First Hamburger: The Top Ten Myths About Who Invented It

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Who Invented the first hamburger Top Ten MythsFor some reason (and probably a good one if you think about it), the powers that be have decreed May 28th as “National Hamburger Day.” This coincides nicely with the month of May either being “National Hamburger Month” and “National Burger Month,” depending on whose press release you read.

As a result, no doubt you’ve read, listened to, or watched something about the almighty burger at your favorite news outlet. The question you should ask (but won’t know to) is whether what you’re reading, hearing, or seeing is true. Unfortunately, in all likelihood, probably not.

To help set the record straight, here are the top ten myths about the origin of the first hamburger:Continue Reading “First Hamburger: The Top Ten Myths About Who Invented It”

School Elections Matter, Too

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The moonless night trembled with eerie silence. Still, the veteran warriors waited with resigned anticipation. The now 54-day old siege had worn upon them. Yet, they stood, along with their courageous emperor, willing to confront their ultimate fate.

That final assault began shortly after midnight on Tuesday, the 29th of May, 1453. It would prove to be the last day of an Empire that had existed – in one form or another – for more than 20 centuries. Wave after wave of Ottoman attackers charged with relentless regularity. The 150,000 invaders far outnumbered the 7,000 war-weary defenders of Constantinople – the last capital of the Roman Empire.

Amid the battles cries and the shouts, the screams and the barking of orders, the first Continue Reading “School Elections Matter, Too”

It’s Your Party And You Would Cry Too If It Happened To You. Don’t Let It Happen!

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Do you think you own your house? Better think again.

You almost lost it in this year’s New York State budget. You see, the state budget process is a very tricky – as in devious – tool. Unscrupulous politics have learned how to use it to enact legislation without even enacting it.

It’s an easy way to introduce controversial policies without the tediousness of actually having to vote on a specific law. Of course, those same conniving officials will quickly say, “Well, the budget IS voted on,” but that’s not the same thing as voting for a bill that only addresses the matter they’re trying to slip through via the budget process.

And about that process. You already know it only takes three people to craft the budget. It’s not an open forum. It’s a behind-closed-doors smoke-filled-meeting sort of thing. Just because we’ve changed governors doesn’t really change the process. Indeed, given the Continue Reading “It’s Your Party And You Would Cry Too If It Happened To You. Don’t Let It Happen!”

New York State Has A Serious Gerrymandering Problem – Here’s What To Do About It, But First…

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Original 1812 drawing of the Gerrymander by Elkanah Tisdale.

Marshall Pinckney Wilder was a popular humorist who travelled the world. A favorite of the British royal family, he wrote books, appeared in movies, and always signed his correspondence “Merrily yours.” He was born in Geneva in 1859 and grew up in Rochester, where he developed his talent as a storyteller (and also dabbled in clairvoyance, which was popular in Western New York during that era).

He was named after his great-uncle, a famed phytologist in Boston.

Well, not quite.

When the Bostonian botanist came into this world in 1798, his father gave him the name “Marshall Pinckney Gerry Wilder,” in honor of John Marshall, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, and Elbridge Gerry, the envoys to France appointed by President John Adams in 1797.

By the time he became a teenager, the name was shorted to “Marshall Pinckney Wilder.”

What happened to “Gerry”? Therein lies a tale of political intrigue and comeuppance that continues to this day.

More than a mere envoy, Elbridge Gerry stood out as a true Founding Father who eventually became the fifth Vice President of the United States. He signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation. He would have signed the United States Constitution, but he was one of three delegates who refused to do so on account it lacked a Bill of Rights.

So, what did he do? He became a congressman and, as such, spearheaded the effort to adopt the Bill of Rights (as the first ten amendments to the Constitution). Like George Washington, he opposed the idea of political parties.

Until France, that is.

You see, the three envoys were dispatched to iron out the Franco-American diplomatic breakdown that would come to be known as “the XYZ Affair.” Long story short, Gerry and his fellow Americans refused to bribe the French foreign minister Talleyrand. This was considered common practice in Europe, but, well, America was not Europe (especially at that time).

While Pinckney’s dad (and others) admired the envoys’ stand, the Federalists (who held the House, the Senate, and the Presidency) did not. They blamed the envoys for the failure to negotiate.

Up until then, Gerry had been staunchly non-partisan. After the Federalists vilification of him, he joined the Democratic-Republican party (the predecessor of our current Democrat party). He ran unsuccessfully for Governor of Massachusetts under that banner before finally being elected to the position in 1810.  He was reelected the following year after promoting a moderate if not bi-partisan course.

It was, however, in that second term where Gerry earned his infamous stripes. With the Democratic-Republican party in full control, Gerry showed his true partisan colors. He removed Federalist appointees from their State positions. But the worst was yet to come.

Although Massachusetts was evenly divided, the Democratic-Republicans used their power to apportion electoral district boundaries to make it more difficult for Federalists to regain the majority. The new districts they created were so contorted, Elkanah Tisdale, a well-known engraver, most likely was the person responsible for making a political cartoon lampooning the strange-shaped district. This first appeared in the March 26, 1812 Edition of the Boston Gazette.

We’ll let John Ward Dean tell the rest of the story (as he related it in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Volume 46, published in 1892):

“Washington Allston, calling there with James Ogilvie, a lecturer on oratory, and noticing the figure, remarked to [Benjamin] Russell, the editor, ‘What an odd-looking creature is this! it looks like a Salamander.’ On which Ogilvie, quick as light, replies, ‘Why, let it be named Gerrymander, for the governor.’”

The Democratic-Republican plan, signed into law by Gerry, worked, but not for Gerry. He lost the next election. Though the Federalists had the most votes statewide, the Democratic-Republicans ended up with a three to one edge in the State Senate.

The vilified public pronounced their judgment by forcing Gerry out. He was assailed in the popular press. The May 23, 1812 Colombian Centinel (yes, they spelled it that way), quoting a Judge Story, wrote, “It would be well, however, if we could so ascertain beyond a doubt the real Father of this unnatural monster, that we might hold him up to everlasting scorn and contempt.”

Marshall Pinckney Gerry Wilder’s father took the measure one step further. According to Dean, who was quoting Wilder himself on this, “after the gerrymandering doings he lost his admiration and had the ‘Gerry’ struck out of his son’s name.”

By now, you’ve all read of our current state of Gerrymandering right here in New York State. It’s more than the usual tilting, it’s as egregious as Gerry’s was in 1812. We all know the motivations, but here’s how it hurts Monroe County especially.

Traditionally, Monroe County has had two Congressional districts. In recent years, this has meant we’ve been represented by both parties. That’s good because you never know which party will retain control of the House. By have two seats, one from each party, we’re guaranteed to have access to the majority.

If you listen to the experts, the Republicans are expected to gain control of the House following the mid-term elections. (This is a reasonable guess, given the number of Democrats who have decided not to seek reelection, the population shifting to “Red” states, and the usual party loss based on the White House incumbent.) As of now, Monroe County has only one seat (by comparison, Erie County has three) and it’s designed to be won by a Democrat.

Not good for Monroe County should the Republicans retake the house.

What’s the solution? There’s not a clear one. Basically, the majority rules, and the Democrats have a clear majority in the New York State legislature. They made a mockery of the independent bipartisan committee that was supposed to be responsible for redistricting, so you can see that’s not a viable option.

The fairest way to prevent gerrymandering is geometry-based rules. For example, every district must touch at least three other districts (two if the district is on a border) and at least two of those districts must not touch each other. In other words, each district must be a parallelogram (e.g., a square or a rectangular).

We don’t need a special commission, but we do need to prevent the redistricting abuse we’re seeing in our state.

Perhaps you should clip this column out and send it to an appropriate judge since there are now at least two cases challenging the New York State Gerrymander.

Brighton’s Council Rock Primary School Must Change Its Name Immediately!

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This is not the kind of column I like to write. Still, there’s an obligation as a journalist to sometimes cross a line your mother would not like to see you cross. Alas, this is one of those times.

Our story begins where most stories begin: at the confluence of two well-worn travel routes. No one knows the origin of these two intersecting paths. Most likely, they began as something equivalent to a deer run, a track blazed by animals as they wandered from one watering hole to another in search of food.

It was only a matter of time before man followed those beasts, hunting them down for Continue Reading “Brighton’s Council Rock Primary School Must Change Its Name Immediately!”

Just Say ‘No!’ To Drugs

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Marijuana - Photo by atroszko from FreeImages

On March 31, 2021, then Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA). According to the official State website, “The legislation created a new Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) governed by a Cannabis Control Board to comprehensively regulate adult-use, medical, and hemp cannabis. The OCM will issue licenses and develop regulations outlining how and when businesses can participate in the new industry.”

What does this mean?

Well, there are several gears in motion here. The first pertains to private use by adults. Here, the State says “The Office of Cannabis Management needs to draft and issue regulations to implement the law before adult-use sales can begin. However, while there Continue Reading “Just Say ‘No!’ To Drugs”

Is Cattaraugus County Leading The Way To Greater Western New York Independence?

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Just because you may not have seen this in the news doesn’t mean it isn’t news. In fact, it could be big news.

Actually, it could be very big news, and it occurred just a month ago in the halls of the Cattaraugus County legislative chamber. What’s more amazing, and not really being reported, was how fast it all happened and the fact the origin didn’t start with an elected official, but with a group of concerned everyday citizens like you.

Cattaraugus County is located along the Southern Tier of the Greater Western New York region. It’s mostly rural with the largest city being Olean (the other “big” city is Salamanca, the birthplace of NFL legend Marv Hubbard, who played fullback for the Oakland Raiders). Cattaraugus County is also the home of St. Bonaventure University.

Known for its promotional nickname “Enchanted Mountains,” traveling through its picturesque hills full of never-ending green trees gives you a sense of what our region looked like to the pioneers who first settled Western New York shortly after the Revolutionary War. Seeing this unadorned beauty throughout our region, you can’t help but think Continue Reading “Is Cattaraugus County Leading The Way To Greater Western New York Independence?”

Ode To The Open Road

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Photo by Debbie Schiel from FreeImagesIn the minds of many, the fast-approaching Labor Day represents the metaphorical end of summer. Before we take that literary leap, however, let’s spend one final weekend basking in the glory of the sun and the freedom of endless fields of rolling hills, chirping nature, and fragrant wild flowers.

There’s more to it than that, though.

From the beginning of our lives, we’ve come to see summer as a 10-week break. It starts with the calendar of school. Out in June. Back in September. July and August became the Continue Reading “Ode To The Open Road”

The Real News About Kathy Hochul Being New York State Governor

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You’ve probably read the headlines about Kathy Hochul “making history” by becoming the first woman to hold the position of New York State Governor.

If you’re like me, you cringe every time you see the appellation “first” applied to anyone. With the clear exception of sporting events, landing on the moon, and a few others, the term “first” seems more like a back-handed compliment. In today’s world of woke, it makes people wonder if “token” wouldn’t be a better description.

And that’s not fair.

I know. I’ve lived with this designation. The “first” Italian-American to do this… The “first” Catholic to do that… The “first” graduate of Gates-Chili high school to…

Each time, despite the apparent good intentions of various speakers of those words, it always felt condescending.

While I’m proud of my heritage, I didn’t want to be remembered merely as an Italian-Continue Reading “The Real News About Kathy Hochul Being New York State Governor”

What (And Why) Is Greater Western New York?

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1779 map of Sullivan Campaign 6.18.1779-9.15.1779

1779 map of Sullivan Campaign

Believe it or not, we’re fast approaching a seminal anniversary in the history of Greater Western New York. At some point in the final days of August 1779, the first scouts of the Sullivan Expedition represented the first citizens of the new nation to step foot into what would become Greater Western New York.

They weren’t the first people in Greater Western New York. They weren’t even the first of European descent to enter the region.

They were, however, the first Americans to do so. And that is why Greater Western New York is often referred to as “America’s First Frontier.”

For those who were absent from school when they taught this, the Sullivan Expedition, Continue Reading “What (And Why) Is Greater Western New York?”