User-agent: * Allow: / Trenton Butcher Block: 2012

"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, 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!!!