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Back in 2011, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey renegotiated union contracts with state workers stating a need to lower labor costs but also acknowledging that the state has underfunded the pension system for years. In short, he pushed for a law (the full 120+ page pdf) that among other things would actually fund the pension system over the next 37 years while otherwise clawing back some retirement and worker benefits in the present.

Fast forward to 2015, when revenue projections still have not fully met Governor Christie's projections from 2011. His administration has not funded the pension system as the law requires and has not made major moves to show good faith. Labor, which did what it was required to do when it immediately took raised retirement ages and higher contributions to pension and health care costs, has had to go to the courts to attempt to make the Christie administration do what it is required to do under the law.

To sum it up: the government chronically underfunded the contractually agreed upon pension for decades. Governor Christie pushed employees to take a haircut just to get the state to pay what it was supposed to pay. Post-haircut the governor has followed in his predecessors irresponsible underfunding footsteps. Labor's only recourse has been the courts.

It's time for this limited recourse to change.


Assuming your employer was not inherently awesome and you were not in management, would you want to be represented by a trustworthy union?

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Thu Apr 30, 2015 at 12:02 AM PDT

Sonnet: Justice for Baltimore

by teddywolf

A man arrested, healthy and intact
in custody was taken by the Law.
His death is still the only living fact
inside a story rife with every flaw.
Policemen, armored, ready for a fight
amass to keep a curfew, night til dawn.
The people of his neighborhood unite
to ask the question, Where has Justice gone?
The Crips and Bloods keep order in the streets
to bring the peace to wounded righteous souls
while law enforcement lies at press club meets.
(Apparently they have a different goal.)
When Law betrays the ones that they should serve
Society is hurt in every nerve.

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So you've made burgers for your meal. You might have made other things too, but now that you've made the burgers you have frying pan filled with burger grease.

A lot of people will put that pan in the sink without a second thought. They don't know what they're missing.

Beef fat has been used in cooking for a very long time. McDonalds French fries were originally cooked in the stuff, which is why they tasted so good. When the House of Ronald changed to plant-based oils due to consumer concerns about the health effects of beef fat, they started injecting the fries themselves with beef flavor. Vegetarians are still pissed at the Golden Arches for that one.

The thing is, if you've made burgers at home and you're staring at a pan of beef fat, you could do worse things than just use it for other dishes. Yes, many plant-based oils are healthier for you, but they are not as flavorful. Plus you have the fond on the bottom of the pan, and that's the flavor you want in all sorts of recipes. A couple of ideas below the fold:

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Some people might remember me writing here about Trevor Noah and some of his most offensive tweets. "Tempest in a teapot" were some of my words.

I am not only not taking those words back, I am doubling down. Trevor Noah is a generally respectful man, even when impersonating people who get caught in a bad way. Let me explain.

This week I watched his standup special which aired on Showtime, titled "Trevor Noah: African American." (There is apparently a full video of it on YouTube, which I expect will get pulled shortly.) A few days after watching it, I showed it to the other adults in my home. The consensus was that he might miss the mark on rare occasions--the comparison Mr. Noah made between his stand-up act and sex was something I liked but which fell flat with my wife--but he was generally very funny, quite smart, and had some well-educated observations. That said, Trevor, meet me at Camera Three.

Trevor, you're obviously a smart man with a good sense of history and irony. So please, when it comes to abbreviations for old Imperial measurements, don't blame our fuck-ups on us. Even Mr. Webster, who here in the US took the 'u' out of 'colour' and 'humour' singlehandedly--we clearly neeeded to save our 'u's more than England--couldn't do anything about 'oz.' or 'lbs.' without librarians and cooks burning him in effigy and serving the remains as a delicious soup. Nobody likes being Mr. Effigy Soup For Four. Put the blame where it belongs: the British. I'm sure John Oliver will stand in for all of them quite nicely.

So, to everyone else--OK, OK, you can read it too, Trevor--here is my impression of how The Daily Show with Trevor Noah will debut:
It will be funny.
It will be intelligent.
It will speak truth to power.
It will have trenchant observations with an extra international kick, which will be useful for the international audience. You did know the show is seen outside the US, right?
It will have more international guests than before, though to be fair Mr. Stewart has been decent about them.
It may take as long as a week to get up to speed, but probably not any longer than that.
It will have much, much better impersonations. Sorry Jonny.

Look. I'm not in a rush for Jon Stewart to retire as I, too, am in the aging male Caucasian Jewish category. looks at watch It'll be soon, right? Seriously, he's been doing this long enough that his Daily Show career can almost smoke cigarettes. I hope he has a good break from TV appearences and has fun with his next creative endeavor. And for God's sake, Stewart, keep your pants on! (Again, speaking from the aging male Caucasian Jewish category here.)

Give Trevor Noah a little time. Even the best comedians screw up sometimes, and I suspect many of you will be putting him in that category soon enough. And pray that Immigration doesn't try to get rid of him, because I think he'll bring a lot of good things to the comedy anchor desk.

Oh, and if you get the chance to see the special, please do. It's a lot of fun. It's not quite for kids due to some bad language, but if your kids can handle it they'll probably like it too.

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The Daily Show will have a new host later this year, Trevor Noah. Some people have gotten upset at some of his more inflammatory zinger-tweets. The Nation has a pretty good round-up, sans links.

Look. I don't know the man. I've seen him on his three TDS appearences and in each case he has displayed intelligence, razor sharp wit and excellent timing. I know the jokes are mostly written in advance, but delivery matters.

While I cannot fully judge a person's personality based on a stage presence, I will say that his stage presence did not indicate a serious dislike of women or Jews. I admit he might have missed the memo, the newspaper articles, and the big Superbowl blimp declaring  that Jon Stewart is a Jew--and, quite probably, a poorly disguised woman. However, Trevor Noah's has shown no trouble working with Jon, and presumably the writing staff is not up in arms at the announcement.

As for the tweets... how do I put it? There are multiple interpretations you can make for many of them. The worst of the bunch in terms of offensiveness to me was somewhat insulting to overweight women.

Now, I prefer inculcating a culture of respect, and that tweet definitely didn't. But I've seen far worse, and frankly it was more in line as a zinger than a deep and thoughtful look into the man's psyche. It didn't scream, "I hate fat women!" It said, "I will make a joke at fat women's expense." Stephen Colbert made all sorts of offensive jokes on The Colbert Report, and I laughed. Some of Colbert's jokes were disrespectful to women, but if you ever thought that he himself was generally disrespectful of women you must have missed most of his appearences.

Other zinger targets of Trevor Noah in these tweets include Jews (he apparently has Jewish relations, so that's actually not unusual), jaywalkers, prostitutes and McDonalds--the last two in the same tweet, and probably more of a dig at the Home of the Big Mac. I'll be honest. I laughed at most of those tweets, partly because I took them as zingers instead of Life Mission Statements. None of these tweets were along the lines of "Die you sunuvabitch!" or particularly inflammatory.

Look. People looking for his personality in his tweets will probably not find deep insights in a format designed for surface thoughts. His appearences on TDS are probably more indicative, and he showed wit and insight comparable to Jon Stewart. I don't know when he'll take over the helm of the show, but I am looking forward to more looks at how American infrastructure utterly fails compared to good bits of African infrastructure. Seriously, we need more of that. And I actually expect he'll show that for all of his digs, he respects people as people. That's all we can really ask for--and frankly, I doubt Jon Stewart would hand over the reins to somebody who wouldn't.


Do you think Trevor Noah will be a good host of The Daily Show?

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The political right in the US has done a lot of "message control" in the past few decades. They take something that most people wouldn't have a problem with, give it a different and highly unflattering name, lie about what it is and declare victory when people pan what they're panning. This is how they killed actual universal health care in the early 1990s, aka HillaryCare. End of life planning became "death panels," the inheritance tax became "the death tax", and French fries became "really deep fried, stick to your arteries American Freedom." OK, OK, but that's really what Freedom Fries were.

It's past time for us to take our language back from them, and one way is talking about who they really are. Because let's face it: they aren't actually conservative and these past several years they've done their level best to keep anything from getting done.

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Some years ago I took a college course on how to read the newspapers--no joke. The professor, who had been a journalist for decades himself, pointed out how slants can be put into news articles that are supposed to be as unbiased as possible. Those adjectives and adverbs matter, as do the actual nouns and verbs we use.

I am leaving out certain details right now for a reason. I want you to build a picture with each fact or set of facts as you read them.

One story we read as it played out had to do with the unfortunate death of a young man. Start your picture here.  

The man was a college athlete and a good student, an he was considered very good-looking. He was popular at school, and his teammates and coach thought highly of his abilities on the field. Given those details, think about what the man must have been like. What picture do you build?

Now let me add that he was shot by police. Given the events we've had making the news the past year of various people shot by police, did your picture change at all?

Our initial pictures, our initial biases, shape how we see the world, how we see others.

When I tell you I have had trouble with the police a few times over the years, without elaborating, what do you think?

When I tell you that this man has had trouble with the police much closer to weekly than annually, what do you think?

We have our biases, and they are reflected in how we think. Think, for a moment, about the term "African American." Take a moment. I'll see you below the fold.

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Fri Dec 19, 2014 at 12:47 AM PST

Goodbye, Mr. Chi- err, Colbert

by teddywolf

The previous night you jumped The Shark on the word wall. It was definitely time for you to come to the end.

You had an amazing run, and you ended the show beautifully. And I have to say, there's no way you could have gotten all of those previous guests into your studio unless they liked you a whole lot or you blew a missing pallet of dollars we shipped to Iraq. And while we know you're fabulously wealthy--as you keep saying on Colbert Platinum--I'm going to assume it was the former because CBS prefers their late night hosts be financially secure enough that they can stop selling crack in the green room. Let's face it, if you'd paid out that much moolah you'd be answering the question, "Who gave you the quarter?" with "All of them."

That's as spoiler-filled as I'm going to get. I won't cry for you, Stephen, just like I wouldn't cry for Argentina. All I can do is smile and bid farewell to my absolute favorite American Idiot-Savant and his quest to protect Truthiness, Justish, and the American Whey. Which is, as you know, an important part of Ben and Jerry's Americone Dream.

It's been unreal. And thank God for that.


The New York Times has a full roundup of all the major elections in Massachusetts, excepting the non-binding Question 5.

What's interesting is where the votes went. Not everybody voted for every race. In the statewide races, the run for governor garnered the most votes of all the races, a whopping 2,133,255. Charlie Baker (R) won with a plurality, at 1,041,640. However, the next three largest vote totals didn't go to any office--they went to ballot questions 2, 3 and 4. The Senate race just barely beat out Question 1, the poorly-worded question about the gas tax.

When you get down to it, I guess Massachusetts really is more interested in democracy than any particular political candidate. There's something comforting about that--we care about the process.

And Governor-elect Baker should be careful in how he governs and how long a leash he lets his lieutenant governor have. Leaving aside that the Massachusetts legislature still has a veto-proof Democratic supermajority, Mr. Baker garnered the fewest votes of any winning candidate despite his race getting the most votes--the only one who won a plurality instead of an outright majority. If any of the other statewide officials prove to be particularly popular during the next four years and Baker proves the opposite, he'll be a one-term governor.

And would I take any of them? William Galvin (D), longtime Secretary of State, would do well, but I think he's happy where he is. Maura Healey (D), Attorney General-elect, was Martha Coakley's Assistant DA and knows the office well, so she could be an up-and-comer herself. Accounts have been promising. Suzanne Bump (D), elected for her second term as Auditor, will probably have the lowest profile of the three. It kind of comes with the office. But I talked with her during her first run for the office, and she has both competence and charisma enough to stay a politician for as long as she wants. A jump from Auditor to Governor seems unlikely, but I would not put it past her--and the auditor job means you know where the money flows, moreso than most other elected jobs in the state.

Am I worried that Massachusetts is lurching to the right, like a newly-rised Republican zombie? Not in the slightest. Gay marriage will not be repealed, near-universal healthcare will continue, and our schools will continue to excel.

Actually, I do know one thing that would probably make Charlie Baker a very popular governor. If he pushes our legislature to get our roadways and bridges fixed, making potholes more like snowflakes in May than fall foliage in October, he'll probably be able to stay in office the rest of his natural life.

We lead the nation in education, medical care and potholes. If we drop any of the three, it better be the potholes or there will be hell to pay.


I had meant to be more active this election cycle--helping campaigns where possible, writing when I could. I should have been more active. I keep telling myself this as I look at Democalypse 2014: The Hunt For Red November. I had family and medical reasons that kept me from doing much. We all have busy lives, and I know it. I did at least vote.

To those of you who phone-banked, went door-to-door, manned the phones and worked at the polls, I thank you, very humbly.

I clearly need to write more often. I don't know how many minds I'll change, but I may change a few.

Nationally, we got thumped. Shorter election results: "We're mad at government because it's gridlocked, it screws up badly, and we're not gonna take it any more. Since the GOP has been telling us government is gridlocked and screws up badly, we're voting for them."

Our reply should be, "Yeah, and who do you think makes the government screwed up and gridlocked? Cuz it sure as hell ain't the Democrats." You can add expletives if you like. I probably will, at least with friends.

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One reason so many people like going out to eat is French fries. These lovely little sticks--or occasionally wedges--of potato (or, if you're like Dan Quayle, "potatoe") are quick, tasty, and seemingly very inexpensive. However, there's a lot of prep work that goes into those ready-in-three-minutes fries. By the time they get to you, these little crispy critters have been cleaned, cut, steamed, cooled, fried, cooled again, fried again and coated with salt dosages ranging from "a little dab'll do ya" to "that's the saltiest thing I ever ate, and I once ate a whole bowl of salt."

Making fries at home does take a lot more work than walking up to the counter and saying, "Large fries please." However, homemade fries can be top notch if you make them right, and they can be economical too if you have time and know where to shop. More below the lovely dinner plate decoration.

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Tom Friedman tries. He tries, really hard, to come up with solutions to the problems of the day. His intentions are honorable. He cares about people outside his rarefied economic bracket without being particularly paternalistic, which I appreciate as somebody decidedly not in that bracket.

It's just painful to see him use argument after argument, week after week, about how a carbon tax could be used to slash other taxes, including corporate taxes. As if corporations truly needed lower tax rates.

This week he put it in terms of energy independence and fighting terrorism, making energy tax policy suggestions. And oh, the economic fallacies... the ignorance, it burns! More after the burning cloud.

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