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Category Archives: Fatality

The Editor Chimes in on Riley’s Song: What have you become, America?

The Editor Responds: What have you become, America?

This is what we’ve become, fellow Americans. It’s nothing to be proud of unless you’re some sort of pervert[1], which most of you are; you like watching without revealing yourselves or speaking up. You like lurking and thinking no one knows your’re there. You like fake names, fake profiles, fake pictures. You like Facebook and fake friends. You like online porn and … well, I’ll stop there. Am I right? Well, now that we can agree on a starting point, here’s where you can give some thought to what you have become —
and whether there’s anything left worth redeeming.

  • On September 12, 2018, 1,464 people read the articlesRiley’s Song: Verse Two” and “Riley’s Mom Responds: A mother’s perspective.”
  • Since we posted “We are Reopening the Case” on September 7, 2018, to September, 13, 2018, we averaged almost 500 new readers a day with an average of almost 600 page views a day.
  • In the period from “We are Reopening the Case” (September 7, 2018) to “Riley’s Mom Responds: A mother’s perspective” (September 12, 2018) we had almost 5,000 new readers on Smalbany Blog.
  • We received a total of 18 comments of which 9 were from cranks with negative comments and 9 were from persons supporting Smalbany’s work on this one investigation.
  • Of the total of 18 comments, 6 were from a sicko calling him/herself “Smalbany is full of crap” using an email “smalbanyisfullofcrap@gmail.com.”  2 were from a weirdo calling him/herself “Douche” and using an email “dickhead@gmail.com ; ”  both of these dingleberries were trying to get a moment of cheap fame in their low lives by stealing from the real issue. The remaining negatives included 1 from a friend of Hagen’s (you can imagine what that one had to say).
  • The remaining 9 were from supporters: 1 from a close friend of Riley (JH), 5 from someone close to Riley, and a touching comment from Riley’s mom (which we published with her permission at “Riley’s Mom Responds: A Mother’s Perspective”). Two others were from a reader/commenter calling him/herself “Tompkins” and more concerned with the name of the road than with the subject matter of the article, and one kind “Keep up the good work” comment.

Do the math: That’s 0.0036% or 4/1000 or 1/250 meaning that only 1 out of every 250 readers got off their ass to make a comment one way or the other. As for the positive comments versus the negative comments, they were evenly divided 9:9. But only 0.0018 or 2/1000 or 1/500 = 1 out of every 500 readers left a comment pro or con.

We can’t believe that so many readers could have been so callous as not to even have left a condolence message for the family, or at least to have insulted Smalbany. Stated another way, we are at a loss that so few of the readers had the courage to have an opinion and share it!

We have to look at these figures and wonder whether Americans have become so dehumanized and so insensitive as not to have given a second thought to a terrible tragedy and a terrible injustice. Yes, readers, this is not only a terrible tragedy, the death of a young man just beginning his life, and a terrible tragedy for his family and friends, it’s a terrible stain on what we so facilely call a country of laws, a God-fearing people, a country founded on humane values, and a country that cherishes family values.

This tragedy is not just a personal tragedy nor is it a merely family tragedy, it’s a social tragedy, an American tragedy. Your responses tell us and everyone just simply viewing the Smalbany blog that Americans are all talk. This tragedy tells the world — Yes! The WORLD! These three articles have been read by people in Canada, France, Sweden, as far away as the Philippines and Dubai, and even in Texas! — this tragedy broadcasts to the entire world what hypocrites Americans are.

I wanna see the world with you
Come on and take me by the hand
Don’t even worry about it you’ll understand
I wanna see the world with you
The way you go out we follow
What’s better than us?
Better than us?
We don’t wanna to know

Riley’s Song[2]

Riley’s Song is a song about youth, love and future. It reminds us of the beauty of Riley “Jeremiah” Kern’s young life and saddens us that his has been cut short.

But our Riley’s Song is the tragic song of what America has become — or not become. Our Riley’s song is about injustice, incompetence, cronyism, cover-ups, infidelity, irresponsibility, lawlessness, favoritism. Our Riley’s song is about a society that has become so materialistic that it has lost all sense of morality and goodness but is so blind as not to even notice the weeping lesions all over its corrupt body.

Riley’s mom asked a question of one of our contributors just yesterday. It was a question about the Biblical prophet Jeremiah, so we had to pass it on to a theologian/clergyperson for a proper response. The fact that she asked the question had more to do with a completely different thought but sometimes things happen for inexplicable reasons. This is one of those things.

You see, she asked what we thought Jeremiah 22 meant. Jeremiah is one of the major Old Testament (First Covenant) prophets, a prophet who is revered as a major prophet by all three Abrahamic traditions: Christianity, Judaism — Jeremiah is so important that he has been made canon in Judaism—, and Islam. Not only is there a Book of Jeremiah, the Book of Lamentations is generally accepted as having been his work. Jeremiah is also known as the “Weeping Prophet,” because when you read his words describing and mourning the fall, capture and destruction of his beloved Jerusalem, and if you read Lamentations, you will hear Jeremiah’s anguish, and yes, tears, in his words. We even have an English word based on Jeremiah’s writings: “jeremiad,” a sad lamentation.

In his response, the Reverend explains:

Jeremiah sends a warning message:

“Doom to the one who builds palaces but bullies people, who makes a fine house but destroys lives, who cheats their workers and won’t pay them for their work, who says, ‘I’ll build me an elaborate mansion with spacious rooms and fancy windows and rare and expensive woods and the latest in interior decor.’” (Jer 22:13-14)

Woe, doom, to the one who takes wonderful care of themselves at the expense of others. Woe, doom, to the one who provides for their own luxuries or comfortable living at the expense of others who work for almost nothing.

We have become driven to get a good feeling without any effort — to make believe that everything is peachy.  Isn’t it right to try to get a good deal, to go where we can get the best deal for the lowest price? Isn’t it wonderful when we can cheat someone out of something and feel good about it, or get a new friend with a mouse click? We love to fool ourselves. When you get a compliment on that fake profile picture on Facebook, we often enjoy telling the story of what great bargain we are. Why is it, when we get something by cheating or screwing someone, we think we’re a smart? Why is it when we have so many virtual friends we actually think we are loved or liked? Is cheap and deceptive always better?

What if we would take a moment when purchasing an item to ask questions like “Why is this so cheap?” or when we accept a friend me invitation, ask, “I wonder who this person really is?.”

We, as a culture, are so absorbed in our consumption of things and entertainment, and even people that we ignore or forget what the actual cost is to ourselves, our own humanness, the rest of the world.  Think of this example, since we are a country that loves kids so much: Some countries are known to use and abuse child labor more than others, and those countries are big exporters to the USA, and Americans do love to get something cheap but they are less interested in knowing the history of the cheap; in other words, they suspend their condemnation of child abuse for a moment so they can enjoy their cheap.

We, as a society, find it very easy to suspend morality, values, ethics, humanity for cheap. But cheap is receiving the benefits without paying the cost involved.

This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place. (Jer 22:3)

I hope that helps you to have at least a starter understanding of this great and sensitive prophet.

Somehow, the young man, Riley, picked up the nickname “Jeremiah,” and used it as his alter ego; it even appears on the cross, the roadside memorial, marking the place where he died. Now isn’t that something to think about?

Think of how this all began: In an article published on August 4, 2018, “Three Articles on New Baltimore Scandals: Pick One or Read All,” just days after Riley’s death, we added just a simple footnote. Just a footnote, asking the question:

Is this a cover up to protect a prominent Ravena family? Doesn’t the young man’s life mean anything or do we just sweep the whole thing under the carpet? We need to start asking questions. The 20-year old man is not just another raccoon, Mr Contento!”[3]

Putting all of this in a sort of perspective, most of our readers will recall a scandalous incident that occurred last March 2018, in the Village of Ravena, at Faith Plaza shopping mall. The incident involved two Coeymans police officers in two Coeymans Police Department vehicles harassing and running over a wild raccoon in full view of dozens of witnesses. The incident was videoed by a witness and appeared on Facebook and YouTube; it went viral and created an international uproar. Not only that, a petition was started called “Justice for raccoon killed by officers from Coeymans Police Department” which was signed by more than 110,000 people! The incident was addressed at the Coeymans Town Board Meeting on March 22 by no less than 5 angry citizens, some coming from as far away as Amsterdam, NY (about 50 miles from Ravena). The speakers were interviewed by local television and print media and the interviews broadcast on the evening news. The story was picked up by a large number of newspapers nationwide. It was a real scandal and it was about the inhumane treatment of an innocent wild animal.

Justice Demanded for a Raccoon. It’s a start.

Smalbany covered the story because it was just another nail in the Police Department’s coffin.

Perhaps we’re being unfair and perhaps we’re missing something. But if 110,000 people will come forward and sign an online petition and leave their comments demanding justice for a wild raccoon, and leave their comments expressing their outrage, what have we been missing in the Riley P. Kern case? Are we missing something or are we trying to avoid the perversion, the ugliness staring us directly in the face?

110,000 signatures, almost as many comments for a raccoon. Almost as many outraged comments. Coverage nationwide by numerous newspapers. Coverage by local print and television media with interviews. Outraged citizens appearing to make public statements at a public Town of Coeymans town board meeting on the record. What are we missing here?

We at Smalbany are not missing a thing, ladies and gentlemen. We are fully aware of what’s going on locally and in society. The real question is: “What are YOU missing?”

Perhaps this Smalbany blog, these articles on Riley, are in fact a jeremiad, bitterly lamenting the state of society and its morals in a serious tone of sustained invective, and even containing a prophecy of our society’s imminent downfall.

Perhaps the questions we are asking are going over your heads. Perhaps you are so far gone that you can’t even understand what we are pointing at and saying: “Wake up! This is a sickening state of affairs! Say, DO something!”

Riley Parker “Jeremiah” Kern is dead. Riley Parker “Jeremiah” Kern was a young human being, a young man, good, kind, handsome, talented, smart; he had a wonderful future ahead of him. Riley Parker “Jeremiah” Kern was killed under clearly suspicious circumstances in a freakish accident. Riley Parker “Jeremiah” Kern is crying out for justice, the justice that even a wild raccoon was able to obtain.

Riley Parker “Jeremiah” Kern has become a symbol full of meaning of what we are, have become, but can yet redeem as human beings.

Take responsibility.  Meet your obligations. Demand Justice.

 


[1] Gotcha! You probably read pervert and went off on a tangent. Well, that’s only because you never got a good education. But that’s the subject of another article. Here’s what a pervert is and how we are using it here: A pervert is someone who has detoured from or altered from their original course, purpose or intendment, their meaning, or state to a distortion or corruption of what was first intended. Human beings were allegedly intended or created to be divine images of Good and Justice. Now can you admit you’re a pervert?
[2] Riley’s Song, Featuring VACAY, Alex Zaichkowski & Shane Harte. Album Songs From The Next Step, Season 3, Volume 1.
[3] Mr. Contento is Sgt Daniel Contento, acting chief of police in the Town of Coeymans. When we refer to a raccoon we are referring to an incident that became an international scandal: Two Coeymans police vehicles harassed and killed a wild raccoon in a public parking lot in full view of dozens of witnesses. We covered the incident in our articles “We are speechless! OMG! Coeymans Police Caught on Video Again!” and “Follow-up Report: Coeymans Raccoon Incident. We still have our doubts!, “ and two other follow-up articles: “Truth be Told: On the Heels of the Coeymans Town Board Meeting” and “Officer Identified!!! Coeymans PD Steve Prokrym Involved in Raccoon Scandal!!!

 

Tragedy or Failure? Watch what you do; take personal responsibility for things like this!

A truly sad event occurred in the morning hours of April 25, 2017, when a young man died as the result of an unfortunate vehicular traffic accident. The event has been called “tragic” but we’d like to call it instructive and meaningful. Logan Penzabene’s death on April 25 was not just the loss of a son, a friend, a young man whose life would have been full of promise; it was a wake-up call to every single politician, law enforcement person, and every member of this bereft community and beyond. The roadside memorials will disintegrate, the tears will dry up, the body will be buried but will the problems and failures persist?

Watch what you do; take personal responsibility for things like this!

The media reports that “The tragic crash took place in the midst of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s teen safe driving campaign, and law enforcement babbles, and as Bethlehem Police Commander Adam Hornick babbles, “It’s even more unfortunate that we had this crash urging a campaign like this where we have such a concentrated effort by law enforcement to cut down on incidents like this.” Hornick hopes others will take the crash as a reminder to drive safe on the roads. Don’t we all?

Regardless of what Gov. Mario Cuomo puts out there politically or what Hornick makes as a public statement on behalf of law enforcement, the fact remains, that many reports and complaints have been made to local law enforcement and to the New York State Police regarding the safety of vehicular traffic on Route 144, where this accident occurred, claiming the life of another young person and severely injuring another.

We made a direct complaint to New York State Police at the toll plaza 22 of the New York State Thruway…

In fact, several weeks ago, we made a direct complaint to New York State Police at the toll plaza 22 of the New York State Thruway regarding the very real and present problem of operators, including passenger vehicles and heavy commercial vehicles, running the stop signs at Rt 144. Details were provided to responding State Troopers but to date we have not been able to observe any police presence at the times we reported such activity nor at any other time.

The New York State Police seem to have plenty of money, personnel and time to escort oversized vehicles down Rt 144, even when commericial escort should be available and doing that service, but the NYS Police don’t seem to have time to enforce the vehicular laws of this state. People are endangered, injured and killed as a result. Why is that?

Know what this means?

We have repeatedly reported on the careless and dangerous operation of vehicles entering and exiting the Port of Coeymans and adjacent Coeymans Industrial Park properties but we have seen no enforcement action taken at that location. Illegal and dangerous passing by motorists when a slow-moving truck pulls out in front of them. Decoy cars parked unlawfully and dangerously on the roadside but no visible control of the heavy truck traffic. Why is that?

On Aprll 25, 2017, Logan Penzabene was killed when he crossed into the on coming lane of traffic. Why was that? What caused him to migrate into that other lane and strike the oncoming vehicle? Texting, using a phone, horsing around in the car? Didn’t take more than a second and it happened! Where are we, people? In LA-LA Land?

The Penzabene Accident Scene

On the one hand we can speak of our unrealistic notion that we are in control of events and that such things are preventable. That’s part of our LA-LA Land arrogance and is somehow believing in magic. Something that is preventable reasonbably leads to the conclusion that if it happened and was not prevented that some mistake was made, and if a mistake was made, someone obviously made it, barring any notion or proof of mechanical failure. In Logan’s case, complete failure of his steering wheel. So if the accident was due to human error, what was it?

Signs pointing in the direction of failure of programs…

While we, as human beings, are blasted into reality when such an event occurs, that reality regrettably lasts only until the memorial shrine disintegrates or a couple of days after the funeral. Then it’s back to business as usual. Here’s the stupid-rule: the more stupidity, more so-called tragedies. But the real tragedy is still the stupidity. The stupidity of educators, parents, law enforcement and policy makers. These events are not just deaths, they are evidence of failures but no one seems to think of these events as signs pointing in the direction of failure of programs. So the so-called tragedies continue.

It’s half-arsed damage control…

Quite frankly, it’s half-arsed damage control when the RCS school district plays the caring and compassionate student-centered educators by announcing that “grief counselors are being made available to students and staff in the Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk school district. This follows the death of RCS grad, Logan Penzabene. He was killed in a car crash Tuesday in Selkirk.” Too little, too late  And if RCS Superintendent of Schools Robert Libby sent a letter home with each student in the district informing families about the fatal accident Wednesday, he’s going to have to do a hell of a lot more than just sending students home with letters. But does he have any clue what to do?

Cuomo’ s public announcement of a so-called “teen safe driving campaign” isn’t going to do it. Hornick’s wishful thinking and so-called efforts to cut down on inicidents” like the Penzabene incident isn’t going to come to any fruition. Why? Because they are smoke and mirror shows, empty!

If efforts and programs worked, why is it, as Hornick reports, that “[T]he community has already been through this; the town has,” Hornick said. “This is the second fatal in town in six months.” Second “fatal” but what about the others, the non-fatal ones. If Hornick’s efforts were as colorful as his title,  Bethlehem Police Commander, maybe we’d see some change.

In our May 3 article “Enuf already! Freaks and Scofflaws” we  reported on a local business vehicle apparently operated by an employee of Eagle Tools in West Coxsackie. That report was provided on the very day of Penzabene’s funeral, on May 3! That truck ran a stop sign, was traveling at a low speed, was crossing over into the oncoming lane numerous times, never used a turn signal. And that’s someone allegedly with a commercial driver’s license!

And what about the rest of you? You’re all just as guilty! Just open your eyes while you’re driving and observe what’s happening around you, and the hazards and dangers being created randomly by your fellow vehicle operators. Better still, just count the hazardous and dangerous habits you have behind the wheel. Precious cargo on board signs merely obstruct visibility even if you were using your rear view mirrors; programs and efforts don’t work unless the community actively commits to the program and actively participates in the efforts.

What are you doing to ensure you don’t get that knock at the door or that telephone call starting,
“I’m afraid I have some bad news…”

This is not the time to start thinking…

It would also help if law enforcement did less talking and responded more proactively to real complaints and reports of vehicular misconduct and careless operation.

Cuomo is a politician and spends most of his time in a very secure environment, most of the time in New York City. We have to live in the community. We have to use the roads. We have to try to stay alive despite the stupidity of those around us. What to we do about stupidity? Well, you could start by being less stupid yourselves.

So forget all the empty “You’re in our prayers” crapola. Forget the roadside memorials. Forget the sentimental expressions of superficial sympathy. Forget Cuomo and his idiotic empty programs. And forget law enforcement efforts that are practically non-existent if we can judge by their response to real complaints and ongoing problems. Do something that is really effective: Mind your manners!

While human compassion blots out reason in the acute moments of such loss, and loss it is in myriad ways, and our heartfelt sympathy goes out to Logan’s devastated family and friends, we have to look at this event as having an incredible meaning for everyone: Logan’s death has become an icon, an icon that demands that we take responsibility for our own actions and accept accountability. If Logan’s death is to have any meaning at all, it’s up to his young friends, his community, and all of us to be responsible and obey our laws, take our time, be mindful of the moment, and to realize our duties and obligations not only to ourselves but to those around us as well. Period.

Read a Related Article at No Empty Chair at the Dinner Table.

Download the final article from Spirituality & GriefcareNo Empty Chair

Thank you, Logan!
The Editor