Camouflage may be fooling you. Perhaps that’s why no one has yet bought Herkimer’s 328 Pleasant Avenue. Just across the street from it lurks Al Murray’s house at 329 Pleasant Avenue, with its frontal array of plastic junk toys and wheeled play vehicles. This well-crafted eyesore gives rise to the belief that Al’s house is infested with screeching toddlers, a no-go zone for anyone looking for a well priced home on a peaceful village street.
Don’t be fooled. As far as we know–we’re just across the street from it–zero children live at Al’s house. Al wants you to believe that Herkimer’s Pleasant Avenue is a crappy street in a run down neighborhood. He has a mound of rubbish in his rear yard that can be seen from space. (He’s rejected at least one cash offer of $100 to allow others to remove it for him. )
And perhaps Herkimer Pleasant Avenue was a crappy street in a run down neighborhood for many of the 5 years Al’s lived here. But times have changed. Curtis Cool, aka Curtis Dolan, is gone, as are many other thuggish denizens of the dark. Our Pleasant Avenue neighbor, long-time Police Chief Joseph Malone, has retired in the teeth of an ethics investigation. Village codes are being enforced, and police and fire officers respond promptly and appropriately to calls. Herkimer county’s 911 center no longer tries to shunt calls to police and fire numbers not subject to New York state monitoring.
Google changes thought patterns – are we becoming smarter or stupider?
There’s evidence that information gathering via Internet search has altered human cognitive behavioral function in the areas of information processing, reward processing and control. Being able to search rapidly and widely for a solution increases the ability and speed with which critical problems can be solved, in a way impossible before the Internet. It seems that now we work smarter than ever before.
The Internet aids those with unimpaired and impaired memory alike
Accessing Internet resources like Google can serve as memory support for those who have some impairment, as well as those who don’t. It’s changed the doctor patient relationship and the treatment process for the better. Search engines can help those with faulty memory by reducing their need to store facts and extraneous data in their heads (Kennedy, 2015).
Education in Medicine notes that doctors should effectively use Internet resources available to them. Medicine works better when both patients and doctors read and analyze new data. Patients who have firsthand familiarity with their problems can often bring important research they have uncovered to their doctors, aiding in both diagnosis and treatment. When dealing with illness and many other problems that need to be solved, we’re seeking to identify both cause and solution.
Google changes thought patterns – an evolutionary enhancement
Man has evolved over the last 200,000 years, learning how to find food and shelter more effectively with tools. In the process, we have participated in ever evolving oral and written communication. Moving from nomadic cultures to living in agrarian and technical societies, we have become more knowledgeable and more effective. Each step of the way, we’ve increased our skills, organizational function and cultural abilities, learning to create structures of abstract and physical nature to aid us in better living. Google is part of that ability structure and perhaps a far more powerful tool than any ever used before in the history of man.
Google is far more than the acquisition of shallow information or a quick fix for a lazy or defective memory. It can give every one of us the ability to have the best education available anywhere and one that is specifically tailored to our interests and needs. Knowledge is power and in Google we find a magnificent intellectual tool that can empower us as individuals and as a worldwide collective. If the downside is a tiny bit of Internet addiction that can be fixed with reeducation like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, so be it. Multitasking enabled by Google’s search engine is a different, more effective way of doing things, not an impediment to cognition. Google succeeds brilliantly in their global mission to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible.
Learn to think critically. It could save your life. All too often people base their knowledge on things they hear. Most of us prefer to be agreeable and conform with a behavioral norm created by those around us. Some people say “think wonderful thoughts and you’ll be happy”. Sadly, that doesn’t work when you’re on a collision course with a serious threat. Don’t kid yourself. When you are asked to evacuate because there is a fire that can’t be contained or your town is in the path of hurricane make certain you get out of the way. Your special belief that things will be OK will not save you from calamity. Don’t base your actions on old information like the baby boomers retiring to coastal locations in Florida as they ignore widespread flooding and hurricane activity.
When you learn to perceive of change and investigate conditions with an open mind, you’ll be able to make better decisions. That process of good decision making can save your life and help you to live with meaning rather than have some aimless existence.
You are blessed because you can learn whatever you want on the Internet for free. That education was something unavailable even 10 years ago. Go to Youtube.com. You can learn critical thinking, physics, math, chemistry, knitting, carpentry, plumbing, farming or robotics. It will cost you nothing so don’t waste your time doing nothing. Become an artist of any kind – dancer, writer, singer, choreographer, sculptor, musician. Start learning on the Internet now. YOUR TIME IS VALUABLE.
I have chosen the University of Western Australia as a model local government code of ethics. It standardizes principles, values and behaviors expected of both students and staff at this university. It is defined in writing in two documents. The first is the Code of Ethics and the Second is the Code of Conduct.
Who does this code of ethics apply to? It applies to full and part time employees and full and part time students as well as permanent and temporary staff. Visitors and contractors must also abide by this standard. In fact, all individuals present at this facility must assume the responsibility of following this code of ethics when undertaking any university business. Those who do not abide by it are subject to discipline or dismissal.
The first part of the code focuses on equity and justice. It ensures that people will be treated fairly without discrimination. Its purpose is to prevent petty tyranny and the abuse of power. A just community is one where each and every member has equitable access to opportunities and resources.
The second ethical requirement is respect for people. Individual rights must be protected in order to maximize the potential of every person. Each community member must accept responsibility for their actions and behave with integrity. Each individual must accept social responsibility and act openly and honestly. Respect for others means resolving conflict with reasoned argument and respecting the listener.
The third ethical requirement requires that individuals do no harm. But they must also behave with courtesy and are expected to contribute to the common good.
I chose this as a fine example for a local government code of ethics because of its simplicity, clarity and impact. When each of us assumes responsibility for the common good, treats others with respect and behaves fairly, we can live and work in an environment that is sustainable and supportive and expect fair treatment and support from our peers.
12/17/16 Curtis Cool has put Herkimer on the map: 6,100+ views of his videos and growing, as referring sites offer them for free download. One comment on a British site: “The Herkimer Police–the strong arm of the law.”
Linda Kaidan unwittingly making the Nanny Nanny Boo Boo, ignorant that it was exculpatory for harassment in Herkimer New York
Despite a change of command and increased patrols, Herkimer Police wouldn’t take criminal harassment complaint, even for this outrageous and well-documented incident. (We have more.) This one is fresh, others occurred under Herkimer’s previous police chief, Joseph Malone, who abruptly retired in the teeth of an ethics investigation. It demonstrates an alarming ongoing pattern of failure to protect by the Herkimer Police.
Typically the Herkimer Police say they’ll only take a complaint following a second incident of harassment, because Herkimer District Attorney Jeffrey Carpenter won’t prosecute. Harassment must be repeated to qualify as a criminal offense.
Not true. Your tormentor must either “engage in conduct or repeatedly commit acts which alarm or seriously annoy the victim and serve no legitimate purpose,” according to New York state law. Here’s a local aggravated assault case that resulted in an arrest by the New York State Police for second-degree aggravated harassment, based upon “19 menacing phone calls within a 20-minute time span.” We endured 7 threats of grave bodily harm in 10 minutes, following a previous incident of public harassment.
Herkimer Aggravated Harassment Incident of 8/23/16
On Tuesday August 23, 2016, we were again verbally harassed and then threatened with multiple acts of physical violence by 328 Pleasant Avenue tenant, Curtis Cool, aka Curtis Dolan, first in our driveway and then on the public sidewalk. The previous night we’d again reported Cool for yet another of his multiple illegal late night fires.)
The Herkimer Police and the New York State Police responded promptly and again defused Curtis Cool. The responding officers were very supportive and encouraged us to file a harassment complaint at the Herkimer Police station. Cool’s actions seemed to us to be obviously either 2nd or 1st Degree Aggravated Harassment. With Cool charged, we could obtain a Temporary Order of Protection, which would force him to move from his base at Clerk of Court Harriett Tangorra’s 328 Pleasant Avenue house.
On Wednesday 8/24 we gathered our evidence–two cellphone videos, a surveillance cam video and a detailed narrative. At approximately 2:30 p.m, we went to the Herkimer Police station after first calling to see if it would be convenient to do so. The officer on duty, Officer Jason Crippin, said to come down.
Herkimer Police Say Nanny-Nanny-Nanny-Boo Excuses Aggravated Harassment
Officer Crippin asked us to wait while he looked at abundant evidence. He briefly reviewed a short portion of our first cellphone video, seen below, then stopped and refused to write up a complaint. “It would just be a waste of time,” he said.
His reason? Officer Crippin said one of us (Kaidan) had triggered Cool’s menacing and threats of grave bodily harm by making a nanny nanny nanny boo gesture from our driveway at Cool as he peppered us with taunts and obscenities. Officer Crippin’s implication? That Herkimer County District Attorney Jeffrey Carpenter would not prosecute Cool, as Kaidan’s nanny-nanny-boo-boo would exonerate Cool, holding him harmless for his threats and menacing.
Here’s the portion of the cellphone clip reviewed by Officer Crippin before dismissing us. It has been closed captioned for the selectively hearing impaired. (Full Screen/click on the CC icon.): [Yo! It’s Curtis Cool: Parents strongly cautioned.]
The incident continued a moment later as Kaidan, refusing to be driven inside her home by Cool, asserted her right to walk along the public sidewalk in front of Cool’s house. Here’s an extract from that clip. (Officer Crippin didn’t review it, so we didn’t closed caption it):
Both full length videos from 8/23 (7 threats of grave bodily harm), and our surveillance camera footage confirming the events, place, date and time are on our flash drive, gathering dust at the Herkimer Police station. Included with them is our narrative of the incident and our video of Cool’s previous public harassment of us on 8/11/16. (During this last he cited his landlord, Harriett Tangorra in demanding our arrest. For having surveillance cameras. ) Officer Crippin used our narrative to review the first clip. Seeing the nanny-nanny-boo-boo, he gave Cool a pass and sent us packing.
Officer Crippin’s Advice
Officer Crippin’s advice was the same as that of Herkimer’s drug thugs when we first unwittingly moved to Pleasant Avenue: Hide: “Keep away from him and just stay in your apartment, ” Crippin advised. (
It’s our house. We own it. It’s next door to Tangorra’s. The sidewalk is a public place. We asserted our right to use it. We will continue to do so.
Officer Crippin then belatedly added this was just this opinion. And that we might try our luck with one of the responding officers–maybe they’d take a complaint. He seemed miffed that we’d distracted him from his law enforcement duties.
the Herkimer Police wouldn’t take criminal harassment complaint- WHo wins?
This is the 4th time in two years we’ve had the Herkimer Police ooze out of taking some flavor of a harassment complaint against cash-heavy criminals. We’ve heard the same from others. This isn’t policing, it’s depraved indifference. It throws Herkimer’s people to the wolves for the sake of politicians cynically running for office as crime fighters. And it emboldens criminals like Cool, who recently moved away unscathed despite many police and fire department visits. (To our knowledge, Cool was never cited for his illegal bonfires nor charged with harassment.) When Herkimer Police refused again to take a criminal harassment complaint, they made it clear that law and order is not their priority.
And so it goes on, with Herkimer’s reputation as a lawless jurisdiction attracting more criminals and endangering even more people.
What does it matter that Herkimer Police wouldn’t take criminal harassment complaint?
Who stands to win if we all lose? Criminals, greedy landlords, criminal defense attorneys. And some politicians: Incumbent Herkimer County District Attorney Jeffrey Carpenter is trumpeting a lowered violent crime rate in support of his reelection. It’s easy to lower the crime rate if your police don’t take criminal complaints. To take them and act on them, though, is “A matter of public safety.”
What are the rights of bloggers as journalists? Case in point: our neighbor Curtis Cool’s (aka Curtis Dolan) female caretaker mentioned the captioned lawsuit the other day during an exchange of pleasantries. (Curtis rents 328 Pleasant Avenue from Harriett Tangorra, Herkimer Supreme Court clerk of court, upon whom he apparently relies for legal advice.)
There is yet no lawsuit. We await.
We received a letter about a month ago from Herkimer attorney Todd D. Bennett, written for 333 Pleasant Avenue’s Douglas and Joyce Barton. The Bartons allege that they’ve “suffered damages to their reputation (sic) as a result of your publication.” (“What reputation?” asked my wife. “As drug dealers?” “Harassment? Arson? Menacing?” I suggested. “But surely our posts would only enhance those reputations?”) The Bartons demand we take down all Herkimer Post articles regarding them. It bewails the worldwide notoriety our postings have brought them. (And obviously Herkimer itself, which has long failed to protect the Barton’s neighbors from them. Some Herkimer police officers have seemingly acted in league with the Bartons to intimidate us.)
The letter further alleges that our articles “have exposed the Bartons and their family members to contempt and ridicule.” If true, the Bartons have only to look in a mirror see the source of that contempt and ridicule. Attorney Bennett states that “according to my clients, your published statements are false and constitute defamation per se.” Mr. Bennett does not offer his own opinion as to whether or not such statements would constitute defamation; that would have required reading the posts.
The Final Threat: Copyright Infringement?
Lastly, Attorney Bennett states that his law firm does not “attempt to restrict freedom of speech…”, then in his letter’s last sentence attempts to restrict our freedom of speech by vaguely threatening “that the publication of this legal correspondence…is unauthorized and may subject you to further causes of action.”
There is no law protecting legal correspondence per se from publication. That would be an infringement of the 1st Amendment. What Mr. Bennett may be implying is that his letter to us is protected from publication as a copyrighted work. This is often the parting shot in Cease and Desist letters, meant to further intimidate recipients into silence.
It’s only possible to understand our letter in response to his by seeing Attorney Bennett wrote; we believe its publication clearly falls under the protection of the Fair Use statute;
We think his letter a fine example of a typical meritless threat often used by attorneys to attempt to silence their clients’ critics;
We don’t believe the copyright laws prevent us from posting Attorney Bennett’s letter: It’s not register with Copyright Office. Until it is, Attorney Bennett cannot sue to enforce a copyright claim. (17 U.S.C. § 411(a) His law firm could still register the work and then sue for infringement, but even if it could get past the fair use defense, his damages would be limited by his failure to register his letter with the Copyright Office before the alleged infringement.
Posting Attorney Todd Bennett’s Cease and Desist letter is a clear example of Fair Use. Attorneys should not be able to make threats and then hide from criticism behind the Copyright Act. Copyright laws are intended to protect writers, not be perverted into a tool of intimidation meant to squelch freedom of speech.
Mr. Bennett’s letter on behalf of the Bartons and our letter in response are posted at the end of this article.
SLAPP Suits and Freedom of Speech
Attorney Bennett’s letter was a typical SLAPP suit threat letter. A strategic lawsuit against public participation is a lawsuit intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition. SLAPP suits are illegal in many jurisdictions as they impede freedom of speech and as such are a violation of the First Amendment.
We are grateful to Herkimer’s Joyce Barton and Douglas Barton for their SLAPP suit threat. It inspired us to find fresh case law that grants us, as bloggers writing on matters of public concern, the same protections as that accorded traditional journalists, including the protection of New York’s awesome shield law for journalists. Under the shield law, as de facto journalists, we cannot be compelled to reveal our sources. We can and will cite as anonymous and protected, tips and information that come our way and are used in our posts. (Feel free to write us anonymously at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
A Double Burden of Proof of Libel and Slander by Bloggers as Journalists Now Lies with the Plaintiff
Those itching to hit bloggers with SLAPP suits must now meet a huge burden of proof:
In 2014, in Obsidian Finance Group LLC and Kevin Padrick vs. Crystal Cox, 12-3523, the 9th Circuit Court ruled unanimously for the Cox, who appeared Pro Se:“We hold that liability for a defamatory blog post involving a matter of public concern cannot be imposed without proof of fault and actual damages,” wrote Judge Horowitz. “Bloggers gets same speech protections as traditional press: U.S. court,” headlined Reuters.
Joyce Barton, Douglas Barton or anyone else shrieking slander, would have to not only prove our posts were false, they would also have to prove that we had actual knowledge that a post was false when we published it, notedUCLA School of Law professor Eugene Volokh commenting on the Obsidian ruling in the Reuter’s article. This is a tall hurdle.
Possible New Source of Legal Advice for the Bartons: Harriett Tangorra?
As noted at the start, the Barton’s friend and neighbor Curtis Cool (aka Curtis Dolan) has cited his landlord, Harriett Tangorra, as the source of his advice on the illegality of our surveillance cameras. Mrs. Tangorra is the Senior Court Clerk of the Herkimer Supreme Court. Maybe Joyce Barton should give her a call for legal advice?
Here’s Curtis on June 11th, quoting Harriett Tangorra to the police in yet another failed attempt to have us arrested for being on a public sidewalk, and for monitoring his yard for dangerous late night fires:
The Herkimer police were unmoved. Video surveillance continued, and more illegal fires were recorded, reported and responded to. This week Curtis Cool, aka Curtis Dolan, escalated to almost hysterical threats of bodily harm against my wife and I following a fire department and a police visit the previous night–visits in which as usual no Herkimer police or fire official cited him.
Why Curtis Cool’s overreaction and such fear of surveillance cameras? Reviewing our data and observations with new eyes, we think Curtis may have feared exposure of deeds far darker than fire. Stay tuned.
Update – 11/11/16. Shortly after this post was published, Curtis Cool, aka Curtis Dolan, cut and ran, abruptly moving to an undisclosed location. Curtis may have thought our hints of dark deed’s were related to our observations of his interactions with small children. If so, he was right.
Bartons’ SLAPP suit letter and Herkimer Post’s response
Stephen Ames Berry and Linda Kaidan live in Pleasant Avenue’s landmark Camera House.
A drone is an unpiloted aircraft vehicle so there is no human pilot onboard. A flight can be controlled remotely or it can operate with the guidance of an on board computer controlled system. Recent laws require those who operate them to have a license but there are few restrictions on who can operate them and on what they can fly over. Drones can see you and can be operated by individuals, companies, public and private organizations. Most drones are equipped with cameras that can photograph day and night. Some are equipped with 3 D cameras that can create 3 D models of surface features.
What can drones see?
Though drones may be so high in the sky that you can’t see them, they may very well see you. Two nights ago I witnessed our first neighborhood drones. There were three blinking off and on against the night sky. Though you may not have heard of them, surveillance drones have been around for quite a while. Click here for a video of a 2011 hummingbird surveillance drone.
Dronezone has a wide variety of drones for sale. Some feature GPS, autopilot and aerial photography options. An auto-piloted drone takes aerial photos and video of far superior capability than any pilot can.
What can a drone do?
It can identify images at precise locations for use in 3 D mapping. Having a drone with a GPS autopilot flight system and camera is essential for aerial photogrammetry, 3 d mapping and multispectral imaging. That includes infrared. So night flying drones can see too. Drones can be used for crop monitoring and site surveillance so keep in mind that day and night drones may be watching you
Remember that drones can see you whether they are launched by the government, the police, a stranger or a nosy neighbor. They can be looking at you from the sky at any time and even if you don’t see them, they may very well be able to see you.