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Category: Opinion

WE’VE GOT MAIL

To the Publisher:

Four of the six Civil War fatalities from Belleville and Nutley occurred 150 years ago.

From Belleville (Second River), two soldiers died in the Seven Days’ Battle (Peninsula Campaign) as Thomas Stevens (or Stephens) was killed in action June 27, 1862, and Captain Henry Benson was wounded July 1, and died August 11, 1862.

From Nutley (Franklin), then part of Belleville, Sgt. John Donaldson died May 17, 1862, in the first pitched battle of the Peninsula Campaign, known as the Battle of Williamsburg, Va., and the battle of Fort Magruder.

Nutley’s Byron Lawton was killed in action September 14, 1862, in the Battle of South Mountain, or the Battle of Burkittsville in Central Maryland during the Maryland Campaign.

James H. Cunningham of Nutley was killed in action on May 3, 1863, in the Second Battle of Fredericksburg, also known as the Second Battle of Marye’s Heights.

John Rogers (or Rodgers) of Belleville was killed in action on April 8, 1865, at Fort Davis while defending Washington, D.C., shortly before the war ended.

Anthony Buccino

Author of Belleville and Nutley In The Civil War, A Brief History

Sometimes, size does matter

 

A few weeks ago One World Trade Center (OWTC) officially surpassed the Empire State Building in height. It was a landmark moment that represented the first time since 9/11/2001 that downtown Manhattan has featured a building taller than the venerable icon. But somehow it seems less impressive this time around. Sure, the building has another hundred feet or so to go until it reaches its full roof height of 1,368’ (a height chosen to equal the tower that preceded it). Then workers will install a glorified 408-foot antenna (originally intended as an ornamental spire) that will take its official height to a symbolic 1,776 feet.

Actually, that’s misleading. According to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, the official height of the building is being reconsidered in light of this design change. If the antenna isn’t counted in its overall height, OWTC will not even be the tallest building in America. That honor will stay with Chicago’s Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) that at 1,450’ is nearly 100’ taller than the final roof height of OWTC.

This means that America, is now playing catch-up. No, strike that. “Catch-up” implies that we’re still trying. When it comes to constructing the world’s tallest buildings that’s no longer true. In fact, we haven’t really tried since the bold 1974 erection of the Sears Tower; a building that held the world’s tallest title until 1998 when it was surpassed by the 1,483’ Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

A perusal of global skyscrapers tells the story. The world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa (formerly the Burj Dubai) in Dubai, UAE stands a mesmerizing 2,716.5’ feet above street level. To equal the colossal Burj Khalifa, you’d still need to add another 940’!

Some argue that super tall buildings aren’t really practical, that it’s hard to fill the rental space and so forth. They also talk about the myriad red tape that comes along with tackling outsized projects that literally reach for the heavens. But that argument is ridiculous on its face. Building tall has always been about symbolism, inspiration, and daring. It puts a nation at the forefront as a land to be emulated and revered.

The benefits of constructing the tallest building cannot be measured in mere dollars and cents. It’s always been about national pride; a willingness to take chances; the daring to say, “the status-quo has never been good enough for our country – and it never will be!” Since it was America who invented the skyscraper in the first place, playing the part of “also ran” is rather unsettling. But a lot of things are unsettling in America these days.

When OWTC is completed in 2013 it will take its place beside other tall buildings in the world. But it is there that it will blend in mid-pack, not stand out like it did in 1971.

What does this really mean in the grand scheme of things? I can only offer my personal view.

When I was ten-years-old, the Empire State Building was still the world’s tallest. I would ask my dad, “How tall is it? Does your nose really bleed up there? What’s the view like from the top? How much taller is it than the next tallest? Do any other countries even come close?” “America has the biggest and the best,” he’d say with a prideful smile befitting a World War II veteran and member of our nation’s “greatest generation.” If dad were still alive, I wonder what he’d say today?

-Jeff Bahr

WE’VE GOT MAIL

To the Publisher:

The number of Americans considered obese is expected to rise from the current 34 % to 42 % by the year 2030, according to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine and discussed at Monday’s “Weight of the Nation” conference in Washington. Diabetes, kidney failure, heart disease, and other obesity-related ailments account for countless premature deaths and as much as 18 % of the $2.6 trillion national cost of medical care. (www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/study-predicts-42-percent-of-americans-will-beobese- in-2030/2012/05/07/ gIQAeaDL9T_story.html)

The leading causes of obesity are consumption of fat-laden meat and dairy products and lack of exercise. This is particularly critical during childhood years, when lifestyle habits become lifelong addictions.

A five-year Oxford University study of 22,000 people, published in the International Journal of Obesity in 2006, found that those on a vegetarian or vegan diet gained the least weight. A review of 87 studies in Nutrition Reviews concluded that a vegetarian diet is highly effective for weight loss.

The time has come to replace meat and dairy products in our diet with wholesome grains, vegetables, and fruits and to undertake a regular exercise program. Parents should insist on healthy school lunch choices and set a good example at their own dinner table.

Cory Baker

Kearny

All it takes is a winner

After the New Jersey Devils defeated the Philadelphia Flyers to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals last Tuesday, I couldn’t help but think that winning and heading to the Stanley Cup would be the biggest slap in the face to the now Brooklyn Nets organization.

After not being able to secure a stadium deal in New Jersey, the Nets, starting next season, will move to Brooklyn, leaving New Jersey with one last true pro sports team, the ever-flourishing Devils. Not only have the Devils flourished, but they have flourished all while making New Jersey a household name for something other than spray tans, fist-pumping, and hair gel. Even a billboard off the Turnpike sponsored by the Devils says, “We proudly wear our state on our chest.”

This is something the Nets really never did. Even with a team consisting of Jason Kidd and Vince Carter, the team never really garnered the attention of a Jersey fanbase that longs for a team to support. Even I can’t stand the Nets, and support the Knicks. There was just something about the team, besides its record, that just seemed so bland. Being a Nets fan was kind of like being a Mets fan. Sure, the teams had bits of success, but they just seemed more like little brother to the Knicks and Yankees than actual rivals.

The Devils, on the other hand, have not only played themselves into being rivals with the Rangers, but they’ve created their own identity, something the Nets have never been able to do.

With a good chance that the Devils will actually make the Stanley Cup this year, Jersey can no longer be looked at as another state without an important pro-sports team. Not only is the team showing the NHL that a team can thrive in New Jersey, but it’s showing other sports leagues that New Jersey can be successful without being under New York’s shadow. Honestly, it would not surprise me that within the next 10 years, that a basketball team comes back to New Jersey, and if/when that day happens, one can hope that it will embrace the Jersey name and prove to be a successful team.

Just for the love of God, David Stern, don’t give us the Bobcats…

-Anthony J. Machcinski

WE’VE GOT MAIL

To the Publisher:

I am writing this to you in the hope that it will be printed in your paper before the May 21 Board of Education meeting. All I can say to the BOE members is “WOW”! What were you people thinking at your special meeting? I am a parent/ taxpayer with children in Franklin School and I am honestly dumbfounded by your lack of concern for the education of the 1,000 + students in the school. You were elected to set policy for the district that is in the best interest of the students. You are not elected to hire and fire people because you do not care for them or because you do not like the person that hired them. By choosing not to renew Mr. Hoff as vice principal of Franklin School, you have overstepped your boundaries. I have never seen any of you at a Franklin School function, with the exception of Mr. Castelli and Mrs. Schalago, therefore, how can you say he isn’t doing a good job? He is there every day for the students – my children!!! The students of Franklin School have been through several changes over the last few years with a principal retiring, an interim principal, a vice principal moving to another school, a guidance counselor moving to another school and then finally getting a new principal and vice principal. Now for reasons unknown except to you, you decide to once again cause turmoil in the school. Is this fair? I know you will come up with some excuse/reason, because that is what politicians do.

Elizabeth Young,

Kearny

Warming up to the idea of cold fusion

Is it possible that an affordable energy source, light-years ahead of any that mankind has yet known, might lie on the horizon just waiting to be harnessed? Proponents of cold fusion (AKA Nuclear Effect) – an energy-producing atomic reaction that promises the best of nuclear fission without its off-putting side-effects – genuinely believe so. They’re doing their best to convince others that the concept is real and that it offers genuine promise to Americans desperate to find our newest Holy Grail; an infinitely renewable energy source that won’t break our personal piggy-banks.

But it won’t be easy. To say that cold fusion’s backers have their work cut out for them is akin to saying that Edison once struggled to find a durable filament for his light bulb. Scientists who believe in this high-tech possibility are facing a stiff, uphill climb in their quest to convince naysayers that cold fusion is not a “junk science” but rather the silver bullet that will ultimately vanquish America’s dependence on oil. The main hurdle in their mission? Trying to convince a group of stubbornly-entrenched scientists that the idea has validity and that it deserves further experimentation and funding.

Austrian scientists Friedrich Paneth and Kurt Peters first hypothesized this controversial form of energy production in the 1920s. In the 1980s, chemist Martin Fleischmann and his associate Stanley Pons claimed to produce such a reaction during experimentation, but ultimately couldn’t explain the underlying mechanism that brought about the results. But skepticism isn’t the only thing holding cold fusion back. An inherent problem also dogs the technology. Cold fusion involves a “nuclear” reaction, a word that’s verboten in present-day America. Yet the process doesn’t produce excessive heat as a by-product, and it doesn’t emit harmful radiation – exceedingly bold claims to say the least.

With the “No Nukes” movement in America shooting down virtually any idea that has to do with the fission process, the concept has courted detractors from the start. Concerns about the riskiness of nuclear energy were only bolstered by the 2011 Fukushima Nuclear Plant disaster in Japan that came as a result of that country’s devastating tsunami. But what if cold fusion’s backers are right? What if creating energy in such a fashion is really possible? And what if the technology doesn’t carry any dangerous baggage along with it? Doesn’t it at least deserve a closer look?

The concept may not be as far-fetched as the antinuclear gang portrays it. CBS News, an organization generally not known for its eagerness to examine something as flimsy as “junk science,” took an in-depth look at the theory in the 2009 “60 Minutes” piece, “Cold Fusion is Hot Again”. After correspondent Scott Pelley grilled subjects with a battery of probing questions, the show’s takeaway was that the theory is indeed “more than junk science.”

But the real show-stopper was yet to come. In October of 2011, Italian physicist Andrea Rossi publicly demonstrated a device dubbed the E-Cat at the University of Bologna. Rossi showed how a small amount of input energy could produce an unexplained reaction between hydrogen and nickel that would produce outgoing energy more than tenfold. Rossi’s experiments have radiated new life into the once dormant concept. Only time will tell if his efforts were impactful enough to keep the quest alive.

In practical terms, this potentially safe, clean, and endlessly renewable form of energy could have limitless uses. Battery-powered devices like IPods and laptop computers would arrive from factories pre-charged, with enough energy onboard to supply the unit for its entire service life. Nuclear power plants would still churn out electricity but with two remarkable differences: In the absence of heat a meltdown would be virtually impossible, and there would be no dangerous radioactive materials to dispose of down the road.

In a country that loves its automobiles, perhaps the best offshoot of this technology would be cars that can go for roughly four years at a clip without refueling. Just imagine tooling across the entire United States without having to stop even once for gasoline, and you’ll get a feel for what this breakthrough technology promises.

Is cold fusion worth a longer look? You be the judge.

– Jeff Bahr

Enjoy Life to the fullest…while you can

Photo Courtesy of Associated Press/ The wreckage of the van from the April 29 accident

Every now and then, I lose my sense of appreciation for life around me. Everything from a walk to work on a nice spring day to a fresh home-cooked meal can lose its freshness with the everyday blandness of life.

Unfortunately, there are moments that then force me to rethink my approach on life.

This week, I was left with two such incidents that rejuvenated my appreciation for the little things. In a matter of a few days, our area experienced two tragedies: the fatal car accident on Belleville Turnpike on April 25 (covered in this week’s edition) as well as the van that lost control on the Bronx River Parkway and went over the guardrail, off a bridge, and falling nearly 60 feet into a closed off section of the Bronx Zoo, sending seven people to their death.

In situations like this, my mind always drifts to the families who lost these loved ones in such horrific ways. I could never fathom losing someone close to me in the manner it had occurred in the past week. I can almost feel the pain that they are suffering through, wishing they could enjoy just one more dinner, one more laugh, or one more moment with the recently deceased.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who gets a reality check when it comes to these tragedies. If there’s one thing that can come out of tragedies such as these two, it’s that life needs to be appreciated.

One event that especially hits home to many in our area would be the 9/11 attacks, which believe it or not, will be coming up on its 11-year anniversary. While I was lucky enough to not have lost anyone in the attacks, the emptiness of the skyline after the attacks was enough to make me realize I have to appreciate what is around me, even if it only is a few minutes a day.

That being said, I have just one last reminder: Don’t make it so that you need a tragedy to remind you to appreciate life. Enjoy life to its fullest extent, even if that means just five minutes a day in a park enjoying the weather. Life is far too short to take for granted.

-Anthony J. Machcinski

Oops…

In the April 25 issue of The Observer, in the story, “Meadows parcel is taxing issue” on North Arlington’s battle with the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission over property taxes, misstated the names of two members of the North Arlington Borough Council. Those members are Richard Hughes and Chris Johnson. The Observer apoligizes for those errors.

It’s sad to live life on the sidelines

Risk is a scary word. Maybe that’s why many of us choose to do so little outside of our comfort zones. Failure can be embarrassing and sometimes even painful – I won’t sugarcoat the truth – but so can standing on the sidelines. In fact, that can be the cruelest cut of all.

Think about it. How many times have you told yourself that a certain skill or endeavor is for “other people” not you? Be honest, did you really believe this, or was the assessment driven by your own insecurity? Whenever I’ve entertained this ridiculous notion it’s come from fear that I would make an ass of myself when I inevitably failed at something new. In other words, it was easier to dismiss something as being outside my realm than it was to face up to my shortcomings or perceived shortcomings. Nowadays, there’s probably some psycho-babble to describe this fear-driven response. In the 1960’s it was simply called “copping-out.”

The little lies we tell ourselves can be even more pernicious. Some believe that human triumph is mostly preordained and self-generated. This camp says, “Nothing succeeds like success.” If that’s true, then it’s only logical that nothing fails like failure. Sure, success can and does feed off of itself at times. But if we stop trying simply because things haven’t worked out for us in the past, our continued failure is assured. That’s the problem with this sort of dictum. It conveniently forgets that each and every human being is unique. It also ignores the fact that many of the most successful people in the world failed miserably, time and again, before success or any semblance of it came knocking at their door.

Personal fears aside, I wonder how anyone can be content sitting on life’s sidelines. Is it really better to risk nothing and end up with the “would have, should have” albatross of regret on your back?

When I look at the level of hero worship occurring these days, I’m saddened. Sure, not all are equipped to become great ballplayers like basketball’s Michael Jordan, and most of us will never rise to the intellectual level of an Albert Einstein. But does that mean we should become hopelessly awestruck by such people, and stand idly by because we can never hope to hit the same esteemed marks that they did?

A past generation adhered to a different maxim. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” they’d say without a hint of doubt in their voices. This group was every bit as uncertain as any of us, but with this truism acting as a steering force they’d plod on regardless – cognizant that success generally comes to those willing to take risks. Would these hope-for-the-best types fail every so often? You bet. Failure is an integral part of the human experience. But people of this mindset simply wouldn’t allow themselves to become paralyzed by fear. We can all learn from their example.

Through the years I’ve noticed a pattern. The people who are the least worried about looking like jackasses when they fail at something tend to go the farthest in life. Why is this? It’s a numbers game, really. Those who roll the dice by continually putting themselves out there improve their chances of making something stick with each attempt, while those who remain on the margins, safe, sound and irrelevant, create their own failure.

A fitting maxim to lay the groundwork for achievement is “nothing succeeds like trying.” If you don’t believe this, just peruse the biographies of Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Alva Edison, Milton S. Hershey, Alexander Graham Bell, Susan B. Anthony, Bill Gates, Col. Harland Sanders, Oprah Winfrey, J.K. Rowling, Isaac Newton, Ludwig Van Beethoven, Winston Churchill, and millions of others who stumbled repeatedly on the path to success.

And be sure to toss two more noteworthy names into the mix: Basketball great Michael Jordan, who was cut from his high school basketball team due to a “lack of talent” and Nobel Prize-winning physicist Albert Einstein, who was expelled from school for being – get ready for it – “mentally slow, unsociable, and adrift forever in foolish dreams.”

Surprised? Don’t be. But keep this in mind: “Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.” Confucius is responsible for that bit of profundity. Which reminds me, I‘ve always wanted to try my hand at philosophy. Hey, you never know…

-Jeff Bahr

Hatred– alive and flourishing, alas

I recently wrote an opinion piece that examined the Trayvon Martin shooting (Let justice rule the day for Trayvon: April 4, 2012). To date, it has garnered more reader response than any other opinion piece or news article that I’ve prepared.

In some ways, this isn’t surprising. This case has captivated people at a level rarely seen, so a big response was to be expected. What I did not expect, however, was the level of hatred and outright racism that spewed forth from some of the readers who wrote in (the most hateful of whom refused to sign their names – no surprise there).

While leafing through their sickening rants (one actually referred to African-Americans as “animals”) I honestly thought that it was 1963, not 2012, and that Birmingham, Ala., Commissioner Eugene “Bull” Connor and his goons would soon deliver fire hose justice to those who dared to march for equality. That’s how bad these bile-inducing racist-rants were.

Like Martin’s parents, I believed then as now that the known facts of the case were compelling enough to arrest Zimmerman. I wasn’t alone in such thinking. Just last Wednesday, Special Prosecutor Angela Corey charged Zimmerman with second-degree murder. He was arrested and taken into custody.

So, what do these bigoted letters of hatred mean in the grand scheme of things? They show us that we still have a long way to go in the tolerance and understanding department – particularly where racial differences are concerned.

In my opinion political correctness is at least partially responsible for spurring such anonymous hatred.. This mindset has driven them underground where they seethe and become frustrated by their inability to voice their hatred. Every so often their abhorrence bubbles to the surface and they dash off ignorant letters like the ones that I received. As crazy as their logic is, it’s obvious that they do feel shame, at least on some level. Not signing their letters and emails is proof positive of that.

Zimmerman will now have his day in court. Facts will be presented by both sides, as is our American way. If the system isn’t hijacked on a technicality of some sort – always a possibility – a jury of Zimmerman’s peers will act as final arbiter in his culpability in Trayvon Martin’s death. It’s all that the dead boy’s parents ever asked for and it has now come to pass. For that shining moment of justice, may God truly bless America.

-Jeff Bahr