Monday, July 27, 2009

Protest Outside the Home of Mayor Cammarano

Above is a video of a proteste outside of Mayor Peter Cammarano's home. I copied it from Hoboken 411 the site that covers the protest with the same zest they cover everything: like a vacuous, pee brained Hobokenite. I have not seen this many people gathered in Hoboken since the bars let out Friday night at 2:00 AM. Maybe people in Hoboken really are fed up with their government and they really want a change. The video is a bit crazy and the voters/citizens take it out on a Cammarano supporter.

I knew Cammarano a little bit, I first met him when I helped out with the Menendez campaign and he was so "pumped" for the campaign I knew there was something wrong with him. I said to him: "Menendez?" "Why are you here then" He said. I said the same reason I always support the Democrats because I don't want Republicans to win." He looked at me funny. He asked me what I did. So, I told him I am a prisoner reentry attorney helping to ease prisoners back into society. He looked at me like I had three horns on my head (it is part of the reason I like saying that). The rest of the attorneys looked at me funny too. He wasn't alone.

From then on, however I knew he was just another politician like the rest. He certainly had talent and was smart enough. I saw him at political meetings/voter protection meetings and everyone knew he was gearing up to run for Mayor. He was usually full of shit and said things to just be part of the conversation. He never recognized me though we worked together several times and we had several conversations. But, he would act like he knew me. I usually said something snarky and he just ignored me. He supported Clinton and I was one of the big Hoboken Obama supporters. No one in Hoboken liked that until Obama won and then all of a sudden everyone was a big Obama supporter from the beginning.

A friend of mine always told me: "Wait. He is going to get his. The Guy has skeletons." Turns out he was right. I don't think there is any question he should resign. He is innocent until proven guilty, surely, but there is a difference between being found guilty of a federal crime and doing something morally repugnant. Unless the government is lying through their teeth this guy took bribes and acted like a complete asshole. Whether the government has enough is a question, but the people of Hoboken already have and have had enough.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Several Politicians Arrested in New Jersey

According to

Several North Jersey politicians were arrested this morning on Federal Corruption charges. The suspects included newly elected Mayor of Hoboken, Secaucus Mayor, Dennis Elwell, Jersey City Deputy Mayor, Leona Baldini and Jersey City Council President, Mario Vega. Several Rabbis and politicians from New York were arrested as well.

Looks like Cammarano's career just came to an end. More on this as it becomes available and hopefully an insider look at what happened.

Update: Below are videos of the men and women brought in and arrested for bribes and corruption. Harvey Smith, a New Jersey Assemblyman and recent mayoral candidate charged with taking $15,000 in bribes for building projects.

An Assemblyman and the Mayor of Secaucus arrested for $10,000 cash bribes

Louis Manzo, another unsuccessful Mayoral candidate in Jersey City and his brother arrested for $27,500 cash bribes for the campaign.

Leona Baldini, the deputy mayor charged with $20,000 cash payments

Other mayors in Ridgefield, NJ and Rabbis across New Jersey and Brooklyn charged with issuing the bribes and money laundering.
Jersey City Council President Mariano Vega, Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini, and Assemblyman Daniel Van Pelt are led into FBI building in Newark

Cammarano, the newly elected Mayor of Hoboken is charged with cash bribes of $25,000 including a cash bribe of $10,000 last Thursday!
Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano III, Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell led in handcuffs into FBI building

If one thing is clear, the corruption and bribery charges just made it tougher for Corzine to get elected. But, someone who has appeared in local politics in Hoboken, NJ - everyone knows this goes on and no one will do anything about it. For our state to change and for the Democratic party to change, to a party that is interested in progress and the people this had to happen. The question is this enough? Or is a political hit job?

I am not sure, but it seems obvious much of these officials are going down.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Rachel Corrects the Record

After a tangle with Pat Buchanan Rachel corrects the record on race. What Pat Buchanan mouthed is shameful.

Friday, July 17, 2009

What Was Once Racism is Now Political Dialogue

Pat Buchanan was on the Rachel Maddow show last night which I missed. So, the first thing I did on the web this morning is see what was said. It is long and Rachel really allows him to say what he wants, and what he says is that "white people are discriminated against in the United States" to paraphrase.

I think it is important to hear because this is why the hearings on Sonia Sotomayor were important because the Republicans were playing to these fears of "white working class people" that they are the aggrieved not people of color who have been discriminated against for 400 years in this country. It exposes the very real fear of many Americans about the election of Barack Obama and this Supreme Court nominee. Buchanan makes no bones about saying it out loud. Twenty years ago this would have been called racism. Today, in 2009 we have leaped back so far this is political dialogue.

For the record, I attended CUNY law school in Queens, NY easily the most diverse law school in the nation based on race, ethnicity, gener and sexual orientation. It isn't even close when you do the comparisons. The value of that classroom, to hear the voices of so many who are underrepresented in the mainstream dialogue will serve me for the rest of my life. Without it, I almost attended many other law schools, I do not know if I would have learned the same breadth and depth of knowledge and experience, in my opinion the most important part of being a lawyer is empathy, just as Barack said that he wanted in his choice for the Supreme Court. Empathy can bring down nations, cultures, my professor of Political Communication from Salem State theorized it is the very thing that brought eastern Europe back into the fold.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Criminalizing Poverty: "We Get the Government We Deserve"

Two National Homeless advocacy groups singled out Los Angeles as the meanest city in the United States for the criminalization of poverty and homelessness. It's so called "Safer City Initiative" punishes people for having a roof over one's head. Instead of criminalizing torture or say widespread theft of the American pocketbook via banks, financial institutions and Congress, we punish poor people and the homeless, for what? Being poor. Welcome to disreality. To the right is tent city in Orlando.

Some of the other initiatives that serve the national interest are making it illegal to sleep or sit on a sidewalk, prohibitions against begging or god-forbid panhandling, selective enforcement of loitering and jay walking sought to put homeless behind bars making it more difficult to find a job once released. The Ten Meanest cities in order based on this study are: (some may surprise you)

1) Los Angeles
2) St. Petersburg, FL
3) Orlando, FL
4) Atlanta, Ga
5) Gainsville, FL.
6) Kalamazoo, MI
7) San Francisco
8) Honolulu
9) Bradenton, Fl
10) Berkeley

Four Florida cities, yikes. All warm climates outside of Kalamazoo. What's going on there? And cities that are perceived as "progressive" such as Berkeley and San Francisco that have some of the more draconian measures against homeless are on the list. When I visited San Francisco for the first time it shocked me how many homeless were on the streets and how mean the daily papers were about it. I guess progressive doesn't mean kindness to the poor anymore.

It always struck me as ridiculous that our policies regarding the homeless were so counterproductive. It hit me while living in Hartford, CT while I was working in a homeless shelter, a place I ate my meals five times a week with mostly homeless men, and women who usually had children in tow, many of which had a mental incapacity, that we make it illegal to beg for money or even a meal, yet it isn't illegal to be poor. In fact we like poor people, more to go around for the rich. Now, in the midst of the greatest economic crisis in 70 years what is our solution for the poorest of the poor? Jail time. I am thinking this is where the heads of banks belong, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzalez for you know - stealing money from the public trust and fucking war crimes.

What singles the debate out the most for me is the provisions in the LA budget which is spending 6 million a year to pay for 50 extra police officers who patrol "Skid Row" while budgeting just 5.7 million for homelessness services.

L.A.'s motto might as well be: "Poverty is a crime and we seek to prosecute." Maybe California doesn't deserve a bail-out. Maybe we are all exactly where we should be, the country completely defunct and out of control, the oligarchs in control of the purse strings, and we are angry that a Puerto Rican Supreme Court nominee who climbed her way out of the Bronx to the Federal Bench said she thinks she might make a better decision than white men on a court of law because of her background. Is that really in debate anymore? As Professor Jenny Rivera, one of Sonia Sotomayor's many fedral law clerks used to say to us at CUNY: "Wake up people!"

It was remarked to me on the phone the other night, my mentor giving me advice on a job search: She said: "I am tired of always being disappointed in our leaders, we should all be in the streets, but in the end you know, we get the government we deserve." Tough to disagree with that.

Monday, July 13, 2009

A New World Order

I have lived in Brazil for the last five years. The experience has been, to say the least, enlightening. I have begun to understand a country that is in many ways very similar to the US, but in others, completely different. Brazil is a power in South America, and one of the world`s emerging powers, but is still a developing country. It has been a colony like the US, but has nver really outgrown some of its colonial past. Inequality, one of the developing world`s banes, is still huge in Brazil.

But things are changing. One of those things, which most of the world up until now has lived on, is a certain economic dependence on the US. A poor country like Brazil would provide raw materials in exports, and import about everything else. The exchange was not very even-handed, and the big economy, namely the US, would name its price on everything from coffee to rubber to sugar.

Writing in Vanity Fair, Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stieglitz discusses how the Thirld World may view the future of their relations with the US. As he writes: In much of the world, however, the battle between capitalism and socialism—or at least something that many Americans would label as socialism—still rages. While there may be no winners in the current economic crisis, there are losers, and among the big losers is support for American-style capitalism...Colonialism left a mixed legacy in the developing world—but one clear result was the view among people there that they had been cruelly exploited.

Stieglitz makes a startling point when he describes how many of the same people who were put in charge of dealing with the crisis in Asia in the 1990s are now trying to get the US out of the huge hole it got itself into...a hole created by the same policies that the US hel over countries like Argentina and Brazil. The hypocrisy is not going unnoticed around the developing world.

The contrast between the handling of the East Asia crisis and the American crisis is stark and has not gone unnoticed. To pull America out of the hole, we are now witnessing massive increases in spending and massive deficits, even as interest rates have been brought down to zero. Banks are being bailed out right and left. Some of the same officials in Washington who dealt with the East Asia crisis are now managing the response to the American crisis. Why, people in the Third World ask, is the United States administering different medicine to itself?

Many in the developing world still smart from the hectoring they received for so many years: they should adopt American institutions, follow our policies, engage in deregulation, open up their markets to American banks so they could learn “good” banking practices, and (not coincidentally) sell their firms and banks to Americans, especially at fire-sale prices during crises. Yes, Washington said, it will be painful, but in the end you will be better for it.

It isn`t as if all of these countries don`t want to America back on its feet. They have seen, as he writes, 200 million of the world move into poverty as a direct consequence of the crisis. But what they aren`t so keen on is the need to revert to some American-led paradigm in the future. And they are already changing the way they do things. From China to Brazil, countries in the developing world are taking concrete steps to de-link from the US, and create their own power structures.

As Stieglitz writes: We are no longer the chief source of capital. The world’s top three banks are now Chinese. America’s largest bank is down at the No. 5 spot. The dollar has long been the reserve currency—countries held the dollar in order to back up confidence in their own currencies and governments. But it has gradually dawned on central banks around the world that the dollar may not be a good store of value.

These steps are not what really worries Stieglitz, however. As he writes, he is more concerned about ideas. These countries may just give up on any concept of market economy: The former Communist countries generally turned, after the dismal failure of their postwar system, to market capitalism, replacing Karl Marx with Milton Friedman as their god. The new religion has not served them well. Many countries may conclude not simply that unfettered capitalism, American-style, has failed but that the very concept of a market economy has failed, and is indeed unworkable under any circumstances. Old-style Communism won’t be back, but a variety of forms of excessive market intervention will return. And these will fail. The poor suffered under market fundamentalism—we had trickle-up economics, not trickle-down economics. But the poor will suffer again under these new regimes, which will not deliver growth. Without growth there cannot be sustainable poverty reduction. There has been no successful economy that has not relied heavily on markets. Poverty feeds disaffection. The inevitable downturns, hard to manage in any case, but especially so by governments brought to power on the basis of rage against American-style capitalism, will lead to more poverty. The consequences for global stability and American security are obvious.

If, as he writes, there is not faith or trust in the overall system of trade and interconnectedness, or some some sense of shared values, things will not get better. If the US preeaches anti-protectionism, but puts made in USA clauses in proposals, nothing will improve. Countires around the world will close their doors to each other, and according to Stieglitz, democracy itself will be the next victim: In the developing world, people look at Washington and see a system of government that allowed Wall Street to write self-serving rules which put at risk the entire global economy—and then, when the day of reckoning came, turned to Wall Street to manage the recovery. They see continued re-distributions of wealth to the top of the pyramid, transparently at the expense of ordinary citizens. They see, in short, a fundamental problem of political accountability in the American system of democracy. After they have seen all this, it is but a short step to conclude that something is fatally wrong, and inevitably so, with democracy itself.

Brazil, in a specific example, exports only about 12% of its goods to the US. It has suffered much less than other countries around the world. It seems to have learned lessons that the US taught, but never took to heart. How can American companies, and its government expect the world to take anything that comes with made in USA at face value?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Our Lady of the Blessed Tree

In Limerick, Co. Ireland thousands of people have flocked to a tree stump asking authorities not to remove it. Why? Because they think the Virgin Mary is in it, or is actually it, I can't figure out which. It is on the grounds of a church, mind you, which could make it more possible? The local parish priest, however advised people "not to worship a tree." Sound advice in my opinion.

But, the parishoners are not taking it. Over 2,000 people have signed a petition not to remove the "blessed tree." Noel White says, "nature has a funny way of showing it up and letting it be a freak of nature...but surely whatever it is - it is a good thing to have so many people coming out to pray, especially young people saying the rosary in the church. "Maybe it is our Lady's way of getting us back to the church," he finished.

The Limerick Diocesan response is one of incredulity it seems, "While we do not wish to detract from devotion to Our Lady, we would also wish to avoid anything leading to superstition. A vigil was held in the evening for the blessed tree. We were not planning on visiting Limerick on our visit to Ireland. We might have to change that and see "Our Lady of the Blessed Tree."

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Are Governors Doomed to Fall?

I have never read the book Freakonomics, but I got to thinking about what the book is about (I've heard). The book, from what I gather, links seemingly unconnected realities, creating or attempting to prove a causal link between one and the other. For example, people who eat low-fat diets are more likely to commit murder.

So, in light of the endless list of governors, such as the back-in-the-media Sarah Palin, I began to wonder if there would bew any way to link the demise of certain individuals to the fact that they made the decision to run for governor and then, somehow, got elected. In other words, the question I would like to know the answer to is this: is there an unusually high percentage of governors who have been forced to resign or been involved in some scandal when compared to other public positions, especially in politics?

Does being governor have the potential of ruining your life? Or is it just that, especially recently, and especially in the God-fearing GOP (but not only...remember New Jersey's own McGreevey hiring his Israeli boyfriend and then having his world explode?), governors just don't know how to avoid getting themselves into a whole heap of trouble?

Is there any governor who is immune to this epidemic of ineptitude and infamy? Is being governor contagious? All I know is that if I am in a statehouse in the next few months, I sure as hell will be wearing a mask. Forget swine flu...the real thing to worry about is getting to close to a governor.

Notes on Politics

It is has been a crazy few weeks, Michael Jackson finally buried, Sarah Palin also figuratively buried by her own doing. Does she actually have an advisor giving her sound political advice? Mark Sanford on the other hand still surviving barely by the skin of his soul mate. If these were Democrats they would be gone, long gone by now, but somehow they cling to God and insanity and the press kind of likes to have them around. If you are Edwards or Spitzer you are trash, not that I am, mind you making excuses for these bumbling fools.

But, John Ensign really takes the cake doesn't he? I mean your chief advisor's wife? Did you hear how it went down? He invites his advisor and his family to move into his house because their home was broken into, then Ensign (see below a letter Ensign wrote pleading with himself to break up the relationship) proceeded to break into his family. These Christian types really get to me, I end up feeling bad for them. They delude themselves so into believing in something so much, the "devil" creeps in and wham your in Argentina crying for your soul mate, or banging your best friend's wife while your wife, children and best friend are next door. Or you are so deluded that you believe "quitting" is actually fulfilling your term as Governor.

The Democratic party is so bad, however they can't even pass a sound economic policy, a healthcare bill, prosecute torture, while the opposition party is in complete shambles, falling apart at the seams, and they control the White House, all of Congress, and have a supermajority in the Senate. They still want to please the Republicans. The stimulus isn't working? Oh, really? Well, maybe 42 percent of it shouldn't have been tax cuts that most people either don't know what to do with the extra $8 a week, or if you happen to be one of the lucky rich people you stick it in your yacht. The country is falling apart and all anyone can talk about is politics. Or policy in the context of politics.

Ralph Nader was right. These guys all do look the same. Yeah, Obama isn't giving us a bad name, but we still are running two to three wars, keeping state secrets, giving away our money to all those who already have tons of it and still are totally homophobic.

The Donkey and Elephant better watch out, a third party could come out of nowhere and steal the 2012 election. I gotta good mind to run myself. As R. Thelonious would say: Assclowns.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Goodbye to Family Values?

When I was a young whippersnapper (is that how it`s spelled?) many, many years ago, in the `80s, I remember hearing the term family values for the first time. It was, of course the height of the Reagan administration, and every time you turned on the radio, or watched the nightly news, there was some Senator, Congressman, or Reagan himself throwing around the catchphrase of the Republican party. It seemed that Republicans had found the formula for success: distort the image of the opposing party not by focusing on the issues, but by building fear of a destruction of the false image of some halcyon day when, as the Ramones put it: we`re a hapy family. All of the world`s problems, and especially those of the disaffected in the US, could be summed up by just saying that those poor people lacked family values.

Whatever that meant. The didn`t have the moral fiber, the structural basis to succeed like the Republicans knew best.

That hammering of a lie lasted for decades, somehow. No matter how much reality flew in the face of all those who tried to pretend that they were above the fray of it all, Congress member who would later be indicted would still cite those beloved words, presidents who would later be found to have sold arms to supposed enemies would continue to froth on about a thousand points of light, and their sons, who were somehow elected, would go on about personal conversations with God. Then they would oversee torture, extraordinary rendition, the allowed destruction of New Orleans, the death penalty for the mentally ill and the further destruction of the Earth...and an invasion of a sovereign nation.

All of this was excused, and not linked to a lack of those same family values.

But now,
what with an ever-cascading litany of scandals in the Republican party, from foot-fondling in public bathrooms to showcasing 18-year old pregnant daughters, to mistresses from Nevada to Argentina, does the Grand Ole Party have a leg to stand on, or better a soapbox to yell from? Where are the family values? Or do some people get a the entire Congress? How can the last two decades have come to this? Where is the Christian Coalition when we need them? I don`t hear much from them these days.

I wonder why? And I wonder when, if ever, I will hear those special words, family values, uttered again. This side of never would be too soon.