Friday, January 20, 2012

Too many people voting?

Friday, January 20, 2012

After a nightmare day traveling around Hudson County yesterday via the public transportation network, I decided to drive to Bayonne today.
I feel a bit like a vampire, only instead of being afraid of day light, I must be home before dark comes.
The newspapers is loaded with disasters, fires in Union City, and lawsuits in Hoboken to reduce the size of a ward the mayor’s ticket can’t win in.
One of the political organizers I knew in the 1960s said that people turned to the courts when they can’t win in the ballot box, letting the courts violate voters’ choices by legal ruling.
This may be the case here with municipal elections always a test of the mayor’s strength, and since the mayor has used the Governor’s office to undo her opponents, why not the court system as well?
We have always found ways to undo Democracy, especially when it inconveniently allows people we dislike to hold office.
Vote suppression can be done in many ways – by negative advertizing, canceling bus service on Election Day or by filing lawsuit in the courts.
But it amounts to the same thing: denying people their right to the representation of their choice.
This is one of the concepts behind Fascism, in which social and political policy is dictated from the top rather than evolving from public discourse.
People aren’t allowed to smoke in public places because new laws restrict where and how a person can exercise what it still a legal activity. People can’t park beyond a certain time because city planners deliberately downsized the number of parking spaces required when construction or reconstructing a residence. People can’t celebrate a holiday because the masters of the city have decided to cancel a traditional event or move it because the mayor or other leaders disagree with the culture it produces. Recently the Obama administration proposed making 100 watt light bulbs illegal, partly in an effort to push a social green agenda down the public’s throat – rather than allow market forces in a so called free market society decide what people want.
I keep hearing about how free we are in America as compared with other countries, but this isn’t exactly true.
Certainly, we’re freer than in France where if you express a bias or prejudice, you can be charged with a crime. But in America, we erode freedoms more nefariously, by getting court rulings to undo our voting rights, to create laws that narrow the scope of our freedom so slowly that like Lobsters in water gradually coming to a boil, we never quite know when our asses are cooked.
In Hoboken, the mayor and her followers file suit complaining about long lines for people trying to vote – after an election in which her administration canceled car service that would have allowed the poorer people in that same ward to get to the polls.
While in most cases the concept of long lines at polling places is a joke -- especially with the percentages of voters at record lows except in national and sometimes state elections, lines are pathetically thin. But in this case, the mayor has a point – when the voting district has many times the legal number of people voting in it.
So the mayor and others filed suit against the election board to make them change it, not bothering to call the election board to learn that this was already in process.
But the real reason may not have anything to do with oversized elections, but the need to expand the number of committee people who support the mayor. By increasing the districts – she proposed the one district being divided into three – which means that the overall committee numbers would increase by four, and if she can get the new districts in areas of that ward thick with her supporters, she can take back control of the municipal democratic organization she lost earlier this year by a very narrow margin.
This, of course, is classic politics.
The mayor may not trust the board of elections to make the division of the district the way she wants, and so she has decided to force the issue by having a court draw the lines instead.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Wraiths by night

Thursday, January 19, 2012

I’m at home working as I wait to make the trip to Journal Square to visit my eye doctor.
I spent a good portion of last night navigating the public transportation system after the council meeting, choosing to make the trip to the light rail rather than chance the bus system along Kennedy Boulevard.
The last time I went to take a bus after a meeting, I stood in the dark for an hour until the bus came – no, not one bus, but two – and I was so desperate I got on the first one, finding myself like a refugee among other refugees, stuffed between packages and people while watching the second nearly empty bus pass us by.
The walk was not significant, even in the cold, but the station at 34th Street was something out of Graham Greene novel, stark and empty, with the “Next Train” sign indicating a 25 minute wait for one bound to Hoboken.
An out of service train rushed through the station as if on fire like the train in Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, beeping his horn the whole time.
Rather than sit in the cold, I hopped the train bound the other way, figuring it was better to be warm and seated than to stomp my feet on a platform alone. Passed my office the train went, then down to the new station on 8th Street, where we piled out, and the conductors separated some of the cars, reducing the size the train by half, then let the few passengers waiting there into the remaining cars.
As we waited another train pulled in on the other side, turned off its lights to wait out the night for the rush the next morning.
We took off a few minutes later, stopping at the stops I had passed on the way down, frigid people piling in like the refugees from my previous bus trip, all of them cold, all of them needing to catch this train than wait for the next one not due for a hour, each stop adding to the fullness of the car so that I struggled to get out at Liberty State Park where I had to change to the Tonnelle Avenue train.
This was more populated, but not greatly. A few people on the far side waiting for trains to either West Side Avenue or Bayonne, a handful on my side waiting for the train I needed.
In the parking lot across the street, the security guard’s vehicle – now decorated in orange lights along its side – continued to prowl the lot, checking on empty spaces, like one of those bored tigers I used to see pacing its cage in the zoo.
The wait wasn’t long. Although again, missing this train meant more than a half hour wait until the next one, so there was a rush to get a seat since everyone knew that the density would only increase with each additional stop, which it did, people piling in at every stop until I could barely elbow my way out again when I reached the 9th Street station in Hoboken for my ride up the elevator and my walk through Jersey City Heights to home.
Driving, the trip would have taken my less than a half our. This trip had taken me an hour and a half.
Walking on either end of the trip to or from the train, I was struck by how lonely the world is at night. Jersey City, Bayonne, even Hoboken haven’t changed to the degree we all believe, still a stark landscape after dark, with isolated characters like myself making our way through dark streets headed to unknown destinations, trying to sort out in our heads, why were are here at this time of night, and what in the end have we gained by the experience, people who are still wraiths in a gray world seeking answers to questions no one can answer.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A sign from God?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

When I see a sign from God, I pay attention – mostly because I can be pretty sure it’s my mother speaking to me from beyond the grave.
Even before she died on Dec. 30-31, 2001, she haunted me.
She was always praying for me -- and I honestly believe she accomplished miracles through her prayers, keeping me safe when I otherwise should have perished.
When a Cadillac struck me on a back street in Hollywood and did no damage, I knew it was my mother’s prayers at work. When I gave the finger to a pack of Hells Angels wanna-bes and they leaped off their motorcycles with knives and chains to take me to pieces and an army of cops showed up to save me, I knew it was my mother’s prayers at work. When I tried to drive a 1955 two-tone Buick four door cross country from Portland, Oregon and found out only after I got onto the highway that it had no breaks – and still managed to survive the ride off the exit at high speed, I knew it was my mother working her magic with God through prayer.
All this might seem dubious to you, but the truth of the matter hit me hardest after her death – as big and small miracles arrived, some with her signature, some without.
One day in mid 2002, I was walking to work in Hoboken from my house in Jersey City Heights and I noticed a pair of green rosaries on the ground. I was struck by them partly because my mother had worn out many similar pairs she received regularly from the missionaries she funded out of her social security checks.
I thought, “this must be a sign from her,” more or less joking with myself, until – when picking up the rosaries – I noticed on the wall of the nearby house was posted my mother’s favorite picture of the Virgin Mother.
To say this disturbed me was to put it mildly.
I never got over my mother’s death – which was the concluding act of the best and worst year of my life, 2001, a year which saw me made Journalist of the Year, but also brought tragedies such as 9/11, various other disasters, the death of my hero, George Harrison, and finally my mother’s passing.
At work, I kept waiting for the sky to fall, and was grateful when I managed finally at 5 p.m. to escape unscathed.
I climbed the viaduct to the heights, and noticed something odd when I got to Central Avenue in Jersey City – none of the street lights were working. Darkness was coming on, and when I looked back at New York City, I saw a black hole – no lights there either, except for lines of automobile lights along West Side Highway.
I kept walking, and found the street lights out, store lights out, even lights in the windows of houses usually lit were now blackened.
This was true all the way home, except when I got to my house, my lights worked. It appeared that our block was in a narrow geographical band not affected by a black out that had wiped out the electricity for most of the East Coast.
My mother also watched over my wife, since my wife worked in New York City at the time, and was in the mass of craziness as people scrambled to make for the ferries – a kind of repeat of 9/11 but without the tragic deaths.
My wife wound up on a shuttle bus with a shameless driver, who rode over sidewalks, and somehow managed to get through the Lincoln Tunnel to bring her home to the heights.
All during the waiting for her to come home, I handled that green set of plastic rosaries I had found earlier in the day, watching the coverage on cable TV – which also somehow had not perished with the electric grid.
All this said, I walked to the train station this morning along pretty much the same route and saw a strange aberration on the wall of a building near Passaic and Paterson streets in Jersey City Heights. There was a reflection of light – I still don’t know from what – in the shape of a cross on the side of the building.
This was no ordinary building – but one that I had once sought to rent an apartment in for my mother. At the time, I thought the fact that my mother had lived in Passaic Street when growing up and had worked and lived in Paterson, made the apartment perfect.
While the apartment did not pan out, I never pass that building without thinking of my mother, and now, at work, I ponder what that sign could mean, and wonder if she is sending me another message.
Damn it, I’m scared to go home.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Who can protect me now?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Woke up this morning to the first ice on the walk since the October snow wrecked my trees.
I ought to be grateful, and I suppose I am, that this winter has been so mild as compared to last year this time when the residue of the post Christmas snow storm still cluttered the streets.
Ice doesn’t sit well with me because I live near the bottom of a very steep hill, which I have to climb in order to get to public transportation.
Even when I had two eyes and could drive, climbing this hill was not fun, all spinning wheels and prayers that I didn’t slide all the way down to where the street meets the highway and the parade of tractor trailers making their way north from Port Newark.
Last year, walking down the hill, my wife and I both slipped on the same piece of pavement on the same night, but about an hour apart. This stretch is owned by some old mobster, who rarely shovels his walk, except to make a path for his Seville to park in, and never puts out salt when his pavers get slick.
We learned to walk on the far side of the street where the Head Start staff keeps their walks clean, but even then, melting snow or ice intrudes, leaving slick patches.
This morning being the first morning of ice, nobody put out salt so that the walk and street proved an even steeper challenge than usual, forcing pedestrians to cling to fence posts, car mirrors and any other protrusion to keep from falling.
Two women who also survived the climb pondered why news stations didn’t issue icing reports the way they sometimes did for snow, warning people that we risk life and limb if we go out at this particular time.
I guess we’ve been warned too much about every possible disaster, from terrorists to hurricanes that we’ve come to rely on someone telling us when to duck.
I remember some misguided woman who wrote about the history of children’s playgrounds, talking about how they were supposed to be safe for children – obviously misreading the reasoning and logic behind the original construction.
She tried to explain why playground got rid of concrete and asphalt and installed rubberized floors, as yet the next step in keeping children safe.
It’s not true. At least not all of it.
Playgrounds were made hard because they were built mostly in a working class era when parents needed to prepare their kids for the harsh realities of the world, and figured scuffed knees and bruised elbows taught children more about life than any lecture did.
As our nation abandoned the working class model and pressed people to aspire to middle and upper class values, we grew more afraid for our children, coddling them more, seeking more protection against things like asphalt. We did not want our previous progeny injured, and so we sought to warn them against things instead of letting them experience things first hand.
This idea that I have to make my own way in the world and deal with situations like ice and snow make me appreciate things better. I hated getting yellow and red terrorist alerts from a government too inept to protect me and yet left me with no way to protect myself.
We have divorced ourselves from FDR’s idea that fear is the only thing we need to fear, and we are constantly being encouraged to be afraid, warned of potential dangers – some of which we are helpless to avoid.
Perhaps this harkens back to the air raid drills I underwent as a kid, when nu ns at my school shouted for me to duck under my desk, when we all knew the desk couldn’t save us if someone dropped a nuclear bomb, and the least anybody owed us was to let me see the flash before it was all over.
The fact is the government doesn’t protect me – at least not from terrorists or bombs – but it makes a good show of saying it does, doing as much to make me scared to look around me as the terrorists or the soviets would.
Maybe we do need someone to tell us to look down at our own feet when we walk, to remind us that there is a real world that we should be aware of in order to protect ourselves, but I’m pretty sure the people who warn of us everything else, aren’t the people I trust to look out for my interests. I need to look out for my own, play in a playground that isn’t made too safe for me to ever injure myself, to walk on a sidewalk which the local mobster is punished for not keeping clear, to look up when the bomb drops so at least I get to see the beauty of its flash.

Monday, January 16, 2012

So who paid for the donuts Christie stole?

Monday, January 16, 2012

I woke up this morning to hear my radio alarm blaring Oprah interviewing Christopher Christie, and Christie talking about how as a young student, he and his buddies used to steal donuts from school.
Steal maybe too strong a word, since he made his political connection with the cook and as with the rest of the big shots in New Jersey, he learned at an early age how to get what something for free other people have to work hard for.
He was trying to sound like a “real guy,” and connect with the rest of us blue collar workers by talking about things he assumed the rest of us would do, and that somehow, he could form a human connection with us, his position as an elite Republican presidential-wanna-be denies him.
Oprah, who wields power like a sorceress, seems determined to give him the national exposure he needs in order to make his presidential ambitions credible.
I guess an appearance on Oprah’s show is part of Christie’s job description as governor of New Jersey – but like taking helicopters to catch his kid’s ball game – Christie has a better idea of what we tax payers expect of him.
` He once told a reporter that it was none of his business that he sent his own kids to Catholic school, while as Governor he wanted to gut funding for the state’s poorest school districts.
This elitism flies in the face of his attempt to be a common man, when he’s always been one of the insiders, one of those people who gets put in front of the line as places like Club 54, but needs Oprah to alter his image so that he can seem like he’s one of us, when the last thing he really wants is to be common.
I still pondering this when I got to the light rail station at 9th Street in Hoboken and a smaller than usual train pulled in, and an army of baby carriages rushed into it, filling all the aisles.
America’s population may be declining, but not in Hoboken, where everybody seems determined to procreate – and as I clutched a handle to keep my balance amid the carriage, I wondered, just where we would find room to park their cars when they came of age.
Fortunately, most of the baby carriages existed in Jersey City in the area of New Port/Pavonia, suggesting a strong tie between the two parts of the planet I’d not suspected before, common culture that might well justify NJ Transit’s plan to build similar towers over the rail yards bordering Hoboken.
Because of the holiday, I had a longer than usual stop over at the Liberty State Park station, where I saw the security guard in the parking lot driving up and down the aisles – even though there were only about six cars in the lot.
I didn’t think much about it, until I realized that he didn’t stop.
It reminded me of the mountain lions in the Cape May Zoo that pace their cages in total frustration, except the security guard was clutching a cell phone and kept going up and down the empty aisles.
After awhile, I realized that he was running up the odometer on his vehicle so that later, he could report that he had toured a wider area than he had, and eventually, when I took out my camera to take a picture, and he saw me trying to take the picture, he pulled up into a remote corner of the lot, out of range.
This abuse of authority seemed to be something that lingered from the Oprah interview with Christie, this sense of privilege that allows people to abuse their own positions while telling the rest of us how to live our lives.
Here was a security guard charged with making sure people like me didn’t park in that lot without a permit, yet could run up his odometer to make his boss think he was actually doing his job. Here was my governor (who I didn’t vote for) was being interviewed on Oprah about his youthful theft of donuts, using his government helicopters to catch his child’s ball games, and telling us we have no right to know why he chose catholic schools for his kids while destroying the trust in the public schools his kids did not attend.
Does he punch out a clock on being governor when he goes off to campaign for his republican friends in Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina? Is Christie running up the odometer when he flies to his kid’s game or appears on Oprah?
And who had to pay for the donuts he stole as a kid anyway?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

An outlaw comes home

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Not everyone is lucky enough to have a mythological journey in their lives or even recognize it when it occurs.
Sometimes, you don’t get to realize just how important an event is until long after it ended.
I recognized mine right away, but didn’t appreciate its value until later.
Today’s cold brought it back because it was a similarly cold day in January 1972 when my journey came to an end, and I returned to New Jersey.
After three years on the run from the police, I had decided to turn myself in, although I needed to meet with my family first, since they were the victims of the crime.
I remember calling up the old phone number and hearing my uncle’s voice on the other end.
“Where are you?” he asked.
“Here, in New Jersey,” I said. “I want to come home.”
Only I didn’t want to have my friends dump me off in front of the old house in Clifton, and suggested that I meet the family at some neutral ground, and when I found that the boat show was underway at the Coliseum at Columbus Circle in New York, I suggested we meet there.
My family owned a boat store and put on a display at the show each year.
My friends agreed to accompany me to the meeting, fearing that my family might shoot first and ask questions later.
After my disappearance in 1969, my uncles had made East Village history when they stalked the streets in search of me, since they knew I hung out there most weekends, and had mistaken some other poor fool for me, realizing their mistake only after they had chased him for blocks and tackled him.
The fool, seeing the weapons my family carried – mostly left over from the Korean War – he did not call the police.
My family had also followed my friends, especially Frank, who worked at the Little Falls Laundry and lived on East 6th Street in New York. Every day, their cars trailed the bus back into New York, and were waiting in the front of his apartment building when he came out in the morning. Once, only, had they actually come into his apartment in search of me.
After a few months, even my thick-headed uncles must have realized that I had really taken off this time. Uncle Harold, the savviest of them, had checked with some mob friends he had about my possibly traveling to Colorado. But since I went to Denver via LA, lingering in the Latino quarter for a few weeks before going back to Denver, his friends missed me, too.
Now, almost out I came home, weary from hiding all the time and living under names that were not my own. I had actually dreamed of growing old and having the police show up one day to haul me away.
So my friends drove me to New York, and walked in with me to the coliseum, where we stood as if in the OK Coral as my uncles came towards us across the sales floor.
It was Frank who suggested we push my girlfriend and our one year old child in front of me.
“They won’t shoot if they see the baby,” he said.
They hadn’t intended to shoot, and when my uncles saw me, they nodded, and came towards me, their faces filled with that strange awe and anger that is born only out of years of worry and love, a confused pack of outlaws, who shook me first, then hugged me, and the later took me home, telling me “We’ll have to settle all this with the law, you understand. But it’ll be all right. Really it will.”
And though I didn’t know it at the time, it really did turn out all right.

For those interested in the full tale which I'm still typing in, you can check out the link:

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Development like baby blocks

Saturday, January 14, 201

The cold finally came, making January feel like January finally, the way Januaries used to feel when I was a kid.
Regardless of what T.S. Eliot said, I always thought of January and February as the cruelest months, draped in dark, and ill tempered changes in the temperature.
But when I spent a few winters in Los Angeles, I came to appreciate winters in the east, where change gave meaning to the passage of time.
I ached for the change of leaves in the fall and then the gradual growth of green in spring. It is no accident that the Irish celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in mid-March just ahead of the official arrival of Spring.
Recovering from eye surgery has taught me the value of walking, and how close a look at the world walking provides. I learned a similar lesson back in 2002 when I mistakenly parked my car in a remote section of Union City to avoid getting parking musical chairs of Hoboken and the perpetual tickets and towing, and found my car broken into – leaving me stranded from Thanksgiving into the new year of 2003.
As my wife pointed out in a poem she wrote about Paterson, the poor often walk, carrying their lives on their backs like turtles – which I have been doing to get too and from the Light Rail, and elsewhere during this period of recovery.
Yet I see more with one eye during these times than I have with two driving, the small details of life going on in the world that gets lost in the rush of wheels, the people who are making their way in this world – even the jerks.
Like the idiot who drives around in a silver pick up truck in the heights and in Hoboken violating every traffic law possible, an arrogant man with a baseball hat and a tough-guy mentality. I feel sorry for him, and his need to advertise how tough he is, when all he really has going for him is this truck and the envious looks people give him as he passes.
I’m very impressed with the buildings I see tucked into corners of Jersey City, the survivors of over development that Hoboken and downtown have largely lost, one marked with a construction date of 1878, a proud badge of courage to have lasted so long through so many misguided visions of change.
We live in a part of the world where every new development scheme alters life for everybody – new designs replacing tried and true.
We have a line of three family houses on our street that replaced one family houses just before we arrived here in the late 1990s. These are not owner occupied, so they draw some of the worst element, gun toting, drug dealing delinquents who park all over the sidewalk and rent out their garages for illegal apartments.
One U.S. Marine’s home on the other side of the street – which he kept up meticulously – was bulldozed down to make way for two such raunchy new buildings with brass rails and other ostentatiously designs that the new occupants seem to find tasteful, when they are gaudy examples of bad taste.
Walking through these neighborhoods, I see clutches of such buildings, built at various peaks in the real estate market, new ideas that faltered when that economy did, so that this line of houses stands out against the line from the previous development boom.
City planners who allowed these to go on our like babies with blocks, piling them up and knocking them down, never happy with what they have come up with, until the next baby comes along the rearranges them again, unaware or uncaring about the lives they disrupt in the process.

Friday, January 13, 2012

All wet in Hoboken

Friday, January 13, 2012

I woke up this morning to sunshine – at least for a few hours it took me to get to work.
It seems I’ve been soaked through for so many days over the last week that I’m beginning to feel more comfortable than dry and warm.
I walk to Hoboken these days because I can’t afford any more tickets the city is apt to supply me with whenever I park on the street.
Hoboken has always been a problem for workers like me. Back when I was a truck driver making deliveries and pickups on Washington Street in the 1970s, cops used to hound me about parking in the bus stop in front of the beauty supply store.
In those days, it was good to have the cops around since theft was a problem – but the tickets cost nearly as much as the pilferage did, and it got so I didn’t know which I preferred, a ticket or helping some poor kid get his fix.
As a dunkin donut baker in the 1980s, I was warned against ever working in the Hoboken dunkin, because no matter what you did or where you parked, you always got a ticket.
I understand the need for residents to have parking, especially because the city made such poor plans for the change over from working class – who had perhaps one car if that per building – to condos where residents were lucky to have less than two cars for each floor.
When I bought my condo in 1992, I was the only residence in my six condo building with only one car.
Parking permits – which may be unconstitutional – were supposedly the solution, except the rules changed in 2001 when then Mayor Dave Roberts decided to give residents one side of the street while those who worked or did business had to play musical chairs especially when it came to street cleaning days.
Apparently, one of the rules that was implemented but not enforced was the two hour meter limit. People coming to the city of Hoboken could park for two hours and no more, getting towed or booted after that. This was city wide. City hall didn’t want you in its city for more than two hours.
Fortunately, technology had not caught up with greed, and if you parked uptown for a hour, you pretty much could be assured you could park for more than an hour downtown if you had business there.
But alas greed found a way to catch up with the law, and the current administration has purchased a truck that reads your license plates and then if you park too long in that fair city, you get booted or towed.
One political person said the current administration doesn’t care about business or the fact that people need to be able to park several times to shop or dine in the city.
While the two-hour limit in the same parking spot makes sense, restricting parking to two hours citywide is clearly stupidity or blatant greed.
Clearly, all the current administration is for Hoboken to serve as a bedroom community for wall street, and not as a thriving city where people shop, seeking medical services or come to eat.
This lack of understanding of how cities work, how each element of the community contributes to its quality of life, will eventually turn Hoboken into a dead zone, more and more dependent on taxes raised from local residents rather than income brought in by tourists, shoppers and others.
But worst of all, it shows a clear disrespect for the people who work there, people whose living requires them to provide services to those who are privileged enough to park in its streets.
“Shoppers don’t vote,” one person told me.
This may explain why it is so easy to discount people who do business in Hoboken. We don’t vote. Therefore we don’t count, even if it costs us a fortune in the sin tax of tickets the city issues in droves.
So those of us who are forced to work in Hoboken dodge the spoiled people riding bicycles on the sidewalks, and the massive walls of baby carriages, and yes, get wet, in order to make our living without losing our shirts.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Build it, but they won’t come

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Liza Williams, one of my old time hereos from the 1960s, once wrote "Everybody is afraid of the bomb, but who is going to save us from the builders?"Building spurts have plagued America since before the American Revolution and, in fact, the need for colonists to invade the suburbs of the Ohio Valley, ripping off land from the American Indians, was one of the principle motivations for the revolution itself.Americans went crazy after the Civil War, filling up the west like a plague, killing any native american, who stood in our way.
But no spurt has been more since the end of World War II, when contractors – using new equipment designed to defeat the Nazis – declared war on the American landscape with the idea of building a new and better suburban America.
This was particularly true in New Jersey where mostly white families bankrolled by the GI bill and savings built up during the war years fled the cities in droves, partly because they bought the crap Madison Avenue was selling and saw sprawling homes with lawns and new kitchen appliances, new schools, new neighborhoods, fresh air, partly because they did not want to get stuck fixing up the deteriorating urban centers and partly because cities were becoming overcrowded, with baby boomers and African American families moving north from the deep south.
Robert Moses – who is my favorite modern day Satan – envisioned cities as centers of work and entertainment with people commuting in from homes in the suburbs. So he orchestrated the demolition of urban industry and urban neighborhoods, convincing the federal government to make the automobile the official mode of transportation and so managed to fund highway construction instead of mass transit.
With the baby boom sprouting ever increasing numbers, the construction trades had a field day, and began to build and build and build, plowing down farms and mountains with an energy that an army of ants would have envied.
Although conservatives like to blame city centers and welfare for the rise of property taxes in this state, pure greed in the suburbs has more to do with it.
Because residents are centrally located in cities, they are more easily served. Suburbs require much more effort and much more resources – new roads, new sewer systems, new power grids etc – which is even more money for the ever growing construction trades.
In the 1970s and early 1980s, suburban people discovered they were sitting on a gold mine and began to buy up as a kind of person investment, spiking the value of properties, also increasing the taxes everybody had to pay.
Construction trades thrived on the construction of new homes, not so much renovations, and as time went on, they were particularly focused on construction of luxury homes – protesting against any development that was even remotely called “affordable.”
Construction workers built houses they themselves could not afford to live in, and didn’t care as long as the developers kept expanding, and feeding the industry with jobs, and they could still go home to some community where they could afford to live.
But the baby boom died in the mid 1960s, and those who could afford to buy houses, eventually did, causing a drop in potential buyers, threatening to halt the ever hungry monster of new home construction. So banks got it into their greedy little heads that they would sell houses to people who could not afford them, offering up front discounts for the first five years with the vain hope that the buyers would be in a better position to pay their mortgages when the higher monthly payments hit later.
On went the construction trades, building even more new houses in even more pristine places, plowing down anything that got in their way.
When these mortgages went into default as they were bound to, the banks decided to hide these bad investments by bundling them with good investments so perhaps nobody in the financial industry would notice, and for a long time, nobody did, nor could they later sort out good loans bad loans, and the whole economy collapsed.
The bulldozers came to a grinding halt. Now contractors, who called affordable housing “socialism” prior to this, scrambled to find anything to build just so that they could feed their families and keep their own mortgages from default. Any project – even questionable gas lines – they would fight to get, regardless of whether or not it is good for the planet of the people living on it.
Like a junkie who needs his next fix, but can’t get it, the construction industry, turns it attention back to the cities, which because they were let to rot with white flight and because the children who fled the cities now ache for an urban environment which can provide services more easily, construction returns to the city.
Unfortunately, this change has to push the poor off this new urban landscape, just as the old Ohio Valley settlers pushed native Americans out – and so those neighborhoods which once provided jobs in industry are now becoming new luxury housing for the influx of children from the suburbs.
In New York, Mayor Bloomberg has a Field of Dreams mentality, seeking to bring in the most wealthy, not mere working people, needing to keep up property values and thus taxes. This week he spoke about another luxury housing development, claiming the city has already built a lot of affordable housing. Like Robert Moses, Bloomberg envisions a city that serves the rich. Working people are welcome as long as they can keep feeding the beast.
But as with the suburban movement, eventually, we will run out of rich people, unless, of course, Bloomberg intends for New York to have them all, and the construction trades will once more eye the world for virgin territory they can rape – little realizing that they, too, will sooner or later run up against the same problem: not enough people to buy all the houses they want to build.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Don’t worry, you have insurance

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Back in the glory days of employer-paid for health insurance, the secretary of a dentist fixing my teeth tried to comfort me when I saw how much he was charging me for tooth repair.
“Don’t worry about how much it costs, you have dental insurance,” she said.
Indeed, back then I did, until employers got wise to the rising premiums insurance companies were charging because dentists and doctors everywhere decided they could charge more without an immediate impact from their patients.
Things got even more hairy when insurance carriers leaned that doctors were bilking even more big bucks from insurance companies by referring patients to clinics in which the doctors had an interest, and set fees that allowed them to own Mercedes, mini-mansions and still manage to pay off medical school.
Insurance companies responded in several ways, by setting up HMOs and other contractual agreements that set prices for various procedures.
This was not a government imposed restriction, which would have been a kind of socialized medicine, but an agreement that had hospitals, clinics and some doctors agreeing to set limits for various procedures in exchange for insurance companies agreeing to steer patients to those hospitals, clinics and doctors.
All well in good except that nobody really lived up to the bargain.
Doctors, hospitals, insurance companies all found loop holes.
Doctors set up their own clinics like they did in the 1970s, and began to siphon off business that formerly went to hospitals.
Insurance companies began not honoring legitimate claims forcing hospitals to hire legal teams to get back the money, and then to settle these suits, insurance companies offered to pay a percentage of the original claims. Hospitals desperate for cash agree, slowly going broke, because even at the agreed on discounted price, hospitals did not make up for the cost of providing services.
Part of the problem was that even though the procedure was discounted, doctors still demanded and received full price, often inflating these costs by two-minute or less consultations that allowed them to bill a patient, hospital and ultimately the insurance company, increasing the number of claims insurance companies refused to honor.
Other fixed costs such as supplies and salaries of other staff did not go down just because a procedure was discounted. So gradually, patient by patient, claim by claim, hospitals went broke.
On top of this, even state and federal governments got involved.
Medicaid and Medicare payments for specific services wound up to be among the lowest of any insurance provider.
Some states even required hospitals to provide charity care, offering to pay for it – only to cut back on these payments year by year as legislators cut budgets to lower taxes.
Ultimately, the doctors made out best. It is difficult to learn if insurance companies are making money because they won’t open their books to public scrutiny. But hospitals suffer the most if they continue to provide services for which they are underpaid, and patients suffer, forced to pay high premiums for insurance and bigger deductibles and co-payments.
Obama came into office determined to fix some of this, and eventually pushed through a bad medical system commonly called Obama Care, which forced companies to get insurance and uninsured workers to buy insurance, without ever dealing with the fundamental problems of the system. So insurance companies collected more from more people, and skipped merrily to the bank to deposit what they did not have to pay out to doctors, who also skipped merrily to the bank to deposit their share all the time saying, “Don’t worry about how much we charge, you have insurance.”
All this hit home this week when I finally started getting the bills for my eye surgery and realized that I could have bought a new car for what my insurance would not pay for, and though I think my doctors did a great job, I certainly wish if they would share in my economic pain. These days, you have to worry if you have insurance – worry that the federal government won’t be breathing down your neck, worry that the doctors won’t charge an arm and a leg, worry that the insurance company won’t screw you and make you pay more, worry that hospitals will even exist after all is said and done.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Beware: Made in China

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

There is a line in the second film of the Back to the Future series which has Doc saying, “No wonder there was a problem. This transistor was made in Japan,” with Marty responding, “What do you mean, Doc? All the best stuff is made in Japan.”
In 1950s, there term “made in Japan” signified shoddy craftsmanship, something that changed dramatically by the 1980s when Japan became the leading manufacturer of cars and electronics, we all ached to own.
Now, “Made in China” equates to the 1950s version of lack of quality – mainland China that is, and I never once imagined I would look back at “made in Taiwan” with affection, but I do.
This weekend, I found out why products out of China suck.
It seems that everything is being made in one city, a city that the good communists of China decided they needed in order to compete with Western Capitalists. Although short of natural resources, China has more than enough labor, and being the good communistic, anti-capitalistic state, Chinese leaders decided to create a capitalistic slum and invite capitalistic corporations in to exploit its people – but only those who work and play in this mega manufacturing slum.
China put us all on notice about its ambitions when it quelled its Democratic uprising in the 1989 massacre in Tiananmen Square when the Chinese Spring was largely ignored because western nations ached to get a piece of the Chinese market. Perhaps also the bribery the Chinese conducted in the U.S. Congress in the 1970s may have successfully kept Americans from being as involve with the uprising as we were in Libya or Syria, or even contemporary Russia and Iran. When it comes to business interests, American corporations know which side its bread is buttered on, and wouldn’t aggravate the Chinese government by making it live up to his communistic ideals.
Already trained by exploitation in Africa where we get most of the rare minerals for our commuters, international corporations turned this new Chinese industrial city into an economic whore any capitalist could be proud of – far better than anything before done by American business in places like Mexico, and as a result, created a system of inferior products that could be sold again and again to the same suckers here in America.
This is most relevant to my purchase of a can opener recently. One can opener I’d had for years finally bit the ghost. So I went to a local house wares store and bought another at full price, not thinking much about the label, made in China.
This lasted two days before it broke, too, which led me to purchase another at a different store, and yet another and another and another, finally getting it into my head that “Made in China” means badly made, and that if I wanted to get anything well-made I would have to get something made by good communists prior to Tiananmen Square.
Weeks after this, I finally found an old can opener in my tool shed, with an imprint from what must have been the late 1960s saying, “made in Japan,” and as Marty would later point out, all the best stuff is made in Japan.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Toxic Avenger no more

Monday, January 09, 2012

Almost a month since eye surgery I’ve almost become used to looking at the world along one side of my nose.
This is particularly true of the ride through the heart of Jersey City’s industrial section, some of which has become the foundation of Pavonia/Newport and the lead up to Exchange Place.
Few people on the train beside me during this stretch of railway realize that they are looking over a landscape made somewhat famous by the cult class “Toxic Avenger,” which was filmed here during the 1980s, prior to the wrecking ball that cleared out many of the old factories to make room for towers of glass – the new bedroom community to Wall Street now that the next generation rebelled against life in suburbia their parents found so appealing.
Underneath the rails we roll on is the foundation of modern America, the place upon which a nation’s was built before New York’s Robert Moses decided we needed to become a nation of clerks and highways, and began to destroy what people like Alexander Hamilton struggled so hard to build.
The concept of “made in America” largely went out of fashion when the union movement started, when workers demanded a piece of the vast profits manufacturers were making thanks to the American Civil War and the doing away with slavery that unfairly competed with the machines northern industrialist wanted to build.
Jersey City, its factories and its railroads, served as a hub for a new America, one which allowed us to win two world wars and turn the world into one vast consumer market, leaving a swath of contamination that generations would suffer through in cancer and other ailments.
Traveling through this landscape 25 years after the Toxic Avenger was filmed here, I marvel at the illusions, the wide, clean streets, and the bustle of activity, all residents dressed up as if adults.
Someone once complained that England had become a nation of clerks, and here, over the bones of the once powerful working class, this part of America has as well – pre planned by people like Moses, who foresaw this part of the planet as one filled with highways and high-rises, a Moses that led our people out of the dark ages of toxic plants and into the illusive glitter of tall towers and jobs on Wall Street.
This was the same Moses that convinced Washington DC to make the automobile the center or its transportation policies in the 1950s, thus plowing down farms and fields to make way for the highways.
This was the same Moses, who conspired with rubber companies to get rid of the very adequate trolley system that served Hudson County – an illegal activity as the courts later ruled, but not soon enough to rescue the tons of trolleys dumped into local waterways for use as landfill.
The fact that all these years later, we have rebuilt those trolleys after a fashion in the light rail seems ironic to me.
Here we are, a nation of clerks travel over the bones of our toxic past, looking to a less toxic future, but without clear vision, struggling to make sense of the changes that people like Moses made, and change these places back into landscapes that do more than serve as highways between this place and that.
Moses, of course, has his own stone tablets, detailing a promised land that existed beyond the heart of the city. People under his ten commandments were to work in, but not live in, the city centers, traveling from remote places like Dover and Old Bridge each day along highways he helped build.
But now, we see these children returning from the promised land, finding it empty and devoid, not toxic perhaps, but lacking the rich culture we abandoned when we abandoned the cities. Yet, in gutting the cities back then, in knocking down what once was, by dumping the trolleys into the waterways, we have largely gutted the very thing many of the next generation come back to find, and instead of a sprawling suburbia with green laws, we build a suburbia of tall towers, glittering in the light of the rising son, more convenient for it occupants to reach their desks and live their lives as clerks, but little more.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Smoking the peace pipe with social engineers

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Today is laundry and cleaning day.
Each Sunday, I take up a trip up to the Bubbles Laundromat on Kennedy Boulevard, dump my clothing in a washer, go get coffee, bagel, the New York Times, and settle in my car to write a little.
I finished the page of the fairy tale I’m writing and so took a walk around the neighborhood, catching sight of people standing at the curb smoking cigarettes.
America was founded on tobacco. But now people have to stand out in the cold to ingest it – just the opposite of what we had to do when we smoked pot. Instead of hiding the bad habit, we have to broadcast it.
This is part of a vast social engineering project to humiliate people into giving up a habit they might not be able to give up otherwise.
Instead of a vast prohibition, the way the masters of society tried with alcohol a century ago, the new masters have decided to cut us off a little at a time, narrowing where and when we can ingest so that eventually, we will get assigned numbered spots like parking and will be charged a fee for doing what Americans have been free to do since before white men settled on these shores.
Since I haven’t smoked since 1976 – discouraged by the masters raising the price on my drug of choice worse than any pusher I knew from the 1960s, this new social engineering bothers me less than it does the poor fools standing on the curbs of our cities.
It is the idea that bothers me. The fact that some master in some remote part of our nation can curtail people’s lives, doing it in such dastardly ways as to make it seem acceptable, and doing it in such small doses that we hardly notice the slow eroding of our rights.
In Hoboken, we see a similar social engineering going on with regards to parking, making it so expensive and so odious to do what the state gives us license to do that we give it up entirely, becoming one of those rude people who ride pedestrians down on the sidewalks instead.
Most recently, President Obama proposed outlawing 100 watt incandescent light bulbs – well, stopping their manufacture anyway, part of that social engineering that slowly erodes our right to choose.
We need to be more green, and buy those other light bulbs that look like corkscrews – the folly of which is similar to the belief the computer reading pads are some how green and books or not. While the ordinary light bulb might waste energy, the corkscrew light bulb is actually a poison to the environment, suggesting that we’re better off with the 100 watt bulb, provided some genius in Washington doesn’t force us to only light them at the curb while we’re smoking our cigarettes and bemoaning the lack of parking spaces.
Steve Jobs and his crew did a real mind meld on the rest of us in selling computers to replace books, suggesting somehow the we are serving the environment better if we exploit African slaves to dig out irreplaceable metals to make computers so we can read books, when we could very well plant new trees to make paper for books.
Social engineers do lie a lot.
But let’s not get too angry at them. Maybe we can join them out at the curb and we call all smoke a peace pipe together.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Shuttle trip to Journal Square

Saturday, January 07, 2012

What people see as public and private business never became so clear to me as during this week’s travels by public transportation around Hudson County and being forced to over hear other people’s cellular telephone conversations.
I’d run into this discourse in the past, of course, but since I mostly drove I didn’t have much experience in the foolish chatter people use their cellular telephones for, nor had I fully realized just how much people divulged about themselves during these one-sided conversations.
A few years ago, while visiting Cape May, I ran into a particular arrogant upperly mobile professional who had camped out in a corner of an antique store and deliberately talked about his stock investments so loudly nobody in the eight rooms could miss a word.
The cellular phone has been a tool of such braggarts since its invention, but never so obnoxiously public.
Unlike my usual habits of telling off such jerks, I bit my tongue since I was at that moment on vacation.
During this week’s ride in the Kennedy Boulevard shuttle up from Bayonne, it was impossible to do anything other than bite my tongue since I would have been forced to shout “shut up” over the few dozen people between me and the public offenders.
At some point near West 30th Street in Bayonne, a young Indian woman got on the bus, seating herself in the front seat near the front door. She was college age, maybe, and was continuing a conversation she had started on the bus stop.
“He couldn’t say he loved me,” she said in a voice so sweet I needed to check my blood sugar level just listening to it. “I couldn’t say I loved him either.”
She and he apparently had met on the platform for the Light Rail, had already purchased their tickets and validated them, but did not board that train or those that followed.
“We talked and talked,” she said. “We talk for so long that we had to buy new tickets.”
She went into some detail about how she wanted to know him better and so listened to what he had to say, and he apparently felt the same way, and so they just talked.
“Then he tried to kiss me. But I couldn’t let him do it. I just couldn’t,” she said.
As the bus rolled on, she seemed to ask the person on the other end of the line if she had done the right thing, and then told her about how forlorn she felt when finally when they boarded the train, and eventually came to the stop where she had to get off and he continued on with out her.
Eventually, the young woman hung up. The silence the followed engulfed the interior of the bus so that even the rumble of the wheels and the heavy breathing of the other passengers could not fill the space.
At some point, she got off, and some other young man got on – he was of Middle Eastern extraction and was telling someone that they had to move out of an apartment he was renting them.
“I can’t give you an extension, I have other people coming in to take that apartment so you have to get out,” he said overly loud, running his real estate racket from near the rear of the bus.
He was clearly exploiting fellow immigrants, arranging for the rental before they came into the county.
“These people will be arriving shortly and will need to move in right away,” he said. “How would you have felt when I rented to you and you arrived from overseas to find someone still in the apartment?”
He went on with his threats for several blocks, and then said, “If you’re not out of the apartment when you’re supposed to be, then you won’t be getting any of your security deposit back. I’ll take 100 percent of it.”
It was an empty threat. Since most landlords found excuses why to rip off renters, and from what I could see of this guy, he was the type to keep the deposit on the slimiest excuse.
Like the guy in the Cape May antique shop, this guy was also playing to us, speaking loudly so that we would all think that he was much more important that he was, rather than just a cheap exploiter running his racket off the back of a bus bound for Journal Square.
The bus halted before his threats did, and we all had to get off in the middle of the block so that the shuttle could rush back to Bayonne to pick up more people. I stopped on the sidewalk to watch which way people went, their private lives still lingering in the air like smoke – fading away, strange memories which the rest of us had to live with without resolution.
Would the girl eventually hook up with the guy she saw on the train?
Would the exploiter get rid of one client so he could rip off another immigrant family?
Maybe I’ll find out on my next ride up from Bayonne to Journal Square.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Fingerprinting the poor?

Friday, January 06, 2012

I have to pick my cat up from the vet so I am not taking the light rail this morning and so have time to listen longer to the news stations and to the most recent rants of Mayor Bloomberg about how the poor ought to be fingerprinted.
I keep thinking: Why doesn’t he just tattoo numbers on their wrists so he can keep track of them, until he find some more permanent solution?
Bloomberg is an economic Nazi.
He doesn’t hate blacks or Jews, he hates poor people – especially if they’re cluttering up a city he sees as an economic engine.
Gypsies and others who do not fit into the exploitation system have no place in his world, only like the Nazis of old, he hasn’t figured out a way to get them out of the city.
If someone isn’t feeding the tax monster or getting his or her pocket picked by the tourist industry, then they are not welcome in New York. But how do you get rid of a city which once embraced immigrants and the working poor?
Nelson Rockefeller – considered a moderate Republican – came up with a series of laws so odious that ordinary people caught with minor amounts of drugs went to jail for outrageous periods of time.
Rudy Giuliani perfected the use of law enforcement as means of slum clearance by arresting people for minor offenses in the theory that petty criminals would be kept from more serious crimes.
These strategies helped clear the inner city, making it acceptable for white middle class to move back, but the prisons are already overburdened and cost a lot of money, especially with Obama’s mass exportation of immigrants. And building and operating new jails is just too expensive a solution these days when guards are unionized.
Like the Nazis of old, Bloomberg has come up with schemes of his own for relocating the homeless – even offering to buy them the tickets, not on transports to Palestine as the Nazis once planned, but to any place other than New York.
Holocaust experts note that there are steps leading to the final solution – a pattern that the Nazis only perfected, but did not invent. People are singled out somehow, stripped of their economic foundations, isolated, and then exterminated.
Rockefeller, Giuliani, Bloomberg had reasons for establishing their policies. I worked in New York City for most of the 1970s and lived there for a time as well so I knew just how out of control drugs and crime were.
But enforcement was inconsistent. While poor blacks went to jail for drug crimes under Rockefeller, the social elite openly abused drugs in places like Club 54. While street vendors did unfairly compete with established businesses in the 1980s, under cutting their prices, this was partly due to the exorbitant fees the city charged for someone to do business and the outrageous rent and lack of commercial rent control that forced established business to rip off the public with high charges.
Bloomberg excuses his fingerprinting of the poor saying that this prevent fraud for people collecting food stamps, this at a time when his friends on Wall Street and his pals in the banking industry, get away with murder by stealing billions.
Madoff went to jail, partly because he stole from the wealthy. Most of the super rich Bloomberg calls his friends aren’t finger printed and get away with a lot more than food stamp fraud.
Where is the justice?
Why isn’t Bloomberg buying those people tickets to the nearest state prison?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Papers, please! Transit of Trust

Thursday, January 05, 2012

I took a short cut on the Light Rail this morning through Hoboken, hoping to avoid being forced to stand all the way from the 9th Street station to Jersey City stops near Pavonia and Exchange Place.
Hundreds hop on the Jersey City bound train at 9th Street and leave us shoulder to shoulder through Exchange Place until people jump off to take the PATH to Wall Street in New York.
Since I would have to change trains at Liberty State Park anyway, I figured I would just go to the Hoboken terminal and get on the Bayonne bound station there where I would likely get a seat and not have to wait for another train at the usually breezy Liberty State Park station.
It was a good plan except for the rush of others, who had a similar scheme for getting to Pavonia station quicker, and I was immediately pushed and shoved by commuters rushing to make the second train and I still didn’t get a seat until after they jumped off again at Pavonia.
What I didn’t expect was the heavy level of security – as NJ Transit cops greeted the crowd in Hoboken for sight of our ticket stubs.
Yesterday, when taking the train, a troop of Jersey City cops had bordered the train near Pavonia, making passengers cough up tickets. One poor black kid had a student pass, but not his student ID and had to suffer being issued a ticket. During that stop, I had to show my ticket to three different officers before they left the train near Jersey Avenue.
Even after we escaped Hoboken this morning, the cops came on board in Jersey City, escorting one poor black fool with a bicycle off, to no doubt give him a ticket and check for criminal records.
Then, when we reached the Bayonne boarder, Bayonne police bordered the train, and we had to produce tickets for the third time.
This concept of a transit system based on trust looks more and more like a police state.
I guess I’m just paranoid.
Yesterday, a friend of mine said Obama was worse than Bush when it comes to national security and invasion of personal privacy. Certainly, Obama’s foreign policy resembles an Orwellian warlord.
My friend and I both agreed that neither of us will vote for Obama or any Democrat who recently agreed to let the military detain Americans indefinitely – the last act of Obama’s four years of selling out to the so called intelligence community.
But even Obama’s domestic agenda is questionable.
Democrats were up in arms when Bush decided to make insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies wealthy by modifying the retirement medical system. Democrats kept screaming “donut hole! Donut hole!”
Well, Obama came on to rescue us, giving us universal healthcare. What he meant is that he would make the insurance companies even richer by forcing the rest of America to buy insurance. This did not reduce the cost of insurance or improve coverage – except for kids going to college. It simply expanded the number of victims insurance companies got to suck blood from. And guess what, even with a Democratic president, we still have the donut hole.
Banks ruined the world economy by fostering bad loans on everybody, then trying to hide these behind good loans. Under Bush, these banks gave poor people false hope that we could afford to live the American Dream by owning a home of our own.
Then the bubble burst, and these same banks started to foreclose.
Off course, the banks were too big to fail – even if their victims weren’t, and Obama gave them a generous rescue package. He did the same for Wall Street, while working people lost their jobs, homes, insurance (oh, I’m sorry, we’re forced to buy that anyway) and watch as top executives get hundreds of millions for guiding their companies into disaster.
Obama did hold out to get a tax cut for working people – holding it off only to make sure that his anti-American detention legislation was included in it – but to get a tax cut, anyone buying a new home has to pay a new mortgage fee. I guess Obama sees this as a win-win. Most banks he bailed out aren’t giving loans to us anyway, so who on earth will actually get the fee.
If we’re lucky, we’ll still have a roof over our head – if we can somehow find a way for the military to detain us.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Irony of Iowa

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

I went to sleep and woke up this morning to the Iowa Caucuses, a relentless reminder of not how much choice we actually have in the upcoming election, but how little a field of choice we have.
On one side, we have President Obama – whose biggest contribution to America over the last four years has been to kill Bin Laden, and bring down the government of Libya, and cause even more turmoil over seas, while allowing secret government operatives even more control over the private lives of American citizens.
Instead of socialized medicine, he’s given us a new tax.
Instead of tax cuts for the middle class, he’s imposed new fees on potential home owners.
But he did manage to repeal “Don’t ask; don’t tell,” which may or may not make everybody happy, knowing everybody else’s private business.
On the other side of the Iowa Caucuses, we get GOP operatives trying to dispel the influence of the most extreme elements of American society, making it seem as if the Tea Party and the Christian Right have some value to those who would seek more middle ground.
The truth is, these groups are changing what “Middle” means so that the middle we see today would have been far right a few decades ago, and so that the survivors of the caucus can pretend like they are reasonable people when reason went out the window long ago.
The old adage of “least of evils,” comes to mind, but is hardly a comfort for anyone who still maintains that society should represent all of the people and not some group of fanatics who wants to set up a system of government that tells us who we can sleep with, who has a right to live in America, and whether or not science will get taught in our schools rather than some whacko theory coming out of some questionable Biblical verse.
Who do you vote for when the Democratic candidate is in bed with the banks and the CIA, and the Republican candidates are in bed with God?
The stench on both sides is so bad, it is impossible for me to hold my nose and vote for any of them – which serves their purposes just as well as if I vote for one side or another.
When you have no choice, you lose your right to vote just as effectively as poll tests or police dogs.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Obama strikes again

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

The cold came today, finally making winter seem like winter again.
Perhaps for the first time, weather and the calendar have conspired to reflect the same sense of change I often feel with the turn of a new year.
Half blind from recent surgery, I finally begin to feel old, and this coupled with computer problems, I find my senses begin to contract, as I prepare for that last lap on this track we call life.
The world politics should not surprise me since we simply repeat again what we have gone through many times, that expansion and contraction that eventually leads to global conflict and possibly a new dark age.
Homer’s great poems were part of a recovery from one such period of time, when a blind man was forced to memorize verse in order to preserve a living memory of the rules that govern civilized behavior.
Society tends to forget its foundations and that life as we know it is only possible by the subtle aspects of polite society.
When manners vanish, so does civilization, and all the laws passed to force people to comply only leads to resentment and revolution.
This year begins on the sobering note that President Obama signed into law legislation that would allow the American government to imprison American citizens without formal charges for as long as the government wants.
This is aimed at curbing home grown terrorists, although who and what a terrorist is, changes with the times. To the British, who had similar laws, George Washington was a terrorist, as were those who signed the Declaration of Independence, some of whom British soldiers hunted through the swamps of New Jersey with the aim of imprisoning or worse murdering them for their crimes against the state.
This startling news that the American government has violated again the basic principles upon which we were founded is less startling than the fact that a so-called liberal president did the signing, although some of the worse crimes against humanity started under Democrats – such as the roots of the Vietnam War and the abuses the CIA wrought in the name of Democracy.
I once interviewed a helicopter pilot who flew the CIA into Laos and elsewhere for murderous deeds and to pick up supplies of Heroin bound for US cities (the apparent backroom deal to help curb the spread of violence resulting from the race riots.)
Ironically, the front page of The New York Times on Jan. 1, 1984, announced Reagan’s signing into law permission for the CIA and others to monitor activities of Americans – living up to Orwell’s notion of Big Brother.
What makes Obama so disappointing is that this is routine. Obama Care -- as it is called – further emphasizes the mistrust government has for ordinary people.
EB White once pointed out that once the government starts withholding money from a man’s paycheck, it is displaying a distrust of its own citizens. People never see money they worked hard to earn.
Obama Care furthers this concept by putting a gun to every person’s head and forcing him to buy health insurance, in the guise of making certain that all Americans are covered.
Armed robbery is hardly the same thing as Universal Healthcare.
What we get is a president who is robbing the poor in order to live up to a campaign promise. It helps no one – except to get more business for insurance companies.
Obama did something similar with the two-month extension of the federal tax cut. Instead of finding money within the government to pay for it, he attached a new fee to mortgages. So that people already struggling to buy a home now have a new fee imposed. This fee doesn’t vanish even after the two months, but goes on and on, long after the benefit has passed.
This concept of robbing the poor to pay the rich has become a mantra for the Obama administration, part of his so called socialism that dumps even more on the backs of working people, disguising each move as something helpful instead of the odious things they are.