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"Our Liberties We Prize, Our Rights We Will Defend."

Commentary on national and local events from the standpoint of a Trenton city resident and state worker.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Oil is Ours

Yes, the Oil is Ours.  It's a slogan from Brazil in the 1950s, but it is equally appropriate today in the United States.  The environmentalist assholes were telling us back in 2009 or 2010 that "we can't drill ourselves out of this one" and we shoved it up their collateral assholes.  We now produce more oil than Saudi Arabia and are the number 1 oil producer in the world,  Now those assholes want to take our very successful weapon away. They want to kill fracking.

Now you are probably thinking that I am somehow beholden to the oil companies.  Yes, I own a few shares of oil companu stock, but that is because oil is the "lavor of the month" for us value stockholders.  You can blame Saudi Arabia for that.  They contunue to pump their hearts out when they really should cut back and r=drive prices back up.

Before I get bac to the gist of this story, I want to say a few things about the pirates that market their products to seniors.  They think they know us, but in fact they do not.  I had some jerkoff at Investors Bank try to sell me an anuity for 8 percent with "no risk"{/  Of course I told him to go to hell.  Why?

First, I am not risk adverse, rather I love risk.  Som 19th century capitalist, I don't know who, once said the time to invest is when blood is running in the streets.  I am of that ilk.  You want to make the real money, you must have brass balls.  And that is from an American senior citizen.  Maybe its time for the jerkoffs in charge to retoll their marketing strategy.

Back to "The Oil is Ours".  We were able to access the other half of America's oil that is still in the ground.  Why give it away to foreigners?  Mr Obama oppooses lifting restrictions on exporting American oil because of the global warming theory.  Whether man casuses climate change or not, it doesn't matter.  It is occuring.  The meterological data tells us that the eart is getting warmer.  I just don't think it is ourt obligaton as the second-largest catbon emitter to do anything about it.  In fact, there is no direct proff that catbon hioxide or man has anything to do with the warming at all.

Moving New Jersey to the climate of South Carolina.  Sounds like a wonderful idea.  I love golbal warming.  Notice I'm not stupid enough to buy a house at the shore.

Yes, as someone with a Bachelor of Science degree, I take my degree title literally.  I won't dismiss the ideas of global warming advocates literally/  I think we ought to develop alternative energy scource (wind and solar) so they become practical.  We also must use the most practical solution to minimizing our carbon footprint that is avalilable tofay.  In oned word, that is natural gas.

I am a stong supporter of the PennEast pipeline.  I make no secret of the fact that I got thousands of dollars invested in PSEG.  But does that have anything to do with my decision to support the pipeline proposed for Hopewell Township?  Perhaps, but perpharilly, I invest where value is and that can change in a heartbeat.

No, I actually care about the environment and that's why I support the PennEast pipeline.  So why would I support something that RiverKee[er and the Sierrs Club oppose?  Just let me answer the question.  Can we reduce carbon emmissions from converting the Duck Island PSEG gemerating plant from coal to gas?  Of cource yes.  But in order to do this, we need a plentyfuk and reliable source of gas.  And that is embodied in the PennEast pipeline.  So let's build it..

And that is from a guy who owns several several hundred shares of Associated Resources Partnership (ALRP).  Yes, I love coal too.   But I lopve my planet more.  Let's build the pipeline and move on to the future.  And for now, that's natural gas, not wind and solar.


Friday, July 3, 2015

Who Reads This Thing Anyway?

To answer the question in the headline, some things are expected while other things are surprising.

I get about 15 to 20 hits on most posts, and most of those hits are within the first week or so.  It looks like I got a small group of followers who actually read this thing.  That's not all that surprising, I wasn't expecting to have much of an audience.

However, certain articles, primarily the stuff written in 2010 and 2011 have attracted hundreds or even thousands of hits over the years.  By far the most popular is "Christie Contributors Outted" which is a list of Chris Christie's contributors for the first governor campaign as posted on the state's website.  It no doubt has found new life since he is now running for president.  Not all the popular stuff has to do with politics.  The article on Rosa Luxemburg  probably was researched by every 6th grader in Germany writing a term paper on one of their country's leading historical figures.  Also popular are writings about Packards, my water filtration system, the dirty house with the roaches and Mayor Janice Miranov.

I would like to digress a little here.  I put the posts up about Ms. Miranov not because she is a lousy mayor (25 years in office, the voters must like her) or any particular dislike for transgender people or her decision to become a woman.  Its more because she is a public figure that represents herself as a genetic woman when that is obviously not so.  Mot many gals I know have a baritone voice or have an Adam's apple.  And besides a man in a dress trying to present himself in a serious light just comes off funny.  The audience from China to America thinks so too.  One favorite was the video of Ms. Miranow with the police in formation standing at attention.  One wonders how the police chief was able to keep a straight face.

Of course most of the traffic that doesn't come here directly comes from Google.  I would like to express my gratitude to Trenton Katt for linking to my site because she was also an important source of traffic.

The most common country where visitors come from is the United States, of course.  Do you knw what #2 is?  Why it is Ukraine.  Why, I really can't say.  Perhaps it has something to do with this unlikely site that links to mine.  It is, a porn site written in the Cyrillic alphabet.  I don't know what the connection is between this site and Ukrainians or Russians seeking out dirty movies, but perhaps they find some value in the stuff that is posted here.  I also get steady visitors from Russia, France, Germany and the UK.  Can't figure it out, where are those Canadians and Aussies?

Ban Smoking in City Parks?......Really?

Do you inhale?  Like next to the guy with the big stoogie when walking in the park?  I hope not, but I still never thought smoking outdoors was that big a deal.  We now have people trying to ban smoking everywhere - even on solitary walks i  the park.  I don't smoke, but smoking outdoors doesn't bother me.  In any event, with the crime problem here, we have bigger fish to fry.

A few years ago, an anti-smoking group ran a commercial on national TV featuring cartoon characters.  I don't remember the content of the commercial exactly, but fanciful claims about the benefits of smoking were made, then one character says in response to the other "Really?".

The implication of course is that any claims that smoking is beneficial are pure fantasy, just as talking cartoon characters are also fictitious.  Perhaps the anti-smoking group lobbying city council for a law against smoking in city parks should take heed to their own propaganda and realize they are coming across like a bunch of idiots.

For the third year in a row, the anti-smoking ordinance has been introduced to city council.  The first time, in 2013, it was voted down.  In 2014 it was tabled after several residents objected.  Maybe they should take a hint, but the cigarette Nazis never seem to give up.

The rationale given for this law is that a majority of people responded "yes" to a survey at National Night Out asking whether or not they wanted smoking banned in parks.  The group also mentioned that smoking is banned in parks at about a quarter of all municipalities in New Jersey, including Princeton and it is time for Trenton to get with the program.

So why not then?  For one thing, several city councilmen stated that they never got any complaints from residents about smoking in the parks.  And the 50 survey participants at the National Night Out event are not representative of the city's 60,000 or so residents.  They are likely to be more politically engaged and probably wealthier and more educated than typical people who live here.  After all a sizable minority of city dwellers are at least occasional users of illegal drugs such as marijuana.  And reefer is normally smoked, isn't it.

So what, who cares what the unwashed masses think.  We need this law to "protect the children" and "for people's health".  My response is that our children have seen a lot worse things than a few people smoking tobacco outdoors and "health" is often the excuse given to promote a puritanical agenda.  After all why can we buy paint and can smell the fumes to our heart's content if we are painting something, but if we put the paint in a bag, then breathe from the bag in a deliberate attempt to get high, that's illegal.  I don't recommend that anyone sniff paint, but one gets you just as sick as the other.  The point is not to protect people the ill effects of paint fumes but to keep people from using the product to get high.  The same can be said about this law.  It is not to protect anybody's health but to take away one more place where we can still legally smoke.

Of course there's the most practical reason of all for not passing this law.  Trenton doesn't have the manpower to enforce it.  To prove my point, I will list the headlines from the three police blotter entries from the July 3rd edition of the Trenton Times.  They are, "Boy Wounded in Drive-by Shooting", "Two Hurt by Gunfire on N. Broad Street",  and "Argument Ends in Early Morning Gunfire".  Now let's see, the suburban towns have police blotter entries about things like cut car tires and nothing less than a shooting that results in a wounding makes the police blotter in Trenton.  Perhaps our police should be concentrating on arresting people involved in violent crime rather than looking for people lighting up in the parks.

I can see it now, a squad of cops diverted to the anti-smoking patrol while the bodies pile up on city streets.  Perhaps the extra money brought in by those $500 fines for lighting up in the park can go to hire more cops.  That's revenue enhancement at its finest.

So let's get back to reality and kill the anti-smoking bill.  Our cops have more important things to do.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

What Is It About Anyway?

This is a plaque located at the Confederate cemetery in Pennsville, New Jersey.  The cemetery was used to bury prisoners who died at Fort Delaware, located on Pea Patch Island in the middle of the Delaware River.  Conditions at the camp were so bad it came to be known as the Andersonville of the North.

Last Wednesday, a 21 year old youth, Dylann Roof decided it would be a good idea to go to the oldest African Methodist Episcipal church in the country and kill nine parishioners.  We know he recently got a gun given to him by his father on his 21st birthday.  He also was a loner who had few friends in high school, took a lot of drugs, did not work, and lived at home with his parents.  He also surfed racist websites especially the one run by the Council of Conservative Citizens, which is a reconstituted white citizens council like those that existed across ACmerica in the 1950s and 1960s.  He also had his own Facebook page where he posted a manifesto as well as pictures of him burning American flags and waving Confederate flags.

I think he might be a racist.  No duh!  Think he might have a little mental problem.  Probably.  Were his parents living with their heads stuck in the sand, not noticing anything  was wrong in their son's life.  Most certainly.  Why else would you buy someone in his state a mind a gun.

Perhaps the whole situation could have been prevented if someone stepped in and got him the help he needed.  Intervention doesn't always work with the mentally ill, but we do know that if you do nothing, the outcome can't be good.

So let's say for now that these murders were the work of a disaffected youth and that this was all about what happens when someone feels powerless and sees no alternative but violence to get their point across.  Maybe he was mentally ill.  Perhaps he was just as normal as any revolutionary, but he didn't have the organizational skills to put an army together and realized there was no way that the establishment would allow people with his viewpoint to have legitimate access to the political process.  More about this latter,

What the problem is not about is the Confederate flag.  Also, it is not about the lack of strict gun control.

The liberal establishment, as epitomized  by the mainstream media, are not interested in solving the problems of violence or of racism.  Instead, they grasp at straws and try to use acts of violence that shock the public conscience as a means to advance their agenda.  On Thursday morning CNN was already reporting about "public outrage" and why we should sharply restrict gun ownership as they did in England or Australia.  In a couple days they saw this wasn't catching on so they latched onto the NAACP's wagon and pounded  us constantly about some so-called national movement to get rid of the Confederate flag on the state capitol grounds in Columbia, SC.

When they showed the "crowds" protesting the flag, it was clear they were made up only of a handful of people, probably no more than 100.  The network's announcers and guests spoke about how the flag is a symbol of "hate" and doesn't belong on public display in 21st century America anywhere, much less at the state capitol.

What they neglect to mention is where on the capital grounds the flag is located, which is at the Confederate civil war monument which was erected in honor of the veterans who fought for South Carolina.  They also don't mention how the flag got where it is today.  It used to fly from the statehouse dome, but the NAACP, as they are doing again now, argued that the flag doesn't belong on a government building.  After a boycott against tourism to the state among other NAACP actions, the state legislature in 1990 voted to move the flag to a more fitting spot, which is the memorial.  There it represents the past and honors the veterans who fought for it.  It no longer is an endorsement by the state for present-day support for slavery or other ideas supported by the Confederacy.

Civil War memorials are a common-sense place to display the Confederate flag.  The Sons of Confederate Veterans, which is made up of the descendants of Confederate soldiers supports this use.  You will even find Confederate flags flying in New Jersey at the Finns Point National Cemetaey located near Pennsville in Salem County.

But the opportunistic bullies behind the attack on the Confederate flag don't care about what was agreed on the South Carolina state house flag in 2000.  They don't even care that the flag didn't have anything to do with the deaths in Charleston.  They want to get rid of all Confederate flags everywhere and will use whatever tactics necessary to do so.   Yesterday, Sears, Walmart, Ebay and Etsy all announced that they will no longer sell the flag either in stores or on their websites.  Of course they didn't do this out of the kindness of their hearts.  They probably were threatened with a boycott by the NAACP or whoever is orchestrating this crap.  They want the controversy to end so they can get back to selling what they sell.  Getting rid of the flag is the easiest way to get there.

And its not just flags.  The State of Virginia is taking steps to get rid of SCV-endorsed vanity license plates that contain the SCV emblem, which is based on the Confederate flag.  I guess this is another attack on the descendants of Civil War vets.  After all, we're not talking about a KKK plate or anything like that.  This is a veteran's organization similar to the Daughters of the American Revolution.

What's next in this silly wave of attacks?  I bet if we give in, the monuments will be gone, the street names will be gone and all vestiges of the Old South will be erased .  Already an attempt was made in Congress to have the statues of Confederate heroes removed from the Capitol in Washington.  At least that idea is on ice for now.

If we really want to stop the few nuts that do what Dylann Roof did, why not pass a national right to carry law.  Here's how it works.  Anyone who can pass the standard federal background test will be able to buy a handgun.  States and localities would be unable to have their own more restrictive laws.  Everyone who can pass the background test can get a federal concealed carry permit, which will work pretty much anywhere except for maybe airports and post offices.  Again, states won't be able to interfere.  Then there will be a lot more people packing heat just about everywhere.  Since we have had no success keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and nuts, we can cut down on crime by arming more people.  Then the criminals and nuts would be less likely to pull their guns on innocent people because there will be a high likelihood that they will get shot by the people they are trying to kill.

It may sound crazy, but the gun crime is lower in places that allow the right to carry than it is in places with strict gun control.  That's because only normal honest people obey laws.  The criminals don't care and will carry guns anyway.  The nuts also seem to get guns regardless of what the laws are.  Allow people to be adults and defend themselves.   Also, please leave the Confederate flag out of this.

Here's a picture of Dylann Roof doing what he does best.  Now this's what I call a real patriotic American.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Constitutional Surgury

The New Jersey Supreme Court issued an opinion today siding with the governor who has been saying that the parts of the 2011 pension reform law that require state and local government employees to pay more for their pensions and to suspend the annual cost of living raises are binding but the part that requires the governor to make annual contributions to the fund is not.

Basically the court said that one legislature cannot make a promise to bind a future legislature to appropriate the money and also that the legislature cannot bind the public to pay a debt without a referendum on the election ballot.

To see the full text of the court's decision click here:

Forget the legal mumbo jumbo.  What the court says is that Christie can walk away from a deal he made with the unions to give up  our cost of living raises and to put more into our pensions but he doesn't have to put up the money to pay us.  That's the same thing as allowing a car dealer to enforce a contract to make payments on a car without actually giving you the vehicle. 

Would you pay for a vehicle the seller refuses to provide because he says he got a bad deal and now wants more money.  No, a deal between private parties is a deal and you are not supposed to walk away from it.  In fact a court would almost most certainly require the dealer to produce the car on the original terms in this example.

If you have been following this blog for a few years, you would know that I have portrayed Senate President Steven Sweeney as a villan in the past.  Yes, I thought at the time that the 2011 pension reform bill was a bad deal and Sweeney joined hands with the governor and supported it.  However times and alliances change and Sweeney is now on our side.  After all, the legislature voted to put the money in the budget to fully fund the pension for the last two years, but the governor used a line item veto to take it out.  The legislature was willing to pay, but the governor refused.

So why not override the veto.  It is not that simple because at least a two-thirds vote is required in both houses to override but only a simple majority to pass a bill.  Problem is the Democrats don't have the necessary 2/3 vote and the Republicans refuse to break party discipline and vote against the governor.  In fact under Christie, the legislature has never overrode a veto.

So remember, if you are a public worker or pensioner and you like the Republicans because they are against abortion, support family values, oppose gay marriage or want to "protect the taxpayer" don't cry when your pension goes bye-bye or your kids or grand kids can't get a state job with a pension.  Only blame yourself because you chose to vote against your economic self interest.

The rich as a group never vote against their self interest.  That's why the Republicans are against a millionaire tax and support reducing welfare, Medicaid and food stamp benefits.  (By the way these programs cost very little in comparison to things that benefit the rich like corporate welfare or the middle class like homestead rebates for senior citizens.)

Unfortunately, aside from going to the US Supreme Court and again arguing impairment of contract, there is little the unions can do.  That is because our state constitution makes the NJ Governor the most powerful governor in the country.

Perhaps we could somehow convince the public to vote to accept our pensions as a public debt.  In the past it was looked on as deferred wages payable based on a promise to provide a lifetime pension at the time of hire.  There was a state supreme court case from the 1950s that said so.  Its nice to know that the men in the dresses (read robes) chose to ignore their own precedent.

Men in dresses.  That may be why they did what they did here.  See judges have no real power if the governor refuses to play ball.  A Republican lawmaker was proposing that the governor should defy the court and refuse to pay up if the court ordered him to.  And how would the court enforce it, have the governor arrested or something.  And suppose they did and the state police refused to arrest him because they work under the authority of the governor, not the judiciary.

This is why judges tend to avoid these situations.  Because vis-a-vis the executive branch they are powerless (unless the executive branch chooses to obey).

So how do straighten out the judges and the governor.  Very easy, pass two constitutional amendments.

The first would eliminate the line item veto and force the governor to sign and approve or veto and reject bills as a whole.  That is the way things work on the federal level in Washington.  It forces political leaders in both parties to compromise if they hope to get anything done.  If there was no line item veto, simply drawing a line through the pension appropriation a d counting on party discipline to prevent an override would not work. That is because a veto would mean no budget and a government shutdown.  The Governor would be forced to work with the legislature to come up with budget both can live with even if it is not what the governor wants.

To do this is only right.  We elect our lawmakers to pass laws that benefit us.  Let's let them do their job even if the governor doesn't like the results.

The second amendment would provide for the election of judges every four years.  Judges would have no tenure.  They would be responsible to the public to keep their jobs by standing for election just like the governor and legislators.  They have this system in Pennsylvania and most other states.  In New Jersey, judges are appointed by the governor with the consent of the senate.  After the first four years, they must be reappointed and reapproved by the senate to keep their jobs.  After that they got their jobs for life.

Tell me if that sounds like democracy to you.  You get judges you don't get to pick and once you get them twice you are stuck with them forever as long as they want the job.  Conrade Stalin didn't even have it this good.  (Someone would have blown off his head if he went too far against those who mattered, meaning the Communist Party.)   Actually, one theory was that he was assassinated by omission, Beria and his other aides didn't call the doctors right away after he had his stroke.

I would go one step further that Pennsylvania and most other states.  American Bar Association rules prohibit judges from taking positions on issues or criticizing sitting opponents on how they voted on a case.  That is because the law is supposed to be pure and rulings should not be influenced by political ideology.  Hogwash.  We know that judges vote their political beliefs, that's why there are fights between Democrats and Republicans in the Senate every time a judicial appointment comes up.

Let judicial candidates campaign on the issues.  Let them stand before the public for their jobs and let them be accountable to their public for their beliefs and actions.  That's how democracy works and that's how the courts should work too.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Baby on the Barbie

Here is a story that's sicker than fiction.

What do you do when you commit incest on a 14-year old girl and realize she's pregnant.  Of course you get your family together, then hold the girl down and beat her in the stomach until she miscarries.  Then you dispose of the body, and the best way to do that is barbecue it on the family grill until it is good and crispy.  Or at least that's what this Dallas family recently did.

To read the local TV station's account of the event read here:

When you can read about this stuff happening in real life, who needs horror movies.

Anyone up for (human) baby back ribs?  Now that's my idea of good barbecue.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Going Past My Expiration Date

My wife was going to retire effective June 1, but I talked her out of it.  I believe she won't be able to deal with being alone each day with nothing to do.  So I advised her to keep working and we'd eventually retire together.

She works at the Labor Department as a clerk and has been there for almost 39 years. She believes that she put in her time and wants out.  Sounds reasonable, since she started the job back in 1976.  That may seem like a long time to you, and I guess it is, until you look at my secretary.  She started with the department back in 1969, when I was dealing with my 6th grade teacher. Mrs Griswold at Kuser School in Hamilton.

Although my wife didn't leave this time, her coworkers arranged an in-office party for her over the lunch hour.  I saved a copy of the flyer advertising the event, which was sitting on the library table in my living room.  Over last weekend I picked it up and put it in an old dresser which is in the attic where I put keepsakes.

Inside the dresser I found a wooden box which says Euphoria Chocolate Company on the lid.  It came from a gift I got from my sister in the early 1980s when she lived in Eugene Oregon which is where the chocolate company is still located.  (The advertising on the box worked, I ordered 4 pounds of chocolate yesterday.)

Inside the box was a bunch of junk dating from the 1980s including a Holland for Mayor button (Trenton's mayor at the time) as well as a union button from American Standard.  They were represented by the Glass, Pottery, Plastics and Allied Workers union.  Lastly, there was a work ID from the Mercer County Board of Social Services.  It was dated May 13, 1983 and listed my job title as IMT.  I was an Income Maintenance Technician at the county welfare office and took applications from potential clients and either approved or denied benefits based on the information I obtained.

Looking at the young man on the ID, I suddenly realized that the picture was shot 32 years ago and that my career in government service is drawing to a close.  It is not a question of if I will retire, but when, and that the time remaining on the job will probably be measured in months, not years.

By the way I went to a retirement party last week which was for my former supervisor when I worked as a field analyst.  Another analyst, who assigned NAICS codes to companies announced last Tuesday that he would be gone on Friday.  Since he went to my old supervisor's party, that party was for him too.

Yes, they are falling out all around me, and soon I will be gone as well.  I can only hope that the state supreme court rules that Christie  has to obey his own pension reform law and fully fund the pension.  Then maybe it will still be around to support me in retirement.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Here's Something We Can All Agree On

Coal rolling is the latest fad to hit rural America.  It involves taking a diesel pickup truck and modifying it by putting exhaust stacks in the bed and rigging it with controls that allow it to burn extra fuel on command.  The result is a cloud of black smoke,perfect for gassing environmentalist fairies that drive Priuses, Mini Coopers and the like.  Sounds like real fun!
One of the things we miss out by living in an urban state like New Jersey is learning to appreciate the latest trends of the trailer park set.  If we lived in the rural  South, we would certainly be familiar with the latest fad to be adopted by pickup trucking gearheads.  And that's coal rolling, which is a guranteed way of terrorizing city slickers.

It seems that the New Jersey legislature got wind of this trend and decided to protect the motoring public from pollution-loving yahoos.  They passes a new law which makes it illegal to modify a vehicle for coal rolling.  It also makes it illegal to coal roll.  Since it already is illegal to drive a smoking car, I not sure what this part of the  law will accomplish beyond what present laws do.  But is nice to know that people won't be able to rig their trucks to spew clouds of black smoke and have them pass inspection in this state.

Governor Christie signed this law so for once he did something I can totally support. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

We Had it First

For as far back as there were churches up until the early 20th century, swastikas were common fixtures in Christian religious buildings.  Here is a Byzantine mosaic in modern Israel.

Today is Sunday, and although I have gotten out of the habit, I decided to go to church today.  I'm a Catholic and happened to be riding down South Broad Street around 10:30 this morning.  I noticed people entering the church and guessed that mass was about ready to start.  I was right.

This church was built sometime in the first quarter of the 20th century, and from its Gothic design with decorated wood timbers up by the ceiling, I believe it probably was originally a congregation of people who hailed from northern Europe.  The church as a brown mosaic tile floor, which was probably made locally back in the days when Trenton was a center of the pottery industry.

What struck me as strange is that in the border of the tiles in the center isle there are swastikas as well as other iterations of the cross such as the Maltese cross.  I did a Google search and found out that swastikas were often used as decorations on buildings prior to the 1930s, when the symbol became associated with Hitler and the Nazis.   Prior to the Nazis, the swastika in the west was considered a symbol of good luck and to this day remains a sacred symbol for Hindus in India.

For those who are concerned with sourcing, here is a link to the Wikipedia article:

Another strange practice which has found its way into the Catholic mass in the last 10 or 15 years is the Hitler salute.  The priest says "Hold your arms out in gladness to the Lord" and the congregation responds with the Nazi salute.  No it doesn't happen in all churches, but I have seen it in some places like St. Ann's in Lawrenceville.  No, it is not really the Nazi salute.  They stole it from us.  It is the old Roman salute from the days of the empire.

It is important not to let others destroy the symbols of our past by hijacking then and using then for evil purposes.  We as Americans own the swastika as part of our collective heritage and the Catholic church owns the outstretched arm which we got from ancient Rome.  So why not use them and be proud of them 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

It Only Gets Better

Since Tony Mack was elected mayor in June 2010, he has certainly found his place in New Jersey political infamy.   Itt would be hard for someone else to top the antics that have gone on at city hall sine he took office.

Just when it looked like things were returning to normal, in July the crap hit the fan.  First, the headlines screamed that the FBI raided Mack's home on Berkeley Square, as well as one of his brother's houses and the home of a financial backer and personal friend, Jo-Jo Georgiani, who owns a sandwich shop and was convicted of raping a 14 year old girl in the early 1980s. 

At the time JO-Jo weighed 550 pounds and his defense was that she wanted it and could have run away from such a fat man if she wanted to.  Well the law changed in 1982 and the age of concent was raised to 16 so if it happened today, he would be considered a sex offender whether she wanted it or not, but back in the day the prossecutors had to prove coersion which they did.   After the conviction, he managed to get released from prison because he was too fat and jail would likely kill him.  He was sent back after being caught on camera smoking a cigar at an Atlantic City Boxing match.

What Do You Think Now?

Back a couple of years ago when I was blogging a lot, I was in the habit of criticizing both Governor Christie and Mayor Tony Mack.  Well if there was any doubts about Mr. Mack, that was settled last year when he was shipped off to federal prison last year.  He'll be cooling his heels for five years for his role in a scheme where he collected "commissions" for approving actions by the city that benefited the people who put up the money.  This of course included the deal to approve a fake parking garage that was proposed and greased through by FBI agents posing as developers.

You got to hand it to him.  He was one enterprising dude who even associated with a corpulent Italian-American sandwich shop owner and  mobster wannabee who collected the money and passed it along to the mayor.  He once famously stated in a wiretapped phone conversation that the setup was just like Tammany Hall.  That just about says it all.

The people he appointed to key positions were just as sleazy as he was, including the municipal court judge who is now getting ready to go to federal court for extortion for shaking down immigrants by threatening them with deportation if they didn't pay up or the city manager who was caught buying heroin a block from City Hall.  Yes, these people of sterling character are what every town needs for leaders.

With Christie, the verdict is not as clear.  According to the latest polls, about a third of the state's voters still support the governor and approve with the way he is handling the state's affairs.  Perhaps this is a little higher than the approval rating or our convicted felon mayor, but still not impressive.  It reflects the share of state residents that are hard-core Republicans that would support and vote for anybody with an R behind their name, no matter what.

So what about the other two-thirds of the electorate, and why do they disapprove.  Perhaps it may have something to do with the fact that many people whose homes were damaged by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012 still haven't gotten their money yet, while many others who have gotten paid still can not rebuild due to the state's Byzantine building permit approval process.  Or it might be due to Bridgegate, the scandal revolving around blocking off traffic to and from the George Washington Bridge because the mayor of the town on the Jersey side of the bridge wouldn't endorse the governor's reelection campaign for governor in 2013.  OK, so far no written record has connected the governor to the people in the Governor's Office and New York Port Authority that ordered the lane closures.  But no written records connect mafia dons to their subordinates when they do hits either.  No way did the bridge closures take place with the knowledge and consent of the governor.  He was just careful enough not to leave a trail.

Maybe some of the opposition also has to do with how our governor, who together with his wife, made $650,000 last year, wants to treat retirees.  No, his contempt for retirees goes deeper than a desire to cut benefits for folks who worked for state and local government in New Jersey.  While campaigning for president in New Hampshire, Christie proposed his fix for Social Security.  He wants to rails the retirement age to 70 and cut benefits for most retirees by as much as 20 percent.  True, he says this will only affect top wage earners, but what is exactly a top earner.  No they are not just CEOs and the like, but many middle class people as well.  In order to max out Social Security, workers need only earn a little over $100,000 a year, which is not exactly millionaire wages for someone in an urban state like New Jersey.  And we still do not know what the cutoff is for top earners.  Is it $60,000 a year or $50,000.  Some bus drivers make more than this.

Besides, the governor said basically who cares about Social Security.  Everybody should or as he and his stockbroker wife do.  They should build up a portfolio of investments.  Fine for you Governor, but you make $650,000 a year.  What about the rest of us.  Did you think that this statement comes across like Marie Antoinette's quote "let them eat cake.".

So the governor promises to do for Social Security what he so far has done for the state's public employee pension funds.  In 2011, he signed legislation where he promised to fully fund the pension in exchange for pensioners giving up annual cost of living increases and for workers contributing more to the fund.  He made the required contribution in 2012 and 2013  and trumpeted the law as the salvation of the pension system.

Starting in 2014, Christie sharply reduced contributions and violated the law he once praised.  In 2014 he refused to make the required contributions, because he said the state did not have the money to do this, give homestead rebates to low-income residents and seniors, pay for Medicaid or fund school districts.  The union sued and in June 2014, weeks before the end of the fiscal year the state Supreme Court sided with the governor for that year, saying it would cause too much disruption to require the governr to come up with the money, but warned him to fund the pension in future years.

Now it is 2015, and the governor is out to test the old adage about not having to listen to men in dresses.  After that's all supreme court judges are, just men in dresses.  And just like Stalin who once asked how many divisions does the Pope has, Cristie has total contempt for the power of the judiciary.  So, just like the wiseass he is, he took the pension money out of the budget that the legislature put in.  See in New Jersey we have the line item veto, which allows the governor to go through the budget to eliminate the items that the legislature included and take them out without vetoing the whole budget.  His reason again is he'd rather spend the state's tax revenue on the general fund rather than pensions and he refuses to consider tax increases.

Of course the unions sued.  The governor's argument now is that the promise in the 2011 pension law that the state fully fund the pension is unconstitutional because the legislature can not tell the governor how to spend the state's money and it is unconstitutional because there was no state referendum where voters got to approve spending state funds on pensions.  Of course he says the part of the law that raised worker contributions and suspended cost of living raises is still binding on the workers.

He wants his cake and eat it too.  He wants to courts to say he doesn't have to pay anything into the pension fund if he doesn't want to, but the workers still have to accept benefit cuts and higher contributions.  And to add insult to in jury, a recent Star-Ledger said that the money workers pay toward their pensions isn't going into the pension fund, but rather is being put into the general fund as is any other tax revenue.  I n short, tis money coming out of our paychecks that is supposed to be going toward pensions  is being stolen from us.

So far the case has made it through the Appellate Division and is scheduled for the state Supreme Court.  The appellate court says the state has to come up with the money.  This is correct.  Christie wanted the dog, he bought the dog, now he has to pay for the dog.  And now it doesn't matter what he wants  if the Supreme Court agrees, he will have to swallow the dog and find the money to pay no matter what.  So much for the power of men in dresses.

Come on now Christie.  You bill yourself as being a regular Jersey guy.  And part of being a regular guy is keeping your word.  You wanted the law, you got the law.  Now honor the law even if it means a tax increase.

Suppose the governor ignores the judicial crossdressers and does not pay up?  The fund will go dry in nine year according to our union.  Does that mean the state can somehow get out of their obligations.  Not if no one allows it to.  Federal bankruptcy law doesn't allow states to walk away from their debts.  States can't go bankrupt now because they are considered sovereign entities with the absolute power to tax.  They are like Paulie in Goodfellows.  Don't want to raise taxes....Pay me!  Can't find the money.....Pay me!  No money for pensions.....too bad, Pay Me!   That is because states can dax the last dime, and the federal government doesn't care.

After al the federal constitution says that states do not have the power to impair contracts.  In other words, if a state agrees to something, they must pay up.  Of course, given the current Republican trend on the national scene, Congress might try to get a constitutional admendment through that will allow states to declare bankruptcy.  This is doubtful though, for any law that will allow states to abandon pensions and revoke union contracts will also allow states to walk away from the claims of vendors and private bondholders.  In other words if the pensioners don't get paid, the capitalists don't get paid either.

Lets face it Mr. Christie.  You already screwed up your chances of being president.  So do the right thing.  Keep your word and pay into the pension fund to save future New Jersey taxpayers untold grief nine years down the road. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

How to Make an Outdoorsman


How do you make a boy into an outdoorsman.  Or for that matter, how would you make a couch potato if anybody wants their kids to grow up to be couch potatoes.
Yes, the toys do help make the boy.   Couch potatoes are made by buying your kid lots of video games, giving him a big screen TV and a premium cable package and keeping him away from sports teams or any kind of physical activity.  Throw in a few Barbie dolls and you could just as well be raising a girlie girl.
And guess what kind of childhood I had.  In second grade history class, the nuns told us about Daniel Boone and how he blazed a trail across western Pennsylvania into Kentucky.  Before you knew it, I was at the hardware store and bought a hatchet, then went across Broad Street into the woods what went behind Gropps lake and ran to Great Bear Swamp.
I used the hatchet to chop marks on the side of trees like Mr. Boone did.  I blazed my own trails.  I found a spring and got a canteen and filled it up with fresh spring water right out of the ground.  I found the stream that led from Gropps Lake Dam to Crosswicks Creek.  On the creek older kids had monkey ropes and I would use these to swing out over the creek.  There was also a cable zip line  which is two cables running parallel to each other.  You grab onto the upper cable with your hands and walk across the lower cable with your feet.
I took my friend Brian into the woods and showed him what I discovered.   Together we found a row boat and borrowed it to sailed down the little creek to Crosswicks Creek and rode Crosswicks Creek down to the Rt. 206.  Next, we took the boat back and went home.
I told my mom what I did and she seemed quite agreeable to what I did.  I was surprised.  Her brother drowned swimming in the Delaware when he was 16 and I had the same first name as he.  Turns out she thought I was making up the story about stealing a boat and going down Crosswicks Creek.
I went back to the woods with Brian and repeated the trip.  Except this time it was low tide when we got back to the tributary we took to the larger creek.  This meant I had to get out of the boat and dull it up the creek because the water was too shallow to paddle back to where we started.  I fell unto a hole in the creek and started sinking into water over my head.  I got lucky and hit a rock before I went under. 
Brian pulled me to safety, but I was covered head to toe with mud.  When I got home my mom was pissed.  What Happened to you? she said.  I told her about the boat again and this time she replied, "My god, you really did take a boat to Rt. 206, didn't you?"  I was told never to do it again and got grounded.  She also said her brother died in the same river doing something less stupid than what I did and that I will probably never live to see adulthood either.
And what is the elementary school years without your first real gun?  I believe my first experience with firearms was when I was 7 years old taking a Christmas trip with my father to Shomokin, PA which is in the Poconos.  This was no candy ass ski trip.  No, my dad went up to his friend's cabin to slaughter a cow to fill our freezer.
My father's friend was a hillbilly who moved to Trenton and started a roofing business with his brother.  Having been born and raised on a farm in the mountains he hunted and fished regularly.  The cabin was his father's farm and there was a barn and a fenced-in corral around the barn.  My dad's friend had a black Angus steer delivered to the farm.
 The day we arrived, my father's friend went out and shot the steer several times in the head with a rifle.  He then pulled the downed cow up in the air by the back legs with a chain and hoist, cut the cow's throat and skinned it.  We ate the tongue for supper and the rest of the animal went to the packing plant for butchering.
Here I was, a suburban kid from Hamilton observing the killing and butchering of my first animal at the age of 7.  What a way to toughen up the boy, my dad thought.  I was devastated.  The next day, I did something a little more fun.  I got to do some target shooting with my father and his friend.   I got
to shoot a ..22 and a .44 rifle.  First the .22.  That went well enough.  No kick, and I hit the target.   Next the .44, which knocked me off my feet.  My dad thought it would be funny to let me get knocked on my tail by a high power rifle. 
Next, I got to ride down to logging trail on a 'toboggan' which was really a steel sign with the front bent up.  I wrecked the improvised sled when I hit a tree.  I got banged up a little bit.
When I got home, my dad took my over the bridge to Pennsylvania and bought my a Daisy Red Ryder BB gun.  He set up a shooting range in the basement and I would spend hours down there plinking away at tin cans.  Got to be a crack shot.
Fast forward to adulthood.  Guess who joined the New Jersey Army National Guard and stayed in for 10 years.  Yep, little ole me.  I got to shoot sharpshooter with the M16, sleep in the woods and learn to kill with a bayonet.  I also got to drive heavy trucks with stick shifts.  And most of what I needed to know, camping, shooting, woodsmanship, I did not learn in the Boy Scouts, but learned through my father or on my own.
Needless to say, most suburban kids don't have childhoods like I did.  No they grow up ignorant of firearms and the woods.  They turn into typical urban adults, either afraid of guns or infatuated by them.  In either case, they are not familiar with them and don't know how to clean them or use them in a safe manner for a constructive purpose like hunting.
I am also strongly opposed to gun control and think New Jersey's gun control laws should be repealed, not strengthened. 
I urge you to call your congressman and senators to make it clear we don't need stronger gun laws at the federal level.
We need to develop a strong gun culture in New Jersey and the rest of the nation.   Then we will have stronger kids that will want to join the army and defend their country when they grow up. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

FNMA - Bottom Floor Get Rich Opportunity or Another

Case of Dead Cat Bounce

I know I haven't written here in a long time.  A lot has happened since my last post.  For one thing, the Trenton mayor got indicted for extortion and the Hamilton mayor got sentenced to three years in Club Fed for bribery.  Count one good government award for a Democrat (Trenton's Tony Mack) and another good government award for a Republican (Hamilton's Bencevengo).
 One thing hasn't changed.  I still work for the Office of Research and Information at the New Jersey Department of Labor.  And part of my job involves monitoring and writing about building permits and the housing market.
Although I work in the field of economics, very seldom do I do any research which would help me or anybody else make money.  It may be a popular conception that all economists work as financial analysts for Wall Street helping millionaires to become billionaires.  Not so, at least for government economists anyway.
However, that doesn't mean that I haven't discovered a money-making factoid here and there.   More playing fly on the wall watching the situation develop more than anything else, but I have acted a few times on what I have seen going on in the state's housing market.
In the latter months of 2011 I noticed building permits started increasing again.  I believe in the fall of 2011 Hovanian (HOV) hit a low point of about $0.80 a share.  Rumor had it that the homebuilder was about to file for bankruptcy.   In 2012, this homebuilder and most of the other large builders rose from the dead.  The HOV common stock now trades over $6.00 a share.
Not that I am a financial genius or anything.  I once had 3,500 shares of HOV.  I traded it and screwed up more often than made money.  I still have 1,400 shares though.
I missed out on most of the gain to date in homebuilding stocks.  HOV is the weak sister of the large homebuilders and I could have done better with DR Horton or Toll Bros or something else.  
Well, new year, new money making opportunity.  The Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) is the nation's largest source of mortgage money for banks.  And compared to the homebuilders, Fannie Mae is a late bloomer.  In early 2008, FNMA traded for about $60 a share.  By early 2009, the collapse of the housing market took its toll on the company.  The stock price fell below a dollar a share and the stock was delisted from the New York Stock Exchange. 
Was it Rest in Peace for FNMA?  Not exactly.  Although the stock has remained below a dollar a share ever since, the company remained alive.  Now the company may be pulling off a resurrection, now that home construction has reached his highest level in 4 1/2 years.  And the revival of housing is finally being reflected in the stock price.  Last week FNMA could be had for about $0.25 a share.  As of the market's close today, the price reached $0.73, almost a three-fold gain.
I got in on this deal yesterday at $0.50 a share for 2,300 shares.  Now let's hope FNMA really is on the mend, and is not just another flash in the pan.  After all you probably know what those Wall Street types say about companies which are about to go under.  There is something call the dead cat bounce.  When you throw a cat off a high building it bounces when it hits the ground.  Of course by this point the poor creature is already dead.  It only bounced because of the energy of the fall.  Once this energy leaves, the cat remains forever motionless.   The same thing with stocks.  The stock price of a dying company crashes as it nears its end.  However, just before the company goes under, the stock price oftentimes bounces back.  Of course, once it finally goes under the stock is worthless.
Dead Cat Bounce or money machine?  Only time will tell, but at least its a better bet then say investing in a rare earth mine in Mongolia.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

We,re All Mad Men

You are probably familiar with the HBO series Mad Men.  On one level, it is about 1960"s advertising executives who work on Madison Avenue in New York.  On another level, its about Mad Men who drink too much and have too much sex.

Part of a Mad Man is paying attention to detail.  Flo on the Progressive commercial wears a fall ,or a half a wig, that starts after her hairband where her head swells up.  Falls were very big in the 1960s and will undoutably come back.

That's the revelation about Flo I noticed in the last week or so.  My sister used to hang out with a girl named Ingred whose mother used to work at HeinemanElectric where my mother used to be a nurse.  She used to wear a fall.  (Ingred it is, not the mother).  The mother, Barbara is now in the cemetary and Ingred is now living in a condo, I believe in Lawrence Township.  My mom is is Morris Hall, a nursing home in Lawrence Township.  Ain't life grand.  One day you dance on the earth and the next day you die.  I still remember lying in my mom's bed brushing her hair telling her I wanted to be a hairdresser when I grew up.  I will always be my mom's hairdresser and she will a;lways be a young lady.  Because getting old gets in the way of life.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Comrade Stalin Got Nothin on these People

So you thought communist theater died with the Great Helmsman.  Check out this video of North Korean "Dear Leader" Kim Jung Il lying in state. 

Kind of touching, ain't it?

For the funeral parade click here:

For Stalin's funeral, click here:

Just When You Thought it was Safe to Go Outside

Last week sawthe end of the world-famous Trenton Toilet Paper Crisis.

Our city government proved itself to be one of the most dysfunctional municipal governing bodies on earth after the city council refused to approve a contract to buy paper products.  That was because the councilmen did not like the price for hot drink cups.

The mayor wanted the contract and stated that on the whole it was a fair agreement because the prices for most items were not bad and because the vendor offered a broader range of products so the city could get everything it needed from a single source.

Last week the agreement got approved just when it looked like the city was going to run out of loo paper.

The real problem of course is that Mayor Tony Mack can not get along with the council andd the toilet paper provided a convenient forum for a battle royal.

The issue went viral after national news outlets started reporting on the story.  To  make matters worse, the BBC picked up on it and not our problems are known to the entire English speaking world.

For more on the toilet paper crisis, click here:

Now that it has become safe to take a crap in city hall, we now have another local story that makes us the laughing stock of the world, we got the naked family protesting outside a suburban Philadelphia high school,  To see the Upper Darby High naked encounter click here:

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Where Can I Get One?

While driving down Rt. 129 this morning, I noticed a Crown Vic behind me.  On the windshield was a new car inspection sticker with a 2012 expiration date, which means that the car was bought in 2008.  In that model year, Crown Vics were available for fleet purchase only.  I thought, that's strange, what's up with that car.

When I pulled onto I-295, so did the Crown Victoria.  Even though I had my foot to the floor of my 2008 Grand Marquis, he flew by me like I was standing still.  Why would that be if the Crown Victoria and Grand Marquis are basically the same car?  Simple.  The Crown Vic was a police special, an unmarked car.

They put one hell of an engine in those police cars.  Why is it that all the cool stuff from bullet proof vests to hollow point bullets and automatic weapons are not made available to the general public but are only available for sale to police departments and the military.

After all, pretty much anybody would want to buy a new car with a police motor in it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

We'll Have the Last Word

So you thought Christie and Sweeney succeeded in making public employees pay more for their pensions and at the same time doing away with annual cost of living increases.  After all, the state passed a law to that effect.

As many of you probably know, at least part of that law has been blocked by the state supreme court.  They ruled that it is unconstitutional to make sitting judges pay more for their pensions because the increased contributions are effectively a pay cut, and the state constitution says judges' salaries cannot be diminished during their term of office.

Now it looks like the other shoe is about to drop.  Federal judges in New Hampshire and Arizona recently ruled that increases in pension contribution rates for ordinary public employees in those states are also unconstitutional.  This is because, like New Jersey, the changes were made by legislation, not negotiation with the unions. 

Why?  The US Constitution says that state cannot pass laws to impair contracts, and these states passed laws to break their contract with workers in those states to provide a pension at the contribution rates they paid when hired.  These rulings were made by district court judges, so they are not binding on other courts, but other judges will look to these ruling for guidance, and it is likely decisions in other courts will come down the same way.

In New Jersey, the unions are challenging the increased pension contributions and elimination of the COLA because workers served on their jobs with the understanding that the contribution rate would remain the same and that the cost of living increases will continue to be paid after retirement.

Let's hope a federal judge sticks it to Christie and forces the state to cough up the extra money for pensions.  This should bust Christie's income tax cut proposal for good.

To see more about this, check out this link.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Real Deal

World War II took place about 70 years ago.  Most of what we know has come second or third hand through history books and Hollywood films.

Many people think that the only ones that were persecuted under the Nazis were the Jews.  That is because whenever a swastika or pro-Nazi material shows up, some newspaper starts mentioning the Jews.  True, the Jews made up the largest group of Nazi victims, but they were by no means the only ones.  That is because the Nazis took Jesus's philosophy and turned it on its head.  Rather than "Whoever is not against me is for me." they believed "Whoever is not for us is against us" and backed it up with brutal punishments right out of the middle ages.

Take a look at some US films made of Nazi facilities right after the war to see what really went on in the Nazi penal system.

In fact about 11 million were killed, of which 6 million were Jews and 5 million were non-Jewish.
Who were the non-Jews.  Well, they were prisoners of wars, underground fighters, Communists and other political anti-Nazis as well as Catholic priests and people who were simply in the way:   Slavs, those who were not liked by the Nazi cops and other undesirables like homosexuals, Jehovah's witnesses and Gypsies.

Not all Jews are unobjective.  Here is a video made by a Jew which basically speaks about the Holocaust from the contemporary Jewish perspective but acknowledges that it was a universal experience and not simply a Jewish experience.  No, I am not a denier, the killing was dominated by racism, but the truth is that the test was three-pronged.  You had to be liked by the establishment, be sufficiently enthusiastic about their politics and be of the right racial and ethnic stock and religion to be considered acceptable.  If not you were open game.  Many more than Jews qualified for death.

To see what the Nazi's Croatian brothers would do to their Orthodox Christian enemies, click here

Tell Me If This Video Helps Sell Our City

If you need a place to live in central New Jersey, Trenton, by far has the lowest cost housing.  But you will think that anyone living somewhere else that is thinking about buying here has to be crazy after watching this video.  Here is the Gangland Trenton video that aired several years back.  It is about the Trenton Sex, Money Murder set of the Bloods street gang.

While Sex Money Murder is currently out of business, we have other Bloods sets that are equally dangerous.  So if you like watching police drama without needing to turn on the television, perhaps Trenton is for you.  If you like it quiet, than the suburbs will be more to your liking.

Here is the Gangland Trenton about Sex Money Murder and the Gangster Killer Bloods:

For the Gangland Trenton about the Netas and the Latin Kings click here:

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Truth About Governor Christie

Now I can see it.  All the Republicans out there are going to be writing in saying that I got it all wrong, just like they always do when I criticize the governor.  But let's face it, you have to admit it was a little disingenious to spend two years cutting back on aid to municipalities and cutting wages and benefits of public employees, not only for the stated purpose of "we can't afford it", but to finance a tax cut as well.

After our governor went ahead with the cuts which have left Trenton, Newark and Camden together short over 1,000 police officers and caused a massive spike in crime in these cities, our governor now thinks we deserve a 10 percent cut in the state income tax rate.  Of course, such a tax cut is being done to boost his popularity in the suburbs because it proves he can "do something" about the high cost of government here.  He certainly believes such a move will help boost his reelection chances when he has to run for office next year.

When talk of the cuts surfaced at the start of his term, I said that they will lead to more crime, bigger fires and larger class sizes.  Well my prediction was right, and at least some of the impact is being felt in the suburbs where things like Chinese classes and varsity hockey had to be cut out.  In the cities however, the cuts have done more than cause some budgetary trimming around the edges.  Rather it has required cuts in essential services that wouldn't be tolerated in more wealthy communities.

Consider the cuts to Camden's fire department, which almost went to the breaking point after being overwhelmed by a series of factory fires.  Or how about Trenton, where the mayor proposed getting rid of the TAC squad (SWAT team) because we did not have enough patrol officers.  Here we got things like a shootout on Route 29 that caused the road to be shut down when state workers had to go to work the following morning, costing the taxpayers millions in lost workplace hours because anyone using this road was at least a hour late for work.  Those of you that don't work for government may think "so what", however it was a bid deal when a car is traveling south at a high rate of speed in the northbound lane of a divided highway and when gunfire is being exchanged between two other cars all when bystanders are using the road to go home from work.  See, its not just Trenton people that are affected, but anyone who has to pass through our city.  For a news video about the shooting, click here.    

And with the Governor's two percent cap on pay raises and property taxes, you will see that over time, this is not sustainable.  A better plan would have been to tie raises to the Consumer Price Index, but that wouldn't have made as good a sound byte.  When inflation exceeds two percent (which it does now), the earning power of public employees will be eroded.  Eventually their wages will fall far enough behind the private sector that nobody will want to take jobs with the state, county, police departments or school districts.  My guess is that in 10 years, this scheme will become unworkable.

But what does the governor care anyway.  He is a fake and a fraud that isn't really solving problems.  He is just shifting the burden to the cities (where nobody votes Republican and few people bother to vote at all), and to public workers.  And eventually all this will come back to haunt all taxpayers in the state.  But Christie knows that this won't happen right away.  He will keep the illusion going just long enough to finish his second term then move on to bigger and better things.

Sounds like the true pandering political whore that Christie is.

2/6/12;  Its Monday, one day after writing the above.  Perhaps the language is a little coarse, but you have to admit that a tax cut in the face of ongoing state deficits is not a good idea from a fiscal standpoint.  It only makes sense as a political statement to convince voters he has been more successful in getting costs under control than he really has and to buy some votes for next year's reelection effort.

Even the Trentonian, which is a stoutly Republican paper, doesn't like all of Christie's program.  Click here to find out what they have to say:

The Money Pit

The Marriott hotel opened on Lafayette Street in downtown Trenton.  The hotel is owned by a city-owned nonprofit corporation.  So far it has consumed millions of taxpayer's dollars, yet has never made a profit.

How much would you be willing to pay to keep a hotel in your city?  For Trenton's mayor and city council, the answer of course is "plenty".  Last week the city council voted to shovel another $500,000 into the hotel to pay for operating expenses.  The hotel's board asked the city council for the additional money because it was unable to pay its vendors and probably would have gone out of business without the cash infusion.  The money is intended to keep the hotel open until the end of March when, guess what, more money may be needed.

And the half a million is just for operating expenses.  The city is required to pay $1.2 million per year for the bonds that were used to build the hotel.  So the hotel is unable to meet what amounts to its mortgage payment and is also unable to cover the day-to-day expenses for its operation.

Here, we are a place that has a high school that is falling down with garbage cans inside that are used to catch the water when it rains.  We are short 100 police officers after layoffs in July made necessary by Governor Christie's aid cuts and we are stuck with this albortos.  You would think the money would be better spent on public safety or schools, especially since last week's shootout on the Rt. 29 freeway.

Not here in fantasyland.  To truly understand the mindset of our public officials and the spineless mentality of the city's newspapers which help mold public opinion, you have to go back to the 1990s during Mayor Palmer's administration.   Palmer used to say that we were the only state capital in the country without a first class hotel and that such a hotel was needed to stimulate economic development.  He proposed that if a private company wasn't willing to come here and build one with their own money, then the city should borrow money and build the hotel on its own.  And that's just what we did.  In order to get a better interest rate on the bonds, we even signed an agreement binding the city's taxpayers for repayment of the bonds.  Which means that we can't just walk away from the $1.2 million per year, but must still pay it even if the hotel is shut down.

And where was the Trenton Times and Trentonian when our public officials came up with this stroke of genius?  Why they vigorously supported the mayor's plans.  And these are the same papers today which are loudly complaining about the city financing a bottomless pit.  They should have seen the possibility that perhaps companies wouldn't build a hotel here on their own because it wasn't profitable to do so.  Perhaps the "build it and they'll come" approach wasn't a good idea after all. 

So now we're stuck with this thing.  And it has had no impact on economic development as far as I can tell.  Even with the hotel, private companies aren't exactly breaking down the doors to open businesses here. 

Perhaps a functional school system and police department would do more than a fancy hotel to attract investment.  What do you think?  Exactly.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Let's Fight to Stop SOPA

No doubt, Perry Mason would be shocked by the grab act that Hollywood studios are trying to pull with the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) as they attempt to put the genie in the bottle and knock their old material off the web so they can force you to pay to watch it.

Over the last week many of you probably heard about a controversy brewing in intellectual property law.  While this dry field usually doesn't serve up much fodder to the popular press, protests by large websites such as Google and Wikipedia have helped bring the issue to the fore.  They say we should tell Congress not to censor the Internet.

So what is all the fuss about?  SOPA, or the Stop Online Piracy Act will have a chilling effect on bloggers as well as companies like Blogger and You Tube that post links to content posted by others.  If SOPA becomes law, copyright holders can have websites shut down and their operators hauled into court if they post links to copyrighted material that was placed online without the copyright holder's consent.

So what is wrong with that.  Shouldn't Hollywood movie studios and recorded music companies have the right to control distribution of content that they own?  They will have you believe that without SOPA they are defenseless from interlopers making money off their property.  Well, they are not defenseless.  they have currently have recourse under the current online piracy law, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). 

One key difference between DMCA and SOPA is that under DMCA, copyright holders have the right to write a website and demand that they remove unauthorized copyrighted material.  The holder has to describe the specific material that they have objections to.  More importantly, the website that is being asked to remove the material has the benefit of a "safe harbor" provision, which allows them to remove the material and escape legal liability.  This link from the US Copyright Office provides more information on DMCA.

Under SOPA legal liability attaches as soon as the offending material or links to the offending material are posted.  So basically SOPA gets rid of the safe harbor and the opportunity for websites to comply with the wishes of copyright holders without penalty.

So why is it so difficult for websites to comply with copyright law?  Basically it is not always clear that the material has an enforceable copyright.  For instance, the original "Night of the Living Dead" movie carries a copyright bug, but it is nonetheless in the public domain.  Before the current law came out, which extends copyrights for 100 years, they lasted for a relatively short time unless the holders renewed them.  And back in the old days when the only way you could see a movie was to go to the theater or through broadcast TV, material lost its commercial value quickly after it was no longer being shown.  That's because the public had no way of getting access to it, save by buying a 16 millimeter movie reel at a fairly high cost.  So the holders allowed the copyrights to lapse on things like old horror movies because they had no way of making money off them.

Secondly, even if the material has a good copyright, it is not always clear that it is online without the tacit or explicit permission of the holder.  For instance, musicians commonly make available for free a few songs on their websites to get the public interested in buying other tracks that are only available for a fee.  Another example is pornography, which is probably the most prevalent motion picture material available on the web today.  Adult movie studios routinely post abbreviated versions of their movies online in order to help sell the full-length versions.

So, whether you have a blog and want to link to an interesting You Tube movie or you are just a web surfer who wants to see an old Betty Boop cartoon from the 1930s or the original Diver Dan episode, you have an interest in stopping SOPA.

So write your congressman and tell him not to censor the web.

By the way, here is a link to a Betty Boop cartoon'  Here is the Diver Dan promo

(By the way, if this sounds like it was written by a lawyer, I let one previously unknown fact about me slip.  I am a member of the New Jersey bar and graduated in 1999 from Rutgers School of Law - Camden.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

When You Expect Your Adversary to Play by Your Rules, You Loose

The US and Britain pretty much play by the same rules.  We believe in cooperation among allies.  We expect our allies to back up up during wartime.  Also, we believe in fair play.  Once an enemy surrenders, we stop attacking and begin post-war reconstruction.

Turn the clock back almost 70 years to 1945.  After Germany was defeated the US, British and Russian leaders met at Potsdam to discuss the post-war world.  The US and Britain who were still fighting Japan asked Stalin to declare war on Japan.

In the minds of Truman and Churchill, what we expected was Russia to attack the Japanese in China, which would destroy the last remaining large Japanese troop concentrations and hopefully cause the Emperor and his generals to see the reality of defeat and surrender without an invasion of Japan proper.

The Russians of course had different ideas.  They held off on attacking China until August 1945, when the war was almost over.  After the Japanese surrendered, the Russians kept on attacking the Japanese in China.  By the time the Russians stopped their offensive at the end of August, they controlled half of Korea, all of Manchuria and a good chunk of China itself.  This provided a convenient Communist bastion from which Chairman Mao was able to carry on the Chinese Civil War and eventually conquer the whole country.  It also allowed a Communist state to be set up in North Korea.

Because we were played as patsies by Stalin we are still stuck with the aftermath.  Two decades after the fall of the USSR, we still have to deal with a Communist China which is growing more powerful by the day.  We had to fight the Korean War and are still stuck with North Korea, which has nuclear weapons and is just as dangerous as ever.

The worst mistake we can make with our enemies like Iran or frendemies like China is that they think like us.  What we must do is look out for our self interests.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Where Mass isn't Boring

Our Lady of Guadaloupe is the patron saint of Mexico.  Certainly this would be an odd choice for a stained glass window in circa 1900 Trenton.  Over 100 years later, this choice has become extremely relevant at Immaculate Conception on Chestnut Ave.

After a couple years of blowing off Sunday mass, I decided to begin participating in the Catholic church again.  As anyone who isn't fanatical about Catholicism knows, mass at most places is boring.  What you usually get on Sunday is a church that is three-quarters empty and where the average age of a congregant is about 70 or 80.  Wow, you can hang out with a few people that really need the product the priest is selling - a trip to heaven.

Such is the case at St. Joachim's on Bayard Street.  They have a nice Romanesque sanctuary, which is a real rarity - most churches built before World War II were Gothic in design.  Very small and homey.  But the problem is that the parishioners have been dropping off like flies and the number of grey heads in the pews has dropped off noticeably since I stopped going a few years ago.  Also, the priests are even older than the congregants, so you got the 90 year olds preaching to the 70 year olds.  Anyone up for a senior citizen pot luck supper?  Not me.

On Christmas Day, I got up late and went to 12:00 mass instead of 11:00. In Trenton this means you have to pick your language, and that language will be something other than English.  Now let's see, do you want Polish or Spanish, or perhaps Korean.  At first I thought that hanging out with the foreigners for Sunday worship would be something akin to going for root canal therapy.

For me, the choice was fairly easy.  While the Poles look like me, I don't understand one lick of Polish, so I went with Immaculate Conception on Chestnut Ave. for Spanish mass.  When I went there I noticed a few things, the first being that the people who picked out the stained glass windows over a century ago made an appropriate choice for today which they would not have imagined at the time the windows were installed.

Yep.  There she was in the middle position on the church's North side.  Our Lady of Guadalupe, patron saint of Mexico, which is now located in a church full of Mexicans and Guatemalans.  There was another notable thing about this congregation.  The pews were full- a packed house in a large Gothic church, and they were full of people in their 20s, 30s and 40s with children in tow.  What do you know, a live congregation.

Now, a you may know, I started a new job on in the economics and statistics section at the Labor Department.  Where my old job involved writing about the economy, my new job involves being a resource person for our statistics.  As a statistical expert, I know a few things about the Hispanic population which explains what is going on at Imaculate.  For one thing, Hispanics have an extremely high birth rate.  While non-Hispanic whites in the state now have a birth rate below that needed to replace losses due to death and outmigration, the Hispanic population is growing faster than either Blacks or Asians, and most of the growth is due to natural increase rather than immigration.  Yes it is true they breed like rabbits, or at least the Irish Americans I remember from my childhood growing up in 1960s Hamilton.  Families of 4, 5 aand 6 kids are common. 

Just as important, a greater proportiion of Hispanics attend Sunday worship services than Blacks, Whites or Asians.  While church attendance has fallen dramatically among low income whites and blacks in the last 30 years, attendance among Hispanics remains uniformly high among Hispanics regardless of educational attainment or income level.

Not only do these people take the church's prohibition against contraception and abortion seriously, they continue to remain faithful, even if they have little income or education.

If you want to see a packed Catholic church with a good cantor and choir, Immaculate Conception at 12:00 is a must-see.

It's been a while

I haven't posted anything in a while, which probably means that some people think I fell off the face of the earth.  No, I'm still here.  I just got bummed out about some things such as the election (because the voters returned all the same bums back including George Norcross's Benedict Arnold Democrats and the turncoat Sheila Moore from Newark).  I have also been having problems with my knees, teeth and VA benefits.

We even lost Buono and Cryan from leadership positions.  They were replaced by Sweeney's lackeys.
If public employees want to see real change in Trenton, they have to do something besides slavishly voting for the same ol' faces, because if you keep voting for people who stab you in the back you'll keep getting stabbed.

There is another election coming up, and ordinary people have the opportunity to take control of their county Democratic Party machinery if they have the nerve to stand up and run for county committeeman positions.  It only takes 2 or 3 signatures to get your name on the ballot for the June primary.  County committee people get to vote in their county Democratic convention.  They have the power to pick the candidates and pick their county party's leadership.  Normally, the political hacks get the conventions to vote to suspend the rules and then submit a slate of same ol' same ol' candidates for county and state office as well as a slate of the same old tired faces for the county party officers.

If we get enough public employees on the county committees we can thwart these strategies and force a full-blown convention where the committeemen themselves choose the party's candidates and officers.  Then we can dump the Donald Norcrosses of the world and replace them with authentic rank-and-file public employees.  Put the party machinery in the hands of ordinary cops, teachers, office workers, etc. and you will see a real change on who gets on the ballot in November.

Go to your city hall and pick up a petition for county committeeman in your district.  Make a real difference!!!