Author Archive: deciminyan

New Jersey’s Blockhead

Cross-posted from deciminyan.

Becky and Charlie are ten year old twins.  They sometimes play well together, but there’s also an element of sibling rivalry.  Both enjoy playing with wooden blocks, and (pardon the stereotyping, but I’m using it to make my point) Becky likes pink blocks while Charlie likes blue ones.  Their family is about to go on a long vacation, and the twins and their parents are scurrying to pack the minivan in order to get on the road.

Becky is busy helping Dad prepare lunches, and Mom calls out to Charlie for assistance.  “The minivan is getting full”, she said, “but here’s a box to take for you to fill with blocks for you and your sister.”  Charlie takes the box up to the bedroom and realizes that not all the blocks will fit in the box – so he has to choose which ones to take.   He knows he likes the blue ones while Becky plays with the pink ones.  What does he do?

If he’s a spoiled selfish kid, and doesn’t care about his sister, he will fill the box with blue blocks which would give him lots to play with on vacation.  Maybe he’d throw in a couple of pink blocks to placate his sister and his parents.  He’s looking forward to being able to brag to his friends how he got all the blue blocks he wanted.  A more mature ten year old would realize that by sacrificing half of his blue blocks, and filling the box half blue/half pink, both he and his sister would have enough to play with, even though neither gets as many blocks as they would like.

Now fast forward, and suppose Charlie is Chris Christie.  Clearly, he would fill the box with blue blocks – things that promote his own political self-agenda, curry favor with his cronies and millionaires, and say to hell with his sister and brother citizens of New Jersey.

When there are choices to be made with limited resources, no doubt tough decisions need to be made, and sacrifices need to be shared.  A mature ten year old would realize this.  A self-centered, bratty ten year old would not.  Balancing budgets is more complex than apportioning blue and pink blocks, but the general approach is similar.  I wish our governor would recognize that fact, and not act like a bratty ten year old.

The Landrum Cell

promoted by Rosi

Cross-posted from deciminyan

The year is 2015.  Bob Landrum of Connellsville is one of the wealthiest men in southwestern Pennsylvania.  A high school chemistry teacher by profession, Bob was an amateur inventor and had discovered a breakthrough in solar cell technology back in 2013.  His new solar cell, using a technology that he patented, was nine times more efficient at generating electricity than the best state-of-the art cells were previously.  Despite his wealth, Bob and his wife Carol sent their two children to public schools.  “We want Timmy and Sarah to experience the diversity of America and they need to interact with other children from all walks of life and from all kinds of families” explained Carol.

more below the fold

Forgetting Who We Work For – Part Deux

promoted by Rosi

Cross-posted to deciminyan

Last week, I blogged about the debacle regarding road and rail projects and the Transportation Trust Fund.  I reminded politicians on both sides that they work for us, and their lack of urgency in coming to terms with a multi-billion dollar issue is a failure their part to do the governing we pay them to do.  They ended up kicking the can down the road – postponing a real solution until the end of the year, but at least the road crews are back at work.

Now, there’s an even more egregious instance where one of our elected officials seems to have forgotten who he is working for.

I don’t begrudge Governor Christie for hitting the campaign trail.  Elected officials of both parties do this, and with today’s telecommunications infrastructure, a leader can be almost as effective (or ineffective) from Des Moines as he can be from Trenton.  But I am very angry at the way our leader uses sarcasm to belittle New Jersey’s citizens.    While campaigning in Iowa, Governor Christie mocked students and teachers by using a whiny voice saying “Mom, Dad, I can’t study.  I can’t work.  My grades are suffering because Mrs. Smith, she’s not getting her pay raise this year.”  Perhaps the governor thinks that our students are too dumb to read newspapers, but how is a student supposed to respect his or her hard-working teacher when the governor doesn’t?  The governor went on to categorize disagreements with his approach as “garbage.”  Since when is legitimate disagreement “garbage?”

Following that comment, the governor added, “…and you wonder why I’m in Iowa?”  Yes, governor – I wonder how your denigration of the Garden State will help attract business and tourists.  You are the ambassador from New Jersey to the rest of the world.  Keep your disagreements in Trenton – after all, you already have the legislature wrapped around your pinky.  But when on the road, you should be promoting New Jersey, not smearing it.  That’s what we pay you to do.

“…with liberty and justice for some.”

promoted by Rosi

Cross-posted from deciminyan

I am not a lawyer, and am presenting my opinion based on what I can discern from on-line articles.  Input and clarifications from any attorneys reading this blog are encouraged.

While our nation was founded on the idealistic principal of “justice for all”, and we continually strive toward that goal, it has never been truly attained.  The wealthy can take advantage of high-powered attorneys to help them skirt the law, while the poor obtain their “equal justice” by working with taxpayer-supported public defenders.  Often this works well, with defendants receiving a fair trial, but clearly there are limits.  A rich defendant has almost unlimited resources to spend on obtaining exculpatory evidence and judicial theatrics (remember the OJ trial?).  An indigent defendant’s resources are limited, even with free counsel.  Now, a new thumb on the scale of justice is making it even more difficult for the poor.

An article in USA Today reports that some states are now restricting public defender services.  In the landmark Gideon vs Wainright case, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional right to an attorney for felony cases.  The participating justices in a New Jersey Supreme Court case on a related issue have ruled unanimously that legal representation for the poor must be provided in any case that might result in incarceration.

The USA Today article goes on, stating that some states are imposing fees for public defender services.  Defendants are either coerced to waive their right to an attorney or forced to amass huge debts.  Clearly, in a country where almost one person in one hundred is incarcerated, the “rehabilitation” aspect of prison life has been subsumed by a “lock ’em up and throw away the key” attitude.  Elimination of adequate defense for all, combined with the Tea Party’s drive to eviscerate defendants’ Miranda rights, and the growing initiative to privatize prisons under for-profit companies, simply increases the burden on the taxpayer, adds to corporate coffers, and does not address the root cause of the problem.

Forgetting Who We Work For

promoted by Rosi

Cross-posted from deciminyan.

Before I retired, I worked for Lockheed Martin and its predecessor companies for over 40 years.  Like most large conglomerates, Lockheed Martin has established a corporate slogan to instantly summarize its values and goals.  Several years ago, it chose the grammatically-challenged slogan “We never forget who we are working for.”  Part of the reason for this choice was to remind employees as well as customers that their ultimate customer is the American taxpayer, who foots the bill for a vast majority of the corporation’s military and civil programs.

It would be a good idea if Governor Christie, Senate President Sweeney, and the other leaders of the State of New Jersey could adopt a similar attitude.  

Continue reading to find out why…

Sins of Omission

promoted by Rosi

Cross-posted from deciminyan

Jews around the world recently observed the beginning of a new year, highlighted by a day of prayer and fasting known as Yom Kippur – Day of Atonement.  The day-long service gives us many opportunities to reflect on our deeds over the past year and enumerates the list of sins which we may have committed.  We contemplate sins in various aspects such as those we have committed under duress, and those which we have committed willingly.  Another way to categorize our transgressions is to consider those we have committed overtly versus those we have committed by not taking the correct action.

Continue reading below the fold

Tragedy on the Banks

promoted by Rosi

Cross-posted from deciminyan

The media coverage of the death of first-year Rutgers student Tyler Clementi includes parceling out the blame for this tragedy among fellow students, the ubiquity and spontaneity of the internet, and the pervasiveness of bullying and harassment among teen agers.  Yet one important factor is underreported.

Tyler Clementi was the victim of what Garden State Equality’s CEO Steven Goldstein correctly categorizes as a Hate Crime.  Allegedly, Mr. Clementi’s roommate and another accomplice surreptitiously broadcast video of Mr. Clementi having a homosexual encounter in his dorm room.  Once this was revealed, it may have led Mr. Clementi to commit suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge.  Sadly, this was not an isolated incident.

In their reporting of the Clementi affair, the media unsurprisingly include the lurid details of the web video and the suicide jump.  Some, such as the article by Amy Ellis Nutt, provide some background on other crimes where the internet and social media have been used as an enabler.  

(continue reading below the fold)

Ten Fundamental Truths that the Tea Party Needs to Understand

Okay, who’s got Truths #10-15? – promoted by Rosi

Cross-posted from deciminyan

  1. The IRS is not evil.

  2. You can support the troops while still be against the war.

  3. Labor unions are not evil.

  4. It’s easy to compare someone you don’t like to Hilter, Attila the Hun, or Pee Wee Herman.  Why not look for people you could compare to Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, or Jesus Christ.

  5. America is not a Christian nation.  

  6. Who my neighbor chooses as a life partner is not my concern, and will never impact the sanctity and wonder of my marriage.

  7. People have souls.  Corporations do not.  Hence, corporations are not people.

  8. Free, quality public education is a cornerstone of American society.

  9. We can differ on opinion.  We can’t differ on facts – even if Fox “News” says so.

  10. Yes, you are your brother’s keeper.  

A Tale of Three Executives

Hm… promoted by Rosi

  1. Billionaire Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg spends $100 million of his own money to help school kids in Newark.
  2. Billionaire ex-EBay CEO Meg Whitman spends $119 million of her own money to buy the governorship of California.
  3. Millionaire New Jersey CEO Chris Christie blows $400 million in Federal dollars by abrogating an agreement between his Education Commissioner and the Teacher’s Union.  Then he has the chutzpah to go on Oprah and bask in Zuckerberg’s generosity.

So the 26-year old is more fiscally responsible than his older peers.  Maybe there’s hope for this country.

Seeing Red

promoted by Rosi

Cross-posted from deciminyan

Acting New Jersey Governor Kim Guadagno’s executive order establishing a bi-partisan commission to reduce red tape is a feel-good exercise in futility.  While the commission will certainly meet the GOP’s goal of eliminating some of those pesky regulations which help consumers and the non-wealthy, it will be ineffective in making a significant dent in the burgeoning state budget.

The nine-member commission, to be headed by no other than the same Kim Guadagno, will review “administrative rules and regulations, which the administration says can have an impact on job creation, investment and economic growth” according to the Press of Atlantic City.  That would be a great approach if we were living in the 1950s.  

Over the past half-century, better techniques for elimination of bureaucratic waste have been proven more effective and efficient.  

Why won’t it work? more below the fold