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Columns

BRENNER: Officers’ Dedication, Professionalism Have Earned City’s Support

LETTER FROM THE CHIEF

Officers’ Dedication,

Professionalism Have

Earned City’s Support

Editor’s Note: In this July 19 letter, Oneonta Police Chief Douglas W. Brenner expressed his concern about the“Say Their Names” photo display at the Westcott Lot. Nonetheless, Common Council unanimously approved the display Tuesday, July 21, and it was installed this past Sunday.

The Oneonta Police Department has always placed the needs and concerns of the residents and visitors to the City of Oneonta as its first priority.

Promoted to Oneonta police chief in 2017, Douglas W. Brenner has served with the OPD since 1998, after 12 years experience in the sheriff’s department and as a corrections officer. 

While not insensitive to the issues facing the nation and the world, the efforts of the members of the department are best focused on what we can do for our neighbors to make Oneonta a better place for everyone.

On the agenda for the regular meeting of the Oneonta Common Council for July 21, Item 9 is listed as a topic for discussion and pertains to a photographic display supporting Black Lives Matter to be placed on the fence at the head of the Westcott lot on Main Street.

I would be remiss not to express my concerns with a photographic display that could show members of law enforcement locally in a negative context.

The city is blessed to have residents and visitors who can freely express themselves in a respectable and constructive manner, which has been seen on at least two occasions in the recent past.

We enjoy good neighbors, friendships and any display that disrupts the community feeling and positive energy of the community serves no purpose but to divide, especially when the content of the display is in relation to incidents that did not occur locally and show all law enforcement, including members of Oneonta Police Department, negatively.

Any display that could have ramifications that are potentially divisive to the City of Oneonta, its residents and its businesses, is not an image that should be promoted.

In addition, as the chief of police, one of my top concerns is for the wellbeing of the members of the Oneonta Police Department.

Police officers throughout the nation are under attack for the disturbing and unlawful actions of a few other law enforcement officials from other agencies who they have no contact with, no allegiance to, any sympathy for, and no tolerance for such actions.

This has caused a national shortage of those who wish to serve their community. Oneonta is no exception to this shortage. The department currently has two unfilled patrol officer positions and two members who are eligible for retirement. The current civil service list is almost exhausted and there is no entrance exam scheduled for this year by the state.

Many other departments throughout the state are accepting lateral transfers, as are we, but are able to offer more advantageous working conditions.

If my officers sense that the City of Oneonta is not supporting their hard work, their dedication to community, their professionalism, their unwavering dedication to fairness by allowing a divisive display, the probability of losing more officers increases.

We at the Oneonta Police Department enjoy a positive relationship with our friends and neighbors in the city, and work very hard to promote good relationships with all members of the community in which we protect and serve. A display that intentionally shows all members of law enforcement in a negative light based on the actions of a few from well outside our area would be devastating to the morale of the finest officers I have ever had the pleasure to work with and lead.

As the chief of police and a lifelong community member, I would hope that all factors are taken into consideration before any display is permitted in the City of Oneonta. Our strength comes from ourselves, and the residents in the City of Oneonta are compassionate, respectful,
have concern and empathy for our neighbors, and love of community.

Any display that does not emphasize the positivity only serves as a catalyst to create division and polarization of this community.

Yours in service,

Douglas W. Brenner

Chief of Police

Ask Your Locals Governments: Take Care Of Us

LIFE IN THE TIME OF COVID-19

Ask Your Local

Governments:

Take Care Of Us

By RICHARD STERNBERG • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

On Sunday, a friend of mine was talking to a family from South Carolina. They told him how bad it was down there now and how great it was up here and how we had beaten the virus.

Sternberg
Richard Sternberg, a retired Bassett Hospital orthopedic surgeon, has agreed to provide his professional perspective while the coronavirus threat continues. Dr. Sternberg, who is also a village trustee, resides in Cooperstown.

They talked for a while, then walked away down Main Street. None of them were wearing masks, nor knew if they had the disease and could be spreading it. Nor had they quarantined for two weeks after arriving in New York. Now multiply this by a hundred.

Locally we did a great job of containing COVID-19. We went weeks without a case until recently a few cases popped up. Effectively the whole area had quarantined itself.

Recently there were cases. They had to be coming from the outside. And they will keep on coming.

There really is only one way to beat this disease and that is to prevent it from establishing itself. We have to keep it out.

If we can’t control the SARS-CoV-2 virus, it will run through the entire population, and locally we have a population which has a high percentage of people with risk factors.

BENNETT: Slavery America’s Original Sin

WE’RE IN THIS TOGETHER

Slavery America’s Original Sin

Larry Bennett, recently retired Brewery Ommegang creative director who is active in local causes, resides in East Merideth.

Eighty million native people of color lived in the Americas in 1492; 65 million primarily white people lived in Europe; 46 million people of color lived in Africa.

In December of that year, Christopher Columbus landed on the Caribbean island of Haiti, which he then named Hispaniola, or Little Spain. It was the first recorded contact between Europeans and the indigenous Americans who called themselves the Taino. The Taino were divided into five kingdoms around the large island, and their estimated population ranged from 1 million up to 3 million.

The exact number of Taino people at first contact can never be known, but it is known that after 50 years of massacre, disease, forced digging in gold mines and being enslaved and shipped to other islands to work plantations, the Taino population was reduced to 500 people. The Taino then disappeared from the face of the earth. The first genocide in America by Europeans was complete.

Over the first century and a half after Columbus’ voyages, the native population of the Americas fell by an estimated 90 percent, from an estimated 80 million in 1492 to 8 million in 1650. While a majority of the deaths were caused by outbreaks of Old World diseases, many millions were also killed by the European invaders.

A second genocide visited on native Americans was well under way. It arguably continues today in Brazilian rain forests and on American Indian reservations.

From 1500 to the end of the slave trade in 1860, at least 12 million Africans were abducted and taken to the Americas. It’s estimated that an additional 1.5 to 2 million died during the ocean passage. About 500,000 slaves went to North America, while the majority went to South America and the Caribbean. Still, by 1850 there were 4 million Africans in the United States. Of the 4 million only 10 percent were free and 3.6 million were enslaved. In 1850, the 4 million made up 17 percent of the total U.S. population of 23 million, but they constituted over 37 percent of the population of the South.

The American Civil War abolished slavery and gave new freedoms to one sixth of the population. If the nation had moved on from there, honoring the rights of all people of all colors, we would live in a much different world today. But it didn’t work that way. Reconstruction lasted from 1863 to 1877, when it fell apart under heavy pressure and constant attacks by Southern Whites. The Democrats of the time were the party of White supremacy and they used every tool to diminish Blacks.

Economic pressure, governmental pressure, social pressure, intimidation, threats and violence were the norm. Lynching andother forms of murder were common. A third genocide continued.

A key part of the post-Reconstruction repression of black Americans was the use of white government forces — be they sheriffs, policemen, guardsmen, or judges – to visit daily and deadly violence on black citizen. Whites creating the violence went unpunished. (Does this sound eerily familiar?)

After the end of Reconstruction, lynching intensified. Lynching involved criminal accusations, often false, against a black citizen, an arrest, and the assembly of a lynch mob intent on subverting the judicial process.

Victims would be seized and subjected to every imaginable manner of physical torment, with the torture usually ending with being hung from a tree and set on fire. More often than not victims would then be dismembered. It’s hard to imagine human beings committing such vile and cruel acts against other human beings.

Over 4,000 people were lynched in the U.S. between 1877 and 1950. The vast majority were Black. That was over one lynching a week for 73 years. All in a nation that declared itself dedicated to liberty and justice for all.

Today, black Americans make up about 13 per cent of our population, but are three times more likely to be killed by police than whites. Typically, 30 per cent of black victims are unarmed compared to 19 percent of White victims. Finally, 99 per cent of all black killings by police are not prosecuted by the legal system. Only the most egregious videos seem capable of forcing police to punish their own, and then often only after protests and demonstrations.

Since 2015, American police have killed over 1,000 people every year, with over one third being people of color. It appears that institutionalized dehumanization of these people, be they black, Hispanic, or Native American, encourages the police to pull the trigger quicker. As a culture, white European-descended Americans have always dehumanized and demonized others. We have always slaughtered others for their land, their gold and silver, and finally, just because they don’t look like us.

Larry Bennett, recently retired Brewery Ommegang creative director who is active in local causes,
lives in East Merideth.

MORGAN: Slavery Was Most Everywhere
MONEY MATTERS

Slavery Was

Most Everywhere

Tom Morgan, the retired Oneonta investment counselor and national syndicated columnist, resides in Franklin.

Hating America is in fashion these days. As if you did not know.

Fuel for the hatred comes in the form of sins. Sins the early Americans committed. They belittled women. They savaged the natives. And they owned slaves. As early as 1619. That was when an
English shipowner unloaded African slaves into Virginia. Aboard his vessel, flying a Dutch flag.

The haters claim this proves that racism is in this country’s DNA. It is systemic. It courses through the veins and arteries of the nation. Therefore all white people should feel guilt. Because the wealth of the country was built upon the backs of slaves.

The extreme haters reckon the U.S. is illegitimate. Because of these original sins.

Well, there is no denying we had a lot of slavery and a lot of racism in this country.

There is no denying that many white people grew wealthy by using and abusing blacks. (They abused a lot of Irish, Italians, Jews, Chinese and assorted immigrants as well. But that is a separate story.) However, declaring the country is illegitimate because of this? That is not even a stretch. It is a ridiculous concept.

I suggest this for a simple reason: If you are going to declare this country illegitimate you may as well cancel out the rest of the countries on this planet. To hell with the lot of them.

Find me a country that does not have sins in its DNA. All countries were built on foundations that are sinful by today’s standards.

Pick a country. Then read some of its history. You will find combinations of racism, sexism, caste systems, slavery, atrocities against Jews and folks of various religions. These sins are widely distributed among countries. This is because they flourished in the Age of Ignorance. And that Age of Ignorance only began to weaken in recent enlightened times.

Slavery is supposed to be our biggest sin. Let us ask all the people on this earth who live in places that suffered slavery to raise their hands. There are barely any hands that are not raised.

Slavery has been most everywhere! And the U.S. was one of the smaller players in it. (We also beat up ourselves over mistreatment of women. What country, what people did NOT mistreat women –
by today’s standards?)

The Spanish brought slavery to Central America? Hey, the Mayas and Incas beat them to it. English, Dutch and French brought slavery to America? Many Native Americans could have taught them a few things about it. They practiced it for a century or two. The Cherokees were major traders in slaves.

Europeans introduced slavery to the Caribbean? Hardly. Before them, the native Caribs owned slaves.
When the evil British colonized northern Nigeria in the late 1800s they found the locals held well over two million of their fellows as slaves.

Muslim countries in the north of Africa bled the continent of countless millions of slaves. For at least 10 centuries! They exported slaves via the Red Sea, via Swahili ports onto the Indian Ocean. They paraded millions in caravans over trans-Saharan routes.

Royalty of various African countries built their wealth on the slave trade. Brutal hardly describes how they rounded up and shipped slaves to the coasts. Where other Africans grew rich selling them to Europeans.

The rulers of Algiers captured a million and half Christians and Europeans. Whom they forced into slavery. In the 19th century.

Slavery is endemic today in Sudan. And Niger. Countless Nigerians are enslaved this very night. Sexual slavery and forced labor are common in the Democratic Republic of Congo today. Many are enslaved from birth. There is systemic slavery on cacao plantations in West Africa. In Ivory Coast over 100,000 children are enslaved. Al Sharpton take note please.

Wikipedia reckons Indians own 8 million slaves today. Chinese own nearly 4 million.

Japan’s history is blighted by slavery. As are the histories of India, China, Korea, Burma, Thailand, Bhutan, Tibet and all of Southeast Asia. The Philippines were thick with slaves before the Spanish arrived.

And Europe? Well, the Romans were equal opportunity slavers. They enslaved Greeks, Berbers, Germans, Britons, Slavs, Thracians (Let’s hear it for the Thracians!), Gauls – otherwise known as Celts – Jews, Arabs and many more ethnic groups.

The Celtic tribes of Europe owned slaves. The Vikings raided Europe and Britain for slaves. They hauled off English, Irish and Scottish.

Ancient Hawaiians ran rigid caste systems. Those of the lower casts were not only virtual slaves. They were butchered in sacrifice rituals.

Even pure New Zealand cannot escape the sins of slavery. The Maoris, its native people, scorn European settlers for abusing them when they arrived. Yet the native Maoris made slaves out of their defeated enemies.

My point? It is to those who delight in claiming the U.S. is illegitimate because of its history of slavery. If the U.S. is illegitimate, what country is not? What country has no slavery in its DNA?

Tom Morgan, the retired Oneonta investment counselor whose column is national syndicated, lives in Franklin. 

COMMENTATORS:  Is Word ‘Indian’ Even Offensive?

From Our Comments Section

Is Word ‘Indian’

Even Offensive?

Editor’s Note: Here are reactions that appeared on www.AllOTSEGO.com’s comment section regarding an aritcle, “Village Board Concludes: It’s Time To Revisit Use Of Word ‘Indian’ On Plaques, Statues,” posted Monday evening, June 22.

►JOE BRANT – If you really want to be sensitive to Native Americans we should return to them the lands that were taken in Cooperstown. I am sure Trustee Sternberg’s house with a view of Otsego Lake was occupied by native Americans, as was Trustee MacGuire’s mother’s house, where he lives. Isn’t that the correct way to be sensitive to the original inhabitants of the village?

►ANONYMOUS – From the website of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian: “What is the correct terminology: American Indian, Indian, Native American, or Native?
“All of these terms are acceptable. The consensus, however, is that whenever possible, Native people prefer to be called by their specific tribal name. In the United States, Native American has been widely used but is falling out of favor with some groups, and the terms American Indian or indigenous American are preferred by many Native people.”
►DOREEN BUSH – Be very careful not to take away or minimize the real history of the village.

►JOHN WARD – If the signs need to be changed, then the Indian hunter statue needs to be taken down, as it depicts a Native American in a stereotypical appearance that could offend someone, and the name is no different than the name on the state signs. James Fenimore Cooper wrote “in defense of slavery”. That dictates that his statue in Cooper Park should be taken down (and the name of the park changed), and the name “Fenimore Museum“ needs to be changed. William Cooper, the founder
of Cooperstown and father of James Fenimore Cooper, owned slaves right here in Cooperstown. Thus, the very name of the village needs to be changed. Since the Village Board has opened the door these
actions are the only logical thing to do – how can the village board possibly pick and choose what might be considered offensive and insensitive to others? What is the standard used? Best to take it all down and change all the names. George Orwell would be proud.

►ALEX D. TOCQUEVILLE – Why has our village thwarted our constitutional right to elections? With the primary elections being held (Tuesday, June 23), we should be able to vote Benton out of office. However, the village has allowed him to act unabatedly, continuing to suppress our right to vote and have effectively kept him in office indefinitely. This is not democracy! And the Democrats thought it would be Trump postponing elections to stay in power – pot meet kettle in Cooperstown.

►DOM – Why not change everything and start over.

►BRIAN HINDENBRAND – Who in the h… said “Indian” is racist? No white person has that right? And if it was offensive, don’t you think it would have been changed years ago!! All of a sudden white people are afraid of offending “1” person in the world, so the world should change! Well I tell you what, the thought of these type of changes in history offends ME big time. Now back off young Mr. Benton: Learn about the Indians and Cooperstown history before thinking about walking the streets and saying, “change this, change that.”

►JOHN DINEEN – Ridiculous

FEINMAN: If Schuyler Statue Toppled, What Else?

COLUMN from PETER FEINMAN

If Philip Schuyler Statue

Toppled, What Else?

Editor’s Note: FYI, William Cooper, founder of Cooperstown (and The Freeman’s Journal), also owned slaves.

‘Reconsidering the Past, One Statue at a Time,” was the front-page above-the-fold headline in The New York Times on June 17. The article begins by noting the “boiling anger” that exploded after the murder of George Floyd.

It has gone national.

In religious terms, we are witnessing the attempt to purify America by cleansing it of all vestiges of its racist past.Back on July 19, 2019, Maureen Dowd, Times op-ed columnist, wrote a piece entitled “Spare Me the Purity Racket,” in part:“The progressives are the modern Puritans. The Massachusetts
Bay Colony is alive and well on the Potomac and Twitter. They eviscerate their natural allies for not being pure enough while placing all their hopes in a color-inside-the-lines lifelong Republican prosecutor appointed by Ronald Reagan. The politics of purism makes people stupid. And nasty.”

She was writing about the Mueller Report and had no idea about the world we are now living or what John Bolton would reveal. Still now as the purification of America is underway, it is worth considering what the end game is. How far will the cleansing go? Exactly what is at stake here?

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan has announced that the city will be taking down the statue of Philip Schuyler because he was a slave owner.

Dr. Alice Green, executive director at the Center for Law and Justice, said: “He enslaved them, he devalued them, and the lesson for young people is that: Why are we glorifying people who treated us that way?”

An objection was raised by former state legislator and city historian Jack McEneny: “Philip Schuyler is one of the people who … if we didn’t have him, we would’ve lost the Battle of Saratoga.”

In response, Dr. Alice Green, said: “I don’t believe in censorship. I do believe if somebody wants to glorify Philip Schuyler … They should, but not on my government property.”

There are other examples glorifying Philip Schuyler.

One is the nearby Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site located on state government property and operated by the state Office of Parks Recreation & Historic Preservation.

Another is the Schuyler House, Philip Schuyler’s country house near the Saratoga battlefield and owned and operated by the National Park Service on federal government property. What is the basis for removing the statue but keeping state and federal ownership of his houses?

Why should taxpayer money be used to support the homes of a slave owner? Shouldn’t these houses be privatized as Green suggested? One thing always leads to another. That’s the way the purification process works.

What about Schuylerville, the village where the Schuyler House is located? Shouldn’t its name be changed?

A bigger problem is Schuyler’s daughters. They appear in the musical “Hamilton”, as one of them married Alexander Hamilton.

The daughters were all beneficiaries of white privilege. What are they doing on Broadway in positive roles? Shouldn’t they be removed from the musical?

If seeing a statue is traumatic, what does that make seeing living examples of these daughters of white privilege singing and dancing before an appreciative audience? What does that make the people who pay to see them?

“Who tells your story?” the musical famously asks. The real story is one of slavery and not that of Hamilton’s immigration. That’s the way the purification process works.

Peter Feinman, who advocates for local history to be taught in New York State schools, is president of the Institute of History, Archaeology & Education.

CUOMO:  ‘From Worst To First’

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Briefing

‘From Worst To First’

Governor Cuomo

Editor’s Note: Here are three excerpts from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 111th and last of “daily briefings” that became part of New Yorkers’ lives since the day of his emergency declaration Friday, March 13, as the coronavirus epidemic loomed, until Friday, June 19. He will continue briefings on an as-needed basis.

Today, we have done a full 180, from worst to first.

We are controlling the virus better than any state in the country and any nation on the globe. Even more, by reducing the infection rate, we saved over 100,000 people from being hospitalized and possibly dying, just think about that.

It is an unimaginable achievement.

I’m so incredibly proud of what we all did together, and as a community. We reopened the economy and we saved lives. Because it was never a choice between one or the other, it was always right to do both.

I ask myself and today I ask you: Why did it take a crisis to bring us together?

Why does government usually appeal to the worst in us rather than the best?

Why do our politics today play to our fears and weaknesses rather than appeal to our strengths?

Why doesn’t government challenge us to reach higher and speak to our better angels?

Why can’t it motivate us by love rather than hate?

Why doesn’t government urge us to realize we are members of the same community, the same family? That we all benefit when we work together.

Isn’t that what we really showed over the past 111 days? That working together works. That the only way forward is if I protect you and you protect me.

I wear a mask for you and you wear a mask for me.

If you care for me and I care for you, we showed that in the end love does win. Love does conquer all. That no matter how dark the day, love brings the light.

That is what I will take from the past 111 days.

It inspires me and energizes me and excites me. If we could accomplish together what we did here, this impossible task, of beating back this deadly virus then there is nothing we can’t do.

We will be better and we will be stronger for what we have gone through. It shows us how capable we are when we are at our best. It shows us that we have great potential to do even more and we will.

YOUNGS: What I Didn’t Know About Racism

LETTER FROM GEORGETOWN

What I Didn’t

Know About Racism

By CONOR YOUNGS • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Over the last two weeks, Americans have voiced their anger, frustration and shock over the murder of George Floyd through large-scale protests across the county, including in our very own Oneonta and Cooperstown.

These events reminded me of something I wrote in one of our local newspapers right after the 2016 election as a college senior interning with Otsego County Judge Brian Burns. The piece was entitled, “Does implicit racial bias exist in the criminal justice system?”

Conor Youngs, a graduate of Georgetown Law School, is an Oneonta native and a member
of OHS 2012 State Champion
baseball team.

Its purpose was to explain implicit racial bias and the research behind it, how such bias manifests itself into significant racial disparities in our criminal justice system, and what Judge Burns was doing to prevent it in our local court system.

In the short four years since writing that piece, I’ve graduated from college and law school. Four years ago, I thought I had a good understanding of racial bias and its impact on America. I thought I could easily identify explicit forms of racism and had become aware of my own implicit racial biases. But, after having made a greater effort to study racism in all its forms – explicit, implicit, and institutional – I realize I knew very little.

Importantly, what I did not understand was the historical context that sits beneath racism in America today. This historical context is not taught to white Americans like me and is one that I would not have learned if not for attending law school.

The context I did not understand was the extent to which lawmakers and judges, throughout American history, have used our legal system in explicit and implicit ways to preserve a racial order, giving continued life to the institution of slavery hundreds of years after it was formally ended.

Four years ago, I did not understand the pattern by politicians of exploiting rural white Americans and their racial biases to seize power, leaving those same Americans in the dust while inflicting enormous injustices against minorities – the effects of which our nation still lives with today.

I did not realize that “law and order” was a phrase originated by George Wallace in his attempt to stoke fear and racial resentment in white Americans and maintain white supremacy and racial segregation.

I did not realize that President Nixon also used “law and order” and other dog whistles in his Southern Strategy, which was unfortunately successful.

And, I did not understand how all of this manufactured fear and racial resentment led to white flight to suburban America, further deepening our racial divide and maintaining racial segregation it even after it was formally banned.

Four years ago, I also did not understand how the Supreme Court since the 1970s
has written opinions that curtailed much of the civil rights progess acheived in the 1960s, making it extraordinarily difficult to win racial discrimination cases today.

And, I did not understand how this has all been part of a deliberate strategy by a major
ity of the Supreme Court’s justices to uphold racially biased institutions and eliminate the court system as a meaningful avenue for minorities to seek justice and equal protection under the law.

In sum, I did not understand the horrific cycle of racial discrimination that our country has maintained. From slavery to Jim Crow, and now to mass incarceration, racial discrimination remerges through a new ugly mechanism created and sustained by lawmakers and judges.

I’ve heard a lot in the past two weeks that what happened to George Floyd was “not who we are” as a country. But the truth is, it is exactly who we are and who we have been.

In 2008, as a 14-year-old watching our first black president get elected, and unaware of our history, I believed that America was finally moving beyond race.

Just as America believed racism was on its way out after the end of slavery, just as America believed racism was on its way out after the end of Jim Crow and segregation, many Americans like me naively believed racism was on its way out after the election of President Obama. But what I’ve learned, and what has become even more obvious these past weeks, is that we are far from that.

Author and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates has talked about a “national reckoning.” When discussing reparations, he says that what black Americans want and need is more than a payout for past injustices, what is needed is a national reckoning.

As Coates put it, such reckoning is a “revolution of the American consciousness, a
reconciling of our self-image as the great democratizer with the facts of our history.” Simply put, we must all begin to “see America as it is” – a request being made by protesters’ in the streets today.

What has disappointed me the most in the time since I wrote about implicit racial bias in 2016 is the lack of understanding of our history and unwillingness by many Americans to recognize that we are a deeply imperfect union. I myself continue to have a lot to learn. But it is disheartening to watch the reluctance by some to join the current movement towards a national reckoning and greater racial justice.

In response to these protests, many have chosen to fall into the same, tired trap of racist appeals like “law and order” and other dog whistles that exploit our implicit racial biases
and further deepen racial oppression.

Although some believe that strength is reflected through racist appeals, removing peaceful protesters from a public square, or talking tough on Twitter, real strength is having the courage to become informed, reconcile with our nation’s history, and not give in to racism in any form.

Like the protesters on our streets today, I have hope that this country will someday overcome systemic racism. Of course, I’ve learned over the last few years that it will not be solved in months or years, and certainly not through a single election. However, today’s protests have demonstrated that more Americans are starting to join together for this overdue national reckoning.

And, I maintain hope that when I sit down to write another article four years from now, understanding and not intolerance, progress and not decline, will have been chosen by America this time around.

COLUMN: If Numbers Keep Rising In Mohawk Valley Region, County May Be Re-Closed

LIFE IN THE TIME OF COVID-19

If Numbers Keep Rising

In Mohawk Valley Region,

County May Be Re-Closed

By RICHARD STERNBERG • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Richard Sternberg, a retired Bassett Hospital orthopedic surgeon, has agreed to provide his professional perspective while the coronavirus threat continues. Dr. Sternberg, who is also a village trustee, resides in Cooperstown.

At his news conference today, Governor Cuomo made public the result of the latest antibody testing story for all of New York State. The numbers don’t look good for the Mohawk Valley region (which includes Otsego County), and the governor made a brief comment to that effect.

The antibody testing indicates that somebody’s had the disease.

The Mohawk Valley had the largest percentage gain of patients who took the test that turned up positive. Previous tests showed 2.7 percent positive; we now have 5.5 percent positive. This is a gain of 2.8 percent or more than twice the rate previously. This puts us in the top four regions in the state in terms of percentage positive.

Only New York City, Long Island, and the Hudson Valley have higher numbers   We also have the second largest increase in percentage with a gain of 2.8 percent for a relative gain from our previous one of over 100 percent. Only the North Country had a higher relative percent increase and it started out at about half our rate.

CLARK: Where Is God? In Otsego County

FROM PROTESTS’ FRONT LINES

Where Is God?

In Otsego County

By Rev. LaDANA CLARK • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Where is GOD?

The whole world goes down in a plague and comes up in a peaceful protest! Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “I can’t make a man love me, only GOD can do that.”

Rev. LaDana Clark, Oneonta,
known as Lady Jam, is a self-described hip-hop pastor. She spoke at Oneonta
and Cooperstown “Rallies for Justice,”
and provided this excerpt. She was a speaker at the “Justice for George Floyd” rally in Cooperstown Saturday, June 7.

Where is GOD?

GOD is in the heart of every person who is rising up right now, on one accord, all over the country, and all over this world, for justice, love, peace and equality!

Where is GOD?

We are all a part of The Tapestry, The Fabric, The Essence of GOD!

We are One America! We are One Global World Community and we are now operating together to be the change we want to see!

Where is GOD?

To our young people, across America and the World! You are strong, bold, and peaceful, amazing and triumphant! You are also our next generation of hope!

GOD is equally proud of you and all of us right now!

Police Officers are quickly and strategically being held accountable!

“Community policing” is being put back on the table, funds from police budgets are being diverted to human needs budgets or in other words, diverted to the least of these!

Now, I don’t care if someone is a Democrat or a Republican as long as they are for all the people! A call for an enormous voter registration and mobilization is in effect! We must vote up and down the ballot, for local and national candidates!

The pulse of the people is focused on unity, peaceful protest, reflections on injustice and equality for all! Diverse people must keep speaking out! Responsible leaders must continue taking moral action!

This is how we get the people’s business done, at a standard that works in the best
interest of “All GOD’s Children!”

“Amen – Everybody!” Let’s keep moving America and the world community in “The Right Direction” and remain steadfast and unmoveable!

Let us do our best to stay on the right side of history!

Finally, remember social media and cell phone videos are more powerful than weapons of “mass destruction” and we should use these tools wisely and continue these exciting, electric days of much needed peace, love, action and unity!

Where is GOD? GOD is in you!

GOD is in me! GOD is in everyone who breathes!

 

LEVINE: Needs Met, But Much Left To Do

FROM PHILANTHROPY’S FRONT LINES

Needs Met, But

Much Left To Do

By HARRY LEVINE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

We first announced the creation of the COVID-19 Relief & Recovery Fund in this newspaper on April 21. We had not intended to start our public life this way, but the need for such a fund was obvious to us and we felt a deep responsibility to join those already fighting the pandemic.

What we can now report is that the community, the entire community, has risen to the same call and joined us.

Harry Levine,  board chairman of the Community Foundation former chairman of the Otsego Land Trust, lives in Springfield.

Here are a few points:

• You have contributed over $200,000 in less than two months.
• Awards have been granted to 12 nonprofits for a total of $60,000.
• Another 12 applications are being reviewed right now.
• More than 250 individuals and families have joined in supporting the fund.
• Another 20 organizations have endorsed the fund, including the county Board of Representatives, our Congressman (Antonio Delgado), our state Assemblyman (John Salka), our state Senator (Jim Seward), and six local town boards.

We are awarding every $1 received to help alleviate the crisis. The costs of the Fund are being absorbed entirely by the Community Foundation of Otsego County.

Some funds are being reserved to help small businesses restart. But even these funds will be allocated quickly as the need far exceeds the size of the Fund.

We wish we could award two or three times the amounts we have been able to distribute. We are encouraging applicants to return for more, if we have more. Certainly, the need is there.

This can be done if everyone of us helps out. If you have not yet contributed to the COVID-19 Fund or if you are able to make a second contribution (some donors have actually made three contributions), please do so now. Go to our website at www.cfotsego.org for a list of awards and donation instructions.

We cannot write this report without noting that our local governments and our hospitals (and all those people who work at these institutions) have done a tremendous job meeting the pandemic head on.

They have prepared well. They have coordinated actions and publicized consistent messages, allowing all of us to behave with confidence and take personal actions to protect ourselves and our neighbors.

We see face masks in use more often than not. Spacing between us is generally in line with public health guidelines. Shoppers at grocery stores are respectful of proper distancing.

As a result, the health aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been relatively under control.

We have had serious illnesses and even deaths. But our health system has not been overwhelmed as it has been in other parts of the country. And health workers have been there for us when they are needed.

Economically, however, we are likely to suffer worse than many other areas. Our economy is heavily dependent upon tourism and upon the summer season of public events. In financial terms,  this summer will be a disaster.

We already have seen the signs of closed businesses. Personal income is down. Small businesses are going to struggle to reopen. Sales taxes, bed taxes, allocations from State and Federal budgets are going to be cut back, putting budgetary pressure on our local governments. The future is going to be hard.

In this light, the Community Foundation of Otsego County sees an immediate need being addressed by the COVID-19 Fund and a longer-term mission to continue supportive efforts to tackle the challenges of our area.

Today, we are focused on fighting the pandemic, but there will be a tomorrow and we intend to be there to continue working to improve the lives of those who live in our community.

Please join us and donate today. Your money is being well spent and much appreciated. Stay with us tomorrow as we work to improve the quality of life in our area.

FISHER: Justice For All – Let’s Live Up To Ideals

JUSTICE FOR ALL

NAACP’s President:

Let’s Live Up To Ideals

At the “Rally for Justice” Sunday, June 7, on the Otsego County Courthouse steps in Cooperstown, NAACP President Lee Fisher drew a lesson from the other speakers: America needs to live up to its founding principles. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)

Editor’s Note: Lee Fisher, president of the NAACP, Oneonta chapter, delivered this address Sunday, June 7, at the Rally for Justice on the Otsego County Courthouse steps in Cooperstown.

By LEE FISHER • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

We hold these truths to be self evident, that all humans are created (and treated) equal with certain inalienable rights and among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Now more than ever this nation must live up to the obligations imposed upon it by the Emancipation Proclamation.

How far has it gone in assuring to each and every citizen, irrespective of our color, the equality of opportunity and equality before the law guaranteed in the Constitution?

The murder of George Floyd by what is considered a “bad acting” policeman was a horrific, unspeakable tragedy. A routine arrest becomes a de facto execution. The protests we are witnessing all around the country are not just from the killing of Brianna Taylor in Louisville, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, Trayvon Martin in Florida or Eric Gardner in New York. People are demanding change in America.

We should not just be here only for the senseless murder of George Floyd but the discriminatory practice about everyday issues such as a living wage, affordable housing, the cost of higher education, voter suppression, red lining and the list goes on.

In her book, “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings,” Maya Angelou said, if you’re for the right thing, then you do it without thinking – massive groups of people want change.

Everyone should be on the side of fairness and equality. The massive protests we see are urgent responses to the systemic racism that has afflicted and torn apart our communities, not just the past few months but, for blacks, 400 years of a type of Apartheid.

People in the privileged class many times don’t understand just how difficult it is to face the injustices that threaten people of color’s personal safety, as we witnessed with George Floyd and many more too numerous to mention – because of institutional systemic racism, not just everyday but for 400 years.

Dr. King’s Dream for America was already delivered 57 years ago – 57 years – and 400 years of carefully planned institutional racism. How much time is needed, America?

America. America, we are being called out by the whole world. America, we can’t be in hiding in plain sight anymore. It’s great that all of us are here – but you don’t get credit for just showing up. We must put this energy that we are now peacefully in protest marches, speeches, demonstrations – and this must be transformed into real action in November. If you want change, go to the polls and vote.

America, we can’t hide anymore in plain sight because we are being watched from a distance
not just here but around the world. Do we really mean what we say when we pledge allegiance.

If you really say America stands for liberty and justice for all with your right hand over your heart – waving an American Flag – ask yourself: Is America true, honest and loyal to what that flag symbolizes as a Christian nation?

Is it okay to stand in front of a church with a Bible upside down and backward and say, come on guys, join me in this photo shoot while protesters had to get pepper-sprayed.

What’s wrong with that picture? America, we can’t hide anymore in plain sight. If America stands for its colors – red, white and blue – remember, those colors stand for black, white, brown, yellow, red, straight and gay.

Let’s to the right thing.

This is our opportunity to call for America to stand up tall and begin the task of healing these open wounds inflicted by America’s system of systemic racism.

America we can’t hide anymore in plain sight. We have been walking around racism, discrimination bigotry and hatred – and not dealing with it directly.

Remember every time you pledge allegiance to the flag. We America, must as a nation, as one nation under God, not divided, together with liberty and justice for all, go forward shoulder to shoulder, arm and arm, working together in understanding, peace
and love.

DRUGOVICH: Hartwick United In Seeking Justice

VIEW PRESIDENT DRUGOVICH’S VIDEO

Hartwick United

In Seeking Justice

Editor’s Note: Hartwick College President Margaret L. Drugovich issued this letter to the college community to address concerns in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

By MARGARET DRUGOVICH • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Simply occupying the office of the college presidency does not give me the right to presume that I know how every member of our community thinks or feels. We do not all agree on politics, culture or even the meaning of words. The very nature of an academic community begs us to question and debate every thought, every statement, and every idea that takes flight.

Margaret Drugovich has
served as Hartwick College’s
president since 2008.

But there are some ideas that stand clearly apart from all others. When it comes to human decency, justice, and fairness, there is no room for equivocation.

And so I write to every member of our Hartwick Community to say to all who will listen that we condemn the murder of George Floyd. There is no room for bias-fueled hatred at Hartwick. At Hartwick, we stand with all who seek justice for Mr. Floyd’s death.

It is our responsibility to eliminate the social, health and economic inequities that allow bias-fueled hate to continue. We must stare into the truth that these inequities result in pain for both individuals and our society as a whole. There is no benefit to any one of us if others are treated with less respect, care, compassion, or opportunity and more prejudice, mistrust, anger and cruelty. It is easy to say the words “Black Lives Matter.”

Each of us must act in a way that makes it clear that Black lives do matter. Each of us must act in a way that makes it clear that every life matters.

In my video message on May 31 I spoke to our students about how important it is to get an education that will open doors to spaces of influence so that we can make the change that is so overdue. I hope that my message planted the seed of hope that this madness does not need to continue. Education certainly is not the full answer, nor is it the only answer, but it is one path to a more just future.

I am a white woman who has worked hard to move to a place of relative privilege, but I have also been allowed the opportunity to do so. I cannot claim to fully appreciate the depth of rage and anguish of a woman of color who has been deprived of this same opportunity. I cannot know what it is like to be a black man who fears for his life when he leaves his home.

But I do understand the fear that comes with the inability to breath. If you are angry, hurt, frustrated and afraid, please know that you are not alone. We do care about you. And we will defend and protect your right to live without fear.

We will soon organize a forum for our community to discuss what we have learned from this tragedy and how we can turn that learning into meaningful action. I hope that you will participate.

STERNBERG: Navigating Without a Compass
LIFE IN THE TIME OF COVID-19

Navigating Without a Compass

Richard Sternberg, a retired Bassett Hospital orthopedic surgeon, has agreed to provide his professional perspective while the coronavirus threat continues. Dr. Sternberg, who is also a village trustee, resides in Cooperstown.

One thing is very clear when dealing with a pandemic, it is very important to have good statistics in order to determine a plan of attack. Without good numbers it’s hard to say what to do next. It’s also important to understand what these numbers mean.

With COVID- 19, it has proven difficult to determine its morbidity and mortality rate and its infectivity. Additionally, we’re not sure exactly what the tests that are being done mean. There’s a great deal of controversy about accuracy, especially about the antibody test which shows people who have the disease.

Some people die of the disease. Many of these people have pre-existing conditions. This is obviously common in elderly people. Some people have absolutely no pre-existing conditions and are dying of COVID-19 solely. Many people who contract the infection will survive it but may have long-term health consequences.

We have no idea what this percentage will turn out to be. Some people contract the virus that are totally asymptomatic. They have no illness at all. Unfortunately, they are probably still contagious and can infect others who become symptomatic.

When we have good numbers of the size of a population, the number of people affected, number of people who die, and the number of people who develop permanent medical problems, we can start to develop good plans.

Unfortunately, we now recognize that we don’t have a good handle on these basic statistics.
We were able to determine what percentage of those who were tested and confirmed with COVID-19 died. The problem with that is many people who died during this period went unrecognized as having
COVID-19 because the algorithm to decide who would be screened did not recognize that most infected people wouldn’t have classic symptoms. This makes the statistic of the percentage who died unreliable.

In Italy, it initially looked like 10 percent of the victims were dying. In Germany, it looks like less than 1 percent of the victims are dying. In the United States it looks like at least 5 percent die.

To figure out the real infection, fatality and morbidity rates, we are going to have to know the size of the population, what percentage of the population actually contracted the disease, and what percentage was symptom-free.

A study in New York City, which Governor Cuomo frequently refers to, shows that approximately 20 percent of the population have antibodies to COVID-19, which indicates that they were infected and implies that they have some level of immunity even if only temporary.

The official numbers of New York City are approximately 204,000 cases and 16,400 deaths. This represents a fatality rate of approximately 8 percent. But there seems to be a number of patients “missing”: 20 percent of 8 million is 2 million. Where are the missing 1.8 million cases?

If we take the number of deaths and divide that by the total number of cases, assuming those numbers are close to accurate, we get 16,400 divided by 2 million. Which is only 0.8 percent. This has to be adjusted for the deaths that haven’t been officially determined.

It appears that the disease is more prevalent and a lower mortality rate than initially thought. It also appears that as much as 90 percent of the population infected are not diagnosed.

A retrospective research paper that I read from a specialty hospital in New York City showed that otherwise healthy patients that were scheduled for surgery in April 2020 and did not warrant testing had an infection rate of approximately 12 percent, of which 58 percent remained asymptomatic even with the stress of surgery.

Whether it is determined by statistical methods or by formal scientific studies it is clear that a very significant percentage of patients with COVID-19 never show symptoms.

In summary, it’s clear that we do not have very good statistics which makes it more difficult to make informed decisions.

Hopefully, the statistics will improve. But the important point to take away from this is, regardless of the percentage who have the disease, a large number of people are dying from it.

Even if the fatality rate is only 0.5 percent, if we don’t get a vaccine, we can expect 70 to 80 percent of the population to contract the disease, which in the United States would be more than 200 million people and therefore 1 million people will die.

Let’s hope we can keep the curve flat until a vaccine is found.

ATWELL: All Ashore That’s Goin’ Ashore
Front Porch Perspective

All Ashore That’s Goin’ Ashore

Jim Atwell, a Quaker minister and retired college administrator, lives in Cooperstown.

Well, I’d circled the Baltimore inner harbor dockings and stood a bit, suitcase in hand, gazing up at an impressive three-domed building, each dome flying a huge pennant reading, “Old Bay Line.” And alongside the building a gangplank beckoned me. It climbed at a fairly steep angle to the main deck of the S.S. President Warfield.

Suitcase clutched with left hand, I hauled myself up the gangway’s handrail to the deck. There stood a tall smiling black man dressed in a starched white uniform. As I extended a hand, the man spoke in a rich baritone.

“I take it you are Master James Atwell?” Awed, I smiled and nodded. “I am James, your personal steward. If I may take your suitcase, I’ll escort you to your stateroom”

And he meant stateroom. Down a long corridor that seemed to be following the ship’s keel, several decks below. James bowed and stepped ahead of me and turned on lights in a room easily 20 by 20 feet. Its main part held a double bed, an easy chair, and desk. James gestured to the desk.

“Just in case you have some polishing to do on your speech,” he rumbled in that deep baritone.

Oh, and over there is your bathroom.” The last-mentioned took up 5 square feet – and even featured both tub and shower.

“Now, after you’ve settled in, Master James, you’ll have plenty of time to walk all the way around the main deck of the President Warfield. Just follow the outside rail and you’ll get a real sense of your home for the night.

“When you hear a brass gong sound, on deck and indoors, it’s calling you to the dining room. I’ll come looking for you so you won’t be late.” He grinned and winked.

“Mind you, we have quite a meal waiting there for you!”

James followed me back to the gangplank, and from there I headed aft down the starboard main deck of the 200-foot ship. Off to my left was the same view from my stateroom portholes but now broadened to a full panorama of the inner harbor all the way across to Federal Hill and past it to the flag (still there!) above Fort McHenry.

Still heading toward the stern, my quick glances in portholes showed a kitchen that could easily accommodate a restaurant, then a well-stocked bar, and then the dining where, as James had said,

“quite a meal would be served to me.”

A few more portholes and suddenly I was glancing into somebody’s stateroom – and shocked, her hand to her mouth, an elderly woman was staring back at me!

Shame-faced, I broke into a shambling trot past a couple dozen more portholes, my eyes fixed across the harbor at distant Federal Hill. But by then I’d reached the ship’s stern and could surmise that
the ship had, minus space for preparing and serving meals for all its overnight guests, almost as many main deck staterooms sternward as it had forward of the gangway where I had boarded.

Ten more minutes’ walk brought me up to the President Warfield’s bow. Departure preparations were under way there, and I saw a deck hand cup his hands and shout down to the dock, “Loose the bow line!”

I guess the man down below caught a glimpse of my head and, realizing there was an audience, snapped a salute and shouted back,

“Aye, aye, matey!” I laughed aloud when he loosed the hawser, a good 4 inches thick, by flipping the two loops of the massive clove hitch up and over the top of the deck piling. They struck the pier below with a deep report but were hardly still before five men edged me aside and hauling the hawser first off the dock and into the harbor, and then up the ship’s side.

They didn’t take time to coil the hawser but dragged it across to the deck to the port side and started hauling it sternward there. I wondered why this extra work. Someone down starboard side was bellowing into a megaphone:

“ALL ASHORE THAT’S GOING ASHORE!” They were about to raise the gangway and draw it aboard. That done and with the stern hawser also hauled aboard, we’d be separated from the land.

My 12-hour voyage had begun!

Next time: The shipboard feast.

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