Upstream. A Mohawk Valley Blogzine.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Change Of Policy On Commenting.

Due to the lack of a sense of propriety by one anonymous reader in posting a comment, Upstream will now be moderating comments before they are posted. That means I have the opportunity to read and delete a comment before it is posted. I don't expect to have to use it often. Unfortunately, if comment moderation is turned off and someone posts a comment that should not have been posted, you have to delete the original post to get rid of the comment. With comment moderation, you don't have to do that.

I appreciate the comments people make on this blog. The above mentioned comment is the first I have had to delete. Hopefully, it will be the last.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Amish At Aldis.

Amish At Aldis

Some Amish women shopping at Aldis in the Town of Amsterdam today. No they did not drive the van.

Ralph Tortorici's Legacy.

This is part seven and probably the last of a series of posts on Ralph Tortorici. In 1994, Ralph Tortorici held a class hostage at the University at Albany. Tortorici suffered from delusions associated with his diagnosis of schizophrenia. One student was injured in the struggle to disarm him, and Ralph was convicted in 1996 of kidnapping, attempted murder and other felonies. On August 10, 1999, Ralph Tortorici committed suicide in the Sullivan County Correctional Facility. Just this month his family finally reached a financial settlement with the State of New York due to the State’s failure to provide adequate treatment for Tortorici.

From Frontline’s interview with Dr. Lawrence Siegel, who was hired by the prosecution to examine Tortorici, it is clear that Ralph Totorici’s trial has had an impact on the judicial system. The trial has made it even more difficult for a person to use a mental illness defense when charged with a crime, as the following excerpt from the interview shows.

Are attorneys now using the Tortorici case to not argue for competency hearings?

No. They're using the Tortorici case to argue that even though the guy is sick and may say a lot of crazy things; if he knows the date and he knows what a judge does and a jury does, you could find him fit [to stand trial]. ...
Those types of arguments are being made, I think in part based on this decision.

Why is that so dangerous?

Again, it's because the legal system requires a person to be competent so they can properly defend themselves. ... I was taught that that's how the system works. This is not an inquisitory system, where we're trying to figure it out. It's an adversary system, and the prosecution is going to use everything to their advantage. ... The defendant has to have that degree of minimal skills and minimal abilities to be able to assist in his defense in a reasonable and rational manner.
And Tortorici is being used to say, "Well, he doesn't have to have everything. If he knows what's going on, that may be enough." ... I don't know that that's what the court meant to say, but I think that's the way it may be used.

Read the entire Frontline interview with Lawrence Siegel, M.D.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Fox News.

Fox News

We have a fox family living inside a stone culvert on our property. Last night we lost one of the pups. Having these little guys living close by beats the pit bulls that lived in our neighborhood when I lived in Amsterdam. R.I.P.

Do We Want A Man This Thin Skinned To Be Governor?

The Troy Polloi has just written two of the best posts that I’ve read on any blog. The two posts are a two part interview with a guy named Joe Cavallaro. John Faso had Cavallaro arrested in 1999 for calling his office too many times. Read the interviews to find what happened next.

Because The Troy Polloi interjects a lot of humor into the interviews, you might think that the whole thing is a joke. But it happened. In fact The National Conference of State Legislatures found it important enough to republish an AP story on the incident.

The whole thing does seem funny, until you realize that Faso is running for governor.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Numbers Don't Add Up In Saratoga County.

Either Saratoga County D.A. James A. Murphy III, or whoever compiles statistics at the NY State Department of Justice, failed statistics in college. On the Saratoga County website, Murphy describes his accomplishments:

Since taking office in 1998, D.A. Murphy has strengthened criminal prosecutions, expanded the role of the D.A.'s Office in the community, and promoted crime victims' rights. Specifically, he has:

Increased the Office's felony conviction rate to 98.7%: the fourth highest conviction rate among the 62 counties in New York State.

Statistics on New York State’s criminal justice website show, however, that in 2004 (the last year the state has listed), Saratoga County only had a 88.8% felony conviction rate.

Furthermore, there has not been a substantial increase since Murphy took office. Here are his conviction rates from 1998 to 2004.

1998 88.0%
1999 87.2
2000 86.9
2001 85.7
2002 86.7
2003 89.2
2004 88.8

Here are the felony conviction rates for 2004 for each of the counties in the Mohawk Valley. You can see that Saratoga County’s felony conviction rate is not even fourth in the Mohawk Valley, much less the entire state.

Herkimer 93.1%
Montgomery 92.1
Fulton 91.8
Oneida 89.3
Saratoga 88.8
Rensselaer 88.8
Schoharie 87.0
Schenectady 85.5
Albany 83.5

I give you these statistics without any commentary. However, you might want to bookmark the state’s site so that you can double check your D.A.’s claims at election time.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Troy City Hall - Home For Wayward Judges.

Out here in the provinces, when a judge is disrobed for bad behavior, he spends about a decade doing penance before anyone offers him a job. At least that was the experience of former Montgomery County Family Court Judge, Robert Going. However, If you have the bench kicked out from under you in Rensselaer County, you simply go to Troy City Hall and Mayor Harry Tutunjian will give you a job.

The state Commission on Judicial Conduct decided on March 31 that state Supreme Court Justice, Thomas Spargo, should be removed from office for buying votes when he ran for Berne Town Justice in 1999 and for pressuring lawyers who appeared before him to contribute $10,000 each to his campaign fund in 2003. Three weeks after he was unbenched, disrobed or whatever you want to call it, Tutunjian hired Spargo as Troy’s Deputy Corporation Counsel.

This is not the first bad judge that has found a job at Troy City Hall. Former Troy City Court Judge, Henry R. Bauer, was hired as Deputy Corporation Counsel following his removal from office in 2004 for setting excessive bail and coercing suspects into pleading guilty, among other things.

Voters in Troy further rehabilitated Bauer when they elected him to the City Council last year. As the top vote getter, he became Council President. In two years time Bauer went from corrupt judge, to deputy Corporate Counsel, to President of the Troy City Council.

And they say criminals can’t be rehabilitated.

I hope a few of you Trojans will file a complaint about this with City Hall and your councilperson.

Contact Troy Mayor Harry Tutunjian.

Contact Troy City Council.

Monday, April 24, 2006

What April Showers Bring.

DCFC0018 Flooding at the junction of the Schoharie Creek and the Mohawk River following four inches of rain yesterday.
DCFC0021 Looking up the Schoharie Creek from where it joins the Mohawk. If the Gilboa Dam broke, this is the direction from which a huge wall of water would come down the creek. The stone arches that you see are the remains of the Schoharie Aqueduct that used to carry the Erie Canal across the Schoharie Creek. In the sky you can see the hint of a rainbow. About 1/4 mile upstream from here is where the Thruway bridge collapsed and took ten people down with it.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

A Great Schoharie Valley - Mohawk Valley Bookstore.

DCFC0012 After leaving The Bibliobarn on Good Friday, we stopped at Catnap Books in Cobleskill. This store is also one of our favorites bookstores. It is only about a half hour drive from anywhere in the eastern Mohawk Valley.
Here is a quote about Catnap Books from The Catskill Mountain Regional Guide:

A half-hour away, in Cobleskill, Jim and Roberta Brooks operate Catnap Books. Roberta agreed that more bookshops would be beneficial to everyone. "Unlike most types of businesses," she said, "used book sellers don't see each other as competition. The more bookshops in an area, the more reason for people to make a day browsing."

At Catnap, paperbacks are an especially good deal. "We offer a paperback exchange," Roberta said. "We sell them for a dollar and the customer can bring them back, in good condition, of course, and receive a fifty-cent credit. We also sell books that are a lot more expensive. And we sell prints, posters, ephemera—anything related to books. And my brother-in-law's maple syrup."

Catnap also is filled with a wide range of books, but does help to fill a specialty niche. "We carry some new books," Roberta explained, "especially books of local history—Catskill Region, Adirondacks, Mohawk Valley. There is a big interest around here in local history, particularly the Revolutionary War period. The Old Stone Fort in Schoharie carries certain books of local history, but the Fort is only open part of the year and we stock those books so that they are available year-round."

Although there isn't much space in Catnap to host readings," Roberta said, "we do occasionally have a book-signing for a local author." And Roberta finds that the public views book dealers as knowledgeable about activities in the larger community—and she thinks they're probably right. "People stop all the time to ask about B&B's, museums, antique shops and restaurants. Andy Rooney stopped one time, looking for a good place to have dinner."

Catnap is at 45 Main Street, Cobleskill. Their phone number is 518-254-0336. Open daily, 10-5, (in summer, often until 6) Thursdays, 10-8. You can email them at

Saturday, April 22, 2006

So Many Books, So Little Time.


An interior view of The Bibliobarn in South Kortright, New York. This photo did not come out the best. I was trying to get the hand hewn beams into the picture as well as the books.

The Tome Mobile.


With the price of gas being so high, H. L. bought this old Volkswagen to use when he purchases books. He still has his full size van if he has to purchase a large library.

Read about The Bibliobarn in The New York Times.

How To Save An Old Barn From Destruction.


One way to save an old barn from destruction is to turn it into a business. I went down on Good Friday to see my colleagues and friends, H. L. & Linda Wilson in South Kortright. Several years ago, they took this old barn and converted it into a book store, which they call The Bibliobarn.

The Wilsons are semi-Luddites, so they do not sell on line. If you want to purchase some of their extensive collection of used and rare books, you will have to travel out to South Kortright to buy them. They are generally open everyday. For more information and directions, you can contact them at (607) 538-1555. If you are into saving money, they will be having a sale on Memorial Day weekend.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Ralph Tortorici, Jason McEnaney & The Artificial Mick.

This is part six of a series of posts on Ralph Tortorici. In 1994, Ralph Tortorici held a class hostage at the University at Albany. Tortorici suffered from delusions associated with his diagnosis of schizophrenia. One student was injured in the struggle to disarm him, and Ralph was convicted in 1996 of kidnapping, attempted murder and other felonies. On August 10, 1999, Ralph Tortorici committed suicide in the Sullivan County Correctional Facility. Just this month his family finally reached a financial settlement with the State of New York due to the State’s failure to provide adequate treatment for Tortorici.

My apologies to the late Flannery O’Connor, a real “mick,” for borrowing my post title from her powerful story, The Artificial Nigger. My apologies to my grandmother, Mary Kerry, for using the m word.

When arguing in behalf of mentally ill people who commit crimes there is always the danger that you might forget the victim, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Although I have a great deal of sympathy for Jon Romano and Ralph Tortorici, I do believe that the teacher who tackled Jon Romano is a hero, and I also believe that Jason McEnaney was a hero when he tackled Ralph Tortorici.

Not everyone thought McEnaney was a hero, In particular, radio talk show host, Mike Gallagher. Albany Eye reminded us recently that Mike Gallagher is not an Irishman at all, in spite of his last name. His real last name is Smelstor.

I can still remember Gallagher calling McEnaney a scumbag for suing the state back in 1996 when Smelstor-Gallagher's opinions were heard only on WGY in Schenectady. It was so nauseating, I had to turn off the radio. When a real Irishman, Dan Lynch, took on the artificial Irishman, he found out just how vicious Gallagher could be.

Anyway, after Gallagher’s show during which he trashed McEnaney, McEnaney began to receive death threats. It got so bad that he withdrew from the University at Albany.

So if you are one of Gallagher’s fans, I advise you to read Dan Lynch’s columns that Albany Eye has provided links to and see the methods the artificial Irishman used to climb to the number eight spot on national talk radio. It’s enough to make a real Irishman want to change his name to Smelstor.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Bowling For Columbia High.


Movie Title: Bowling For Columbia High (Not Yet Released).

Tagline: Our children are the future of America, unless they just happen to be nuts.

Plot Outline: Filmmaker Michael Moore explores the roots of America's predilection for locking the mentally ill in prison rather than giving them the psychiatric treatment they need. Focuses on poorly treated and untreated mental illness, not guns, as one source of school shootings.

Credited Cast:
Ralph Tortorici as himself. Tortorici, a severely mentally ill young man, held a class hostage with a gun at The University at Albany. Eventually, he was subdued, tried and sentenced to prison where he committed suicide.

John Romano as himself. 16 year old mentally ill boy who fired a gun filled with birdshot at Columbia High in Rensselaer County, New York. One person was injured by a ricochet. Romano received twenty years in prison, more time than many people have gotten for greater offenses. Appears to have been sentenced not for what he did, but for what he could have done if he hadn’t been tackled by some teachers. Made plea bargain while in mentally ill condition. Film speculates about Romano’s future. How will prison change him? Will he too commit suicide there?

Patricia DeAngelis ( a.k.a. Barb Wire ) as herself. District Attorney for Rensselaer County, New York. Offered mentally ill Romano a plea deal of twenty years. Told him he would get fifty years if he didn’t accept it. He took it. DeAngelis says her job is to protect the children of Rensselaer County. This film asks the question, “Is not Jon Romano one of those children, and is not prison a dangerous place?”

Cheryl Coleman as herself. Coleman was the prosecutor who successfully prosecuted Tortorici even after she didn’t think she had a case to prosecute. Was rewarded with a judgeship for her prosecutorial ability. She did not last long as a judge and would have had to step down if she had not resigned first. Her tenure as judge may explain why the voters of Rensselaer County did not want Patricia DeAngelis as judge during last year’s election. After she lost a child of her own and after Tortorici committed suicide, she felt responsible for his death and believed he should never have been tried. She finally found her niche as a defense attorney in Albany, NY and appears to be a good one. Sometimes she appears in the courtroom opposite DeAngelis. In a recent case DeAngelis withheld a critical piece of evidence that could have set Coleman’s client free. Coleman speculates in the film about the future of DeAngelis. What will DeAngelis have to experience to learn what Coleman did?

Length of Film: Varies depending on the version. Averages 10-20 years. Sometimes 25 to life. Film made in real time.

Music by P.O.D. The Youth Of The Nation.

Last day of the rest of my life I wish I would've known
Cause I didn't kiss my mama goodbye
I didn't tell her that I loved her and how much I care
Or thank my pops for all the talks
And all the wisdom he shared
Unaware, I just did what I always do
Everyday, the same routine
Before I skate off to school
But who knew that this day wasn't like the rest
Instead of taking a test I took two to the chest
Call me blind, but I didn't see it coming
Everybody was running
But I couldn't hear nothing
Except gun blasts, it happened so fast
I don't really know this kid
Even though I sit by him in class
Maybe this kid was reaching out for love
Or maybe for a moment He forgot who he was
Or maybe this kid just wanted to be hugged
Whatever it was I know it's because

[chorus:]We are, We are, the youth of the nation

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Montgomery County Is Amish Paradise.

For thirty years now, while many people have been leaving Montgomery County, the Amish have been moving in. We now have five one room Amish schools. I wrote an opinion piece for The Sunday Gazette on the Amish many years ago, and I hope to post more about them here in the future.

For now, however, I just wanted to mention the enormous amount of Amish humor that exists--some by the Amish but most about the Amish. Of course, Weird Al Yankovic’s Amish Paradise immediately comes to mind. National Lampoon had an article on Amish In Space in their April 1974 issue and local radio host Don Weeks used to have a segment of his show with the same name.

According to many people who study humor, incongruity is the basis of most humor. What is more incongruous than hitching posts outside of the dollar store in Fort Plain? (As great a salesman as he is, no one has yet been able to convince Billy Fucillo to install them at his auto plaza in Nelliston.)

I can never remember a joke, but I do remember one Amish joke. (For the punch line, you will have to click on comments).

What goes clip clop, clip clop, bang bang bang, clippety clop, clippety clop, clippety clop?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Ed Girtler, Jack Carroll & Fake Polygraph Test.

Yesterday I received an e-mail with part of the transcript of one of Jack Carroll's trials for allegedly molesting his stepdaughter. Below is a portion of the transcript in which Investigator Ed Girtler admits he lied when he showed Jack Carroll a polygraph test of the alleged victim. According to Girtler, the alleged victim passed the polygraph; however, the transcript shows that the polygraph test was a complete fabrication. You may have to click on the transcript to make it big enough to read. The alleged victim's name has been blacked out. How could the jury take Girtler's testimony seriously when he admitted to fabricating documents? Why wasn't Girtler arrested for forging documents?
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Monday, April 17, 2006

You're So Vain, I Bet You Think This Post Is About You.

In response to a recent post on this blog, someone commented that Saratoga refers to Saratoga County only and that the rightful name of the City of Saratoga is Saratoga Springs.

I guess the Battle of Saratoga then should rightfully be called the Battle of Saratoga County, even though that doesn't make sense.

More importantly the City of Saratoga Springs has often been referred to as simply Saratoga since the late 1800s with the publication of the immensely popular novel, Samantha at Saratoga, by Marietta Holley and the publication in 1882 of Saratoga Illustrated: The Visitor's Guide to Saratoga Springs Containing Descriptions of the Routes of Approach, Hotels, Institutions and Boarding Houses, Mineral springs, Walks, Drives, Amusements, Races, Regattas, Excursions, Commercial Interests... by Charles Newhall Taintor in which he refers to the City as both Saratoga and Saratoga Springs.

More recently (2004) Syracuse University published Saratoga Reader: Writing About An American Village, 1749-1900 by Field Horne.

Many businesses and organizations in the City of Saratoga have dropped Springs off of their name. Here is just a partial list:

The Inn At Saratoga
Saratoga Arms
Saratoga Hotel
Saratoga Sleigh
Saratoga Hospital
Children’s Museum At Saratoga
Saratoga Cigar And Pipes

Language evolves, generally from complexity to simplicity. Trying to stop it from changing is linguistic suicide. So we have New York City often referred to as just New York or simply The City. People often drop the New off of New Jersey.

I could gives thousands of more examples, but it doesn’t seem necessary to shoot a flea with an elephant rifle. So let me end by saying that I think Carly Simon’s Song, You’re So Vain, would have been technically correct but poorer music if she had inserted Springs or County or Race Track or anything else after the word Saratoga in her hit song. We know what she means and she doesn’t mean that he went up to Saratoga County.

"Well I hear you went up to Saratoga and your horse naturally won
Then you flew your lear jet up to nova scotia
To see the total eclipse of the sun"

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Sunrise Easter Service At Riverlink Park In Amsterdam.

Click on photo for larger image. Posted by Picasa

Dietrich Bonhoeffer On The Meaning Of Easter.

I have been re-reading Letters & Papers From Prison by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and came across this quote about Good Friday and Easter.

“Good Friday and Easter free us to think about other things far beyond our own personal fate, about the ultimate meaning of all life, suffering, and events; and we lay hold of a great hope.”

Bonhoeffer was executed by the Nazis shortly after Easter on April 9, 1945 after spending eighteen months in prison. Martin Doblmeier produced a documentary on Bonhoeffer, which was shown on PBS in February of this year, and repeated this week. There is also a full length movie out on his life.

Learn more about Bonhoeffer.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Pete Hamill On Prosecutors And The News.

While reading Pete Hamill's book News Is A Verb, I came across a great quote about prosecutors and their relationship with the news.
The celebrity virus has infected many people who are supposed to be more neutral. This is the age of the prosecutor, not the defense attorney. Thirty years ago, Perry Mason served as counsel for the defense in the American imagination. Now TV shows glorify the cops and the prosecutors. And real-life prosecutors, like real-life cops, watch these shows. They also look at television news. They read the newspapers. They see what editors believe is important. If a legal process can be transformed into a drama with a basic conflict, white hats up against black hats, they will make it into the newspapers. If they can assemble enough facts, no matter how circumstantial or spurious, to indict a big name, they will be famous. There will be a chance of cashing in the greatest of all American lotto tickets, the book deal...Beyond that, they can run for higher office: In the world of celebrity, anything is possible.

The Transgressions & Confessions Of A Prosecutor

This is part four of a series of posts on Ralph Tortorici. In 1994, Ralph Tortorici held a class hostage at the University at Albany. Tortorici suffered from delusions associated with his diagnosis of schizophrenia. One student was injured in the struggle to disarm him, and Ralph was convicted in 1996 of kidnapping, attempted murder and other felonies. On August 10, 1999, Ralph Tortorici committed suicide in the Sullivan County Correctional Facility. Just this month his family finally reached a financial settlement with the State of New York due to the State’s failure to provide adequate treatment for Tortorici.

“My law partner and I have a phrase we use when we talk about trials. We say, "In court, the truth is what it looks like." ... A good cross-examiner can make [nothing] look like something on a witness stand.” Prosecutor Cheryl Coleman in an interview with Frontline.

Cheryl Coleman, former Albany County Assistant District Attorney, knew she didn’t have a case against Ralph Tortorici. In an interview on the PBS show Frontline, Coleman said, “We didn't realistically think that we had a snowball's chance in hell of prevailing.” She couldn’t find one psychiatrist who was willing to be an expert witness for the prosecution. Everyone she contacted believed that Tortorici should not be prosecuted. When she finally got a psychiatrist to examine Tortorici, he found him not competent to stand trial and sent a long letter to Judge Rosen stating his concerns.

Coleman told her boss that it was not advisable to prosecute this case, but he told her to go ahead and do it anyway. Rather than refuse to prosecute the case, Coleman mentally geared herself up to win it using any method she could. In the end, she won the case, in part because Tortorici never attended his own trial. His mental illness kept him from doing so. If he had shown up just once, the jury would have seen how disturbed he was, and he would most likely have won his case.

Coleman refers to her prosecution of Tortorici as a “burn and destroy mission” and “a kamikaze mission.” There was no concern for justice. Although it appears that Coleman stayed within the bounds of the law in her prosecution of Tortorici, she herself admits she strayed beyond the bounds of morality.

Coleman won her case, but in the end she lived to regret it. Here is her answer to Frontline’s question about her initial response to the news of Tortorici’s suicide.

... It wasn't too long before I left the DA's office. It was in the summer of [1999]. It was just before lunchtime, and I was with some friends, some of the other DAs in the hallway. I think we were leaving the courtroom. Two newspeople from the various newspapers that are always in the courthouse told us they had just gotten on the wire that Ralph had killed himself.
I pretty much went into shock. A lot of stuff had happened to me in the interim. ... I had lost a child in between when Ralph's verdict happened and when Ralph had killed himself. ... Once you lose a child, it's such a huge and life-defining event that it gives you everything in common with somebody who's experienced the same thing, even though you'd have nothing in common with them otherwise. It gives you nothing in common with even the people who you had everything in common with before.
When it happened, I felt responsible for his death. I thought of his parents and I thought of his family, and I thought how he didn't have to die. I remember rounding [up] my best friend, who became my law partner. ... [We] just went and drank soda for about three hours someplace. ...
I remember thinking that ... there was something wrong with what we did. ... I felt really ashamed.
I felt really responsible, and I felt like that we had to really seriously take a look at what we did. It had a huge effect on me.

Read the complete Frontline interview with Cheryl Coleman.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Sometimes Justice Does Prevail In The Mohawk Valley.

I have posted in the past on the illegal strip searches conducted at the Montgomery County Jail and also on the unconstitutional way that Fulton County Family Court David Jung jailed four people. This week a federal judge ordered the strip searches to end in Montgomery County. The Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court also ruled against Judge Jung.

Fulton County has spent $7,000 so far to defend Judge Jung, but does not plan to appeal the Appellate Court’s decision. On the other hand, attorneys for Montgomery County plan to appeal the Federal judge’s decision concerning strip searches. The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department has illegally strip searched more than 2,500 people since 2000. Most of these people had committed minor offenses--failure to pay child support, traffic infractions, etc. Many of them have joined a class action law suit against the county. The county stands to lose a lot of money.

It’s great to see justice prevail in the Mohawk Valley twice in one week. But Judge Jung of Fulton County and Sheriff Amato of Montgomery County need to be held accountable by county supervisors. If not, then the public needs to hold them accountable at the next election.

The Other Amsterdams

Yesterday two Dutch filmmakers were in Amsterdam. Bob Cudmore had an interesting interview with them on WVTL. They are planning to do a documentary on other cities named Amsterdam. When I used to work for the post office in Amsterdam, NY we often received mail that was intended for other Amsterdams. A search of returns 14 results for Amsterdam, just in the United States. I used the advanced search function which only returned results for populated places.

Two of the places we often received mail for were Amsterdam, OH and Amsterdam, MO.

A search of returned the following number of populated places within the United States with the same name as these Mohawk Valley cities.

Troy 58
Waterford 38
Johnstown 32
Saratoga 32
Albany 28
Utica 24
Rexford 8
Little Falls 8
Herkimer 3
Gloversville 2
Watervliet 2
Schoharie 2
Middleburgh 2
Schenectady 1
Cobleskill 1
Niskayuna 1

Note: I hope to have more time tomorrow so that I can resume blogging about Ralph Tortorici.

In Praise Of John Jablonski.

Many of us felt that John Jablonski, the acting President of Fulton-Montgomery Community College should have been named president. His skills as an administrator, his long tenure at the college and his lifetime connection with the area seemed to make him suitable for the job. But when the trustees of the college announced the three finalists this week, Jablonski was not among them.

His response was one of great humility. He says he plans to work with the new president and simply wants the best for the college. I was impressed with his response. Many people would have responded in a different fashion.

I can still remember Jablonski's kindness toward my son when he first enrolled at FMCC. Other administrators in other colleges have not been so kind.

Jablonski is an asset to the college and community.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

19th Century Engraving Of The Jacob Houck House

Here is the engraving of the Jacob Houck house and farm as it appeared in Beers' History of Montgomery County, published in 1878. See my earlier posts for photos of the house in process of being taken apart. You can still see what's left of the house for a short period of time. The house in located on Route 5S, one mile west of the Route 30 interchange in the Town of Florida, near the Target Distribution Center.
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The Amsterdam Recorder Responds To Upstream.

Apparently my comments about The Amsterdam Recorder got under someone’s skin because I got a response from a guy named Kevin. It’s obvious that Kevin works for The Recorder and is either the General Manager, Kevin McClary, or the Executive Editor, Kevin Mattison. Here are his comments.

Kevin said...

Your comment about editors being lazy is off the mark. At the very least, it shows you're uninformed. Do you know what the staffing is now, compared to Tony Benjamin's tenure? If not, then you're not qualified to make comments like that.

Here is my response:

Dear Kevin,

As someone who has read The Recorder since 1977, I feel very qualified to comment on its quality or lack thereof. Because I don’t know what the staffing is now compared to what it was when Tony Benjamin was in charge of the paper does not disqualify me from making comments about the paper.

Adding staff to a newspaper does not necessarily mean that the newspaper will automatically be better for it. While Tony Benjamin could get on my nerves sometimes, The Recorder was a much more interesting and exciting newspaper when he was editing it.

The Recorder may not lack staff now, but it lacks fire.

Instead of making poorly thought out remarks about my comments on your newspaper, why not take my criticism constructively and do something to make The Recorder a more interesting paper.

If you do, I may subscribe to it again.


Dan Weaver

P.S. Although your comments about my post are not to the point, they do not disqualify you from commenting on my blog.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Honor among cops.

Cops have a strange sense of honor. That was the gist of Carl Strock's column yesterday. No matter what another cop does--like the two in New York who moonlighted as hit men for the mob--we'll be met by a blue wall of silence. None of the good guys will speak out, at least publicly about these killer cops in their ranks.

My involvement in the Jack Carroll case revealed another aspect of police honor. I found out the two cops who investigated that case lied on the witness stand. One of them , Steve Weber, admitted as much to Carl Strock. The other is a state cop named Edmund Girtler who is now retired, living near Old Forge , NY. When I complain about this to my lawyer friends, they smile, tolerantly, and I know they are wondering how, after so many years in the news business, I can be so naive. They say " people lie , cops lie, they do it all the time" . I guess I am naive. I thought that somehow being a police officer was a special calling that embued a person with a somewhat higher moral sense. All these years I thought that they were somehow better than the rest of us . I was wrong and because "cops lie" a man named Jack Carroll has been sitting in jail for eight years with little hope of early release.

The toll on the Carroll family has been enormous. Over the course of two trials they spent over a quarter of a million dollars. They're a close family. They all chipped in for Jack's defense borrowing wherever they could. They now all have extra mortgages on their homes.

Jack's wife Mary spends three hundred dollars a month in phone bills so she can talk to her husband every day. The reason for that is the outlandish sweetheart deal the Department of Correctional Services has with the phone company. The State of New York pulls in twenty five million dollars a year of profit from inmate phone calls. I'd love to know the name of the scumbag at DOCS who thought that one up. Again wouldn't you think the folks whose job it is to correct bad behavior would also have a higher moral sense. Obviously not so.

The trauma of Jack's case has brought on health problems among members of the family. Panic attacks! Depression! You name it. But they struggle on, trying to stay optimistic and hoping that the latest efforts by Troy Attorney E. Stewart Jones will somehow, someway, free Jack.

I have more to say about this case, especially about the role played by a prosecutor who, I believe should be in jail herself. More on that in a future post.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Ellen Goodman Breaks Pole Vaulting Record

In yesterday's nationally syndicated column, Ellen Goodman joined the attack on bloggers. While her primary focus was bloggers who were trashing Jill Carroll, she used a very wide paintbrush--actually it was more like using a paint sprayer--and ended up attacking all bloggers. Here is a sample quote:

Nevertheless, this is not a good moment for the bustling, energetic Wild West of the new Internet media. Remember when a former CBS executive described bloggers as guys in pajamas writing in their living rooms? Well, it seems that many have only one exercise routine: jumping to conclusions.

I can assure you of two things--I don't blog in my living room, and I don't wear pajamas. As far as jumping to conclusions, Goodman's column qualifies her for the Olympic pole vault team.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Current Events

I know I have not updated in quite some time and because I'm still working on another post that will be put up later this week I decided to entertain you with my current event I did for school. It was based on

Getting Kuwaiti women to vote was hard. But finally on April 4th they voted in Kuwait City. There were two female candidates, Jinan Boushehri and Khalida al Kheder. Fifty eight percent of the voters were female.

This event is important to world history by giving women's rights in countries that used to believe that women should be silent. It also gives woman more independence and will allow them to realize they are individuals. Women are not lower on the food chain. In fact in most cases, the food wouldn't be there if it weren't for women.

This will reveal to future generations that women are more respected now. It also reveals that women can have pride that their ancestors fought for their rights.

Money may not grow on trees, but plastic bags do. Scene behind the Wal-Mart Plaza on Route 30 in the Town of Amsterdam, near Bunn Creek. Posted by Picasa

Just a small sample of the trash behind the Wal-Mart plaza on Route 30 in Amsterdam. Posted by Picasa

Ralph Tortorici & Frontline's A Crime Of Insanity.

This is part three of a series of posts on Ralph Tortorici. In 1994, Ralph Tortorici held a class hostage at the University at Albany. Tortorici suffered from delusions associated with his diagnosis of schizophrenia. One student was injured in the struggle to disarm him, and Ralph was convicted in 1996 of kidnapping, attempted murder and other felonies. On August 10, 1999, Ralph Tortorici committed suicide in the Sullivan County Correctional Facility.

As I said yesterday, Ralph Tortorici’s mental illness, imprisonment and suicide are of such significance that he has been included in a book released by Oxford University Press just two months ago. Just as important is the amount of time that PBS devoted to Ralph’s case in a Frontline show that aired in 2002, titled A Crime Of Insanity.

If you have the time and an interest in how the criminal justice system deals with mentally ill people, its worth reading the information provided by Frontline. If you don’t have the time, I will be commenting on some of the information over the next several days in a briefer fashion.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Ralph Tortorici One Of Twenty People Featured In Book Published By Oxford.

This is part two of a series of posts on Ralph Tortorici. In 1994, Ralph Tortorici held a class hostage at the University at Albany. Tortorici suffered from delusions associated with his diagnosis of schizophrenia. One student was injured in the struggle to disarm him, and Ralph was convicted in 1996 of kidnapping, attempted murder and other felonies. On August 10, 1999, Ralph Tortorici committed suicide in the Sullivan County Correctional Facility.

Ralph Tortorici’s mental illness, imprisonment and suicide are of such significance that he has been included in a book released by Oxford University Press just two months ago.

(Another person with a Mohawk Valley connection rated a chapter in the book. Mike Tyson spent some time at Tryon School, a secure facility for troubled youth, in Fulton County. It was there that Bobby Stewart and a couple of other guys saw Tyson’s potential as a boxer and worked with him. Most of his early fights were fought in the Albany area.)

Here is the press release issued by the University at Buffalo.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- From investigations into Lee Harvey Oswald's troubled adolescence to courtroom debates over Mike Tyson's violent tantrums, the 20 most psychologically intriguing legal cases of the past 50 years are chronicled in a new book coauthored by a University at Buffalo law professor and a clinical psychologist who is a graduate of the UB Law School.

In "Minds on Trial: Great Cases in Law and Psychology" (Oxford University Press, 2006) UB law professor Charles Patrick Ewing, J.D., Ph.D., and Joseph T. McCann, Psy.D., J.D., examine the sometimes bizarre and often intriguing workings of the human mind, as exposed by the legal system and by the psychologists who worked on the cases. And they document examples of how the practice of psychology, and the use of psychologists as expert witnesses, can aid the search for truth or can be misused, sometimes with controversial results.

Both Ewing and McCann are renowned forensic psychologists who have consulted on hundreds of criminal cases involving what they describe as "some of life's most fascinating and tragic figures," though neither Ewing nor McCann was involved in the cases described in the book.

The 20 cases selected for the book include in-depth descriptions of famous trials involving high-profile participants, such as Jeffrey Dahmer, Patty Hearst, John Hinckley, Woody Allen and heavy-metal rockers Judas Priest. Other cases offer glimpses into the minds of lesser known, but very intriguing, principals, such as George Metesky, a.k.a. the "Mad Bomber;" sexual abuser Cameron Hooker; Andrea Yates, the Texas woman who drowned her five children, and alleged Nazi war criminal, John Demjanjuk.

Some cases -- like the one involving a dead naval officer accused of causing the accidental deaths of 46 fellow sailors on the USS Iowa -- show the limitations of psychology in the search for the truth and highlight conflicts that sometimes arise between psychology and the legal system.

"The book shows the vital role psychology plays in so many aspects of the American system of justice," Ewing says. "So many cases hinge not on what a person did, but on why they behaved the way they did, and that's a question psychology can help answer.

"These 20 cases address the most profound psychological questions posed by the legal system," he adds, "and often the answers are very far from clear cut."

Says McCann, a 1994 graduate of the UB Law School, "the book also documents how the use of psychology has changed over the years, from its use for more common issues like insanity and competency, to a broad range of issues, like the reliability of eye-witness testimony, the basis of memory and how it affects testimony and the nature of family relationships in child-custody cases."

The 20 cases were selected, the authors say, because they deal with extraordinary circumstances that defy human understanding, involve fascinating psychological issues that go to the heart of the search for truth or show how mental-health issues are central to the process of distributing justice fairly.

Below are brief descriptions of the 20 cases chronicled in the book:

* George Metesky, Profiling the "Mad Bomber" -- For 16 years Metesky planted homemade bombs around New York City and boasted of his crimes to the newspapers. Pursuit of Metesky and his capture in 1957 gave birth to criminal profiling, the authors say.
* Lee Harvey Oswald, The Formative Years of an Assassin -- From this fascinating account of an adolescent Oswald's psychiatric examinations, the authors question whether psychological intervention could have stopped Oswald from assassinating President Kennedy.
* Patricia Hearst, Uncommon Victim or Common Criminal? -- This famous trial brought the word "brainwash" and attorney F. Lee Bailey into the public consciousness; it provides an interesting look at dueling expert witnesses who attempted to discern Hearst's state of mind.
* The Guilford Four, "You Did It, So Why Not Confess?" -- This extreme example of coerced confessions in the case of a 1974 IRA bombing in Guilford, England, points out that confessions may be unreliable as evidence, though juries are led to believe otherwise.
* Prosenjit Poddar and Tatiana Tarasoff, Where the Public Peril Begins -- This seemingly unremarkable case of unrequited love and murder spurred major changes in the law governing patient privacy and the responsibility of therapists to report potential violence.
* Dan White, The Myth of the Twinkie Defense -- Popular lore says White got away with murder because psychologists convinced a jury that his irrational behavior was caused by junk food, but the authors say Twinkies had little to do with the jury's decision.
* Cameron Hooker, Judging the Experts -- This bizarre case involving a sexual abuser and his strangely passive captive of seven years illustrates the power of mind control and coercion, and brings into question the credibility of "battling" expert witnesses.
* John Hinckley, Jr., Shooting for the Stars -- Was President Reagan's would-be assassin mentally ill or just a narcissistic bum? This case is famous for Hinckley's bizarre obsession with actress Jodie Foster, the number of expert witnesses who assessed his sanity and its role in toughening legal standards for insanity.
* Judas Priest, A Message in the Music -- Did subliminal messages drive two fans to suicide? This case refocused debate over how media influence people's behavior and chilled other civil cases claiming subliminal influence.
* John Demjanjuk, Is He "Ivan the Terrible?" -- This case involving the identity of an alleged Nazi war criminal living in the U.S. questioned the reliability of eyewitness testimony and examines the psychological factors that influence memory and eyewitness identification.
* The USS Iowa, Equivocating on Death -- This case involving a naval officer who died with 46 fellow sailors in a suspicious explosion was among the first cases to use a psychological autopsy -- or equivocal death analysis -- to try to discern the motives of the deceased.
* Jeffrey Dahmer, Serial Murder, Necrophilia and Cannibalism -- How could a jury judge one of history's most bizarre serial killers to be sane? The authors uncover whether Dahmer's childhood held clues for his inhumane behavior later in life.
* Woody Allen and Mia Farrow, A Swing of King Solomon's Sword -- This very public child custody and alleged child-abuse case -- complicated by Allen's relationship with his 22-year-old adopted stepdaughter -- shows why child custody cases are among the most difficult faced by forensic psychologists.
* Gary and Holly Ramona, Recovered Memories or False Allegations? -- This civil trial of a father accused of sexual abuse by his daughter cast doubt on the validity of "recovered memories," which were central to the daughter's accusations.
* Colin Ferguson, A Fool for a Client? -- Though obviously mentally ill, the perpetrator of the 1993 Long Island Railroad massacre adequately represented himself in a trial that found him guilty of several counts of murder.
* Ralph Tortorici, A Question of Competence -- In 1996 a mentally disturbed university student took 35 fellow students hostage, injuring two. Judged competent to stand trial and convicted of all charges, Tortorici committed suicide in prison, reopening debate over his mental competence.
* Mike Tyson, Predicting the Violence of a Professional Fighter -- This evaluation of Tyson's psychiatric status, ordered after he bit off a piece of Evander Holyfield's ear, determined whether Tyson was too dangerous to be allowed in a boxing ring.
* Daryl Atkins, Mental Retardation, Decency and the Death Penalty -- This 1996 case involving a mentally retarded man found guilty of robbery and murder prompted a Supreme Court ruling that barred sentencing the mentally retarded to death.
* Andrea Yates, An American Tragedy -- This tragic case outraged and horrified the public, but the authors say killer Andrea Yates may not have been treated fairly in the trial that found her guilty of murdering her five children.
* Michael Kantaras, What Makes a Man a Man? -- In this strange divorce and child-custody case, the court sided with psychological evidence showing that a person born a woman was now a man, and awarded him primary custody of an adopted child and a child conceived through artificial insemination.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Interior View Of The Jacob Houk House.

Interior view of the Houck House. Notice wide board flooring. It's hard to buy boards that wide now. Click on photo for a larger view. Posted by Picasa

Another Mohawk Valley Treasure Gone.

The Jacob Houck house on Route 5S being removed for entrance way to Target. Posts in the house are hand hewn and around 20 feet long. The house was built in the early 19th century. An engraving of it can be found opposite page 114 in Beers History of Montgomery and Fulton Counties. Click on the photo for a larger view.Posted by Picasa

The Short, Unhappy Life Of Ralph Tortorici. Part One.

The Short, Unhappy Life Of Ralph Tortorici. Part One.

With the announcement this week that Ralph Tortorici’s family was awarded a substantial amount of money in a settlement with the State of New York over Tortorici’s suicide in 1999 while in prison, the last chapter in Ralph Tortorici’s tortured life may very well have been written.

If you have forgotten who Tortorici was, he was the mentally ill, college student who held a class hostage at The University of Albany in 1994. He was finally overpowered by three students. One of them, Jason McEnaney was injured when the gun went off during the struggle.

Tortorici was a popular, intelligent, athletic young man who at age 16 began to show signs of being delusional and paranoid. His mental health deteriorated to the point he believed that a device had been planted in his penis whereby he received messages that told him to do certain things. On more than one occasion he was hospitalized. He sought out help on a number of occasions by walking into hospitals and police stations and asking for it.

I hope to write a series of posts about Ralph Tortorici over the next week or so. Although Tortorici is dead, the issues involved in the prosecution, incarceration and treatment of mentally ill defendants is still very much a live issue.

Possible posts include:

Lost Boys of the Capital District--Ralph Tortorici and Jon Romano.

“A Good D.A. Convicts The Guilty, A Great D.A. Convicts The Innocent”--A Look At Patricia DeAngelis & Cheryl Coleman.

Ralph Tortorici & Frontline.

Minds On Trial--Book Published By Oxford Has Chapter On Tortorici.

Mike Gallagher & Jason McEnaney. Did Popular Talk Show Host Endanger Victim’s Life?

I may not write these posts on consecutive days, as there are other issues I would like to write about. I also just purchased a digital camera so I want to experiment with uploading some local photographs to Upstream.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Dog Bites Man Is Still Not News.

It looks like Anita Walker will not get the same attention from the press, Jim Tedisco, and PETAphiles that Jane Fletcher got when she was arrested along with her son a few weeks ago for animal abuse. Even though Anita Walker of Gloversville, and Jane Fletcher, are both elderly women who don’t live that far apart, they share little else in common.

While Fletcher and her son made the news for poisoning their dogs and then shooting them, Anita Walker made the news for being bitten while trying to save her Bichon Frise from the jaws of a Pit Bull. Surprisingly, PETA has not sent any letters to officials in Fulton County asking that the Pit Bull and its owners be punished for the savage attack on Ms. Walker and her little dog. Her dog’s injuries were so severe that the vet bill came to $2,000.

The Pit Bull's owner has been ticketed for three violations of the city code. It’s possible that Judge Vincent DeSantis could order that the Pit Bull be destroyed. He is holding a hearing today to determine its fate. I suspect today is when the PETAphiles will come out of the closet. They will show up at the hearing and hold photos up of the poor Pit Bull and say that the attack on the Bichon Frise and Ms. Walker was not his fault, etc. They will come from nearby Vermont and Massachusetts and get upset if the hearing is postponed as they did when Jane Fletcher’s hearing was postponed. They will not show photos of the Bichon Frise with its internal organs exposed. They will not show photos of Ms. Walker’s injuries.

The real story within this story is Ms. Walker herself. She happens to be 82 years old. At that advanced age, she is a hero for rushing out to defend her dog from attack by a bigger dog. But she shows another kind of quiet heroism on a daily basis. Anita Walker is not wealthy. She is still working, not at a cushy desk job, but as a housekeeper for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

While Anita Walker did get news coverage, it was not nearly as extensive as the coverage that fellow senior citizen, Jane Fletcher, got. It proves that the adage still holds true--dog bites man is not news, man bites dog is news.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Where Is The Rest Of The Story?

One of the problems with local news reporting is that often a story is reported and then never followed up. For example, on July 29 of last year The Daily Gazette reported on a lawsuit against Montgomery County by Karen and Marc Lee whose son Alex, a Union College student, fell into the Canajoharie Gorge and died on June 10, 2001. It was an interesting story because the parents weren’t suing over unsafe conditions at the gorge as one would expect, instead they sued because the county coroner did an autopsy on their son which violated their religious beliefs.

The Lees are Jewish and the lawsuit stated, “A fundamental precept of Judaism is that a dead body is sacrosanct and it is for this reason that autopsies are strictly prohibited under Jewish law and observance.”

The Lees claim that they advised the county in advance of the autopsy that they didn’t want the autopsy done, but the coroner went ahead and performed it anyway. (This is, by the way, just one of several lawsuits against Montgomery County over the past year because some county official acted in a highhanded manner.) It is disturbing to see the way the Lees were treated by the county. Almost as disturbing is that I can’t find out how the lawsuit was resolved. Edward Munger, Jr. who wrote the original story has not done a follow-up story.

This is only one of many local stories that have never been followed up. To me it is an important story to follow up because it involved the violation of someone’s religious and civil rights. We have had many stories on the dangers of Wintergreen Park and the Canajoharie Gorge. We have had many stories and follow up stories on lawsuits that were not as important as this one.

We need a local Paul Harvey to investigate this lawsuit and tell us “the rest of the story.”

Note: I have changed the link in yesterday's post so that you can jump to a more comprehensive list of former and current Montgomery County newspapers. If you are from another county, you can still click on the link and go to your county from there to see a list of all the newspapers in your county and the places where they are archived.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Department Of Homeland Security Wants Your Daughter

With The Department of Homeland Security protecting us, we can all relax, except for those of us who have teenage daughters. Thank God, the Sheriff's Department in Montgomery County, Maryland is protecting us from The Department of Homeland Security.

No News Is Not Good News

Now that The Amsterdam Recorder has moved the staff of The Courier-Standard-Enterprise from Fort Plain To Amsterdam, it’s only a matter of time before Montgomery County will only have one newspaper. When I moved here in 1978, there were three newspapers in the county. Besides the two mentioned above, there was The Mohawk Valley Democrat, a weekly out of Fonda, which closed in 1990. Years ago almost every village in the county had its own newspaper.

While The Courier-Standard-Enterprise, an amalgamation of three newspapers, has been owned by The Recorder for sometime, it maintained its own identity. With its move to Amsterdam, that identity is likely to be lost. I believe, however, that in time The C-S-E will be completely absorbed into The Recorder and disappear altogether.

Of course, The Daily Gazette out of Schenectady maintains an office and a strong presence in Montgomery County. Actually, The Gazette prints almost as much Montgomery County news as does The Recorder, and is a superior newspaper, which is why I subscribe to it rather than to The Recorder.

With all due respect to Montgomery County’s only other serious blogger, who writes a farm column for The Recorder, The Recorder has gone downhill since Tony Benjamin was dismissed as editor. The editors now are too lazy to write their own editorials and substitute editorials from other newspapers. The Sunday Recorder is almost completely made up of articles from wire services. While Tony Benjamin was too liberal for my taste, he made the paper exciting, covered more than fires and car accidents, and wrote his own editorials.

Since most of the radio stations in the county get their news from the newspapers, that means there are few news sources in the county. With the changes being made at The Courier-Standard-Enterprise there will be one less news source--one more reason why bloggers are needed in Montgomery County.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Recent Photo Of Union Station In Utica, New York.

A recent photo of Utica's Union Station by Utica blogger, Fault Lines. Copyright 2006 Fault Lines. All Rights Reserved. Posted by Picasa

Recent Photo of Downtown Utica.

One western Mohawk Valley blogger, Fault Lines, has been busy lately taking some great photos of Utica. He has kindly given me permission to reprint two of them. Posted by Picasa

Copyright 2006 Fault Lines. All Rights Reserved.

Albany Defense Attorney Finds Rensselaer County D.A.'s Office Hard To Work With

Here's a post by Albany attorney, Warren Redlich, recounting a recent experience with the Rensselaer County D.A.'s office. It's long but worth reading.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Between A Strock & A Hard Place Again

I am a big fan of Carl Strock, columnist for The Daily Gazette in Schenectady. I have said often that it’s worth subscribing to The Gazette for Strock’s columns alone. But he needs to be taken to task for yesterday’s column, which in part was an attack on bloggers.

Once again we hear about “the click of the mouse.” Unlike Alan Chartock who said any blogger can disseminate information with just a click of the mouse, Strock said anyone can find any blog with the click of the mouse. The idea is that it is easy to blog and it is easy for someone to find a blog. Strock goes on to say:

None of these bloggers need necessarily know anything. That goes without saying. They don’t need any qualifications. They don’t even need to identify themselves. They can be anybody. They can say anything. The point is, they reinforce what people want to believe.

I hear from people all the time who sneer at The New York Times and The Associated Press but swear by some anonymous blogger who reinforces their preconceptions.

And the bloggers don’t just rant. They give facts, or alleged facts.

I can testify that I spend a minimum of an hour writing and revising each post. Sometimes I spend several hours doing research before I post. I always try to do my research using reputable sources. I spend more time than I can afford and have often wanted to quit because of the time involved in blogging. Of course, there are irresponsible bloggers out there, who do little or no work before posting.

Furthermore, trying to find a particular blog is like trying to find the proverbial needle in a haystack. You can build the blog, but they won’t necessarily come. With millions of blogs out there, it will take you many clicks of the mouse to find a particular blog. Besides it is just as easy to find bad journalism as it is to find a bad blog. There is a reason why those sleazy newspapers with photos of alligators giving birth to dogs and so on are placed right at the checkout counter of your grocery store. You don’t need to even turn on your computer, much less click a mouse, to pick one up.

Both Strock and Chartock seem to have completely accepted Marshall McLuhan’s thesis that “the medium is the message.” In the past this theory was used to reinforce the idea that broadcast journalism, particularly television, was inferior to print journalism. The same assault against television journalism is now being made on blogging.

While there may be some truth to McLuhan’s thesis, I believe that the message is still the message and the medium is the medium. Bad journalism occurs in every medium. The medium is not nearly as important as the message.

The bad blogs have given all bloggers a bad name. It would be great if there were an International Association of Bloggers, that responsible bloggers could join after meeting specific requirements. No doubt someday, such an organization will exist.

Meanwhile, if you think blogging is an unimportant and inconsequential part of journalism, then you need to look at countries where there is no freedom of the press. In those countries, blogging is the only way news is getting out to the rest of the world. Reporters Without Borders recognizes bloggers as essential to journalism and publishes a handbook for bloggers. The handbook can be downloaded in .pdf format.

Bad and good journalism take place in every medium. That’s why I don’t just get my news from one medium, but from the media. I look for quality journalism in the newspapers, on the radio, on television, from internet news sites, and from blogs. Yes, there is a lot of extremism and bad journalism in blogs--just as there is in the rest of the media--but when you find a quality blog, you find a happy medium.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Remembering The Sabbath

I grew up in a Fundamentalist Baptist Church in which Sabbath laws were strictly enforced. We believed in the Commandment that says, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.“ Sometimes I think our church substituted the word wholly for holy. On Sundays we were not allowed to play or watch sports, play secular games, or ride our bikes. Actually, it would be easier to say what we were allowed to do. We could read Christian books, play Christian games, take a nap and talk to each other. (We turned Monopoly into a Christian game by quoting Bible verses after each move).

Sunday also involved going to Sunday School and Church in the morning and Youth Group and Church in the evening. On the last Sunday of the month, we spent the afternoon visiting the elderly in nursing homes.

I often chafed at our strictly regulated Sundays, but now that I am older I look back at it with some fondness. We have never kept the Sabbath in the same way my father did. Nevertheless, there was something very restful about those Sundays.

Even people who didn’t keep the Sabbath as we did, nonetheless treated Sundays differently than we do today. Most stores and factories were closed. Hardly anyone worked on Sundays. People spent time at church and with their families.

This has all changed. Sunday is no different than any other day for most Christians. It has become a harried day that we use to catch up from getting behind during our harried week. Wal-Mart has a larger congregation on Sunday than most churches.

It is unlikely that our country will ever go back to keeping the Sabbath the way we used to. Secularism has destroyed that. Furthermore, Jews celebrate their Sabbath on Saturday and Muslims on Friday, and they have a right to celebrate their Sabbath on the day their religion requires them to.

I know also that I will never keep the Sabbath in the same way that my father did. I do go to church on Sunday morning. I do try to relax on Sunday. I avoid work as much as possible, stay away from the stores and spend time with the family, but I avoid the nit-picky rules that were imposed on me as a child.

Sabbath means rest. Having one day of rest out of seven is a good habit for everyone--even atheists.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Jack & Jill Went Up The Hill, But Only Jill Came Down.

I have a feeling that Jack Carroll, now serving time as a sex offender although many of us believe he is innocent, would give anything to be Jill Carroll right now (no relation), the Christian Science Monitor reporter who was just released by her Muslim captors after 82 days in captivity. Jill's captors were open and unabashed terrorists. The people who put Jack in prison, particularly D.A. Patricia DeAngelis, did so under the guise of justice. If you were an innocent person going off to prison, I imagine what you would feel would be terror. So what does that make Patricia DeAngelis?

Now Jack has more terror to face in the unconstitutional, executive order recently signed by Governor Pataki. (The order was just upheld by one court, but legal challenges to it are not over). The order allows New York State to continue to confine sex offenders, even after their prison time has expired.

Nobody wants to show support for sex offenders, and neither do I. But if the government can confine sex offenders even after their prison terms have expired, what will stop them from confining people who have committed other crimes after their terms have expired. The rationale for civil confinement for sex offenders is recidivism. But many crimes have high recidivism rates. Are all criminals with high recidivism rates going to be confined as well?

As I said before, the constitutional solution to the problem of sex offenders is longer prison terms. It's not to make an end run around the constitution and essentially give people another prison sentence without another trial.

Governor Pataki claims he signed this executive order to protect the citizens of New York State. But the governor took an oath to defend the constitution. By defending the constitution, he does defend the citizens of New York State.

Another song about the Mohawk River. Posted by Picasa

Mohawk Valley Sheet Music.

Just one of many pieces of sheet music about the Mohawk River and valley. Many poems and songs have been written about the Mohawk, most of them sappy and not very good, but still of interest to those who love the river and valley. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress. Posted by Picasa