Sunday, December 28, 2014

Wildly Irresponsible Gun Control PSA (VIDEO)

The following video is downright disturbing and wildly irresponsible to the point that it might actually get people killed.

The video encourages young people to actually steal their parent's (presumably legally owned) firearm and take it to school in a backpack to turn it over to a teacher. There are so many things wrong with this PSA it's hard to know where to start.

Stealing a firearm is a felony. Bringing it onto to school grounds is more than likely a violation of all sorts of laws, depending on where you live, but certainly enough to get a student permanently expelled and with good reason. Clearly a young person who would do something so foolish has not been taught to respect firearms, and could very easily wind up having an accident with it, killing themselves or someone else, at any point when they are handling or carrying it. Even if there weren't an accidental discharge, if the gun fell out of the bag it could cause such panic and mayhem that people could still wind up dead. (Look at what happened when John Crawford III just had a toy gun out in a WalMart store.) Unlawful possession by a minor, illegal concealed carry, brandishing, even assault, are all crimes that this "public safety" video encourages.

The anti-gun crowd are the real danger, not only to liberty, but even to public safety.

(Backup link: )

Saturday, December 27, 2014

You Should Be Concerned For The Safety Of Your Kids Too (VIDEO)

Anyone who is not concerned for the safety of their own children after seeing this video, is a bad parent. There was nothing wrong with DeBlasio saying that he shared the same concerns as any responsible parent.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Taxi To The Darkside (Full Length Feature Presention)

With CIA torture back in the headlines again, with a fresh wave of new information, here is some food for thought...

Trailer preview:

Friday, November 21, 2014

What '#ThanksMichelleObama' Can Teach Us About Obesity

What if I told you that fat people are actually starving to death? That the obesity epidemic is actually a mind-boggling symptom of mass-starvation, rather than gluttony? That doesn't seem to make any sense at all though right? Ridiculous you say? Read on copper-top, if you want to have your mind blown about what is really happening in this country when it comes to our health and what we eat.

The #ThanksMichelleObama campaign by teens on social media is quite revealing as to the state of health and nutrition in this country, but in ways that may not be quite so obvious at first glance.

If you puke, save it,
someone else will have it
The campaign has students posting pictures of all sorts of disgusting concoctions and meager servings not even fit for a snack, much less a meal. School lunches have never been especially popular, standing alongside hospital food, non-premium airline meals, and so forth. But taking a look at some of these pictures, it seems like even county jail inmates are fed better than students. I feel lucky now, for the slop we were fed at school when I was a kid.

Click here for a sampling from BuzzFeed.

Should these hot messes really be blamed on Michelle Obama though? Now granted, it was her initiatives for policy change and regulations on school lunches that cut down your portion of processed meat-paste nuggets from six to three, but we have to take a step back for a moment and take a look at the bigger picture here in what she was hoping to achieve.

The USDA guidelines, implemented over the last few years, include limits on calories, fat, sugar, and sodium for all food and drinks sold during the school day for 100,000 schools across the country.

That doesn't sound like a bad idea at all actually. The obesity epidemic is now costing the world over $2 trillion annually, not to mention other health concerns from poor nutrition and eating habits, or the countless lives that are being lost. So how do we make sure that students (and people in general even) are eating better to cut down their risk of obesity and illness? Cutting out the "bad" stuff sounds like a good start. Of course there is even debate as to what is actually bad for you. Some say there is really nothing wrong with salt, sugar and fats, but we can save that debate for later.

Where's the beef?
If we are cutting out a portion of our diet, it has to be replaced with something else, or we are running the risk of actual starvation. And that certainly is not a healthy alternative. So, new school food rules set by Congress also require more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in school cafeterias. Then again, fruits are actually very high in sugars that they are trying to cut out for one thing, and these "good" foods wind up being as debatable as the "bad" foods. Fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains along with lean meats and healthy proteins are also expensive, but more on that in a moment.

When you look at these trays, it seems pretty clear that these students have been put on what is basically a starvation diet. While a mystery meat nugget on a bun and some applesauce might meet daily guidelines for fat, calorie and salt intake, while providing a balance of meat, grain and fruit, that tray is clearly not a proper meal. Especially for growing kids. That is not going to be enough to sustain you through that mile run in gym class and four more periods of what should be intense brain activity. It's little wonder why kids aren't focused, and don't have the energy to get out of their own way. The lack of energy, of course, will only wind up setting the stage for obesity all over again too.

Despite the First Lady's best intentions, those lunch trays are clearly not a path to better health for America's youth, or a lesson in healthy eating for the rest of us to follow. While that tray may meet "healthy" guidelines set by the FDA, it is missing one very critical component. Nutrition. The actual reason we eat in the first place. Now that really comes to the crux of the whole obesity issue, nutrition, or a lack thereof.

That chicken patty and applesauce tray does not provide real nutrition. Hyper-processed breaded meat paste and flour may fill your stomach for the moment, but it won't sustain you. The apple-flavored corn syrup mush is loaded with calories, but again, has no real vitamins, minerals, or proteins. It just looks healthy because it tells your brain "apple." So despite the fact that you got recommended levels of meat, grain fruit and calories, you still didn't get what you actually needed, nutrition. Now you have two choices. Starvation or obesity. That is basically what the Michelle Obama initiative has brought to light, looking at these trays. You can go hungry, or you can steal that patty bun from the kid sitting next to you violating the FDA "healthy" guidelines. You can starve, or you can over-eat and get fat.

Even with a second sandwich, that is probably not enough real nutrition for a person. So now they have over-eaten and "feel" full, but will still wind up foggy-headed and lethargic from lack of nutrition. Rinse and repeat, and there you have it folks. Fat people who are starving to death. You could eat all the Crisco-covered cardboard and boot leather in the world, but that won't keep you from starving to death. While we blame obesity for the gambit of health problems and diseases, we overlook the fact that being fat is not really a cause at all, but rather an effect of poor nutrition. 

So what should we actually see on that Obama-lunch tray? Well, by cutting out that corn-syrup re-branded as applesauce, that would cut out a lot of calories right off the bat, which could be used by more nutrient dense foods. Home-made applesauce would be a much better choice, or perhaps even some sauteed apple slices with a few raisins and a little bit of unrefined brown sugar. Fewer calories, more nutrition. But we don't really have to put a dessert on a lunch tray anyway, and try to call it "healthy fruit." A small, fresh salad or vegetable might be a better option at lunch time.

How about that main entree? Instead of a hyper-processed breaded meat-paste puck on a hyper-refined white flour bun which offer essentially zero nutrition, an actual chicken sandwich on a whole grain bun would be a far better option. Free-range organic chicken having the most nutrients of course. (And less chance of chemical poisoning than the ammonia-soaked meat from and tortured, electrocuted birds.) A little bit of lettuce and a slice of tomato on there would be a tasty, healthy addition too. Since we have saved calories now by replacing overly refined and processed products, we can either serve a larger portion, or perhaps a second side dish such as a handful of mixed nuts, some yogurt perhaps with a bit of fruit, something actually healthy and nutrient rich while being much more filling as well.

So we see here that it's not really about cutting out fats or sugars, it is about choosing more nutrient-dense foods instead. Our bodies need fats, sugar, and salt just as much as vitamins minerals and protein. Cutting out certain components and simply feeding kids less is not a solution. It is starvation. Instead of taking things away, we need to add more nutrient-dense foods to the lunch menu.

This presents another problem though. School lunch programs run on a strict budget and have to put out whatever they can with the budget they have, and now too within the constraints of these FDA guidelines. So in Michelle Obama's attack on obesity, and within those budget constraints, this is the best that the schools could come up with. A starvation diet, as we can plainly see. Schools simply cannot afford to put out free-range grilled chicken sandwiches with a fresh garden salad and sauteed apples. They can't afford to serve a nice piece of balsamic-glazed salmon with some wild rice and roasted brussels sprouts salad. Or even if the schools could afford it, a lot of students would not be able to afford to pay what they would have to charge. Not in public schools anyway.

Now we see too, why not just young people are increasingly being swallowed up by this obesity epidemic, but the poor as well. What we are seeing here dispels the ignorant myth of poor people being gluttons, who "should stop eating so much if they are so poor." People living in poverty are living on a steady diet of nutritionally void foods like ramen, dollar store packs of hot dogs, and 3-liter bottles of generic soda-pop. This is why they are fat and have heart-disease, not because they are gorging themselves on Lindor truffles foie-gras.

And again, all of this exposes the fact that obesity is really masking a horrible truth about the world today. We are, quite literally, starving to death. Obesity is just a mask for mass starvation, on a core nutritional level. We just don't think of it this way. We don't see it, because of the incongruous nature of what we think about starvation historically, compared with a fat person in front of us on line at the supermarket. We imagine starving people to be war prisoners in death camps, or the bony little beggar children on the streets of India. There is one constant though, the poor and the voiceless are always first in line to starve. We see that here too with the obesity epidemic. The poor are the most likely to fall prey to this insidious and historically unprecedented cycle of nutritional starvation. while also taking the blame at the same time.

-J. Marcellus VanWagner

You can read more on obesity and what we eat at the following links, where some of my older material has been hosted:

Let Them Eat Cake: The Tale of American Nutricide

Fat Tax: The Socio-Economics of Obesity

Fascist Food and Nutrition Nazis

Friday, October 31, 2014

A Few Spooky Videos For Halloween

This first one is quite obviously CGI. Right? It's still got good creep-out factor though.

This next one is a little more of a head-scratcher though. CGI? Perhaps. Blair Witch? Not entirely demonic but it sure would scare the crap out of me to coming walking through the woods and see this.

This one is a snippet of a longer video that you can see here . It's a about 4 minutes or so of a group of boys wandering through an abandoned school building in an Iraq city. The place doesn't look very spooky, it is daytime, and it looks pretty typical of any group of kids just kicking around trying to find something to do. It might be easier to write this one off as CGI if the boys had actually reacted to the headless ghost that materializes and walks toward them. Instead, it as if the specter only appears on film, and that they were actually oblivious to the presence.

The groan you hear that seems to be coming from the headless ghost turns out to actually be the call to prayer, and not the wailing of that, whatever it was that materialized in the empty classroom. But speaking of prayer, this next one might leave you wondering if angels are real. A CCTV security cam captures what appears to be some sort of winged, illuminated being dropping to the ground and then bouncing right back out of view.

But is there a difference between a falling angel, and a fallen angel? In this next one the cameraman and a friend are walking through the woods, and notice that something is not quite right. They aren't speaking English, so I can't tell you exactly what they are saying, but something has caught their interest. As they continue walking through the woods, they notice several large white feathers littering the trail. and then the come across, whatever this is.

Was it a Gollum, feasting on a swan in the middle of the woods perhaps? Or could it have been a fallen angel, as others have suspected, seeing the nubs on it's back, as if wings had been attached and broken off. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Dept Of Probation To Make Man Homeless Over Dismissed Charge

The following was submitted by a viewer who wishes to remain anonymous, for fear of retribution:

I have been struggling with homelessness for the past several months. I was once a middle-class citizen, who was born and raised here in Dutchess county. My family roots go back to the first Dutch settlers in the 1600's, in fact. Yet I can't even afford a rental on the long road that was once the long driveway of my old "Van" ancestors. The reasons for my homelessness is a storied tale, that doesn't happen all at once, and might be left to another article. But today's submission, is about how I am being made homeless yet again, by an indirect order from a public agency.

A few months ago, I was literally living on the streets for a time. An old friend from high school had the heart to take me in, and rent a space to me in her basement for the small pittance that I get for housing from an emergency benefit from New York State. (What "welfare" gives you is $216 a month. Good luck finding a rental for that much.) Sadly, not a month had gone by, and some family court issue on her end, left me homeless yet again.

A few days passed, and another friend of mine from my old high school days told me that he had an spare room. He basically used it as a slop den for his pets. I was not at all picky, and moved in with the agreement that I would pay him all of my housing benefit amount, plus another hundred dollars. I bought a mop and bucket, and turned the kennel room into a liveable space.

There was a catch though. My friend is on misdemeanor probation. So before I moved in, I asked him to clear this with his probation officer. The PO told him that since I am not a felon, not on probation or parole, and since I have no open cases pending, that he could not "violate" him on the terms of his probation. I moved in the next day.

I have since shifted over my legal address to the new residence, and I claim a housing benefit from social services in order to make partial payment for the room as well as access to the kitchen and bathroom. I make up the difference by spending my cash allotment for things like transportation and laundry, on rent to my roomate. These services are meant to get me back on my feet, and I am doing my best to do that.

Unfortunately, the probation department doesn't see it that way. Since I have moved in, the department of probation has threatened to violate my roommate/landlord, for renting a room to me. I have called his PO several times, but he didn't return any of my calls until today. Essentially he told me that "P*****k knows what he has to do" and would not give me any reason why I should be evicted, citing confidentiality. However, confidentiality did not prevent them from showing images of myself as well as my arrest record on unfounded charges, in order to establish defamatory statements against me by the agent, as well as his supervisor. 

Now just to be clear here. I am not a felon, I am not on probation or parole, I have no open cases pending. Admittedly though, I do have an arrest in the last year, for which the charge was dismissed in a local town court.

The question then becomes, can the department of probation make me homeless once again, because I was arrested on a charge that was dismissed? Can they send a man to jail, at huge taxpayer cost, two months before his probation is finished, for renting a room to a man who was once a first-responder and a state-licensed officer, but happened to have a misunderstanding with the judicial system?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Facebook Blocks HVW Activity

We have not received any official notification of any alleged wrongdoing, but it appears that Facebook is blocking all activity on our Facebook page. None of our admins or writers are able to post comments, or share news items. Sometimes FB has technical "glitches" like this, but this one is lasting an awfully long time. Could it be we posted something that the-powers-that-be found to be unsavory? Could it be that we are being blocked while they investigate, under send us for further review? Time will tell.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

NBC News Crew Detained Filming Near Vacant NY Prison

This video just came across my desk, and though it happened back in July, this is something that any freedom-loving American should be very concerned about.

An NBC WNYT13 reporter and film crew headed up Mount McGregor to do a story at the Ulysses S. Grant Cottage State Historic Site. The day before this visit was the 129th anniversary marking the death of the Civil War hero, and former Chief Executive of the nation, at his Adirondack retreat.

This was clearly a legitimate human-interest news story, by a legitimate and well-respected mainstream news source. So why were they suddenly ordered to stop filming by a uniformed prison official, who rushed down the mountain at them in a private vehicle? The officer told them that they could not film at the ostensibly public historic site, and ordered them off the mountain entirely. When they did finally try to leave, after being blocked by another prison guard, they were detained by the New York State Police and threatened with arrest unless they handed over their film.

Well let's have a look here at what took place.

This brazen assault on liberty, free-speech, freedom of the press, and our core values as Americans stands as a testament to the actual state of oppression we live under today. This is not freedom, this is tyranny which even 20 years ago we would have thought only happened in third-world dictatorships. Who are these officers, these so-called public servants, actually working for here?

Despite the fact that New York state taxpayers were still paying the salaries for nearly 80 prison guards there, the prison has actually been vacant for almost a year. Not a single prisoner at the prison, but all of those officials still there, guarding what? Between the seemingly pointless cadre of guards and their aggression toward innocent civilians, some have gone so far as to speculate that the news crew may have accidentally stumbled across a so-called secret FEMA camp.

Jesse Ventura's Banned FEMA Camps Episode

Two days after the incident, New York State Department of Corrections pulled their officers off of the site, and private security firm Securitas took over. Securitas is a Swedish-based company which swallowed up the notorious Pinkerton agency here in the U.S., and is now the largest private security company in the world. They operate everything from home security systems, to armored cars once owned by Loomis Fargo & Company, another famed outfit which they absorbed.

Whatever is actually going on up at the old prison may be speculative. What is not speculative however, is what we saw happen to that news crew on that day. A grotesque display of police-state oppression and tyranny right here in our own country, on hallowed ground where an American President and champion of liberty died. Is there a war now, against free speech and the people, where agents can detain you for simply going about your day? What crime is it to capture a public building on film? While there should be outrage across the country at what we saw, there is only complacency and deaf ears. Where is the accountability? Where are the measures to ensure that such trampling of our rights never happens again in this so-called land of the free? Sadly enough, something like this is no longer shocking, just business as usual, as liberty goes quietly into the night.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

WTC 7 On 9/11: Evidence

The following is reprinted here, with permission of the original author. 

We are going to present a compilation here of material regarding the collapse of World Trade Center Building #7 on September 11, 2001.

Many have argued that the World Trade Center disaster was actually the result of a controlled demolition project planned well in advance by parties unknown. Much of the focus on the disaster that day has been centered on Towers 1 and 2, which were struck by aircraft. It has also been argued by many, that the damage from the aircraft and ensuing fires would not have been sufficient to cause a symmetrical collapse at nearly free-fall speed. There is compelling evidence to support the idea that the planes could not have brought down the towers, but perhaps the most compelling is that WTC7 was never struck by a plane at all, and yet that building too also collapsed in a way that seems to defy any explanation other than a controlled demolition.

But let's start by looking at the official explanation first. Could fire be the reason that Building 7 collapsed, as we have been told by government officials? It seems rather unlikely, considering that it has never happened before, or since. Yet on 9/11, we are told that three steel buildings were brought down primarily by fire. And again, one of those buildings was not even hit by a plane loaded with fuel.

This is a picture of the fires still burning in WTC7 in the late afternoon of September 11.

Here are some examples, of burning skyscrapers from around the world, that did not collapse, despite the fact that they suffered fires that burned longer, and engulfed more square footage of the structure.

In 1975, World Trade Center Tower 1 also burned on several floors, for several hours, with no modernized fire suppression system or fire-proofing material in place, but did not collapse.

Of course, these towering infernos were not struck by aircraft and were not struck by the debris of the Twin Towers as they collapsed. So let's have a look now at what sort of damage a building can suffer and still remain standing.

This is an image of debris which struck and damaged WTC 7.

For comparison now, here is a picture of the Deutsche Bank building which suffered extensive damage on 9/11. A fire in 2007 claimed the lives of two FDNY firefighters. Nearly a decade later, a $100-million deconstruction project was completed and the building was no more.

The following two images show the damage done to WTC Building #3 on 9/11, and the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City after it was bombed in 1995. Despite the devastation, what remained of the buildings still did not collapse, and had to be brought down later.

Relatively small fires, comparatively far less structural damage than others, yet WTC7 still fell, uniformly, into a nice neat pile.

Even when buildings do happen to collapse, perhaps after an earthquake, they do not implode. Here are some images of what happens when critical supports in a building fail.

Even when specialists spend months planning and spend weeks placing huge amounts of explosives all throughout a building, it is still a difficult task to bring down a building in it's own footprint. There are no guarantees, as these videos show. Demolitions gone wrong, click here, here, and here to see them.

Larry Silverstein, the owner of the WTC complex first explained the collapse of Building 7 saying he gave the order to "pull it." This is a term often used in demolitions, meaning to pull down the building.

Strangely, given the subsequent information you will read here in a moment which has been kown for years, Secretary of State John Kerry also explained the destruction as a controlled demolition rather than an unexpected collapse. 

There is a very serious problem with that explanation though. Fire departments are not trained or equipped for demolitions operations. Fire trucks do not carry explosives, firefighters do not knock down buildings. Even for the world's leading specialists a demolition of that scale is not something that could be done in a matter of hours in a damaged and burning skyscraper. The only explanation could be that the explosives were set, before 9/11.

Silverstein later tried to revise the meaning of his statement, saying that he meant "pull it" as in to pull the rescue effort, and to pull out the firefighters in the building. The only problem with that, is that there were no firefighters in the building according to FEMA, because there was no water available to carry out interior firefighting operations. This video clip corroborates that. That clip also alludes to previous knowledge of impending collapse.

How did anyone know the building was going to collapse before it actually did? Why wasn't it predicted that other, more badly damaged buildings were going to fall, even though they never did? What were the telltale signs that Building 7 was going to collapse?

CRAIG BARTMER NYPD: "I walked around it (Building 7). I saw a hole. I didn't see a hole bad enough to knock a building down, though. Yeah there was definitely fire in the building, but I didn't hear any... I didn't hear any creaking, or... I didn't hear any indication that it was going to come down. And all of a sudden the radios exploded and everyone started screaming 'get away, get away, get away from it!'... It was at that moment... I looked up, and it was nothing I would ever imagine seeing in my life. The thing started pealing in on itself... Somebody grabbed my shoulder and I started running, and the shit's hitting the ground behind me, and the whole time you're hearing "boom, boom, boom, boom, boom." I think I know an explosion when I hear it... Yeah it had some damage to it, but nothing like what they're saying... Nothing to account for what we saw..."

Why did the BBC report that the building had collapsed, 20 minutes before it actually did?

In this video clip, you will hear someone declare that the building ia about to "blow up" as you hear what sounds like explosives going off in the background. Odd choice of words. Blow up. And who told them it was going to blow up?

Perhaps the sounds of bombs going off was a clue, but bombs had been going off all day. Something that was completely overlooked by the media and has never been explained.

But perhaps the most chilling account of bombs in WTC 7 comes from Barry Jennings, Deputy Director of the Emergency Services Department for the New York City Housing Authority. That fateful morning he raced to the Office of Emergency Management located in WTC7, to find it eerily empty, except for New York City's corporate counsel Michael Hess. An explosion trapped the two inside the building. Keep in mind that what he talks about here in the following interview happened before either of the Twin Towers fell, and therefore before the collapses had done any damage to Building 7.

(Videos of Barry Jennings' statements and interviews are routinely scrubbed from the internet. Unfortunately, this has happened again, as one of the most complete videos of his account has been removed, as you can see. For a less complete version, see this video here on YouTube.)

Unfortunately, Barry Jennings will never be able to testify on record about what he saw that day. He died, for unknown reasons, just days before the NIST report on 9/11 was released in 2008. One of the film makers who interviewed Jennings for the film Loose Change hired an investigator to find out more about Jennings' mysterious death. All that he found was Jennings' home empty, and up for sale. He then returned the money to the man who hired him, and told the filmmaker to never contact him again. This only added to the mystery. A commenter at a website claimed to be Jennings' son, and claimed his father had died of leukemia, but the identity of the commenter has never been verified.

Hess publicly corroborated important elements of Jennings' account.

This video examines the collapse of WTC7 and some elements of the NIST report.

If that video was a little too technical for you, don't worry. Most of us are not engineers. There are plenty of real experts out there though, thousands of them, who disagree with the government's findings. This video summarizes the details of the WTC 7 collapse in terms we can all understand.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Police Threaten Domestic Violence Victims

The following is an account of how a domestic disturbance incident was handled by a local police department. This account was corroborated by several witnesses including neighbors who had no direct involvement, when we investigated the story. At the request of the persons involved, we did not make contact with the police agency or the officers involved, and we will not name that agency here other than to say it was a local town police department.  The persons involved have stated that they are in fear for their safety, as well as fearful of retribution by police, should they say what department handled the call. 

A little background first.

Several months ago, my landlord's ex-husband moved out to live elsewhere leaving her stuck for the rent on the remainder of the lease. She rents a house through an agency. So to help make the rent, she decided to put an ad on Craigslist to rent out several rooms. I moved in about a month ago, and there are several roommates here now.

Since I have moved in, her ex keeps showing up at random times, wandering through the house and being a general nuisance. One night at about 2 in the morning, I woke up to this man coming down the stairs into the room that I rent, for no apparent reason except to look around. Very creepy.

When he moved out, he put a bunch of things in the garage, but also left a few items inside the house. An obvious ploy to give him an excuse to come into the house whenever he pleases. He has not paid a dime in rent since moving out, but still acts like he owns the place since his name is still on the lease.

Now to the day's events.

Yesterday this man showed up unannounced, and ripped a refrigerator out of the wall. It does belong to him apparently, but he never seemed to have any concern for it up to yesterday when it became his excuse to come in and cause a disturbance. He proceeded to ruin all of one roommate's food that was in the fridge and freezer, throwing it all on the floor. Broken eggs and the whole bit. None of my food was in there, but he proceeded to make threats against me, telling me to “get the f*** out” and that he was going to have me arrested for trespassing and so forth. I don't know this man at all, and really did not appreciate being dragged into whatever domestic issues he has with my landlord.

He left, and then came back again. The police were called. A local town police department. My landlord gave permission for him to empty his things from the garage, and to take the refrigerator that was now laying in the driveway. Hoping it would be the last she would see of him no doubt. He loaded the fridge into the truck, but left without getting his things from the garage. The police told him not to come back to the house.

This all happened around lunchtime. Now, I had just finished making dinner, and I see her ex pulled up in front of the house again. At this point, I am fearful for my own safety as well as my landlord, seeing this man parked on the street and staring at us through the window. So I called 911. Just as the call connected, the police pull up out front again. So I don't know who actually made the initial call, but I know that police don't show up instantaneously like that. I told the 911 operator that the police had just pulled up and that I no longer needed his help.

Two officers came into the house. As soon as they came in, one officer threatened to arrest me for falsely reporting an incident to 911. She said that there was no domestic disturbance, when clearly there was a problem. She said that she was screaming through traffic with the lights and sirens because she thought there was a “real” problem. But again, I had not made the call at that point, so someone else must have called first. I tried to explain to the officers what had happened earlier in the day, and was told to “shut the f*** up” by the male officer, and told that it was none of my business. Granted, I don't want to have anything to do with whatever is going on between my landlord and her ex, but when I am in fear for my own safety and being threatened directly, it becomes my business. Several threats of arrest were made against both myself and my landlord, and the police were quite free with profanity showing a total lack professionalism. They were barking about wasting their time, causing a disturbance and so forth. Now keep in mind here, we were minding our own business and about to sit down to dinner.

The police then told my landlord that she had to let this man back into the house to get his things, and that they were not even going to stay while he got them. They said they had a court order allowing him to come into the house. My landlord was not served with any such court order. The police REALLY didn't like it when I spoke up to tell my landlord of her rights. Basically telling her that if she has not been served with an order, then any such order is irrelevant. Hearsay is not a court order. The cop screamed that it was on file with his Sergeant back at the station, and that if she did not let her ex back, that she would be arrested for breaking a court order. The police then called the station and asked what the order actually said.

A few minutes later, the court order did show up. I don't know who brought it, or if her ex had a copy or what. But it turns out that it was a family court issued order of protection against my landlord, barring her from interacting with her ex or their children whom she pays child support for. There was no order from any civil court, giving this man access to the house. Again, keep in mind here, that we were about to sit down to dinner when this man showed up. If he really feels the need for an order of protection, then what is he even doing here in the first place?

The police then order her to let the man back into the house once again. The decision is not up to me, but I refused to let him enter my room. There were a few bags of kids clothes being stored in my room, which my landlord had told them to take, months ago. I brought the bags upstairs. I was then yelled at by the police once again and called a liar. The female officer tells my landlord, “See this is why you don't rent to scumbags.” This was my reward for trying to be somewhat accommodating and bringing the items to the door. When I got to the front door, I saw that her ex had left. He didn't empty the garage, he didn't bother to even wait for the bags of clothes. The police threatened to arrest us again, if anything were to happen to those clothes. I was ready to just set them out on the porch and be done with it, but I was told I would be arrested for that.

One officer then screamed through the window that my landlord had threatened her with violence. My landlord had made no such statement. Despite the ordeal, and clearly being deliberately provoked, neither of us resorted to so much as an F-bomb, much less go spouting off with threats or yelling. The police on the other hand, were not at all inclined to keep the situation calm.

I am completely shocked and appalled by all of this, on so many levels. The conduct of these two police officers was absolutely disgraceful. In this day and age, and in this area where domestic violence is such a serious problem, I was shocked to see that not only would the police not help, but actually became the aggressors themselves. I am fearful for my own safety now, and have no one to even call for help should another incident occur.

No one should have to live in fear in their own home.

Friday, July 4, 2014

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:
Column 1
   Button Gwinnett
   Lyman Hall
   George Walton
Column 2
North Carolina:
   William Hooper
   Joseph Hewes
   John Penn
South Carolina:
   Edward Rutledge
   Thomas Heyward, Jr.
   Thomas Lynch, Jr.
   Arthur Middleton
Column 3
John Hancock
Samuel Chase
William Paca
Thomas Stone
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
George Wythe
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton
Column 4
   Robert Morris
   Benjamin Rush
   Benjamin Franklin
   John Morton
   George Clymer
   James Smith
   George Taylor
   James Wilson
   George Ross
   Caesar Rodney
   George Read
   Thomas McKean
Column 5
New York:
   William Floyd
   Philip Livingston
   Francis Lewis
   Lewis Morris
New Jersey:
   Richard Stockton
   John Witherspoon
   Francis Hopkinson
   John Hart
   Abraham Clark
Column 6
New Hampshire:
   Josiah Bartlett
   William Whipple
   Samuel Adams
   John Adams
   Robert Treat Paine
   Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island:
   Stephen Hopkins
   William Ellery
   Roger Sherman
   Samuel Huntington
   William Williams
   Oliver Wolcott
New Hampshire:
   Matthew Thornton

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

'Welfare For Life' Is a Shameful Myth

It is often said that there are "too many people on welfare their whole lives."

The fact is, however, that this notion is a total myth perpetrated by those who are ignorant to the realities of poverty in America today.

Often, willfully ignorant at that. The issues of poverty can be complicated enough, but there will never be any solutions so long as there are people who choose to be prejudiced against those who are less fortunate. This myth is one of the most fallacious, derogatory lies, yet it is so often repeated by those who don't know or simply don't care what the fact really are. You see, for those sort, it's really about doing harm to the poor, as a sort of "tough love" vendetta over the fact they citizens must pay taxes. This mantra is repeated time and time again, as if people who are poor are simply lazy, and somehow enjoy a life of untold sorrow and misery.

Well, rant over for the moment. Let's cut to the chase here. Here are the FACTS about welfare, as they have stood since the Clinton Administration reforms of 1996. This information is taken verbatim from the New York State website, and can be found at the following link:

What are the two major Temporary Assistance programs?

Family Assistance (FA)

Family Assistance (FA) provides cash assistance to eligible needy families that include a minor child living with a parent (including families where both parents are in the household) or a caretaker relative. FA operates under federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) guidelines.

Under FA, eligible adults are limited to receiving benefits for a total of 60 months in their lifetime, including months of TANF-funded assistance granted in other states. Once this limit is reached, that adult and all members of his or her FA household are ineligible to receive any more FA benefits. The months need not be consecutive, but rather each individual month in which TANF-funded benefits are received is included in the lifetime count.

Parents and other adult relatives receiving FA, and who are determined to be able to work must comply with federal work requirements to receive FA benefits.

As a further condition of FA eligibility, each person who applies for or is receiving FA, is required to cooperate with state and local department of social services in efforts to locate any absent parent and obtain support payments and other payments or property. Non-cooperation without good cause could result in lower FA benefits.

Safety Net Assistance (SNA)

If you are not eligible for other assistance programs, you may be eligible for SNA. SNA is for:

Single adults
Childless couples
Children living apart from any adult relative
Families of persons found to be abusing drugs or alcohol
Families of persons refusing drug/alcohol screening, assessment or treatment
Persons who have exceeded the 60-month limit on assistance
Aliens who are eligible for temporary assistance, but who are not eligible for federal reimbursement

Recipients of SNA, who are determined to be able to work must also comply with work requirements to receive SNA benefits.

Generally, you can receive cash SNA for a maximum of two years in a lifetime. After that, if you are eligible for SNA, it is provided in non-cash form, such as a two party check or a voucher. In addition, non-cash SNA is provided for:

Families of persons found to be abusing drugs or alcohol
Families of persons refusing drug/alcohol screening, assessment or treatment
Families with an adult who has exceeded the 60 month lifetime time limit

Is there a limit on how long I can get TANF-Funded Temporary Assistance?

There is a 60-month limit on the receipt of Family Assistance benefits funded under the federal TANF program (the former Aid to Families with Dependent Children (ADC) program), some Safety Net Assistance (SNA) or the Child Assistance Program (CAP). Additionally, a payment for regular maintenance needs under the Emergency Assistance to Families with Children (EAF) for the month of December 1996, or any month thereafter, are included in the 60-month count. Participants in CAP are also restricted to the 60-month lifetime limit.

Additionally, cash Temporary Assistance in New York State is limited to a cumulative period of 60 months for any adult. No cash assistance (FA or SNA) benefit is granted to a family that contains an adult who has received a combined total of 60-month benefits under FA or cash SNA.

What is an Emergency?

An emergency is an urgent need or situation that has to be taken care of right away. Some examples of an emergency are:

You are homeless
You have little or no food
Your landlord has told you that you must move or has given you eviction papers
You do not have fuel for heating in the cold weather period
Your utilities are shut-off or are about to be shut-off, or you have a 72-hour disconnect notice
You or someone in your family has been physically harmed , or threatened with violence by a partner, ex-partner or other household member

If you and/or your family are experiencing an emergency situation you may be eligible for emergency assistance. Some examples of emergency assistance include, but are not limited to:

Payment of shelter arrears
Payment of utility arrears
Payment of fuel and/or cost of fuel delivery
Payment of Domestic Violence Shelter costs
Payment of Temporary Housing (Hotel/Motel) costs

More information is available from the official source linked above.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Oniontown, NY

Peeling Oniontown

Unraveling the Many Layers of New York’s Most Reclusive—and Feared—Community

20 points on reddit
 Photos by Nadia Shira Cohen

Dick with his grandsons, closing his makeshift pig pen for the season as winter approaches. Dick Smith, known as the "Grandfather" of Oniontown, breeds pigs in order to sell them for slaughter.

There are certain places that, by their very nature, seem forsaken. Afghanistan is one. Another lies an hour and a half north of New York City outside the bucolic little Hudson Valley hamlet of Dover Plains. It’s a place called Oniontown. Despite its name, Oniontown isn’t an actual town—it’s more of a mountainside enclave filled with a haphazard collection of run-down trailers on a dead-end dirt road. The settlement has a notorious reputation that conjures up words like hillbilly, inbred, and drugs. Residents have a hard time finding jobs in town because of their addresses. There are stories about people throwing onions onto the court when the local high school basketball team plays away games. While in the past 100 years women attained suffrage, segregation was ended, and civil rights were established that protected minorities, the century-old stigma toward Oniontown has remained remarkably intact.

In Dover Plains, the very word Oniontown causes people to frown, as if confronted with a foul smell or some unpleasant, long-repressed memory. Historically, Oniontowners seem to have always been thought of as somehow “less than” people in Dover—gap-toothed hillbillies who dwell in a kind of medieval mountain darkness. “Subhuman,” as a few locals put it. Even Dover’s post office, less than a mile away, doesn’t consider Oniontown to be worthy of receiving mail.

No one, not even the residents of the settlement, can definitively say where Oniontown’s peculiar name originated. Some believe it’s a derivation of Youngintown, on account of people in the settlement having so many children. Others say it’s because people there smelled like onions. A third faction suggests that onion was once slang for “uneducated.”

In the 1800s, poor white tenant farmers settled in the area. The earliest mention I could find of Oniontown appeared in the 1908 book Historic Dover: “One mile south of Dover Plains is a little settlement, composed of two classes—males that don’t do anything and females that bring up the children and take the business off the old man’s hands.” The little smattering of trailers and homesteads seems to have always held an inexplicable draw for outsiders. In 1947, International News Service reporter James L. Kilgallen ventured up to Oniontown and penned a trio of articles about the outpost with headlines like “Escape from Atomic Age: Real Life Tobacco Road 100 Miles from Broadway,” “No Radio or Auto Disturbs Hillbillies of Colony, a Century Behind Times,” and “Woman of 39 has 13 Children.” In his articles, Kilgallen made fun of Oniontowners for being scared of cameras and not being well-versed in Shakespeare, while simultaneously praising their simple, pastoral way of life: “Picture a community without an electric light, without a radio, without a movie house, without a bathtub, where the kiddies rarely get to eighth grade in school, where illiteracy abounds… rough hard-bitten Oniontown is primitive.”

In the final piece of his series, Kilgallen and his photographer drive away from Oniontown, past lavish country estates, and the photographer invokes the noble savage, saying, “I doubt if a lot of rich people who live in those estates are happier than the people we saw in Oniontown. You don’t find Oniontown worrying about income taxes or the atomic bomb.” Twelve years later Kilgallen returned to the settlement for a follow-up piece, brilliantly titled, “Quaint Oniontown Still Hides Behind Its Patched Rag Curtain.” The community still didn’t have electricity.

Ethel Smith with her great-grandson.

For most of its history, the residents of surrounding areas quietly judged the Oniontowners but left them alone up on the mountain. “Most locals know there’s no point in going up there,” a state police investigator told me. But recently, the demographics of the region have been changing. New York City homebuyers have plowed through Westchester and Putnam into traditionally working-class Dutchess County, ever in pursuit of cheaper, more bucolic upstate idylls. And in the past few years, suburban youth have taken to venturing up to gawk at the supposedly inbred hillbillies who’ve been popularized by urban myth. In early 2008, a shaky video called “Oniontown Adventures” appeared on YouTube. In it, three young jokers drive up a dirt road in an SUV at dusk, pretending like they’re reenacting a scene from Deliverance while commenting on the “little inbred hick village.” A guy in the backseat sarcastically says, “We’re gonna die.” The one in the passenger seat raises a pickax and says, “I’m gonna take one of those fuckers with me” as they blast twangy country music to pump themselves up. Once they cross the invisible border into Oniontown, everything seems to take on a preternatural significance. They roll down the windows and snap cameraphone photos of the trailers and trash. One guy spots a chicken on the dirt road and shouts, “Oh my God, look—a fucking chicken!” Then the video begins to slow down as the camera zooms in on a shadowy figure standing out in the woods. “That’s the sketchiest person I’ve ever seen in my life,” one of the boys says. Another shouts, “Look, I think there’s someone in the window!” This is followed by a couple Blair Witch slow-motion shots of other people standing in the woods. In the end, nothing really happens except a few terrible jokes and even worse laughter, concluding with one of the kids saying, “Didn’t they all look dazed? It’s like they are oblivious to the rest of the world.”

Later that summer, perhaps inspired by the bro-trio’s now-popular YouTube video, two teenagers from the wealthy town of Mahopac ventured into Oniontown with a camcorder to poke fun at its residents. They weren’t so lucky. Oniontowners wielding bricks and rocks attacked their car, and both of them ended up in the hospital. The incident made national news, adding to the place’s infamy. The situation was exacerbated by state police investigator Eric Schaeffer’s ominous warning to the press: “Anybody that doesn’t belong there, anybody that’s not a resident, just stay out of Oniontown.”

All of the commotion only served to make people more interested. Adventure-seeking teenagers, inspired by videos with titles like “A Day in an Inbred Village” and “Return to Fishkill,” arrived in droves, undeterred by the fact that their excursions had a good chance of being followed by a trip to the ER. In one clip, a teenage interloper’s camcorder points at the car’s floorboard, and all you can hear is girls screaming at the top of their lungs: “Oh my God! Fuck off! Leave us alone!” Below the clip, the video poster explained, “Some guy started chasing us down the road in his car and they blocked me and threw a rock at my windshield… these people are physco [sic].”

Oniontown became a kind of real-life haunted house for bored suburban teens, albeit one with serious consequences. One girl got a brick to the side of her head. Car windows of Oniontown’s unwanted “fans” were routinely smashed, their passengers dragged out and beaten. Others have been chased around by cars full of Oniontowners, careening their vehicles into trees or escarpments of rock while trying to escape. Eventually, the local police contacted Google and had many of the videos pulled off YouTube, but the damage had already been done. Oniontown had gone viral. One police investigator told me, “Kids were coming from all over—Westchester, Fishkill, Cortlandt Manor. When we would pull them over they’d say they were lost, but they’d have Google Maps directions to Oniontown in the backseat.”

Another investigator asked me, “What would you do if someone came into your neighborhood and started doing donuts and making fun of where you live and calling you names? People came in and messed with them, and so they reacted and then other people reacted back and it just snowballed from there. It wasn’t local kids. YouTube perpetuated it.”

Dick Smith's hunting rifle lies on the dining room table.

What lies at the heart of this dark star? What was the root of this fascination and fear of rural poverty? Where does a bad reputation come from? I set out to get some answers.

I started my journey in Poughkeepsie, a glum city in that upstate Rust Belt sort of way. I met Betsy Kopstein Stuts, executive director of the Dutchess County Historical Society, in a centuries-old house near the center of the decayed and boarded-up downtown. Unpaid volunteers—elderly gentlemen and college girls—circulated in and out of her dusty office, looking like movie extras as they carefully catalogued centuries of Poughkeepsie artifacts. Betsy sat on the other side of a massive desk cluttered with papers, seeming bemused by my interest in so marginal a place as Oniontown.

“We just don’t have a lot of facts. There are stories,” she said. What kind of stories? “That they’re inbred. That they built a Planned Parenthood nearby there in Dover because the girls out there were getting pregnant at 12 and 13. That Oniontowners are ten to a house and the police won’t go there. If you try to go out and talk to them, they’ll slip out the back and scatter into the woods. You can rarely do any interviewing with them or get any kind of story. That’s why there’s so little known about them—they don’t let anyone in.”

I asked Betsy, a native of Poughkeepsie, what she had heard growing up. “It was the kind of place you didn’t want to go at night,” she said. “You went with a group, never alone. And you definitely didn’t go in there unprotected.” Betsy explained that she believed the community had chosen their own isolation—that they had shut themselves off to the world and paid the price of stigmatization. “The relationship between Dover and Oniontown is terrible to this day,” she continued, “If you move into a neighborhood and there’s one person there who doesn’t mow their lawn and doesn’t paint their house and leaves trash outside, how do you feel about that person? You reflect and say, I wish that person weren’t here.” But is it fair the way people talk about Oniontown? “No, it’s definitely not fair. But can you stop people from talking? Can you stop rumors? You just can’t.”

A No Trespassing sign for a gun club on Oniontown road.
My “access” to Oniontown originated with a common form of journalistic chicanery—the friend of a friend. To be honest, I had some pretty serious reservations about asking a group of people who had basically fought a guerrilla war for their privacy if I could come up into their homes to poke my nose around and ask them scrutinizing questions. But somehow, as the journalist always does when thinking of the paycheck at the end of the rainbow, I managed to suppress my misgivings and watched my fingers dial the telephone number. To my surprise, Patty Smith and her mother-in-law, Ethel, the oldest living resident and “Queen Bee” of Oniontown, told me to come on up. By 11 AM, I was going up the infamous dirt road to the settlement.

Just through the cattle gate, past a flurry of NO TRESPASSING signs, stood a burned-out house, like a warning: Beware all ye who enter. The gnarled, charred husk of a structure had twisted into itself like something from an Edvard Munch painting. Oniontown proper was just a few steps ahead. It was as bleakly unimpressive as I had expected: just a steep little dirt road pocked with a couple of trailers that overlooked the entire valley—the Metro North train tracks, highway, and cliffs beyond. A couple of little kids played in the junk-strewn dirt yards. I told one of the little girls that I was looking for Ethel, and she ran inside a trailer. A pit bull eyed me suspiciously from across the road as I waited under the eaves. After a while, the door creaked open to reveal a tough-looking kid, with a flat-brimmed hat and a big belt buckle adorned with a marijuana leaf. “Ethel doesn’t want to talk right now,” he said. “She’s not feeling good.” He glowered in my direction.

I asked when I should return, and he shrugged and muttered something about staying away from Oniontown, shutting the door in my face. I walked up the stark little hill to Patty’s trailer, but no one was home. After standing around on the dirt steppe for a bit, surveying the nearby pit-bull kennels and skeletal mountain tree line, I headed back to Dover to meet Renny Abrams, the town judge, at his bustling country store and gas station. Abrams, kindly and white-haired, bore an uncanny resemblance to an elderly Johnny Cash. He also had Cash’s nebulous politics—after an hour of talking to him I couldn’t tell whether he was right- or left-leaning. As a town judge and a business owner, he had a lot of experience dealing with the Oniontowners.

Dick Smith’s pigs chowing down on some donuts.

“When I was a teenager they were always bullied,” he said. “I remember experiencing some situations where a certain girl would be deemed ‘less than accepted’ because of her Oniontown status. But they, more than anybody, supported me when I started this store. They shopped here, they were our friends—to this day I am indebted to them. They’re not looking for something to set them higher in some social arena. They’re genuine. They’re real.”

In small towns and insular communities, news spreads quietly and rumors proliferate amid the shadows. Abrams described how isolated events that were somehow related to Oniontown had stacked atop one another, reinforcing people’s prejudices. “Someone gets arrested for drugs—‘Oniontown is a drug den.’ Someone’s arrested for killing a deer out of season—‘Oh, they’re lawless up there.’” In the end, he concluded, it was unlikely that Oniontown could ever rectify its horrible reputation. “How do you get it all back? How do you get out from under it? How do you heal Oniontown?” He sighed. “I don’t think you can. It’s going to be that way forever. After all the people are dead and they bulldoze the place, the whole mystery will still be there.”

Later that afternoon, I ventured back up to Oniontown and, as I approached, saw smoke coming from the stovepipe of Patty and Dick’s trailer. I knocked and was greeted by a hard-looking middle-aged woman wearing a flannel shirt and big spectacles. Patty welcomed me inside. A little Christmas tree was set up in the corner, and a massive woodstove kept the place tropically warm. A TV in the living room played Big Daddy via satellite. It was utterly normal. She introduced me to Desaray, her 19-year-old granddaughter, who had dropped out of school and was crashing with them for the time being. We sat on the couch, and Patty shared photos of her extended family—a lot of her relatives were in jail or had passed away. There were pictures of Desaray’s mother, Bambi, who was serving time for burglary. “We’re hoping she’ll get out before the New Year,” she said. Desaray’s 17-year-old brother, Joey, was also behind bars for an unrelated burglary. After perusing her photos, Patty brought over the stack of the day’s mail and retrieved a thick envelope, a prison letter from Joey. Inside were two long, handwritten missives, and the granddaughter and grandmother sat down to read them.

“Awww. That little shit. It seems like he’s doing good. Listen to this,” Desaray said.

How is OT? Any drama? It’s OT! Of course there’s drama! Laugh out loud. Patty continued reading her own letter, looking morose. “He wants to know what we had for Thanksgiving dinner.”

Desaray Duncan in her bedroom.

At dusk, a truck pulled up in the dirt outside. It was Dick Smith, Patty’s husband, fresh off his 12-hour shift spreading manure. In his late 50s, Dick was a proud, tough man, born and raised in Oniontown. I found him outside by a container unit, talking to a guy named Kenny, who was innocuously holding two vacuum-sealed bags of weed. Kenny chatted about a drug raid that had gone down in town the night before.

“They had dope, crack, meth, everything,” Kenny said. “I kept telling them, when the cops are driving back and forth in front of your house every day, it’s going to go down soon. A lot of bad shit—they’re going away for a long time.”

“Look at you, man.” Dick pointed to the bags.

“Oh, it’s just weed. It’s nothing serious.”

With that, Dick retired to the trailer to shave and get cleaned up. Once he was relaxed in his favorite armchair, we spoke about his hometown: “Everyone thinks you’re lower class, no good, second-rate. You get picked on and beat up. They say you’re inbred, and next thing you know you’re fighting with three or four guys. You learn to fight and take care of yourself. I’ve been fighting all my life. My hands and knuckles is scarred and broke from fighting.” I asked him how it had been when he was in school. “The kids pick on you. You grow up watching your back. They come up behind you and punch you in the head. A lot of people hide the fact that they’re from here. The stigma has always been there. My dad remembered it. My grandkids deal with it.”

I felt comfortable enough to bring up the YouTube videos, and Dick was unrepentant about the way these unwelcome visitors had been driven out: “Older people used to run you out with a shotgun here if you weren’t invited. Now if you come in and act right, you’re all right. But if you come here looking for trouble, you’ll get trouble.”

We stopped talking. Dick’s attention diverted to the reality show Storage Wars while Patty and Desaray made venison gravy in the kitchen. After the show concluded, Dick changed the channel, stopping on the climax of Total Recall—the scene where Quaid blows up the control room and everyone’s eyes are bugging out of their sockets from decompression and exposure to the Martian atmosphere.

“What’s this?” Patty asked.

Total Recall,” Dick said, looking entranced. “They make him believe that the outside world would kill him.”

After everything crumbles, Schwarzenegger and the female lead step out into the sunlight. As the triumphant music is cued, they move together for the final passionate kiss. Dick abruptly changed the channel.

“It’s only on TV,” he scoffed.

“What is?” Patty asked.

“The happy ending.”

Dick Smith plays with his granddaughter Hannah.

Later that night, Patty gave me a ride in her Jeep back to my motel. Zooming down the dark mountain road with the car heater blasting, she told me that her father hadn’t wanted her to marry Dick because he was from Oniontown. “A lot of people are prejudiced, and I just don’t understand how they can be,” she said. “You have to get to know the person. You can’t judge them based on where they’re from. It’s gotten worse in the last couple of years.”

When we reached the motel, she wished me goodnight and I got out. Famished, I walked down the main road until I found a place called Four Brothers Pizza Restaurant, apparently the only place in town that was still open. Inside, the restaurant was completely empty. Teenage waitresses paced behind the counter, spraying Windex on countertops and organizing stacks of napkins, trying to look busy for their manager. I sat down at the counter and ordered a beer. I asked two waitresses what they knew about Oniontown.

“I heard it’s really dangerous,” one said.

“Two kids from my school are from there—both of them got expelled,” said the other.

“My boyfriend’s friends went up there and people shot at them.”

“It’s a meth area. A whole lot of meth.”

The bearded manager overheard the conversation and shuffled over to put in his two cents.

“I know why it’s called Oniontown. It’s because that field on the other side of the tracks used to be filled with wild onions. Then there’s the whole incest thing. You see red-headed mulattos walking around in the little towns around here, and you know where they came from.”

“But how can it be incest if the people are mixed race?” I asked.

“The incest wasn’t at that initial stage,” he explained authoritatively. “It happened later on down the line, with the first cousins.”

Patty prepares Easter baskets.

The next morning I walked across Dover Plains past the wooden churches and Dunkin’ Donuts to a place called Murphy’s Auto Parts, where Oniontown Road begins its ascent. Dick had told me to speak with Warren Wilcox and Fred Murphy, the last surviving descendants of the original Oniontown families. I found them in the dusty office at the back of the auto-parts store. Warren was reluctant to talk. “Oniontown is dead,” he said. “All of the original people died off. We keep to ourselves and don’t want to be bothered.”

While some people mentioned that inbreeding was the problem with Oniontown, others nervously discussed the residents’ supposed “intermingling,” or race mixing. Oniontown was all white until the late 60s and 70s, when several of Ethel Smith’s young daughters married black men and brought them back up to the mountain. “It’s those niggers up there that are causing the problems,” Warren said. “No one used to come in and bother us.”

The YouTube incidents inevitably came up. Fred sat, folding his arms as he said, “If people came up into your yard and did donuts and called you a fucking nigger and a half-breed, what would you do?”

After I left the auto parts store, I walked up the road to Oniontown, stopping periodically to pick up some rocks, in case I encountered pit bulls. The paved road dead-ended, and I spotted Desaray and her friends out in the middle of a big empty field. Desaray said she had gotten locked out of Patty and Dick’s trailer the night before. Rap-rock blared out of her young, pregnant friend’s SUV and the group stood around outside the car smoking, comparing tongue rings, and calling one another gay, passing time in the way that only young people can. They listened to Lil’ Wayne and booty-danced to a song that sounded like some kind of warped remix of “Cotton Eye Joe,” which I would soon learn was about titty-fucking. Then that popular Kid Cudi song came on and they sang along:

Tell me what you know about dreams, dreams/ Tell me what you know about night terrors, nothing.

I caught a ride with Desaray and her friends back up to Patty’s trailer. Desaray took me to her room and showed me her Joose and Four Loko collection. Like her grandpa, she said she had fought her way through school. “Kids would just sit there and push you and sometimes just punch you in the back of the head. I got jumped in eighth grade because I’m from here—a couple of girls came up and said my whole family was nothing but a bunch of inbred niggers and I just lost it.”

I asked Desaray how people found out where they were from. “We normally keep it to ourselves that we’re from here. But it somehow came out in school that I was from Oniontown. After that certain people didn’t talk to me.”

Desaray told me she was having a difficult time finding a job. Having an Oniontown address didn’t make it any easier. “The post office doesn’t deliver, so we all have PO boxes in town. But a lot of places around here want your mailing address and your home address. If they want both, it sucks. Because of our reputation we have to suffer everyone else’s stupidity.”

A basket of plastic flowers and an American flag hang over Ethel Smith’s window.

In 2008, Desaray moved upstate for a while with her dad. The Dover school system had always put her in remedial classes and held her back. But at the school upstate she said she had absolutely no problems. When she returned to Oniontown, it was in the midst of the influx of YouTubers. “I wasn’t back for five minutes when one of them pulled up. We would just be trying to do our own thing, and you’d hear someone shout ‘YouTuuuube.’ You’d hear it and you wouldn’t want to hear it. We would get three cars in here a weekend, like we were some kind of freak show.” She explained how they would defend against the scourge. “We would lock the cattle gate and shut them in here. They would of course roll up their windows and lock the doors, but as soon as they came in here the windows were gone anyway. My cousins would ask them, ‘What are you here for? You want to film us?’ And some would say, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.’ And others were like, ‘No, no, no… wrong turn.’ Then my cousins would decide if they were lying or not. It’s been a lot better lately.”

The countermeasures worked—Oniontown’s reputation is now more intimidating than ever before, and people once again fear for their lives to go there. Desaray’s cousin Jamal was a driving force in pushing out the gawkers. During my visit to Oniontown, Jamal had radiated nothing but ire and disdain toward me, perhaps with good reason, seeing as how I was camped outside his house like a paparazzo trying to get an interview with his grandmother Ethel. Desaray had a talk with Jamal and told him I was “cool,” and soon enough I was hanging out with the skinny 19-year-old kid in a flannel shirt and a fur winter hat. Jamal had grown up in Brooklyn, in the Cypress Hills Houses. His mother was from Oniontown, and they had left the city to be closer to family after his father left them. He knew what people said about Oniontown, but he didn’t think much of it. “These white boys up here call you inbred, call you niggers up here and shit. Makes you want to go to jail.”

When Jamal was 13, he crushed a Dover kid’s skull during a fight and went to jail for 18 months. He said that he felt like the legend of his brutality might have played a part in attracting people coming up to the settlement. When he returned home from jail, the YouTube phenomenon was in full swing. “Every single day they were coming up here. We had to shut them down. I don’t want to be video-camera’ed like some kind of fucking animal.”

Jamal said he planned to stay in Oniontown as long as Ethel was still breathing. “She’s our heart up here. She keeps us stable. Alive in a way, I guess you could say. We call her the Warden.” As Jamal and I smoked cigarettes, we looked out at the bleak vista—gray skies, a burned-down house, trailers. He sighed, “There aren’t any fucking monsters up here. Normal people, normal lives.”

By 5 PM it was dark outside. I made one last abortive attempt to interview Ethel, waiting in the now-familiar eaves as voices murmured on the other side of the door, discussing. “She doesn’t want to talk,” reported a droopy-faced woman. Having been thrice denied by the Warden, I took my cue to leave. Dick and Patty were off at court—apparently some manure had fallen out of the back of Dick’s truck and hit a cop car, which resulted in charges of driving with an unsecured load. Without a ride down the mountain, I said goodbye to Desaray and began the long, dark walk down the empty road, beneath the black silhouettes of mountains and clouds backlit by the moon.

As I walked I thought about how if you’re not part of their world, playing society’s games and making up stories to tell about yourself, those stories will eventually be made up for you by others. And I thought about how there may be places set back from the world, away from glowing floodlights and prying eyes staring out of car windows, but there is nowhere to go to escape the murmur of their endless talk. And I thought about how the world is a spinning top, plowing forward through the chaos of time, all of its weight precariously balanced on a single, ever-spinning tip called reputation.