmas in the Mohawk Valley again.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Don't Let Michael Chiara Dump On Amsterdam

According to The Daily Gazette (03/07/06) the board of the Amsterdam Industrial Development Agency (AIDA) is split over whether to allow a landfill to open in the city’s fourth ward.

Norberta Krupczak, Amsterdam attorney, sister of former Lieutenant Governor Mary Ann Krupczak, a board member of AIDA and an opponent of the landfill had this to say the other day about fellow board member, City Tax Assessor and supporter of the landfill, Michael Chiara.

Everyone has to vote Chiara’s way, or they’re gone. I’ve been told at least three times that if I don’t get on board, get out. I don’t like being threatened.

I lived in the City of Amsterdam for 27 years, and Michael Chiara was the only public official that ever gave me a hard time. In fact, I would have to say he was one of the rudest public officials I have ever had dealings with, so Krupczak’s comments come as no surprise to me. It’s a strange feeling, now that I don’t live in Amsterdam, to deal with a tax assessor who treats me like a fellow human being.

In any event, as far as the landfill is concerned, Amsterdam Mayor Joseph Emanuele has come up with the best argument for not allowing a landfill in the City of Amsterdam. He argues that the city has a bad enough image already and locating a landfill within the city limits will just make that image worse. I agree and hope people like Krupczak and Sean Piasecki will stay on the AIDA board and keep fighting to make AIDA responsible to the people of Amsterdam.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Fire Hydrant Sprays Dog In Saratoga Springs

Carl Strock had a great column today in The Daily Gazette about how Saratoga Springs finally managed to pass a dog ordinance. Trying to pass a law to curb dogs on the basis of the potential danger to human beings did not work. Too many pet lovers protested when legislation was proposed on the basis that too many pets in downtown Saratoga, during the dog days of summer when the horses are running and the sidewalks are crowded, could endanger people’s lives.

But when legislation was proposed a second time showing how crowded sidewalks and too many dogs are dangerous not to humans but to the dogs themselves, the legislation to control dogs in downtown Saratoga passed.

It’s a little bit like a dog walking by an open fire hydrant and getting sprayed.

Which reminds me, now that the Oscars were just handed out a few days ago, I would like to propose a special Oscar next year--an Oscar for the first film which states at the end of it “No human being was injured during the making of this movie.”

NY State's Surrogate Parents Held To Lower Standard Than Natural Parents.

Yesterday’s news gave one more example of why the State needs to look more closely at its residential treatment facilities. Anthony Hawkes, a 22-year-old employee of Vanderheyden Hall in Rensselaer County was charged with third-degree rape after he had sex with a 15-year-old resident of the home for troubled youth.

Residential Treatment Facilities in the area include Charlton School For Girls, Northeast Parent & Child Society, Berkshire Farm and St. Anne’s. I don’t know about the employment policies of any of these institutions except for Northeast. For the vast majority of each day and during the weekend and vacations, children at Northeast are looked after by people who are only required to have a high school education and a driver’s license to get the job. The job is low paying and it’s not surprising that it’s hard to get quality applicants. My guess is that the other treatment facilities have similar job requirements.

I posted several days ago about information I had received that an aide at Northeast had a sex party at her house at which some teens from Northeast may have been present. After turning that information over to a relatively responsible staff member at Northeast, I deleted the post out of deference to Northeast and because I had no way of confirming the information, although it came from a fairly reliable source and came in such a way that it gave it credence.

Maybe I should not have deleted that post. In any event I still think Northeast Parent & Child Society should be investigated as I stated in an old post. The only difference now is that I think all of our residential treatment facilities should be investigated.

Children end up in these facilities in a number of ways, mainly through Family Court. In some cases they are adjudicated juvenile delinquent and sent there. Some go there because parents can’t handle their child and file a PINS (Person In Need of Supervision) petition in family court to get help. In some cases parents voluntarily send their children to residential treatment facilities because their children have mental health problems and the residential treatment facilities are supposed to provide their children with more intensive therapy than they can get on the outside. (Whether they actually get more intensive treatment is another story). Finally, some children are taken from their parents because of neglect or abuse and sent to residential care facilities.

The biggest problem with residential treatment facilities is that parents expect that their children will be looked after by people who are at least as responsible and qualified to parent as they are, but for the most part that doesn’t happen. Not only are the qualifications low for the job of aide, but many of the aides are in their twenties and have little or no parenting experience themselves.

Our counties in the Mohawk Valley have contracts with these facilities to send troubled youths to them. One gets the impression that the main criteria the counties use in signing contracts with these facilities is who provides the services in the least expensive way. When I discussed the situation at Northeast with Bob Lennon, Director of Foster Care in Montgomery County, his non-response was that Northeast is a fine institution. I then asked him how often he had visited the facility, and his response was once. Bob Lennon has been with the foster care department for years and only has visited Northeast once. I find it disturbing that the man who is primarily responsible for sending children to a residential care facility has only visited that facility once.

Even if the State investigated these facilities, I don’t hold much hope that the problems at these facilities will change. When two girls committed suicide at Charlton School For Girls, the State investigated and said the facility was not responsible in anyway. You can bet if those girls had committed suicide at home, that their parents would have been held responsible.

Why are surrogate parents in State licensed facilities not held to the same high standards that natural and foster parents are held to?

Here are a couple of other old posts I wrote about the kind of people the State and Counties hire to look after our children.

Who’s Protecting Your Children In Montgomery County?

Who’s Protecting Your Children In Schoharie County?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Long Lunch hours at DOCS

I got a chuckle out of a bumper sticker I saw the other day. It said "DON'T STEAL, THE GOVERNMENT DOESN'T LIKE COMPETITION" . Like a lot of bumper stickers there's some truth to that.

Think of the $25 million dollar profit the Department of Correctional Services(DOCS) makes from inmate calls to their families. You and I can make long distance calls for two three cents a minute or less . For inmates making calls to their families or lawyers it's three or four times more expensive. Through what can only be termed a sweetheart deal with the phone company the state skims off (steals?) many millions of dollars. Mary Carroll , whose husband Jack was railroaded to jail for a crime I don't think he committed, spends $300 a month to talk to her husband on a regular basis.There is another family I've heard of, that spends $1000 a month to speak to their son. If an inmate's family is poor, as many of them are, the inmate is cut off from the support of his loved ones.

Speaking of the Department of Correctional Services, that's an organization that needs some attention from the State's Inspector General, Dineen Ann Riviezzo. She should find out which top officials at DOCS are spending two and three hour lunch hours at OTB on Central Avenue in Albany and other watering holes, drinking and betting. I am told this sort of thing goes on all the time with officials at several agencies . A friend and I observed a couple DOCS higher ups at the OTB bar not too long ago and luckily I was able to get a few pictures. You may hear and see more about this in the near future.

Ernie Tetrault-Justice Now

Generation Gap In Montgomery County

I learned two facts about Montgomery County during the past week. First, Montgomery County has the highest percentage of senior citizens of any county in New York State. The second fact is that Montgomery County has a 40% teen pregnancy rate, far above the state average of 26%. Are these two facts related? Maybe.

The large number of senior citizens in Montgomery County are the grandmothers and grandfathers (or great grandmothers and great grandfathers) of this large number of pregnant teens. The elderly population did not have a high pregnancy rate when they were teens, in spite of the fact that there was little sex education in those days and birth control was not so easily attainable.

There has to be a vast store of wisdom and knowledge among the very large population of seniors in Montgomery County that should be passed onto the younger generations. How is it that grandma avoided pregnancy when she was a teen, but her granddaughter didn’t? Is the answer to this question and other questions being kept secret by the older generation, or does the younger generation just not want to hear what the elderly have to say?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Jungian Jurisprudence In Fulton County, NY

It’s not new news, but it’s important news. In 2005 Fulton County Family Court Judge David F. Jung sentenced four people to jail time, without their being present in the court room and without their having any legal representation. In some of the cases, the defendant was already incarcerated in another jail and had little control over whether or not he or she could make it to Fulton County Family Court at the appointed time. In all four cases, either Supreme Court Judge Richard T. Aulisi or Judge Sise released the defendant and chastised Jung.

Two of the defendants, Karrie Foote and Angelic Constantino, had their cases heard by the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court in late February after Fulton County challenged Judge Aulisi’s decision to release these two women. Fulton County has paid $7,000 so far to support Jung, which seems to me to be a waste of taxpayers’ money. Furthermore, Foote and Constantino have lawsuits against Fulton County.

The Appellate Division will be handing down a decision regarding Jung’s actions sometime this month. Let’s hope they use the U.S. Constitution to decide on Jung’s actions and not Jungian Psychology.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Between A Strock And A Hard Place.

I did not hie myself over to the Schenectady County Community College to listen to Columnist Carl Strock debate Jay Wile on the topic of intelligent design. If I had, I would have been in a bind. Carl Strock is, in my opinion, the finest columnist in the area. What I especially like is the way he exposes corruption in politics and goes to bat for people like Jack Carroll who is in prison for something he didn’t do. Carl is one of the main reasons I read The Gazette.

However, I do feel that there is some basis for the concept of intelligent design. Actually, whether our universe came about through the process of creation or evolution doesn’t matter as much to me as it does to other Christians. If God chose to bring about the universe through the process of evolution, that’s his prerogative.

I don’t have a problem with the idea of theistic evolution, the idea that God created the initial mass of energy or matter from which the evolutionary process began. I am troubled however, by a universe without God.

What Strock and Wile were debating was the process by which the universe came into being. Neither evolution nor intelligent design are as hard for me to comprehend as the idea that there was no beginning. If you believe in creation or theistic evolution, you believe in a God who always existed. If you believe in atheistic evolution, you believe in energy that always existed. While evolution and intelligent design can be argued using the evidence of fossils, etc., how do you discuss the concept of someone or something having always existed?

It seems to me that when we go back beyond the process of how the universe began, we leave the area of science and enter the area of faith. Was there a mass of energy that was always there or a God who was always there? Both concepts stretch my mind beyond its limits. Nevertheless, I have chosen to believe in a God who was always there.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Well, Rensselaer County DA DeAngelis (a.k.a. The Avenging Angel) has done it again . You probably read how she showed up with the cops and the TV cameras at the porno movie house in Troy. It was, I'm sure, all orchestrated very carefully. TV newsrooms were notified so they would show up and take video of her on the scene. I wouldn't be surprised if she had her statement all written in advance. The idea is for her to present herself as a DA crusading against crime in the collar city. With all the negative publicity she's gotten by misbehaving in the courtroom lately I supppose she needs every bit of good press she can get if she is ever to move up the judicial ladder of success. She reminds me of the many people I interviewed for the news over the years. You don't want to get between them and a camera or microphone. It could be worth your life.
She makes me sick!

Ernie Tetrault
Justice Now

Saturday, March 04, 2006

ASFA & CAPTA Not Protecting Children

Yesterday's Gazette had a great letter to the editor by Deborah McLean of Clifton Park about how CAPTA (Child Abuse and Prevention Act) and ASFA (Adoption and Safe Families Act) are not protecting children. Indeed many children are being taken from their natural families and adopted out when they should not be. Meanwhile, severe cases of child abuse go undetected by the child protection "experts."
I hope to get Ms. Mclean's permission to reprint her letter on this blog. Meanwhile, she lists a number of organizations that are doing battle with Child Protective Services and other organizations that are destroying innocent families and often subjecting children to abuse in less than wholesome foster care settings.

Here are websites of several organizations:

Friday, March 03, 2006

The Drumm House. Part 1

The Drumm House in Johnstown, NY before porch and dormer were added. Windows are post Civil War replacements, not colonial era windows. This post and the previous two show are good examples of the process of historical restoration. Posted by Picasa

The Drumm House. Part 2

The Drumm House In Johnstown With Additions (porch and dormer). A big part of historical restoration is removing what was added at a later time. You have to look close at this picture to see the original house hiding within this one.Posted by Picasa

The Drumm House. Part 3.

The Drumm House In Johnstown, NY after additions have been removed and Victorian era windows replaced with Colonial era windows.. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Historic Mohawk Valley Home For Sale.

My wife and I took a ride up Mohawk Drive in Tribes Hill Saturday and discovered that one of the great, old historic Mohawk Valley homes, Danascara Place, is for sale. I fell in love with this place when I first moved here in 1978, when it looked like a haunted house. Of course, it is out of my price range. Photographs of the place don’t do it complete justice.

The house only has 2.5 acres now. I am not sure how much land was with it originally, but I know that the land and barn across the Danascara Creek and the land across the road were part of it. This whole area is historic. The Wolf Clan of the Mohawks met here regularly for religious ceremonies, long before any white person built a house here.

As I said in an earlier post, the barn across the Danascara Creek hides one of the most beautiful views in the Mohawk Valley. This is private and posted property so you can’t get behind the barn to see the view, but if you ever get the opportunity to do so, take it.

The original Danascara mansion sat on the other side of the road, closer to the Mohawk River than the current house. It was attacked in 1780 during a suprise raid by Torys and Indians who came down the Danascara Creek, between the high walls of the gorge, to avoid detection. Colonel Visher (Vischer, Fisher), who fought in the Battle of Oriskany, survived the raid and in 1795 built the house that is now for sale.

The original house is the setting for Harold Frederic’s novel, In The Valley. Frederic was from Utica and hob-nobbed with the likes of Mark Twain. His name has slipped into obscurity, although his novel The Damnation Of Theron Ware is still considered a minor masterpiece.

Read Frederic’s article, The Mohawk Valley During The Revolution from Harper's New Monthly Magazine. / Volume 55, Issue 326 July 1877