When you go birding you never know what you’re going to see. During four days last February, walking a Florida beach on Longboat Key that has a rich variety of shorebird life, I was able to see up close some things I’d never before noticed about familiar birds.
Feb. 3. On Beer Can Island, which is the Longboat’s northernmost tip, are some ravaged ash colored fallen trees with huge exposed root systems. One is wet with weeds and clinging to it are barnacles and shells. Nearby is an oystercatcher, large at 17.5-inches, with a long, thick red bill, white breast and black back. Digging in the wet sand this shorebird is putting on a demonstration of how it gets clamshells. That thick red bill is partially buried in the sand. When it pulls the bill out there’s a small white shell that is quickly swallowed. When digging, the bill is turned somewhat to the right. Last year when I saw these birds feeding I wondered if they weren’t “right-handed.” Now I’m again wondering.
Are secular forces in the United States trying to snuff out the light of Christmas and shove it into the closet where it belongs? Fox News certainly thinks so and has been broadcasting evidence about the “War on Christmas.” Declaration of War these days are quite common and effective. The rhetoric regarding the Republican Party’s War on Women this past political campaign was so intense you could hear the gunfire, smell the napalm and see the mushroom clouds over every feminist cause to underscore that the GOP was driven by a cabal of monomaniacal, misogynist Dr. Strangeloves.
These accusations rarely have any basis in fact and there is reason to believe that the bombast against celebrating Christmas, while a pernicious trend, hardly constitutes a full-scale war. Christmas, after all, is still recognized as an official federal holiday by the United States government. Christmas lights, trees, greeting cards etcetera are omnipresent. The citizens of our nation celebrate with reverence and poignancy the birth of Jesus Christ without any molestation that is worth mentioning.
I am angry. I am sad. I am resolute. The tragedy of Newtown is the tragedy of each and every community in every corner of our country. It could have happened anywhere. It is not a partisan issue, or a regional issue, and knows no ideology.
Everyone’s asking, “What’s happening to this country of ours?” But answers require a good, hard look in the mirror and won’t be found in Washington DC, or state capitals. Instead, they reside directly in us, and unfortunately that makes people uncomfortable. That’s too bad. We’re going to have to get past this discomfort, or we condemn ourselves to a future of burying the innocent.
With North Korea firing long range rockets and Iran intent on building a nuclear bomb, is there any hope for civilized nations to defend themselves? There is and we just saw a dramatic demonstration of it in the Middle East. The Iron Dome, a sophisticated, technological marvel devised by Israeli engineers and physicists, almost certainly prevented a gut wrenching, cinematographic scene of death and violence at the hands of Iranian-backed terrorists hell-bent on killing innocent civilians. During the Second Lebanon War in 2006, some 4,000 Hezbollah rockets landed in Northern Israel. The only defense was to run for cover. Things worked out differently this time around as the Iron Dome proved itself the first successful anti-missile system in the history of military combat.
The Dome, which can target multiple types of rockets at ranges of 75 kilometers, can also be swiftly moved to wherever threats materialize. The new technology is a game changer in the ever voluble, often violent Middle East. As terrorists in Gaza fired their supersonic rockets at Israel, the Dome was able to down more than 85 percent of those aimed at populated areas. As the technology improves and expands, this new development may turn out to be one of the most pacific developments in the future, worth more than the potpourri of ceasefire agreements and treaties that have papered over the troubled history of that implacable region.
It was just a few short weeks ago that Superstorm Sandy was causing us nothing but panic and grief. It was one problem right after another making those few days feel like an eternity, but I think we can agree that it gave us new appreciation for simple pleasures like brewing a cup of coffee or taking a hot shower. As often happens in times of sacrifice, we grew in solidarity with our neighbors, pulling through with a sense that we were “all in this together.”
Then the lights came back on, the heat started working, gas stations came back online and we happily started to forget about Sandy. There were, of course, expensive and inconvenient repairs to be made, and donations to be sent, but for most of us on this part of the Island, life pretty much returned to “normal.”
If you frequent Elmont, you know Norma DeBartolo. She’s everywhere.
DeBartolo works for the Elmont School District as a special assistant to the superintendent of schools for community affairs. She can often be seen at many events in the Elmont community, including the position of grand marshal of the Belmont Stakes Parade.
DeBartolo will retire after many dedicated years to the school district this coming year. I commend Norma for her service to the district and the community of Elmont, where I called home for a good chunk of my life.
Writing this weekly column is one of my favorite things to do as your state senator. While it allows me to reflect on issues directly with you, it’s also been great for encouraging feedback that has been incredibly helpful to me as a freshman senator. From its inception, I wanted to avoid the typical government laundry list of events and notices that you might expect from legislators. Instead, I wanted this column to be something readers look for, a more honest and readable “inside” look at the workings of state government, warts and all.
With that in mind, I’d like to share with you what I perceive as one of the more pressing issues facing our state and particularly Long Island.
Elections are supposed to determine, among other things, how revenue raised from taxes is spent. Should people who earn more money pay even more than they do to the government via taxes? The answer seems to be yes. If they pay more taxes are they entitled to more government services and entitlements? The answer is clearly no. Will people who pay no income tax get less than they do now? The answer is that they will certainly get more.
Equality before the law is the bedrock of our Constitution; economic equality is an entirely different species governed by asymmetrical and counter-intuitive bureaucratic rules and guidelines. Economics is colored by politics and the winning of constituencies. To the victor belongs the spoils and the Democrats enjoyed an impressive victory in November. But elections are not a putsch and American democracy is not a diktat. The minority party has rights and let’s not forget that the Republicans retained a majority in the House of Representatives.
The hallways were strewn with garland. The tree was set up near the principal’s office and holiday cheer aplenty at Covert Avenue School during my time there. I remember being a solider in The Nutcracker and I recall all the pleasantries afoot during the holiday season in the building. From time to time, I recall those memories and, in a positive way, dwell on what was. An era I will cherish forever, Covert Avenue is a Christmas memory worth keeping.
Football youngsters ages 7 to 14 got the experience of a lifetime on Nov. 17 at Hofstra University…personalized instruction from New York Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks. The kids were beaming with excitement. Not one child was turned away; smiles all around. I’m surprised more events like this haven’t occurred at the school, which has a state-of-the-art practice bubble, where the event took place.
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