Blogs > City Editor's Blog

By Jeremy Schiffres, Daily and Sunday Freeman, Kingston, N.Y.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

It's the law

Here's what the Republican Party doesn't seem to get when it comes to Obamacare: Congress enacted it. The president signed it. The Supreme Court upheld it. And the voters, in re-electing its architect by a wide margin, declared their approval of it.
It now is time for the GOP members of the House to get out of the way, let the law take effect and stop trying to use it as a bargaining chip to satisfy their own leanings rather than those of the people they represent.


Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Zimmerman verdict

I think a lot of people who are angry about the George Zimmerman verdict are confusing "not guilty" with "innocent."

A verdict of "not guilty" simply means there was an absence of guilt proven beyond a reasonable doubt. It doesn't mean he didn't do it. We all know he did. It doesn't mean that what he did was right. Many people, myself included, believe he was wrong. What it means is the jury concluded the evidence presented at the trial did not meet the legal standard for a finding of guilty. And this is no surprise. After all, there were no eyewitnesses, and this isn't even a case of "he said/he said" because one "he" is dead.

The prosecution did the best it could with what it had to work with, but it simply wasn't enough. I would love to see Zimmerman locked up for years, but I think if I was a member of the jury, I, too, would have voted "not guilty."

Innocent? No. But strictly by legal standards, not guilty.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

SPAC attack

The Saratoga Performing Arts Center — SPAC to its loyal patrons — long was my favorite place to attend concerts. And not only because I lived just a few miles from it for three summer seasons.

SPAC provided the ultimate leisure setting for experiencing live music — easy (and free) parking in a gigantic lot along Route 50, a bucolic country setting, a relaxed and festive atmosphere on the large lawn behind the amphitheater for those who chose not to buy the more expensive indoor seats, freedom to walk all parts of the spacious grounds at will, an easygoing venue staff and reasonably priced food and drinks.

Then came the invasion of Live Nation, and SPAC quickly has become my least favorite place to attend concerts.

Prior to this past Sunday, I last was a SPAC in 2006. That's a long time ago, I realize, but Live Nation, which got its start as a concert promotion company, already had taken over the run of the place, and though there were some changes I didn't love, most of the SPAC experience remained unblemished.

Well, something sure changed between August 2006 and this past Sunday — for the worse. Much worse.

I approached SPAC on Sunday from the north, as I almost always do, coming down Route 50 from the center of Saratoga Springs, expecting to make my usual left turn into the main lot, park my car and enter the concert grounds. But as I got within a few hundred yards of the lot's entrance, I noticed no left turns into the lot were being allowed. OK, I  figured, they're just trying to improve traffic flow. No big deal. I'll just drive a short distance down Route 50, make a U-turn, come back up and make the right turn into the lot.

Yeah, sure.

Approaching from the south and starting to make the right turn into the lot, I was stopped by an attendant who informed me there only was "privileged parking" (read: pre-paid) in that lot and that if I wanted to park for free, I would have to use the field across the road and walk over the foot bridge above Route 50 to reach the venue.

So I drove up to the next traffic light, did another U-turn, got into the line of cars approaching the parking field and ultimately made a right turn into said field. Pleasantly surprised that the field was about half empty, I figured I'd just dart to an empty spot, park my car and head for the amphitheater. But NOOOOOOOOOOOO, as Steve Martin used to say. Instead, I was guided by no less than 20 hand-gesturing teen-age attendants, standing apart at equal distances, to make a huge loop around the field behind a line of cars and ultimately place my car exactly where instructed.

I finally stepped out of my car at 7 p.m., exactly 30 minutes after I reached Saratoga Springs at the end of my trip from Kingston. My time span between reaching Saratoga and being parked at SPAC used to be 5 to 10 minutes. Oh, well. I guess that ship has sailed, and it's been forced to dock farther from the venue than ever before.

So then I trudged through the field, crossed the foot bridge and immediately was greeted by a large blue sign informing me of all the items "prohibited" from being brought into the venue. In order: animals, beverages, laser pens, cooking equipment, audio or video recording equipment, cameras with a detachable lens, bikes, rollerblades, skateboards, illegal substances, hard coolers, digital cameras and glass. Oh, yeah — also firearms, knives, weapons and fireworks.

Money, of course, is allowed in. After all, the twin-patty hamburger and bottle of water I was about to buy would, unbeknownst to me until the last second, cost $14.25. (What is this — Yankee Stadium?)

So I ate my overpriced dinner, used the restroom and headed from the food vending area to the amphitheater — a relatively short walk the includes passing by the general-admission lawn.

Carved into the lawn are two long, paved sidewalks that lead down to the back of the amphitheater. They're very useful for reaching the "house" without having to navigate through thousands of people and their chairs on the grass. New, however, is that both paths now are bordered on both sides by white, fence-like barricades, about 4 feet high. Similar barricades, though black, cover the entire width of the back of the amphitheater. The resulting effect is that of the lawn being a prison; the message being "You commoners need to know your place. Don't dare try to mingle with the royalty who have bought indoor seats."

I, apparently being royalty (who knew?), had purchased an indoor seat. And though I know the inside of the SPAC amphitheater like the back of my hand, having been in it more than 60 times, I nevertheless welcomed the opportunity to be ushered to my assigned spot (Section 2, Row W, Seat 1) by a nice lady in a white SPAC T-shirt.

White shirts: Good.
Yellow: Not so much.

The yellow-shirted employees, mostly women who looked they couldn't quite make it as phys ed teachers, were Live Nation security staffers. Or, as I've taken to calling them, the Live Nation Gestapo.

The sole job of the yellowshirts appears to be making the concert experience as unpleasant as possible for people who paid more than $100 for indoor seats. The yellowshirt closest to me spent easily half the night harassing a woman across the aisle from me because the woman had a tendency to stand up, step into the public pathway and dance to the music. (Heaven forbid!) Every time she moved outside her "seat zone," the yellowshirt rushed in, spoke rudely to her and, on some occasions, physically moved her out of the aisle.

I was hoping this yellowshirt was an isolated a--hole, but no. During what I knew to be the final song of the show, I walked toward the back of the amphitheater to be closer to an exit and stood at the edge of a row of seats, only to be approached by another yellowshirt who started gesturing at me to move. Before she could utter a word, though, I leaned in close to her and said into her ear: "The show will be over in about two minutes. How about you give it a rest!" Wisely, she backed away.  

So let's recap:
* Parking: No longer free in the main lot, made unnecessarily difficult by a bunch of self-important 16-year-olds in the free secondary lot.
* Items that can be brought into SPAC: Virtually none, except your money.
* Food: Overpriced.
* The lawn: Once a fun place to hang out, now a veritable prison.
* The amphitheater experience: Ruined by a bunch of power-hungry security staffers.

Ironically, the musician I went to see on Sunday was Tom Petty — who also was the headliner when I last was at SPAC in August 2006 and when I first went to SPAC as a new resident of Saratoga Springs in June 1985.

Petty hasn't changed a bit in 28 years. He remains one of the best live acts in rock 'n' roll and never has disappointed me. The venue at which I so often have seen him, however, has disappointed me more than I ever thought it could.

And it's doubtful I'll ever go there again.


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

CHRIS-tal clear intentions

Let me start by saying I like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. But what he announced today is a HUGE waste of money for his own political benefit.

Christie, a Republican, is calling for a special election to be held in mid-October to pick a replacement for U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., who died Monday.

Why not just hold the election on Nov. 5, Election Day, and save the state the cost of two elections? Simple. Because Christie knows the Senate race is likely to be won by a Democrat, and he doesn't want that race on the ballot the same day he's running for re-election as governor. Doing so probably would draw more Democrats to the polls than usual, hurting Christie's chances of winning a new term.

So, instead, the guy who claims to be the savior of New Jersey's economy is about to waste $12 million of New Jersey taxpayers' money (the estimated cost of the special election) for his own personal gain.

Shame on him!


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The lesson of Boston

It's hard to find a silver lining in a horrific act, but if anything good is to come from the Boston Marathon bombing, let it be this — that maybe now, finally, the people responsible for protecting the United States and its residents will recognize that terrorism comes in all shapes and sizes.

For too long, our leaders have seemed focused on preventing the next 9/11 or the next Oklahoma City, all the while ignoring what people in the Middle East and, more recently, Western Europe have learned from experience — that even one crude explosive device killing just one person, or even no one, can rattle a nation, disrupt countless lives and shatter peace of mind.

Terrorists care as much about inflicting psychological damage as they do about causing physical harm, and one need look no farther than Boylston Street in Boston to understand how successful that M.O. can be. Three people died — a smaller toll than that of some car accidents — but we'll never again feel as safe at a crowded public event as we did before yesterday.

I've commented here in recent years that targets ripe for small-scale terror attacks — landmarks in New York City and Washington, D.C., subways and commuter trains, shopping malls and stadiums — don't seem nearly as protected as they should be and that it would be fairly easy to blow up a planted explosive or carry out a bomb-strapped-to-the-body attack at these locations and inflict substantial damage. At 2:50 p.m. Monday, near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, I sadly was proven correct. And worse yet, this attack was carried out at a location where countless law-enforcement personnel were present because of the race.

Priority One in the wake of yesterday's bombing is, of course, to find, prosecute and punish those responsible. But Priority Two sure better be learning to look right under our noses, not just high up in the sky, in the effort to prevent the next heinous act of terrorism.


Monday, February 11, 2013

After the storm

A few after-the-fact thoughts (and online images) about the blizzard that walloped much of the Northeast this past weekend:

* It never ceases to amaze me that hordes of people rush to grocery stores when a snowstorm is approaching. Do these folks seriously believe there'll be no milk or eggs available for a week or two because of a weather event that will last less than 24 hours? I've lived in the Northeast my entire life and have endured countless winter storms, and I've rarely seen a grocery shortage that lasts more than a day.

 * Weather forecasting, especially on TV, has gotten completely out of hand. Yes, it's helpful to know when inclement weather is expected. But this 'round-the-clock, scare-the-crap-out-of-people hysteria over winter storms in recent years serves no purpose. Long-term forecasts and constant warnings make sense when a hurricane is on the horizon and people need to, perhaps, board up buildings or pack up for an evacuation. But there's really no preparation that can be made for a snowstorm. (And spare me the BS about needing to know that it's time to buy shovels or salt. If you live in the Northeast and don't already own these things, you need to move.) The only special actions required in a snowstorm are staying indoors and off the roads. And the need for that can be determined by looking out a window moreso than by looking at a TV screen. (All that said, though, it's worth noting the forecasts for this storm were right on the nose.)

* The Weather Channel has looked positively moronic by naming every snowstorm this winter, hoping the monikers, like those of hurricanes, would become part of the national consciousness and conversation. But it looks like Nemo, the name given to the recent blizzard, finally did the trick. It gained traction on Twitter, Facebook and TV, and in newspaper stories, blogs and Internet searches. The confluence of this being a really bad blizzard and having a Disney-ish name that lent itself to countless Facebook memes, funny comments and cute plays on words was, if you'll pardon the pun, the perfect storm. I doubt, though, that that kind of lightning will strike twice. After all, can anyone identify any of the 13 named winter storms that preceded Nemo over the past three months? Yeah, I didn't think so.

* Speaking of identifying storms, it's worth noting that when I was growing up in Rochester in the 1970s, we, too, had a special name for this kind of weather. We called it February.

 * I was nothing short of amazed at how clean Kingston's roads were just a few hours after this storm ended. We get 2 inches of snow on a weekday, and they're a mess. We get close to a foot on a Friday night, and they're virtually clear Saturday morning. I just don't get it.

 * And lastly,I was glad to see that locations hardest hit last fall by Superstorm Sandy — the Jersey shore, Staten Island, lower Manhattan, Queens and western Long Island — were spared from the brunt of this past weekend's storm. (I also didn't mind that Kingston only got about 9 inches of snow. Better than the 3-plus feet that fell in the states to our east!)


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Nearly fed up with Facebook

Facebook is starting to fray my last nerve.

As my friends on the social media network know (thanks to me telling them), I’ve been banned from sending friend requests for 30 days because I allegedly sent such requests to “multiple people” I don’t know. (That’s a lie, by the way; the only friend requests I've sent recently were to people identified by Facebook as "People I may know.")

Today, I accidentally clicked on “Add Friend” when looking at someone’s page, and the following warning popped up on my screen: “You’ve continued to send friend requests to people who don’t know you, even though you’ve been warned. Sending friend requests to people you don’t know personally is against Facebook’s Terms and could be considered harassment. If you don’t change your behavior, you could be permanently blocked from sending friend requests.”

“You’ve been warned”? “If you don’t change your behavior”? What am I, a kindergartner? The power trip that these people are on is unreal.

And it seems to me that only harassment here is being carried out by Facebook — against me.

Incidentally, the passage in today’s warning that says “You’ve continued to send friend requests to people who don’t know you” is nothing short of hysterical. The person I was trying to friend is someone I’ve known since 1976.