Author Archive: nsodano

Tables Turned?

Pelosi apparently has a surprisingly cohesive group of Ds in the House. Reid said uncharacteristically blunt things about the Republican offers and actually shot it down. Obama spoke with Boehner and afterward Boehner snuck out a back door.  McCain is begging – please dont humiliate his party.

Uh, being an Eagle fan I am afraid to jinx an developing win … but, have the tables turned?  Are the Ds finally ready to spike the ball?  

Maybe I have been watching too much House Of Cards, but lets tell Boehner that if he puts our clean bill on the floor, with all the Sequester OUT… our people will vote for him as speaker when the Tea Party tries to oust him.  

Open Letter to OWS

Lets just get this out there First: I am a privileged Baby boomer. College was relatively cheap. I missed Vietnam. I got a State job that is fulfilling.  A pension.  Expensive, but still good healthcare.  And I even get collective bargaining when its convenient for the politicians.  Despite that,  I AM grateful.  And honestly, I feel guilty.

   Why?  Because I know that the generation out in the street right now don’t have it as good as I did AND they are doing way more to effect change than I ever did at any Anti-nuke rally in the 80s.  

   I feel guilty because I had an easy job market in the mid 80s.  They face “the new normal” – which might be 7-8% unemployment whenever we get back down to that level (and yes, Higher for minorities).  To them, my defined benefit pension is like the phone land lines I own … a dinosaur.  In short, these young people face an economic disaster that only avoids revolution because of our tattered remnant of a social safety net.  They dont deserve this and I feel guilty that I have done nothing to help them.

    So yes, with my guilt in tow, I accompanied my Gen X friend today to deliver the soup he made to the Trenton Occupy.  Not much of a help, but a start.  I spoke to a 20 something there who said our government is irrelevant. He said the only worthwhile effort is to continue the protest and hope for change outside of government.

      Is he right? After all, did government cause Bank of America to retract its new $5 transaction fee? The most arrogant, aggressive bank of all, BOA, backed down. Holy shit. Did Obama finally wake up and bring such change? The audacity of Hope? Nope.   In the face of a OWS movement to move our bank accounts to smaller banks, BOA backed down.  

    But, I still doubt that OWS on its own will bring on the big reforms outside of the machinery of the existing political system. Yes that system is corrupted by money. Yes it works in the interests of its corporate masters. But the fact of the matter is… it collects the taxes and controls billions in resources. Its has an army, a police force, a court system and a bureaucracy that still can (if allowed to) enforce laws for the greater good.

     In short, if government suddenly dissolved leaving OWS in its place… OWS would quickly have to rebuild something like what already exists to stave off a collapse of society. Yes they would build it with representatives who actually represent the people. And, OWS already has a government… its called the General Assembly.

    So OWS is going to have to face it. Government isnt irrelevant.  Their disgust with the corrupted system is right, but their conclusion that the system is useless is wrong.   Its the people running the system that are the problem.

   What I am suggesting is that OWS needs to contemplate a new phase. An occupation of the electoral system.  Occupy the Voting Booth. Occupy the Parties.  Take the apparatus of Government back for the people.  Start with the party Committees, the local government, the school boards, the planning boards.  Occupy THAT.  they wont know what hit them.  

Its a Hard

What did you see, my brown-eyed Son?

What did you see, my darling young one?

I saw a Red Knight, all covered in Armor,

Charge through a Blue Family, Broken Asunder!

I saw Family moaning, and say What a Headache

With heads all pushed, down in the sand

I saw union clans, counciling caution,

As their ranks were pushed so close to the edge…

And its a hard, Its a Hard

Its a Hard Rain Gonna Fall

Double Standards

The Dems are lining up now to shove Anthony Wiener out.  There is real anger for some and I can respect that, but others are making a political calculation for themselves and/or the party.  To my way of thinking, its that kind of action – taken for expedience – that makes politicians disgusting and makes it hard for me to support them.

Sure, politics and double standards go hand and hand.  

Our politicians and their many nominees regularly lie about taxes, alien Nannies, sex, infidelity, drug use caught on camera, policy positions, secret memos to the Canadians about Trade policy… and their favorite pass time… conflicts of interest.   Voters Regularly ignore/forget these many lies and re-elect them.  

So, why should I bother to even write about double standards?  Like whether Nancy Pelosi called for Bill Clinton to resign?  Did she make some noise back then about how divisive it would be to remove a duly elected person for lying about  sex?  You know, like Anthony We…  

MLK, Collective Bargaining & NJ Dems

My colleagues and I marked the 43rd anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination on April 4 by staging a picket in front of our work site to demonstrate our anger with legislative action targeting our collective bargaining rights.

Most Americans recall King only as a tireless champion for the civil rights of African-Americans. But he was killed in Memphis while fighting for the collective bargaining rights of public workers. Shortly after his death, those rights were finally secured in Memphis and New Jersey, among other places nationwide.

Sadly, 2011 has seen those rights come under brutal and unrelenting attack. From Ohio’s full frontal assault on the fortress of collective bargaining to New Jersey’s cynical attempt to tunnel through its foundations, the goal has been the same: to use the economic downturn as an excuse to gut the rights of public workers and take away hard-earned benefits, pensions and wages — all while cutting taxes for corporations and the rich.

In our state, Gov. Chris Christie has played the role of the anti-MLK, scapegoating public workers as the cause of all the state’s problems.

Public workers have tried to do their part to mitigate the effects of Wall Street’s profligacy by putting forth a health care proposal that would save New Jersey taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. But Christie, the man who says he loves collective bargaining, refuses to consider it.

We refuse to forget the rich legacy of King as a fighter for workers’ rights. We are grateful we have basic rights on the job, a living wage with decent health care and a secure retirement.

We demand that our right to form a union and have a seat at the table through collective bargaining be honored by our Legislature or we will hold its members accountable in November.

Democrats Believe…

For the longest time I have been trying to reconcile certain notions of what it means to be a Democrat.  I mean, there are the traditional liberal notions of what we are… and then there is the reality.  

    We support collective bargaining.  Except the NJ Senate President tries to legislate it away.  

    We believe in government.   Except the President accepts the Republican framing that Social Security needs reductions and spending is out of control.

     In the same room where I hear State Committee Chair John Wisniewski pledge Democrats support unions, a Democrat tells me that Reagan was great because he fired the Air Traffic Controllers.  She told me the Air Traffic union held a gun to the head of America.  

   No, no – thats the exaggerated Republican Frame.  WW2 was a gun to our heads.  The Mortgage crisis was a gun to our head.  The Air Traffic Controllers merely inconvenienced us.  

I could go on, but, you know what I mean.  A Big tent is one thing… but geesh, many Democrats accept right wing framing on issues that used to represent the core values of our party.  

So, with all due deference to the lovely speech recently given by our State Chair in Burlington County,  what plurality “beliefs” can we ACTUALLY claim as a party?  

Please God, No.

“Please God, No”  said my friend about a feared half million dollar diversion of UEZ funds.  Is it legal for our township to divert UEZ funds into the general budget?  Legal or not the funds may disappear because council is desperate to live within its means, to reduce tax burdens.  

Yet all around us, popping up like mushrooms are lawn signs saying that less cops equals more crime, so vote Yes.  Vote to increase taxes.   By how much I ask.   My fearful friend says maybe 30%.   That is about $1200?   Maybe $900 says the friend.  

Then comes the perplexing comments about a tax shortfall due to the revaluation of buildings in town.   Huh?  The reval is not supposed to change tax receipts I say, right?    Right says friend,  but Nevertheless repeats the non-sequitor that the Tax Assessor says we will be short money due to the Reval.    And by the way, the redevelopment is killing us and tax exempt properties are now up to 40% from their former high of 28%.    

I lament that all these problems are just causing the sacrifice of middle class benefits and jobs when whats needed is for rich people to kick in more.   My friend is obviously not happy with this comment and pushes the conversation back to the point, which is that we really cant allow the feared diversion of UEZ money because the future of the town depends on it.  Perhaps that money could be loaned instead?    

So I say,  this tends to piss people off when i say it, but maybe you ought to try what the cops have done with signs all over town, you know, convince people of your position?  To which my friend replies that the business association was notified.    That’s like what, 50 people?

But there seems to be no appetite for actual democracy in my friend.

So, as an encouragement I say that people seem ready to support the cops even if it means paying some more taxes, although probably not a $1200 hike.  To which my friend says that there should be no hike at all, that we should live withing our means.    

Which is exactly why the township council is eyeballing that half million dollars in the first place.  Funny how these “starve the beast” fans never contemplate their own interests in keeping the beast fed.  

I don’t think God will intervene on this one.  

The New Minimum Wage

An article at CNN’s webpage called “Fortune” gives us a peek inside the heart of capitalism:  There is always somebody hungrier than you and some employer willing to exploit that hunger.  Free Work may be the emerging new minimum wage.   See http://management.fortune.cnn….

Katheryn Renolds Lewis includes the following quote from a hair stylist shop: “People who work for free are far hungrier than anybody who has a salary, so they’re going to outperform, they’re going to try to please, they’re going to be creative”.

You might call this an internship – and they are nothing new.  I did it for the Academy of Natural Sciences and was happy to do so.  I didn’t have the experience they wanted, so I volunteered short term to get it.  But, “internships” are supposed to be a very temporary position – a stepping stone for people at the start of careers.  They are instead turning into a charade that snares desperate workers.

And what does government do about this?  Well you will be comforted to know that they have some rules.  The author of the article claims that the Feds and States are very “alert” to violations of their “6 pt test”.  Really??

Every single internship breaks test point #4:  the employer should derive no immediate benefit.  Indeed the work I did at the Academy was crucial to the research they performed.  

Come on.  We can see where this is all going.  Hack politicians who destroy unions.  Conservative “echo machines” that foment envy within the Middle class to divide it while the rich get ever richer.  And now working for free, the new minimum wage.  

Obama Can’t Imagine the high cost of Nuclear Power

Yes, yes… the disaster in Japan is hard to imagine.  But  people said after Katrina and after 9/11.  Hard to imagine stuff eventually happens.

Yesterday,  NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko said “There is no water in the spent fuel pool and we believe that radiation levels are extremely high”.  Without water, there’s nothing to stop the fuel rods from getting hotter and ultimately melting down.

Americans and Brits are being evacuated from Japan.  The Japanese are reduced to using helicopters to dump water on the reactor because people cant go there.  This slow motion nuclear accident seems to be heading for complete catastrophe.  

Perhaps this will end “well” and people will only worry about radio active damage lurking in japanese bodies like the oil that lurks at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. But it is a distinct possibility that the Japanese will lose control of the situation and experience utter devastation.  Or is that just my overheated imagination?  

Our cool and Cautious President Obama isn’t prone to overheated anything.  He refuses to say that nuclear is simply too risky for America.  We need need nuclear power he says.   Lets hope that events in Japan dont bring the high cost of nuclear power out of dark imaginings and into reality.  

Union Songs

Late-night sad damned song. Promoted by Rosi

The large union events that I have seen will usually trot out a traditional song which truth be told doesn’t really rally most people who are polite but fairly unresponsive.  

My take on these songs is that they do have a place in our history and can be a part of contemporary organizing, but damn we need new stuff!  

The following song by James McMurtry may not be sunshiney, but folks, it speaks the truth about working life in America today. Check it out: