Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Minimum Wage

A full time worker making minimum wage in New Jersey earns $14,500 annually.  That is $3,000 below the poverty line.  241,000 workers in New Jersey make the $7.25 an hour minimum wage.  Some blind, sheltered folks are quick to say high school kids are the only ones making "minimum wage", but  77% of minimum wage workers are over 20 years old. The increase in pay for these workers to help with the rising cost of Everything will not only help the working resident and/or their family makes their own ends meet (mortgage/rent, food, bills, etc), but it will help the economy through increased sales, lowered foreclosure rates, as well as other matrices.  It would be an economic stimulus.  Will businesses have to pay more? Yes.  Will this cut into their profits.? Maybe  Will 241,000 plus more people be able to spend more in small business? Yes.  My "bottom line" is, and has always been, that government's primary goal is not to maximize profits, but to best protect and serve it's citizenry, no matter their income level.  Vote Yes on November 5th to raise the State minimum wage and tie it to increases in the cost of living.  Just think about gas being $1.78 per gallon the last time the minimum wage was raised.  It's time to raise it again and it's time to tie it to cost of living increases.  Working full time at minimum wage should be enough to put a person at or even a little above the poverty line, otherwise it is below the minimum needed.


 The bush-appointed, bully, blow hard.... To be fair, let's check his record as governor.  New Jersey's unemployment ranks 7th Highest in the country. How did christie try to improve NJ's unemployment situation?  He laid off thousands of public workers, teachers, and school employees. Thousands of private jobs have been lost. NJ's economic ranking nationally, comes in at a whopping 47th.  Times are tough in Jersey, child poverty and homelessness are up.  So what does christie do?  Cut tax credits for the low-income residents while giving away BILLIONS in tax credits to corporations, $261 Million to revel casino alone.  The so called/some called moderate has vetoed women's health bills passed by the legislation 4 times.  He has cut funding to family planning centers, forcing some to close.  Tolls and fares are up on bridges and tunnels.   Does that translate into much needed infrastructure spending?  Nope.  Instead Major infrastructure projects and the jobs that go with them are shot down instead, and our infrastructure continues to crumble.  His policy on Education?   Cut $2 Billion from it and demoralize and demonize teachers, reducing their benefits while further overburdening them with more testing and more redundant paperwork.  I'm sure that will provide incentive for people to become teachers and good teachers to stay in the profession.  He is a "fiscal conservative" that has overseen an INCREASE in the average property tax bill, not to mention an increase in my personal State income tax burden. His creative accounting  takes moneys from the Clean Energy program and reneges on the State's portion of the employee pension fund to fill revenue shortfalls.  New Jersey has the 4th Highest Debt in the Nation.  It is ranked by Yahoo as one of the worst run states in the Union, 47th. The current governor is a disrepectful man that mistakes calling people "idiot" and "you people" as straight talk.  Stronger than the storm? In December of 2012, 43 states were ranked higher than New Jersey in Emergency preparedness.  He is scott walker from Wisconsin.  He is paul ryan.  He can call tea partiers "whackos" all he wants, but he is damn close to them.  He vetoed gay marriage.  His economic policy helps those that don't need it and further burdens and cripples those that do.  I don't have a lot of faith that Barbara Buono will defeat christie tomorrow, but I really can't understand what so many people see in him.  The bar lowers...

Monday, October 07, 2013

Bullsh*t Down

The decision not to pass a Continuing Resolution ("CR") to keep the United States Government running timed out perfectly with the launch of the Affordable Care Act's health insurance coverage marketplaces.  Instead of the big story being the start of something that has and will continue to help tens of millions of Americans get more affordable health coverage (with pre-existing conditions, without annual limits, with 80% of premiums going to coverage and not administration, etc.) the big story is the House of Representative refusal to vote to fund the government without ridiculous, superfluous attachments, thereby shutting down Our government, or at least a large portion of it.  The inconvenient and ironic truth is the launch of the Affordable Care Act's marketplace continues to go ahead as planned.  Millions of Americans flooded marketplace sites to sign up or just for information.  Sign ups were higher than expected.   The New York health exchange website received 30 Million visits.  The savings success stories are already coming in. There were plenty of glitches too.  Those were expected. What program, especially as large as the Affordable Care Act's marketplaces, does not have glitches in the beginning?    The republican controlled House of Representatives could pass a "clean" continuing resolution to keep the US government running.  They have the votes to pass it.  But the republican speaker of the House will not allow it to come up for a vote.  Instead this "leader" and the House majority that he "leads" are letting 30 extremely rigid, in their ideology, right wing republicans lead him into a government shut down by attaching a bill defunding  the Affordable Care Act, a law which was debated and negotiated for 14 months, was voted on and approved by the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives, was signed into LAW by the President of the United States of America, was upheld in the United States Supreme Court, and was a central issue in the 2012 Election which saw the candidate that did NOT want to "repeal Obamacare on day one" win by over 5 million votes and the party that wanted the Affordable Care Act to proceed gained seats in Both the Senate and the House of Representatives.  The republicans, who back in the day came up with a lot of the ideas that are in the law, including the individual mandate, lost.

These 30 republican congresspeople, and their 19 senatorial sympathizers, will not accept the loss.  The problem (well, one of the problems) for these sore losers is after spending tens of millions on 41 votes to repeal (not fix, but repeal and/or defund) in the House of Representatives, they are no closer to repealing the existing law, that still has yet to go into full effect.  They can not succeed within our Democratic system (see previous paragraph).  So what do they do?  They attach it to something the government can not function without, a continuing resolution to fund the government.  I have heard people spew reasoning like "DOMA was the law of the land", inferring that people like me had no problem with overturning that law of the land.  True. We don't always like the law of the land, but those laws are overturned through the proper democratic channels. DOMA, for instance, was overturned by the Judicial Branch of Our government, namely, the United States Supreme Court.  A repeal or defunding of DOMA was not attached to a Conituning Resolution to fund the US Government nor was it attached to raising the debt ceiling, which is coming up in a couple of weeks.  The US Economy was not held hostage in the give us what we want or you get nothing way these republicans in the House of Representatives are using their defunding of the Affordable Care Act.  Children with Cancer were not denied medical trials, National Parks were not closed, 800,000 American Workers weren't sent home indefinitely without pay (more than Target, General Motors, Exxon, and Google combined), Veteran's Affairs, the EPA, the SEC, the FDA, NASA, the Center for Disease Control and on and on were not shuttered until the losers got what they wanted.  As trusted newsman John Stewart said "Did you see the Giants game?  They lost to the Chiefs 31-7 on Sunday. You know what the Giants didn't say after that game? If you don't give us 25 points by midnight on Monday, we will shut down the [Bleep] NFL".

The republicans are out in front of the cameras and in their silly internet memes saying they want to negotiate but the big bad President and his buddies in the Democratic Party won't talk to them.  Of course, this is after six months during which they denied 18 conferences offers from the Democratic Minority in the House of Representatives.  Not to mention the negotiations between the republicans, Democratic Party members, including the President, before the Affordable Care Act became a law as well as the last two times this republican house majority has held their breathe and held the us economy hostage to get what they want (see the sequester that is still cutting from those in need) Not that they want to negotiate the continuing resolution that they refuse to vote "cleanly" on to continue funding the government in full.  No.  They want to negotiate the 2010 LAW that was already negotiated and they can not repeal using traditional Democratic procedure. The shutdown they have caused by refusing to allow a vote on a clean continuing resolution to continue funding the government is estimated to cost the economy $300 MILLION a day and has started to effect the way the world sees Us as well.

Perhaps the most infuriating republican response to the shut down is the "what's the big deal?  A few museums are closed" line.  You may have heard about the heroes that took a trip to Washington DC to see the memorial to their heroism and the heroism of others at the WWII Memorial only to find it closed due to the shut down.  Of course, the heroes heroically bypassed the barricades with the help of a congressperson who helped to shut the government down.  Good for them, right?  As long as they clean up after themselves, for there is no maintenance staff.  Which is a good and valid response for those who ask "why am I locked out of Federal lands, just because the Federal government is shut down?"  Well, parks don't maintain themselves.  Litter doesn't pick up itself.  Trails don't clear themselves.  Information, guide and medical stations in National Parks are not all self help. Campgrounds, bathroom facilities, etc. in National Parks are also not self-maintaining.  There are many examples of work being done by American workers, Federal in this case, that are taken for granted.  Imagine if the Federal workers, commonly known as Air Traffic Controllers, were not exempt from the shut down.  All air traffic in the United States would be grounded.  Are Federal government workers necessary?  You decide.  More than anything else it's the absence of empathy for 800,000 american workers, for poor people relying on the Women, Infant, and Children ("WIC") program, for veterans, for children in Head Start that goes beyond what I would consider unAmerican.  It is immoral. I hate to once again quote News Anchor John Stewart but his response to the dis-compassionate, self proclaimed Christians in the grand Old party gleefully happy about the shut down is just too perfect.  "Fuck You!".  Fuck you, you callous, devoid of empathy and compassion for your fellow American or fellow human, insulated asshole.  Fuck you, gentle lady or gentle man from the right side of the republicans in the House of Representatives.  Fuck you republicans in the House of Representatives to afraid to break from their extreme, mostly freshmen, congresspeople who have wanted to shut down the government from the start, except when it has to do with what Americans do in their bedroom.  And Fuck you to the feckless speaker and his Freshman Senator overlord.  But what should Jon Stewart and I expect from these republicans in the House of Representatives, who voted to cut tens of Billions from food stamps for poor Americans (seniors, children, and veterans included) while continuing huge subsidies for the Agriculture Industry (see monsanto, et al)?  What should I expect from republicans in the House of Representatives who have only fought FOR tax cuts for rich and subsidies for industries that don't need them?

Speaking of tax cuts for rich people expiring, another "point" I've heard uttered is "How are we supposed to pay for these subsidies to help Americans have health insurance?".  The alternative being Americans fending for themselves without assistance, not getting the care they need and dealing with the consequences or relying on emergency rooms  (which we pay for) after something happens. A funny thing happened this June.  The United States of America posted a Budget Surplus.  A big portion of which is due to tax cuts for Americans making over $400,000 per year have expired.  That and this may explain how we can afford it.

So just to sum up, the United States Law titled "the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA)" (nicknamed Obamacare by those who hope it as well as the US economy fails under President Obama) does not need to be attached to the Continuing Resolution to continue funding the United States of America.  It has been attached to black mail the President of the United States, the United States Senate, and the Democratic Minority in the United States House of Representatives.  A clean continuing resolution has and has had the votes to pass.  The Affordable Care Act and the additional laundry list of demands made by these republicans in the House of Representatives are controversial issues, which have been debated and can continue to be debated but have no place being attached to a Continuing Resolution on government funding.  They have been attached like hostages taken by a desperate criminal trying to get out of an impossible situation he/she has created.  In this case, that situation is actually governing.  It and they have been attached by those who have lost at every turn of the Democratic Process, and can no longer function within it.  Or as, [I hope] future (2020) Presidential Candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren recently put it
"In a democracy, hostage tactics are the last resort for those who can’t otherwise win their fights through elections, can’t win their fights in Congress, can’t win their fights for the Presidency, and can’t win their fights in Courts," "For this right-wing minority, hostage-taking is all they have left – a last gasp of those who cannot cope with the realities of our democracy."
Did I mention the House of Representatives is still getting paid?

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Hard times in the town I've come to love.

When I first moved to Hoboken,  I did not like my new "home".  I'm not sure if it was the culture shock of coming up from "the shore", having to get a day job and pay rent for the first time, or the fact that my railroad apartment room felt more like a hallway for my three room mates.  Nothing against my roommates. I could not have been luckier in that regard. Maybe it was that I had moved away from my friends.  The first bar I went to was the Elysian.  An old blues bar with $1.50 beers and decades of dust compacted in its antique corner moldings.  It was me, the bartender and two old guys sitting at the bar.  We watched basketball and they started to tell me stories of old Hoboken.  It was 1996 and I was starting what has been a love affair with the town that has been my home for the past 18 years (with a brief stint in JC Heights).  (Squid's Note:  The Elysian is now a beautifully restored high end French Bistro)

It's not hard to get a Born and Raised (BnR) Hobokenite to tell stories of how things used to be in town.  The stories vary.  Good.  Bad.  Scary.  Funny.  Sometimes they are scary to me and funny to the teller. They are something I can not get enough of, though.  I've worked for the City of Hoboken for 15 years, both in City Hall and at the Municipal Garage.  Not every one offered a friendly face right away to the new "yuppy", "college" kid.  It took some patience before most "cumps" started "tellin' me something" about "back in the day".  One man that did offer a friendly face as soon as I met him was Freddie Moret.  As one of his friends recently put it "If Freddie didn't see you doing anything wrong, then to him you did no wrong".  Freddie Moret loved to tell stories. During the many rides home he gave me, we would talk about Hoboken, old and current.  He had a real love for his hometown, the people in it, and the people he worked with.  Well, most of them anyway.  He would give you the shirt off his back.  A genuine, no nonsense, stand up guy, as are many I have met here.  They are one of the reasons I love this town.  Freddie was a shining example of the  "whaddya you need", "I got it", blue collar, Hoboken guy.  A family man who could operate any piece of heavy machinery and would be the first on the scene of a storm or other emergency.  He once went into a burning building to help in a rescue.  He was not a fireman.  Freddie passed away last week while on a St. Francis trip to tour churches in Italy.  A stunning event that reminds me that our time is finite.  I lost a friend and co-worker.  Hoboken lost a great worker, citizen, and "Born and Raised" Hoboken guy.

When I moved here, stick ball was still being played on sidewalks and families and friends were still gathering on their stoops.  You could almost smell Sunday's gravy/sauce in the air, and not just when the St. Ann's feast was going on.  One of the things I love about Hoboken is that old school, small town culture, where families, extended families, stay in the same town, even the same building.  The idea that your hometown is your Home town, for life.  Families gathering weekly, if not more, for a meal, or to be more accurate, for macaroni and meatballs.  "Aunt" Lena Reilly was one of those matriarchs for many a family member and friend in Hoboken.  The meatballs may have been literally handed to you, but they were always delicious and just part of "enough food to feed an army".  They tasted the way they were supposed to, the way that  you had eaten them all your life, like family.  That Hoboken small town, old school, family culture is something I feel that I long for even though I was not a part of it.  Aunt Lena passed away over this past weekend.  An example of a time going by, an open door for friend or family or friend of the family to come hang out, "eat something" or just sit for a few cans of Budweiser.  An era that proved that in everyday life, family was held and stayed closer and more dear than anything else.  Generations in the same town, building on the culture that was left them.

I moved into my sister's apartment back in '96.  She was studying fine art at the School of Visual Arts in New York.  Hoboken was cheaper than Manhattan and right across the river.  Another thing Hoboken had to offer was its arts and music community.  The yearly art studio tour would boast studios all over town, with 720 Monroe (the Levelor building) And Neumann Leather filled from top to bottom with artists.  Artists and other creative characters lived in loft spaces and old converted manufacturing spaces.  One of the last of which, at 721 Grand, where my band Davey and the Trainwreck and Nipsey practice, is closing at the end of this month. You could see live music at the Love Sexy, the Whiskey Bar, Scotland Yard, the Shannon, and Boo Boo's.   And then there's, recently named Rolling Stone Magazine's #3 Rock club... Maxwell's.  I moved above Maxwell's in August of 1998, and have been there ever since, enjoying countless shows, hosting countless after parties and making countless friends.  It has been part of my identity.  "Hi, I'm Dave.  I live upstairs".  I can not tell you how  many times I've said "I live above Maxwells'". I've been honored and lucky enough to play on that stage many times, both opening for heroes of "indie rock" and nights filled with Hoboken musicians.  I can't thank them enough.  The back room of Maxwell's, filmed in Bruce's "Glory Days", was a place for rising, debuting, and established bands to play in front of an intimate 200 person capacity crowd.  It saw bands like Nirvana, the Flaming Lips, Wilco, Queens of the Stone Age, the Black Keys and so many more on their way up and the established acts like the Melvins, Beck, the Buzzcocks, David Byrne, Dick Dale, Jonathan Richman, Junior Brown and so many more once again prove themselves in a small room with Great sound.  Maxwell's not only gave bands a place to play, they gave them dinner and most of the door.  Something I have never encountered or heard of at any other club.  Maxwell's announced it is closing on July 31st, this past week.  And with it goes a "key stone" in the foundation of Hoboken's music community.  A destination whose closing is important enough to warrant coverage by Billboard, NPR, the New York Times and the list goes on.  Local bands large and small, National acts and every band in between have one less great joint to play in the New York area.  Sorry Stone Pony, but New Jersey just lost its best music venue.

Hoboken will survive, time moves on, change happens, but what is rising seems more like an anywhere USA high end mall, complete with sports bar, food court and bouncy castle.  It could just be the reddened eyes I'm currently looking through talking.  While voting in the recent primaries, an "old Hoboken" poll worker said to me "You really have become a real Hobokenite".  I replied "if only every one that moved here did".  Maybe then the Hoboken culture I came to love would have a better chance of surviving.  Again... Reddened eyes...

Friday, April 26, 2013

I'm over it.

I'm over it.  The facebook soapbox debate team.  The multiple screen new millennium day dream.  The "how can you like that band?"   The John Sayles Good, John Hughes Bad.  The 10 reasons why Patton Oswald should replace JJ Abrams fad.  But there's more to be had.... Bees are dying because of pesticides on genetically modified crops made mandatory by our food supply, privatized.  Bring on the poison!  Bring on the 14 year old mcdonald's hamburger!  For the children.  Strollers equal progress, no matter what is dies in the process.  Culture? Who needs it?  Dissent?  Who heeds it? You want to argue whether bush II was a bad president?  Seriously, you need the evidence repeated?  American Amnesia.  I need to defend what President Obama has done, again and immediately after the Definite majority of the American Votes were won.  The American Argument. Yell until it's moot.   It's good for the incompetent "news", reporting all the tunes that keep us hitting snooze.  A major US city Shut Down, because two crazies bomb a marathon leaving three dead and 30 missing limb.  The bomb? A mix of metal objects and firework gun powder in a pressure cooker.  Back at the house an arsenal of bombs and guns. An AR-15 wielding mad man shoots up a first grade leaving 21 Dead and we still can't get the government to even give every person a background check that wants to buy one, to see if they're crazy, a felon, or a turrist on the run.  Is there a problem that the bombers (from Dagestan outside of Chechnya, though some in the American Intelligentsia have confused that with the Czech Republic) had guns or just the bombs?  Did they listen to an extremist Muslim cleric?  Did they listen to extremist alex jones? Did they differentiate the ingredients of today's violently fear mongering conspiracy soup?  You can make Damn sure they didn't listen to Liberal extremist Dennis Kucinich. Was the younger following the older one's orders?  He was under 9 years old when he moved here.  A hail of gun fire at a landlocked boat, and he wasn't armed at the time to boot.  Rendered speechless once the rights We have in Our Country were read. Why sequester Our debates there? How about the laid off, the furloughed, the dramatically affected. It's Our inept congress's sequester's  White House tour pause and flight delays that have Our patience tested.  Oh No Not Fleet Week too!  What are Our heroes to do?  Filibuster hero, ayn randy paul, droning on for twelve hours about the way a drone flies now says drones are fine if they are shooting down the bad guy, that stole $50 from a liquor store or anyone he agrees is enemy aligned.  The American Constitutionalists' cry to keep the bits they like at all costs, but if they don't like you, that parchment is tossed.  That's a shoe that fits several outfits.  No need to look passed Leviticus.  So that's it.  I quit.  Who am I kidding?  I'm adDickted too it.  But a breath.  A breather.  Breathe in nature's ether.  Avoid the over-stimulation.  The under-simplification.  New Status Update: Freeing mind from occupation.

Friday, April 19, 2013

same boat

We're all in it together.  This reality.  Show.  Gay.  Straight.  Man.  Woman.  Black.  White.  Green.  Greedy.  Jewish.  Muslim.  Taoist.  Christian.  Atheist.  Spinning in circles.  This boat.  Opposite sides paddling in opposite directions.  Checks balanced by obstruction.  You decide.  We decided.  No one abided.  What would the Dude do?  It's none of his business.  It's none of my business.  It's all about business.  Their business.  The hypocrisy.  The indecency.  The intolerant "religious”.  Enshrouded.  Undoubted.  Longing for a time that never existed.  Where privacy consisted.  And questions weren't insisted.  Before the fbi lingerie and the blue dress had its day.  Light a candle in the wind for the days of your.  Own perspective.  Taught to remember the way it wasn't.  When everyone was pure of heart and never lusted.  Hearts and minds.  Clinically.  Cynically blind.  To a "small" government peeping through a bedroom keyhole.  Shouting from internet soapboxes and arm chairs well twitted.  Showing solidarity from the comfort of our own bed.  I-deologies.  Lock step.  Same book's tussle.  The Bible Shuffle.  Holy fiction.  Man written assuming god's diction.  But we are all the same blood, bone, muscle.  Love thy neighbor.  Give them your coat.  Donate your riches.  We are all here.  Now.  And that's all there is.  It's harder to breath past the outrage than it is to continue it.  To find accord than to see the difference.  Scape goat jump rope.  A feudal routine.  The New Bill of Who's Right.  Wrong.  Loud like a Swans song.  Deafening. The whisper in the grass below.  Worker ants just trying to help the queen grow.  Back to nature.  Turned into a stranger.  Walk through the woods.  Breath.  Let your mind go.  Open.  Facing the horizon.  An ocean.  Up from the center of a stand of trees.  Nature’s notion.  The sound of a stream's water splashing can land you on your knees.  Reflections of a blue sky's sunlight.  Bubbling.   From rock to rock.  Watching branches bend.  The breeze.  Enveloped by the sound of trees.  Looking for the creatures that live in their fallen.  The ecological, biological circle of life.  An old tree’s fallen.  Through which a chipmunk's crawling.  A grub's feast.  Shrooms entomb.   Tree to nutrients to a soil.   For new plants.  For a new tree to rise in the light left by the fallen.  Nothing wasted.  Nothing gained.  Efficient.  Sustainable.  Reused.  Recycled.  Made up of the same.  Matter.  Of fact.  Neither created nor destroyed.  The sun rises.  The Earth spins.  The alarm clock sounds.  The next day dawns.  On us all. For one.  And Love for All. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013


We've been tricked.  Bamboozled.  Conned.  Into believing the better for them, the better for Us.  That we just haven't worked hard enough.  Don't want It as bad.  It.  The It thing.  It's gotta have It.  Swindled by snakes selling their oil with the hiss that it doesn't matter your generation in riches, in poverty, in working, in middle class.  It's the same level playground.  Our bootstraps are all just as low.  Any of the fooled can be an Idol with the right reality tv show.  The bigger they get the cheaper it is.  The cheaper the poison the better.  Poison our bodies.  Poison our minds.  Our Air.  Our Jobs.  Let them eat soda!   Only 99 cents!  Pennies in the jar.  The Newest.  Latest.  Largest!  Smallest!  Sold!  Sold on needing a $400 dollar "phone" at only $100 a month.  The phone.  Get the phone.  Need the phone.  The question answering, map making, alarm clock, egg timer, video game. The tv show,  guitar tuning, audio and video recording, still photo camera. The image touching, radio, record collection, photo album.  It's gone Viral.  Festering in my pocket.  An itch I can not help but scratch.  From screen to screen to screen.  The power generated by and for the almighty screen.  Make those pictures move.  Shiny keys to the kingdom.  A better place.  The money's always greener.  Envy sells soap.  So does Inclusion.  So does Hope.  Soap to wash the us or them off from the our way or the highway.  Soap to wash the monkey do as i say not monkey see what I do off.  Standing there.  Eyes stinging.  Somebody dam up that river so I can rinse this lather off.  I'd rather see clearly what they've done to me.  To us.  With their prada shoes.  The leer jet blues.  Close my eyes so I can't hear it.  Plug my ears so I can't feel it.  Numb. Self Medicated. Zoloft. Paxil. Xanax.  Self intoxicated to avoid the panic.  May cause shortness of breath or heart attack.  We'll take those odds.  Our delusion of sanity back.  Food.  Water.  Shelter.  Love.  It's all you need.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

For Jack Kerouac...

For Jack Kerouac from Hoboken, NJ, 3.12.13:
The mundane. The rainy Tuesday morning when the coffee can’t come quick enough or strong enough. On the bus with the cold damp stares. iPhones and ipads. Dumb looks at smart phones. Squeaking breaks get under my skin when the melatonin hasn’t quite worn off yet. Funny how you can go to sleep so inspired and wake up so disheartened. In the office above the garage the smell of garbage and diesel greets. No One Made Coffee yet?!?!? I’m on it. Voicemail. Email. Email. Facebook. Check. Check. Check. Check. What’s news? Who cares about the pope? Jack Kerouac does. Maybe I should have a side of empathy with my disgust for the catholic church. Next up… the rich and powerful don’t give a shit about anyone, but themselves. Maybe one of the bamboozled and fooled gun totin’ tea bagger will realize and shoot ‘em in their bottom line. Where are those walls I use to build so well? My own world makes so much sense. Outside. Or inside this dog eat dog, reality tv, boot strapped, freedom means you’re on your own, world. Where more people still give more of a shit about American Idol then about their neighbor who is starving to death among the world’s wealthiest. Maybe the quarterback can teach our kids the new math. One plus one equals google. Kids told to read while adults play video games. Safety surfaced sidewalks marked by the heels of last night’s indecipherable drunks. The only ones left who make sense to me. Born and raised homeless pleading for change from the people they sold their home to. Ah, to be a fly on the sheetrock… when stick ball was the national past time. Who needs bleachers when we got stoops. Avoiding needle park on the way to a swim in the poisoned Hudson. From dock workers, to artists, to automated everywhere USA cyborgs. Sinatra to Valastro. I wonder what the Beats would Think. Write. Dream. Piss. Drink. In this day at their age. The baton passed to the long lost hippies then dropped. Laying on the dirty ground for decades. Where’s the LOVE, as my rock club manager friend would say. Where’s the love? There’s Lust. There’s Gluttony. There’s Greed. But Love…
Seems harder to come by these days. Left right left to the beat of their drummer. All on the same beat. Handed down from those who can to those who are convinced they don’t have the time to. Have to pay for what used to be free. Just listen to the closest screen you can see. They must know best. They’re the place to be. Right between the world’s worst chefs and three hours of zombies. Still the flowers rise regardless of their power. Look past the glower. The Fear. The Resentment. The Tired. The Bored. The uninspired. Look up past the drones. The clouds are still animals. The Sun still shines, cutting through rain drops to make bows across the sky. Open your eyes. Empty your ears. Your mind. Our mind. That’s where it’s at. The pot may be gold but this kettle’s still black. So much bullshit to set aside. So much beauty they try to hide, replace, emulate. It’s out there. Everywhere. Walk slowly. Breathe Deeply. Drink Heartily. Hear the beat. The beat beneath. Feel the beat in your chest. The Beat. Bumpbump. Bumpbump… bumpbump bumpbump. The boat we’re all in. Oars coming out of our ears. Stroke. Stroke. Stroke. For a new tomorrow. For a Change. Stroke. Stroke. Stroke. Toward a more rational destination. A more together nation. Stroke. Stroke. Stroke. Toward a brave new world. A greener horizon. Jump in to the deep water. Flail. Kick. Get that head up. Let the grind stone sink. The group think. They lied. We imbibed. Drunk on nonsense and paranoia. Fuck it. The little voice in my head knows better than that. The voice. The mind. The Heart. Dig… Deep… Dig the Beat. Thanks Jack. Love Dave.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Three out of Five murderers agree....

There were over 30,000 deaths from bullets shot by people using a gun in America in 2011.  There have been over 1,500 people killed in this manner since the massacre that took place on December 14, 2012.  I say "bullets shot by people using a gun", because "guns don't kill people" people use guns to shoot projectiles to kill people.  In fact, guns make killing people easier than other weapons, like knives or ropes or hammers.  A gun can be used from a distance, where knives and ropes are more "up close and personal".  Ex-Navy sniper Chris Kyle may have been able to attest to this had he not been tragically shot and killed along with veteran Chad Littlefield at a shooting range by an ex-Marine.  At Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, CT, 26 children and adults had bullets fatally shot into them by a person using an AR-15 (a gun that would be banned by legislation currently being proposed) as his preferred tool to propel multiple projectiles at high speeds.  Twenty six people died. Twenty of them were First Grade children.  That same day a person in China stabbed 23 children with a knife.  No one was killed. That's not to say you can't kill someone with a knife. Of the 12,500+ murders in the United States in 2011, over 1,500 were from stabbings.  Over 8,500 deaths by murder were due to the victim being shot with a bullet from a gun.  In more than 60% of homicides (that's 3 out of 5) in the US the murderer used a gun.  The ease with which people can use bullets shot from guns to kill or maim, is one of the arguments for why people should have them for protection.   The relative ease with which you can pull a trigger and have an aerodynamically designed projectile pierce a target, alive or not, hasn't stopped people from ridiculously failing to do it right.  It's not difficult to understand why some of us think people should be trained and tested before owning and operating a fire arm.

To listen to the seemingly paranoid head of the national rifle association, you would think, as Paul Krugman has recently put it, we were "living in a Mad Max movie".  Of course, the nra head was For universal background checks before he was against them.  President Obama and his administration are not trying to take away anyone's guns.  You will still be able to defend yourself without an "assault weapon" or an ammunition clip of more than 10 bullets.  And "assault weapon" is not just some media scare tactic term.  "Assault weapons" are defined by the laws that ban them (see NY's recent SAFE Act gun law and the "Federal assault weapon ban" that was adopted in 1994 and expired September 14, 2004).  When it comes to high capacity ammunition clips, it is easier and quicker to spray a classroom, police headquarters, or movie theater with bullets, killing everyone around you, with an automatic or semi-automatic weapon with 30 bullets in the clip.  If the reason to keep all assault weapons without restriction is the way they look, as gayle trotter recently referred to in her Congressional testimony, I'd have to say a shot gun, or as a veteran friend of mine referred to it a "boom stick", would instill a very similar fear in an intruder.

The Bill of Rights was adopted and attached to the Constitution of the United States.  The Bill's Second Amendment states "A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed".  What was meant by "a well regulated militia"?  The only military established at the time the U. S. Constitution was written was the US Navy, and the Navy's most powerful weapon was a cannon that shot balls of iron one at a time.  So the framers of the Bill of Rights could have been talking about people being armed to protect the "security of a free State" from outside forces, like say if the English struck back.  Neither the word "gun" nor "fire arm" is mentioned in the U.S. Constitution or the Bill of Rights.  At the time of the framing of the Bill of Rights, muskets were being used, again one shot at a time.  The Second Amendment does not say right to bear ANY arms.  It does not mention the right to Conceal your arms.  Do regulations necessarily "infringe" on rights?  Marches in NYC and elsewhere in Our Nation require permits issued by local governments, yet the First Amendment still stands as it pertains to assembly.  There are laws and regulations that limit Freedom of Speech when it comes to things like harassment, or inciting violence, or threatening the President. There are already regulations in many States regarding guns, and the Second Amendment still stands.

The idea that we should not have laws or regulations, because criminals may break them is ridiculous.  We have laws for murder. Now substitute the word "laws" for "regulations" and "murder" for "the most frequently used tool in committing murder".  The "only outlaws will have guns" argument is one that continues to come up in the pro-guns crowd.  The fact is that people break laws and regulations and when they are caught doing so, they are convicted as criminals and consequences are sentenced.  Do some criminals "get away with murder"?  Yes.  Should there not be a law or regulation on it, because they do?  No.

President Obama has made a proposal to deal with gun violence based on the recommendations of Vice President Biden's task force, who met with representatives on multiple sides of the gun violence issue.  President Obama issued 23 Executive orders primarily having to do with data sharing, incentivising gun safety practices, and opening up gun violence research to government health organizations.  The President also has urged Congress to take action on back ground checks for All gun sales, banning high capacity ammunition clips, and certain types of "assault weapons".  President Obama's plan to reduce gun violence can be found here.   The "skeet shooting" president will certainly have opposition on any new criminal or mental health background checks for purchasing a gun, as well as on any bans on any particular fire arm or ammunition.  Some in the nra think that if they wait for the "Connecticut Effect" to wear off, the popular push for new gun relations will fade with it.   Proud assault weapon owners occupied the Oregon State Building recently.   Nothing makes elected officials, their staff , security, and visitors safer than a bunch of people they know nothing about (outside of the concealed carry Permit they got that allows weapons in public buildings) walking around the building with military style weapons strapped to them.  None of these gunmen used their gun to fire bullets like a man recently did in a courthouse in Delaware, shooting four people including two armed police officers.  Two women, including his "target", were killed.  The fact that the murderer hit his target despite the armed police, and that two policemen were shot (before the armed assailant was killed by bullets fired by guns used by the police), goes to the argument that "good guys with guns" are the solution, as does the story of the Los Angeles Police Department mistakenly killing a woman by using their guns to shoot bullets into her.  Of course, the police are not the only people to make mistakes or have accidents with guns. Recently a woman's gun  fell out of her pocket in a mcdonald's.  When the gun hit the floor it went off, shooting her husband.  I guess, in this case, the gun shot the person, though pro-gunners will surely blame the floor.  Failures, mistakes, and accidents with guns are easily searchable, as are intentional shootings using guns to fire bullets to kill people.

There are those in Congress who are against additional criminal and mental health background checks or any other restriction or regulation on purchasing these instruments of death.  Some have several thousand reasons (insert wink emoticon) for their opinion.  Thanks to the nra, there is also a list of people and organizations that support laws and regulations on the weapon of choice for murderers in this Country, which of course was "scrubbed" from the nra's website. Regulating guns and ammunition will not solve the problem of gun violence on its own, but arguments like "video games are more dangerous than guns" do not help.  We live in a society that makes a much bigger deal about the human body on screens big and small than the destroying of them through violence on the very same screens.  We are shown by Our government that guns and ammo is the go to way to resolve conflict. The idea that we make it easy for someone, criminal or not, mentally challenged or not, to purchase and load any gun they want is mentally challenged.  Law abiding citizens have to constantly jump through legal hoops and regulations for a lot of what we do "legally" in this Country. We can regulate it like we do driving.  Test and license operators and register and insure the operated. Do we really need limitless check free internet selling of guns to be perfectly legal to preserve Our Freedoms?

"Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress. If you want to vote no, that’s your choice. But these proposals deserve a vote. Because in the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun...."Hadiya’s parents, Nate and Cleo, are in this chamber tonight, along with more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence. They deserve a vote.....Gabby Giffords deserves a vote.  The families of Newtown deserve a vote.  The families of Aurora deserve a vote.  The families of Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence – they deserve a simple vote."  
 - President Barack Obama 2013 State of The Union Speech

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The 2nd Inauguration of President Barack Obama (I Heart DC)

I came to the Second Inauguration of President Barack Obama looking for inspiration. When I crossed Constitution Ave. for the first time of the weekend, I had already begun to find it. President Abraham Lincoln's Memorial stands strong and stoic on the western end of the National Mall. The Great Emancipator sitting on his throne, silently reflecting. I wonder if he ever dreamed that an American with the skin color of those whom he emancipated would hold the Nation’s top office some 28 President's later. The Jefferson Memorial is my favorite and always brings out my inner romantic. Jefferson sits on the water’s edge, somewhat separate from the others. Absent the sharp edges of his counterparts the round, softer monument is the perfect place to catch the D.C. sunset. On the Eastern end of the Mall is the most iconic building in Washington, the United States Capitol building with it’s the cathedralic dome and President Ulysses S Grant out front on horseback ready to lead the legislature inside to glory. The White House, the Capitol Building, the Statue of President Abraham Lincoln, and the statue of President Thomas Jefferson all face the Monument built to Our first President, President George Washington. The Washington Monument is a striking, rigid obelisk. It is the lynch pin that holds the whole thing together. The American Heroes for whom these monuments were built stood up in the face of diversity. They refused to simply adhere to the norm and profoundly changed the country around them. They did it with and through Strength, Intelligence, Creativity, and Perseverance. None of them are without fault, but these legendary figures weren't doing what they did thinking about how many cities, towns, states, schools, streets, and airports would be named after them. It's wasn't for the millions they would make. It was for the good of the Country. Their Country. Our Country.

It was fitting that the Second Inauguration of the first African American President of the United States was on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Standing in the shadow of the Martin Luther King Jr. monument, I watched as an elderly African American woman looked up at the larger than life granite Reverend with tears streaming down the sides of her face. It's said it all. Those who think differently are missing the big picture and I'm sure would be ready with a list of smaller ones. Barack Obama did not use race in either of the elections he won. There are those who say that the United States is “post racial”. Whatever your stance on race in Our country, electing and re-electing the First Black President is an important, historic achievement for Our Country, and I for one am Proud to be a part of that.

The 1776 Declaration of Independence, the 1787 United States Constitution and the actual Emancipation Proclamation securely housed at the National Archives are shining examples of Our history, Our strength, Our courage, Our intelligence, and Our power through words of action. Great men, gathering to debate, discuss, and form a country that less than 200 years later would be the most powerful in the world. In Our 237 years as a nation, we have already developed quite a rich and diverse history that is on display and well archived in Our Nation's capital. Washington D.C. has an incredible amount of American artifacts. In two days, I saw microphones President Franklin Delano Roosevelt used for his fireside chats, President Dwight Eisenhower's golf clubs, rough drafts of the Bill of Rights with handwritten edits, Kermit the Frog, Dorothy's Ruby Red Slippers, Muhammad Ali's boxing gloves, Archie Bunker's chair, The Spirit of St. Louis, the Wright Brothers plane, the Apollo 11 command module, Original Lincoln Logs, a broken into file cabinet from Watergate and the recording device that blew the lid off the President Richard Nixon's legacy, Edison's light bulb, President Washington's walking stick, and so much more.

The diverse nature of Our history was also on display on the walkways and sidewalks of the Capital. There were boy scouts, girl scouts, soldiers, Gospel choirs, families, hippies, suits, and what I’m sure are the regular few spouting conspiracy and redress. Different accents and languages filled the air. Old and young Americans filled the National Mall, finding history, and witnessing it. And let's not forget the button pushers. The merch army was STRONG on the streets of D.C. Stronger than any parking lot of any concert or event I've ever been to. Obama hats, coffee mugs, travel mugs, baseballs, coins, cell phone covers, bobble heads, t-shirts, sweat shirts, pajamas and lots and lots of buttons.

I was here for President Barack Obama's First Inauguration four years ago, a much colder weekend to be sure. In the subsequent four years, much has been accomplished. There was the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, one part tax breaks, one part aid to State and Local governments, and one part investment mostly for infrastructure and green energy. The recovery since its passage has not been as fast as any of us had wanted, but it is going in the right direction by almost every indicator at this point. Most of the blame for the reduced speed of the recovery should be placed on the failures who determined, the day of the First Inauguration of President Obama to make Barack Obama a one term President and have obstructed ever since. The Affordable Care Act was passed. Whether you think “Obamacare” goes too far or doesn’t go far enough, it’s the first meaningful Health Care legislation I’ve ever seen. And I’m sure there are 21-25 year olds, people with pre-existing conditions, and people who were worried about hitting their insurance limit that would agree with me. The ill-conceived Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy for Our military was repealed. President Obama gave his vocal support to same-sex marriage. The long pre-emptive war of choice in Iraq has ended (for real this time), osama bin laden is dead and the President (with Congress) cut discretionary spending by $1,500,000,000,000+ (over 10 years). At the end of his first four years, President Obama made the $400,000+'ers pay a little more in taxes while not increasing Federal Income tax on anyone else from what they paid in 2009 and increasing the Capital gains tax on income from investments, totalling over $600,000,000,000 in increased revenue. It makes me think about what I accomplished over the past 4 years, and inspires to think of what I want to accomplish in the next four?

Standing in the crowd, listening to President Barack Obama deliver his Second Inaugural address filled me with such political and civic pride the tears welled up in my eyes, as well as the diverse eyes around me. It was a powerful speech at a powerful moment. President Obama's Second Inaugural Address was a call to action, on climate change, on immigration, and on equal rights for All Americans, be they women, Our "Gay brothers and sisters", or Our "vulnerable". It was an inclusive speech. A "We the People" speech. A "you and I as citizens" speech. The President was telling the Americans standing there in the cold and watching around the world that now is the time for action. Telling us, and the rest of the US government, that now is the time to stop perpetually arguing over what will work for all time and "Act in Our time". That Our acting as citizens is essential to accomplishing what we want to accomplish. When the President puts forth policy or initiatives, like say gun control, immigration, climate change, or clean energy, he needs Our vocal support to push that agenda politically. Putting aside its dubious financial backing, the Tea Party pushed and continues to push the policy agenda and elections for one of the two major political parties. The Occupy Wall Street movement changed the National economic conversation to income inequality. Popular movements work, they just never go far enough for some. By referencing Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall the President effectively said radical action by the public makes things happen in a government made by, for and of the people. If We the People want something done we need to help to do it. We the People need to be out there in front of it. The “Bully Pulpit” and Executive orders are strong, but without serious public support not enough of what we want will be achieved, especially if the current House of Representatives continues to act how they've been acting. There were lines for his opponents in the speech, discounting the “taker” meme his presidential opponents tried to attach to Social Security and Medicare and discrediting “the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob”. But more than anything else, this speech was about Americans coming together to get the job done.

As the sun went down on my Second Inauguration weekend, I stood at the Lincoln Memorial, on the stone etched with the words "I Have A Dream" - Martin Luther King Jr. - March on Washington - August 1963 and watched Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. deliver that speech on (of all things) my phone to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. day. Before I was done watching, two young black men and what I think was their mother gathered behind me to watch over my shoulder, looking out onto the reflecting pool as we watched how filled with people the mall was that day. At the end of the speech, the woman hugged me and said "God Bless You". I was so moved that the mention of god had floated right by me. It didn't matter. She was saying thank you to me for helping her say thank you to Dr. King on a day that I think he would have felt proud to see the First African American President Barack Hussein Obama have his SECOND Inauguration.

SQUID’s NOTE: On the cab ride back to Union Station, I realized once again that Washington D.C. a large varied city. I, of course, am drawn to the historic, governmental part of it. But D.C. is always good for good eats. A bowl of noodle at one of one of the many Vietnamese or Thai restaurants, not to mention Chinatown is always a good call. Georgetown's restaurants, shops, and bars are pretty damn good too. Set on streets lined with old brownstones, the Daily Grill boasts freshness because "nothing is kept overnight", Paradiso has some fine craft beers and brick oven pizzas you can watch them create. The pizza really is good, and I don’t usually try outside of the NJ/NY area. The District Commons also boasts good microbrew, and it goes great with a "Pig Board". I think every American should go to Our Nation’s Capital at least once. You will not be disappointed.