Thursday, August 31, 2006

Roll the film

As the only the most honest of the law enforcement agents will attest, security is a relative term that can’t ever be quantified in any sort of tangible fashion especially when the only way to prove freedom from danger is to actually die.

But in the post 9-11 world, security has come to mean big money for a few select people, namely those who feel a handful of remote cameras linked to a television screen in some far-off room will prevent harm from happening. The most recent case of this money-for-safety exchange occurred in the small riverside town of Stillwater, which was awarded a $40,000 grant last week to install security cameras at the community center.

True, cameras can be a valuable tool for cops, who can’t be everywhere at once. But increasingly, they’re become a piss-poor replacement for community policing, which has always proven more effective than simply waiting for someone to commit a crime and then arresting them.

The basic tenant of community policing is to have cops walking the streets and interacting with their surroundings. When officers interact with the community and vice versa, there’s a sort of respect garnered on either side that is painfully absent with increased reliance on such tools as closed circuit cameras. In other words, cameras don’t prevent people from committing crimes; they only catch them in the act.

On the other hand, cops that garner respect from the people act as a deterrent two fold. When an officer becomes a well-liked member of the community, breaking the law then also becomes an issue of violating a friend’s trust, which is something that usually makes most petty and juvenile criminals think twice.

But for Stillwater, it’s apparently a lot cheaper to fleece forty grand from the fed and come away with a spiffy new digital camera system rather than contend with cop pensions, the cost of training and good honest law enforcement.

Of course, it should be noted that a 16-camera system generally retails for under $6,000, which is far less than the grant Stillwater received. And because they’re likely to have more grant money than they need, they’re likely to shoot for the top of the line model they don’t need. But don’t worry, it’s just your tax dollars at work, making sure that when the bad guys strike, at least they’ll be caught on camera.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Got leads?

Being descriptive in articles is a hallmark to which any good journalist would aspire. There is a point, however, where written imagery goes a bit too far and falls off the deep end. Editors, grab your red pen.

From the grab bag of really bad leads, there’s a Post Star article on news stands Wednesday, where the reporter somehow melds the imagery of gasoline and ice cream dribbling down someone’s chin. That’s a bit much for any reader to swallow in a first graph, pun intended.

Not to mention, writing about “melt-in-your-mouth” ice cream in an article solely devoted to prize-winning milk is a bit ludicrous, even when discussing Stewart’s Shops recent coup at the state Fair. On a side note, the writer could have made the correlation between good milk and good ice cream, which would have made all the hard-thought-out description a bit more plausible.

But frankly, it’s a bit safer to ditch the ice cream allusion and instead stick with a description of Stewart’s that most people are used to: unsightly brick shops on every street corner of the Capital Region where somewhat dodgy people hang out smoking cigarettes and scratching off lottery tickets.

Localize it

After news agencies across the globe took a good beating this week on the over-dramatized arrest of a suspect in the JonBenet Ramsey murder, some still weren’t willing to throw in the towel. And if there’s one news agency that’s perennially slow on the pickup, it’s the geniuses over at Capital News 9.

For a brief spell Tuesday afternoon, News 9 posted an abhorrent piece of footage –lest it be called journalism –on their Web site about how a local psychologist knew all along that John Karr didn’t kill the six-year-old girl nearly a decade ago.

Right. Him and about everyone else on the planet who wasn’t running around frantically with a microphone and video camera for the cable news networks.

What’s more distressing about the piece of one-source video reporting is that someone over at News 9 actually thought it would be a newsworthy item to interview a relatively unknown psychologist who never met, much less spoke with Karr; a man who for all intensive purposes only knows this individual from the snippets he was watching on television.

To the channel’s credit, someone must have realized the flawed thinking in airing such a piece of one-source garbage, or at least took note that people are tired of hearing about this case altogether. In place of the video feed is a glib paragraph about how ol’ Doc Cale –no mention of where he’s from –was never duped into believing Karr offed the baby beauty queen.

But the good reporting doesn’t end there. Also this week, News 9 also endeavored to localize the Comair plane crash in Kentucky in a way that no other news agency could. Again hitting the streets for a local angle, the news reporter found a pilot from Albany to give his 10 cents on the crash and how he’s baffled over it just like everyone else.

In this case, however, News 9 never bothers to qualify this pilot as anything more than a recreational flyer who takes his Cesna out for a joyride on weekends. And as even the most inexperienced pilot will affirm, flying a single- engine prop is a bit different than a 50-seat Bombardier CRJ100. Not to mention, it’s difficult for a pilot to comment on markings at a particular airstrip when that pilot has never set a foot on the tarmac.

This sort of shoddy journalism is a typical response by many smaller branches of the media attempting to ride the gravy train of big national news; localize it, come up with a local angle, find anything to make the john on the corner feel like he’s there experiencing it first hand. But there comes a point when these reports become a bit laughable.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Realty roulette

For sale: quarter-acre of land near downtown Saratoga Springs with quaint, rustic fixer-upper home; a real diamond in the rough.

Perhaps that’s what some jack-ass real state mogul might say about the rotting flop house on badly blighted property near Van Dam, which just a month ago was being marketed for more than $161,000. There are no walls. There is no floor upstairs. There is no way to know what is presently living in the house because it’s been unlocked and open to the elements for the past six months. And that’s just the beginning.

Not long ago, a thick tree was splintered during a thunder storm, crashing through the home’s front porch and badly damaging the roof. Travel to the backyard and you’ll find a dwelling that would only be suitable for serial killers or heroine addicts. The home’s brick chimney is falling in on itself, much like the rest of the moss-covered roof. The list goes on.

About a mile a way on State Street, there’s a similar overpriced piece of property, albeit in better condition. While the brick ranch-style home appears livable, it’s pretty clear from a cursory look that it would take an investment of several grand from the get-go. Asking price: $325,000.

Here’s the sleazy realtor pitch: the brick home is located on just less than a third of an acre. That means it could be subdivided and developed –or sold –as two separate lots. Lo and behold, one lot has a home on it, so buy the home, subdivide with the city and sell the other lot for a cool $150,000. Or just level the property and build a McMansion, as so many with property near North Broadway are doing these days.

The point is the Spa City’s real estate is dramatically over-valued. There are examples of it on every street corner in every section of Saratoga. The gentrified west side that is broadly championed by many as an “art district” has seen the average home price soar from around $120,000 three years ago to nearly $250,000.

Last month, the Greater Capital Region Association of Realtors finally came out with the proclamation that everyone knew to be inevitable: the market is cooling. For Saratoga County –an area that many argue is the apex of its glory in July –did not appear to slow as pronounced as the 15 percent elsewhere. In fact, the realtors said the median price jumped by about $30,000.

Quite literally, there are signs of this market cooling in the city, although listed prices really haven’t reflected this very much. Almost every street has a realtor sign posted, many of which have remained in place for the entire year. These are signs often posted on properties listed at more than a half-million or more, which are the ones expected to take the biggest hit as interest rates increase and the market becomes more frigid.

One can only hope that some of the greediest of these realtors realizes the effect that they’ve had by this hyperinflation of the market and stops this game of realty roulette before one of these so-called down trends blasts back in their face. After all, if the bubble pops, Saratoga Springs will undoubtedly be one of the municipalities worse for the wear.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Citizen Bruno

Looming three stories over the tree tops, towering by the city center, it’s Hollywood Joe. Residents on the Westside of town must have been pleasantly surprised to look out their back windows to see the countenance of the serious-looking senator staring back at them while they sip their morning tea.

There is, however, something a bit disconcerting about a state politician –or rather the state’s politician –casting his serious gaze upon voters as they pass by. Such a towering portrait is perhaps the best campaign fodder any politician could ask for, not that Bruno really needs it.

And with the $12 million Bruno secured to expand the city center from 52,500 square feet to 80,130 square feet, it’s no wonder that hotel owner LXR Luxury Resorts, the main benefactor of such renovations, would erect such a display. Without this expansion, The Saratoga could face loosing conventions to the other behemoth hotels that have cropped up around the city. So a 30-foot campaign advertisement is the least they can do for Bruno.

On a conspiracy tangent, LXR is owned by Blackstone Real Estate Advisors, a subsidiary of the Blackstone Group, which also happens to be the company that holds the mortgage on 7 World Trade Center, something that’s a key factor in its planned rebuild. But what link the ingratiating 30-foot Bruno portrait has with Building 7 is anyone’s guess.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Meow Mix

Nowadays, you can’t swing a dead cat by the tail without hitting another mind-bogglingly stupid television news reporter. And if you’re 47-year-old Rita Bormett, you can’t swing a cat by a chain without getting thrown in prison.

The somewhat-eccentric looking Watervliet woman became the most recent target for the hyperactive imaginations over at FOX 23 News after she allegedly swung a cat she was walking on a leash between 10 and 15 feet in the air. The tireless regulators of the Watervliet Police Department rushed to the feline’s aid and promptly cuffed the abuser, charging her with felony animal cruelty under Jimmy Tedisco’s Buster’s Law.

On a side note, what measure did Animal Control Officer Gary Sutton use in determining the length and arc at which the cat was swung? Physicists are baffled.

The cat sustained injuries and is now recovering at a local humane shelter, according to the talking heads at FOX. Bormett, on the other hand, is now recovering from the incident at the Albany County Jail, after being ordered held without bail. Just to make sure she had enough charges to be kept at the facility, cops also charged her with counts of obstruction of governmental administration, attempted assault and resisting arrest.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that swinging a cat by anything is probably a good way to draw the attention of animal rights activists and rightly so. After all, there aren’t too many creatures on this earth that would willingly subject themselves to being swung around on a leash. Yet there’s a big difference between what Bormentt did –something that sounds like a knee-jerk act of a woman not rooted very deeply in reality –and what prompted Buster’s law. As some may recall, Buster was also a cat. But unlike Bormett's feline, Buster was brutally doused with kerosene, ignited and left to burn like a cinder.

So what exactly constitutes felonious animal cruelty? Kicking a cat? Tossing a cat? Touching a cat without its permission? How about keeping a cat alive, despite Mother Nature’s every attempt to send it to its final resting place?

Granted, people loved Prince the cat, the paraplegic tabby at the Upstate Animal Medical Center in Saratoga Springs, who spent a dozen years scooting around on his front legs after being struck by car. By all accounts, he was well loved, well appreciated and brought joy to many pet owners. But there’s something a bit odd about dressing a cat in a diaper, then having to squeeze its bladder and bowels to keep the poor creature from backing up, so to speak.

Perhaps there was something about this cat that wasn’t adequately captured in the Times Union’s two-page obituary for Prince Thursday. However when a cat can no longer jump, hunt, or even take a dump on the carpet at its leisure, there’s a dynamic part of the animal’s existence that is forever lost.

Some would argue it’s a bit unethical to keep such a creature alive for so long in an area where it could see others of its species return to a normal life of frolicking about as cats do. Then again, others would argue it’s perfectly ethical to hold a crazy lady in jail without bail for swinging a perfectly healthy cat.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Larger than life

If anyone ever had any doubt about how much larger than life Senate Majority Leader Joe "Hollywood" Bruno is to Saratoga Springs, then just take a stroll down the new and improved Sheraton. Or is that Prime? Maybe The Saratoga?

In an attempt to slide into the groove as the destination of the destination city, The Saratoga has erected a number of larger-than-life portraits depicting those who best exemplify life among horses, history and health. One of those portraits is devoted to the monolithic Republican senator from Brunswick, who's batting a thousand in both Saratoga Springs and Saratoga County.

Yes, Senator Bruno is large in the Spa City. So large, in fact, that he’s managed to crush his only somewhat viable opponent–somewhat meaning not at all and viable meaning inconceivable – in November without as much as lifting a finger to clear the competition. Instead, he had the Democrats do it for him.

Rather than have the apparent audacity to oppose Bruno, the Saratoga County mules and their knock-kneed chairman Larry Bulman decided to turncoat and instead endorse the most powerful Republican in New York over defense attorney and former Rensselaer County prosecutor Brian Premo. And when Premo tried to get his name on the ballot, Bulman was one of the first to cry foul.

True, Premo has the dubious honor of being a Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-Democrat, something that no doubt left a sour taste in the mouths of the party hierarchy. But it’s a bit ludicrous to proselytize vociferously against the Grand Old Party only to throw the one candidate challenging its Grand Poobah beneath a speeding bus.

It's too bad that the Saratoga Democrats can't let the public itself decide whether or not Bruno is deserving of another term in office. But then again, this is Saratoga and he is Hollywood Joe. After all, how many other politicians in New York have a 30-foot-tall portrait on public display.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Burning stumps

Elect Rudy Giuliani for supreme leader, John Sweeney is awesome and Jim Tedisco, well he’s a swell guy.

That’s about all that can be drawn from The Saratogian’s trademark pandering article about a visit by the Big Apple’s former mayor to stump for U.S. Congressman Sweeney, who’s facing a contentious re-election bid this fall. Lord knows what Tedisco has to do with any of this, but his name was included in the article for good measure.

America’s mayor is again out towing the Bush Administration's line and burning up the stump for any fellow party members facing tough election battles. Rudy, a sort of political Wizard of Oz, sent a message to his fellow countryman Monday at the Saratoga Springs Fire House, just prior to a $1,000-per-plate fundraiser: ignore all those men standing behind the curtain and support the cause of freedom with your vote in November.

This time, he’s standing behind New York’s incumbent 20th district congressman, a somewhat sketchy fellow who’s broadly known for eating out of the palm of special interest. In fact, it’s been widely publicized that Sweeney has taken more campaign contributions from special interests than any other of New York's 29 Representatives and is seventh among the largest recipient of contributions out of all 435 house seats. Can someone say let’s go skiing?

Who really cares though, seeing as though all those bastards are on the take, right? More than likely true, but Sweeney seems to go a bit above and beyond his fellow pork-gobbling friends when it comes to accepting and expecting special treatment.

Some upstaters might recall the congressman’s fender-bender near Willard Mountain in 2000, when he crashed through a utility pole, cut out power in the area for eight hours and stranded skiers on a lift at the tail-end of a night-skiing session. State police never reported the accident, nor did they give Sweeney a breathalyzer, despite being in a bar just prior to the crash and having “one or two glasses of wine." As expected, the incident was left out of The Saratogian.

“One or two glasses of wine” sounds a lot like recent story about the tippling Sweeney, who was reportedly hammered at a Union College fraternity party earlier this year. Sweeney supporters said the congressman wasn’t drunk, but had taken some medication that mixed poorly with his half-glass of wine, leading to the all-important question: what happened to the other half-glass of vino?

Another skeleton in closet of the representative George W. Bush dubbed “Congressman Kickass” is his ass-kicking son, John Sweeney Jr., who was arrested, indicted and eventually admitted guilt after beating another young man within an inch of his life. Of course, a visiting Republican judge from Fulton County saw it fit to pardon Junior from having a felonious record, instead sentencing him to community service and sealing his record as a “youthful offender.” He was 17 at the time of the beating. In their glib wrap-up of the case, The Saratogian chose not to afiliate Junior with his father.

Appearing with the teflon Giuliani helps voters forget about all this nastiness, or the nastiness being bantered back and forth between Camp Sweeney and democratic challenger Kirsten Gillabrand, who running a campaign that's far from angelic.

Then again, wipe away the rose-tint from Rudy’s veneer and he doesn’t exactly appear as such a glimmering example of leadership that so manymake him out to be. Recently, Wayne Barrett, a Village Voice editor and former Giuliani-advocate-turned-staunch-critic, penned a book called the Grand Illusion, which chastises "America’s mayor" for a number of Ground Zero failures that may have compounded the tragedy.

Barrett is critical of Giuliani’s decision to locate the city's command center on the 23rd floor of 7 World Trade Center over the objections of police and fire brass –the bunker went unused and 6,000 gallons of fuel stored in it may have helped level the building. He also asks why the lauded champion of fire fighters and cops failed to upgrade FDNY's famously obsolete radios. Those radios are thought to have doomed many of the firefighters who charged into the towers. And apparently, there are a few people out there who agree with Barrett's findings.

But these are not things many people care to consider about the hero politician of 9-11. They're certainly things to leave out of ingratiating articles aimed at drumming up support for both candidates –even though Rudy still hasn’t admitted publicly to running for President in 2008. It’s also a good idea to omit amention of all these men has done for the 20th District, because neither of them have done anything for the region or Saratoga Springs. That's unless you consider Giuliani's work for the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Don't wait up for the shrimp boat

Because Darren Berghela is coming home with the crabs. Actually, he isn't comming home with anything, namely because he isn't comming home.

The 40-year-old Rotterdam man found himself with a new lease on a jail cell this weekend after attempting to pilfer four bags of shrimp from the Glenville Price Chopper. Town cops say he devised a somewhat elaborate scheme to make off with the frozen bags of prawns, each valued at roughly $14 a piece.

Right now, there are two things that are certain. First, that Berghela was trying to feed something, most likely a festering drug habit. And second, that there was a gross miscarriage of justice when a town judge sent the man to Schenectady County Jail on $30,000 bail.

In the most likely scenario, the 40-year-old man would need to cough up $3,000 to a bail bondsman in order to get out of the clink. That’s money flushed down the toilet of the state justice system even if he ends up beating the rap, thanks to an elected town justice that likely knows well the bondsman who will eventually put up Berghela’s bail.

Some will argue this is justice; if you break the law, you must be prepared to face the consequences, one of which is being lodged in an inhospitable place like the Schenectady County Jail. These same people will also note that the suspect here scuffled with the store’s security guard and ran off in a somewhat disorderly way, proving that he’s a flight risk. And others might argue jail is a good place for Mr. Berghela because he won’t be able to get drugs there.

Frankly, these are all flimsy reasons to take away a man’s freedom for what could inevitably be close to a year, once the legalists are done tinkering with the case. Not to mention, given the charges Berghela is facing –petit larceny and felonious third-degree robbery –he’s unlikely to face much more than a few months in jail even in the worst case of legal scenarios. So the carrot waved in this man’s face will be to accept any plea deal offered out of Schenectady County’s district attorney’s office.

See, the legal system is big business these days. For loaning Berghela bail, a bondsman stands to gain a cool three grand; his defense attorney will probably make at least that amount –either from Berghela or the taxpayers –for representing him in court. And if the man happens to rot in prison for a year, it’s going to cost at least $20,000 to keep him clothed, fed and warm during the winter. Doing the math, that’s a lot of cash to be spending for $56 worth of stolen shrimp.

Truth is, Berghela was over charged by police and in the absence of a real court, was ordered held on bail that is extraordinarily high given the circumstances of his case. But justice is a business in this state and a lot of people have their grubby little hands in the cookie jar. Rather than addressing this man’s overlying needs as a so-called drug addict, the justice system will shuffle him off into a dark corner of some penitentiary to fester for a spell.

Maybe when he finally sees the light of day, he’ll consider a crime with more gusto to make it worth everyone's time rather than absconding with frozen crustaceans. Perhaps buying a sawed-off shotgun and mugging people at gunpoint would worth such ludicrous bail.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Race to the finish

Bill Nader must be getting his resume together now that the odds are rapidly stacking against the flailing New York Racing Association. And many of the soldiers are lining up behind the Magna cartel, including the patron queen of the Spa City, something that will make the state Legislature’s ultimate decision a bit more difficult in the end. And how can anyone say no to Mary Lou, especially after her recent brain freeze?

But with all the glitz and glitter now adorning the Empire Racing coalition, there’s a frightening undertone to the plan they would ultimately bring to the track; one that even Whitney herself appears to endorse. In two words, for profit.

Capitalism seems to do pretty good for individuals. But when it comes to the masses, there are some pretty heavy drawbacks. That’s precisely the problem with making New York’s tracks a for-profit venture. Ultimately, private management of the tracks will benefit the bottom line for a few select people, while the rest of the masses suffer with decisions made behind closed doors in a board room thousands of miles away.

This is not to say that NYRA isn’t a twisted organization; by the very nature of its operation, it’s a crew of crooks and thieves. They’re under the purview of the state, however, meaning they’re the public’s crooks and thieves and subject to the public will. Shuffle the track to Empire Racing would change this rather precipitously.

The bottom line is that NYRA needs tweaking; they need new blood and a new charge from the people. They don’t need to be dissolved to do this. On the other hand, throwing the gate wid open for the sharks of Empire Racing would be akin to giving the town drunk the keys to the liquor store.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Fund drive

Cops rounded up more than 100 drivers for using their cellular phones while driving through Colonie this week, according to Thursday’s Times Union. That’s more than one-third of the total number of drivers cited during Albany County’s two-day interdepartmental “sweep” for chatty motorists.

Given some recently published numbers, it’s not surprising that Colonie drivers would rise to the top amid this bogus crack down. And it’s not because a greater contingent of people in the town who have had a wireless device accidentally grafted to their ear.

It’s because the police patrolling Colonie seem to like handing out tickets. Or at least that’s the indication given from the state Comptroller’s most recent report on the Justice Court Fund, which found the town benefitted to the tune of $739,743 from traffic fines alone in 2004, making it the seventh most profitable justice court in New York and the most profitable in the Capital Region. Colonie’s citation-happy cops also managed to net the Legislature a nice chunk of change, with $722,284 going straight into state coffers.

So it’s no wonder that Colonie road patrols surged to the top during the sweep, which was funded in part by the Select Traffic Enforcement Program through the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee. And with more than $10,000 worth of fines issued in a two-day period, it appears as though the sprawling city suburb may be shooting for the top.

Here’s the problem: the cell phone law is bogus. It’s just another way to tax people passing through a municipality at both the local and state level. Towns that want to generate a fair amount of operating income –whether to offset local taxes or engage in projects of frivolity –can simply charge their police force to “step up” the enforcement of spurious laws. There’s no shortage of such tripe either, with group of the brain-dead legislators in Albany who seem to come up with new laws every time they finish a good bowel movement.

As it turns out, there’s really no difference between driving with a handheld cell phone or a hands-free cell phone. That’s because distraction is what causes accidents, not the act of holding something to your head. Given this logic, fiddling with your radio can be just as lethal as chatting with your neighbor Phyllis while hammering down the freeway.

Even disregarding this, abiding by the state cell phone law would be much easier were the cops themselves not regularly yacking on them while patrolling. Cell phones have become an integral part of law enforcement and the communication between officers. After all, what’s said on a cell phone doesn’t get broadcast across the airwaves where nosy citizens could listen in on a scanner.

All this is good information to know, especially during the recent spate of deaths resulting from drunken drivers. After all, it's probably better to spend grant money pulling over cell phone users than the guy who's been drinking whiskey at the Saratoga Racecourse for six or seven hours.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


Getting scooped in the press is a brutal exercise for any journalist to undergo. Being stuffed like Thanksgiving Day turkey is a lump a bit more difficult to swallow, but one The Saratogian should be getting fairly used to by now.

Such was the case today in a piece about how the city Planning Board intends to throw hitch in the state Division of Lottery’s plans to create a mini-Foxwoods near Crescent Avenue. The article seems to give the impression that there might be a bit of oversight the city could exact upon plans for a $15 million, 41,000-square-foot expansion, which would add a nightclub, a 300-seat buffet and 400 more video lottery terminals to the teaming gambling monolith.

The problem is lottery officials already approved the plan last week and are eagerly awaiting the chance to get a shovel in the ground. In fact, as the Daily Gazette reported Wednesday, they’re “chomping at the bit” to get a shovel in by the New Year, leaving sparsely little time for the planning board, city council or any other entity to thwart the plan.

So it appears now, the only recourse city officials have is to lay down in front of the Racino bulldozers Arthur Dent-style as lottery officials rumble forward with their plot to harvest their own crop from the Spa City’s fields of gold. Sure, they can continue to dicker around, but the bottom line remains, the time for oversight was before those greedy state chiselers swindled their way onto harness track property four years ago.

And as for The Saratogian readers who may still think there’s a chance to stop this plan, here’s a consolation: get a different newspaper subscription and maybe you’ll still have a chance of getting the real news.

After a solid month of round-the-clock courtside reports, a veritable deluge of blogs and an Orange County media circus that would dwarf even the best big top display put on by Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey, there are still some who refuse to move on after the Porco case.

True, there’s something about Christopher Porco’s murder trial that harkens back to Robert Chambers of the mid-80s fame in Central Park. His debonair looks, preppy hair cut and seemingly arrogant demeanor seem to reek of the hallmark scents media outlets enjoy sniffing out; clean-cut silver spoon-sucking white-bred college boy gone bad on his doting parents with a cleaver. It’s a story of middle-class society gone awry as no one ever suspected it would.

In the end, Porco was convicted of his misdoings. And in October, he’ll more than likely be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Here’s where the story ends; the marrow has been sucked dry, the meat has been boiled down and there’s nothing left but a fetid pile of bone and sinew.

Yet almost a week after his conviction, there are some media vultures who continue to root around for a Porco story, obviously not satiated by the feast of trial news they’ve had over the past month and a half. They ask questions like how’s Porco handling jail life; is he a psycho killer; is his maimed mother visiting; what happens if he doesn’t get up at seven in the morning as directed by the jail wardens.

Answer? He doesn’t get breakfast.

Bottom line is Porco rots in jail like many people wanted him to. He’ll rot there for a fairly long time too, unless his defense attorneys have one hell of a joker up their sleeves. So this is the cue to the media: take a vacation and put the Porco trial behind you; pull down the blogs, wrap up the special sections and move on to something newsworthy.

For those media outlets to dense to realize what may or may not be newsworthy in the Porco case, here’s a quick list. First, if he’s shanked in prison, killed or kills again; second, if Team Kindlon can actually overturn his conviction; and third, when he’s finally sentenced to a prison term. An honorable mention would be if he defies all standard logic and actually confesses to the murder. Otherwise, leave it up to CourtTV to do the post-trial documentary.

But what is truly sad about the whole case is that there are plenty of other murders in the Capital Region of intrigue that go unmentioned in even a cusory fashion. It's namely because they don't involve a butchered ex-law clerk and a prototype like Porco.

Instead, these cases have victims from the lower class and killers who are drunks, drug adicts or others living on the periphery of society; people who don't paint as sensation a picture to boost ratings or sell papers. They're ignored because no one really cares if the dogs of society tear each other to pieces. After all, it's just another body murdered.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Adding to the list

Having trouble figuring out what to eat for dinner? Wondering where to go for your home improvement needs? Well, just ask the staffers at News Channel 9 for a bit of advice. So far this month, the-your-news-now network has posted no less than two news stories that blast the line between journalism and advertising clear off the map.

First, there was a story about how the flood-devastated communities along the Mohawk River could have protected themselves by paying a quick visit to the “experts” at Lowes before June’s deluge.

The channel then lets one of these so-called experts prattle on about how a liberal coating of lacquer would have prevented thousands of dollars worth of water damage. For those looking for this miracle lacquer, it’s located right next to the exercise-free weight-loss pills in the same isle as the flowbee display.

Just one week after producing the home improvement advertorial gem, News 9 headed north to the Glens Falls Hannaford, looking for what new-fangled products the supermarket chain was selling. This time, film crews came back with a story about an ingenious innovation being sold: microwaveable dinners.

Yes, folks, this new line of easy-to-make dinners boast the “steam flow” method of cooking to prepare state-of-the-art packaged foods in under four minutes. This scintillating culinary foray into radiation cooking is so fresh and so gourmet that even Chef Gordon Ramsey would probably be fooled into thinking it was a dish from Claridge’s. Or at least that’s the tone implied by News 9.

The bottom line is that this is a new low in for even television journalism, which already has the bar set low enough for an expert limbo competition. There’s no excuse for pandering to the advertising department on television, especially when viewers are already subject to a solid 15 minutes of commercials interlaced between news clips that are already lacking.

And if such pieces are a necessary mandate from the ad department, the News 9 crews should at least have the tact to promote local, mom-and-pop businesses, which might not wield multi-billion dollar advertising campaigns.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Requiem for a renaissance man

Kermit Hall looked briefly up at the grey, cumulus nimbus clouds amid the raging cacophony of noise that surrounded him. Large pellets of rain thumped his black umbrella as the six-foot-six man looked out among the throngs of semi-clad students frolicking in the university’s fountain as though it were a hot summer day.

He cocked a lopsided smile as they began chanting his name.

One month later, the University at Albany president heard that same chant underneath similar skies. Graduation day at the college was marred by the same driving rain, albeit several degrees warmer. But etched again on Kermit’s face was that same grin; the warm and inviting type that seems to say everything about the genial giant who wore it.

In just 18 short months, Kermit Hall became the UAlbany and UAlbany became Kermit Hall. And while he wasn’t the first university president to have an impact on the massive school, his efforts came at a time when they were needed; when students needed a face to place next to the image of the Great Dane and when faculty needed someone to rally behind. He was the right man at the right time.

He died tragically Sunday at the age of 61, sending a shockwave of sorrow throughout the university community and across the Capital Region.

There’s no way to quantify what Kermit Hall did for UAlbany as a school because he suceeded where so many of the others who preceded him failed. He gave a largely apathetic student population pride in their school, pride in their colors and pride to be a part of what could only be termed a renaissance at the college.

When UAlbany needed direction, Kermit showed the way –quite literally. As one of his first acts as president, he provided uniform signs and maps around a homogenous uptown campus that’s dubiously known for bedeviling freshmen and first-time visitors. It was a small step, but one that was oddly symbolic of Hall’s vision for the school: unite and strive toward excellence. It was something that had so sorely lacked from the school in the years prior to his administration.

Kermit was also an incredibly accessible man, always available for a chat, always around to shake hands, and always there to lend a hand. He didn’t hide away in the deep folds of the administration like so many other presidents had before him; he engaged his community and welcomed reciprocation.

On the eve of his death, both students and faculty cried openly, realizing the giant of a life that was abruptly washed away by the Atlantic somewhere along the South Carolinian coast. Today, there rests a monumental void off Washington Avenue, left by the man who was an educator, a scholar, a visionary and a friend.

Peace be with you, Kermit; rest well, gentle giant.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Did ya' see that?

Good news amateur photographers. You too can end up somewhere in the mass media provided you're lucky enough -or perhaps unlucky enough -to be in a bone-splintering, blood-splattering accident.

In today's public online edition of the Post Star, "New Media" Director Patrick Dowd has offered an appeal to any digital camera wielding person who happens upon "the" accident. Of course, sending them to the newspaper implies that the shooter is willing to share such said photos with the rest of the world, including the print newspaper and the online-paid edition.

What amateur photogs should recognize, however, is that sharing doesn't necessarily mean paying. In other words, submission implies permission, which means you're taking pictures for the paper to make money while you sit back and watch.

Decent enough pictures could mean a job freelancing for the paper and making at least a pittance. But then again, what editor in their right mind would pay a freelancer when they can always depend on anyone with a $100 digi to catch the big wreck, which isn't good news for any staff photographer.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


There's nothing like throwing a quick threat in the lead of a news story to peak the readers' interest. The problem is when that lead is, well, misleading.

As listed on this semi-daily prattle, The Saratogian is no stranger to mislabeling and misconstruing the news; for them it's more of a hallmark than anything else.

But in today's paper, a scoffers-beware article about this "new" device that "hunts" license plates, there's brazen assertion that those with outstanding parking tickets could be identified and pulled over by city police, which is a bit beyond misleading.

It's just flat-out wrong.

Truth be known, there's not a court in the state that would ever uphold a police officer who stopped and arrested someone for not paying a parking ticket. What that officer or rather parking enforcement can do is send a nasty little note down to the state Department of Motor Vehicles requesting that a scoff's registration renewal be withheld, which is something the aforementioned reporter should have know were he to look back in the clips several months for Public Safety Commisioner Ron Kim's idea to rope in outstanding parking fines.

An expired registration is a stoppable offense, as is a suspended registration, which is what motorists get for allowing their insurance payments to lapse.

So before sending in your fines, think twice about your constitutional rights and know that a parking ticket is akin to getting a summons from the city for not curbing Rover during his morning walk.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Technology woes

Stymied by a crippling blow dealt to it’s main technological apparatus -namely a seven-year-old somewhat filthy and dust-devil ridden personal computer that finally appears to have defecated the proverbial bed -iSaratoga will be on hiatus for the next week or so, while it’s one editor investigates the ins and outs a full hardware replacement.

Due to somewhat limited time and an inability to resurrect this key inputting device, posting will be rather limited over the next few days. However, help does appear on the way in some sort of timely fashion. Until then, please choose among the following thoughts to further you endeavors amid the sweltering summer heat.

-Hollywood Joe Bruno’s disapearing grand daughter; hapless rube, drug-induced problem child or both?

-News 9’s Kathy Young; addicted to experts or just happy to see them?

-The media’s excessive coverage of last week’s heat wave; bored reporters or National Weather Service-induced hysteria?

-The Saratogian editors; guilty of Jim Tedisco-lust or just darn happy to see his face on the front page?

-Naked man arrested after carrying a beer and hammer down Lincoln Avenue; hammered or just drunk?

Talk amongst yourselves.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Paper tigers

City leaders should get off the fence before they get splinters lodged in their asses. It’s time to give Bruce Levinsky a good kick in the teeth for flagrantly violating the city’s orders and being a generally ornery bastard.

Levinsky continues to maintain the historic wing of the Rip Van Dam must be demolished, which is an assertion that gained a bit of credence Tuesday when the city’s engineer said it would be difficult to save the building, the Post Star reported. But demolishing the structure gives Levinsky exactly what he’s wanted even before he sparred with the preservation society in 2002.

Levinsky has virtually begged for a fine after waving his middle finger at the city for the past four years. Yet to date, there’s been no indication from City Hall that he’s received a single citation for a building that’s been dropping bricks on the abutting Adelphi Courtyard since the spring. Where’s the code enforcer? Where’s the building inspector? Where is the leadership in City Hall? Where the bloody hell is the Mayor?

City leaders continue to prattle on about the building at council meetings rather than taking definitive action to put a rope around the neck of this rouge developer. Of course, this pack of gutless city council pukes is no different than the last to ignore Levinsky’s bullying or the Van Dam issue. After all, it has been an issue more than four years in the making.

As Public Safety Commissioner Ronald Kim said Tuesday, the city council is looking more and more like a “paper tiger” as they waffle on this issue. Any other common citizen would have been tarred and feathered by now for owning a property that not only posses a danger to surrounding businesses but the public in general. In this case, there should be no “look” to fine or “considering” of a penalty; in the immortal words of the Nike Corporation, Just Do It.

With this said, Levinsky should be retroactively fined the maximum ammount allowable by law. Call a special meeting and sieze his building for it’s assessed value via eminent domain proceedings, the justification being the protection of business and the public. The structural problems can then either be rectified through controlled demolition or by remediation, with the building being sold afterward at public auction any proceeds going to benefit the city preservation foundation.

But such an action would take solid leadership and ferocious assertion, something this council hasn’t exactly displayed as of late. Perhaps the city council should wander down to the Ashville Game Farm and take some notes from Calcutta instead of making her likenesses with origami.

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