Archive for November, 2008

Veterans Day

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008
Melissa Stagnaro

I always cry at parades. I’m not sure what it is about them, but I always get choked up. If you’ve ever wondered why I have my sun glasses on during these events regardless of the weather, now you know. I’m probably bawling my eyes out.

Today’s Veterans Day parade and ceremony in Norwich was no exception, except perhaps that it was more touching than most.

Veterans and their families started gathering at the East Side Park well before 11 a.m. Despite the chill in the air, they stood with flags in hands and waited for the slow, steady procession to make its way down East Main Street.

The American Legion Riders from Norwich’s Warren Eaton Post were the advance guard. They drove through once, flags snapping, and then circled back around.

Lines of veterans marched to the mournful sound of a lone piper, followed by scouting groups and the Norwich High School Purple Tornado Marching Band. The band performed America the Beautiful, which once again brought tears to my eyes.

Color guards from local veterans organizations as well as the Norwich City Police Department arranged themselves around the park. Attention was divided between the flagpole and the bandstand, where Norwich High School’s Madrigal Singers waited to perform the National Anthem.

The ceremony itself began precisely at 11 a.m., marking the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month and commemorating the armistice which ended the First World War.

Following a few words from Terry Bresina and a moving invocation by a chaplain from Sidney, the Madrigal Singers gave one of the most beautiful performances of the Star Spangled Banner I have ever heard. The veterans in the crowd stood at attention while they sang.

Dr. Edward Erickson, a veteran and military historian who teaches at Norwich High School, gave the keynote address.

In a moving speech, he spoke about being sometimes embarrassed by “flag waving” and people thanking him or calling him a hero, when he felt he was doing his duty to his country.

Echoing William Shakespeare, he said he truly felt like those who had served in America’s armed forces were a “band of brothers,” and he was proud to be counted in their numbers.

He said that, like his father, he did not need a day to remember those who fought before and beside him. But rather that he remembered them every day.

His address was followed by the ceremonial laying of wreaths, a salute and the playing of taps. I found it all very humbling and very moving.

I lived for several years in Arlington, Virginia. I was but a stones throw from Arlington Cemetery and D.C.’s grand monuments.

In my time there, I witnessed countless ceremonies and honor guards. All of them inspired in me the same emotion that I felt today in our little downtown park. It is a mixture of awe, admiration and heart-felt gratitude for all those who have sacrificed to keep our great nation free.

While am sometimes overwhelmed by those emotions, I make not apology for them.

Let us never forget the dedication, commitment, effort and sacrifice of those who have served in our military. They deserve our continuous respect, recognition and appreciation.

And Dr. Erickson, please don’t be offended, but I feel I need to say it. Thank You.

Infinity and finance

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008
Tyler Murphy

I’ve been reading a lot lately on just how much money people owe. The nation debt is about 52 trillion and I didn’t calculated the math but a BBC website told me that for every man women and child currently living in America we’d all have to pay $80,000 to get our country square with the house again.

Want a real challenge try searching for who we exactly owe all this money and its building interest too … you’d think that information would be a little more comprehensive and easier to find… hmmm.

Anyway I read that New York State has almost made it to the 50 billion dollar debt level and that Wall Street accounts for roughly 20 percent of our income. (Again BBC info) If that is true I think it’s about time I moved to a different state because being in one of the highest taxed and bureaucratic states in the union particularly from a region basically shunned by the down state money makers I’m starting to see the greener grass.

I found an image that supposedly shows what a trillion dollar bills looks like stacked together. The pile, according to the chart, is the size of a couple of sky scrapers.

Whenever I start reading about these huge sums of cash it’s lost on me. It takes me back to a time in science class when we learned about astronomy. The infinite depth of the universe, the 200 billion stars in the Milky Way and the width of celestial objects that stretch for light years. It’s sad that the only thing I can compare our finances to is the enormity of the cosmos.

The human mind has some logistical limits and our debts have exceeded our capacity to rationally conceptualize them. Maybe that’s why it’s so easy not to care about the 700 billion dollar bail out or the 1.5 trillion dollar Iraq War. Sometimes though I feel my inability to understand the complete effect of these drastic expenditures may revisit us in the future with a stern education of harsh reality.

Credit where credit is due

Monday, November 10th, 2008
Melissa Stagnaro

I’ve always been a believer in giving credit where credit is due. I’ve always thought that giving credit for a job well done is the mark of a true leader. There is nothing worse than slaving away and someone else taking the credit.

We’ve all been there. We spend hours agonizing over someone else’s wedding favors, compiling information for a report, making your boss look good. Only to hear them take all the praise for your hard work. Would it kill them to say, “Thank you, but I couldn’t have done it without (ENTER YOUR NAME HERE)”?

It was brought to my attention that I myself have been guilty of this heinous act.
Last Thursday, I was faced with a dilemma. I had two important meetings scheduled at the same time. Although I was able to attend the afternoon PSC public statement hearing regarding NYRI, the evening session conflicted with a board of education workshop in Oxford, which I was loath to miss.

My editor stepped in to make it all possible. Jeff agreed to go to the evening PSC hearing to allow me to go to Oxford.

When I arrived at work Friday morning, I found the neatly typed notes from the forum in my inbox. Other news reports of the event included only the afternoon session, but thanks to the quotes Jeff had culled from the 3 hours of evening testimony, we were able to be a little more thorough with our coverage of the hearings.

Alas, in my hurry to put my lengthy report together, I left something out. A very, very important something. I neglected to give Jeff credit for his contribution.

I hope my dear editor will accept this most humble of apologies for my omission and I beg his forgiveness for the oversight.

I’m sorry, Jeff. I suck.

Now, what are your plans for Wednesday night. There’s this meeting…

Don’t rush me!

Friday, November 7th, 2008
Melissa Stagnaro

As I drove through Norwich yesterday, I saw men hanging holiday wreaths on the quaint wrought iron lamp posts that line the city’s main thoroughfare. There is no denying the warm, cozy holiday glow inspired by these evergreen boughs and the decorative banners interspersed among them.

Those feelings seemed warmer than usual yesterday. Probably because it was nearly 70 degrees. The unseasonable warmth snapped me out of my hot-cocoa and peppermint striped reverie, and reminded me that it’s only the first week in November.

Every year it seems that we start gearing up for Christmas a little bit earlier than we did before. I remember when stores and the radio started playing Christmas music the day after Thanksgiving. This year it started the day after Halloween.

I’ve seen shop owners re-doing their window displays this week, but Walmart got a head start. When I went to grab a few last minute Halloween items on Oct. 30th, there were already Christmas items on the seasonal shelves.

Seeing all the Christmas decor this early stresses me out. I start to feel the panic rising when I think about the fact that I haven’t started my holiday shopping yet. What? Only 46 more shopping days ‘til Christmas. (Dramatic sigh) Whatever will I do!

And aren’t we forgetting something here? Like Thanksgiving? Now, I realize that this is a less commercially lucrative holiday for retailers, but it’s still important to me. And I don’t like feeling rushed. It’s detrimental to proper digestion.

Let me eat my turkey in peace and then I’ll start pulling out my Christmas decorations and make up a shopping list.

Election day excitement

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008
Jessica Lewis

After nearly two years of preparation, debate and controversy, the day of decision is finally here, and I am thrilled. After one of the longest campaigns in history, I honestly wasn’t sure how much more I could take.

At last, we can stop talking about the elections and just make a decision. I’m excited about the historic nature of this election, and it looks like I’m not the only one. Right now in downtown Norwich, supporters of each party are out on the streets holding up signs for their candidates. Actually they are almost directly across the street from one another, and each has a sign that asks drivers to honk in support of their party’s candidate.

Even though there is no obvious way to determine which candidate the cars are honking for, seeing this level of enthusiasm and involvement from voters of all ages in refreshing.

While my big hope this election is for the candidates I favor to win, I’m also holding out a lot of hope that we see record voter turnout and involvement this year. Because more important that the causes I believe in or those that you believe in, is that we all have a voice in our government, and that’s what these elections are really about.

Election night excitement

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008
Tyler Murphy

I love election night.

I like having the network news running in the background as I debate politics and turning points with friends or family. It’s similar to watching a football game, you usually only care to watch it until you know who is going to win.

The last two presidential elections have been close games, historically and controversial contentions of political fury and fallout.

We don’t listen to the media personalities rant on all night of course and I’ll fill the lulls in developments with the temporary amusements of cooking frozen pizza, playing a session of video or board games and internet surfing.

If you’re looking for the action tune in at around 9 p.m. and watch until you have to go to bed because that’s when the polls across the united states begin to close an hour at a time, east to west, with their cascading calculations trailing behind.

I’m certain that regardless of today’s outcome it’s going to letter head the beginning chapter of a future American History book. So make sure you get out there and become a part of it. This is your history.

Click or cut and paste the link below into your browser to look at recent polling info that’s easy enough to understand. It shows a number of reputable polls taken in the weeks and months before today, marking notable events and changes in voter attitudes.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/629/629/7360265.stm

Up to date recent info can be found on just about any national new site throughout the day.

Election Day

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008
Melissa Stagnaro

I made my trek to the wilds of Smithville at 6 a.m. this morning to cast my Election Day ballot. Despite the controversy surrounding the presidential candidates, the polling station at the Community Center was calm and serene.

It was with an audible sigh of relief that I pulled the handle to reopen the current, confident that my vote had been recorded and that once this day is over we can all move on.

By the time I wake up tomorrow morning, this heated, all-consuming presidential race will be decided. I’m sure I’m not the only one who is ready for campaign season to be done and dusted. All that presidential politics and mudslinging has served to distract us from all sorts of other issues. And I can’t help feeling that the process has been a drain on our county’s financial resources.

While that campaigning does pour money into certain sectors of the economy (like marketing and advertising), I can’t help feeling that all of those contributions could have been better spent in local communities.

It’s not just the never-ending campaign trail that I don’t like. There is another aspect of our political/electoral system of which I am not a fan. The antiquated, outdated system which is the object of my disdain? The Electoral College.

I’m sure our founding fathers felt that they were doing the best thing for  our fledgling nation when they instituted the Electoral College. But times are different now. When our country was formed, infrastructure was poor and communication was difficult. Most people were undereducated and under-informed. Today, we topple the scales in the other direction. But Electoral College remains the same, a buffer which means that technically Americans don’t select their leader by popular vote.

While I am discouraged by this, I don’t let it stop me from going to the polls on Election Day. I still feel that, even watered down by the system, my vote still counts.
Today I cast my vote for the candidates of my choosing, with no regard for what levers the next person who occupied that voting booth would push down.

I did it with the hope that when the dust settles tomorrow, our elected officials will get off the campaign trails and finally return to their jobs of running this foundering nation.

And I’ll continue to nurture my little pipe-dream, hoping that some day we’ll see a little reform when it comes to campaign contributions, un-checked campaign spending and the Electoral College.