Friday, April 21, 2006

April Scandals

FUEL PRICES. Can consumers do anything to combat the soaring cost of gasoline? One move that has been advocated could have some merit. It consist of boycotting ONE company’s retail outlets. Maybe that would force the target company to cut prices, thereby re-attracting customers, thereby forcing competitors to follow suit. The best target probably would be the biggest chain: Exxon AND Mobil—two brands that are part of one company. FULLA STERN. Latest candidate for premier GreeneLand sleazebag (after Martha, “The Snake,” various roofers and blacktoppers, the free-spending salvation-monger…) is Jared Paul Stern. A part-time resident (with “Snoodles” Gutman) of Oak Hill, Mr Stern, 35, was cited not long ago in a magazine story about trendy New Yorkers who are “trading the overcrowded, overpriced Hamptons for the simpler pleasures of the Catskills.” “Until recently,” said Shyama Patel in New York, “the Catskills were best known for crumbling resort hotels and...local ski hills…that draw busloads of day-trippers during the winter. But these days, as FOR SALE signs dot every other rambling dairy farm, big new houses crop up on newly cleared mountaintops, and Two Old Tarts does a brisk trade in almond croissants at the farmer’s market, it’s become clear that these sleepy, charmingly shabby environs are being rediscovered.”

Take Jared Paul Stern. On a rainy summer Friday, the Post’s ‘Nightcrawler’ is not working the phones or trying to figure out what he’s wearing to the evening’s shindig at Soho House. As is his new norm, Stern is at home in Greene County, where his girlfriend…is teaching him the joys of making brownies from a box…. Around the house, there are photographs of the years the couple spent renting, testing the waters from the South Shore of Long Island to New Canaan, Connecticut. ‘We loved Bellport,' says Ruth. ‘But it was too expensive.’

They finally [in 2002] bought in Oak Hill, paying about $200,000 for four acres and a 2,500-square-foot [“Carpenter Gothic”] fixer-upper. It’s a place where the most exciting group to join is the 12 Tribes, a local hippie cult.”

The work from which Mr Stern occasionally retreated was that of free-lance contributor to or part-time employee (depending on what story one reads) of The New York Post. His principal task was to find and shape items for that tabloid’s gossip section, Page Six. In that capacity, he took part in confecting items about the social activities of Ronald Burkle, a Los Angeles billionaire. Mr Burkle complained about inaccuracies. He complained to the section’s editor, to the paper’s editor and even to the publisher (Rupert Murdoch himself) as well as to Mr Stern. He got no satisfaction, even after he bought 60 shirts from Mr Stern’s clothing company. Finally he met with Mr Stern in a Manhattan loft, asked what he could do to avoid being plagued by bad gossip and to elicit good stuff, and was invited to retain Mr Stern for $200,000 down (“an initial kind of set-up fee to get everything rolling”) plus $10,000 per month. That proposal was voiced in the course of a conversation that Mr Burkle’s was videotaping secretly. According to Mr Stern, the proposal was not an extortion bid; gosh no; it was about inviting Ron to invest in the clothing venture as well as to retain JPS as media consultant. And anyhow, media sharks have blown the whole thing out of proportion. Last year Mr Stern was interviewed for a gossip-mongering blog site called Black Table. On that occasion, when asked to recall what it was like to be second in editorial command, briefly, of Star magazine (since re-named Us Weekly), with one Bonnie Fuller as chief, he showed his talent for doing what us sophisticates call dish.

Interviewer: [Is Ms Fuller] really the tyrannical raging twatzi that everyone says she is? Why did you quit? Stern: Twatzi doesn't begin to cover it (but nice try). Between Bonnie and her deputy dildo Joe Dolce the place is a soul-destroying black hole of despair. It's no wonder the assistants piss in her soup. (I know I did.) I did it for the money, which I knew was f--- stupid… Almost everyone who was there at the time has quit now as well; most of them are writing books about what a bitch Bonnie is.

As for Mr Stern’s clothing venture, it consists of putting a Skull & Bones emblem on tote bags and standard garments (polo shirts, tennis sweaters, silk ties), endowing the line verbally with “unique prep-punk sensibility,” placing the stuff in precious boutiques, and marking the items up up and awaaaaay. (There is no Yale connection. Mr Stern attended Bennington). In the aftermath of the extortion flap, GreeneLand's latest celebrity was interviewed at his bucolic Oak Hill retreat by Choire Sicha of The New York Observer. He claimed to be the victim of a set-up and the target of out-of-proportion, catty news coverage. At the same time he was manifestly relishing the prospects of appearances on talk shows, and perhaps a book; even a movie.

DEATH BY NEGLECT. The lethal abuse of 3-year old Egypt Phillips, late of Coxsackie, can be blamed on three parties. One is James Smith, paramour of Egypt’s mother and taxpayer-funded care-giver of Egypt. In the light of abundant evidence that he beat, shook violently, and otherwise abused that child, Smith was convicted in March of Egypt’s murder. A second guilty party is Tonya Rose, Egypt’s mother. While she was away at work she entrusted Egypt’s care to Smith (rather than to her own sister, who was available and had proved to be competent and caring). She kept Smith at home and ‘on the job’ after he had been barred legally because he evidently was abusing Egypt. She has been convicted of negligent homicide. The third guilty party evidently is The System. It is the procedures and/or the personnel of GreeneLand’s Child Protection Services agency together with its Social Services parent. Egypt was known to people working for those agencies. She became known to them in consequence of hospital reports about injuries that were interpreted authoritatively as products of abuse. Indeed, after the battered Egypt was hospitalized in 2004, procedures were set in motion that yielded the order prohibiting Smith from living in the Rose household. But Smith and Rose disregarded that order. AND NOBODY CHECKED. What is more, SMITH CONTINUED TO GET PAID, via Social Services, at the rate of $1100-plus per month, for his “service” as care-giver of Egypt and her two siblings. Egypt’s injuries—bruises; weight loss; retinal hemorrhage (strongest sign of violent shaking)--continued. During Smith’s trial Gene Beers, the responsible Social Services Department supervisor, was asked whether, following Egypt’s last hospitalization, a case worker had checked on obedience to the order of exclusion. Mr Beers did not know; he “supposed” so. Egypt Phillips is not GreeneLand’s only victim of institutional failure, in recent memory. Back in 2001, a man named Jose Serrano distinguished himself as a busy foster father. So active and effective was he, in the judgment of the Department of Social Services, that he was crowned at a special banquet, as Foster Father of The Year. In that same year he was convicted of sodomizing and otherwise abusing seven of the boys who were in his care. Complaints that eventually led to conviction had been voiced long before his activities were investigated. Since then the Social Services Department has acquired a new director: Kira Pospesel. We requested an interview with Ms Pospesel. We have been stonewalled. County legislators, we have been told, intend to review the operations of relevant departments in light of the Egypt Phillips tragedy. Stay tuned.

# STORY’S STORY. Although its main buildings were destroyed by last Thurs- day’s fire, the estimable Story’s Nursery is open for business. And it’s an ideal time, folks, to make sure proprietor Ken Thompson gets plenty. There may still be electrical problems, thwarting use of credit cards; bring cash.

IF DEAD, PLEASE CALL. “If you or a loved one was seriously injured or died as a result of using Advair, Servent, or Foradil,” says The Fox Law Firm of Dallas TX in nation-wide advertisements, “please call us today.”

DAILY MAUL. “After learning that Litchko was the driver of the car that hit the young woman, he also was arrested,” says a rookie reporter, demonstrating a weakness for dangling grammatical construction. In another recent item of our local daily, one "Stephen Shadely" is hailed as "renowned" interior designer. But his surname, like those of his brother and mother in Leeds, is Shadley.

YEAH SURE. Tannersville mayor Gina Legari, who has sole power to fill the current vacancy, says she does want the Village board to be full (=3 members) but does not feel like making her choice yet—not for a few WEEKS. (Reported by Jim Planck in Daily Mail of 4/8).

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