Friday, December 30, 2005
Tales of the Booksellers Row - Part V and VI
How does a Fourth Avenue book scout like the notorious Bruce (of whom youv'e read in prior stories) acquire his superior knowledge of scarce editions? Is it long exposure to books? If so, then the bookdealers of Fourth Avenue would never throw a rarity, such as H.L.Mencken's "Ventures Into Verse" (Baltimore, 1903), out on their 50c tables, for a scout to snap up. I was actually there when this book was picked up by "sleeper" hunter, on the West side of 4th Ave, outside one of the smaller stores. I tried to offer the finder a premium if he'd let me buy the book. If recollection serves, he simply stuck his tongue out at me, speechless in the face of the enormity of his good luck. (Mencken, incidentally, was so prolific that he wrote under 44 pen names, from George W. Allison in the Baltimore Sunday Herald, 1902, to Robert W. Woodruff, in his Smart Set magazine. One was the exotic Seumas LeChat, not to be confused with the Monsieur LeCoq of George Simenon's - who wrote under 17 pen names.)
The answer is that the scout learns constantly, by reading, talking and lifelong enthusiasm. Book scouts devour antiquarian bookdealer sale lists and auction catalogues, they study author and subject bibliographies and may even visit the Berg Collection of Rare Books in the NYPL. Many antiquarian bookdealers are too busy to do that kind of studying.
I remember having a strange copy of Robert Browning's anonymously published "Pauline, A Fragment and a Confession" (1833), in a beautiful binding, with the Ex-Libris of H. Buxton Forman, a XIX Cent. authority. I bought it at the value of the binding from a New York dealer, who knew books. I knew that it had to be a spurious edition, particularly because Forman had been associated with Thomas Wise, the great bibliographer and forger of Browning and other first editions, and acquired it as a curiosity. There might be a story behind it.
There almost was. I brought the book to the 42nd Street Library, signed it through the guards at the entrance, and took it to Dr Gordan, the librarian of the Berg Collection, where they have two of the real first editions. We agreed that my copy was a forged first, and Dr Gordan very kindly permitted me to take pictures of the title page of the real first edition with my precious Honeywell Pentax single-lens reflex, while he held the book - and then the book got lost! It had been signed out by an attendant, I gave it back to the good doctor - but somehow it disappeared. Dr Gordan became truly excited and called for help. I could not help to overhear that "this man came it, took pictures with his little snap box (what an insult to my best camera), and now the book is gone!" I was politely asked to remain in the reading room, I think they put a guard, discretely, outside the door. In a short while the embarrassed librarian found the book, I was given a perfunctory apology and left Berg Collection feeling that I had exhausted my welcome in these quarters.
I did not return to researching the source of the forgery for a few years, when Marjory Wynne of the Beinecke Library at Yale offered to help. She asked me for photocopies, and determined, in short order, that my book was a part of a known reprint. The venerable Buxton, or more likely someone else, had taken a Browning Society pamphlet, reprinting the text of the even then rare book of poems, then stripped off the front matter, and had the poems expensively bound. Who was behind the the charade is moot, but since the pamphlet was printed by Thomas Wise in 1886, who had passed off other pamphlets printed by him as first editions, it may be that this copy was meant to fool people. Forman's bookplate would have added authenticity.
In scouting for books I've had to fool people too, not illegaly. When my group of book scouts visited the East Coast dealers on Saturdays, looking for good buys, bookdealers would study our purchases carefully, and sometimes renege on price, claiming that the marked amounts for certain books should have been updated. This was not fair, but in order to keep our welcome green, we would submit to it.
Once my group of Saturday collectors went out of town to an advertised sale by a dealer who had bought a private library and was trying to get rid of the chaff. There were tables of 10 books for $5, 10 books for $10, constantly being replenished. I was looking through the better books, when my eye caught a German title, "Koenig, Dame, Bube," by W. Nabokoff-Sirin, published by Ullstein in Berlin, 1930. This was certainly a find, an early book by the author who signed such later books as "Lolita" with the name of Nabokov. I carefully picked 19 other books at that table, including more foreign-language titles, all worth the money and some of them quite flashy, and walked over to the cash register. The dealer examined most of my purchases practically with a magnifying glass, and gleefully withdrew four titles, graciously letting me pay $16 without insisting that I pick four more items. Nabokov's second non-Russian book passed without a second glance.
My triumph was short-lived. When I happily examined my great find at home, it turned out that the front end-paper, the folded page which holds the binding and the book together, had been carefully detached. It probably held the author's inscription to a Lotte Brandenstein, whose ownership stamp is in the book, maybe too intimate to be left in the book when she disposed of it.
If you think I'm too fanciful, here's a story told by Ike Brussel, the great bibliographer of Anglo-American books. It seems that Theodore Dreiser, who was a big chaser, would ask every woman he met to sleep with him, counting on the fame of his name and on the law of averages for a supply of bedmates . A young girl in the office of his British publisher succumbed, and at the end of the brief encounter humbly asked the great author to inscribe a copy of "Sister Carrie" for her, hoping that this would make a nice souvenir for later years. Dreiser inquired for her full name, and wrote:"To Mary Smith, in memory of a certain wall in London." He grandly handed her the book, she thanked him, and, upon reading the inscription, burst out in tears. But the author would not waste another copy on a short relationship, and the girl tore up the inscription. So Ike was told.
Computers have truly changed our lifes, simplifying and eliminating jobs such as typesetting and final proofreading. They have also enlarged the scope of human errors, making it possible for a whole page of text to disappear. That is what happened last week with my description of the Friends Fair, and the volunteers, such as the doctors and other overworked professionals who give up a Saturday to sell books. Hence the segue from Jan Hird Pokorny, the architect of the Dvorak statue pedestal, to the barber-surgeons of yore. But the Fair is over, and you'll have to wait for the story of how to get a free medical diagnosis while buying old books until the next Fair, in May 1996. But, if you'd like a hundred or more brightly jacketed, or conversely, scholarly looking books for a studio background, leave a message for me at Friends Seminary, c/o Susa n Malin, 979-5030.
LOOKING BACK by Wally Dobelis
Tales of the Booksellers Row - Part VI
A book scout on 4th Avenue had to know authors' handwritings. Not only the distinctive copperplate of George Washington, or the bold A. Lincoln signa ture, not just the well-known, easy to remenber letter styling of Charles Dickens and William Makepeace Thackeray. For instance, when examining an XVIII Century tome, British or American, it is a good idea to check page 100, looking for Thomas Jefferson's initials. To foil people who did not like to return borrowed books, the great book collector put secret ownership marks on his copies. Not all the books in Jefferson's second collection ended up in the Library of Congress (the first burned up), there are still some floating around. But watch out if the book with the Jefferson markings is dated after July 4, 1826, the day when the author of the Declaration of Independence shared the sweet chariot with his early-life enemy and late-life friend, John Adams. You will have a forgery in your hands.
Forgeries of Presidential documents showed up now and then on Fourth Avenue. A friendly bookseller would show me a payment order signed by George Washington: "They tell me it is a Spring forgery, but I don't believe it. Looks too perfect." I would nod affirmatively and politely keep quiet about the fact that Robert Spring, the first American autograph forger of distinction who started work in the 1870s, had a supply of genuine printed forms from the Office of Discount and Deposit at Baltimore. He did Washington forgeries so expeditiously and without the normal hesitation marks that it takes an expert who knows Spring's handwriting to detect them. Joseph Cosey, in the early XX Century, was the most prolific forger. While specializing in A. Lincoln letters, he could and did imitate the hands of other statesmenof the Revolutionary period, and was very careful with his paper. Button Gwinnett, the rarest signer of the Declaration, was a challenge to forgers. A farmer who died soon after the signing, his signature is the hardest to get, and new findings are immediately suspect. I have heard a story of a contemporary storekeeper's credit book, in which a forger made an entry on a free line for Button Gwinnett's purchases. Not exactly an autograph, but ...
In our bookcase there is a document signed by George Washington at Valley Forge, May 12, 1778, abjuring allegiance to George the Third, and swearing allegiance to the United States, as the commander in chief. The document is fill-in, with name, title and the word "swear" (permitting "aver," preferred by non-swearers) written in. I know that this is a XIX Cent facsimile, framed by an art dealer on Madison Ave (the phone number is Ashland 6348) but that does not stop me from annually taking it out of the bookcase and re-looking, just in case old George's signature should magically have turned to blue ink.
Not all forgers were just mercenaries, looking to sell phoney letters. Among the Brits, Thomas Chatterton, who killed himself at 17, wrote a whole body of highly regarded poetry, purportedly by a 15th Cent monk, Rowley. William Henry Ireland wrote poems, correspondence and a whole drama, "Vortigern and Rowena," all attributed to Shakespeare. On the other hand, Major George Gordon Byron pretended to be the son of the poet and was so convincing that he sold forged Byron letters even to the poet's publisher.
In my bookcase also sits a carefully repaired two-volume set of Harriet Beecher Stove's "Uncle Tom's Cabin," the less-likely-to-survive paperbound edition, dated Boston, 1852, the year of the 1st edition. It looks precisely like a first, except when one examines the verso of the title pages against the light. There are two light spots, where someone carefully erased the notices of the 2nd printing. I'm keeping my George document, but I may let you have this set inexpensively.
Back to handwritings. Browsing in the 4th Avenue bookstalls sometime in the 1960s, a nice clean volume in a green cloth binding called out at me. "Annals of the Poets," by Chard Powers Smith, it contained amusing literary anecdotal observations. I picked it up, and saw a long pleasant inscription to Dear Gertrude, in pencil. Sorry that you are in the hospital, hope this book will help you pass the time, your friends miss you, words to that effect. The signature of Thomas Wolfe was hard to decipher, but the Smith book was published by Scribners in 1935, the year when the great editor Maxwell Perkins helped to reduce the second ungainly suitcase full of papers brought in by the former NYU teacher into a thousand-page book, under the title of "Of Time and the River." Wolfe could easily have picked up the Smith curio in Perkins' office.
I take the Smith tome out periodically. Tom Wolfe says he got a good deal of entertainment out of this book, and I check through it reverently, looking for notes. Except for a foodstain or two (Tom's or Gertrude's?), there is nothing to indicate that this "omnium Gatherum," chockful of arcane bits (S. Johnson, Hood and Henley were sons of booksellers, lower middle class) has been seriously read by anyone. But at least Wolfe has held it, dipped into it somewhat, and I have promised myself to read it. One of these days.
One of these days Wally Dobelis will come back to current events.
Revive the Morality Lesson in School
The proposals to revive school prayer, or a moment of silence, are not just attempts to coerce religious observance. They are largely meant to reestablish public morality. In the Engel decision of 1962 the Supreme Court of the United States declared that we will not be coerced to worship in school. Implicit in that decision was that we will not publicly declare a moral position. President Kennedy also declared that teaching morality is the function of the home. Consequently, character education, which stemmed back to the beginning of the XX Cent., John Dewy and the concept of a teacher who knewmore than the students was superseded by the new "cultural relativism" theory and "values clarification" method (Sidney Simon, Leland W. Howe and Howard Kirschenbaum, 1972), which declared that the teacher was to be presented as just another person with values, often confused ones. A lot of the teaching community bought into this. Now, 32 years after Kennedy, it is evident that leaving morality to the hom e and to the individual youngster is a total failure. Even the best homes have been starined, since Mom left, to get a job. Mrs Madelyn Murray O'Hare, the great atheist, and the other people who sued schools for continuing prayers passed the wrong message, the message that morality is wrong. That was and is deadly. And the people who valiantly continued to pray, in Jesus' name, did no better by passing a sectarian message, to confirm Mrs. Murray's thesis. Bringing the issue of morality back to the schools has become nearly impossible. The prayer advocates assume that a Psalm and the Ten Commandments will get through to kids who are zonked out by rock video, media violence and maybe even savage streets. It won't sell.
The family structure is no longer the force Kennedy wistfully blabbed about. Mom is busy outside, bringing in the needed 2nd income, instead of keeping the hearth going. Adolescents object to family-imposed morality, which is often tinted by money considerations. A father's or mother's orders will often be disobeyed in principle, and there is no point in pushing them, if you want rapport with your teenager. Prayers will not touch kids who view themselves as outsiders.
Peer group action is what determines an adolescent's acceptance of rules. This is such a simple thing that it is shocking not to have it recognized. Adolescents do not rebel against peer group; they rebel against parents. It is so stupid and so simple. And in many areas the teachers, the church, the community morality and the general tone of the community do play a role in determining the kids' ways, because they are other than the oppressive family, and can influence the peer group. Not always, but a small percent gained is better than nothing.
As to the means of building morality: a period of silence in school will build something, but it is not a positive statement. A prayer period will build more, but but it cannot be voted in. Besides, prayer works with the convinced, for many others it may be a big yawn, or an example of ritualized coercion.
To continue with the history, "values clarification" eventually faded, but much damage was done. Meanwhile,certain forward-thinking educators in the 1990s across the country initiated classes in character education, where young kids tell tales and discuss events of bravery and principled behavior and obtain positive reinforcement for taking moral positions. Prompted by concerns about increasing violence, promiscuity and drug abuse, character education is supported by people of all political persuasions.About one in five school districts offer formal programs, of varying types. This works on a local level, when no attempts to codify the positions is made. In codifying, the only principles that can be agreed upon are the motherhood ones: respect for human dignity, demonstration of active responsibility for the welfare of others, integration of individual interests and social responsibilities, demonstration of integrity, application of moral principles when making choices and judgments, and seeking of peaceful resolution of conflicts. This is what the values committee of Mt. Lebanon, PA school board boiled their proposed 40 principles down to.They had to drop respect for life, environment and religion-related issues. This is borne out in opinion polls, when 95 percent of respondents endorse teaching of honesty and telling truth, and respect for others, but only 49 support the broad concept of character education.And then there is a fearful 39 percent of parents who still view morality as a subject for home only, presumably largely out of fear of explicit sex ed and such.
But we should not give up. While staying in a hotel with cable TV, I recently had a surprise. On NIckelodeon, Nick at Night presented old Dragnet shows, where Sgt. Friday combatted and won against a wife beater and a child molester. Pure tales of morality, from the 1950s and '60s. I had forgotten about them, and they were actually interesting to watch. And there were more moral-lesson shows. One could do a lot worse than play them for children and make a class discussion of the principles involved. There are huge libraries of shows with a powerful moral to the story, from the days when comic dysfunctional family lives and the actions of crude teenage jerks were not the subject of prime time TV giggles. The Republican majority would do well to consider using public broadcasting facilities to transmit tales of morality for classroom use.
Dysfunction and its results should be addressed in such shows directly, showing the consequences. Teenage mothers, people whose teeth rot and who die at age 32, victims of drug trade and use, children neglected by alcoholic parents, junkies and convicts, they all hav e to be shown as examples of thee wages of today's sins.And good role models.
Why doesn't the education establishment cut the Gordisn knot by requesting that Congress apportion a time slice on public TV for morning shows combatting such common enemies as drugs, child abuse, juvenile crime and bullies, and a teachers' guide pamphlet of the issues involved, and start with that? There willbe plenty of time to argue appropriateness of additional issues later. First let's make a beginning.
Also, let's consider a lesson of morality. IF this moment is devoted to a reading and explanation of the Gettysburg Address, the Golden Rule, the words of Martin Luther King, Martin Buber, the Rolling Stones, Mohammed the Prophet or Mohammed X, or Snoop Doggy Dog, we are all ahead. We really need this.The adolescent from a functional family will not be hurt; the one from a disfunctional family will be helped.
In terms of effectiveness, prayer in school will not work with the unconvinced. It is also judged unconstitutional. Morality lessons, stories of valor and history, will work, and bring us together, to fight for a noble and holy cause, our children.
Wally Dobelis thanks the NYTimes for much of the character education material, and anonymous contributor RT for the thought.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Garbage Will Cost You - Part II
No matter how the garbage situation resulting from the closing of the Fresh Kills Landfill 5 1/2 years from now is resolved, the citizens will pay, because sending garbage by rail or boat out of state is more expensive than sending it by barge to good old Staten Island.
Fresh Kills today processes over 13,000 tons of garbage daily, brought in by barges. That is often expressed as 27,000,000 pounds, over three pounds for every man, woman and child in the city. The numbers do not include the New York Times and the glass, metal and plastic that go into recycling.
The 3,000 acre landfill, the size of 225 Yankee Stadiums, has some mountains of garbage as high as 150 feet (15 stories), covered with dirt and grass. Confusion and lesser numbers result if an older area and staging areas are omitted from the count. The technology and the area is a tourist attraction, with interested experts world-wide coming to study it regularly. Current dumping is confined to 800 acres. Fresh dumped refuse is covered fast, cutting down on the gull population's breakfast. But there is a decomposition process, emitting methane gas (about 1/20 of the national emissions), 25 percent of which is captured and converted to fuel use. Nevertheless, the odor persists. There is also leachage (a hard word to pronounce), or leaking, since the 48-year old dump has no liner, and rainwater brings solubles with some toxins into the surrounding waterways. After closing, the city will spend another $775 million over a 30-year period to stabilize the landfill, which includes overrlaying the fill with a plastic membrane to stop future rain penetration, capturing the leachate and removing the toxins, and capturing more of the methane (it is poison; think of New Zealand, world champion producer of lambshanks, actively suffering from the uncontrollable emanations of its 70 million sheep). Fortunately methane converts into natural gas. Will the process work? Well, the smaller Pelham Bay Landfill, actively accepting 2,600 tons a day for 15 years and closed in 1978, still brings leachate directly into the more inland Eastchester Bay at the rate of 30 to 50 gallons a minute. Note that the responsibility for cleanup shifts to Parks and Recreation Department.
The Mayor's committee of 12, appointed to resolve the problem of alternate ways of disposing the 13,000 tons of New York's residential garbage every day, has to come up with a solution by October 1. It may recommend expensive export, with some pious words involving more citizenly responsibility in recycling. This is a group of professionals from city and state agencies, including ecology, health and economic development people. Names are not available, and no publicity is given to their deliberations, not to speak of hearings. Cost shifting by charging the household (building, coop) for the garbage by the bag may be proposed. Should we not be part of the process?
Parenthetically, isn't it funny how cost shifting back to the consumer has become the government's answer to social problems? We see that when the Transit Authority charges school kids for subway and bus travel, and when the hospitals put the excess costs of Medicaid and Medicare patients on insured clients' bills. What is government for, really? Just to pay civil servants' salaries?
The states that take our daily 12,000 tons of commercial garbage - Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Indiana - really don't want an increase in garbage imports, no matter how much a starving locality needs the funds and how environmentally acceptable the imports are.The U.S. Senate has already passed a states' rights act permitting a ceiling on garbage imports, and its counterpart is pending in the House. Guy Molinari, Staten Island's Borough President, who forced the advance in the date of closig Fresh Kills from 2010 to 2001, does not want to be tagged as the assassin who buried New York in garbage, and claims that "we will beat the states in the courts." Yes, there is a Supreme Court decision that garbage movement qualifies as interstate commerce and therefore not within the purview of state laws. States cannot discriminate against chosen exporters or set arbitrary limits. This came up when in 1987 the Long Island barge with 3,100 tons of offal traveled for months through inland waterways futilely looking for a landfill site. Will this decision stand up in today's court?
So, there we are. I have made a tongue-in-cheek recommendation to buy Liberia, and ship the garbage across the Atlantic. More realistically, can we handle it within the U.S.?
Well, we can change our ways to produce a relatively garbage-free environment. Obviously the lifestyles of New Yorkers and all other urban dwellers who do not live off the land will have to alter radically to decrease the polluting and pernicious effects of garbage.
Most non-compostable, that is non-organic garbage comes from packaging. It is often said "Why do we have so much wrapping?"
Packaging came as the result of mass production of agricultural goods, ease of transpotation and less dependence on local products, public taste for off season luxuries, and therefore increased need for shelflife of food products. It killed Mom and Pop non-agribus small scale farming. As a result of more people and smaller living quarters in the cities, and therefore less shelf space in kitchens, smaller and smaller packages also became desirable.
Some of us still know of "rushing the growler," that is people going to a bar to have a reusable jug filled with beer from a reusable barrel. As a young child, I recall having reusable milk bottles filled from an open-top container, by a grocery clerk using a dipper (don't shudder, he closed it between uses, with ladle and funnel inside). And today you can still order seltzer in reusable siphon bottles from a local soda maker. And there are greenmarkets supplying fresh vegetables and fruit all through the year, by storing the harvest in local cold storage rooms, then bringing out the requisite amount for the market day. That is the way apples are supplied all year long, and the concept can be extended to some other fruit and locally grown vegetables. No need for most frozen vegetables, canned vegetables and fruit, and juices too can be served from reusable barrels. With that we have the solutions for reducing the need for packaging and garbage in five major areas - beer, soda, vegetables, fruit and juice. Remember, we have the miracle of refrigeration.
Of course, it will cost, more labor in the grocery store and less employment in the packaging industry. But it will also reduce destruction of forests and other natural resources. Again, refrigeration saves the day , the great saving factor in preserving food, which our forebears did not have. Everybody knows that the European discovery of the Far East was prompted by the need for spices that would help the taste of food turning rancid in the Winter. Salt helped, and salt pork that kept was a major staple, as was smoked meat. This is no longer our problem.
Incresing the size of packaging of goods that cannot be sold fresh will further reduce garbage production. My cat's food now comes in a 14 oz can. In the drugstore, we can get a quart squeeze bottle of shampoo instead of a pint, and squeeze hair lotion instead of spraying it. Squeeze bottles are also reusable and refillable. Think of going back to reusable sanitary napkins and diapers - not all that difficult, we now have washing machines!
Some fill-in details: The Sanitation Department has a budget of $575 million for the upcoming year; there are 7,200 uniformed members of a total staff of 9,800. Of the 6,000 vehicles 2,000 are for collections, 1,000 are out in the streets daily. Wally Dobelis thanks Assistant Commissioner for Public Affairs Lucian Chalsen for the facts.
The World of Bill Gates
If your livelihood is in the world of computers, you may well share my feelings. I'm bothered by Bill Gates. I'm worried about his impact on my life. He is an innovative marketing genius who is shaping our society's cultural destiny, from a Microsoft-oriented profit-making vision. And now he has written a book, The Road Ahead (with Nathan Myhrvold and Peter Rinearson, Viking, N.Y., $29.95), a history, a forecast and a description of his electronic house. The San Simeon that a technocrat would build.
Gates, who is 40 and whose company is 20, did not create MS-DOS, the operating system that made him rich when it became the standard "traffic cop" software of the Personal Computer environment. He bought it, for $50,000, from Seattle Computers. When IBM decided to give him the operating systems contract for the IBM PC in 1981, he managed to retain the rights to sell MS-DOS, as a pre-installed package, on all the IBM PC clones, a much larger market than IBM alone. That was the key to his immense success. He made DOS the standard, on 140 of the 170 million PCs, and created a virtual monopoly over all PCs but the Apples. When he decided to match the competing Apple's user-friendly Macintosh icon-oriented operating system, prevalent in the school market, in the years between 1986 and 1990 he created the successful Windows operating system, nice to the eye but slow and heavily memory-oriented. Nevertheless, it was gladly accepted by computer manufacturers, because Intel was developing the faster 386, 486 and Pentium memory chips, equal to the task. Pre-installed on all the new computers, Windows forced the entire user community to spend billions on new hardware, software, or to upgrade existing equipment. Was Microsoft overtaken by competitors who could supply better software? No, quite the contrary, Windows beat out the superior IBM OS/2.2. Then, in 1993, Microsoft decided to combine communications and networks with its operating system, and came up with another heavyweight, known in the development community as Chicago and sold as Windows 95 in 1995, after many a delay. It should have had another year's delay, to make it less memory-requiring and faster, but who cares! The manufacturers love it as much as they loved Windows, because it sells more hardware. It has built-in network, which helps Microsoft beat out Novell and other competitors in the environment where many computers must be strung together to talk to each other. It also accesses Internet, and there is a question as to the manner in which it impedes other network-access methods. There have been anti-trust complaints against Microsoft for prematurely announcing products and thereby stifling competitors who may be well ahead technologically but are unable to sell their product because the buyers will wait for Microsoft's software, in the expectation that it will integrate with all of their other Microsoft systems. It's an unfair ploy, devised by IBM in their heyday and adopted by Microsoft with great success.
Did we, the user community, need all this continuous accelerated multi-billion dollar upgrading? The corporate market seems to accept it and thrive with the changes. As an individual, I had no need for them, and neither did many other individuals who use the PC for word processing and spread sheets, the main accounting function. I work in MS-DOS, with a 386 PC, sneered at by the kids who want leading edge products, because... When you ask why, the answer becomes vague, hostile and eventually settles on the access speed and memory needed for Intenet, the great deceiver. I stay out of the fascinating but time-wasting and non-productive Internet browsing.
As you can see, Bill Gates is a mixed blessing on the national resources. He forces the US and, actually, the entire world to accept his process of deliberate accelerated, non-beneficial technological obsolescence. But that is the industry, and he cannot afford to slow down, else the $6 billion a year income flow stops and many of the 17,000 techies in Belleville, WA, many of them millionaires in company stock, lose their jobs and their investment portfolios.
Where I really blow the gasket is when Gates starts setting standards for culture and civilization. This marketing genius of limited horizons - he decided to drop out of a card-playing Harvard existence in the 2nd year to start a computer buiness - is building a house with 40 screens for TV, for the information highway and for music. He does not need the theatre, or concerts, and he does not need books. All of the above can be piped in. And he wants a wallet-PC society that eliminates retail banking and tellers, bill-payment, credit cards, 1st class mail for bills, and letters (he has fax and e-mail for us). Retail store operations may be obsolete; individual intruction in schools ditto, since he can eliminate individual teaching with multi-media presentations. Gates is essentially building towards an anti-social form of society, with no need for personal interaction. Only books that are read front-to-back will remain in print (hard-copy) format for now, whereas all reference works should be multi-media, with print, pictures and sound on a color screen. Research, such as pulling together all the material about Katharine Hepburn's movies, will be so much easier on-line (some research!). He feels bad for himself, for having had to use hard-copy encyclopedias in his youth. I don't think he has cracked many books after dropping out, though he claims to like The Bridges of Madison County, an indicator of his taste.
The fact that advanced technology has a negative impact on employment cannot be fought, if it is not Gates it will be someone else who will think of ways to use the information highway to cut jobs. But becoming an arbiter in determining the form and content to the nation's culture? Corporate culture, while powerful, normally remains internal to the organization. Bill Gates brings it to the outside, as a role model, an icon, and not just for the young. I wish he would buzz off. Make money, not culture, Bill Gates. The old ways of society are okay.
Wally Dobelis and T&V wish a Happy Holiday Season for all of our readers.
And especially for old friends from ST/PCV, some not seen for years - Gertrude Barber, Bertha Dotz, Mary Hanclosky, Mae Kehoe, Mary Rapp, Lil Riback, Hilda Strassheim, Ellen Torchin, Jean Vallely, and Ann Hanus.
Gate was`a 2nd yr man in the Currrier residence, an outer house in Harvard when the MITSComputers' Altair PC 8989 , a kit for $800, was announced. He and childhood friend and felleow programmer 3 years his senior Paul Allem moved to albuquerque and formed Microsoft, to sell their version of BASIC adapted for the Altair. They expanded to FORTRAN PC version, Radio Shack 100 in 1983???; sold well in Japan, Paul Ballmer came, and MS moved to Belleville WA in 1979, the year when VisiCalc, the predecessor of Lotus 123, and the wordprocesors WordStar and WordPerfect were first marketed.A year later Gates bought 86-DOS (hired Tim Patterson), and in 1981 the IBM PC came out with DOS 1.0. DOS 2.0 came for the IBM XT (a 286 machine) in 1983, and a year later DOS 3.0 for the IBM AT.
That was also the first year for the Aple Macintosh, successor of Lisa.
In 1985 MS collab with IBM on OS/2, but also came out with the Win 1.03. In 1986 COMPAQ, afounded by 3 TI engineers came out with the first 386, beating IBM, who was holding back to protet their line of minicomputers. That was the year for improved IBM OS2 1.0, and Win 2. Win 3 was in 1990, MS-DOS 5.0 in 91, Win 3.1 in 92, and Win 95 in 95. Public in 19xx, 17k empl, $6B ann sales, college campus, 1MS Way, crisis atmosphere, go-go
ARPANET 1960s-89, thereafter Internet, w/ leased lines from 5 cos.
Gates: Encarta (F&Wag); Virt Real; tactels vs pixels; Email, videoconf;shopping;teachers-monitor, eval guide;games gambl;budgets;ebooks
Sensational Revelations in The Good Book
How long before we have an upscale sitcom, Abraham's Walk (nice touch of East Hampton chic there), or Adam's Family or Babylon 50210 (sort of like Dallas), with weekly ads ("Will Onan give Tamar the baby she desires? Be prepared for a surprise!")?
Over the past several decades revisionist biographers have had a field day, deconstructing great literary and political figures, and digging out sensational private facts and making outrageous surmises about them.Not that all of these were secrets - President F.D.Roosevelt's disability was an open secret, and he was protected by the media, to preserve respect and dignity, particularly in a time of war and crises. Now there is great outcry when Bob Dole stumbles and falls off the speaker's stand.The drinking and womanizing in Washington since the White House was rebuilt in 1812 had not been a secret; the press had made no great bones of it because it was then the culture; now, all of it is held under a microscope and gleefully exposed. Not that the mores have changed for the better - our sports and entertainment role models are not censured for what is deemed immoral behavior. Nevertheless, news and biography to us is no longer interesting unless someone is tweaked, whether it is a moralist like Willa Cather or a humanitarian like Eleanor Roosevelt; analysis of facts and figures to reach a meaningful conclusion is too dull.
Not all great figures have been demeaned; Theodore Roosevelt is still safely held in esteem, even by Public Television. However, now is is the turn of God and the Patriarchs of the Bible, as Public TV lays them out for your view, warts and all, in a series on Genesis. We had a preview of that, at a Barnes and Noble sponsored panel discussion.
Of the participants, Everett Fox and Robert Alter are both scholars, teachers and translators of Genesis, the Fox version being deemed closest ever to the original Hebrew. Burton Visotzky is a scholar of the Midrash, the interpretations of the Bible dating back to the Second temple, a period of 500 years before the arrival of Christianity. Karen Armstrong, a teacher in the College for Rabbis in London, is a former nun and author of the bestselling History of God. E.M.Broner (The Telling) originated the Seder Sisters, a group of interdenominational feminists who meet yearly for the traditional Passover celebration (Steinem,Abzug,Pogrebin).
Genesis, the 1st Book of Moses, is in two parts - the 1st 11 chapters describe Creation, banishment of Adam and Eve and the Flood, the 12th through 50th chapters deal with history - Abraham and Sarah, Lot and the fall of Sodom, Isaac and Rebecca and their sons Esau and Jacob; the latter's wives Rachel and Leah and the sons of Jacob (Israel); history of Joseph and his brethren.
The dysfunctionality and flawed family values of the Patriarchs came in for immediate attention - from Abraham's surrender, often deemed despicable, of his wife Sarah into the Pharaoh's harem, under the pretense that she was his sister, in fear for his life (Ch. 12; again, in Ch. 20; similar, Isaac and Rebecca, Ch.26). The Patriarchs were dictatorial; there was sibling conflict, fratricide and attempted fratricide (Cain and Abel Ch.4, Joseph Ch.37), theft of inheritance (Jacob and Esau, prompted by Rebecca, Ch.27), incest (Lot Ch.19, Reuben Ch.35, Judah Ch.38), treacherous massive revenge over rape (Dinah Ch.34), contrasted with treating women as chattel (the beautiful Sarah and Rebecca, also Lot's virgin daughters Ch.19), Abraham's willingness to sacrifice Isaac (Ch.22) and let Ishmael go, at the risk of perishing (Ch.21), Laban's tricking Isaac into marrying both daughters (Ch.29), Joseph's crafty economic conquest of Egypt on behalf of his Pharaoh during the famine (Ch.47).
Some spice was added to the presentations by the feminist Marilyn French, who accused the women panel members of ignoring the anti-feminine bias of the Bible. This led to a discussion of the strong, wilful, even sarcastic women of Genesis (Sarah, Rachel, Tamar, Lot's daughters) imposing their will over complaisant or weakened men, the mores (polygamy) of the times, and the observation that the best writers -Shakespeare - could be likewise faulted. Boycotting the best observers as biased can lead to further discarding of the literature of the DWEM (dead white European males), grist to the mills of the multiculturalists.
Another significant concern brought out by a listener, that this discussion tends to discredit God and the Patriarchs, was countered by noting that the Bible has withstood such scrutiny for 2,500 years and can take care of itself. The writers of the word of God have been dispassionate, recording events and genealogy, without expression of criticism.
As to God, Genesis tell us that this was a period when the people of the Bible wavered between monotheism and the Baal family of gods. God walked the Earth, and spoke to the the Patriarchs directly (until Joseph; afterwards, only to the Prophets). Abraham, Isaac and Lot physically wrestled with God's emissaries, the angels. Note that the final committment to monotheism, in the ten -point extension of Abraham's two-point Covenant with God (one God and the promise of a homeland, from the river of Egypt to Euphrates), made with Moses on Mount Sinai ("thou shalt have no other gods before me"), came only in Exodus, 800 years after Abraham. This God of the Fathers is described by the panel as inconstant, overreacting (The Flood), impossible to predict, demanding of tribute, who tested the faith by requesting human sacrifice which he stopped at the point of execution (the Test, Ch.22); in other words, still in the process of maturing. He set up Adam and Eve for the fall, the loss of Eden (Chs. 2/3). After the Creation, he seemed to have lost control of humanity, letting it go every which sinful way. The Bible says that God Creates peace and God creates evil (Visotsky), and may have gone through a process of maturation.
What was not not brought out sufficiently by the discussion is that religionists have wrestled over the meaning of these events for the past 2,500 years, and have found viable ethical explanations for the divine acts. The acts can even be looked at in today's corporate management terms. The Loss of Eden brought Adam and Eve out of a childlike Paradise existence into real Life, with hardships, need for developing self-sufficiency in eking ot a human existence ("free will") - a good parental, educational and managerial practice on part of God, who wants to get out of hands-on management, since He has an extensive and demanding span of control, a large Universe to administer. (That's a kind of Peter Drucker line - Descartes would have God as a watchmaker, who walks away when the kids start tinkering.) However, this introduced all the problems of relinquishing control, such as sin. God's answer? First, destruction, through the Flood (which raises the questions of the more recent parallels, such as slavery and the Holocaust), and saving the righteous, through Noah's Ark. Thereafter, a more humane venue of reconciliation through repentance, introduced by the Test (sacrifice of Isaac), a mechanism of return from sin by sacrifice, a means of reaching out and touching a personal God, valid and in use today, even though we have substituted the act of writing a check for the giving of a ram or a bullock. Either act helps to feed the priests, God's administrative staff, who have no farm or property to feed themselves. The obeisance of Abraham reaffirmed God's power, the reestablishment of control in the creation of two great nations (Isaac's and Ishmael's; Abraham is Ibrahim in the Koran) under God. That mankind continues to fail God since the Fall is a continuing corporate management problem. His administrators have not been without fault, regardless of their faith - witness Giordano Bruno and other victims of the auto-da-fe, as well as the 450 priests of Baal put to death; the Crusades, and the Muslim wars of faith.
It may well be that the current interest in Genesis is fed by the sensational nature of the events highlighted in the discussions, reflective of the TV Genesis series. Genesis ends with reconciliation, a positive result. If the positive aspects and interpretations of the acts of God are diminished in the discussion, and religion loses respect, on the balance, humanity has lost. If we religion descends to the level of soap opera, we have lost. In other words, to quote a non-biblical songwriter, we must accentuate the positive.
Hooray for the programs of readings in bookstores! In the 1960s-70s there were two emporiums that offered space for readings and book club meetings. The originator, Frances Steloff of the Gotham Book Mart, on W 47 Street, in the middle of the diamond market, held meetings of the Joyce club, reading and deciphering inner menings in the oeuvre of the master. This continued and expanded under Andreas Brown. The newcomer in the 1960s was Elias Wilentz's Eight Street Bookshop, now defunct, where Ginsberg, Oppenheimer and other poets of the Beat and successor generations read their works.
Today Barnes and Noble continues the tradition, with gusto. In the T&V country, the world's most literate community (proven by simple statistical analysis: we have five B&Ns, more than anyplace in the world) three B&N stores hold author book signings, readings and discussion groups: 17th St, Chelsea and Cooper Square. 17th St has up to seven events weekly, led by the affable Jessica Reighard, if you include the cook book events held outdoors in the Greenmarket. They set up 200 chairs on the fourth floor, one above the coffee and journal emporium (only in America!), and people arrive an hour early to get good seats, just like at the People's Symphony at Washington Irving High - in fact, may be the same crowd.
In Oct overflow crouds came out for the fibber Paul Theroux, and for Joyce Carol Oates,Andrew Young, Jocelyn Elders and B.B.King (alas he neither fibbed nor played) sessions. But the best was the Genesis mob, the group that came to hear the five biblical scholars, in conjunction with the Oct-Nov Public TV series on Genesis.
Thanks to J, E, D and P, the writers of God's word; to Rabbi Kushner, Dr. Gunther Plaut, Phillip Rothman, and the five wise people of the dias at B&N, and Johhny Mercer.
Every department had Christmas parties, but the Supply Dept on 18th floor had the one to close the day with. Dr. Bender's parties served pink ladies, which were concocted by Dr. Lambkin, who also did the urinanalyses. The "specimens" arrived from the Medical Examiners' offices by mail in little ampules, wrapped with the identification slip. We once got a hold of a properly addressed slip, with the P.O. cancellation but no name, filled the tube with beer and wrote the insured's name as I. P. Standing. The slip came back from Dr Lambkin's lab with the contents identified as a trace of barley and hops. He was a good sport and his drinks were great. By the way, no one was allowed to use Dr. Bender's bathroom, unless invited; if you did not know the rules and he saw you, your manager got a call and would tell you, sort of shamefacedly and making light of it.
The big event was to be invited to the SWS Ageny Christmas party downtown, with plenty to drink and eat. Tiny Arthur C. Warshaw with the deep cutting voice would take some of us youngsters to a side room and would tell this story of the Creation. That was about the way he, Jerry Schnur and the tall deceptively slow-talking Dick Spaulder took over the sleepy Leyendecker-Schnur agency and built it up to a broker-oriented powerhouse. They attributed some of the success to taking taxis rather than the subway during the great Depression, and thus seeing several more brokers a day. I always thought that the real secret was the their cashier, the motherly Miss Donovan who knew how to get underwriting action, by getting all of her cases reviewed once a day on the telephone by the suspense section. You had to be sharp to handle SWS.
Then came the 1960s, Fourth Ave acquired a center median and plantings and we became 201 Park Avenue South. Jerry Parker and Health came in in 1954, and Bob Wilcox brought in Group in 1957, all under the guidance of James A (no period) McClain, whose benevolent eyes look at all visitors from the entrance of the Annex Building, designed by the great Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (but why did he put a row of clotheshangers in the basement as well as on populated floors? Ah well...) In the old building, the beautiful balcony overlooking the 4th Avenue lobby diappeared, and mosaic walls took the place of the marble, much to the disgust of the architectural preservationists who created the Landmarks Commission after the magnificent Penn Station of McKim Mead and White was permitted to be torn down. Our 1911 D'Oensch and Yost building was landmarked, both interior (the lunchroom, originally the Collection Department, where policyholders came to pay premiums, is a great example of a beautiful public space) and exterior (we have the largest copper mansard roof in the city). The free sandwich lunches became subsidized hot meals. The floors freed up by the exodus to the Annex acquired publishing tenants. E.P.Dutton had their exhibit of the original A.A.Milne's Winnie the Poo and Tigger dolls in the showcase, and we had occasional elevator sightings of trench-coated Mickey Spillane, their author of such hardboiled detective fiction as "I, The Jury." Mickey played the part, a wide brim hat down on his eyes.Another tenant, T.Y.Crowell, had such authors as John Kenneth Galbraith, whose head nearly touched the elevator roof when I saw him on the elevator with his editor. A "Good morning, Ambassador," got us into a three-floor conversation. Another author, the poet Peter Orlovsky, Allen Ginsberg's significant other, only stared dourly at his open-toed sandals as he rode on the elevator.
In 1965 Max's Kansas City opened up next door, in the location of the old Southern Restaurant, and that brought scads of artists into the area, of which another time. Also, Andy Warhol's Factories (there were two locations) across the Union Square made this a prime pop and op art environment. Guardianites were tolerated in Max's because it was our turf, and we laid claim to it at 4:30 P.M., when any self-respecting Max's denizen would have barely rolled out of bed. We were gone long before the real night-time revelries began.
The Guardian kept growing, and we picked up rental space at 105 Madison Ave.
In 1982 the company had enough of New York's high taxes, low educational levels of startup employees, and decided to direct the expansion outwards. We were getting to be a group major medical insurance power, needing many claim approvers and underwriters, and had to look for a low-cost, trainable employee environment. Three areas of the country seemed right, and we started with Bethlehem, PA, or more properly Allentown, where the demise of heavy steel industry had left a lot of white collar avalability, and the good schools offered more for the future expansion. From a rented space in 1982 we moved into a industrial development area, building a 3-story escalator office in 1984, designed by King xxx of and adding a mirror-image wing in 1988. The computer center moved there, out of New York, along with certain life and health (now disability) operations, and Group kept growimg. In 1992 we added a warehouse building, some 800 feet away, to house supplies (I remember getting out of the way of a warehouse fork-lift bearing down at what seemed 35 M.P.H.), and the offsite storage of computer files.
In 1985??? we decided to expand th the Midwest, and rented space in Appleton, Wi, a beautiful lake community, with many paper mills and some insurance companies, notably Lutheran Brotherhood. Eventually we built a 3-story (same designer), for xxx employees. It is heavily group major medical oriented operation, as is the next expansion, 1988???, in Spokane, WA.
Spokane was a mining town. I remember the parts of the town set in the middle of a mining pit, the modern buildings in the Civic Center, and also the young gal who jumped out of her spanking new pickup truck in a shopping center, to announce to a friend "How'd you like that! My husband gave it to me on my 16th birthday!" It's the West, you New York slickers, get with it. The Spokane building is 3 stories, with xx employees. This is the first one that ruled no-smoking, and I would see lots of people on the back porch.
As of 10/95, in the Guardian interoffice telephone book there are 4500 numbers. Also 100 ?? officers, country wide. Long gone are the days when you could pick up the phone in NY and dial three digits and get anyone. When you dialed GOD, you got Dan Lyons. I told this secret to my then manager, who looked at me, picked up the phone and dialed up, then hung up and stared, sort of white faced. I think he was worried. Today he might be more worried, because the phones - at least those of the secretaries - show the dialer's name and extension, so when someone says "yes, Wally," you know where you are. The kid in DP who used to make dirty interoffice calls in the 1960s until found out and fired would have a hard time today.
As to offices, we have two floors in the building past former Max's (now a Korean grocery), 215 PAS, the former Burroughs Adding Machine headquarters. This building, our size, was offered to us for about $7 million way back, as was the needle-domed Chrysler Building in the '40s ("the parachutist's nightmare").Who's to say whether we should have bought them? We also lease two floors at 233 PAS, above Canastel's, a trendy restaurant. And a huge floor housing all of group's administrative offices, at 225 PAS, one block over. On a rainy day Guardianites have to carry umbrellas as they scurry between offices, particularly because yet another group office on corner 18th and 5th Ave, above Daffy's department store, handles compliance.
The most senior male long-term employees still coming in every day are Hugh Howell, age 70, who started in 1940. I'm next, age 66, started in 1950, then Ed Kane, our legal beagle, of the same age group. Thereafter, another break. I will not speak of the ladies, who have their own privacy concerns. I bring this up because of the changes in the world. Unfortunately the next generations will not be able to experience the same continuity. My son's college placement people caution the grads to expect three career changes - that's profession, folks - and eight job changes. The opportunity to build up pensions dwindles. It's almost like back to the 1950s when my uncle got fired by Con Edison after 19 1/2 years of service, to avoid giving him a pension. ERISA cured that, at least for our generation. I can also look back to the kids who jumped jobs - particularly one auditor who left after 8 1/2 years, with no pension credits. We have to make sure our kids understand this. The world has changed, but the Guardian ship sails on. Fair weather, gang!
Farella 1943- 68
Howell 40 - 70
Where Are the Lenni-Lenapes Who Sold Manhattan?
While visiting with T&V neighbors for a two-day party and birthday celebration at their Hemlock Farms weekend hideaway in the Poconos near Lake Wallenpaupack, we stayed overnight at a most delightful Bed and Breakfast.
The Double W B&B, at the Triple W Riding Stable in Honesdale PA, near Hurley (717/226-2620) is run by a sturdy lady, Doris Waller, with curly white hair, who is three-quarters Lenni-Lenape (that means "original people"), also known as the Delawares, a nation within the Algonquian Native American family. In case you're wondering what this has to do with T&V terriotory, the Lenni-Lenapes are our hosts, having sold Manhattan to Peter Minuit, first Director General of New Netherlands in 1626, for 60 guilders ($24), in a questionable contract. Alan Dershowitz would make mincemeat of it. Anyway, they helped create New Amsterdam, much to their eventual sorrow. Old Peter Stuyvesant (Director General 1647-64) took their children hostage, to insure good behavior. That was after the Dutch massacred Lenapes who had killed two farmers in the Hackensack area for letting their cattle mess up the Indian's corn fields.
Doris hosts the Labor Day Native American Pow Wow at her 181 acre ranch, with educational programs, arts and crafts demonstrations and sales (she had 40 participants from various tribes with traditional silver, leather and wowen products), and dance programs. On the ranch there are 30 horses available for saddle riding and the Double W will board your horse for $300/month, in a herd, with farrier and limited in-house care services supplied by the manager, her son Kevin Waller, who has experience. If you want a stall, it is extra money, more for daily excercise. Similar boarding in Belmont would cost $1,000. T&V horsey trade please note.
Doris' great-grandfather was a shaman, and great-grandmother Kathryn a medicine woman who collected healing herbs and smoked them in a clay pipe. When Doris was born, prematurely, weighing 2 1/2 lbs, the 7th child and first daughter, her great-grandmother wrapped her and put her in a lit owen, the equivalent of a modern hospital incubator. The child survived thanks to the oven and and Eagle Brand store-bought milk.
Doris' mother was a healer too, a midwife. The environment was not favorable for Native Americans, who were looked down upon by the Anglos. Doris' family appears to have been local gentry, judging from family photographs. The women wore quality couture, garden hats and fine heeled shoes. Nevertheless, the Lenapes were outsiders.The tribe had been driven out of Pennsylvania by the successors of William Penn, a good Quaker and a friend, who in 1682 learned the language ("a gentle speech") and made friendly treaties, buying land at fair prices. After William's death in 1718, his son Thomas produced a spurious treaty giving land "as far as a man could walk in 1 1/2 days" - the Walking Purchase - to the Quaker settlers. To get the most of it, they trained three men in running and after two dropped out, one, Edward Marshall, managed to cover 60 miles of distance, giving 1,200 sq. miles to the settlers. The coastal Lenapes had to accept, under protest. Pressured by the Iroquois Federation, they moved out in the Susquehanna Valley and in time were forced further out west to Eastern Ohio (1740s), then to Spanish Missouri and north to Ontario in the 1800s, eventually reaching the dumping grounds of all displaced Native American tribes, in what is now Oklahoma.
Doris, over the past 20 years, has returned to many of her inherited ways. Lenapes practiced meditation long before the current fad, and would spend many quiet hours "letting bad thoughts wash away." They were tolerant ("never judge a man until you have walked a mile in his mocassins") and did not use corporal punishment on children - "get on that chair and sit" was the worst. When Doris' teenage brother started acting up, his father took him outside, pointed to the road and told him to take it, unless he apologized to his mother. It worked. When Doris' mother was on her deathbed, she summoned the family to announce: "The white horse was here last nigh to call me away. Never cry for me, remember the happy times. We were lucky to have each other.Throw some wildflowers to the four winds in my memory."
When Kevin Waller was married, the official ceremony was performed by his cousin, a Methodist minister, followed by a Native American celebration led by a medicine man, in which Kevin and Susanne were wrapped in a blanket, given a symbolic vase and a corn bowl, and walked to the four winds, east, west, north and south, to complete a full circle of life. The names of Grandfather Sun, Grandmother Moon and the Great Creator (Spirit) were invoked in the blessing.
Not all times were happy. The family home, on an island in Popeek Creek, was flooded in the 1920s to form the Wallenpaupack Lake and resort area, and the small pack of "the Paupacs of the Lenapes of the Munsee band" (in Grand Sachem Tashawinso's time, 1560s, the tribe split in three main groups, Unami, Munsee and Turkey) had to move, once more. Doris and her husband eventually bought the ranch, a cluster of fieldstone buildings built 130 years ago by an Italian mason, whose family settled in the area.
Still under the impact of Doris' stories, we walked through the meadows, only to run into a large enclosure with a nervous white horse pacing back and forth. To our relief, it turned out to be one of the two Arabian stallions of the ranch.
If the Poconos area appeals to you for weekend or retirement living, Hemlock Farms community, with 2500 homes on 4500 acres, may be of interest. There are 900 year-round residences and 72 miles of pawed roads, and the comunity is surrounded by 40,000 acres of state forest. The part we visited was woodsy, with no lawn upkeep to speak of. Summer life seems to center around the four lakes with beaches and boating docks, tennis courts and ballfields, indoor and outdoor swimming pools and group activities managed by a Community Association. Visitors are issued separate daily passes for entry and pool use. The main part of the property was assembled from 12 land grants issued by the Commonwelth of Pennsylvania in the 1780s (you know now how they got the land), purchased in the 1920s by contractor William Brewster and kept as a steer ranch and hunting lodge. It once served as a secret meeting place for Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. When the Brewster Corporation met with unforeseen losses in constructing the ramp for the George Washington Bridge, in 1963, the property was sold to Canadian developers, and within 10 years they built and sold 1000 homes. Current prices range upward from $72,000 for a rustic retreat to $300,00 for lakefront, and some $15,000 for acreage. Our hosts have had their house for 17 years, with excellent privacy and security.
Real and "Victimless" Crime - Is There a Difference?
On the last day of May, feeling cheerful as a lark, my wife went to Lord and Taylor's to buy a dress to wear on our son's graduation in June. In her zippered Dooney and Bourke shoulderbag was a cherished wallet, which our son gave her on Mother's Day, filled with credit cards, cash and family memorabilia. Mission accomplished, she walked South on Fifth Avenue with her shopping bags, stopping at an Au Bon Pain for a cup of coffee. You're right, when she got to the cashier, there was no money - in the few blocks of crowded avenue her zipper had been opened and the wallet was gone. She rushed back to Lord and Taylor's to see whether she had left it in the counter; the saleslady recollected that she had zippered the beautiful wallet back in the purse. Then she called me at the office (a woman at the telephone, unasked, volunteered to give her a quarter. The good hearts of the people of New York!).
Remembering the routine from the times when her wallet was stolen on a 3rd Avenue bus, and when the predecessor purse was lifted at an athletic awards dinner at the Collegiate School five years earlier, I swung into the by now familiar reporting routine, and started calling department stores and credit agencies. By the time I came to reporting the Master Card, substantial damage had already been done; three purchases totalling over $500 had been made at Saks Fifth Avenue before the system automatically shut off her credit and stopped a major purchase, a fur. This was a card that we never use, and the system recognized an unusual pattern.
This is a far cry from the primitive 1985 days, when someone in a music store had picked up the discarded carbon paper from my Master Charge purchase slip, and made two mail order buys. I called them in as phony when the charge card statement arrived, only to be told by a service clerk at the Chemical Bank that they would wait for a third one before cancelling the card. Frustrated, I remember then calling the bank's security, and the woman there stopped the card immediately. I also wrote to the bank's president to complain that their high credit card rates were probably due to losses incurred by lax security. No answer then, but the system is now interactive. I wish I could say the same about American Express - when my son's card, also seldom used, was stolen from his wallet, kept in the desk of his easily accessed dorm room, the obviously non-professional perps (how that word has crept into our language!) had made fifty small purchases - cosmetics, men's clothing from Gap and Banana Republic, women's stockings from cheap stores, even breakfasts - before the bill alerted us to the theft. Professional thieves, such as those on 5th Avenue, make their score in the first hour, I'm told, before the alert victim calls in the theft to the card issuers. A hint to future victims: be quick, call credit card companies first. (By the way, the cops at Midtown Precinct South were busy and would not take my immediate telephone report, asking me to call later. Not that it would have helped.)
This family's history as victims of crime - two muggings/holdups and five pickpocket/card thefts - clearly shows that, despite some successes, such as those claimed by Mayor Giuliani in conquering lifestyle crimes, not enough has been done. And a lot is due to Big Business' willingness to absorb crime losses without going after the "alleged perpetrators," because the silly consumers are gonna absorb the losses anyway. That goes for banks, for credit card companies, for insurers, for stores... the list is endless. And it goes more so for lawyers who abet insurance thieves. The phrase "alleged perpetrators" is indicative of our fear of involvement and of the penalties that a volunteer witness to a crime will incur, the risks of stepping forward, the loss of time and the vilification. Nothing new there, look at apostle Peter.
Another story; a friend's car touched sides slightly with another because his vehicle slid while rolling into a red light during one of the last winter's slippery snowstorms. The drivers exchanged numbers, and soon friend Bill received notice from his insurer that a car damage claim was in process. He accepted the blame (an act of honesty that other insurance claim victims subsequently told him was foolish), in the expectation of a small loss (his car had an estimated $200 dent and scratch). Soon thereafter Bill received a letter from a Staten Island law firm, requesting insurance information because a personal injury claim would also be filed. The letter told Bill not to worry, that the claim would be handled between the lawyers and the insurer and that he would not be involved. That was enough for Bill, and he decided to follow up. It turned out that the other party had claimed a totalled car -because it had been rear-ended! - and had been paid the full value of the old vehicle, over $2000. Now, the personal injury claim was for a phony whiplash injury. Bill very quickly took some pictures of his unrepaired car, submitted the accident report that he had neglected (another mistake - one should be prepared within 10 days, it might have helped the insurer), with full details, to Albany, and copied the insurer. The claims approver was ecstatic - for once she had a good response to a shoddy claim and to the crooked lawyers specializing in crooked claims. No wonder the lawyer wanted Bill to keep out of the picture. But Bill's insurance premium went up anyway.
Why was the insurer so quick to accept the phony claim and pay? Because it was cheaper and easier, and the money paid would come back in Bill's raised premiums. Why was the lawyer willing to submit palpably lying claims? Because he was working on commission, and the lies raised his fee, and there is no real mechanism to punish him when discovered in a lie. The law permits him, nay, invites him, to break the rules, we have left the door open to a roomful of money. The bar association will perhaps slap him on the wrist if Bill should take the time, incur the expenses and the witness risks associated with a complaint. Time and again, lawyers claim the right to use any tactics in the defense of "alleged perpetrators," and consequently have been empowered to commit what Bill views as legally condoned crimes in the pursuit of claims. A witness can be convicted and put in jail for lying under oath, but a lawyer can make a career by lying systematically, and even advertizing his specialty.
The other day while walking on 18th Street, I heard two young men talking of graduate school. One was discouraging the other from a law career, expounding that lawyers were slime, lower than car salesmen (probably a slur on the auto industry). He himself was dropping pre-med and going into accounting, a more reliable profession, since medicine was doomed. It is really sickening that an honorable profession has sunk so low in popular esteem, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of attorneys practice honestly.Perhaps the most damning aspect is the profession's inability and even refusal to police itself, as recently evidenced by the defeat of tort reform legislation, orchestrated by the trial attorney associations in the sacred name of consumerism.
All this leads to what the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud describes as a national fake claims bill of $79.9 Billion in 1994, up 17.4 percent in a year and costing the average family $966.14 in premiums , taxes and higher costs of goods and services. The people who tolerate "victim-less crimes" need to understand that they are the real victims.
In view of society's inability to punish non-capital crimes, pickpockets and muggers, it is no wonder that a vigilante will surface now and then. Even this writer, a person who takes a somewhat more philosophical attitude toward injustices suffered, was tempted, in anger and frustration over what has happened to his wife time and again, to go to Fifth Avenue and somehow lash out, irrationally. Further, in view of society's institutionalized response and condoning of systematic depredations (banks and insurers do not prosecute crooks, lawyers lie), it is no wonder that organized vigilantes, law and order people, militia, freemen and NRA ride through the land . This is what we have brought upon ourselves by adopting the flexible morality of "I'm OK, Jack," and "don't worry, insurance companies have lots of money" (and "taxes are unjust, there's nothing wrong with cheating on them," but that's another country). A friend just came from Israel, where half of the young people on Dizengoff Street in Tel-Aviv carry little Gallils with banana clips across the shoulder, automatics that would sweep the block, and where never a shot is heard. Is that the direction we are heading for?
Wally Dobelis claims that some of his best friends are lawyers and that his lunch companions are all honorable men and women, and that William Shakespeare was overreacting (King Henry VI Part II, Act IV, Scene 2, Line 86).
Further to the history of the Democratic Reform Movement: former City Councilmember Carol Greitzer sends greetings and a correction. She became President of the Village Independent Democrats in 1960, District Leader in 1961, but she never held the office of Secretary in the club.
"To begin with, let's kill all the lawyers," is the line, in case you have mislaid your Bard.
Is Saddam Hussein Our Secret Protector?
The Kurds must be the most suicidal non-fulfilled non-autonomous five million people in the world. Bunched up in the Iraq/Iran/Turkey triangle, these ethnic Sunni Muslim Persians want independence and territory, but cannot unite, and have given, by asking for Iraqi help, Saddam Hussein a chance to destroy the leadership of their more rebellious, Iran-oriented faction. The help was requested by Massoud Barzani's Kurdish Democratic Party, battling the Iran-oriented Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. It was incredible that Barzani asked for Hussein's help, despite the Iraqis' history of destruction of Kurds over the recent decades.
Saddam Hussein, since his assumption of power in Iraq in 1979, has been at the root of continuous death and suffering, both abroad and in his country, through purges. In 1980 he caused a bloody eight-year war with Shiite Iran, heirs of the 2,500-year empire and hated sometime ovelords, resulting in over 2 million deaths in both countries. In 1988 he dropped mustard gas and cyanide on rebellious Kurds, killing thousands. In August 1990 he invaded and looted Kuwait, threatening Saudi Arabia and forcing the US, under the umbrella of the UN, to form an unusual alliance that included such countries as Israel, Syria and Egypt, for the purpose of liberating Kuwait. The coalition, with airplane and missile attacks, caused the Iraqis to withdraw, with a loss of 85,000 Iraqui lives. But the coalition did not invade Iraq, and Hussein remained in power. Not daunted, he attacked and killed thousands of rebellious Iraqi Kurds, forcing the UN and the coalition to establish a protected no-flight zone over the Kurdish triangle in north Iraq, which borders on Turkey and Iran and now houses 3 million refugees. The US has had to spend some $1 billion in Kurdish refugee relief to date. And now Hussein has reestablished his authority in north Iraq by marching in troops and destroying the Iran-supported Kurd opposition.
The US has responded by bombing Hussein's air defense sites in south Iraq and increasing its military presence in Kuwait to 5,000 troops, as a deterrent to any other Iraqi military threat to its southern neighbors. Remember, as recently as August 1994 Iraq assembled 70,000 soldiers in a show of force at the Kuwait border, forcing the US to fly in several thousand troops from Ft. Hood.
Hussein has always had major conquests in mind. While leading the bloody and costly war with Iran, he used much of Iraq's oil revenue (Iraq has 1/10 of the world's oil reserves) to finance the building of atomic weapons. In June 1981 Israel launched an unexpected preemptive air strike, bombing Hussein's atomic plant near Baghdad out of existence; but the clandestine research and attempts to buy bomb materials in the world market appear to continue.
Yet, a total evil though he may be, destroying Sadam Hussein is not in the best interests of the USA and the industrial nations. That this is US policy became perfectly evident at the end of the Gulf War in 1991, when President George Bush and his advisor Colin Powell left him in power, and is equally so in 1996, when the US is weakly retaliating against Hussein's attack on the Kurds by minimally strafing his air intelligence stations in South Iraq. Why is it so?
Well, in 1991 as well as now, Saddam Hussein and his 17 million Iraqis are the only military bastion against the powerful 65 million Muslim fundamentalist wave from Iran that could engulf and unify the Middle East against Israel and the West. If it were not for Saddam, the autocratic rulers of Saudi Arabia, the Gulf emirates, Kuwait and even Jordan might be overrun by the restive masses of nationalistic militant Muslims, fed by the aggressive fundamentalist Iranian regime. The devil has to be used to keep the terrorists in check. Saddam had to be kept subdued enough not to engage in new conquests, and powerful enough to hold off a wave of Iran-backed fundamentalists. And if Saddam were to be overthrown, a democratic Iraq would go through its own "Yugoslavia phase" and probably divide into a Shiite middle, Sunni south and a Kurdistan north. Divided Iraq would certainly be no defense against the Iranian militants, and the royal rulers in our client states - the Saudis, Bahrein, Kuwait and the emirates, and even Jordan - would topple one by one. Egypt, Algeria and Morocco, already under a considerable pressure by the militant religionists, would follow suit. The Middle East, under more uniform anti-Western Muslim fundamentalist rule, would be a destructive threat to Israel, and to the world powers that have kept it afloat with the aid of some of our client nations. World economy would be endangered because the 350 billion barrels of oil in the ground of the threatened monarchies constitute 1/2 of the world's oil reserve (260 in Saudi, 100 each in Kuwait and the United Arab Emirate) and with the 200 bb in in Iran and Iraq combined, a Middle East consortium can dictate energy prices and supply for the entire world. In 1973 the same countries did just that, utilizing their 1960 OPEC (Organization of Oil Producing Countries) structure, when irked by a monopolistic cut in oil royalties promulgated by the muscle-flexing Big Seven oil companies. The resultant OPEC embargo of oil exports to the West and the eight-fold increase in oil prices disrupted the world economy, resulting in a commendable but short-lived international effort to curb oil consumption. If it had not been for the needy OPEC members, such as Nigeria, dumping oil at reduced prices and breaking the cartel, OPEC might still be controlling the international fuel supply.
Presently, the US, as the protector of Saudi Arabia and the other monarchs, can regulate oil supply and keep the flow uniform and reasonably priced. A successful revolution in Saudi Arabia alone, today the most internally threatened of the Mideast coutries, could shift the world's economic picture. If a fundamentalist-driven OPEC were to be resuscitated and prices were to go up, in a 1973 pattern, the West and the Pacific Rim countries would go into a major depression.
The threat that Saddam Hussein presented to the Arab nations and the economy of the world in 1990 was recognized by the rulers, hence the ease with which President George Bush in 1990 was able to organize the alliance of Mideastern and Western powers. It could easily have resulted in the destruction of Hussein's empire. But Bush and his military advisor Colin Powell were aware of the dangers that would ensue, and let Hussein continue in power, albeit under severe restrictions of his economic power. His conventional military power was left intact. An embargo on his sales of oil assured the West that he would have no money for military conquests and no price manipulations from Iraq would upset the marketplace.
Likewise, Hussein's access to the rebellious Kurds in the corner where Iraq, Turkey and Iran meet was restricted by the no-fly zone. This area presented a direct threat to Hussein's rule. Fortunately for him, Kurds are unable to unite, and when one faction looked to him for help, he took the opportunity to invade - in his own country - to destroy the leadership of the hostile Kurd faction that had allied itself with Iran, the age old enemies.
One dilemma - what was the CIA doing in Kurd country, fostering attempts on Hussein's life? The answer may well be that a half-hearted effort (they worked with a puny $20 million budget) satisfied the anti-Hussein US public opinion
as well as warning him not to overstep the boundaries and start new external military adventures. A more serious effort would have been to use the full US economic aid to unite the warring Kurd factions. But now Hussein has managed to remove the threat of Kurd revolt coming from north Iraq. The US has to amass forces in Kuwait and bring an extra fleet to the Persian Gulf to show our retailiatory preparedness, in case he should once more try to attack the monarchies.
Why did President Clinton take the weak unilateral action against Hussein, destroying $60,000 worth of radar equipment in the south of Iraq, at the cost of 44 million-dollar cruise missiles, as charged by Speaker Gingrich? Why were all the Arab nations against this action, with evenn Kuwait, the most vulnerable nation, dragging its feet in accepting President Clinton's request to accomodate 5,000 American soldiers who presumably would defend Kuwait from an invasion? The answer would seem that a weakened, UN-controlled Hussein in power is more to their advantage than out of power, that they do not see him engaging in external conquests, and their concern is that the headstrong Americans with their military power will upset the balance. But doesn't Clinton know all this? Yes, he does, but the election is near, and he could not leave himself vulnerable to the Republicans' accusations of ineptitude and inactivity in the face of Hussein's attack. What about the Republicans, heirs of the Bush and Powell policy? Yes, they know, but in a life-and-death election campaign anything is permissible, including accusing the opposition party of inept policy to which they actually subscribe. That's election year politics, not a source of pride for either party. I wish it were over.
Clinton Is the Key to Peace in the Middle East
An Israeli visitor, a mid-level government official offers the following scenario that might cure the conflicts in Israel that arose since the election victory of the conservative Likud Party and its Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the Labor Party, resulting in the government backing away from Israel's withdrawals from the West Bank and the expansion of the limited Palestinian rule in such territories, as agreed by the PLO and the Labor government in the 1993 Oslo treaty. My source maintains that President Clinton is a hero in Israel, and if he were to run for office, 90% of both Labor nad Likud supporters would vote for him. If he were to apply pressure with Netanyahu to complete the current Phase B of the Oslo peace agreement that was being implemented by the Labor government, serious peace talks would resume. Clinton's pressure would also help in the negotiations with Yassir Arafat, President of the Palestinian authority, the rulers of Egypt and Jordan, who supported the Labor government, and the Moslem countries that had changed to a neutral stance while Israel was seriously implementing the Oslo treaty.
Netanyahu is not as rabid as the right-wing secular religious members of his Likud coalition, and might be able to use the fulcrum of Clinton's pressure with his party-mates to at least perform some symbolic acts of compromise that would show his govenment as continuing the talks in good faith.
Before the elections Clinton did not tackle Netanyahu, for fear of losing Jewish backers in the U.S. Now he will be free to pressure the government coalition. US money and support in the UN and world-wide is an important psychological weapon in keeping Israeli morale up while surrounded by hundreds of millions of Moslems. A threat of diminished support coupled with an honorable plan that would not result in a loss of face for Netanyahu and Israel might sway the Prime Minister.
Phase B of the Oslo agreement involves transfering control in key Arab towns, and the last town on the schedule is Hebron in Judea, a holy place for both Jews and Moslems. Its Cave of Machpelah (the Arab name is Ibrahimye Mosque) is the burial site of the three Patriarchs Abraham (Ibrahim), Isaac and Jacob, who are also Prophets in the Muslim religion, and their spouses, the Matriarchs. Hebron is also the place where in 1929 67 Jews were slaughtered by Arabs, and the sanctuary over the Cave is where the Brooklyn immigrant Dr. Baruch Goldstein shot up and killed over 20 Arabs while they were at prayer during the Ramadan, in February of 1994, in the mad notion that he could renew the war between Jews and Arabs and stop the peace movement.
About 100,000 Arabs and 450 Israeli settlers live inside Hebron town. The settlers' rights were guaranteed by the Oslo pact and accepted by Yassir Arafat as well as by the then Prime Minister Yithzak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres. The crux of the present negotiations is the control of traffic in the Hebron area. The discussions are bogged down in minutia that are extremely significant to the parties. One issue is patrolling of two roads (less than 10 miles) by joint Israeli and PA police patrols in separate cars - this is accepted, but currently Israel wants the patrols extended about 200 feet into adjoining side roads, the distance at which rock throwers can operate, to enable "hot pursuit." Next, the armament of the PA police; the number and percent of rifles vs. handguns is at stake, as is the availability of tractor gear vs. tires for the PA police patrol cars. The road under discussion leads from the militant Israeli Kiryat Arba settlement of 20,000 inhabitants ouside of Hebron, through a passage between mountains to the in-town enclave of the 450, then on to the Cave on the outskirts of Hebron, located on the main Jerusalem highway. Army patrols on the road are extremely vulnerable to snipers from the hills; the soldiers are unnecessarily exposed; the 450 settlers, half of them American (as are the Kiryat Arba inhabitants) endanger their children for a principle, amid an Arab population still chafing from the Goldstein murders. The Arabs see the "hot pursuit" as an unwarranted addition to the Oslo agreements, and the Jews view the arms issues in a like fashion. This is where Clinton can come in and break the logjam.
The issues are significant. In both Israeli and PA eyes rifles transform the police into an army, as do tank-like tracks on the cars. Members of the uncompromising far right faction of the Likud coalition want to bog down the disputes, in the expectation that they would stall. This could lead to resumption of war, and withdrawal of the aspects of independence granted to the Palestinian Authority in Oslo pact phases A and B. That was the objective of the provocateurs Goldstein and Yigal Amir (who killed Rabin). Now the atmosphere has grown more tense because early in November the extremist Infrastructure Minister Gen. Ariel Sharon announced a plan to move 100,000 new Israeli settlers into the West Bank, which Netanyahu claims to be only a proposal, to be studied by the government. Arafat has hemanded that new settlements be frozen (that also impacts the sales of some Israeli residences already built on the West Bank), before the Hebron issues are resolved.
It may well be that the threat of new settlements is to create a playing card for Israel in the impending Phase C negotiations. The fear is that it will provoke a bloody large-scale war.
Arafat, who is an opportunist with a long-term objective of a Palestinian State, is eager to continue talks which will give him West Bank territories targeted in the Oslo agreements, and is holding down the Arab militants. He sees that it is easier to acquire territory through negotiations than war: Phase C of the talks, to come after Phase B (Hebron) is concluded, determines the disposition of the land of the West Bank ("occupied territories"); decides on the degree of Palestinian rule of the West Bank; establishes the final relationship between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Phase C also involves the fate of Jerusalem, to be decided by the year 2000. It is the spiritual home of Judaism and the 3rd most holy city of Islam. For Jews, both Peres and Netanyahu, the thought of dividing Jerusalem is blasphemy.
(For reference, the completed phases aof the 1993 Oslo agreement are Phase A, which gave the PA Jericho and the Gaza Strip, free, world's most highly populated 30 x 5 miles, with 800,000 inhabitants, and Phase B, which to date transferred control in key West Bank towns to the Palestinians.
Even those who mistrust and hate Arafat recognize that today he is a definite advocate of peace, not because the tiger has changed his stripes but for palpably evident selfish reasons. Even when he talks "struggle, fight, jihad" in the camps and implores refugees to have 12 children, it is recognized as rhetoric by Israelis and shrugged off. He has to show anger among his adherents, to overcome the stigma of being an Israeli and American puppet, as he is seen by Arab militants.
While seeking a compromise, both Jews and Arabs must beware of the destroyers of peace on both sides. Another Goldstein or Amir might next attack the obvious high-profile target, Yassir Arafat, and cause another breakup, bringing Hamas and Hebzollah back on war status. He is the most likely target for the enemies of peace on the Arab side too. There is some serious concern among Israelis about providing all-around protection for him against potential provocateurs from both sides. The same concerns apply also when he visits America and Europe. His selfish objectives are transparent; his need for Western support, in view of his loss of Soviet and Saudi contributions, is palpable; he has no alternative but to be the emissary for peace - and, as such, be exposed. Terrorists/provocateurs can assume many identities, there are those who will go to jail for life to serve a principle.
Israel is a country of 4.5 million Jews, half a million Arab citizens, flanked by 1 and 3/4 million Palestinians under Israeli control, and surrounded by over 100 million inimical Moslems, including millions of Palestinian refugees. It has not been at peace since its establishment in 1947. In response to attacks in 1948, 1956 and 1967 it occupied Egypt's Sinai Strip, Lebanon's Golan Heights and Jordan's West Bank (Samaria and Judea), and over the years 150,000 Israeli settlers built some 50 settlements in the West Bank territories, rightly or wrongly. That is where the trouble lies. A peaceful settlemet may be un its way, if the enemies of peace can be held back. Similarly, a peaceful settlement may be possible in Golan Heights, another hotly disputed area triple the size of Gaza, barring no disturbances. President Clinton may be the most important player. Let us hope that he will do the right thing. We may not be able to stop the trouble in Zaire, Burundi and Rwanda, or Cambodia, Somalia and former Yugoslavia, but in the MIddle East we have a better chance, without seending in the troops.
OMIT: [The Israeli visitor was accosted in an electronics store by a salesman, immigrant fom Tel Aviv, who loudly denounced the Israeli Laborites for "giving away Jewish lands." When the visitor mildly replied that he and his family lived in Israel and had to worry about peace, while this man was hiding in New York, they almost came to blows. The salesman stalked away indignantly when the visitor asked about the last time when the salesman had fulfilled his Israeli army reserve obligation (Israelis serve yearly until age 50, and remain on call until age 75 - except some Orthodox religious sects, who do not serve).]