Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Remember the Ugly American? He has a new face!

Everyone knows who the Ugly American is.  The uncouth and ill traveled person who goes to other countries and criticizes what he sees.  Of course he knows little of the culture he so freely castigates, making his ugliness not only more abhorrent, but totally ignorant.

Well, if we believe that a "social utility" like Facebook is a community, the same formula can be applied.  Everyone has their own page on Facebook and should be free to express their opinion.  I would not have it any other way.

But it is getting tedious to see Europeans , who know little to nothing about America and Americans,  post their ugliness and their ignorance all over the feed of Facebook.

If one were to believe these posts, often buoyed by Americans themselves who have no more knowledge than their European counter parts, one would come to the conclusion that Europeans as a whole are smarter, kinder, better read and better traveled than  Americans as a whole.  That is not true, and time spent either in Europe or on Facebook quickly proves out the fallacies.

Time after time over the last few years, I have read posts by my European (English, French, Swedish, etc. etc.) and ex-pat  Facebook friends attesting to how selfish Americans are in protesting Obamacare,  as well as  universal health care.  But to do so is to ignore the basic character  of many, if not most,  Americans.  We are not willing to "tax" many more people than a law helps, we are not willing to give up freedom of choice for a little security, and we do not believe a President who has lied many times before when he is lying again. And again. And again.  Apparently our neighbors across the pond are as delusional as our home grown "bots" and do not see the forest from the trees, or the reality from the imagined and hoped for.

Similarly, the posts that point to how ill read, ill traveled Americans are crumble under the weight of applied interrogation.  Claims about these nuances of American life are easily deflected when a little research is applied to the subject. 

So my criticism, based on a good knowledge of American habits as well as a good deal of time spent (voluntarily and happily)  in Europe, is ensconced  in my belief that if one is going to be disparaging of another country, one really needs to come equipped with the facts.  Further, while it is your page to write on what you wish, please know that Facebook is also a community.  Participants are community members.  If you are going to criticize, specifically, the neighborhood some of us live in; please understand that we like living here and do not take kindly to your words.  We especially do not take kindly when you have no idea what you are talking about.

The Ugly American has turned into the Ugly European.  Ugly is ugly.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Friedman was right: There is NO such thing as a free lunch. Ramblings on Roaming.

Independence Day awakened the need in me to return to this blog, began years ago, which largely protests the deer cull in New Jersey.  So as the last of the fireworks go off, I thought I would set a few alight of my own though they have nothing to do with either deer or the garden state.    

It's a story of travel, of observation and of conversation, a compendium of the 3 based on our recent trip to Europe, mostly in France,  and that is the focus.  Unlike most of my posts on this blog, I am actually going to link to some data to support several of my statements which have to do with the economic reality of living under socialism.  And it is not a pretty story, like most posts on this blog.

First, let me say that this is not an attempt to bash France and most certainly not to criticize the many lovely people we met and spoke to.  France is a beautiful country and there were a few spots, one in particular, that I hope to return to many times.  It is a country of romance, charm, antiquity, history, natural beauty and and man made splendor.  The cheeses are superb, as is the wine. (two rare exceptions to the high cost of living.)  None of Frances' gifts, however, are those provided by the government. 

The government does far more taking than giving.  And hard working people, neither poor nor rich, have had it with giving up a large chunk of their earnings to the government.  They pay high taxes all the way around: expensive gas, exorbitant tolls and housing that makes even affluent Naples, Florida quite affordable in comparison. They pay for expensive meals out and almost as expensive meals in. They pay and they pay and they pay.

 "Luxury"  among the working and struggling middle classes is pretty non existent.  Homes are not updated because construction is too expensive, and when renovations are done, they are done to very simple specifications.  A remodeled bathroom will feature a 24 inch by 24 inch shower, a discomfort for someone as small as me, and a near impossibility for a large person.  Clothes dryers are rare and when they exist, rarely used: electric is just too expensive according to the French we spoke to. These things are not just "comforts" but influence cleanliness, cost and convenience, especially so given the horrendous amount of smoking we witnessed.

Almost every person we spoke to in France (dozens of them) is at least considering living some where other than France where they can earn more money.  And, as importantly, they want to live where they can keep more of their own money.   Yes, they love the greater vacation time in France,  they value their access to health care and they love their culture.  But when it comes down to day to day enjoyment and happiness, they feel they give up too much and get back too little. In fact the only people who appeared to be living without resentment or challenge were those earning a living outside of France, not within the country.  We heard this over and over without our soliciting any information.

It is clear that as Milton Friedman said years ago, there is no such thing as a free lunch....You are paying, one way or another, to live under a socialist model of government, and from what we saw and heard, the price is much too high.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Call of the Wild in West Orange

Despite the many protests against, the deer kill in South Mountain Reservation continues. Not only does it continue, it has been expanded to include other areas of Essex County, New Jersey.

I don't believe most of the statements about why the kill is necessary, but now I have even more reason to doubt their authenticity.

One argument that continues to be put forth is that the deer kill is necessary since the deer have no natural predator and will just die of starvation if not slaughtered outright.

Well, that has always been quite incredible to my comprehension. The deer produce more, not less, if they are killed en masse and the deer produce less, not more, if the food supply diminishes.

And, this morning, I saw something that challenges the "no natural predator" theory in the most dramatic way.

At 5 a.m. this morning, my husband and I were awakened by bellowing behind our townhouse. We flashed some lights and saw a downed large buck with 2 coyotes or
wolves eating him alive. Our light and movement frightened them off into the snow filled woods.

The buck was badly wounded but still alive. We tried to call animal emergency and they said we should call the police. The West Orange police did come and finished off the buck and later the town came to haul the carcass away, leaving behind a huge patch of snow that looked like a multiple murder crime scene.

Thinking this would be an important piece of information for residents, I sent out emails and posted on the community board for this townhouse complex. It was noted in the responses that there are less deer in the woods here than have been here in the past and less wild turkeys as well. This is all anecdotal, but it certainly supports the theory that natural predators are alive and well in this area of suburban New Jersey.

This has been a rather horrific way to begin the day, and Christmas eve day to boot, but maybe there are a number of lessons to be learned with the death of this poor buck. One of them should certainly be that if culling of the herd is deemed essential, a non lethal method is not only preferable to the deer kill but to the natural kill as well.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Holding the Line on Tax Increases: A Most Serious Sport

One thing that has been somewhat inspiring to me as a West Orange resident is that the township council has been responsive to residents when the council members are told things in a clear, non threatening and demonstrable manner.

Though it took a long time to get there, the council eventually voted in a tree ordinance. It has its flaws, but it does have some protective mechanisms for the trees.

West Orange was the only council of those towns adjacent to the Reservation to vote down the deer "hunt" in South Orange. This, despite two of the members supporting Essex County Executive DiVincenzo's determination to continue to kill these deer in a most inhumane way and, as many people see it, for no reason at all.

Now, a group of West Orange residents are asking the Council to assure that everything will be done to hold taxes at their current levels. They are advocating for greater transparency in governance as well as a better informed governing body.

Apparently at the last Council meeting, members at the council dais were scoffing the notion that foreclosures have an impact on tax revenues. In particular, Councilman Anderton and Parisi were left looking somewhat foolish when their dismissive statements were corrected by a very knowledgeable resident concerning the impact of the great number of foreclosures, and how that is going to impact tax revenues.

This is all caught on the tape of the meeting, if you have not viewed it yet on TV.

For Comcast subscribers the Council meetings are aired on Channel 36, for FIOS subscribers I think, but I'm not sure, it's Channel 43 (it's in the 40's somewhere).

You need to stay tuned to the entire program, i.e., before and after the sports presentations.

Taking up the suggestion of the StarLedger as outlined in today's editorial, A Pledge for Elected Officials, these town council gadflies are asking that everyone come to the next WO council meeting and request that every member of the Council neither seek nor accept a raise in salary as one way to acknowledge the growing economic crisis in towns across America. The tax moratorium advocates are going to ask that each council member take this pledge in a public and recordable fashion. The next Council meeting is scheduled for January 6 at 6:30.

If you want to be part of this advocacy effort, please come to this meeting and let your concerns be known and voice be heard!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Killing Deer Does Not Necessarily Reduce the Poplulation

The debate continues to be a bitter one between the pro deer kill people and the anti deer kill people.

And it's no wonder.

One of the arguments that fuels both sides is the issue of population control.

The pro-hunt/pro-kill faction vehemently argues that the deer are over running South Mountain Reservation, destroying the plants and that the only way to keep this from happening is to gun down as many of them as possible.

The anti-hunt/anti-kill faction does not believe that the deer are the sole or even major factor in the destruction of the plant material. They also strongly believe that the kill that takes place actually stimulates the reproduction cycle. The more deer killed, the more deer born.

But facts are facts. There is no disputing them.

A particularly credible and logical response to the deer hunt/kill question has recently come to the forefront.

Wildlife biologist, A. T. Rutberg, expounds in his text, "The Science of Overabundance " that hunting often fails to control deer populations. The most visible weakness in the assertion that hunting is necessary to control deer populations is that it has largely failed to do so in the last two decades.

An analysis of white-tailed deer harvest trends in states east of the Rockies shows that the harvest more than doubled in the 20 years between 1973 and 1993 in 26 of 29 states surveyed.

Which brings us closer to home and closer to the facts.

The Great Swamp hunt in New Jersey could and should be a lesson learned for the County Executive and managers of the South Mountain Reservation.

Since 1974, managers of the Great Swamp National Refuge have been holding a 'management hunt' to control the refuge's white-tailed deer population. The results of the hunt are that the 1995 harvest was almost twice the 1974 harvest, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

This data confirms the biological fact of Reproductive Rebound,a well documented population dynamic in deer and other mammals. Regarding deer, the number of fawns actually born is determined by a number of complex factors including nutrition and herd density. With competition for food reduced by a sudden drop in herd numbers (through hunting) younger fawns will breed and females will give birth to twins and triplets instead of single fawns.

And, in fact, after the brutal deer kill last year it was confirmed that more than half the does killed were pregnant with twins.

So, Essex County, are we listening and learning? Or are we making sure that these facts are neither exposed nor given consideration?

Hopefully, the populace will listen even if the County Executive and the South Mountain Reservation managers do not.

As John Adams, a brilliant thinker, once stated: Facts are stubborn things.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Obama Victory Spells CHANGE, We Hope

Last night was the culmination of an American phenomenon. An obscure Senator of color rising through the ranks, defeating the Democratic machine and winning a Presidential election by a virtual landslide.

The mere fact that this took place is, in and of itself, a startling change in American politics. While the Obama camp was able to raise an enormous amount of money for the campaign, the start was on a very modest budget.

So how did a rather junior Senator get so far so fast?

His oratory was certainly of great assistance. He is one of the best speakers this writer has ever witnessed, including his Presidential statement last night. It was unifying, on target, never boastful and beautifully presented.

But his vision for a better America was the propelling factor throughout his campaign.

We, as a country, have taken a tumble on all fronts domestically, as well as having fallen out of the world's favor. We need to be better. Better at communicating, better at analysing, better at strategizing and better at solving our own problems and helping to resolve global issues.

WE, as the President-Elect has said over and over, CAN DO IT~!

There are enormous issues for President Elect Obama to address. But I am hopeful that among his advisers and cabinet members, there will be those with particular environmental causes to promote.

While Obama's record with the Humane Society only won him a 60% score card, that is considerably better than the 40% score card achieved by Senator McCain.

The objective now, as I see it, is to raise his understanding, consciousness and score card performance.
The spillover from the top, whether corporate or political, does make an enormous difference in the culture of an organization or a country.

The hope, as it relates to the deer, is that a vision will be created and set in motion that inhumane treatment of animals is not to be tolerated.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Another Vote that Counts

As people in Essex County prepare to cast an important vote for the next President of the country, they should also be looking more closely at their local races.

Obviously, who ever gets elected to the Presidency will have an enormous job ahead of them with all kinds of issues to address. The economy, jobs, cost of living, health care, the war in Iran are monumental in nature.

By now we all know who we think will best address these issues from our own particular perspective.

But there may be many people who do not take local elections quite so seriously.

Does it really matter to our lives who gets elected locally?

Well, yes it does.

How your taxes are spent, how your property is valued, and how your environment is protected are issues that will be decided on by your local politicians.

So the vote should not be thrown away or cast lightly.

One issue that is creating a great deal of conversation, consideration and communication in Essex County is the issue of the deer kill in South Mountain Reservation. The deer advocates have provided a brief synopsis of the candidates' stands on this kill.

The following people are running and are either supported or rejected by those opposed to the deer kill:

U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg opposed the kill and bear hunt in NJ. He deserves support for his outspoken criticism of both.

Essex County Freeholder Carol Y. Clark cast the only vote to abstain on killing the deer, while Donald Payne and Blonnie Watson were absent on the vote.

Essex County Freeholder Linda Cavanaugh heads the list of a no vote for her efforts to support the deer kill. Joining Cavanaugh are Patricia Sebold, Samuel Gonzalez, Bilal Beasley and Ralph Caputo.

In Maplewood, Victor DeLuca voted against the deer kill. Fred Profeta worked towards getting the deer kill approved.

In Millburn, Jim Suell heavily sided with Essex County in wanting to kill the deer.

Your life may not depend on who you vote for locally. But other lives do hang in the balance. If you oppose this kill, vote your conscience and support those people who take the lives and humane treatment of animals seriously.