Queens celebrating its comeback with a free celebration

The borough is open for business, and the Queens Economic Development Corporation is celebrating with Queens Comes Back!, a huge party in a unique venue with local vendors selling great food, drinks, and novelty items while artists provide top-notch entertainment.
And everybody is invited!
Kaufman Astoria Studios will host Queens Comes Back! in its Backlot on Saturday, October 9, from noon to 4 p.m. Restaurants are still signing up to participate, but this first-ever banquet has already attracted several dozen vendors of everything from main dishes to desserts to hot sauces.
Alewife Brewing, which is located in Sunnyside, will pour suds, and Jackson Heights-based QNSY Sparkling Cocktails will peddle mixed drinks in cans.
At some spots, members of Made in Queens, a QEDC program that promotes local manufacturers and crafters, will sell their products, which range from shirts to jewelry to handmade soaps and candles.
Representatives from Queensboro FC, a professional soccer team that will begin competing in 2022, will be there with uniforms, soccer balls, and other sports paraphernalia.
It’s not all dining and shopping, though. Queensboro Dance Festival members will perform throughout the day on a mini outdoor stage. A little Salsa. A touch of ballet. Some tap.
There’s no admission charge, but the organizers request that those interested register. More information is at

Residents celebrate anniversary of stopping shelter

Local residents gathered outside the Holiday Inn Express in Maspeth to mark the 5th anniversary of the successful protests that stopped the city from housing the homeless at the hotel.
“They came to Maspeth and they thought they could force a shelter on us, but they had another thing coming because the people know how to fight,” one attendee told the crowd.
The rally also offered the opportunity to speak out about the city’s current homeless policies.
“That’s not what these hotels and motels were built for,” said mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa at the rally. “That’s what they should not be repurposed into.”
The Republican candidate recommended the city consider housing the homeless in commercial areas where warehouses are empty.
Attendees at the rally also called for the removal of Staeven Banks, who is commissioner of the Human Resources Adminstration/Department of Homeless Services. Banks has defended the city’s response to the homeless crisis, arguing that agencies at the state level are more to blame.
“There’s so much public focus on how the city should do more, but the state disinvestment is totally lost, we’re making up for them,” Banks said during a virtual City Council budget hearing earlier in the year. “There’s a real danger that New York state is going to continue to withdraw from providing support for the social safety net in New York City.”
Phil Wong, president of the Chinese-American Citizens Alliance, lives behind the Pan-American Hotel on Queens Boulevard, which serves as a homeless shelter for families. He said he saw children struggle to adapt to remote learning during the pandemic because of a lack of resources.
“Meanwhile, what do you see? Homeless under the LIE, in the subways and sleeping in parks,” he said. “So we are looking at outright abuse of our tax dollars. We’re talking about systems of sources that have failed for the last seven years. Steven Banks has to go.”

Sad milestone for old Avenue Diner

Last week, I saw the following message posted by a good friend on Facebook: “Feeling a bit bummed. One year ago yesterday was an end of an era for me. Missing all of my Woodhaven family and friends; wishing you all the best!”
This was written by Paul Vasiliadis, whose Avenue Diner closed one year ago after a long struggle with COVID-19 and New York City.
There were many replies from friends and family and customers and staff. Wanda Flores, longtime waitress at the Avenue Diner, said “I miss you and Mr. Jimmy [Paul’s father] every day. You always gave your best and that is why you are so missed. Love you always.”
Former customer Wilda Melendez said: “It breaks my heart when Nadira and I walk past the diner and there is nothing there. It truly was a family diner. It was a light in our community. You and your family made it that.”
And another customer, Daisy Croke posted: “We miss you too. Woodhaven is not the same without you.”
It’s not easy to watch bad things happen to good people. And Paul and his father Jimmy and the rest of the staff of the Avenue Diner were good people who had become family to many people here in Woodhaven.
I never met a more hardworking man than Paul Vasiliadis. In over 11 years operating the diner, Paul took off a total of 30 days. That’s 30 days off out of 4,150, covering weekends and holidays and snow days.
That covers all the days he woke up, his body sore and tired, and yet he still came in day after day, making Paul Vasiliadis Woodhaven’s Iron Man.
In the early days of COVID-19, when restaurant after restaurant temporarily closed, The Avenue Diner remained open. It was a struggle, but Paul kept at it and the many customers who depended on the diner, particularly seniors, were never disappointed.
But the City of New York was relentless in their harassment of small businesses over signage and other minor issues, hitting essential businesses like the Avenue Diner with onerous fines that made it impossible in many cases to survive.
Their fines and harassment may have not closed all the businesses, but it certainly set them up to perish once COVID-19 came along. And even then, the city was unstoppable when it came to penalizing and punishing small businesses like the Avenue Diner.
Young men can ride bikes and ATVs up and down our streets, terrorizing pedestrians, but they won’t catch a fine from our city. People can defecate on Forest Parkway, and there will be no one coming along to write them tickets.
Our city doesn’t like moving targets. Hardworking people who show up to their businesses day in, day out to serve our communities are easy targets for income by our greedy and heartless city.
And so, I see Paul’s words and I am sad. But I am also angry because it didn’t need to be this way. The Avenue Diner may have been foiled by COVID, but it was the city that weakened them enough to allow that to happen. Never forget that.
On his next to last day in Woodhaven, residents, customers and friends gathered outside the eatery to let Paul and his staff and his family know how sad we were and how much we were going to miss them all.
“You were the first business I engaged with when I came here and you were so supportive. I will never forget the conversations we had, they meant so much to me,” said Raquel Olivares, executive director of the Woodhaven Business Improvement District.
Paul’s wife, Alexandra, and their three children Demetra, Andreas and Eva, and his father Jimmy were touched by the gathering of residents, many of whom were there right from the beginning.
My wife and I were blessed to be there that day, in March of 2009, when the Avenue Diner opened. It was filled with hope and optimism, they had already put in so much work just to reach opening day.
I wonder if they would have stuck with it had they known how hard it was going to be, and already I know the answer is yes. People who are successful have a special work ethic, and Paul Vasiliadis embodies that and he will succeed again.
We should have a city that supports and lifts up and rewards people like Paul. I guess this was just a long way of saying that this city stinks and I miss my friend.

Mazda CX-9 receives upgrades to its technology and styling

The Mazda CX-9 is the brand’s flagship three-row midsize crossover SUV, able to meet the practical needs of a family while still appealing to owner’s sense of style and driving enjoyment. For 2021, CX-9 receives upgrades to its technology and styling. New exterior designs are met by a high-class interior featuring new seat patterning and the largest infotainment display to be equipped on a CX-9. Additionally, new Carbon Edition model helps owners express their individuality with bold styling.
Arriving in style after an invigorating journey, the CX-9’s sleek design is matched by its responsive performance. The Skyactiv-G 2.5 Turbo engine equipped on all CX-9 models delivers a robust 320 lb-ft of torque and 250 horsepower on premium (93 octane) gasoline or 310 lb-ft of torque and 227 horsepower on regular (87 octane) gasoline. The turbocharged engine is paired with a quick-shifting, six-speed Skyactiv-Drive automatic transmission and has standard G-Vectoring Control Plus. Mazda’s predictive i-Activ allwheel drive with off-road traction assist is standard in CX-9 Signature and available on all other trim levels. Helping elevate the ownership experience at any level, numerous premium features are equipped as standard.
New for the 2021 CX-9 Sport is a 10.25-inch large center display with the latest Mazda Connect infotainment interface. The new infotainment has Apple CarPlayTM and Android AutoTM capabilities and adds Mazda Connected Services capabilities that include a three-year trial to access the ability to monitor and control the state of the CX-9 remotely by logging into the MyMazda app and in-car Wi-Fi hotspot2 with threemonths or 2GB trial. Mazda’s suite of i-Activsense safety features are standard, including Mazda Radar Cruise Control with stop and go function, Advanced Smart City Brake Support with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Warning with Lane-Keep Assist and Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert. Other standard features include heated front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, three-zone automatic climate control, six-way power driver’s seat with lumbar support, Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio pairing, two front USB inputs, rearview camera, keyless entry and push-button start. The CX-9 Sport has automatic on/off LED headlights with auto-leveling, LED taillights and daytime running lights, heated and power door mirrors, High Beam Control, body-colored rear roof spoiler, 18-inch gray metallic finish aluminum alloy wheels, rain-sensing windshield wipers and rear privacy glass.
The CX-9 Touring adds various seating upgrades, including leather-trimmed first and second-row seats, six-way power passenger’s seat, slide and tilt function is upgraded on the second-row bench seating and two USB charging ports in the second row. Other additions include power liftgate, Mazda Advanced Keyless Entry and auto-dimming rearview mirror with Homelink. With the optional Touring Premium Package, occupants can further enjoy the CX-9 experience with Bose® 12-speaker premium audio, new wireless phone charger will be located in the storage compartment in front of the shifter, power moonroof, front and rear parking sensors, two USB charging ports in the third row, LED fog lights, second-row retractable window sunshade, SiriusXM satellite radio with three-month trial subscription. Along with this package, owners have the option to select between the second-row bench seating or second-row captain’s chairs with armrest and center pass through at no additional charge.
New CX-9 Carbon Edition models builds on the CX-9 Touring with Touring Premium Package, but provides exclusive styling with Polymetal Gray exterior paint, gloss black door mirrors and new designs for the gloss black front grille and 20-inch black metallic aluminum alloy wheels. The interior has red leather seats and black interior trimming on the dash, door panels and handle bezels. The steering wheel will have paddle shifters. Smart City Brake Support Reverse and Driver Attention Alert are new i-Activsense safety features on the Carbon Edition models. The CX-9 Carbon Edition comes standard with second-row captain’s chairs with armrest and center pass through. Other features include hands-free power liftgate, ventilated front seats, heated second-row seats, heated steering wheel, seven-inch TFT reconfigurable digital gauge display, Satin Chrome roof rails, automatic power folding door mirrors, Adaptive Front-lighting System, eight-way power driver’s seat with lumbar support and memory positioning, chrome lower exterior accents, interior LED accents, windshield wiper de-icer and frameless rearview mirror.
The CX-9 Grand Touring moves up from the Touring with Touring Premium Package through added peace of mind with new i-Activsense safety features Smart City Brake Support Reverse and Driver Attention Alert join the 360° View Monitor with front and rear parking sensors now updated with high-definition digital clarity. The interior is equipped with Active Driving Display with Traffic Sign Recognition, Mazda Navigation system, ventilated front seats, heated second-row seats, heated steering wheel, seven-inch TFT reconfigurable digital gauge display, eight-way power driver’s seat with lumbar support and memory positioning, interior LED accents and frameless rearview mirror. Other convenient and styling upgrades include 20-inch silver metallic finish aluminum alloy wheels, hands-free power liftgate, Satin Chrome roof rails, automatic power folding door mirrors, Adaptive Front-lighting System, chrome lower exterior accents and windshield wiper de-icer.
In the upper most trim level, the CX-9 Signature offers all of the appealing driving dynamics with standard i-Activ all-wheel drive while not compromising on design. New titanium gray metallic finish front grille design is a stunning first impression, especially with the LED grille accent lighting. New design 20-inch brilliant silver finish aluminum alloy wheels and larger dual tailpipes round out the elegant and exciting styling. The well-appointed interior styling has been upgraded with new quilting and piping on the first and second-row seats and patterned aluminum on the dash, door panels and handle bezels. Combined with secondrow captain’s chairs with center console that provide a first-class experience much like the first row with armrest storage compartment, heated seat buttons and cupholders, Nappa leather seats, Santos Rosewood interior trim and unique steering wheel stitching, the CX9 Signature provides an executive feeling for all occupants.

Queens GOP contributing to its own demise

Curtis Sliwa is going to have a hard time overcoming the name recognition, momentum and overwhelming voter registration disadvantage in his race against Eric Adams for mayor.
You know what is going to make it even harder? If Republicans in Queens keep holding fundraisers for his opponent.
Councilman Eric Ulrich, the last Republican elected official in Queens, was one of the hosts of a recent fundraiser for Adams at Russo’s on the Bay in Howard Beach that carried a $1,000 donation just to get in the door.
The first host listed for the event, Anthony Como, is a former Republican councilman who once held the seat occupied by Councilman Bob Holden.
The person who sent us the flyer said they were told the event would be “intimate and discrete.” We guess Republicans in Queens don’t want word getting out that they are actively raising money for the Democrat in the race.
We were also told by our source that the event raised well over $100,000 for the Adams campaign.
We guess the jockeying for influence with – and perhaps even a job in – the Adams administration has already begun, party loyalty be damned.
Speaking of Ulrich, a couple of weeks ago we wrote about the race for his seat in south Queens. Ulrich is the last Republican elected official in the borough, and if the seat goes to a Democrat, every elected post in Queens will be held by a Democrat.
While most voters in Queens, like the rest of the city, are registered Democrats, the borough has always had significant Republican strongholds in parts of the borough, such as northeast Queens, south Queens, and the neighborhoods of Maspeth, Middle Village and Glendale.
The prospect of Queens being an all-blue borough would have been unimaginable even ten year ago. We wrote about that a couple of weeks back, and loyal reader Larry Penner shared his thoughts on the demise of the Queens GOP. Here’s what he wrote:

The ongoing fight for control of the Queens County Republican Party is like two hyenas fighting over the carcass of a dead animal, in this case the remnants of the once-relevant Queens Republican Party.
This is the latest chapter of a periodic civil war whose origins can be traced to the 1980s among the remaining handful of GOP party activists. Take a trip down memory lane to understand why today’s descendants of the organization spend more time fighting each other than offering Democrats any serious competition.
Late Richmond Hill Republican Club leader Wilfred Dalton was a major force in politics for several decades up until the 1980’s. Any serious city, state or federal GOP candidate would stop by his clubhouse seeking support.
Former presidents Teddy Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan all spoke at the clubhouse.
In 1976, former governor Nelson Rockefeller still controlled the New York State GOP. During the Republican Presidential Primary that same year, the GOP establishment rallied around President Ford.
Dalton endorsed former California governor Ronald Reagan, successfully electing pro-Reagan delegates to the national GOP Convention.
In 1980, the GOP establishment was split between George Bush and Bob Dole. Proving the second time is a charm, Dalton teamed up with others and again elected pro-Reagan delegates, pushing him to the nomination.
Until the 1980’s, Queens Republicans routinely qualified candidates for all congressional, State Senate, Assembly and City Council seats. They would offer Democrats serious competition.
After the 1982 reapportionment, Democrats eliminated the districts of Queens GOP Assembly members Rosemary Gunning, John LoPresto, John Flack, Al DelliBovi and John Esposito.
John Gallagher gave up his Assembly seat in 1972 to run unsuccessfully against Democratic congress member Lester Wolff. Doug Prescott briefly recaptured this seat in the 1990s, but eventually lost, leaving Queens with no GOP Assembly members.

GOP state senators Frank Padavan and Martin Knorr voted for this reapportionment plan, since it continued to protect their own gerrymandered districts.
In 1977, Republican Rabbi Sheldon Farber won a special election to fill a vacant seat against Democrat State Assembly member Gerdi E. Lipchutz, despite a 4-to-1 Democrat-versus-Republican voter registration advantage. This temporarily gave the Queens GOP a record three State Senators.
Farber declined to run in 1978, as he knew the odds were against him winning a full term in what traditionally was a safe Democratic State Senate seat.
Despite overwhelming Democratic Party enrollment in Queens County, creative gerrymandering by the GOP-controlled State Senate after the 2000 census continued to preserve the seats of both Republican state senators Serphin Maltese and Frank Padavan.
Eventually Democrats beat Maltese in 2008 and Padavan in 2010.
Before the surprise election of Bob Turner, the last Republican congress member from Queens was Seymour Halperin. After the 1970 reapportionment, he declined to run against Democrat Lester Wolff of Great Neck in 1972 when both were merged into one Queens/Nassau County district.
In 1982, Republican John LeBoutellier briefly recaptured this seat for one term. In 2011, Bob Turner won the 9th Congressional District in a special election defeating David Weprin to replace Democrat Anthony Weiner.
As a result of his district being gerrymandered out of existence, he ran and lost in the 2012 Republican Primary for Senate rather than seek reelection in another district.
James A. Lundy was the last GOP Queens borough president. He served from January 1952 to December 1957. Nat Hentel was the last GOP District Attorney. He was appointed by Governor Rockefeller and served one year in 1966.
During the 1990s under Republican mayor Rudy Guiliani, the GOP elected Tom Olgibene, Mike Abel and Alfonse Stabile from Queens.
In 2009, the GOP elected Dan Halloran, Peter Koo and Eric Ulrich. Koo changed his enrollment to Democrat in 2012. Halloran was sent to prison on political corruption charges.
Today, the last GOP public official from Queens is Ulrich. He may go down in political history as the last registered Republican public official from Queens.
In 2017, Councilman Bob Holden was elected on the Republican and Conservative party lines, but rejoined the Democrats after taking office, although he still routinely runs on the Conservative Party line.
Crossover Democrats who would vote Republican continue to move out of the borough or succumb to old age. There has been no successful GOP outreach to new Caribbean, Hispanic, Asian or other immigrant groups.
Attempts to reach middle-class African-American homeowners in former GOP neighborhoods has also failed. For decades, once the GOP loses any incumbent City Council, Assembly, State Senate or congressional representative, they are seldom ever able to reclaim the district.
Both Queens GOP factions should be thinking about the future instead of their own respective egos. Otherwise, the ever-dwindling number of Queens Republicans will continue down the path to political extinction.
The numbers just don’t afford Republicans the opportunity to elect anyone to public office, thus making them irrelevant in the General Election. Many Assembly districts no longer have active GOP political clubhouses.
Hundreds of Queens Republican county committee positions are vacant. There are few volunteers to circulate nominating petitions which are required to place candidates on the ballot or assist candidates in running campaigns.
In many cases, candidates are just placeholders on the ballot. They have no funding or volunteers and just go through the motions, knowing in advance they will lose by large margins.
As a result, they are unable to mount any serious challenges to incumbent Democratic officials. Democrats have a free pass every November.

Tackling Sjogren’s Syndrome

If you are a tennis fan, you’re probably aware that Venus Williams was diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome in 2011. Her diagnosis came on the heels of typical quality of life symptoms of the disease, which include dry eyes, dry mouth, profound fatigue, and painful joints.
Sjogren’s is one of the more common autoimmune diseases in the U.S., and 90 percent of sufferers are women. With autoimmune diseases, the immune system attacks cells, tissues and organs of the body.

How is Sjogren’s diagnosed?
There are two types of Sjogren’s, primary and secondary. Venus Williams has primary Sjogren’s, the focus of this article. Secondary is caused by other autoimmune diseases.
Physicians diagnose primary Sjogren’s by its symptoms and blood tests that show two particular autoantibodies – anti-Ro/SS-A and anti-La/SS-B – in the blood. However, these autoantibodies are also found in Lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, clinicians perform eye and dental tests.
This is a diagnosis of exclusion, so it’s important to rule out Lupus and other autoimmune diseases before providing a Sjogren’s diagnosis.

Unfortunately, there are no known cures, so treatment involves management of symptoms as they occur. NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen and aspirin, can be used to manage inflammation. Corticosteroids can also be employed to manage disease flares, but should only be used for a short time, because of their significant side effects.
The two most common symptoms are dry eyes and dry mouth. These can be treated systemically (with oral medication), topically and/or with lifestyle adjustments. Humidity may help with dry eyes, and drinking plenty of water may help with dry mouth.
Dry eyes result from a deficiency in tear production. Therefore, this symptom can be treated with artificial tears or lubricants, in consultation with an ophthalmologist. If this doesn’t work, then punctual occlusions, an uncomplicated procedure that prevents the loss of tears, can be done by an ophthalmologist. Ocular (topical) 0.05 percent cyclosporine may be beneficial for moderate to severe dry eye.
Dry mouth needs to be treated to avoid increased cavities that occur without saliva. An effective treatment to increase salivary flow may be as simple as sucking on dried fruit, such as nectarines or peaches. A trial with 100 patients found that Maltose lozenges, which contain malic acid found in apples and pears, three times a day may increase salivary secretions. Participants experienced an improvement in both the dry mouth and dry eye symptoms. Eating these fruits directly might be beneficial as well.
An oral medication that has shown statistically significant result in trials is pilocarpine. This drug appears to stimulate the aqueous secretions that are beneficial for both dry mouth and eyes. The limiting factor for this drug is the side effects, which include sweating, abdominal pain, flushing and increased urination.
Immunosuppressive drugs, like hydroxychloroquine, address the underlying immune function issues. However, there are significant side effects of suppressing the immune system, including opportunistic infections.

Alternative treatments
Unfortunately, many supplements have shown mixed results. However, N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) in a very small randomized clinical trial showed improvement in eye symptoms with a dose of 200 mg three times a day. Another small randomized clinical trial showed that LongoVital, a combination of herbal-based tablets with vitamins, significantly increased saliva production and anti-inflammatory effects.
Vitamin D deficiency is seen commonly in Sjogren’s and other autoimmune diseases, so raising Vitamin D levels may have immunomodulatory effects, reducing inflammation.

Autoimmune diseases such as Sjogren’s tend to cluster and run in families. Diagnosis and treatment involve a multidisciplinary approach, including a primary care physician, rheumatologist and ophthalmologist.
The Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation appears to be a valuable resource and support network for those who suffer from this disease.
This disease has robbed many of their quality of life. Don’t hesitate to seek treatment if you have similar symptoms.

Don’t Forget the Purpose of Healthcare System

Americans should be deeply concerned about our “sick-care” health system. The system is designed to withhold the best medicines, medical devices, and operations until their health deteriorates, and then belatedly, rescue care is offered.
It’s a penny-wise, pound-foolish approach to clinical care that puts patients at risk. There’s a far better alternative.
A truly patient-centric healthcare system would assess patients’ risk for heart attacks, diabetes, and other serious conditions, and then devote resources to preemptively reduce that risk while improving their quality of life. The current system limits access to care in the name of short-term savings, and ironically increases long-term spending.
Nowhere is this clearer than our approach to prescription drugs.
Politicians can get guaranteed applause by promising to slash the cost of medicines.
And this political drumbeat is increasingly reflected in policy efforts, whether it is the executive branch attempting to link drug prices in our country to those of other nations that employ government price controls, congressional legislation that would give the federal government greater price-controlling powers over drugs in the Medicare program, or a greater reliance on institutions like the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER) that assigns a financial value to a person’s life in determining whether to grant patients access to innovative treatments.
We need to pursue a patient-risk framework that will accelerate the delivery of breakthrough treatments to those who need them most. Healthcare providers should use data analytics and clinical assessments to score the health risk for each patient and devote the necessary medical resources to reduce that risk.
Just consider how that’d change our approach to a disease like diabetes, which is particularly prevalent in minority communities. More than 16 percent of Blacks and nearly 15 percent of Hispanics live with the condition, compared to less than 12 percent of whites.
All told, it cost our country over $237 billion in direct medical costs in 2017. Of that, about $15 billion was spent on insulin, which helps patients keep the disease under control and live relatively normal lives.
A true healthcare system would conduct regular screenings for the roughly one in three Americans who are pre-diabetic and make it easy for patients to access medications.
Instead, our current sick-care system forces diabetes patients to pay a considerable share of insulin costs out of pocket. Many can’t afford it. Over 13 percent of diabetes patients have skipped medications or not filled prescriptions due to cost concerns.
As a result, they often suffer the worst complications. Lower limb amputations, which about 70,000 Americans with uncontrolled diabetes require each year, cost about $70,000 apiece.
In other words, we spend roughly $5 billion cutting off people’s feet and toes. That doesn’t begin to count the expenses associated with other complications, from kidney disease to blindness.
The old saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” really is true. According to the CDC, “effective blood sugar management can reduce the risk of eye disease, kidney disease, and nerve disease [resulting from uncontrolled diabetes] by 40 percent.”
If we don’t do more to predict patients’ health risks and then improve outcomes, then the trillions we invest in transportation, housing, energy, education, environment, and food have limited value.
At a time when historic progress is being made in treating diseases from cancer to Alzheimer’s, it makes little sense to focus narrowly on cutting drug costs rather than viewing healthcare spending holistically.

Gary A. Puckrein is president and chief executive officer of the National Minority Quality Forum.

Taliban Victories Explain Wisdom of Withdrawal

As I write this column, the Taliban are on a roll. They’ve taken 12 of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals in a single week, including the country’s second and third largest cities (Kandahar and Herat), and Ghazni, which sits astride the main highway connecting Kandahar to the national capital of Kabul.
The U.S. occupation’s puppet president, Ashraf Ghani, blames his government’s debacle in progress on the “abrupt” withdrawal of US forces. Apparently 20 years of the US doing his heavy lifting – contributing not just troops but money, training, and support for his own army – followed by 15 months’ notice of withdrawal, then a three-month extension of the withdrawal deadline, just didn’t give him time to prepare.
American hawks aren’t complaining about the “abruptness” of the withdrawal timeline. They’re appalled that the U.S. would ever, under any circumstances, consider withdrawing at all.
The fiction they’d have us subscribe to is that until and unless Afghanistan becomes a western-style “liberal democracy,” withdrawing means that the 2,500 Americans killed there will have “died for nothing.”
Not true. Those men and women did die for something – something the hawks would rather not talk about. They died to keep the hawks’ campaign coffers (and, via insider stock trading and revolving-door job opportunities, personal bank accounts) full of money from U.S. “defense” contractors.
They did, however, “die for nothing” if the goal was to turn Kandahar into Kokomo. That was never going to happen. And the current situation explains why.
The Taliban’s march down the road toward Kabul didn’t come out of nowhere. The Taliban didn’t wake up one morning, realize U.S. forces were withdrawing, and start planning to take over. They’ve been fighting to re-establish their rule of Afghanistan for two decades now, and for most of that time they’ve been winning.
Even at the heights of the U.S. occupation and its “surges,” Taliban forces have controlled significant portions of the country and enjoyed the support of significant portions of the population.
The Taliban’s impending victory isn’t a function of “abrupt” U.S. withdrawal. The U.S. was always going to leave sooner or later, and the Taliban were always going to be in good position for a final offensive when it did.
The only question is, and always has been, just how much more blood and treasure the U.S. is willing to waste before acknowledging that fact of reality. And the answer to that question should have always been “no more.”

Thomas L. Knapp is director at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism.

City buses will be better with Cuomo gone

As now disgraced New York Governor Andrew Cuomo prepares to step down from his position this coming Monday, officials throughout the City and State are positioning themselves to make the most of the situation. Incoming Governor Kathy Hochul is already working on damage control, opportunistic Republicans are eyeing a victory in next year’s Gubernatorial election, and Mayor Bill de Blasio is revelling in his ‘I told you so’ routine.
However, slightly removed from the spotlight, members of the MTA and DOT have already started to adjust to the new political climate. Evidence of this can be found in the agencies’ joint announcement this week to greatly expand the City’s bus system, with more dedicated bus lanes, improved intersections, and an all-door boarding program planned for the coming two years.
While this announcement might seem askew from the goings on in Albany, it seems planned — or at least appropriate — that bus improvements will begin to be implemented directly after Cuomo’s political collapse is finally complete. The outgoing Governor never made the City’s public transit a priority, due in part to his ego-driven rivalries with former New York City Transit President Andy Byford and Mayor Bill de Blasio.
This week’s announcement could prove to be a small first step in mending the relationship between City and State governments, especially as it pertains to public services like mass transit. However, if you are not feeling that optimistic, it is at least a sign that government agencies can tackle projects that benefit New Yorkers without viewing them through the vain lens of political wins and losses.
Bus improvements are not sexy, but they are needed. More importantly though, they are possible, with even the smallest bit of coordination between different levels of government. Improving our bus system won’t score you quick political points like a new park, daily press conferences, or a bridge named after your father, but it is the right thing to do because it improves quality of life for millions of New Yorkers.
With Cuomo gone, let’s hope that the air of hostility that surrounds him will also subside, and that our government will become less political and more efficient. At the very least, let’s hope that our busses get stuck in less traffic.

Tom Zmich, BP Candidate

Tom Zmich, who previously ran for Congress against Congresswoman Grace Meng, is now looking to unseat Borough President Donovan Richards.
One of Zmich’s priorities is bring rail service back to a 3.5-mile stretch of abandoned railway in Central Queens.
“Even if it’s 22,000 passengers a day, it will still be 22,000 taxpayers who use the line to go to work,” Zmich said.
Another one of Zmich’s priorities is to implement a tourist voucher for people visiting Queens to help small businesses.
“I went to Ireland back in 2015, they had something like a tourist pass for $25,” explained Zmich. “And what they gave you was a 40 percent discount on the attractions in Ireland. We could do something similar to that or even better for a lot of things like museums, horseback riding, golf, or the beach.”
Zmich is also looking to improve education with a private school voucher giving parents more option to public school.
“Right now in New York City, according to the statistics, we spend $27,000 per student for regular school, and over $30,000 for handicapped students or special needs,” explained Zmich.
“Right now, private schooling for first through eighth grade at most regular schools is about $7,000 to $8,000 and they get a private education,” added Zmich. “We give a $15,000 voucher right away to anybody who’s going to go to school.”
Zmich wants to get back to the Queens he knows and loves.
“This is my Queens that I grew up in, I want to bring it back where everybody feels proud enough to be here and not have to be whining and complaining about everything and looking for a handout from the government every five seconds,” he said. “It’s ridiculous.”

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