User-agent: * Allow: / Trenton Butcher Block: June 2015

"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.

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.