Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Town Hall meeting in Hinsdale, NY 2017

Dear Editor,
This Saturday’s Townhall with Tom Reed in Hinsdale was an interesting experience. There were supporters in the crowd with their hopeful MAGA hats but the majority of citizens there traded hope for anger and worry, illustrating such feelings with signs. These Americans need and want health care and they need health insurance to make that possible.
                Mr. Reed used the word “access” carefully and often. This new bill guarantees access to health insurance. Insurance companies must give access to people regardless of age or preexisting conditions.
                We all have access to a number of things we don’t own. There are things we would like to buy but when we haven’t the money, we don’t get them.
                Mr. Reed said that the $880 Billion cut to Medicaid won’t limit anyone’s access to insurance, a line repeated by Tom Price on TV. Price said that making that cut will allow states to reach more people. That sounds more like a deflecting slogan than a helpful plan.
                Mr. Reed did say that the new bill was much like the old one so the estimate that 24 million people will lose health coverage will likely be part of the next CBO evaluation but he doesn’t listen to bean-counters.
                A business owner drove all the way from Corning to ask a personal question. He pays $1082 per month in premiums for his family and what he gets has an $11,000 deductible. His out of pocket expenses last year were over $20,000. “Who can do that?” he asked. “What’s in this bill that will help my family and others in the same predicament?”
                Reed said there were 3 things in the bill that would help him. First, the mandates will disappear so nobody has to buy insurance. Without mandates, families can choose not to have insurance. I put that down twice so we can all think about it more.
                If the family chose to buy insurance, they would get relief at tax season with tax credits, the second helpful bit in the bill. The bill does away with subsidies so there will be no help paying premiums but people with annual incomes below $150,000 will be eligible for a tax credit of about $4000.
                The part of the bill that Reed feels is very important is that the market will be opened up allowing companies to sell benefits across state lines. With competition, premiums will come down.
                There was some discussion about the difference between health care and health insurance and, interestingly, it was presented by a man who insisted that government keep its hands off of health issues. The man said he was on Medicare, a system designed, organized run and managed by nothing but government hands.
                Access to Mr. Reed at Townhalls is valuable and appreciated but his meetings and others shown on TV illustrate how worried people are. Access to the ER doesn’t help anyone with empty pockets and a chronic illness like diabetes or arthritis. When access to EpiPens and blood pressure meds doesn’t grant the ability to acquire such things, there is no relief.

                Seems someone was right about Australia.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Senior Shows at Alfred University

 ALFRED:  Clay, paint, cardboard, glass, brass, bronze and sometimes broken bikes are all interesting because they can, and in Alfred often do, become ideas to spark conversation and encourage thought.
                Some people gravitate toward one particular material and push it, pull it, twist it, fold it and decorate it to tell the rest of us their ideas and questions. Sarah Paschkes has been putting her ideas into paintings and ceramics this year for both her Honor Thesis and Senior Show. The show opens on Saturday, May 6 from 4-7 pm and, for Sarah, will be on the first floor of Binns-Merrill Hall.
                Sarah has concentrations in painting and ceramics so uses two studio spaces to produce her work. Her show will bring paintings and ceramics together to explore this idea: Overturning the Trope of the Cute Animal as a Sidekick.
                Sarah spoke of her thoughts on Pokémon and other worlds where main characters have a “cute animal sidekick.” Pokémon creatures, for example, are captured and to a small degree cared for but also blithely given away or put into a gym to fight. She feels that the ownership and the fight assignments correspond to dog fights in the real world. The Pokémon, or the dogs, are living tools.
                Sarah has created a cast of 9 characters with personalities and stories in which they are not tools or sidekicks or conveniences but characters who stand in the spot light. These characters interact with each other in Sarah’s paintings but will develop further as she chronicles their adventures in written stories.
                She studied the structure of various animals to develop blended body shapes. One is cat like and others combine animal shapes such as the snake/ferret. In addition to their unique shapes, the creatures have distinct personalities: shy, friendly, grumpy, eccentric or easy going.
                There will be 9 different show cards to recognize the entire cast. When we met she had several paintings finished and others in progress. She was also making porcelain mugs, plates and bowls.
                The ceramic work is carefully, neatly, beautifully done. When finished, the characters will be on all the ceramic work. The mugs are cute. The body of the mug has the face of a creature while the handles are carved tails. Some bowls have a character inside peering up and some have faces and tails on the outside.
                Sarah first threw in 8th grade and has never stopped. She worked as a volunteer in the Middle School’s Clay Club for a few years. She graduated from Foxline High School in Bedford NY after working with clay every year. When it was time for college she applied to and visited 5 art schools but when she walked into what was the newly renovated kiln room in Alfred, the choice as made.
                After graduation Sarah will room with her mom near New York City, search for a job, and keep in touch with the fantastic friends she made in her years at AU. She plans to set up a painting studio right away though may have to wait to get her own clay studio.

                Another senior in the School of Art and Design is Morgan Croft. Morgan came to Alfred from Cazenovia, NY. She also applied to 5 art schools but fell in love with Alfred when she came to visit. There is some chance that she was influenced by her high school art teacher who graduated from Alfred.
                Surprisingly, she also was drawn to Alfred because of the impressive kiln room. As kiln rooms go, it is spectacular but what is surprising is that Morgan is a print maker/photographer and only took one ceramic class.
                After graduation Morgan will work her old bartending job and search for a position in a design studio where she may design fabric or signs or something still unimagined. In time, she plans to go to grad school and design video games.
                Morgan’s senior show focuses on a character she developed. His name is Jesse and he stars in her graphic novel. At her show she will display several large images from the book and will offer the entire book, printed and bound, for sale.
                Jesse’s story was written jointly by Morgan and one of her friends. This duo has been creating stories since they were 15 years old. Jesse’s story is one in which gangsters meet hackers in a sci-fi world. Jesse is morally ambiguous, probably not evil, but wickedly smart.
                Morgan thinks the best part about Alfred has been the connections she has made with other students and with faculty members. She said that everyone pushed her to be more creative. See Morgan’s show on the second floor of Binns-Merrill, actually right above Sarah’s show, and go home with your own copy of the novel in full color or black and white.

Hints for attending Senior Shows at Alfred University. Parking is hard to find so fill up your car and read the signs to park safely. Be prepared to walk across campus. The opening is set for 4-7 pm. Students work frantically to be ready and to put out celebratory snacks. Don’t go early. Maps will be in galleries as well as in Harder Hall, Binns-Merrill. Much of the work will be for sale though methods of purchase vary so talk with students and understand that you can’t generally take things home that night. Be prepared for variety.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Alfred University Symphonic Band - April 28

ALFRED: You are invited on Friday, April 28 at 7:30 to hear the Alfred University Symphonic Band performance. The band is full of interesting people with several of them soon to graduate so this is your last chance to hear them together.
                One Senior is Cheyenne Seymore. Cheyenne went to school in Elmira where everyone has to join chorus or band in junior high. Most other students I’ve interviewed chose an instrument in 4th or 5th grade and then stuck with it but in Elmira everyone volunteers. In high school, students choose to continue with music or have a study hall. Cheyenne said that about half the students choose to continue, as she did.
                Cheyenne chose to play percussion for, one might say, interesting reasons. Her dad, noted as a hippy-dad, took her to drum circles so drums were familiar. She also felt that drum music is easier to read without the music staff making demands on her.
                At AU, Cheyenne is a math and accounting major with plans to work as an accountant after she graduates. The CPA exams (a series of 4 exams, 3 hours each) are in her future. By taking full time studies on the AU campus and adding other courses from Alfred State she has managed to get all the coursework needed for the CPA while earning her degree.  She had an interview for a potential job the day we talked.
                Cheyenne has a strong work ethic that she credits to her first pony. She started riding lessons when she was five and when she turned 8, her grandparents gave her a pony. Her parents agreed to pay the cost of boarding the pony but if she wanted to continue riding lessons she had to earn them. She agreed to work so, every day, after school, she rode the bus to the barn to muck out stalls and feed horses. Also, as a rugged 8 year old, she “helped the little kids” saddle their horses.
                Alfred University’s Equestrian program brought Cheyenne here to study. As a member of the Equestrian Team, Cheyenne took 8th place in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association Hunt Seat Regionals.
                Cheyenne is sorry that she didn’t join the Symphonic Band sooner. She took percussion lessons from Dr. Foster in the Fall Semester and joined the band this, her final, semester. The 3 years away from drums made her rusty so she is thankful that the percussion section members are so welcoming and helpful.
                Another senior is trombonist and ceramic engineering student, Kade McGarrity. Kade is from Angola, NY where in 5th grade he started lessons on saxophone. The best laid plans of a fifth grader can be wonderfully flexible because when Kade couldn’t get musical sounds from the sax, he traded it for his second choice, a trombone. While those might seem miles apart, both are suitable for jazz.
                He joined concert band in sixth grade and in high school played in a Ska band, Scallywags, performing at parties and in the fire hall. They wrote and recorded a few songs in the drummer’s basement since he was the guy with the sound board.  Now, that drummer is now studying music production program at Fredonia while Kade and his trombone are in Alfred- always in Jazz Band, occasionally in Symphonic Orchestra, and regularly in Symphonic Band.
                Kade spoke of the value of music in general.  He is concerned about the decreasing funding for school music programs at all levels. Kade is certain that he wouldn’t be the person he is now without the many academic and social experiences that music provided. Music is an essential in one’s education.
                He also named his high school band teacher as his favorite teacher ever. This man cared about all students and not just their music but their well being. He even gave Kade his jazz trombone.
                The instrument teetered on the edge of beatten up and having character with a distinct liability in that it didn’t work. After it was used as a prop in a school play, Kade took it home and fixed it but when he returned it, his teacher said he earned it. This is the trombone he uses in jazz band because it has a smokier sound than his concert horn and it hits high notes more easily.
                Kade and his trombone may be at AU for a while. He plans to apply for advanced study here and hopes for a PhD. He may like to work on materials in electronics or maybe develop body armor or structural ceramics or explore heat resistant materials.        
                Kade and Cheyenne both name Second Suite for Military Band by Holst as their favorite piece in the concert.  Kade particularly likes the fourth movement because it brings together many melodies and intertwines them. Cheyenne likes it because it reminds her of her high school music fun.
                Kalene Strange, a senior in Interdisciplinary Art from Wellsboro PA, plays alto sax. Her senior show reception will be in the basement of The Brick on May 5 from 5-7 pm but first come to hear her play in the concert on April 28. Her art involves using sound waves within childhood photographs.
                Kaylene is from Wellsboro PA where she had her first music lesson on piano at age 3 with her grandfather. He got frustrated and walked away but she kept at it till she figured it out. Her grandfather played by ear but which made sense to her because she has near perfect pitch and can “hear” the music but she taught herself to read music and began piano lessons with another teacher when she was 5.
Cheyenne, Rosalyn, Kaylene, Kade
                Kaylene started singing when she started talking, or maybe before. Her family gatherings always include a guitar and songs. She got a guitar in middle school and taught herself. Not surprisingly, she borrowed instruments and books from school and, as she says, figured out flute, piccolo, clarinet and trumpet as well as French horn with a brief stint on oboe. Her mother said she sounded like a dying duck and the oboe had to go, please. At AU she studied violin for 2 years with Dr. Lantz and would have had more music classes and experiences but her schedule was packed.  
                Kalene’s favorite piece is Endless Rainbows by Brian Balmages because of the lovely, lyrical melodies.
                A fourth senior is Rosalyn Nardella, who began with baritone sax in middle school in Loganton, PA and added viola in high school. As a freshman at Alfred, she began taking flute and piano lessons and this year has played in student recitals as a flute soloist and with Andres Garcia in a saxophone duet as well as with the Pep Band, Symphonic Band and Orchestra.
                During her senior year she joined the newly formed Alfred University Flute Choir. This busy student exercises her horse regularly and works to earn board for it. Some days she travels to the Dansville Dental Practice where she takes xrays and assists in patient room preparation.
                Rosalyn says that she has time for lots of things if she avoids studying but, knowing she is a biology major, that seems a joke. At the time of our talk her future involves dentistry at Temple University in Philadelphia. Four years at Temple will bring true her childhood dream of being a dentist.   For many, a dentistry degree comes with student debt anchoring them to earth but Rosalyn has a different anchor in mind. By enlisting in the Navy, she will avoid $300,000 to $500,000 in loans. The Navy will pay for dental school in exchange for her pledge of 4 years as a naval dentist. She will have the option to stay in the Navy for her entire career if she chooses. If she is assigned to a ship she will not be able to take her horse but she might take a ukulele since she plays that too.  
                Rosalyn’s favorite piece in the concert was Lightning Field by John Mackey. She was playing the flute part and having fun with it but recently was assigned the piano part instead so Shortcut Home by Dana Wilson is now her favorite. “It’s really fast and technically difficult,” she said.

Christiana and Molly ignore Dr. Foster and his Alfred Sun
                Other pieces in the concert are Gavorkna Fanfare by Jack Stamp, Snowflakes Dancing by Andrew Boysen, and The Promise of Living by Aaron Copland. The concert is free and open to the public in the Miller Performing Arts Center. Enter the campus at the traffic light, turn left at the boulder near the top of the hill. MPAC is the building at the end of that road with a glass front.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Hundreds question Tom Reed

ALLEN: Congressman Tom Reed spent last Saturday meeting constituents in a few small towns including at the Town Hall in Allen where people arrived early because the meeting was scheduled indoors, in a facility that seats only 49. Hoping to get in at 4, the queue formed at 2.  Voters wanted to express concerns, ask questions and listen to both their representative and fellow citizens.
                Unseasonal warmth melted snow turning the parking area into a gooey mire that little by little was filled with people who left their cars parked as much as 1/4 mile away on the road sides to stand between puddles or climb on a flatbed. An hour before the meeting started there were 90 people in line.
Jacob Elias 
                While waiting I talked with Jacob Elias, a graduate student at Cornell. With no meetings scheduled near Ithaca, he felt he had to drive to Allen to voice his support for funding the National Science Foundation.  With Elias was Rachel Fordise who was one among many worried about losing the ACA.
                As time passed, about 25 gathered around Trump/Pence signs. A few of them were concerned about “outsiders” being at the location. They felt that the meeting was for constituents in Allen and with so many people from Hornell, Bath, Geneseo, and Ithaca, local residents would be drowned out.  
                (The 23rd Congressional District sprawls from Lake Erie to near Endicott, not on county or town lines but on party registration.)
                Shortly before Reed arrived, the crowd of about 400 sang Woody Guthrie’s This Land is Your Land. With the cooperative weather, Reed chose to stay outdoors as he had at earlier meetings. A megaphone was used by both Reed and questioners but at times words were lost in the wind, covered by boisterous shouts or drowned by booing.
                To begin, Reed led the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance with the crowd shouting the final words “with liberty and justice for all.” Reed then took the first question in which he was asked why he voted against demanding Donald Trump’s tax returns. While Reed said that Trump deserved his privacy the crowd shouted that they deserved to see what was being hidden.
                The second question was one of many about health care. People in the crowd shouted that they want to improve the ACA. Questions and shouts also made clear that these constituents want to preserve Medicare, to create a single payer healthcare system, and to allow bargaining with pharmaceutical companies to bring down the costs of prescriptions.
                Reed said, “Just so we’re clear. I’m going to stand for the repeal of the ACA in spite of your feelings.”
                When someone shouted, “You work for us.” Reed, smiling, declined to support universal health care or negotiated drug prices. He wants Medicaid to be available for those at 100% of the poverty level and thinks that people should put money into a health savings account. He supports offering birth control over the counter and keeping people on their parent’s insurance until they 26 but not the entire ACA.
                Reed wants older citizens to have a choice for their health care rather than continuing Medicare as it is. That statement drew shouts and boos. While Reed said that this would save Medicare people shouted that Medicare is not broken and that elderly can’t afford private insurance.
                Fred Sinclair, from Alfred, asked for Reed’s stance on DAPL, Keystone and NAPL pleading for support for the people being massacred at Standing Rock.  Reed said that he supported the construction of those pipelines and, later, added support for gas storage at Seneca Lake.
                Another environmentalist asked about the EPA and Reed said that he supported the EPA but felt that many regulations, particularly those regarding water, harmed farmers.
                A woman stated that half of the money donated to Reed’s election campaign came from healthcare, pharmaceutical and financial institutions, all based outside of the 23rd Congressional District while donations from people like her accounted for only 3% of his funding. “Why should I believe that your positions are based on data and not donations?” she asked.
                Reed said that he didn’t know about his donations but high-spirited booing drowned the rest of his answer.   
                In response to questions about investigating Russia’s influence in the Republican Administration Reed said that there is no evidence. Many in the crowd shouted for the release of Trump’s taxes and toi “follow the money”.
                Fears about cutting Social Security bought out a self-identified “68 year old nasty woman”. She said that she paid and paid into SS as her children are paying and paying but she fears for their future.  Reed said that he is committed to changing SS to save it.  
                Several shouted, “Raise the FICA limit,” but it wasn’t clear that Reed heard them.
                When asked if Black Lives Matter, Reed said that all lives matter and someone shouted, “Then refugees should matter.” When asked how the Dreamers can be helped, Reed said that he hoped there could be a path forward for those young people while someone in the crowd shouted, “Arrest and deportation will work.”
                When Reed announced that he had to leave, the crowd applauded dispersing in groups toward their vehicles but Gary Ostrower, former Mayor of Alfred and Reed’s college history professor, stepped up to shake his hand.

                Later Ostrower said, “First of all, you’ve got to give Tom Reed credit for showing up. There are scores of congress people who are cancelling these kinds of things precisely because they are fearful of controversy. Second, he’s not an ideologue in the way that Lamar Smith and others are. Tom will talk and will listen so I feel a personal loyalty to him that I don’t feel for the Republican Administration and I’ve been a Republican for 50 years.”

The Women's March: on the Road from Allegany County

WELLSVILLE: Nearly 3 million women, girls, sons, husbands, fathers, uncles, friends and others with concerns for the political situation now clogging the news in the United States headed for a Women’s March in Washington or elsewhere on Saturday, January 21.  It was reported the huge crowd in New York City turned the “march” into a “stand” while the event in Buffalo involved thousands walking on both sides of Delaware Avenue to Niagara Square.  In Philadelphia people strolled with songs, shouts and chants on the Franklin Parkway.
                In all the marches, there was a center point where speakers talked about ways to become and stay involved.
                Some people mocked the marches as useless. What’s the goal? Is this a permanent group? Does it ever matter to speak up? People who talked with me in Philadelphia that day as well as those who recounted the day to me later all found goals and support.
                I marched with 3 young women in Philadelphia. Emma Meetz took a bus from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia to march with college friends. Meetz said, “There’s been so much negative conversation in the last year that this seemed like a chance to get together and be with people who would give me ideas about how to carry forth.”
                Meetz works in a Pittsburgh Library that services a large group of Bhutanese Buddhists. She plans to return with energy to advocate for women.  She said, “I will try not to be selfish but to be a better listener and to understand the views of the Trump supporters in my community.”
                Emily Royer hosted Meetz in Philly. Royer has been upset about the changes that the Trump administration presented. She said, “I’d like to see the ACA remain and to keep Roe vs. Wade. I don’t support a Muslim registry and want to protect the rights of LGBT people.”
                Royer said that the emphasis on fossil fuel production stifles renewable energy jobs. “Opportunities for tens of thousands of new jobs in renewable energy are at risk and these would be local jobs that would boost our cities.”
                Lauren Westenheiser marched with them and said that in looking over social media she felt that almost everyone she knew marched from her aunt (Tucson), to colleagues (DC), college friends and cousins around the country. She said she is inspired now and will follow up with regular phone calls to her local and national representatives.
                Rusty Tobin, from Belmont, went to Buffalo. The event there was organized quickly by the Western NY Peace Center under the name: No Hate. No Mandate. Police were friendly even though the march had no permit, the reason why marchers held to the sidewalk until reaching Niagara Square for the speakers.
                Tobin had marched against war in the 60s but not since and said that she was surprised and delighted by the creative signs brought out. She described the group as about 80% women, many over 60, but also including babies, children, and teens.
                Tobin is interested in staying in contact with representatives at the state and national level. She said the event was psychologically empowering and will help her fight the move to privatize Medicare.
                D. Chase Angier left Hornell at 2:30 am to ride a bus to Washington DC. She hoped that the world would see that there are still many Americans who want to stand up for human rights, women’s rights and the security of a healthy planet. She has always advocated for these things as well as for the arts but now has more friends to work with in those areas.
                Because the environment is important to her, when she stayed with a friend recently, instead of giving a bottle of wine, she gave a membership to the Sierra Club. Moving from material gifts to meaningful, active gifts is a change she is seeing more and more people make.
                Rebecca Bennett has family in Wellsville and Andover but works in Binghamton so that’s where she went on Saturday. The organizers expected 200 or so but were shocked with the arrival of over 3,000.  From Martin Luther King Park, they could see streams of people walking to gather so they offered the microphone to anyone wanting to talk as they waited for all to arrive.
                Bennett said that several children spoke. One 10 year old boy said that some of his friends are immigrants and others are people of color and he wants all of them to be safe.  
                Another to talk was a great grandmother who said she had marched both for civil rights and against the Vietnam War. She said, “We’ve come too far to go back.”
                In agreement, Bennett said that she will read to keep informed and write letters and call her representatives to push them forward.
                One of the most significant local sites for a march was in Seneca Falls. Many from Alfred chose to attend events there including JoEllen delCampo. She said the planning for the event was flawless with a great cross-section of speakers including indigenous people and a sound system that allowed everyone to hear.
                Being among the men and women, of all ages, was inspiring. The message for the day, she said, was, “Make this a movement and not a moment. Be a participant with persistence and patience. Call, email, attend town meetings and, if you are of the right temperament, run for office.”

For Alfred and Alfred Station
Senators - Charles Schumer (202) 224-6542 and Kirsten Gillibrand (202) 224-4451
Congressperson Tom Reed (202) 225-3161
State Senator Cathy Young (518) 455-3563
Assemblyperson Joe Giglio (518) 455-5241
For ideas on how to contact an elected official:
Womensmarch.com (focused for march participants)
roganslist.blogspot.com (focused for liberal ideas)