Caseythoughts One of the advantages of cold weather is that I find it a perfect opportunity to snuggle in and do some serious reading. I mean, I read voraciously anyway, but give me hours on end with an excuse to stay indoors and I can eat up a couple of good books as only a starved literati. One of these books was written by a good friend, Eleanor Henderson, an Ithaca College professor, titled The Twelve Mile Straight.

Eleanor's premiere novel in 2010 Ten Thousand Saints, was named in the Ten Best List of 2011 by the New York Times, and made into a stunning and moving film that debuted at Cinemopolis. The Twelve Mile Straight is set in Depression-era Georgia, and is a dark look at race and racism in that world, the tangle of dysfunctional family relationships, the horror of rural Georgia "justice" in the 30's, and the lies and truths that families cloak their secrets with. It is a wondrous tour de force and an intense spelunking of motherly love and social tragedy, a la Dreiser and even Faulkner. You'll find a copy at local bookstores and of course at the Libraries around town. I consider my copy a treasure, as is my friendship with Eleanor and her family.

The other book I enjoyed was more in line with my propensity to American history: "This Time We Win: Revisiting the Tet Offensive", by James S. Robbins. As a VietNam vet I have been hard pressed to find any writing on VietNam which is not slanted to the defeated/morally wrong school of thought which has prevailed since that tragic war 'ended' (it hasn't ended, as any VietNam vet will reluctantly tell you).

The book is marvelously researched, looks at all aspects of the offensive from late 1967 to March 31st, 1968, when LBJ stunned the world and stated he would not seek another term in office. Robbins has some marvelous sources of information from both the American and Vietnamese sides, White House aides and their notes, commentary from people on the scene of the offensive which was actually quickly declawed and defeated by American and ARVN forces, but which the media portrayed, wrongly and arrogantly, as a defeat for America and a psychological victory for the North Vietnamese, after they slaughtered over 2000 civilians in the villages around Hue, burying them in slit trenches. Any soldier who lived through that hell can tell you they don't risk, or give, their life to win a 'psychological victory'.

As a former intelligence analyst and cryptanalytic specialist who spent a good deal of time in PhuBai and points north, I can tell you that the author's take on intelligence estimates and methods of gathering intelligence estimates from enemy communications and documents is spot-on and gives fascinating insight into North Vietnamese generals, American commanders and the White House and Pentagon 'geniuses' who all managed to kill thousands of civilians and fellow soldiers during those four months needlessly (read the book to see the reasoning and the excuses we used), then allowed the American media to twist the truth to their own ends. The resulting book is a real, true to life page turner with implications for present and future American military engagement.

I notice Governor Cuomo has come up with a 'solution' to the new federal tax bill's limits on state and local tax exemptions. Of course, it would be too simple to lower our taxes, wouldn't it? You know, for people who itemize, looking at exorbitant local property taxes, unjustified sales and income taxes which drive business out of the state, which seem to benefit no one and nothing but the deep pockets of Albany and our so-called representatives. You know, those taxes which have a ten thousand dollar limit on your 2017 federal tax return , which gets eaten up pretty quickly in this county.

You would think our illustrious governor would be looking for a way to ease up on the beleaguered NY taxpayer, maybe in such areas as unfunded mandates, for a start. After all, Albany has found a way to tax and then spend tens of millions of dollars for so-called 'economic development' grants that have not created one single job in the state. So, you would think that Cuomo could be creative for his constituents and offer some tax relief.

No, not a scintilla of relief, or empathy: maintain the status quo of being one of the highest taxed states in the nation, steady as she goes, and Cuomo and his cohort of merry thieves now want to install a 'payroll tax' on NY employers. Not for profits, too?? There goes your minimum wage raise, folks. So, of course, employers will be hard pressed to get employees up to a liveable wage.

Maybe Albany can use the alleged payroll tax to fund more 'economic development'. OK, and while we're at it, can anyone explain to me how limiting SALT to $10,000 affects NY state tax collections? Unless Albany recognizes that tax relief is long overdue (oh boy, let's try some more consolidation committees in our counties) then my take is that the taxing entities lose not one red cent in their ill gotten income.

You'll still be paying the same state and local taxes, right? It's the federal government that admits to potential losses of a trillion dollars over the next decade. How much will Albany lose by the federal tax cut? My math has always been shaky, but unless Albany and/or Tompkins County get wise and offer us a little bit of tax relief, the loss adds up to nada, zilch, nothing, zero., while the average Tompkins County taxpayer will see a drop in what they pay in federal tax, and continue to pay the outrageous property taxes conjured up by your local county reps.

Will Albany and Tompkins County ever get the message? Not from what I see in the current lineup of reps on the local legislature. Same old story, same old people, same old tax and spend, but blame Washington, when Albany and local legislators are really to blame. Best not hold our breath on this one. As they say in Texas, the legislature is back in session: hold onto your wallet. 

Finally, this week, please forgive me a very personal note. A wonderful woman left our world last week and she will be so sorely missed by many, many folks. Kate Sinko was one of the most vibrant, vivacious and 'alive' women I knew in Trumansburg, or practically anywhere I ever resided.

Kate participated in Women Swimmin', was an avid cross country skiier and golfer, loved traveling, as well as actively and enthusiastically participating in our church events at Trumansburg United Methodist Church. A sour word, nor negative note, never passed her lips that I was ever aware of, and over the too short time I knew her we spent time sharing anecdotes about our "secret" and classified CIA/NSA exploits in Southeast Asia (she in Laos, me in South VietNam) and just plain funny anecdotes which almost no one else could even fathom what we were talking about. These were as easily shared as our thoughts and contributions on various church committee issues. She was as intense as the brightest sunrise you ever experienced and threw herself into projects and life with a smile, an uproarious laugh and a "Let's do it" attitude.

I presented a sermon on New Year's Eve on the famous Ecclesiastes poem "To everything there is a season" and afterwards she came up to me, put her head on my shoulder with a tear in her eye and asked me "Now, when are you going to write that book?" Her last words to me.

Kate passed last week, so unexpectedly, found by her daughter. I am in the middle of a slow motion emotional train wreck. So many of us will miss her deeply, and now I know that, as another friend said to me in consolation to my tears, "You're going to HAVE to write that book, now, aren't you?" When, not if, I write that book, I'll dedicate it to you, Kate Sinko. Rest in peace, dear friend. You deserve both rest, now, and peace.