Ever since the pandemic took hold in 2020, I’ve noticed an interesting thing. People are giving things away at a pretty serious pace.

Some pundits suggested that this was the result of people being stuck home for a year and realizing that they owned too much stuff and their homes were cluttered. But I think the movement started even earlier with folks like Marie Kondo preaching simplicity and selling millions of books in the process.

But if you doubt there’s an issue with stuff, just look around. What has grown in the past 10 to 15 years faster than dollar stores, Starbucks, and CVS on every suburban corner? Self-storage facilities.

The darn things are breeding like bunnies. And what is a self-storage facility at the most basic level? It’s a rental apartment for your stuff. Seriously.

You pay a monthly rent, get a locked area and you fill it with your excess stuff that won’t fit into your already full house. And what makes this truly silly is that the average American home is bigger than it’s ever been in history.

In postwar burbs, houses were around 850 square feet. Nowadays, try more like 1,600 to over 2,000 square feet and yet families have not grown; in fact, they’re smaller on average.

A big part of the problem is our insane, unsustainable consumer economy which harangues us 24/7 that buying things will make us happy, fulfilled, thinner, prettier, and better. When, in reality, the average American in 2023 has never been more anxious, depressed, angry, sad, freaked out, medicated, and just generally miserable thanks to an endless march of crazy on the news and in life.

Crazy ex-president, crazy pandemic, wars, crazy politics, mass shootings, and a 24/7 news cycle that just keeps serving up more crazy, in an effort to sell us more stuff between crazy stories.

But into this wilderness, there is a very bright spot. It’s called the Buy Nothing Project, which started back in 2013 out in Washington state and has now spread all over our country and the world.

The basic idea is a group of people, usually in the same geographic area, join up on Facebook or a similar platform. They do one of two things. They either offer things up for free or ask fellow group members if anyone has something they are looking for.

In this way, people maximize their ownership of various things by making sure they end up in the hands of people who actually want/need those objects.

Since joining our local Buy Nothing group, my wife and I have been able to rid ourselves of a vast array of things that we no longer use or need, and many people have been the happy recipients. At the same time, we’ve been able to give a new home to things others no longer need but we find useful every day.

Case in point is the small play area in our backyard populated by various child playthings like a house, a slide, and an enclosed kitchen with a standalone grill. Really. We got them from folks whose kids outgrew them and now our grandchildren just love playing with them.

We got them cars, bikes, and clothes that way too. And, as they have outgrown things, we passed them on to others whose kids and grandkids are using them. It’s a truly lovely cycle to watch.

And here’s the really great thing about this. No money ever changes hands. No taxes get paid multiple times in our vastly overtaxed state. This is the ultimate example of recycling and upcycling.

It’s all about people helping neighbors and strangers alike to live better without having to go into debt to do it. Looking at the play area, I know that at some point, somebody spent several hundred dollars on this stuff. But it’s going to get used by far more than one family before it finally wears out and for now, it stays out of the wastestream and keeps money in the pockets of real people.

Of course, what our capitalist overlords would prefer is very different. They would like every family to buy everything and send their last dollar to the overstuffed pockets of billionaires and their destructive corporations. I’m thrilled that we’ve helped make those folks a little poorer.

Imagine what our country and our world might look like if Buy Nothing became the dominant philosophy. Or what if we were able to form community cooperatives where we pooled resources and bought things that we shared.

In my neighborhood, almost everyone has a lawnmower, a riding mower, a snowblower, a chainsaw, and a garage and shed full of garden and lawn tools. What if we had a community shed with all that stuff in it and we shared it? Imagine the money and the space saved. Imagine the fear in the hearts of John Deere executives.

I’m not suggesting a classic socialist/communist situation at all. I am suggesting that we’ve all been sold a bill of goods and if we want to survive long-term, we need to rethink the idea of buying and owning every damn thing they throw at us. Just think how much simpler life would be if you didn’t have to buy, store, maintain, and replace things all the time.

Anyway, I need to go make sure the batteries for my push mower are charged, the tank on the tractor is full, and the snowblower is safely tucked away till next winter. Sigh.

Editor’s note: Mike Seinberg and his wife say they enjoy giving away things they no longer use.

Most people have moved at one point or another in their lives. Some haven’t. And some have made a career out of it.

When I was young, my dad was a corporate lawyer, so every couple of years we packed up and moved like classic Army brats, only on a cushier level. By the time I graduated from college, my family had moved six times.

I attended two different elementary schools, two junior highs, one high school, and one college. After I graduated, they moved again but I stayed put. And then I ended up moving four more times before I finally settled in Altamont at age 29 and swore, never again.

Fast forward about 30 years and guess what, we just moved again. And this one, hopefully, will be it. Thankfully this one was a move of about one-half mile within the village. But it was still weird, unsettling, and a lot of work.

When I was young and we moved, the company paid for it, so a giant Allied Moving semi would pull up outside the house. Next, a locust plague of movers and packers would descend armed with boxes, tape, packing materials, and crazy energy. They would blow through the house packing everything in sight.

If the dog sat still too long, she got boxed up. The truck was then loaded, and we all climbed into the Olds Vista Cruiser (a real-world Family Truckster) and zoomed off to meet the truck at the new house.

And of course, the same crew unloaded and unpacked with the same verve. Sometimes you’d find the same detritus in the ash trays as they packed them and unpacked them, but never emptied them.

This time, we moved one carload at a time over a 12-week period, ending with a crew of moving pros finishing the job and handling the really heavy stuff and so, at age 58, I think I’m finally staying put. But then again, who knows; aliens could land tomorrow.

The thing about moving is that each time you do it, you get a fresh start. New schools, new towns, new doctors and dentists, new jobs, new friends, and new experiences.

After a bit, you realize that change is hard but has a great deal of possibility woven into it. When you start out, your world is small, bordered by what you see every day and the people in your life.

As you age and gain experience, you begin to see that the world is both much smaller in some ways and vastly bigger in others. There are different ways to do things depending on where you live. Celebrating Christmas is a different experience if you’re in LA versus Altamont. Getting to school is very different in Monroeville, Pennsylvania than it is in Vestal, New York.

And, once you’re on your own, working and living is not the same in Pawling, New York as it is in Amsterdam, New York. Small town versus small city versus big city yields a very different set of experiences.

It changes your point of view and pretty much forces you to open your mind to new things. When I was in my early 20s, going into Manhattan on business or dining out there was normal. In my 30s, going out to eat in Schenectady was normal as was walking my son to school every day. In my 40s, I worked for myself mostly and drove thousands of miles all over the region fixing computers for people.

Nowadays, I work a few days a week for a web company, building and maintaining websites all over the internet. I can work literally from anywhere, but I go into the office because it’s nice to hang out with other humans.

The rest of the time we see the grandbabies, walk, work on the new house, and still go out to eat, mostly in Schenectady. Come spring, I’ll be back out on my bikes and working on bikes, mowing the lawn, and working on the new house.

And the thing is, having lived in lots of places, worked many jobs, and done some traveling, I’m now quite content with my not terribly exciting daily life.

I’m content because having seen the alternatives; I realize that a quiet life in Altamont is a very nice thing. Had I spent my whole life here, I might feel differently, perhaps less than fulfilled.

And this is why moving is probably not a bad thing, in hindsight. Had you asked me how I felt about it when I was young, I would have complained bitterly about new schools, new houses, having to make new friends and how hard it all was.

And for that person then, it was all true. Now, decades later, I see the positives, though it did take a while to get here.

I know the old saw about change being the only constant in life, but there is such a thing as both too much change and truly negative change. People need to feel safe in order to be comfortable and to grow. But if you throw too much change at a person, they stress out and devolve.

Think about what we’ve all had to deal with in the past four years between political unrest, an attempted coup, pandemics, economic uncertainty, working from home, home schooling, vaccines, high gas prices suddenly plummeting and egg prices skyrocketing. I’m darn glad I’m not a professional baker, that’s all I can say.

When you get down to it, moving a lot made dealing with all the current craziness a little easier. You look at each thing a little less emotionally and realize that it will all pass eventually.

In my lifetime thus far, this country has been through at least four wars, multiple economic cycles from boom to bust, Reagan, Bush, Nixon, Clinton, Bush again, Carter, Obama and of course our previous clown in chief.

Now we have a guy quietly going about repairing damage, managing crises, and making the country better than he found it. He won’t be the greatest president we’ve ever had, but he’ll be far from the worst, who we just had. If you’ve been around the block a couple times, you know what I mean.

So, welcome to the new year. I hope it’s a good one for all of us. Take a deep breath, fasten your seatbelts, put your tray tables in the upright position, and let’s try to avoid a zombie apocalypse. I really don’t want to move again, especially across a dystopian hellscape. It’s really hard to find a good mechanic in those.

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg moved to Altamont on PTA Garage Sale Day in 1993. He says that, if you know him and his wife, you know it was appropriate.

The science-fiction writer Robert Heinlein suggested that one sure way to know a society was in decline or even near collapse, was to observe the lack of social civility in everyday life. The ruder the average person was to others, the sicker the society was.

It’s an interesting idea and, having not yet seen an actual society destroy itself, I don’t know if he was right. But then again, the rise of the “Karen” phenomenon, which shows an endless string of videos of angry, rude, entitled people lashing out at any and all in their midst, does give one pause.

Here in Altamont, I rarely see examples of serious public rudeness. At the post office, I hold the door for others just as often as folks hold the door for me. We thank one another and smile. It’s all good. And the folks behind the counter are even friendlier and more helpful than almost any other government employees I’ve ever seen. In fact, that’s been true for the roughly 30 years I’ve been a customer there.

Walking along the streets, most people smile, wave,m or say hi. On my bike, I see most drivers are courteous and give me plenty of room except for the occasional driver of a huge pickup truck or professional drivers of large vehicles.

In most businesses, folks wait their turn, chat, and interact pleasantly with the folks working in the store. Considering the fact that we live in New York State, a place most non-locals tend to characterize as a pretty rude place, I think we’re doing pretty well locally. Or maybe they’re just referring to folks down in New York City, but even there, I’ve had few problems and met many friendly folks over many visits since the 1980s.

If there is a rash of uncivil behavior across our country, then I place the blame squarely on the broadcast septic tank that is Fox News, OAN, Truth Social, and the rest of the right-wing media. We’re talking about a propaganda machine that broadcasts hate, fear, bigotry, misogyny, and victim blaming 24/7/365. If you immerse yourself in said septic tank, you will come away angry, entitled, and ready for a fight at a moment’s notice. And that’s where I think the problem comes from.

I believe that most people in a normal state of mind are basically decent and act as such. They see others as equals and attempt to be decent as long as nobody attacks them for no apparent reason.

But the septic-tank folks are in a non-normal state of mind. They’re revved up and they just know, deep in their souls, that the reason for their anger and unhappiness is other people. And attacking those terrible people is their Fox-given right and responsibility to make the world a better and safer place for themselves and their families.

While I’m not a sociologist or a devotee of abnormal psychology, I think that this sort of weaponized rudeness is actually set free on purpose by the billionaire class that controls the right-wing media. By dividing us, we end up spending all our time fighting one another while they playfully manipulate the masses and steal us blind in plain sight.

Are you aware of the trillion-dollar gains made by the rich during the past several years? And of course, social media plays a big part in this campaign of division. And sadly, that happens even here in Altamont.

Perhaps the one place where rudeness does intrude on our peaceful village is on the Altamont Community Facebook page. It’s usually pretty civil but, every so often, one issue or another causes people to devolve to name-calling and accusations to the point that the page’s administrators have to step in.

The latest silly thing to upset the apple cart is the raging controversy over folks who like to honk their horns and say hi to Robbie, a resident at the group home at the intersection of Lincoln Avenue and Western.

The basic issue is whether or not people honking their horns are being rude to Robbie’s neighbors who might find the random honking of car horns at all hours to be less than peaceful. Now think about this, folks. How often do you hear a car horn in the village? Almost never.

Many of us greatly value the quiet atmosphere of our village and it’s part of the reason we have chosen to live here. So, to suddenly have a cacophony of car horns going on a daily basis is basically antithetical to the nature of Altamont.

Nobody is questioning the basic good nature of Robbie or his desire to greet his neighbors. It obviously makes him very happy.

But simply waving, flashing your lights, or saying hello makes Robbie just as happy. It’s perfectly fine to acknowledge him and it obviously makes many people feel quite warm and fuzzy but, as in all things, there are now unintended consequences.

When neighbors spoke up civilly and simply indicated the noise was a problem (random cannon fire ring any bells?) they were met with anger and suggestions that they move away. Talk about a rude response.

So yes, rudeness is an issue. But it seems to me that, if we were to turn off the septic tank, log out of Facebook, and just go about the business of living in harmony with one another, we’d all be a lot happier.

Remember how they used to tell us in school “United we stand, and divided we fall”? Well, let’s all unite in civil behavior and give the billionaire class, the septic tank fishies (Hannity, Carlson and the rest) a bad day and live our lives more happily.

After all, what sort of a world do we want to hand to our children? Or Robbie?

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg says his daily philosophy is to try and leave the planet a little better than he found it — and that means being pleasant to others.

We’re all pretty familiar with the Big Lie stemming from the 2020 election and we all know how absurd it is. But here in good old Builderland, New York, we’re the victims of another equally insidious and just as harmful big lie, and it’s been shoved down our throats for decades.

That one is simple: Constant development is good for everyone and great for our town.

My answer: Horse hockey (tip of the cap to Col. Potter).

Look at what really happens when we allow land developers (aka land destroyers, flim-flam artists, land speculators, or builders) to grab and destroy every square inch of green space they can get their greedy little claws into.

We have diminished environmental quality, increased traffic, reduced air quality (due to more vehicles), higher stress on an already stressed infrastructure, and each year our taxes go up anyway, despite a supposedly larger tax roll. And we won’t even get into wildlife living in our garages and competing for our jobs due to their natural habitats being destroyed.

In Altamont, the village of hard, high-pressure water, continued building has caused another well or two to be drilled and the water quality is even worse. Can you say manganese?

At the exact same time, our sewer and water bills are so high, SEFCU is now offering sewer and water loans for folks on fixed incomes. And yet, with all the new houses that keep going up around the village, making it less and less small and green, neither our taxes or fees have gone down despite the vaunted bigger tax roll.

And one other thing is the issue of affordability. Has anyone around here seen any new affordable houses? Anything under 1,500 square feet? Nope.

As the saying goes (among builders), bigger is better. So of course, at a time in history where resources are dwindling, it makes perfect sense to build 5,000-square-foot ego palaces that are as energy efficient as an Escalade.

Another issue is services like fire and ambulance. According to a story here in The Enterprise, volunteers have dropped some 20 percent over the past few years, making it much harder for our volunteer ambulance and fire companies to be adequately staffed. This is an issue all over the state and the country.

But here in Altamont and Builderland, we see more calls each year but fewer volunteers. Eventually, the volunteer companies will simply not be able to keep up with demand and people will suffer, die, and houses will burn. The developers don’t mind though; many don’t live here, for the most part.

In both Builderland and Altamont, another huge issue is traffic. My wife has lived in Altamont for more than 60 years and remembers when Route 20 was a two-lane road with nothing on it but a gas station and farms. Nowadays you have to check the signs to make sure you’re not on Wolf Road.

Crossgates has grown like a cancer, killing off the Pine Bush and yet, somehow, building and zoning boards just keep on approving more building. And Route 20 is now a daily nightmare despite being almost as wide as the Northway. You have to schedule your errands to avoid morning and afternoon rush hours.

In Altamont, the constant building of houses and neighborhoods around the village core has added a large number of cars to our small roads and made walking, biking, and pushing strollers a lot more hazardous. Granted, the village has added a decent number of new sidewalks, but we have a long way to go on that front.

We need sidewalks going all the way to Bozenkill Park, to keep kids and families safe, and if we’re going to keep the Altamont Police, they need to focus even more on speed control and traffic safety. The folks roaring through the village and ignoring crosswalks pose a hazard to all living things. I just saw a black bear wearing a safety vest, for goodness sakes.

Many people say they love the village and live here because it’s not like the endless rolling acres of nondescript burbs that make up the vast majority of Builderland. Sunday’s ACT WinterFest, the Fall Festival, the PTA garage sale in May and the Memorial Day parade all highlight what makes Altamont special.

But for developers, Altamont is just another land parcel in need of paving. Imagine what builders see when they look at the fairgrounds. Endless rows of McMansions, or acres of condos? They certainly don’t see the history. What was once a quaint, self-sufficient little village is going to turn into a burb and the people making a huge profit on it don’t even care about our history or community.

Like many things in our late-stage capitalist society, constant development benefits only a very small number of people. But, like corporate conglomeration, they sell it to us like the next great thing.

I say it’s time to stop with the big lies on our ever-shrinking planet. We’re not making new open spaces (except parking lots) and we’re not making more untainted water or fresh air or reintroducing extinct species. We’re just watching as it all dwindles away.

With their bloated egos, developers think they’re leaving behind a legacy of beautification and enrichment. In reality, they’re leaving a legacy of destruction, cheap construction, and desecration.

Personally, I’d love to see a law passed that prohibits building any new home or retail space while there are vacant homes or stores available. I would also like to see the state or county offer landowners more tax breaks for keeping vacant land undeveloped.

Guilderland does have such a program set up through the state, but it’s still in its infancy and needs lots of expansion. It covers only town taxes for landowners who join. Imagine a future where landowners are rewarded across the board for maintaining vacant land. Now that would be very cool. But, we have, at least, made a start.
Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg says he has lived in Altamont for nearly 30 years and has seen too much development by far.

I recently had a rather eye-opening conversation with a cicada. His name was Terrence. He had more than a bit to say about the world and how we humans are not necessarily doing a great job. So, here’s how this happened.

I was walking up our driveway and looked down to see a very large distinctive bug sitting quietly in the sun. I bent down to look closer, and I recognized it as a cicada.

“Well, hi there,” I said.

You must understand that I do tend to greet most living things I come across. It just seems like the polite thing to do.

Anyway, much to my surprise, I heard a small, but rather British sounding voice say, “Hello.”

Not what I was expecting.

“Um, I had no idea you guys could talk,” I said. “I thought it was all high-pitched buzzing and stuff.”

“Well, we tend to try and respond when spoken too; it seems the polite thing to do. I’m Terrence, by the way, and my family has been here in Altamont for the past 20 generations,” he said, crossing his rear legs and relaxing in my shadow.

I did a little quick math based on the cicada’s 17-year life cycle and discovered he and his kin had been here for 340 years. When I said that he just yawned and nodded.

“So, you’re brood X? You guys were supposed to inundate the East Coast this year and you’re the first one I’ve seen. What’s up with that?” I asked.

“Our PR department kind of jumped to gun with the publicity before they got our advanced report,” he said, sounding a touch defensive. “Once we reported back, the brood decided to come out just enough to breed and then head back down.

“That’s our job; we check in periodically to see how you people are doing and then report back to the natural world. Frankly, we’re not too impressed, especially for the past four generations,” he sniffed.

“Um, where were you before Altamont?” I asked, knowing that cicadas dated back thousands of years, if not millions.

“Oh, New Jersey. Even back then, the place was kind of squidgy, so Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandma moved our brood up here and we’ve been here ever since. At first, it was just the Native Americans, and they took very good care of the place and then white folks sailed in and early on they were pretty decent, too, but boy, once the Industrial Revolution hit, you really screwed the pooch,” he said.

“Uh, yeah, I did read about that in history class,” I mumbled.

“Well, that was just the beginning. Mechanized farming, mass hunting, mass transit, widespread pollution, and good lord, what you people did to MTV was just a crime. And social media, what on earth were you thinking? All this technology and you idiots can’t even handle a simple worldwide pandemic. Do you know the dinosaurs handled that meteor more gracefully?”

“Well, there certainly have been some missteps,” I agreed.

“Missteps? Last month we read in The Enterprise about that school board meeting where crazy parents were threatening board members over masks in school.”

“Wait, you read the local newspaper?” I asked, rather surprised.

“We monitor various media outlets. The Enterprise does a rather nice job on local news and, since we’re based in Altamont ,that’s a bit of a no-brainer. But that story rather upset me and the rest of the brood.

“How can a supposedly intelligent species take a public-health threat and turn it into a political fiasco? We expect that sort of behavior in Texas or Alabama or Berne, but in Guilderland? You people are in a blue state, in a blue county, have quite a good educational system and yet you threaten elected officials for trying their best to protect your children?”

Terrence looked distinctly peeved.

“Hey, listen I agree with you. This whole COVID thing has been largely weaponized by the right since day one,” I tried to say before he cut me off.

“Right, left, Russian trolls, it really doesn’t matter. You people need to step back and use the common sense the Goddess gave you.

“If your race is challenged by a simple virus, and you have the means to eradicate it through vaccinations, social distancing, masking, and common sense, why, for the sake of all that’s holy, don’t you just shut up, step up and get the thing done? You beat polio, rubella, mumps, diphtheria, and even beat back Carrot Top before he could get any real media traction and yet here you have totally blown it.”

“Well, in New York we’re doing pretty well,” I countered.

“You were doing pretty well. Then the anti-vaxxers rallied and you stopped at about 60 or 70 percent vax rates. You morons should be at or near 100 percent and now states are having to offer bribes to get people to get a simple shot.

“They whine that they don’t know what’s in the shot, but the same idiots will march into McDonald’s and swallow anything they’re handed, or chow down on a hot dog? Do you have any idea what’s in those things?”

“So, we’re not the sharpest tools in the shed,” I admitted. “But what do you propose we do with your centuries of observation?”

“Be smart, be kind, and do the right thing. It’s really quite simple. If you can’t figure that out, you won’t be here for a whole lot longer. If COVID doesn’t slowly wipe you out then climate change will. Either that or you’ll all just march off a cliff while staring at your stupid cell phones.”

“Do you think we’ll be able to save ourselves?”

“Look, I’m not a fortune teller. But if you have the technology to send a jerk like Jeff Bezos into space riding in a giant penis-shaped missile, you may have some hope. Like I said, be kind to one another. Your neighbors aren’t the enemy, the wealthy and the mass media are the real evil on the planet. That and basic human selfishness.”

And with that, Terrence flew off to who knows where.

I hope he’s right and we have a chance to fix things. I, for one, am tuning out of the news more than I ever have and am also trying very hard to be a kind person each day. I got my shots, and continue to wear my mask when necessary.

And now I’m off to try and help keep my grandchildren from killing themselves through sheer toddler exuberance. Those little people are the real future.

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg says he spends most days fixing bikes, writing, chasing tiny people, reading, and mowing the lawn; it’s been that kind of season.

Do you ever play that mental game when you buy a lottery ticket? What would you do if you actually won?

It’s a fun game, and probably the leading reason why people buy lottery tickets despite the astronomical odds against winning. They even used to use a tagline that read, “All you need is a dollar and a dream.” But what about playing that game with stakes that are closer to home and easier to realize?

What if you were elected mayor of Altamont? Now there’s an interesting game.

The reason I mention it is because several people have suggested, over the almost 30 years I’ve lived here, that I should run for mayor. It’s very flattering, but the truth is, I know myself well enough to know that I would be terrible at the job.

I hate attending meetings of any sort, especially ones that last more than 10 minutes. I’m not the most diplomatic of folks, as I tend to speak my mind with few if any filters. I consider being dressed up wearing a clean T-shirt. I’m not into public speaking and mostly, I loathe politics and politicians.

Having said all that, if, in some strange universe, I did get the job, I do have some ideas on how to make our little village a better place to live for all of us.

At the top of my list would be to suspend all new housing development in and around the village. When I first moved here, they were just building Kushaqua Estates and people were mad. Then came Brandle Meadows, which then-Mayor Ken Runion assured me would never be that big and it ended up with 80 units.

Then along came the 10 McMansions along Bozenkill that were originally supposed to be on land that was forever wild, but ended up getting sold somehow or other. Now I hear rumors of another 13-acre parcel that is going to be developed and I see ground being broken on Schoharie Plank for yet another new house.

I don’t get it. We live in Altamont because it’s a village, not another endless Guilderland suburb.

We have a real community here, and one of the things that keeps us special is the green space that surrounds the village.

If certain developers just keep on being allowed to throw up houses on any open plot of land, even if it falls within zoning rules, then we’re not going to be a village for much longer.

I have a sneaky suspicion that even the fairgrounds is on some land-grab wish list with plans for a condo community called Fairgrounds Estates. And don’t tell me how we need a bigger tax base. Every new development costs us more to hook up and service than it ever pays in taxes.

Next, I would hold a public referendum on the Altamont Police Department. Over the years, I’ve noticed a trend wherein younger people don’t see a need for the APD and older, more conservative or frightened people want to keep it.

Ask many of the teenage and 20-something citizens here and you’ll find a pretty consistent antipathy. For a department that costs $185,800 per year but generates around $20,000 in fines, the math is less than ideal.

That’s not to take anything away from the hard work and dedication of the fine men and women of the APD. But the question remains: Why does a village of 1,700 people need its own police force when larger places like Voorheesville don’t?

Guilderland, with a population of 35,000, needs a police force, though it appears much of its energy goes into looking after Crossgates Mall. My feeling is to put that question to the public and let the chips fall where they may.

Next on my agenda would be to do far more for the teenage residents of our fair village. Altamont has always been a great place to raise a family. That is, until your children reach the age of 13.

Then, you’re expected to find something useful for them to do, and very little exists in the village itself.

The playgrounds are mostly aimed at small children. The Bozenkill park has one tennis court, one basketball court, a couple of empty fields, a pool that’s open roughly two months per year, and some hiking trails that need some love and attention due to having been washed out repeatedly. The fairgrounds are fun to walk on but most teens are now routinely accused of vandalism as soon as they show up, even though only a small number are actually responsible for the damage.

Altamont needs to offer a few more options for teens, including a police department that doesn’t routinely harass them (this has almost led to several lawsuits over the years). Perhaps improve and update the Bozenkill trails to encourage some MTB or BMX riding. Add a skateboard park to part of the park (liability is not an issue, despite what public officials say).

Follow the example of the Altamont Free Library, which has done a great job with teen-centric programming. And finally, just encourage teens to come out into the daylight and away from their screens.

Another issue that has been covered in the news pages of The Enterprise is the rather high (astronomical) amounts residents pay for sewer and water services compared to what residents in the town of Guilderland pay. Now, yes, having a base of 35,000 residents versus around 1,700 means that each home has to shoulder a much higher percentage of the costs.

But if the APD were dissolved via public referendum, then we’d have almost $200,000 per year to pour into the debt load on our aging water plant. We could also look into some sort of debt restructuring and explore the possibility of grants from the federal or state governments that could aid a small village like ours.

I claim no expertise in this area but, when you see the sort of pork barrel money that some pols seem quite good at getting, you’d think our elected officials might be able to step in and help us beyond just showing up for ribbon-cuttings and photo ops.

And my final thought would be a 20-percent raise for the hardworking folks at the Altamont Public Works Department. Larry and his crew work year-round to keep our little village looking clean, trimmed, plowed, updated, and beautiful, and I think they deserve to be compensated.

I am always amazed at the depth and breadth of what they manage to accomplish year after year: from dealing with backed-up sewer pipes, plowing the sidewalks, and picking up lawn waste and leaves. These are the sorts of public employees I am very proud to support, and I think we should reward their efforts.

Well, that’s it. Please don’t ever vote for me (no write-ins either). But maybe think about what I’ve said when the next election comes up. Maybe it’s time for a new vision that doesn’t begin and end with more building, more politics, and most of all, maintenance of a status quo that doesn’t work for many people.

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg says he is a registered Democrat leaning towards anarchist Buddhism; he hopes to never hold public office but to be a problem for those who do.

I noticed a short but amusing discussion the other day on the Altamont Facebook page. It seems somebody was flying a drone around the village and some folks got a bit flustered about the possible invasion of privacy from above.

I guess our local nude backyard sunbathers, recently legal pot growers, or maybe just the normal folks burying the odd body in the backyard got a little paranoid. Understandable I suppose.

But step back a moment and think about your privacy in our little village of 1,700 people. What really poses a threat to you? A random drone that some kid was noodling around with, that may not even have had a camera? Or maybe you should look a little more carefully.

For instance, what about the fact that almost every person in this village is carrying a cell phone that is camera equipped, and can be tracked by law enforcement or commercial interests with access to cell location data?

What about the comically common home-security cameras that everyone is throwing up on their houses to protect against the hordes of porch pirates, roving gangs, wild bands of feral teenagers, and packs of dangerous free-range Chihuahuas? Those cameras are Wi-Fi based and feed into corporate data banks that can be hacked or tapped by law-enforcement or government agents if they so choose.

How about the built-in cameras on your laptops?

How about the video security systems that consist of six to 12 cameras linked to a central recording unit that you can pick up at BJs for a few hundred dollars? Folks can point those cameras anywhere they like, and you’ll never know it. That footage can be easily downloaded and shared, uploaded to the web, or turned into a TikTok if one is so inclined.

Beyond the home-based technical spying that’s going on every hour of every day, what about the professionals in our midst?

As we all know, our little village is probably the most policed area in the Capital Region. At any given moment, we have the fine officers of the Altamont Police Department cruising about, the folks from the Guilderland Police Department backing them up, the New York State Troopers making a regular foray through, and even officers of the Department of Environmental Conservation stopping by when the friendly deputies from the Albany County Sheriff’s Office aren’t having a look-see.

That’s a lot of police presence for 1,700 people. And they’re all trained observers, taking notes.

Keep in mind that those patrol units, in some cases, also sport license-plate scanners that, if they’re turned on, record every plate they pass by. So, you have law enforcement knowing the location of your car anytime it’s out in public.

Granted, it really doesn’t matter for most people who take care of their cars, keep up on inspections, have current registrations and licenses. But still, do you really want to be tracked that often? What if you just happen to have a body in the trunk or are smuggling arms on an international basis?

But you know the worst spies of all? They’re hidden in your phones, computers, and digital speakers.

The tech bros behind Amazon, Facebook, and other social-media companies literally spy on every post you make or read, every request you voice, every search, and every order you place. Facebook in particular, is a data-mining company, not a communications company.

Facebook exists to collect every shred of our lives and then sell that data to the highest bidder so we can be targeted by marketers and advertisers. Hackers keep a close eye on Facebook too, seeing it as a wonderful source of personal information that’s very useful for cracking passwords and in creating phishing scams.

Privacy in our modern world is pretty much under assault from all sides, and we’re not helping by buying ever more cameras and entering endless data into the great wild west that is the Internet. If you really want to remain anonymous, skip the cell phone, toss the security cameras, log off the Internet, and get ahold of one of those Harry Potter invisibility cloaks. Oh yes, don’t own or drive a car either; stick to public transport (paid in cash) or a bicycle.

Too extreme? For most folks, that probably is.

The basic truth is that, to be a functional part of modern society in this country currently, is to give up a certain amount of privacy. How much you give up is entirely up to you.

But I wouldn’t worry about the odd drone buzzing overhead. Unless of course, it’s a Predator carrying several Hellfire missiles, like the ones we have flying over various world hotspots as you sit and read this.

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg notes he is a very big fan of privacy and works to guard it where it makes sense; he owns no drones.

It’s always been my opinion that people choose to live in Altamont because they want to be part of an actual community. That being the case, folks here tend to get out of their houses, walk, bike, mingle and so on. They attend concerts, visit village businesses, and create groups of friends and acquaintances that don’t exist in the ’burbs or the cities.

But in the last year, the pandemic threw a wrench into village life and many folks tried to fix that by creating virtual meet-ups, groups, and communities online. Some worked, some not so much.

The best examples I’ve seen are the Altamont Virtual Garage Sale group on Facebook and the Buy Nothing group, also on Facebook. Both have helped folks in rough times and from what I’ve seen, they’ve been friendly, pleasant, and last year, helped a lot when we canceled the village-wide garage sale. They continue to do good work even as things are getting back to pre-COVID days.

On the opposite side of things is the Altamont Community Facebook group, which currently has about 2,300 members (which oddly exceeds the total population of the village). Things there can go from nice to ugly in a matter of posts and do so far more frequently than they really should. The administrator of the group does a truly superb job of keeping things reasonably sane but considering she’s a volunteer, it’s very sad she must do that.

What seems to set folks off are certain hot-button issues like crime, policing, personal freedoms, personal disputes and NIMBY type issues (Not In My Back Yard). People asking for help finding a plumber are usually met with multiple helpful suggestions. People complaining about a perceived crime, or a personal attack generally seem to start World War III and I’m not sure why.

I suppose it has to do with differing age groups, multiple opinions, and folks who engage their fingers or thumbs before their brains. I’ve watched perfectly innocent remarks be attacked as if someone said a nasty thing about your parent or spouse.

I recall a recent tirade had to do with somebody outside the village who allegedly set off a cannon for giggles. Once things got rolling, the discussion devolved into name-calling and silliness.

I’ve seen similar things happen when crime comes up. The recent spate of nails on the roads has spawned everything from calls for vigilante justice to warnings about white slavers. Really, folks?

This seems to start when someone reports a suspicious person seen, a car broken into, a package stolen, or something nonviolent — just unfortunate or inconvenient. The next thing you know attacks on law enforcement are countered by attacks on accused criminals, millennials, folks of other races, and then the MAGA hats pop in and well, you get the picture.

The truth is, everyone has an opinion, and they are all entitled to them. But just because someone disagrees doesn’t make them a bad person.

The whole internet act of trolling, wherein a troll attacks someone just to create discord, get clicks or eyeballs, or hurt others is not something you would expect to see in a small-town discussion group. And yet, there seem to be folks here who are more than ready to attack on a moment’s notice.

Ironically, many of those same folks would never say such things in person, so the much-vaunted internet anonymity, once again, has bitten us in the collective butt.

I can’t say I have an easy solution for this sort of discord. But, there actually is a solution. It works by religiously following a couple of steps:

— Step 1: Read a post several times and then sit quietly away from your device and consider what was said and why;

— Step 2: Before you type in a response, ask yourself honestly if your response will help or hinder the situation;

— Step 3: Remember the age-old advice that states, “If you have nothing nice to say, then don’t say anything”; and

— Step 4: If you still feel the need to respond and you’ve passed the previous tests, then, add your two cents worth.

If, after all that, the discussion still descends into chaos, throw your device away or, at the very least, get off social media. Some things are better left unsaid and wise people have always known that. Let’s all try to act a little wiser and maybe things online can stay pleasant.

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg has been involved with multiple social media platforms on a professional (actually paid) basis since the early 2000s and says he’s still not clear why.

When I decide to buy something, I tend to ask a number of questions of the seller or maker of the product. Does the product function properly? Is it a good value? Is it safe? Do other people like it? And so on. As is true in life, you have to cut through the advertising and make sure what you’re getting is what you’re paying for.

The same can be said in politics. If a party or candidate is asking for my vote or support (financial or otherwise) I want to know, in no uncertain terms, what that party or candidate stands for and supports. I want to make sure my views on issues are their views on issues, or at least, reasonably close.

After all, if I’m an avowed feminist person, I want to make sure the candidate or party takes women’s rights seriously and defends them.

So, in that spirit, I have invited Kentucky Republican Senator Mitch McConnell to be with us this month and answer some questions, so we better understand what he and the GOP stand for and support.

And, in the interests of truth, I have contracted with a reputable white witch to place a spell on the Senator that compels him to tell only the unvarnished truth in answer to all of my questions. Let the interview commence.

Mike: Senator, I’d like to welcome you to this magically enhanced interview. It’s very kind of you to take time out to tell us about your party and politics.

Mitch: I feel very strange. For some reason I have no urge to lie. This is very new to me. Well then, what would you like to know?

Mike: Well, Senator, first off, what are your plans to help us get past the pandemic and get our country back to normal, if normal is even possible anymore.

Mitch: Well, in truth, we want folks to stop dying and start spending and working for sub-minimum wages as soon as possible. The billionaires that back us have benefited greatly during the past year, but we need to get the slaves back to rowing if we want that trend to continue. But plans? We never had any and still don’t. We leave that nonsense up to the Democrats. If they succeed, we just step in and take credit and if they fail, we get to blame them.

Mike: By slaves, you mean normal American workers, who get terrible wages, no benefits, and have to work two and three jobs just to survive?

Mitch: Wage slaves, yup, you got it, boy. That’s why we strongly oppose unions, government-supported health care, and raising the minimum wage. It’s every man for himself and only the strong survive.

Mike: Speaking of health care, what’s the GOP plan for helping more Americans get health insurance they can afford, like Medicare for all?

Mitch: Our main plan is to make sure health care in this country stays in private hands, where profits can be maximized. I sure don’t want my big pharma stocks to tank. Do you have any idea how much my GOP Senate friends and I have made in kickbacks and stock from Moderna and Pfizer? Daddy is very happy. Besides, if everyone in this country got cheap or free health care from the government, the health care lobbyists would stop paying us. People would feel free to change jobs and no longer be trapped into accepting terrible benefits and low wages. That would hurt business across the board.

Mike: So healthy workers who are empowered and motivated to make a better life for themselves and their families is not what the GOP wants?

Mitch: Slaves, boy, we want slaves. Dumb, docile, and poor.

Mike: Speaking of dumb, what is the GOP plan to help improve public education in this country? While many states like New York and Massachusetts have very good public-school systems, states like yours have very poor ones due to years of neglect and lack of funding. That means your people are at a distinct disadvantage in the workplace and in life. They’re trapped by ignorance and lack of skills and opportunity.

Mitch: We’ve been working to destroy public education for years, and we sure won’t stop now. In our perfect world, only wealthy white Christian children will have the money to go to exclusive private schools and private colleges where they’ll be trained and groomed to take over the world. All this cursed public schooling just puts fool ideas into lesser folks’ heads and gives them false hope that they can be our equals. How cruel. It’s like suggesting minority people should be treated the same as white people, How absurd, sir!

Mike: So you don’t support equal rights for LGBTQ people, women, people of color, and immigrants?

Mitch: Why would we want to give rights to lesser people and sexual perverts? No sir! This is a white Christian country and we aim to keep it that way. As for women, well, a good Christian woman knows her place.

Mike: Well, let’s move off of those hot-button social issues and look for some more neutral ground. Wouldn’t you agree that, since we are one of the world’s foremost democracies, we need to strengthen and protect voting rights?

Mitch: Son, what have you been drinking? Everyone knows that our party represents a minority of Americans and is shrinking. The only way we hold onto power is through voter suppression, the great practice of gerrymandering; disinformation campaigns from our friends in Russia; the wonderful media at Fox, OAN, and the other right-wing echo chambers; and constantly changing the voting laws at the state level. The truth is, if we could hack the voting machines themselves and get away with it, we would.

Mike: So the new bill from the Democrats that would guarantee voting rights across the country and do away with all your current practices, that’s a problem for you?

Mitch: Son, I will personally burn the Senate to the ground before I allow people of color and women to join with liberals to determine the direction of this country. The founding fathers would never have allowed that, so why should we? After all, we loaded the courts with crazy, right-wing, substandard judges to make sure and quash this sort of thing. I have to tell you, I laughed myself silly every time we placed some gooney-bird judge on a bench for life that the American Bar Association disapproved of. What fun we had!

Mike: So, to sum it all up: In your perfect world, we would go back in time to about 1950 and just keep the current technology?

Mitch: Nope, we’d prefer to go back to 1750.

Mike: Well, thanks for your time, Senator. It’s been very illuminating.

Mitch: It’s been my pleasure son. By the way, is this magic spell of yours permanent? This has been fun, but I have an idea it might come back to bite me if it stays like this.

Mike: No worries, Senator. You’ll be back to normal in about t10 minutes.

Mitch: Thank goodness, I have another interview with Fox and Friends in about an hour. If I told them the truth, their tiny little heads would explode.

This interview was supervised by the Magical Guild of America and the ASPCA. No turtles or any other animals were harmed, and no magical rules were broken.
Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg says he wishes that spells like this could be cast for real; in lieu of that, satire and hyperbole will have to suffice.

As I write this, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have been in office for 12 days. In that short time, they have arguably done more to improve things than the previous Oval Office occupant did in four years.

They are protecting the environment; helping working people; protecting LGBTQ rights; addressing the issue of climate change; uncaging and reuniting children; and, of course, dealing with COVID in a professional, intelligent, and non-partisan way.

They are staffing the government with people who are actually qualified for their jobs and improving relations with other countries as quickly as possible. They are also imperfect and will make mistakes; they are simple well-meaning humans, after all. Not something that can be said of their predecessors.

At the same time, the folks in the GOP are continuing to spread lies, hatred, divisiveness, conspiracy theories and to play politics with people’s lives. Wingnut du jour Marjorie Taylor Greene of Colorado has just blown all our minds by suggesting that the California wildfires were started by Jewish-controlled space lasers.

Darn, now all the goyim know our big secret. She has also been outed for harassing Parkland survivor and gun-control advocate David Hogg when he was just 17. The woman is a true GOP hero. Her buddy Lauren Boebert suggested murdering other folks in Congress who she doesn’t agree with. But that’s nothing much considering she and some of her buddies want to carry guns on the House floor.

The big dogs in the Senate GOP Sedition Caucus, led by none other than MoscowMitch McConnell and his good buddy Lyin’ Ted Cruz have signaled the upcoming impeachment trial will be another sham. A full 45 of these sycophants voted to declare the trial unconstitutional before it’s even started, showing clearly, they have no intention of convicting he-who-shall-not-be-named of inciting a riot that led to the desecration of the capital and five deaths, and counting.

Just for good measure, the Sedition Caucus is also signaling that it will be fighting against President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill as the pandemic continues to claim 3,000 American lives each day. Keep in mind that this is the same party that spent millions of dollars and several years investigating Hillary’s emails and Benghazi, which together resulted in five deaths.

Meanwhile, the Tangerine one is having trouble getting lawyers to join his impeachment defense team for some strange reason. Reports from The New York Times indicate that he insists his lawyers stick with his defense that mass election fraud took place. I guess seeing some of his past lawyers heading for disbarment and subject to multi-billion-dollar lawsuits has soured them on that strategy.

Another tidbit from The New York Times has indicated that, during the last administration, most of our domestic terrorism resources were redirected against folks associated with Antifa and Black Lives Matter.

For those few unfamiliar with that loose confederation of folks united under the Anti-Fascist banner (like the Allied soldiers who fought the Nazis in World War II), no evidence has yet been produced that they posed any major threat to our country.

This, in spite of the fact that some investigators said they were pressured to find evidence by their superiors, none of which was ever found. Kind of like finding invisible weapons of mass destruction in the Gulf War.

This led to little or no oversight of right-wing domestic terrorists and guess what? They stormed the Capitol and five people died. Funny how that happened. But, as was said in a video announcement, they are special people and loved by the last administration.

Remember when President Obama was elected back in 2008 and MoscowMitch publicly stated that his one and only goal was to make him a one-term president? Yup. That happened, and for some strange reason, he failed.

Now, in 2021 he is clearly signaling that, no matter what the country needs, his only goal is to get in the way of any progress by Democrats. But before you suggest that good old Mitch has the country’s best interests at heart, remember that he’s currently worth upwards of $35 million and that he and his wife, the recently resigned Secretary of Transportation, worked together to illegally funnel certain government contracts to his home state of Kentucky.

With Merrick Garland in charge of the Department of Justice, I’m wondering how long it would be before indictments come on down.

And speaking of financial chicanery, let’s not forget that several members of the House and Senate were found to have traded stocks last February-March after a COVID briefing that gave them a true indication of the real nature of the looming catastrophe. This was at the same time the administration was lying to the public about the crisis on a daily basis.

I suspect these folks will also see very different treatment now that the Federal Bureau of Investigation,  theSecurity and Exchange Commission, and the Department of Justice are under the control of competent individuals, not criminals.

But I want to end this reality check on an up note. The last administration set a number of records that will likely stand for many years to come and they should be proud of these accomplishments. 

More lies were told (more than 30,000), than any previous administration in the history of our country. More Americans died due to their incompetence and venal practices (nearing 500,000 with 25 million infected and growing daily). That’s more than all the Americans who died in the Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf wars combined.

And 9/11? Yup, 3,000 died then. The previous administration has been killing off that many people in a day.

They now hold the record for most members indicted and convicted of crimes. They hold the record for increasing the budget deficit, thanks in large part to a trillion-dollar giveaway to the rich and the corporations. Everyone else got $1,800 over an entire year.

Yup, that was one impressive record of thievery, incompetence, corruption, and murderous narcissism. I would share one final thought. In order to put the list of accolades we should be heaping on the GOP into proper perspective, we should really rename the party. Instead of Republican Party or Grand Old Party, they should be relabeled in a more accurate manner to the Greed Over People party.

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg describes himself as a long-time registered Democrat and political observer; he sees the last four years as a surreal nightmare and the next four as a battle for what’s left of this country.