Forbes, the New Deal and Jobs 5-14-12

The 2nd WW, the Crash, the New Deal and the recovery are incredibly complex historical and economic events that cannot be summarized, no less explained by trumpeting one philosophy over another with cavalier confidence. On one hand, right-wing revisionists have stated from Milton Friedman to Amity Schlaes, that with all the money thrown at the economy from the New Deal, the Depression was never really ended. And it took WWII to do the job.

Doesn’t that logic beg the issue? Who would have allowed $350 billion, which was borrowed and spent on the war to bring us out of the economic malaise brought on by the Crash? So spending actually ended the Depression! But, we needed a war to justify the means to the end. But, in fact the recovery was well on its way until late 1937 when those Federal Reserve, Dixiecrat conservative Democrats and Republicans pressured FDR to balance the budget. FDR, certainly wanted a balanced budget and talked about it from day one, and when he went in that direction, with the urging of Fed Chairman Morris Eccles, the bottom fell out of the economy, and we had the short but vicious Recession of 1937. By the way, it quickly ended, by loosening credit once again and priming the pump. More Keynesian economic philosophy at work!

Look at the size of the 1929 economic downturn and compare it with today. We are still reeling from the 2008 crash and it maybe years ahead before we return to the artificial heights brought on by the “Housing Bubble,” created, and delivered by cheap credit, phony oversight, and de-regulation by industry groups like FINRA that failed, and private sector ratings companies like; Moody’s, D & B, S & P and Weiss Reports who were either bribed or incompetent. The halcyon days of the Bull Market of 1929 were not reached until 1950, when the DJIA again reached the levels before the October Crash. Many on the right seem to have forgotten that the DJIA average has doubled in 3 years since the double bottom of the Dow from the lows in the 6000’s.

American big business and capitalism did the job of creating the “Arsenal of Democracy,” but with two essential components, the great leadership, foresight and brilliance of FDR and enough money and monopoly power thrown at under utilized capacity. Do not forget that in 1928, US Steel had 220, 000 employees and at the time of FDR’s inauguration in March of 1933, it had one.

As to who won WWII, the argument is moot; Russian blood and American production and know how. But, don’t short change the Russians on their production. Their tank and aircraft production was remarkable and their courage and sacrifice was great.

In spite of Forbes, Schlaes, Friedman, Rand along with other revisionists and proponents of de-regulators, the New Deal worked, the country survived, CCC built up our manpower along with its parks and forests and creation, and the WPA and PWA built the rest of the country. The infrastructure of this country was built by the New Deal and its legacy is irreversible. What we needed could have never been done with the “free market” alone. Today is a prime example of that reality. After decades of starving our infrastructure, only government with big dollars, fed into the private sector can rescue a rotting system.

The Intercontinental Railroad, the Civil War, the Interstate Highway, the Space Program, the New Deal, WWII and the Cold War put trillions of dollars back into American industry and created 10’s of millions of jobs. To deny that is to deny history. By the way, during the so-called wonderful Eisenhower Years we created only 3 million jobs in eight years and endured three recessions. That period was one of our worse job creation periods in the 20th century. Also, do not forget, from Truman on today, who created the most jobs.
Wall Street Journal
Jobs created:
GW Bush 3.0 million
Clinton 23.1
GHW Bush 2.5
Reagan 16.0
Carter 10.5
Ford 1.6
Nixon 9.4
LBJ 11.9
JFK 3.6
Eisenhower 3.5
Truman 8.4
For all you doubters, Democrats have created far more jobs than the GOP.
On a year by year basis- Clinton, Carter, Reagan, LBJ, Truman, Nixon and JFK lead Ford, Bush I and II and Eisenhower by a wide margin. In 28 years the Democrats created 57 million jobs to the GOP’s 36 million in 36 years. Those are the facts. Look it up from the WSJ.
Typical insincere title. That was not an attack on capitalism, but on Romney’ s sorry record regarding job creation and workers. He was constantly attacked by your favorites on the right-wing and now you are attacking the President on the same exact issues. That’s hypocrisy and a lack of real world thinking.

In truth, 200 of the 400 billionaires in America do not work, many are heirs and like Romney the bulk of their fortune’s are parked off shore in tax shelters like the Cayman Islands, Switzerland, Monaco and Luxemburg. Many, like Romney, are paying less than 15% federal taxes.

Of course, every suggestion of tax reform and regulation: the Volcker Rule, Dodd- Frank or even the Buffett tax is decried by the folks who benefit from de-regulation and low taxes. Few of these folks even pay the Reagan 28% bracket. We should go back to Clinton’s 39.5% on incomes above $250K, go back to inheritance taxes on the rich and the Buffett tax on the 1% earners. There are 375K American who make more than $1 million per year. As many of you may know, JP Morgan just lost $2 billion of their depositor’s money. Their CEO has been at the fore front of decrying and opposing regulation. Which way do you want it?

If there is such a deficit crises start there with more revenues on those who can afford to pay.. As for cuts, there are three sectors where the money is spent: the military, vets, homeland security and debt service in the discretionary budget. We can’t touch debt service so, there isn’t much wiggle room. The long-term entitlement budget obligations :SSI and Medicare will affect you if they are cut, but have little to do with current economic needs. Your choice. But the Medicare tax is only 1.45% and the SS pay roll tax is cut off at $106K in earnings. If you are concerned about more taxes on businesses, raise the pay roll tax only on the workers who will get the benefits in 40 years or less. Meanwhile you had better have an idea for the 100 million pre and post baby boomers. But let us face it, there are huge infrastructure needs, jobs for returning vets, and there is always budget creep. You don’t want federal workers to be paid a middle class wage or to have raises, well apply that to yourself and to your progeny.

All this talk about socialism and communism is bunk. Long term benefits exist in every Western country of the world and they are tweaked upward when needed. You may not like taxes, but a raise in the middle class federal withholding taxes is not being considered. Just remember we have an expensive country, a large world-wide volunteer military, and police, fire, sanitation on the local and state level. We also must maintain roads, harbors, airports, all sorts of aging infrastructure, national parks, clean water and clean air. Don’t depend on the private sector. They have no interest except the accumulation of wealth for succeeding generations.

The Yankees 1965 Redux II May 21, 2012

Here we are with 25% of the season now in the books. Who would have thought that the helpless Mets would have a better record than the Yanks and are playing better ball with a makeshift lineup, with injuries to their catcher, centerfielder and shortstop?

Meanwhile, getting back to that old adage from the late great Connie Mack, that “pitching is 90% of baseball,” for sure the Yankees don’t have it. Aside from the loss of Mariano and Robertson, which normally could be fatal to a contender, their starters are rarely putting the Yanks in position to close a game. Their starters ERAs can’t excite anyone: Nova-5.80, Hughes- 5-23, Kuroda- 4.50, Sabathia 3.78, Garcia -8.27 and the “rookie,” Andy Pettitte at 2.51.

But if that wasn’t bad enough, just look at their hitting, it stinks. Other than Jeter who started hot as a firecracker and has cooled off the last three week, at least he is still batting .347 with 14 XBHs. But, what of the others? ARod is batting .270 with 9 XBHs (extra base hits) with 31 Ks out of 148 Abs. Even Granderson, who is an excellent outfielder, and has been hitting homeruns at fierce pace, has fanned 46 out of 158 ABs. That is a horrendous pace of almost 30%. Russell Martin, who cannot hit, is currently batting .168 with 7 XBHs and has struck out 25% of the time. Andruw Jones, batting .220 has also struck out 22 times in 59 ABs. Teixiera, though under the weather, and currently on the bench, has continued his weak hitting from last year with a .226 BA and 13 XBHs, The only bright stops have been Swisher, Ibanez and Chavez. Without Ibanez 27 RBIs coming from his 30 hits, the Yanks would really be embarrassing.

Since my letter of 4/15, Nunez’s fielding finally caused him to be optioned out to the minor leagues, Gardner is still injured, and the Yanks went from 13-11 to 21-20. They have lost their bullpen and have to depend on Soriano, who at least has had some decent experience as a closer. Again, the Yanks aren’t moving any runners, cannot hit in the clutch, and cannot hit with men on bases, especially with 2 outs. Most of their runs come on homeruns with no one on base. ARod is one of the worst offenders. When did he have a “key” hit? I have little confidence in the boring style of their dull and uninspiring (to me) manager. They do have Lou Piniella in the waiting, and stranger things have happened.

So the rest of the season is ahead of them, and yes, there is time left to be competitive, but they did go through a long stretch with weaker teams featuring fair to mediocre pitching and they hit badly. I sense it will get worse before it gets better.

Speaking of baseball attendance, times have changed in NYC over the last few years. The Yankees are averaging 41.4K per game (5th in MLB). This is a pace of 3.3 million fans per year. But there are rarely 41K in the ballpark and that figure reflects many season tickets sold, and many other seats sold at a deep discount from Stub Hub. The across town Mets are averaging 27.7K per game and are currently at a pace to sell 2.23 million seats. If those figures hold, they will draw 5.5 million souls. The halcyon days of 3-4 years ago, with larger stadiums, are a fading memory, when the Yanks and Mets drew over 8 million fans. Of course, if the Yanks and Mets fade from making a run at the playoffs, the numbers could turn a lot uglier. The Mets have 62 games left and if their attendance falls 20% over those games, they will draw a shade under 2 million. (1.99.) The Yanks have 59 games left, and if their attendance also falls off 20%, they will draw under 3 million (2.953). That would mean NY baseball would draw under 5 million fans. That would represent a significant decline of interest and a reason to lower ticket prices, to re-attract fans. But, the Yanks, with an aging team and huge payroll obligations on the books, would be forced to eat more contracts, pay more penalties, and go further into the “red” with the risky free agent market. Maybe they can bailout the LAA and get Pujols cheap! He’s batting .211 with 11 XBHs.

So stay tuned! Maybe the Yanks have bottomed, and their stars will start to earn their inflated salaries and make things exciting. But don’t bet on it.

The Yankees: 1965 Redux?
April 15, 2012
Richard J. Garfunkel

I spent a very lovely afternoon yesterday at the new Yankee Stadium. My friend Tom Kochman and I took the Hudson Line RR from tarrytown to 153rd Street in the Bronx; the Yankee Stop, for the remarkable price of $4.50 for a round trip ducat. For those who have not taken a train ride down the Hudson, it is an experience filled with picturesque vistas of the Tappan Zee, the Palisades, and the Spuyten Duvvil which is at the confluence of the Hudson and North Rivers. One can also see Columbia University’s famous Baker Field, Wein Stadium, and sometimes the Light Blue’s oarsmen as they move their 8’s oared shells into the churning waters of what the Iroquois Indians called the Great Mohegan.

Yankee Stadium, the world’s largest cash register, usually attracts between 43 and 46 thousand fans to each and every game. One can have the pleasure of paying $40 to park, $9.50 for a beer, $10 for a program, and $8 for a pale of popcorn. To give one even greater perspective, two Nathan’s dogs, two French fries and two cokes cost $36 and that isn’t wampum. It wouldn’t have been that bad if the Yankees played some interesting and inspiring baseball. They didn’t.

Of course, as the great Connie Mack said, long ago, “pitching is 90% baseball.” But that was in the dead ball era. Of course, looking at the baseball power numbers, in the wake of a few years after the Steroid Era, we may be entering another era of “small ball,” or weak offensive production. Home runs and batting averages are way down from the halcyon “juice ball” era that spawned Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Manny Sosa, Jason Giambi, Mike Pizza, Alex Rodriguez and other faux strong boys. The days of “household” names like Andruw Jones (He really spells it that way), Brady Anderson , Luis Gonzales, Greg Vaughn and Albert Belle hitting 50 homers again (they actually accomplished that rare feat) are long over.

Well the Yankees did not get “good” pitching from former wunderkind Phil Hughes and they faced good pitching from the Angels’ CJ Wilson. Hughes, who was 18-10 in 2010 with a very mediocre 4.19 ERA, and great run support (the best in the Majors) did nothing last year. He spent time on the disable list with a “dead arm,” had two stints in the minors and on Saturday he was cuffed around for 6 runs in 4 innings. Everyone raves about his “stuff” this year, especially the Angels who hit balls all over the lot. The “Blankies” looked tired. It certainly wasn’t cold weather that froze their bats, but CJ Wilson, a 31 year old veteran recently liberated from Texas via free agency.

Yes, it is very early in the season, but what can we really expect from ARod, Teixeira, Martin, and an aging pitching staff? Sabathia got crunched in the playoffs last years with 6.23 ERA in three games, after he wilted in September. Freddie Garcia is 35, newly acquired Hiroka Kuroda is 36, Mariano Rivera will be 43 in the late Fall, young Michael Pineda is on the DL, and Andy Pettitte, who, like Lazarus who rose from the dead, is 42 years young. Do they really have to depend on a Senior Citizen for pitching? Hopefully Ivan Nova will continue to impress, but he had a horrible spring.

Derek Jeter is fine, but he’s already peaked, and few 37 year old shortstops have ever even started for a Major League Club. Will Granderson repeat or was his 2011 season, a career year performance? Gardner shows me very little with his bat or on the base paths. Can the Yankees afford a 260 hitting outfielder with 7 homeruns, who is dividing his “picket” duty with Andruw Jones, who is an old 34, cannot run, and in 190 at bats hit only .247 with 8 doubles and 13 homeruns, while facing only left handed pitching. He’s way over the hill to platoon, no less start. Russell Martin cannot hit. He is a career .267 hitter, who hit only .237 last year and that was after a very fast start and a terrific April. He was horrible the rest of the year. Only Teixeira was more disappointing with a .246 batting average. He seems to have forgotten how to hit leftie. But here’s the rub, when you take out his better, but much fewer right handed at bats, he hit only .224 as a left handed batter. No big-time, starting Yankee first baseman has been that bad since before Wally Pipp (1915) who preceded Lou Gehrig. (Pipp did have bad season in 1925 when he was replaced by Gehrig and Joe Collins in the 1950’s as a part timer, had some rotten seasons also.) So we have left Nick Swisher and Alex Rodriguez. Nick is a decent right fielder and an underrated defensive outfielder. We are now left with Alex Rodriguez, who is 36 and has spent plenty of time on the disabled list the last four years. In fact, he has missed 150 games in the last four years as he has weaned himself off the “juice.” His numbers are way off his “salad” years before 2008.

So the big question is whether 2012 is going to be a repeat of 1965 when that latest incarnation of the Yankee Dynasty, which had been in high gear since 1947, started to unravel. Everyone on that team got “old” all of a sudden and the team with new ownership started to flounder. In the post “Boss” Steinbrenner Era, will history repeat itself? Will the next generation of Steinbrenners get bored with the team and eventually take the money and run? Of course, it is still early and anything can happen. Just look at the Mets.

Now we have reached the merry month of May, the Yankees are 13-11 and wallowing in 5th place. Jeter is playing well, Swisher had a great start and is injured and Gardener has been on the DL for weeks. ARod is hitting .267 with very little power and no clutch hitting. Teixeira is hitting .226 with little power and Martin is hitting .150. I never expected much from these three, but what happened to Cano? He’ll come on, but can he, Granderson and Jeter carry this team? Jones is hitting .167 and should be released. Ibanez, Nunez and Chavez have their own problems. Nunez has proven that he cannot field where ever he plays and Chavez and Ibanez are spot players. But without pitching, how can any team contend? The bullpen is being worn down already and Garcia and Hughes do not seem to be able to win a game. Andy Pettitte may have some short term effectiveness, but I doubt he’s a game changer. Ivan Nova, who was quite lucky with his unbeaten streak, but he cannot depend on six runs a game forever. When the traditional bottom dwelling O’s shut you out on five hits, there is very little any pitcher can do. So the next few weeks are the test. They have a relatively easy schedule which continues with KC, the plucky Tampa Bay team and Seattle. They better start hitting or it will be a long summer of discontent.

The Lunatic Fringe and the Tea Party 5-24-12

Isn’t it fascinating that according to the fellow travelers of the Tea Bag Brigade and right wing blogs, that being a liberal is tantamount to being stupid, an idiot, the bane of all civilization, brain-washed, a second cousin to a commie and the cause of all of our problems? In other words the majority of the educated, who come from some of the better schools in America, and have liberal or moderate views are either stupid, anti-American or a commie.

Are these thoughts ever backed up? These specious ideas are always backed up by the revelations of scripture, or some rational from an “arm chair general” spewing banalities, or some deprecating insult. Every one on Social Security or Medicare is a blood-sucker, being poor is a crime, taking welfare or food stamps is disgusting and un-American and fighting for the unions, women or minorities is obviously a Marxist. Is there any beef to those arguments? Of course not! But the liberals who support conservation, anti-child labor laws, clean air and water, fair housing, social safety nets, sex education and hygiene and gender equality are all commies about to tear down America.

But why do people like me label these people the “lunatic fringe?” Because anybody who bolsters their arguments with name calling, insults, slander, “birther” nonsense, and other claptrap, are card-carrying members of the “lunatic fringe.”

But, what do we hear or read from these “fringers?” The president is a Marxist, a commie, a Kenyan rat, not a citizen, illegitimate, a liar, a shredder of the Constitution and worse. I won’t lower myself to repeat the crude remarks that are rife on these sites and their clones.

So we have two Americas. One group of Americans are located on the coast lines, New England, the big cities, the college campuses, the wealthier suburbs, and the rust belt union communities. They are the conservationist, the well-educated, immigrants and yes, the poor. They are open minded, tolerant regarding race and religion and moderate in their lifestyle. The Democrats have always worked for the poor and new Americans. Has that failed us? No, it hasn’t. They seem to be the active majorities in the hated and obviously “stupid” Blue States.

What is the other America? Well it is centered in the Red States, amongst the aging Eurocentrics, It is amongst the flat-earth, flat-tax thinkers, who believe that sales taxes are not regressive, that Social Darwinism winnows out the week, and that all people who work for government are blood-suckers. It is centered among the mythology folks, who believe that the media is controlling the news, that the left-wing and the Jews control everything, and that all minorities and immigrants are criminals, degenerates and welfare recipients. The other America believes in conspiracies centered around; FEMA prisons for dissidents, fluoride in the water, aliens in Area 51, and even the belief that we never landed on the Moon. They often are Bible-thumpers, who take the scripture literally from mouths of their Evangelical preachers.

What a pathetic situation we have entered into where one half of the nation hates the other, questions their patriotism, Americanism, and legitimacy. As a Democrat, I do not hate Republicans; I support the two-party system, capitalists, the military and the right to own guns. As long as the far right is going to excoriate liberals, moderates and the open-minded by spewing hatred, we will believe and label them and their acolytes the “lunatic fringe.”

WVOX Celebrates Saint Patrick’s Day at Dudley’s Parkview And Honors Judge Sam Fredman and Doug Fleming March 16, 2012

The unequaled impresario of Westchester radio, Bill O’Shaugnessy, hosted the 53rd annual Saint Patrick’s corned beef and cabbage hoedown at Dudley’s, which is located at the New Rochelle Marina, across from Hudson Park and at the end of New Rochelle’s Shore Road. It was held a day earlier, because the real “the wearing of the green,” falls on the weekend.

The honored guests were Judge Fredman who served the City of White Plains and the State of New York for more than 50 years and Douglas Fleming, the Headmaster of Thornton Donavan. They are two long-time supporters of WVOX, the community radio station and Judge Fredman has been the co-host of the popular show, “The Judge and the Rabbi”. His radio partner, Rabbi Emeritus Amiel Wohl of New Rochelle’s Temple Israel, was at Dudley’s to join the celebration.

Even though the weather was not up to recent early spring standards, Dudley’s had a great crowd. The County Executive Rob Astorino, former long-time Assemblyman Ron Tocci, Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, super lawyer Murray Richman, and Phil Reisman, the ace Journal News columnist, joined scores of other guests.

It was great to see Judge Fredman and the famed, criminal defense lawyer, Murray Richman shake hands. It was like two giants of the legal community meeting on neutral ground. Judge Fredman and I go back 43 years to intraparty squablles within the White Plains Democratic Party. When Linda and I moved to White Plains, the GOP basically controlled every elected position and city board. Forty years later the Republican Party was financially and electorally broke and the Democrats controlled the City. A lot of credit must be given to Judge Fredman and other Democrats who fought the good fight against overwhelming odds in the 1950’s.

As usual Bill, held court with his WVOX mike and was assisted ably by Judy Fremont, Don Stevens, morning host Bob Marrone, David and Matt O’Shaughnessy and other WVOX staff helpers. Meanwhile “Erin Go Bragh” and everyone is Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day.

Memorial Field a Sordid Story – February 22, 2012

Last August 31, 2011, Mayor Clinton I. Young, Jr., Westchester County Board of Legislators Vice Chairman Lyndon D. Williams and Recreation Commissioner Peter J. Neglia, as well as hundreds of elected officials and community members broke ground at the new Stadium at Memorial Field. The $12.7 million renovation of Memorial Field had pushed forward despite attempts to derail its progress. Mayor Young and Vice Chairman Williams were joined by U.S. Congressman Eliot Engel, State Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson, Council members Steven Horton and Yuhanna Edwards.

At the ground breaking, Young stated, “I thank Vice Chairman Lyndon Williams for delivering the funding for this important project. Memorial Field is a jewel for the city and the County of Westchester. It’s a real exciting day for the City of Mount Vernon,”

Mayor Young announced that Mount Vernon based Avanti Building and Construction Corporation had been awarded the contract to perform Phase I of the Memorial Field project, which included demolition of the old stadium and construction site prep work. The demolition was expected to be completed in three months. Of course, this was now almost two years after the money authorized by the County of Westchester.

As time advanced, concern was finally voiced by Westchester County Board of Legislators Vice-Chairman Lyndon D. Williams (D-Mount Vernon) who said he was unhappy that the $12.7 million state-the-art Memorial Field renovation project continued to be stalled because if inaction by Mount Vernon city officials. In a letter to Mount Vernon Mayor Clinton Young and City Council President Karen Watts, Vice-Chairman Williams expressed disappointment with the city’s delay of a project, which he had worked hard to have funded through the County’s Legacy Program. “It’s been two years since the City of Mount Vernon and the County entered into an agreement for the development of Memorial Field into a state-of-the-art stadium through the County’s Legacy program,” said Vice-Chairman Williams.

“In December 2009, eleven (11) months after approving the Memorial Field project, the County Board approved a similar project in New Rochelle. Although Mount Vernon’s Memorial Field project was approved almost one year before New Rochelle, the Flowers Park Renovation Project in New Rochelle is far ahead and is in its final phase of completion. The New Rochelle City Council adopted bid legislation in early 2010 and bids were awarded in May 2010,” said Vice-Chairman Williams.

Where is the money? That is the question on the minds of taxpayers throughout the City of Mount Vernon. On Tuesday, May 17, 2011, bids were opened for Memorial Field to begin the construction phase of the project. Prior to the bid opening by the Board of Estimate and Contract, City Clerk George Brown made it crystal clear that the City of Mount Vernon had only $11.5M to spend on the re-building of Memorial Field.

As the bids were opened, the lowest bid came in at $13.7M leaving a shortfall of $2.2M. Many taxpayers questioned the motives of City Council President Karen Watts. The Journal News and News 12 ran stories about City Council President Watts collecting unemployment insurance while on the City of Mount Vernon payroll. Watts may face criminal charges.

City Hall inundated with e-mails and phone calls regarding the situation of Watts. Concerned citizens are looking for answers and seeking advice on how to oust her from office. Mount Vernon resident Mike Sklar publicly called for Watts’ resignation.

In a story in Mount Vernon Exposed, one of the city’s news blogs, it was alleged that Watts had reached a deal with Mayor Young., regarding his help with her unemployment situation. Mayor Young then allegedly told Watts that he would help her out if she endorsed his candidacy for Mayor and publicly trash Comptroller Maureen Walker. Again, it was alleged that Watts agreed to this deal. It was told to Mount Vernon Exposed that Watts’ public endorsement of Mayor Young was scheduled for the same day the Journal News and News 12 broke their stories about Watts’ unemployment fiasco.

It has also been alleged that Watts will be stepping down from the City Council after all approvals are complete for the Memorial Field project. Mayor Young has allegedly agreed to hire Watts as the Recreation Commissioner. It is public knowledge that Watts is having financial difficulties such as 20 thousand dollars in back taxes. This type of behavior leads to major improprieties, scandals and corruption. Watts would then be out publicly lobbying for Mayor Young’s re-election campaign as part of the deal to push her criminal activity under the rug.

The Memorial Field project was planned poorly from the beginning. Greed and incompetence were the key driving forces behind this project. As part of the agreement with the County of Westchester, the City of Mount Vernon now has to maintain all County roads and sewers previously owned and maintained by the County of Westchester. One single road opening to repair the County sewer line that runs through Memorial Fields will cost upwards of $500K.

City Officials also seriously underestimated the true cost of construction for the Memorial Field project. City Officials put the price tag for construction at $13M when in fact the cost of construction is $21M. Where is the money?

Where to Park? Poor planning on the part of City officials also comes into play with the Memorial Field project. The ambitious design of Memorial Field currently plans to accommodate 6,500 spectators and employees; however City planners did not factor in parking for all these cars. On average, a car holds approximately 2.5 persons. This would equate to 2,600 cars at full stadium capacity. The current facility can only accommodate 400 cars. There was speculation that City Officials plan on using eminent domain to demolish homes on Garden Avenue to build a new parking lot for Memorial Field. Poor planning done by City officials will prove costly for taxpayers as the Town of Pelham will likely litigate to stop the construction of Memorial Field.

Meanwhile Legislator Watts had been busy making deals with Mayor Young and others. Intercounty Paving was hired at a cost of $600K to repave various streets throughout the City of Mount Vernon. The project had a mysterious cost overrun of $309K and immediately thereafter, Comptroller Maureen Walker began to audit the contracts and change orders for Intercounty paving. Instead of allowing the audit to take its course, Council President Watts joined forces with Mayor Young and decided to vote to pay Intercounty Paving over the objections of Comptroller Walker. Needless to say Comptroller Walker did not vote on behalf of this payment.

The audit that was being conducted by the Comptroller’s office didn’t mean anything to Watts and company. I guess being afraid that Mayor Young would expose her dirty little secret influenced her to vote the way she did on Memorial Field and to issue payment to Intercounty Paving. The City of Mount Vernon is a municipal mess of mismanagement and corruption.

Cost overruns are common in the construction business, however many experts and professionals view cost overruns as a scam to bilk the consumers out of tens of thousands and sometimes millions of dollars. The paving of Mount Vernon City streets performed by Intercounty Paving and approved by Commissioner Horton were not installed to the Dept. of Transportation and NYS BID Specifications. In fact, the work done by Intercounty Paving that resulted in overbilling City of Mount Vernon taxpayers $309K, was done prior to City Council approval. Watts was fully aware that the original purchase order was only for $600K. Instead of protecting the taxpayers that she was elected to serve, Watts chose to go along with the status quo and voted to defraud the City of Mount Vernon of $309K, knowing fully that the deal was made in her and Mayor Young’s best interest.

Intercounty Paving was represented by August Nigro, a big time financial supporter of Mayor Young. Mr. Nigro is also a high ranking member of Mayor Young’s golf outing committee. Sources told Mount Vernon Exposed that Mr. Nigro was in attendance at the Board and Estimate meetings in attempt to put pressure on City officials to release funds that he was not entitled to.

The illegal payment authorized by Watts and her colleagues on the City Council was done even though City Council members received written notification of the ongoing audit. Watts is no stranger to controversy. At the Board of Estimate meeting, Watts was adamant about Intercounty County paving getting paid.

Mount Vernon Exposed recently learned that a complaint was filed with the F.B.I and the New York State Attorney General’s office seeking a full investigation on Watts and Intercounty Paving. In addition to possible corruption on behalf of Watts’ and Intercounty Paving, City of Mount Vernon taxpayers will again be left holding the bag due to greed and incompetence of City officials.

The New York State Department of Transportation sets forth guidelines for paving road surfaces. The D.O.T. standards were part of the Bid Specifications but were not adhered to by Commissioner Horton and Intercounty Paving. Hot Mixed Asphalt is not to be applied to surfaces that are colder than 34 degrees, and the cutoff date of November 15, is clearly stated in Bid Specifications. Eager to say that roads were not paved during an election year, Mayor Young chose to put his personal ambitions and agenda above the constituents that he was duly elected to serve. Streets in Mount Vernon were paved up to and including December 27, 2010, well after D.O.T regulations and guidelines. The damage of this blatant abuse is irreparable, the reason for these dates and temperatures for work to be performed is, if applied when it’s cold the Hot Mixed Asphalt will not stick to its surface and will not adhere and lift over time. That is the purpose for following the D.O. T. State Regulations. The State of N.Y. wouldn’t condone this type of taxpayer waste of monies. Funding for the paving of City streets came from two sources; Mount Vernon taxpayers and Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS). The City of Mount Vernon is in danger of losing the (CHIPS) money due to City officials not adhering to guidelines.

Meanwhile on January 31, 2012, Ernie Davis, the newly elected mayor has put the brakes on his predecessor’s plan to raze the old stadium at Memorial Field to make way for a state-of-the-art sports complex. Instead, Mayor Ernie Davis is proposing a more modest renovation at the field that he says will cost less in the long run and preserve the 81-year-old stadium and tennis courts. Davis said Tuesday he recently ordered Avanti Building Construction Corp., the contractor hired for the park site’s preparation, to halt further demolition. The contractor will be paid for the work it has done up to this point.

This “is a historic building, and it should be treated as such,” Davis said during a Board of Estimate and Contract meeting Tuesday. “To take it down and put up what they have planned to put up to me is ludicrous.” The original plan, backed by former Mayor Clinton Young, called for razing the old stadium and building a new complex with grandstands to seat 4,000; an eight-lane track; an illuminated synthetic-turf football/soccer field; a natural-turf illuminated soccer field; and an illuminated basketball court. The city broke ground at the site in August amid much fanfare.

Davis said Tuesday that such a project would be grossly out of scale with the city’s needs, and would almost certainly exceed the original 2009 cost estimate of $12.7 million. Maintenance alone would cost the city about $600,000 per year, he said. Davis’s revised plan calls for a running track with fewer lanes; grass playing fields; the restoration of the old stadium with renovated bathrooms and improved handicap access. He would also like to incorporate a restaurant into the new design.
Davis could not provide a cost estimate for his proposal Tuesday, but maintained it would be cheaper than the original plan. The county had committed $9.7 million from its Legacy Program to fund the project, with the city responsible for the balance.

Westchester County Legislator Lyndon Williams said Tuesday that the county’s commitment was based on the original design approved by the city and the county in 2009. Williams said that any new plan will have to be reviewed by county officials if the city is to continue receiving that funding. Still, Williams said he is not opposed to changing course, as long as the field is rehabilitated in some form. “My role is to change what I see as a very deteriorated facility,” he said. “I have no basis for quarreling with a different vision.”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt at 130 Years: “His Giant Shadow Still Dominates American Politics” January 30, 2012

Yesterday, I made my annual FDR “birthday” pilgrimage to Hyde Park, NY, the birthplace of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States. On January 30th, one hundred and thirty years ago Franklin Roosevelt, a large healthy 10 pound baby, was born to Sara Delano Roosevelt, the 2nd wife of James Roosevelt, a Hudson River Valley patrician. His mother, who at 26 years old at the time of her marriage was half the age of her husband, who was actually her 6th cousin, was warned by her doctor to never risk pregnancy again. James Roosevelt, who was a Democrat and was from a different branch of the large Roosevelt family tree from his cousin Theodore Roosevelt, was born in 1828 and passed away in 1900 after a number of years declining health. Sara Roosevelt would outlive her husband by forty one years and was a critical influence in the development of her only child.

Springwood, the home where Franklin Roosevelt was born, was enlarged significantly in 1915. Franklin D. Roosevelt, together with his mother Sara, undertook a final major enlargement and remodeling of the home. This was done in order to accommodate his growing family, but also to create an environment for entertaining his growing circle of political associates. Roosevelt contributed many ideas for the new design, but his mother commissioned the design work to the firm of Hoppin and Koen from New York City. The size of the house was more than doubled by adding two large fieldstone wings (designed by Roosevelt), a tower, and a third story with a flat roof. The clapboard exterior of the house was replaced with stucco and most of the porch was replaced with a fieldstone terrace with a balustrade and a small columned portico around the entrance. These alterations gave the exterior of the house the look of a mansion in Colonial Revival Style. The interior retained much of the layout of the old family home and was designed primarily with housing Roosevelt’s growing collections of books, paintings, stamps, and coins. The famous historian, Rear Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison said, “If FDR had never been elected president, he would have been famous as a collector.” The remodeling work was finished within one year in 1916. Roosevelt also changed the appearance of the surrounding land by extensive planting of trees. Between 1911, when the large scale planting started and Roosevelt’s death in 1945, more than 400,000 trees were planted on the estate. Eventually, large portions of the estate were turned into an experimental forestry station under an agreement with the Forestry Department of Syracuse University. In fact, in an early 20th Century US Census, Roosevelt identified his profession as a tree planter. He always regarded, “the big house” on the Hudson as his home, and it was here in the Rose Garden that he was buried on April 15, 1945.

This January 30th, it was a beautiful bright day in Hyde Park, with temperatures in the mid 30’s. As usual many local citizens gathered for a ceremony that is held in the same Rose Garden where he was buried almost 67 years ago. The garden is, of course, still sleeping in its mid-winter form and the guests, many of them elderly made their way to their seats of honor. West Point Cadets and a US Army firing party were all at attention as wreaths were placed by the Town of Hyde Park, the American Legion, the Jewish War Veterans, the Chamber of Commerce, the March of Dimes, the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, the Roosevelt-Vanderbilt Historical Association, The Eleanor Roosevelt center at Val-Kill, the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, the FDR Presidential Library, the National Park Service, the Roosevelt Family, and the President of the United States. The invocation and the benediction were given by the Reverend Charles Kramer, Rector of Saint James Episcopal Church, Hyde Park, where the Roosevelts worshipped. The honor guard honored the late president with a 21 gun salute.

The main speaker of the afternoon, Ms. Aileen Rohr, the Supervisor of the Town of Hyde Park, was introduced by Ms. Francescka Macsali Urbin, the Supervisory Park Ranger. Ms. Rohr spoke movingly about the critical impact the Roosevelts have had on Hyde Park. She recalled her parents connection with the town and how there were many townspeople who still had fond memories of the President and Mrs. Roosevelt. Ms. Rohr cited the courage that the president exhibited and the pain he endured. She told the gathering of a few hundred onlookers, that the president, who was born to privilege, had a sense of exceptional concern for the less fortunate. She spoke of his call to service, his efforts to stop the panic, confront and end the Depression, his great leadership in the late war and .his dedication to his responsibilities to the very end of his life. It was a moving and well-crafted tribute to one of the world’s greatest citizens.

In this day of cynicism and revisionism, we seem to be debating the same issues that faced us in the Progressive Era, the halcyon days of the 1920’s, the middle years of the New Deal, the Reagan Revolution of the 1980’s and the Tea Party insurgency of 2010. Again, it is, in my view, couched in the phrase of Eleanor Roosevelt, “Greed versus need.” The “right wing” of this country always seems to trash the rights of the many for the rights of the few, by hiding behind “original intent.” Again, the Framers had no understanding of our modern world that would. As Franklin Roosevelt said, in his speech accepting re-nomination to the Presidency, on June 27, 1936, “out of this modern civilization, economic royalists carved new dynasties…the royalists of the economic order have conceded that political freedom was the business of the Government, but they have maintained that economic slavery was nobody’s business.” Also, in his Second Inaugural, on January 20, 1937, the late President said, “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

Professor William Leuchtenburg, one of America’s greatest historians, wrote in his book, In the Shadow of FDR, that Adolph Berle, in May of 1945, said, “Great men have two lives: one which occurs while they work on this earth; a second which begins at the day of their death and continues as long as their ideas and conceptions remain powerful.” More that two decades later, in 1967, Time-Life correspondent Hugh Sidey, wrote of a White House gathering that drew a number of dignitaries to honor FDR. He said, “You could stand on this Tuesday afternoon in 1967 and look out over the faces in the East Room of the White House and suddenly understand that Franklin Roosevelt still owned Washington. His ideas prevailed, his men endured!” With that in mind, and now almost 45 years later after that remark, and 28 years after the publishing of his book, the men have passed away, but it seems FDR’s ideas have endured.

PS: Tomorrow, in my weekly broadcast of The Advocates, I will address what Professor Leuchtenburg, eloquently wrote in the 1980’s. In my 25th show on FDR, the New Deal and Eleanor Roosevelt since I first hosted Jonathan Alter in July of 2007, I will discuss these issues with Professor Terry Golway, author of Together We Cannot Fail. Professor Golway’s operative word is “together” and that is something we sorely lack in today’s political atmosphere in Washington. It seems to me that this election will be a choice between FDR’s vision of a compassionate America versus the Social Darwinism of “might makes right,” and ”to the victor belongs the spoils”

Chinese New Year 4708 January 28, 2012 The Year of the Dragon

It is always cold in early February here in the northeast. Up here on Watch Hill, which looks down on the wide, frozen Hudson River, it can be especially windy and bone chilling in the winter.
In the Gregorian calendar, Chinese New Year falls on different dates each year, a date between January 21 and February 20. This means that the holiday usually falls on the second (or in very rare cases third) new moon after the winter solstice. In traditional Chinese Culture, lichun is a solar term marking the start of spring, which occurs about February 4.

This year, 2012, the holiday period begins on the first day of the lunar New Year, January 23rd. This year, according to the Chinese Zodiac, is the Year of the Dragon.

A dragon is a legendary creature. All legendary stories about Chinese dragons are from the sky, which means heaven in China. The image of dragon is blurred, misty, mystic, occulted, noble and untouchable. For China, it is the symbol of power from heaven. The Chinese emperor was considered the son of heaven. An emperor has the authority to send command to Dragons. One Chinese story mentioned an emperor killed a dragon in his dream. After 581 AD, Chinese emperors began to wear imperial robes with dragon symbols. During the Ching Dynasty (1644-1911 AD), the dragon can be seen everywhere on the roofs, doors, pillars, bridges, utensils in the forbidden city. The most powerful dragon is the five-clawed dragon. It appears only on the yellow imperial robe. Because of this, Dragon is one of most auspicious animals in China.
They say that Dragon has nine sons. People didn’t know too much about the Nine Dragons until Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD). However, there is more than one version of the Nine Dragons story. One story is the following.

The Dragon sent its nine sons to help the first emperor of Ming Dynasty to conquer China. After completing the mission, nine dragons were preparing their journey to return to heaven. But the emperor wanted them to continue to help the Ming Dynasty. The nine dragons wouldn’t stay and the emperor couldn’t stop them. However, the emperor decided to play a trick on the most powerful dragon, the 6th son. He tricked the sixth dragon son to carry a magic stele with a carved inscription, which could suppress any ghost, spirit or evil creature. The 6th dragon couldn’t move under the magic stele, and all of his other brothers wouldn’t leave without him. However, they wouldn’t work for the emperor anymore. They decided to no longer show their dragon identities and turned themselves into evil creatures. Since then, the nine dragons have stayed in China.

The nine dragon have different themes, and they all have different versions too. We skip their names because all of their names are hard to remember. One version is:
• The 1st son loves music. The head of Number 1 son becomes a decoration for music instrument, such as two-stringed bowed violin (huqin).
• The 2nd son loves fighting. Many different handles of weapons have the symbol of Number 2 son.
• The 3rd son loves adventure and keeping guard. He has prestige and is the symbol of safety, harmony and peace.
• The 4th son loves howling. The image of Number 4 son can be found on the big bells. It is a symbol of protection and alertness.
• The 5th son loves quietness, sitting, fire and smoke. His image is often found in temples, such as on incense burners.
• The 6th son has the power of strength. He loves to carry heavy stuff to show off his magic energy. He is a symbol of longevity and good luck.
• The 7th son loves to seek justice. Chinese like to apply his symbol around law, court, or jail.
• The 8th son loves literature. Chinese like to put the 8th son as a symbol around steles. When used in this way, it is a symbol of knowledge or education.
• The 9th son loves water. He is a symbol to prevent fire disasters.
The Tiger is the 3rd sign in the cycle of 12 animals that makes up their Zodiac. The Tiger is the sign of courage that legend tells us wards off three household disasters; fire, thieves and ghosts. On this day one should be happy, to have a smiling face and refrain from quarreling and being critical. The Tiger, being a beautiful animal, is feared and revered equally. It symbolizes, in many Asian cultures, courage, power, passion and regal strength. In the celestial sense of Feng Shui, it is one of four animals which include the Green Dragon, the Red Phoenix, the Black Tortoise and the White Tiger. The Tiger is the female counterpart to the male dragon. The ancient Chinese sages saw in the markings of the Tigers forehead the Chinese character “Wang” or “King.” In the days of Imperial China, the dragon was the insignia of the Emperor, and the Tiger was the military emblem of the emperor’s greatest, most fearless, and victorious commanders. The Tiger also represents earth, while the Dragon represents heaven. The Tiger is a natural born leader, who is courageous, passionate, daring, active, and self-assured. The Tiger can be optimistic, passionate and independent, along with this independence often comes rebellion and unpredictability.
Alongside the 12-year cycle of the animal zodiac, there is a 10-year cycle of heavenly stems. Each of the ten heavenly stems is associated with one of the five elements of Chinese astrology, namely: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. The elements are rotated every two years while a yin and yang association alternates every year. The elements are thus distinguished: Yang Wood, Yin Wood, Yang Fire, Yin Fire, etc. These produce a combined cycle that repeats every 60 years. For example, the year of the Yang Fire Rat occurred in 1936 and in 1996, 60 years apart.
The Chinese character for “Yin Earth” represents a field or a garden. It is associated with the quality of moderate, peaceful, intellectual, charming and charitable kind of person. People born in a day of “Yin Earth” are often moderate and harmonious and slim.

People born in the Year of the Tiger are straight forward and uninhibited in nature. They will never give up no matter how frustrated they become. Quite often they love competition, cannot pass up a challenge, appear cool and are unpredictable. Some people born in the Year of the Tiger are gentle and full of sympathy. Among some of the well known personages born in the Year of the Tiger are; Queen Elizabeth II, Mary Queen of Scots, Marilyn Monroe, Tom Cruise, Agatha Christie, Diana Riggs, Jodi Foster, Norma Shearer, Charles De Gaulle, Dwight Eisenhower, Tony Bennett, Tennessee Williams, Alec Guiness, Rudolph Nureyev, Marco Polo, Beethoven, Isadora Duncan, Renoir, Karl Marx, Hugh Hefner, Chuck Berry, and Mel Brooks.
Meanwhile, many confuse their Chinese birth-year with their Gregorian birth-year. As the Chinese New Year starts in late January to mid-February, the Chinese year dates from January 1 until that day in the new Gregorian year remain unchanged from the previous Gregorian year. For example, the 1989 year of the snake began on February 6, 1989. The year 1990 is considered by some people to be the year of the horse. However, the 1989 year of the snake officially ended on January 26, 1990. This means that anyone born from January 1 to January 25, 1990, was actually born in the year of the snake rather than the year of the horse. Many online Chinese Sign calculators do not account for the non-alignment of the two calendars, using Gregorian-calendar years rather than official Chinese New Year dates.
Traditionally the color red is worn on and during the Chinese New Year to scare away evil spirits and bad fortunes. Red is a bright and happy festive color, which is sure to help bring the wearer a sunny bright future. It is considered lucky to hear a songbird or a swallow or a red-colored bird. One should not greet a person in their bedroom, and therefore even the sick should be dressed and be seated in the living room. The use of knives and scissors should be avoided because their use may cut off good fortune. No borrowing or lending should be done on the New Year and the use of off-colored language is strictly forbidden. Good luck is encouraged, by opening doors, windows, switching on lights at night to scare away ghosts and spirits, and candy is eaten to insure a “sweet year.” One also will avoid bad luck by not buying shoes, pants or having a haircut. It is said that on the first day of the New Year one should not sweep the floors or buy any books!

According to custom, the entire house should be cleaned before New Year’s Day. On the eve of the New Year’s all cleaning equipment should be stored away. Shooting off firecrackers on New Year’s Eve is the Chinese way of sending out the old year and bringing on the new. One should open all their doors in windows to allow the old year to escape forever. If one cries on New Year, they could be cursed to cry throughout the year.

The Middle Class and the Republicans 1-13-2012

All over this site, and many like it, I hear two themes constantly repeated: President Obama and the Democrats are socialists, and take back the country to the people. Of course, the idea that this country is socialist is economically incorrect, unrealistic and a misunderstanding of history. For over a century, since Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive movement there have been efforts to provide safety nets for the workers, public education, and job safety. Because of people like Ida Tarbel, Upton Sinclair, Frances Perkins and others, the meat packing industry, the drug industry and the issue of clean water were addressed. There has been a century old evolution of reform, including; women’s suffrage, the end of the poll tax and the literacy test, the passing of wages and hours legislation, Social Security, child labor laws, sweat shop regulation, safety in the work force, Medicare , Medicaid and the end to Jim Crow Laws. These are just the major elements, but there are many other reforms that were basically addressed to the middle class and the working poor. There is nothing socialist in any of these efforts.

As to government controlling the means of production, setting wages and price controls, and restricting one’s ability to seek employment, none of that exists in America. We have all sorts of markets and exchanges from the NY Stock Exchange, to the NASDAQ, to the every type of commodity exchange from coffee to sugar to cotton. In other words, one can invest where they want, freely work where they wish to and to “organize” for their own benefit, as is done in the sports leagues, American industry and in civil service. The right to organize goes back to the 19th Century and the founding of the American Labor Movement to the New Deal and the Wagner Act in 1935. This right is as American as apple pie. Why shouldn’t there be a counter balance to capital through organized labor. How is the right anti Middle Class? It isn’t.

As to which party represents the Middle Class, the Republicans or the Democrats, why don’t we look at the record. The Republicans have been on the record against Social Security and Medicare for generations. GW Bush worked for six years to privatize Social Security. In a sense that is why his popularity crashed and the Republicans lost Congress in 2006. Currently Rep, Paul Ryan wants to privatize Medicare and have every senior buy into a private plan for $6,000 or more dollars. Will that cost be stable? Who knows? Is there any evidence that private health insurance is stable? Well it isn’t. In the last two years private health care insurance plans have skyrocketed in cost. Most people who not in a group cannot get insurance, pre-existing conditions are more prevalent then ever, and the cost for a private plan, if one can get one, is prohibitive. The average employee is paying a co-premium of $4000 with a $1,000 deductible. That means, with a plan provided through an employer, the average worker is behind $5000 before a dollar is reimbursed. How does this help the Middle Class or the working poor? The current tax plan put forth by the GOP frontrunner, Mitt Romney calls for a 1% tax cut for the lowest brackets and a 38% cut for the most highly compensated workers. Another tax plan calls for a 20% flat tax for all earners, zero capital gains tax and a zero corporate tax rate. Is the revenue neutral? No! Is that fair for the average worker? Are you kidding? The average upper income taxpayer is paying a lower affective rate than when President Reagan pushed through his two tiered tax rate of 15 and 28%. In terms of the economy, since Harry Truman, the presidency has been in controlled by Republicans for 36 years and the Democrats 28 years. Over that period of time, the Democratic Administrations have created 2 million jobs per year as opposed to the Republicans. Those are the facts. With regards to government jobs, there are 4.43 million federal workers and that number has been stable for years, There are 18,8 million state and local workers and that number, reflective of the Bush Recession, has shrunk by a few hundred thousand workers. With regards to federal expenditures, less than 20% of all government workers are paid by your withholding tax, and over 50% of those federal workers are members of the Armed Forces, So the argument framed here about “big” is with the states, much more than with the federal government.

With regards to the argument that 47% of the public does not pay taxes well that is patently false. Every worker is paying a payroll tax of a maximum of 8% up to $106,000 in income. In fact, every America worker is paying down weekly, through the payroll tax, our greatest, future liabilities we face: the entitlements Social Security and Medicare. In fact, as a worker earns more than $106,000, their percentage of reducing the entitlement deficit is reduced. Who benefits from Social Security and Medicare? It is the Middle Class and the working poor. In fact, most Americans who pay zero taxes should probably pay a minimum tax. But, would another $500 or $1000 per low income family equal raising the top bracket from 36.5 to 39.5%? It would not. Today, with a capital gains tax rate of 15% on dividends and venture capital income, the rich are very, very well off. Of the 400 richest Americans, only 200 are employed and therefore, they for sure do not create jobs. In fact, of the remaining 200, are they creating jobs? Many of these individuals make their huge incomes in the financial sector and do not create jobs or new businesses. There are $375,000 Americans making over $1 million per year. They are paying the lowest taxes since the Crash of 1929. But even when the Constitutional Amendment creating the income tax was passed in 1914, there was always a very high bracket, of at least 90%, for the richest of all Americans. Why would a return to the Clinton Era top tax rate of 39.5% and a graduated capital gains tax hurt these folks? I believe it will not. The Middle Class would be better served by an increase in the payroll tax to $212,000, which would save Social Security and Medicare for generations, and would not affect any one of you! In reality an increase in the top bracket to 39.5% would affect anyone of you either. Therefore, why are you fighting against your own self-interest?

Bill Russell- The Greatest! 12-18-11

This is my response to the recent favorable comparison of Tyson Chandler, the newly acquired NY Knickerbocker, to the great and legendary Bill Russell by Coach Mike D’Antoni,

There was no one like Bill Russell!

For me there are certain sacred aspects in sports regarding both hero worship and generally accepted accounting practices, of which Alan Rosenberg is our resident expert. With regards to Bill Russell, he is the gold standard of both in any sport, no less basketball. Bill Russell’s balance sheet rates the highest by all standards of evaluation.

By 1955, the Celtics who had led the league in scoring the three previous seasons understood they needed a big man in the middle. Bill Reinhardt, Red’s old coach from George Washington advised him to keep his eye on San Francisco’s big center Bill Russell. Two great coaches advised Red, Phil Woolpert, of the Dons and Pete Newell of California, along with Fred Scolari and Don Barksdale, who were on the Celtics, that Russell was the genuine article. Therefore Red realized that he had to plan carefully if he wanted to acquire the rights to Russell. Eventually Red learned that his old friend and now nemesis Ben Kerner intended to draft Russell with his second round choice. Cincinnati, who had the first choice, felt they could not afford Russell, who would also be entertaining bids from the Harlem Globetrotters. The Royals already had great rebounding strength from their rookie sensation, the ill-fated Maurice Stokes and were going to draft All-American Sihugo Green. Therefore Red had to make a deal with Kerner. His star center Ed Macauley was from St. Louis and his child had taken ill with spinal meningitis and the young boy was transferred to specialists near his home in St. Louis. Macauley had also graduated and starred at the University of St. Louis and would be anxious to play at home and be near his son. Kerner also demanded that Cliff Hagan be thrown in on the deal. Hagan, who with Frank Ramsey, came from the University of Kentucky, had been drafted a few years earlier, but because they could play another season in college and then had service obligations weren’t available until 1956. Ramsey had played a little for the Celtics when he was discharged early and Hagan was a rookie. Ramsey would later play for the Celtics and become famous as the first “Sixth” man and Hagan went on to star with the Hawks along with Bob Pettit. The Celtics had a “territorial” draft pick and used it to acquire Tommy Heinsohn, another All-American from Holy Cross. When Russell returned in December from Australia with the Olympic Gold medal, and joined the Celtics in mid-season, the “Dynasty” was finally pieced together. The Celtics went on to win eleven of the next thirteen NBA titles. They probably would have won in 1958 but Russell sprained his ankle and the Hawks, led by Petit and Hagan, won the two last games 102-100 and 110-109. In that final game, the great Bob Pettit scored 50 points. Personally I doubt that would have happened if Russell had been healthy. But it did. After that setback, the Celtics went on to win 8 straight titles. It could have easily had been 10!

One great and lasting college basketball memory occurred when I came to the new Garden, on a cool March 19, 1966 afternoon, with Mount Vernon friend and NYU junior Alan Rosenberg. A good NYU (15-9) team, led by former White Plains star guard Mal Graham, met lily-white Brigham Young (17-5) in the National Invitation Tournament finals. NYU had beaten DePaul, Wichita and Villanova, while Brigham Young had defeated Temple and Army. Graham, a high school All-American, who had torched Mount Vernon High School, in our senior year (1962-3) for 42 points in two separate games, led the Violets with an outstanding average of around 25 points per game. The next year he would average 29 points per game and be second in the nation in scoring. The other star on NYU was the 6’4” Bruce Kaplan from James Madison High School in Brooklyn. When we arrived Alan took me into the locker room where I met Graham and Kaplan. It was my first and last time that I was in the locker room of the Garden and unfortunately it was a blowout for the Mormons from Utah, whose quick guards ran the Violets ragged and won going away, 97-84. Interestingly, the coach of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point was the famous Bobby Knight, who was an Ohio State teammate of two of the current Celtics, John Havlicek and Larry Siegfried. When I was in college I got to meet Siegfried at a number of Boston University parties. Knight always felt he was a better ballplayer than Siegfried. They were both selected in the 1962 NBA draft and both wound up sitting at the end of the bench of their respective teams. Siegfried was signed for $1000 bonus and Knight for $500. When it came time for cuts to be made by their respective teams, Knight was cut because his team had only invested $500 in him, wherein Siegfried, who was on the Cincinnati Royals was kept around because $1000 was a larger investment. Siegfried was eventually cut and Red Auerbach, and the Celtics, liked his style of play. He remained there for years, and contributed mightily as a scrappy ballplayer who collected 6 championship rings and averaged over 13 points per game for a number of seasons. After a 9-year career, in which he averaged over 10 points per game, he retired. Knight felt he should have been drafted higher than Siegfried and therefore gotten a bigger bonus. He blamed his low draft position to a poor performance in Madison Square Garden. His father had died right before the tournament and the scouts, who were all there, saw an underachieving Bobby Knight.

Part II Bill Russell

Russell was the greatest of all players. He was like a giant bird of prey. His timing was impeccable and brought an incredible level and style of defense to the sport that had never existed before. Before Russell and the 24-second clock, which forced a team to take a shot within a time parameter, basketball was slow, defensive, plodding and very physical. Games could be slowed down to a crawl. With the advent of the 24-second rule the game opened up and scoring increased immediately. The “fast-break,” which was instituted by guards like the pre-war stars Hank Luisetti and Bob Davies, came into its own with Cousy, who made it into an art form. When Russell came into the fray he became the engine of that system. Russell’s ability to block shots, to intimidate the opposition and to control the ball after it was blocked was unique. Almost no one else could do what he did, and even today 50 years later, no one has really mastered that skill at the level Russell had developed right from the start. Others who followed, batted the ball away, as did Chamberlain. But Russell, not only grabbed rebounds, both defensive, but the all important offensive ones, but he set up the fast break with his remarkable outlet passes from controlling the blocked shots of his opponents. That was and still remains unique. Others like Jerry Lucas, Bill Walton and Wes Unseld were strong and mobile and could move the ball and shoot. But they did not have Russell’s uncanny timing, and they could not shut down the middle off to the opposition like Russell could. I went to the Boston Garden often and the games that I saw that pitted Russell against Wilt Chamberlain were monumental. The “Wilt” was unlike any other athletic specimen. No one could stop him, but at least Russell could keep him contained. The fact that Chamberlain averaged 50.4 point per game throughout one season (1961-2) probably remains the most remarkable achievement in sport’s history. Therefore without Russell in his way, Chamberlain would have bulldozed the whole league and owned all of the championship banners that were available. The Russell-Chamberlain rivalry was probably the greatest confrontation in the history of sport. It far outweighed; Borg-McEnroe, Jimmy Brown-Sam Huff, Joe DiMaggio-Bob Feller, Helen Wills-Helen Jacob, Floyd Patterson-Ingemar Johanson, Ali-Frazier, Gordie Howe-Rocket Richard, Bird-Magic, or even War Admiral and Seabiscuit. In this greatest of all battles between these titans of the game, Russell and Chamberlain matched up 142 times, not counting All-Star or exhibition games. Wilt; who outweighed Big Bill by 50 pounds, and was at least 5 inches taller even grabbed an amazing 55 rebounds against him in 1960. But in these classic struggles Russell’s Celtic teams won 86 games or 60.6% of the time. In those 142 games, Chamberlain averaged 28.7 points and 28.7 rebounds per game, wherein Russ averaged 14.5 points and 23.7 rebounds per game. In their respective careers, including both regular season and playoffs Russell averaged 15.24 points per game and 22.8 rebounds, while The Wilt averaged 29.07 points per game and 23.10 rebounds per game. Statistically there is no “smoking gun” between them. Russell and Auerbach always felt that Chamberlain would get his points, so it was more critical to limit his teammate’s contributions and therefore win the game. Russell could shoot when he wanted to and averaged between 16 and 18 points per game through his middle years with the Celts. The truth is that Russell didn’t have to shoot and was much happier and productive setting up his teammates.

So any comparison to Russell must be carefully weighed and judiciously framed within the context of a player’s career and accomplishments. Russell played in a unique era when after league contraction, the best players in the world were vying for very few starting spots. The NBA, through most of Russell’s career, had 8 to 12 teams and making the starting five was incredibly difficult. Every team had great players and because basketball rules traditionally favored offense in the post 24 second clock era, defense became much more critical. The great success of the Celtics, in the heart of the Cousy-Russell era, was that not only could they shoot and run with the best of the best, but their defense, led by Big Bill Russell and ably assisted by other All-Pro defensive greats like KC Jones and Tom “Satch” Sanders was unmatched. Russell will always be regarded as the greatest winner of “All-Time: in any sport, but the innovator who changed his sport and made it his own.

Newport on Memorial Day Weekend 5-30-11

On Friday, I had picked up Linda at the White Plains Harlem Division RR Station, at around 12:30pm and we made terrific time going northeast on the Merritt Parkway. At Exit 54 (Milford) we headed due east to I-95, which I attempt to avoid like “death of a thousand cuts.” But to get to Newport all roads lead to that overused and impossible road. Once we were safely on the NE Turnpike, we hit some early afternoon head winds as traffic surrounding New Haven was heavy and slow. Any slight incline on, I-95, or the Mass Pike, causes incredible slowdowns and backups. There seems to be no other explanation for the stop and go patterns that plague these heavily trafficked arteries.

Meanwhile, Newport on the Memorial Day weekend was hopping and the roads, restaurants, restorations and “cottages” were jammed with humanity. It was like the winter ended this weekend. As we descended from Pell-Newport Bridge (now $4 each way) and swung around the ramp to terra firma, Linda noticed the Long Wharf Seafood emporium which advertized live lobsters to be steamed to order. So even before entering Newport, we bought a very nice 1.5 lb lobster, coleslaw and clam chowda’. Therefore, dinner was now guaranteed. We also were able to fill up the tank at $3.99 per gallon, which was a lot cheaper then the current $4.15-25 for 87 octane, in Westchester.

The Northeast, like the rest of the country has had a rotten winter, and it seemed like springtime had never really arrived. The last number of weeks has been cold and wet and other then a few isolated days, here and there, nothing has been too terribly pleasant.

During our last trip to Newport, which was last Christmas, we were inundated by a major snowstorm which paralyzed all but a few lunatics who were surfing in the ocean off the Cliff Walk. After entering Newport on Farewell Street, past the old cemetery, we headed to the Brickyard Market. Meanwhile, once on Thames Street, which parallels America’s Cup Way, one could not get a space for love or money. I doubled park in front of the NY Historical Society, while Linda stretched her appendages. Seeing that parking in downtown Newport was beyond impossible, we headed toward Memorial Drive and Bellevue Boulevard. We inched our way passed the ancient Casino and the Tennis Hall of Fame. But since we were unhappy bucking bumper to bumper traffic, we decided to avoid the long looping way around past Doris Duke’s old stomping grounds, Rough Point, to Ocean Drive, by cutting though to Wellington and across to Harrison. This was the short cut we continued to use to get to and fro to the Ocean Cliff which is a beautiful resort and time-sharing overlooking the often fog-shrouded Narragansett Bay. It was there we unloaded, unpacked and planned our next move!

After our lobster dinner, and a small carafe of wine, we watched a little television and fell quickly into the arms of Morpheus.The next morning we were up early, had breakfast in our small kitchen area, and we were off to the Thames Street stores for post cards and the Antique Armory. The only way to find parking downtown was to get there before anyone else. After strolling around the an hour or so we made our way to the American Museum of Illustration, which is located in a marvelous 113 year old mansion located on Bellevue Avenue. Vernon Court, which was built in 1898, was designed, conceived and completed in the heart of the Gilded Age. This Beaux Arts adaptation of a 17th Century French chateau has been described as one of the greatest mansions in America. It was designed by Carrere & Hastings, the architects for the New York City Public Library. The interiors were designed to replicate the Marie Antoinette suites at the Versailles Palace. Not to be outshined by the French influence, the elegant gardens were inspired by the Pont Garden, which Henry VIII built for the ill-fated Anne Boleyn at her Hampton Court Palace.

Meanwhile, the property remained in the hands of the Richard Gambrill family heirs until 1956, when it was auctioned. From 1963 until its closing in 1972, it served as the administration building for Vernon Court Junior College, an all-girls school. Over the next two and a half decades it passed through several different owners. In 1998, it was acquired by Laurence and Judy Cutler, founders of the National Museum of American Illustration..

Since we were the earliest visitors on Saturday morning, we serendipitously met both Mr. and Mrs. Cutler and complemented them on their remarkable restoration of this national treasure. But, what was even more remarkable was their fantastic collection of American illustrative art, which focused on works by JC Leyendecker, Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish and NC Wyeth. The collection alone was breath-taking, and their arrangement was done with exquisite taste. We left with an enhanced feeling for this now lost American art form, which dominated advertising and magazine covers like; The Saturday Evening Post, Look, the first Life Magazine and The Ladies Home Journal for almost a century. The current exhibition focused on the remarkable connection and influence JC Leyendecker had on the young Norman Rockwell.

At the end of our most engaging time, we drove back to Memorial Drive, turned right and headed down past Easton’s Beach and into Middletown. We found our way to Wave Avenue and Flo’s Clam House for lunch. After a Greek salad and some clams on the half-shell, we worked our way to Portsmouth looking for a wine-tasting and antiques. Missing the wine-tasting tour, we found our way to the Eagles Nest Antique Center and Linda got the steal of the week, five yellow Limoges plates for $6.00 (cheap as Mad Magazine often noted!)

After returning from Portsmouth we headed toward Rosecliff, one of the few mansions we had never visited. In 1891 two sisters, Theresa Fair Oelrichs and Her sister Virginia Fair bought an old wooden cottage and eleven acres that located on Bellevue Avenue. It was owned at one time by George Bancroft, a noted statesman and a prominent amateur horticulturist, who had a passion for roses. The celebrated, “American Beauty” rose, America’s national flower, was developed by Bancroft.

As to the house that stands there today, it came from the purchasing power of Theresa Fair Oelrichs, a silver heiress from Nevada, whose father James Graham Fair was one of the four partners in the Comstock Lode and her husband Hermann Oelrichs, American agent for Norddeutscher Lloyd steamship Line Mrs. Oelrichs, her sister and her husband, commissioned the architectural firm of McKim, Mead, and White to design a summer home suitable for entertaining on a grand scale.

The principal architect, Stanford White, modeled the “cottage” after the Grand Trianon of Versailles, but smaller and reduced to a basic “H” shape, while keeping Mansart’s scheme of a glazed arcade of arched windows and paired Ionic pilasters, which increase to columns across the central loggia. White’s Rosecliff adds to the Grand Trianon a second storey with a balustraded roofline that conceals the set-back third storey, containing twenty small servants’ rooms and the pressing room for the laundry.
After our self-guided, audio tour we ventured outside to the great lawn at the rear of the building that overlooks Narragansett Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. They were setting up white chairs and a chupa for a wedding, we learned, which would host approximately 175 guests. What an effort, and we could only imagine the cost.

We headed back into town and drove to Bowen’s Wharf which is right off America’s Cup Way. After finding a rare metered space with two hours already paid we headed for the Aquidneck Pier, where they sell wholesale lobsters, clams and shrimp. We ordered a lively 1.75 crustacean to be boiled along with ½ pound of shrimp. While waiting for our dinner we spent some time on the pier speaking to one of the vendors and looking at her beautiful inventory of jewelry, handbags and scarves. Besides all of that, she’s a good Democrat. We headed back to Ocean Cliff. The afternoon fog had burned off and we walked out to the back lawn which adjoins the main hotel where there was not only a wedding to be celebrated, but Adirondack chairs to be used. We were able to finish our respective books, and as it approached 6 pm we headed back to our rooms for dinner. Linda boiled and pealed the shrimps, we enjoyed a great Stilton cheese, Linda had bought in a wonderful market located in NYC at 110th Street and Broadway, and then we had the shrimp and cracked the lobster. Meanwhile, the lobster was great!

Sunday morning brought more fog, and after our showers and breakfast we headed into Newport, parked at Washington Square, right next “Yesterdays” that features a statue of Oliver Hazard Perry. We walked along Spring and Touro Streets, found Spring Street Books, a corner store, which had a nice selection of excellent quality used books at terrific prices and we gobbled up six of them. From there it was off to Patriot’s Park and the venerable Touro Synagogue, which dates back to 1763.

This Orthodox Temple was built from 1759 to 1763 for the Jeshuat Israel congregation in Newport under the leadership of Cantor (Chazzan) Isaac Touro. The cornerstone was laid by Aaron Lopez, a prominent merchant in Newport involved in the spermaceti candle making business and other commercial ventures. The Jeshuat Israel congregation itself dates back to 1658 when fifteen Spanish and Portuguese Jewish families arrived, probably from the West Indies, and many settled near Easton’s Point. The synagogue was formally dedicated in December of 1763. Many years earlier we had attended a Friday night service, which was crowded with US Naval personnel who were based in Newport. In fact, the US Naval Academy was re-located to Newport during the Civil War to protect it from southern sympathizers and possible sabotage. It was located on the corner of Pelham and Bellevue, but that location was razed long ago. Newport presently is the home of the US Naval War College which was founded in 1884. It is an education and research institution of the United States Navy that specializes in developing ideas for naval warfare and passing them along to officers of the Navy. The docent at Touro gave a great talk about the history of the congregation, where the first members came from and the history of their 500 year old Portuguese Torah which was made from the skins of deer.

On this weekend, one could not give up one’s parking space, so rather then trying to drive somewhere else we fed the meter, and walked to Thames Street, the Brick Market and found a place two blocks up called Lucia’s. It was just what we wanted; pizza and salad. We ordered a small Margherita pie with mushrooms and for $19 we were quite satiated. We finally had enough and after returning to the car we decided to work our way around the massive traffic delays. We circled around to Touro Street, then Bellevue, but we were again stymied by the traffic heading towards Ocean Drive. We made another course correction and found our way to Wellington, Harrison and eventually to Ocean Cliff. We changed for a swim in their pool, soaked in the hot tub and all was well with the world. We had dinner again in our rooms, watched a little television, read some, packed, and turned in for the evening. The next morning we were up early, we loaded the car and by 8 am we on our way. It was a smooth trip home, because we left early, and at 11 am in Tarrytown we unloading the car and catching up on mail, emails and the news of the day.