same time, some good seems to be coming out of the deluge in the form
of a new sense of commitment to its reservoirs’ flood prevention
possibilities on the part of New York City, whose watershed dominates
the rain-drenched Catskills.
In Shandaken, 18-year old Leon Patras had to be pulled from rushing
water near his family’s home on Old Plank Road in Phoenicia
on June 28, according to the Shandaken Police Department.
Patras was trying to cross a driveway that had been flooded by a stream
it crosses, fell into a hole about 5 feet deep, was swept through
a 30-to-36-inch culvert pipe and traveled about 100 feet downstream
until he was able to grab onto some debris for support, police said.
Shandaken Supervisor Robert Cross Jr. arrived at the scene with police
and helped bring Diane Patras, Leon’s mother who had been waist-high
in water, screaming for her son, to safety. The boy’s only injuries
were scrapes to his upper body and exposure.
“God guided everybody, that’s for sure, because it could
have been a lot worse,” Cross said. “Everything was just
timed exactly right.”
The Esopus Creek didn’t flood nearly as badly as in April 2005
- when some 300 homes along its banks from Shandaken to Saugerties
were damaged or destroyed - and the flood-prone Roundout Creek and
Wallkill River generally stayed in their banks. Ulster County Emergency
Management Director Arthur Snyder said, “It’s a lot worse
... on the west side of the Catskills.”
Locally, a number of homes in flood-prone areas of Saugerties, Ulster
and Marbletown, along the Esopus, had to be evacuated. Worse hit in
the area was the Mountaintop area of Greene County, where seven inches
of rain falling on Tannersville ended up causing all the recent repair
work along Route 23A to get washed away, leading to that roadway’s
closure for most of the remainder of the summer. Besides challenging
Platte Clove Road, the only entrance to Hunter, at this point, is
via Route 23 through Windham or 214 via Phoenicia.
As the waters rose all last week, one of the prime concerns was whether
the high water releases by New York City’s Department of Environmental
Protection coming down the Esopus would cause added problems. Even
though they didn’t, such matters were addressed by DEP Commissioner
Emily Lloyd in a press release following the floods that seem to have
augured a new era of responsibility on the city’s part.
“During my brief time as DEP Commissioner, the communities in
and near the West of Hudson Watershed have been hit by three record
or near-record storms,” noted Lloyd. “The storms have
caused tremendous suffering and damage. Rainfall of up to 10 inches
has occurred near the Ashokan Reservoir, and three of the City’s
reservoirs have seen record high water levels… Watershed reservoirs
were designed to ensure a safe and reliable water supply for New York
City, but they also provide a secondary benefit of reducing flooding
downstream. Even when full, they slow the rate at which water cascades
downstream, reducing the inundation area. Recently, frequent storms
have raised the question of whether the reservoirs can do more to
help in flood mitigation. DEP is actively seeking to assist the counties
in this effort. Over the past three years, New York City has sought
and received approval for two innovative proposals to create additional
storm water capacity.”
Continuing, Lloyd noted that, “With more frequent storms and
droughts predicted by climate scientists, DEP hopes to work with West
of Hudson watershed counties and with state and federal agencies to
develop long-term strategies to address flooding while continuing
to provide safe and reliable drinking water to almost one-half the
residents of New York State.”
In Delaware County, it turns out, over 100 DEP police officers were
deployed to command centers in Delhi, Walton and other towns to assist
with rescues and to coordinate with county emergency management personnel
In addition to officers trained in swift water rescue, the DEP Police
also deployed 10 scuba divers and two pilots. DEP Police equipment
involved in the recovery effort included one helicopter, two boats,
one air boat, three all terrain vehicles, three vehicles with light
towers, five rescue trucks, 17 4-wheel-drive vehicles and a 1000-gallon
tanker truck with fresh drinking water sent to the Town of Walton.
DEP road crews also worked with local highway departments to clear
local roads throughout the Ashokan and Schoharie basins, including
Lloyd added that the DEP would implement flood mitigation programs
at the Schoharie Reservoir once new release works are installed as
part of the 2008 overall reconstruction of the Gilboa Dam and start
working toward similar measures around the Ashokan Reservoir.
According to the DEP press release, “The City’s water
system was not designed to contain floods, but as large controlled
basins with constricted outlets the reservoirs do perform a substantial
amount of flood mitigation by retaining water and decreasing the peak
flows of floods. During this week’s flood, the Ashokan Reservoir
decreased peak flows on the Lower Esopus by around 60 percent…”
Hudson Valley counties avoided the catastrophic flooding that devastated
the region in April 2005 - and problems here pale in comparison to
the havoc caused by torrential rain in New York’s Southern Tier
and in northeastern Pennsylvania - but at least one local death is
being blamed on this week’s weather, and Gov. George Pataki
issued state disaster declarations late Wednesday for Ulster, Sullivan
and Orange counties.
The death occurred on state Route 52 in the Ulster County town of
Wawarsing, when Joe. L. Kelly, 69, of Monticello, lost control of
his car about 7:50 a.m. Wednesday and stuck a utility pole, according
to state police. Kelly was killed in the crash, which police blamed
on wet pavement and heavy rain that was falling at the time. His son,
Stephen M. Kelly, 38, also of Monticello, suffered minor injuries,
On July 1, after rains abated, President Bush issued a “major
disaster” declaration for eight New York counties affected by
last week’s flooding, including Ulster, Sullivan and Delaware.
The declaration makes federal funding available to the state, local
governments and certain non-profit groups to repair damage caused
by the flooding in the Hudson Valley, Catskills, Southern Tier and
Besides Ulster, Sullivan and Delaware, the counties receiving federal
disaster declarations were Broome, Chenango, Herkimer, Montgomery
and Otsego. The declaration had been urged by numerous elected officials,
including U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey and Pataki.
In Olive, Brodhead and McMillan in West Shokan were closed during
the heaviest rains but later reopened.
According to town supervisor Berndt Leifeld, his town was hit hard
by “the mountain creeks rising higher than I’ve ever seen
them rise” but not as bad a situation from the Esopus Creek
“With help from the City, Jimmy’s been busy ripping trees
out from under bridges,” Leifeld added, referring to the town’s
highway superintendent, James Fugel. “Things have been bad,
with a lot of wet basements, but not as bad as they could have been
or may be elsewhere.”
According to Shandaken Police, things were “looking good”
in the oft-beleaguered mountain town by 4 pm June 28, with only “one
problem on Silver Hollow,” which suffered considerable damage
during the April, 2005 floods, and the possibility of closings on
Route 212 “but that would be Woodstock... call them.”
In Chichester the Stony Clove Creek caused some damage, wiping out
an old concrete railroad trestle and leaving Silver Hollow Road at
risk of being washed away in the next flood.
Charles Sturcken, spokesperson for the City DEP, said that when the
rains started looking serious before the rescent deluge, all repair
equipment was ordered away from the Gilboa Dam, and its notches filled
to prevent flooding in the Schoharie Creek basin north of Blenheim.
He said that because the storm stayed to the south, for the most part,
work should be able to be resumed at the Schoharie Reservoir in the
coming week, and still be finished by mid-November, when the “Portal”
releasing water into the Esopus at Allaben could finally be shut off.
Meanwhile, Cliff Faintych of Denning described his own ordeal trying
to drive home from the Saugerties area through the heaviest flooding
on Monday night, June 28. He chose to not go through Big Indian because
of difficulties with Greene County’s Mountaintop.
“There was a flooded section of road past Bearsville just before
Wittenberg,” he wrote. “I turned around but then a volunteer
at the firehouse told me to go back through because the water was
not deep. Then there was the Peekamoose. No problems getting up Watson
Hollow except for a few fallen branches in the road. Drove around
all those. But the next part in the gulf going down to Peekamoose
Lake had a large flooded section. I was about to turn around when
a young couple in a small red Toyota pulled up and the man in the
passenger seat jumps out and announces to me ‘I’ve been
fishing and my boots are already wet, I’ll take a look.’”
Faintych continued, addressing what seems to have become a common
experience for we who live in these mountains: “He then begins
to wade into a torrent of mountain sludge. It is pitch black. I have
no flashlight. I flip to high beams to better light the potentially
lethal scene before me. He moves out into the slurry twenty, then
thirty yards ahead, getting in about knee deep. What will I do when
he is swept away down the ravine? His girlfriend will be screaming
at me while I fumble around for a flashlight I know I don’t
have anyway. The roar of the water overwhelms whatever he is yelling
back to us.”
He made it. But later... There’s the inevitable blackness of
the swollen Peekamoose Lake... a wave of water washing over the front
hood of the Honda. I just lay off the clutch and punch it.”
And made it home. Ah, rain...
And then the finish… “No sooner am I relieved that I did
not have to swim tonight that I begin to fear for impassable road
washouts down the line in Sundown. But recent reconstruction of the
Sundown road and the creek bed next to it appear to be holding up
fine. I make it up the Sugarloaf road with only a few fallen branches
to negotiate around. On Red Hill I am safe. I am back home…
This is normally a 75 minute drive. I left your house around 8:30
and got home at 11:20. Kissed the Honda and went to bed.”
For A Water Fight
On Saturday, July 8th the Woodland Valley Association will
meet at 5 pm at the Roxmor clubhouse.
“This is a very important Woodland Community Association meeting
being called at a critical time,” said WVA President Howard
McGowan added that the Planning Board, which has voted to accept the
project’s Environmental Impact Statement as complete, is refusing
to listen to the concerns of the community. At least so far.
“They have totally rejected all of the issues this community
and friends have raised and brought forth,” he claimed. He noted
that the planning board is scheduled to hold a public hearing on July
12th about the project.
“It is absolutely imperative that you attend this public hearing
and speak out,” McGowan said in a prepared statement issued
last week. “This will be your last and only opportunity to make
your voices heard. Please pass the word to all those who are concerned
that they must attend this public hearing and speak, I cannot stress
this enough. The Planning Board must be made aware of our concerns
over this insane proposal. If this is approved Mr. Poncic will be
running 18 wheel tractor trailers weighing over 70,000 pounds down
Woodland Valley Road twice a day. Please help us do whatever we can
to prevent this from happening. Let's keep this valley safe.”
The planning board has released its own list of “facts and conclusions
relied on” to support the board’s decision that Poncic’s
paperwork has satisfied all environmental review requirements. The
eight point list, which is available for review at the town’s
website www.shandaken.us, implies that Poncic has bent over backwards
to make the project as palatable as possible to the community and
that the planning board was largely responsible for Poncic striking
such a difficult pose.
“Since the original project proposal, the applicant has offered
a number of mitigations, some of his own volition and others at the
suggestion/request/insistence of the (planning board),” the
The mitigations include the following:
*Transport limited to Monday-Friday, excluding legal holidays and
school bus hours, not more than two (2) round trips per day and not
more than 11,600 gallons removed per day (2 x 5800 gal).
*Provision of an alternate site (also owned by the client) on which
to provide an off-road turnaround area for the water transport trucks
in mitigation of a safety factor;
*No overnight vehicle parking/storage at any time.
*Plans for use of an underground storage tank prior to loading have
been abandoned in mitigation of the loading noise - replaced by plans
to use a gravity fed loading system that would not require pumps.
*Water is no longer required to be “potable”, thus the
planning board is not responsible for supervising the special permits
required for potable water.
Also, the planning board saw no reason to challenge the reports on
native flora & fauna, fishery, water quality and water flow proffered
by the various recognized experts and governmental agencies (NYCDEP,
NYSDEC, UCB&HD, Town of Shandaken Department of Highways, etc)
who addressed issues in which they were qualified and provided statements
regarding the proposal.
And the board claims to be aware that the hydrologists’ reports
regarding water temperature and flow both refer to the original plan’s
use of an underground storage system. But because water entering the
loop (spring to pipe to valve loading system to stream) will be constantly
running, 95% of it under trees and in shady areas, the board claims,
the temperature of the water entering the stream at this point will
actually be cooler than the present flow. Likewise, more of the spring’s
cooler flow will reach the stream than at present because when left
to its natural design, some of the spring water flows back into the
ground. Regardless of the last point, planners also note “that
some of the spring water will continue to flow back into the ground.”
Because of the way Poncic drafted his application he is claiming that
he will only be the distributor of water, and not the transporter.
Since, according to the planning board, the ultimate transporter has
the ability to operate different types of trucks, the board did not
require or expect Poncic to make commitments regarding the specific
make/model/style of vehicle that would be utilized, but used the largest
feasible truck in its calculations regarding water removal, truck
turnaround, loading areas, time, etc.
The board also defended its unpopular decision to not hold a public
hearing on the environmental review of the project.
“In addition to being the Lead Agency in (the environmental
review) process, the planning board is also the agency reviewing the
Special Permit/Site Plan Review that initialized (the review),”
the document reads. “State Law specifies that a public hearing
is not mandatory. Local law specifies that every Special Permit requires
a public hearing. The board elected to defer the draft environmental
impact statement hearing – offering an extended written public
comment period instead – and hold only one combined public hearing.”
That hearing is the one on the 12th.
Marcy Meiller, a neighbor of the proposed project site, has been the
plan’s most vocal, and frustrated, opponent. Some board members
have lost their patience with Meiller at meetings, at times appearing
to take a position opposite hers simply because they are aggravated
by her perseverance.
Last week Meiller began a call to arms.
“If you give a hoot at all about this issue it is imperative
that you attend this meeting and be prepared to speak. I cannot stress
strongly enough how critical it is that we get a large turnout at
this meeting. This is it folks, this is indeed the big one. This is
what you all have been waiting for. Please do whatever you can to
be there. Please tell all your friends and neighbors. Tell all your
fisher-friends,” she said.
“Tell anyone who cares about Woodland Valley.”
To Two Choices
On June 27, Nicholas Savin answered questions and spoke to
a dozen or so community members at the middle school/high school on
his experiences as superintendent at the Cherry Valley-Springfield
School district. Throughout his busy day of meeting with other school
and town officials, he said he found three areas of major concern
in the Onteora district. They are building projects, declining enrollment
and special education.
Parents asked if Savin had experience in divisive issues and felt
ready to be a part of town riffs that can sometimes affect the budget.
He replied that he has been fortunate that the school board and public
at Cherry Valley tend “to put kids first.” He added that
he does not have experience with divisive issues where one community
will clash with the other, and was not aware of the Large Parcel Legislature
or how it affects the district.
Savin also said that he does not have experience with large-scale
capital bond projects, redistricting or the closing of a school, as
occurred at Onteora with West Hurley in recent years. But he noted
changes over the years in Cherry Valley district were dictated through
declining enrollment, similar to Onteora.
Cherry Valley-Springfield school district is located near Cooperstown
in Otsego County. Savin has been superintendent since 2003 and is
married with three grown daughters, two living in the Albany area.
He is interested in this area because it is closer to his daughters
and centrally located to family in Long Island and Pennsylvania. Currently
Savin runs one building housing kindergarten-through-twelve with a
total of 650 students. He manages a budget of over ten million dollars,
compared to Onteora’s 2100 students and a $44 million plus budget.
Savin did say that his current district has experienced staff lay-offs
this year and is beginning to use BOCES more for cost effectiveness.
Although not aware of the Indy program he said he supports alternative
programs that work.
“If that is the best way to meet the needs of students,”
he said, “it ought to continue and if we discover a different
way or working with BOCES or working even in house we feel that is
something we can do we ought to take a look at our options if there
Many parents at the session voiced concerns that Onteora’s technology
is not on the same standards of other schools and would like to see
change. Savin said he believes that technology is important and every
student should have on-line access. He noted that Cherry Valley’s
technology is contracted through BOCES.
Savin explained that their district had a very high level of students
in need of special education services, “around 17 to 18 percent.”
Currently they have pared it down to the State average of “around
13 or 14 percent” of students needing special education services.
He said new and diverse programming has helped bring the numbers down,
looking at early intervention in reading, more time on task and supplemental
The district had one civil rights case filed against them based on
a special needs student. A parent requested a one-to-one aide so the
child could attend a Parent Teacher Organization skating party. He
said the investigation ruled in the favor of the district where they
were not required to supply an aide for non-school activities.
Savin earned his BA at SUNY Oswego with majors in education and industrial
arts. He earned a Masters of Arts in administration and supervision
at Fairfield University in Connecticut. Between 1981 and 1992 he worked
as a technology teacher and then worked as a principal, assistant
superintendent and superintendent in New York and Connecticut schools.
On Thursday, June 29, Jordan introduced Daniel Teplesky, the second
and last candidate for Onteora superintendent. Since 2004, Teplesky
has been superintendent in the Granville school district in Washington
County. Married with two grown children he said he wore his American
flag tie to honor his son, a first Lieutenant in the Army presently
serving in Iraq, and noted that his wife wanted to move to the Onteora
area to be closer to the annual Westminster Dog Shows, since she breeds
and shows purebred canines. They have a daughter living in Buffalo.
If hired by Onteora, the candidate said, he plans to stay five-to-seven
years and then retire, although for now he said he is ready to work
Teplesky said he believed the district is looking for a leader and
recommends a five-year plan on the school’s success. His vision
for great education would depend on public input and an entry plan
where he would interview board members, teachers the public and press.
He said Granville has a child centered learning environment and welcomes
the public and parents into the school as part of the community. He
said in order to address a policy on Military recruiting, he would
make it part of his entry plan. “…to get some questions
and details and find out what the issues and problems are,”
“In Granville — and I would do the same at Onteora —
we allow the military to come into the lunchroom, we allow colleges
to come in to work out of the guidance area, but we have only had
a small number of students who are interested,” Teplesky said.
“It (the military) is an alternative to maybe students who don’t
have the money to go to college and will serve the military.”
Teplensky also mentioned that the Granville district has cameras on
busses to monitor students and “we do bring dogs into the school,
we do partnership with the police, they do some searches.” Initially
silent on a question regarding Intelligent Design and noting he was
in front of a tough audience said, “It is not my decision to
make, but the board of education’s decision to make.”
Responding to a question regarding Onteora’s diverse and often
contentious communities, Teplensky said, “the board sets policy
that’s my job to go back and give them the tools to be successful,
not to have people come to meetings and take an hour because people
want to talk because they are unhappy with what the school board did.”
. Teplesky would like to see what was studied and proposed regarding
declining enrollment in the Onteora community before he could make
a decision on district changes. “I would like to have quarterly
meetings with town supervisors, chambers of commerce, to foster a
healthy relationship as to how we could grow instead of shrink, how
do we work with realtors to get people to move to this area.”
He also noted that by putting a “positive spin” on the
school district, making parents feel welcome, focusing on accomplishments
could raise enrollment.
In other matters, Teplesky explained that he was against private fundraising
for educational purposes in specific communities and asked for equality
between schools. “What happens in one fifth grade classroom,
should happen in all the fifth grade classrooms,” Teplesky said.
Technology is important for education noted Teplesky, and teachers
should be rewarded when they learn new skills in order to teach students.
He said he would like to see “smart boards” in every classroom.
He said he supports alternative education programs and would support
the Indy program, providing it remains successful. He said he was
not aware of the Large Parcel legislation that causes division between
Granville school district has a Kindergarten-through-two school, a
three-through-six school and a seven-through-twelve school. He said
they try to separate grades seven and eight as a middle school, but
it is part of the high school. The district has 1,456 students with
a $20.7 million budget.
Before coming to Granville district, Teplesky worked as Junior High
School principal, Assistant Principal and co-owner of a chicken distribution
company. He earned a Bachelors of Music from the University of Wisconsin,
a Masters of Science in Education at Niagara University, and a Post
Doctorate from Niagara University in Educational Administration.
Now that the school district and community have interviewed the two
superintendent candidates, what happens next? On July 5, the school
board was to go into executive session and, if all went according
to plan, choose between Nicholas Savin and Daniel Teplesky. Board
President Dave Patterson said that information on the candidate chosen
will not be immediately released. Instead, he said that once everyone,
including the candidate, can, “mutually agree on a contract,
then we can release it to the public.”
The board also intends to have more background checks and a school
site visit of the candidate’s current employment.
Punk To Our Phoenicia...
From the first moment
of hard-driving rock rhythms on the opening song, “Rock Out!”,
one is delighted to discover not treacly children’s music but
fun, all-out rock n’ roll: “I’m gonna dance with
my daddy / mosh with my mommy / groove with my granny tonight!”
Warren slides easily through a range of styles, from country licks
to lyrical ballads to disco, mixing in a good deal of folk music.
He commented, “Folk is the most inclusive of all the musics.
It uses acoustic instruments and is meant to bring people of all ages
together. Folk came about as a bonding agent before the days of mass
media, and it still has that power. When I started playing for kids,
I was apprehensive—I didn’t know what to play. One of
the great things about working with kids is that they haven’t
learned to pretend to enjoy themselves. When I started playing songs
that spoke to them, it was the most fulfilling musical endeavor I’ve
had. If someone had told me ten years ago that I’d be putting
the majority of my energy into this, I don’t know what I would’ve
Warren, who has to deal with children’s emotions daily in his
job as a pre-school teacher at School of the New Moon in Mt. Tremper,
finds that kids really respond to songs about “the shadowy aspects
of life. It’s covered in literature—think of Maurice Sendak,
Shel Silverstein, even the Harry Potter books—but not in family-oriented
music.” Thus, the CD includes songs like “Picnic in the
Graveyard”, which imagines a celebration of the Mexican Day
of the Dead: “We’ll sit in the grass / with people from
the past / and we will not be afraid.” Baby boomer parents will
appreciate Warren’s gritty cover of Steppenwolf’s “Magic
He gets poignantly real in “Gettin’ Big Blues”,
which explores the bittersweet aspects of growing up: “I used
to have a high chair / food all over my face / Now I sit with a napkin
in my lap / and they’ve got me saying grace / There’s
some things I just can’t choose / There’s some things
I know I’m bound to lose.”
Other songs are more directly humorous, like “Shoe Bandit”:
“The shoe bandit took my shoe / I only have one, and I’m
supposed to have two …. I’m standing on one foot like
a flamingo / Everybody’s waitin’ outside, but I can’t
Warren’s past includes touring internationally with the punk
rock band Fleshtones and playing the part of Buddy Holly for one year
in a long-running theatrical production of “The Buddy Holly
Story” in London’s West End in 1994. As a solo musician,
he made two CD’s, “To This Day” and “Lazy
Eye”. In the past two years, he has performed locally and around
the country as Uncle Rock, using his easy-going charisma to create
an instant rapport with kids. The first Uncle Rock CD, “Here
We Go”, was recorded at home, but the new album got a studio
treatment and features back-up vocals by Warren’s eight-year-old
son Jack, a passel of other kids, and West Shokan vocalist Katie Taylor,
who will be among the musicians performing with Warren at the Colony.
“Uncle Rock Plays Well with Others” is available through
www.unclerock.com or the Golden Notebook bookstore in Woodstock. Uncle
Rock will be performing Saturday, July 9th from 2PM to 4PM at the
Pine Hill Community Center, Tuesday July 11th at 6PM at the Woodstock
Library, and Monday July 24th at noon at the Saugerties Summer Recreation
Camp, Cantine Field, Saugerties.
WARNS OF MEDIA CRISIS
Indeed, lively conversations
in the hallways outside the auditorium presaged the prevailing view
of the event's speakers that today's mainstream media has drifted
far from the role envisioned for the press in a free democracy when
the nation's Constitution was framed 230 years before this holiday
weekend. The theme of the evening, Media Responsibility In Time of
War, as presented by U.S. Congressman Maurice Hinchey and media experts
Danny Schechter, Jeff Cohen and Amy Goodman, brought most of the cheering
throng to their feet several times during the discussions.
Olive's gifted singer-songwriter Amy Fradon drew thunderous applause
herself by opening the proceedings with a stirring rendition of her
own composition, "Here's My Flag," a song highlighting freedoms
represented by a banner for "right and left and rich and poor."
Fradon commented that she was moved to write the song after experiencing
censoring cautions from club owners and concert organizers not to
refer to the war in Iraq on stage. The evening's guest emcee, Alan
Chartock, president and CEO of WAMC radio and publisher of the legislative
Gazette, said in his opening remarks that it was fitting that it was
the Fourth of July weekend since "So much of this centers on
the very essence of the government brilliantly crafted by out nation's
founders. They saw, clearly, that an informed populace would be able
to govern itself in an enlightened way while ignorance opens the door
Chartock first introduced Danny Schechter (the "news dissector"),
a former Emmy Award-winning producer of ABC's "20/20" news
digest, author of The More You Watch, the Less You Know</I>,
founder of Mediachannel.org- the largest online network devoted to
media interests- and producer of "In Debt We Trust" a recently
released documentary from the Globalvision independent film company
The announcement bringing Amy Goodman on stage drew a lengthy standing
ovation, much to the chagrin of Chartock, who has long resisted carrying
Goodman's national (and now international) radio program Democracy
Now on his station. Goodman is co-author of the best-seller "Exception
To the Rulers: Exposing Oily Politicians, War Profiteers and the Media
That Love Them"
Also warmly welcomed was founder of the media watchdog group Fairness
and Accuracy In Reporting (F.A.I.R), Jeff Cohen, familiar to tv audiences
as the former co-host on CNN's <i>Crossfire</I> and as
a panelist on Fox News' <i>Newswatch</I> program. Author
of the forthcoming <i>Cable News Confidential: My Misadventures
In Corporate Media</I>, Cohen was also a prominent pundit on
MSNBC prior to the Iraqi invasion. The introduction of Rep. Hinchey
sparked a standing ovation to rival Goodman's and he earned further
cheers with his remark that it was "encouraging to know that
there are so many people concerned about this issue- which, frankly,
I think is the most important issue that we confront in our society.
Maybe that's always been the case because it's part of the First Amendment
to the Constitution, so it must have been seen as critical back in
the 18th Century...but it's even more critical now because we have
a conspiratorial government working to suppress information...."
Hinchey, who founded the FAM (Future of American Media) Caucus in
the House of Representatives, was in the forefront of the fight against
the FCC's (Federal Communications Commission) efforts to "reform"
media ownership rules in 2003 and had his media "p's and q's"
honed to a point. That was apt since each speaker was afforded only
an initial ten minutes to make their essential points.
"The broadcast spectrum is owned not by any individual nor by
any corporation but by the American people," Hinchey said, drawing
reference to the original regulations governing spectrum use in the
1920's and 1930's and the "Fairness Doctrine" that was a
key component of the rules until eliminated under the Reagan administration.
Noting that the doctrine was applied partially in response to the
way the new medium was being employed by fascist regimes in Europe,
he added that "in those days, in order to be licensed to broadcast
on the radio, you agreed that if you have a political opinion to express,
you may do so but, if someone else has a different political opinion,
they should be given the right to express that as well."
Hinchey said that the Fairness Doctrine was scrapped by the design
of people advancing a "particular philosophy that did not want
that equality to exist." It was an early "overt example"
of what we call the neo-conservatives, or neo-cons, "trying to
control information that people have access to," he added.
There are only two ways to rule- by consent and by fear, Hinchey declared,
blaming an administration whose fabrications are accelerating and
a "rubber-stamp" Congress for creating and advancing a "culture
of fear" in the country and abroad. He spoke rapidly of pre-war
speeches by Bush Administration figures, an intimidated media, legal
actions against media for writing about illegal NSA domestic spying
programs, monitoring of banking records and internet activities, disinformation
and designed media leaks to push an aggressive agenda, links between
neocons of the Reagan and Bush eras and, of course, the besieged Bill
"This is supposed to be a nation of law based upon the fundamental
founding principles in the Constitution," Hinchey summed up.
"We all need to stand up against this administration and the
things that it is doing because those things are illegal- because
they impinge upon the rights and freedoms and privileges and opportunities
of all Americans and they are doing it in a programmatic, planned
way. None of this is serendipitous or accidental. It is all intentional
and it has a clear, planned-out objective to maintain and solidify
political power against the basic principles of our country. We are
facing, today, one of the most critical moments in our nation's history
and we need to win this battle against these repressive, despotic
people who want to control this country on the basis of fear."
Jeff Cohen opened his remarks by noting how good it felt to be in
a "reality-based community" as opposed, he implied, to the
world of network news.
"There are half a dozen media conglomerates sitting on the windpipe
of the 1st Amendment and I've taken a paycheck from three of them,"
Cohen confessed impishly before speaking of his experiences as a pundit
with the Phil Donahue prime time show on MSNBC before it was terminated
3 weeks before the invasion of Iraq by an owner (General Electric)
poised to "profit handsomely" from the war.
Cohen said that in the "run-up to the war" he witnessed
how corporate media abides "rule by the worse- a system in which
those with the least principle rise to the top and those who challenged
evidence that Iraq was a threat were spat out of the corporate media
"Those who echoed the official deceptions have largely seen their
careers flourish," he continued. "There's not a single tv
executive that I'm aware of- or an anchor or a pundit or a correspondent
or a so-called expert that lost their job over getting the huge story
of Iraq so totally wrong, as almost every one of them did."
Cohen sketched a comparison between his own experience of not being
able to "discuss even the weather without being balanced by at
least one fire-breathing right-winger" and the treatment of "military
advisors and so-called weapons experts who never required any balance
whatsoever" because "the rule was ‘They're independent.'
‘They're objective.' The head of CNN even boasted that he went
to the Pentagon to get approval of his military analysts for on and
off the air advice and, yet, virtually everything these weapons experts
said, without balance throughout the media, turned out to be wrong."
While itemizing the post-invasion excuses offered by the experts,
typified by "I certainly thought the administration was telling
the truth," Cohen commented that the tv audience had no way of
knowing that the retired general, used then and now by MSNBC as chief
military advisor, was on the payroll of a military contractor making
millions for his work on a tank model deployed in the invasion. Any
time the Donahue show wanted to book a guest with an anti-war perspective
in the months prior to the war, Cohen noted, MSNBC insisted that 2
pro-war guests had to be included and that when film director Michael
Moore was suggested as a guest, management said he had to be "balanced
by THREE right-wingers!" Cohen quipped that the show's producers
knew better than to mention a guest like social commentator Noam Chomsky
simply because the studio wasn't large enough to accommodate the opposition
he would require.
Toward the close of his statements, Cohen quoted an internal MSNBC
memo mentioning the need to dispense with dissenting views and head
into full-time "flag waving" in support of the invasion
as a reason for ditching the show. He said that it was his observation
that when journalists were too busy "waving the flag," they
don't do their job to help stabilize the checks and balances of a
"They don't ask the tough questions before our young men and
women are sent overseas to kill and be killed," he said to loud
applause. Cohen closed his segment with a Good News observation that
"In the last few years, millions of people have aggressively
sought out alternatives to corporate media. That's why independent
media and bloggs and community radio, Democracy Now, Common Dreams.org
are booming. "Media activism is going through the roof,"
he said, urging audience attention to savetheinternet.com and the
closely looming threat to that urgently vital resource of public information.
"Don't take the media lying down," he said.
TO BE CONTINUED