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In Midst of Publicity Stunt Real Cory Booker Shines Through

8:19 am in Uncategorized by DSWright

It was a great plan. Mayor Cory Booker was going to stick to a strategy that had made him one of America’s most admired mayors – using the visibility of his public office to launch profile raising publicity stunts for himself. And not just any headline grab, but one that would help define Mayor Booker as a true man of the people in these trying times. He would become a man, nay, a symbol of the dispossessed and suffering.

In other words, Cory was going on food stamps.

Obviously it would only be for about a week but the optics were perfect. And without fail the merry band of morons who had just helped ensure an Obama re-election by trivializing rape and recommending immigrants “deport themselves” took the bait and committed another Fox Pas.

Analogizing cosmetic dieting with brutal poverty? Yes! Winning. Booker was not only going to get great press for his heroic act of not eating the more expensive foods he likes for a week, he would also get an honorable mention from every liberal establishment stroke artist as epitomizing the sensible alternative to a right-wing gone mad.

Meanwhile, back in Newark …

Cory had another great plan. Using the opportunity presented by a deadlocked council vote, he launched a surprise attack making an unprecedented appearance inside the city council building to vote in a crony of one of New Jersey’s most notorious political bosses Steve Adubato. A dirty move even by Newark standards and not in keeping with Mayor Booker’s hyper-managed public profile as an advocate for transparency and good government.

That irony was not lost on Mayor Booker’s colleagues as Newark Councilman Darrin Sharif noted:

“The mayor, who goes all around the country to talk about democracy… literally in the back of the room, hiding in the shadows,” Sharif said.

The riot caused by Mayor Booker’s political ambush was put down by the police with pepper spray and a prominent SEIU union leader was arrested. But, nonetheless, it seems the power play will stand.

So how does shadowy Back Room Booker, the man that actually governs Newark, square with America’s Mayor? Will the Real Cory Booker please stand up?

O Cory Where Art Thou?

As the mythology around Mayor Booker amplifies perhaps it is time to gain some perspective.

Chris Hedges, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist turned activist, is fond of noting in reference to Karl Popper’s influential book The Open Society and Its Enemies that those attracted to power are, at best, mediocre but typically venal. Popper believed that minimizing misrule is more important than trying to find great rulers. The wise know that if you cling to politicians for solutions to all your problems you are asking to be both disappointed and lied to.

So is Cory Booker mediocre or venal?

Despite the venality of recent events he surely weighs in on the mediocre side. Which is all the more deflating when considering the grandiosity of Mayor Booker’s public persona. The mythical image Cory puts forward – as a hero struggling against and triumphing over the epic and craven forces of American politics – would surely be hilarious if not for the tragedy that some actually believe it.

What those believers may be surprised to learn is that the Newark Cory will be leaving behind as his second term ends is strikingly similar to the Newark he inherited from sworn enemy Mayor Sharpe James. The results have been, well, mediocre.

Meet The New New Newark Same As The Old New Newark

In 2002 Cory Booker made his first attempt at becoming the Mayor of Newark. The struggle between Booker and then Mayor Sharpe James was the basis for the documentary film Street Fight. The film lionizes Booker and casts a harsh light on James clearly stemming from repeated mistreatment of the filmmaker by the James Team which is caught on camera. Side note: a great way to become the villain in a film’s narrative is to repeatedly interfere with and harass a filmmaker.

The film also showed Booker traveling to New Jersey’s wealthy suburbs well outside Newark to fund raise confirming an attack launched by the James campaign and validated by campaign finance reports. Booker was repeatedly labeled a “carpetbagger” who was relying on outside money to buy support in Newark which stood in contrast to Booker’s campaign message about popular reform and cleaning up corruption in Newark. In a ironic twist of fate one of Booker’s key campaign operatives, prominently featured in the film, would plead guilty to tax fraud earlier this year.

In any case Booker was defeated 53%-47%.

James would later be indicted and convicted of corruption (venal) clearing the way for Booker to run in 2006, where he would win.

And so began the Golden Age of Newark? Not really.

The primary promise of Booker’s 2006 campaign and the focus of his next media vanity project – Brick City – was on a new plan to reduce violent crime, particularly homicides, in Newark.

Newark Remains one of America’s most dangerous cities

So Booker, true to his word, made homicide reduction the center of his administration’s agenda. Echoing the policies other cities faced with high crime perform, which is essentially a holding pattern strategy, Booker used expanded manpower and new policing techniques to swarm crime hot spots. This lead, not surprisingly, to an initial drop off in violent crime and later to a reversion to the mean with violent crime being roughly where it was when the whole thing started.

So in 2010 Newark saw its first homicide free month in generations…. and about a year later the trend began reversing itself considerably. 2012 has not fared much better.

This is not due to some incredible incompetence within Booker’s administration, the plan was performed as designed, it was due to pursuing mediocrity. It was a failure of vision by a so-called (near self-proclaimed) visionary. Beyond the pageantry of more police on the street and the mayor jogging through the city flanked by TV cameras – what was this program actually supposed to do? If the answer was “not much” then mission accomplished.

The program’s failure was the inevitable result of underlying factors that exist in many high crime cities. Not that it’s news but crimes of passion occur in every community, the body counts in Newark, Camden, and other cities around the country are directly a result of dispassionate violence. Newark like other cities is a major hub for the sale and distribution of illegal drugs which means most business disputes are resolved through violence not civil litigation.

Booker, being a mediocre politician, has never attacked or even substantively spoken to the root cause of the homicides in Newark – the war on drugs. Nor is he likely to, for being a mediocre politician he would hate to alienate the wealthy whiter suburbs (aka the buyers of those illegal drugs whose buying creates the markets that leads to the violent business disputes in Newark). He needs their money and possibly soon, votes. More on that later. Yes, he said the drug war was a failure – well, you are mayor Cory, what are you going to do about it? Answer: Nothing.

OK, put aside crime. What about revitalizing Newark and getting people back to work?


The official unemployment rate in Newark hangs around 15%

Obviously we can all think of a thousand excuses for why Newark has awful unemployment numbers. And that’s fine. And no typical mediocre run of the mill politician should be expected to achieve much given the myriad of excuses anyone can come up with.

And that’s the point.

Speaking of Newark’s economy, Mayor Booker has also been surprisingly similar to his predecessor Sharpe James on redevelopment issues. Despite trying to draw clear lines during the campaign in 2002 between a more open and fair use of city resources Booker pursued a parallel path to James. In one instance Cory continued to press an eminent domain seizure – initiated by James – for downtown redevelopment that he campaigned against and was only stopped due to a judge’s ruling.

From the New York Times:

A New Jersey judge effectively killed an ambitious downtown redevelopment project in Newark yesterday, ruling that the city’s decision to condemn 14 acres of property on behalf of a private developer was ill-conceived and wrong…

Although they blame Mr. James for condemning their neighborhood in the first place, residents and merchants said they were disappointed that Mayor Cory A. Booker upheld the city’s use of eminent domain, despite having promised during his campaign that he would not.

So maybe Cory was exaggerating how bad Mayor James’ redevelopment policies were. And hey, politicians break promises all the time.

Cory also ran into some of the same personnel problems Mayor James had running the city as Mayor Booker’s Deputy Mayor Ronald Salahuddin was convicted for conspiracy to commit extortion. A little venality with that mediocrity.

Should Mayor Booker be held responsible for what goes on in his administration? Or should we lower expectations?

Climbing Mount Olympus

As the mythological Cory Booker of twitter and cable fame soars above the petty clouds of politics – the mayor who actually serves in Newark continues his positioning for higher office. It remains unclear what Cory is going to get for the underhanded display at the council meeting from Adubato but surely he has earned whatever is coming.

But aye, there’s the rub. How long can Cory maintain his public persona with all these dirty deeds piling up? And if he is so interested in higher office shouldn’t he be avoiding irritating the people he would need?

There has already been talk of Booker taking on Governor Christie in 2013. Two words: Ha. Ha.

Booker’s major agenda items fit perfectly with Christie’s, one of the reasons the two get along so well (Christie getting rid of Sharpe James couldn’t have hurt either). The public sector unions, especially the teachers unions would literally not have a candidate worth voting for. Booker and Christie see eye to eye perfectly on privatizing public education (despite a recent cheating scandal at Newark’s most revered charter school) and Booker’s pro-Wall Street rhetoric that got him in trouble on Meet The Press is more or less the same as Christie’s. Not surprising given Cory’s history with right-wing think tanks.

Oh and the Democratic political bosses have done fine under the Christie regime – a regime that is now running with 60%+ approval ratings thanks to the Sandy response which included the Obama-Christie responsible leaders tour The bosses have no reason to abandon a ship that’s sailing smooth, especially given the rewards they received for the hand-sitting in 2009 that brought Christie to power in the first place.

That would leave gay marriage as the only discernible difference (watch for a centrist shift on women’s healthcare by Christie) in which case the argument against a referendum makes even less sense. If it’s popular enough to take Booker over the top then it’s popular enough to win on its own.

The remaining high profile race would be U.S Senator in 2014 which is a crowded field and while Booker can raise lots of money from Wall Street – pushing privatization will do that – it is unclear what difference that would make.

But there is no doubt the mythological Cory Booker is quite popular, the question then becomes how much will the voters be wiling to suspend their disbelief given the record?

Earth sounds my wisdom, and high heaven my fame.

Fmr. Morgan Stanley CEO “Banker Pay Is Too High”

4:15 pm in Uncategorized by DSWright

I am noticing a trend here.

Many former Wall Street leaders are willing to advocate for reforms or even decry old norms – once they leave. The most breathtaking still has to be Sandy Weill’s epic reversal on Glass Steagall repeal. Honestly, that is just amazing.

But let’s look at former Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack’s comments:

Let’s be totally honest. A lot of people who have done really well have not handled that wealth very well. That gets to part of the issue with Wall Street. I think it’s really changing.

I think the kind of money that’s made and the way it was flaunted — look it’s wrong. [...] The money was really unbelievably generous, to say the right word…At the end of the day the one area that has to be squeezed [to give a return to shareholders] is the compensation number.

Whether or not Wall Street is “really changing” is debatable. What is not debatable is that speculators are wildly compensated when compared to other, more productive, jobs.

(Source: Bloomberg News)

Traders are more compensated than brain surgeons and 4 star generals. Does that make sense to you?

Though it may be a little late in coming, let’s applaud the fmr. Morgan Stanley CEO for having the integrity to speak out – even if in retirement.

Occupy May Day Is Tomorrow

1:47 pm in Uncategorized by DSWright

[Editor's Note: Be Here or Be Square. Check out FDL's May Day 2012 coverage page.  Brian Sonenstein has more on May Day 2012 at Firedoglake.]

PhotobucketMay Day, a holiday created in part to commemorate the Haymarket Massacre in Chicago, Illinois, has become a global celebration in almost every country except, ironically, the United States. That Ends Tomorrow.

A General Strike has been called and not just in America but throughout the world.


Occupy Wall Street demonstrators, whose anti-greed message spread worldwide during an eight-week encampment in Lower Manhattan last year, plan marches across the globe tomorrow calling attention to what they say are abuses of power and wealth. In New York, Occupy Wall Street will join scores of labor organizations observing May 1, traditionally recognized as International Workers’ Day. They plan marches from Union Square to Lower Manhattan and a “pop-up occupation” of Bryant Park on Sixth Avenue, across the street from Bank of America’s Corp.’s 55-story tower. “We call upon people to refrain from shopping, walk out of class, take the day off of work and other creative forms of resistance disrupting the status quo,” organizers said in an April 26 e-mail.

May Day is an international workers’ day celebrated in more than eighty countries to honor labor and left-wing movements. Originally organized to commemorate the Haymarket Massacre, the day has broadened to include workers’ rights, immigrant rights, and anti-war efforts. The occupy movement is calling on the ninety-nine percent to no longer stand idly by and remain complacent. May Day is an opportunity to flex our collective power to show the plutocracy that their time is over, that profits over people will no longer be the modus operandi… So will you call out of work for the sons and daughters fighting an illegitimate war, endangering themselves to enrich CEOs? Will you buy nothing in support of the ten million foreclosed homes expected in 2012? Will you march out of classes for the millions of uninsured children in this country? Will you general strike with me?


BEGINNING MAY 1, 2012 NO WORK – NO SCHOOL – NO SHOPPING – NO BANKING – NO TRADING THE PEOPLE OF THE PLANET WILL TAKE TO THE STREETS #OLA & #OLB are calling on all people of the world to start planning NOW for a Global Strike. The goal is to shut down commerce worldwide and show the 1% we will not be taken for granted, we will not be silenced, WE WILL NOT MOVE until our grievances are redressed.

Occupy Together:

May Day is an international day of celebration to honor the labor movement. This year the Occupy movement has made a call for mass action—the May First General Strike (#M1GS): a day without the 99%. Over 115 US cities have organized in solidarity with this call to action… If you are inspired by the day of action but don’t live near any organized events you can still take part. If you can’t strike, take the first step. We can work to shift the balance of power back into the hands of the people little by little in our everyday lives. Here are some examples to get you thinking: Move Your Money – Share a meal with others and and talk about subsidized agriculture and factory farming or make a meal with friends to serve to local homeless people a la Food Not Bombs – Start a Personal/Community Garden – Have a Free Store/Fair: Get together and share your unwanted items with others – Screen a Movie: Invite your friends or neighbors over to watch a documentary – Have a Skill Share: Give a free class to share your skills and knowledge. This could be as simple as giving a knitting demonstration or as complex as teaching someone a new language. We have the power in our hands to change the course of our day to day realities if we are willing to participate and reach out to our neighbors and communities. In the words of Steven Biko, ”the greatest weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” Big business should not be in control of us, we are the many and they are the few.

Read the rest of this entry →

This Week In Occupy May Day

12:37 pm in Uncategorized by DSWright

Last Week.

* Labor Activist Video calling for Wildcat Strike on May Day:

(Occupy May Day 2012)


If you are involved in your Local Union, contact your fellow laborers about organizing May Day events or participating in them.

If you are not in a union but involved in your local Occupy, see how your Occupy is joining in local annual May Day festivities.

If you are involved in neither but want to get involved in a Local, I recommend you contact the Industrial Workers of the World at

Pete Seeger singing L’Internationale.

To learn more about May Day and Labor History, visit to find a Labor Museum or Exhibit in your area. Labor History is important American History.

* The Occupied Social Network, Occupii:




#OLA & #OLB are calling on all Occupations and all Labor Unions to start planning NOW for a Global Strike. The goal is to shut down commerce worldwide and show the 1% we will not be taken for granted, we will not be silenced, WE WILL NOT MOVE until our grievances are redressed.

Every continent, every country, every state, every city will stand up.

Labor and workers are under attack by the 1%. Occupy stands Immigrants and with Labor both organized and not. Unions and union rights are what made our working class strong. Every benefit we have as working people has come from the struggles of organized labor and immigrants fighting for their rights. Now they are trying to destroy our bargaining rights, they want their greedy hands on our pensions. They don’t have enough already? ENOUGH.



We demand good jobs and good pay for everyone on the planet. Citizen of the country they work in or not. Outsourcing will no longer be tolerated by the so called “job creators” for cheap labor. All human beings deserve a living wage.

Education, Housing and Healthcare are human rights NOT “entitlements.”

ALL COUNTRIES PARTICIPATING: If you send me translation of this invite in your native language, I will create an event on this page to coincide with the English version. Please send to

* UK “Occupy Cafe ” member Anna Harris is ready for May Day:

It is obvious we are headed for disaster unless we change course drastically, and we don’t have a lot of time. A project is being discussed internationally in the Occupy movement – Global Strike May 2012. What we are proposing is a continuous strike, a permanent withdrawal from the current system, a signal for all those who feel their work to be meaningless and unsatisfying, to switch to alternative means which are beneficial to the whole community, to support themselves and their families. In order to make this feasible this alternative system needs to be up and running by May 2012. Outrageous! Impossible! I agree with you. Nevertheless it has to happen if we are serious about moving from this morally bankrupt and physically damaging path we are on, to a sustainable system that puts people before profit. Join us on Take the Squares Network and please pass around to friends and colleagues.

* Speaking of the Take The Square Network – will Occupy May Day go Global?


What are you doing on May 1st, 2012?


This Week In Occupy May Day

8:42 pm in Uncategorized by DSWright

(photo: ari, flickr)

(photo: ari, flickr)

Occupy May Day - May 1st, 2012

Last week (no TWIOMD) was Martin Luther King Day. MLK Would Occupy

* From Ryan Rice on

May Day is an international workers’ day celebrated in more than eighty countries to honor labor and left-wing movements. Originally organized to commemorate the Haymarket Massacre, the day has broadened to include workers’ rights, immigrant rights, and anti-war efforts. The occupy movement is calling on the ninety-nine percent to no longer stand idly by and remain complacent. May Day is an opportunity to flex our collective power to show the plutocracy that their time is over, that profits over people will no longer be the modus operandi…

So will you call out of work for the sons and daughters fighting an illegitimate war, endangering themselves to enrich CEOs? Will you buy nothing in support of the ten million foreclosed homes expected in 2012? Will you march out of classes for the millions of uninsured children in this country?

Will you general strike with me?

* Another Facebook Group – they need to know where to go, WALL STREET

* Reddit Occupy May Day

* Occupier Margaret Flowers calls for May Day General Strike:

Occupy Los Angeles, Occupy Long Beach, Occupy Riverside and Occupy the Hood, building on the “Occupy the Ports – A Day without Goldman Sachs!” action on December 12, have all issued calls for and started building towards a General Strike on May 1, 2012.

At a meeting of the General Strike Preparation Committee of Occupy LA today, with representation from Occupy Long Beach, Pasadena and Riverside as well as Occupy the Hood, consensus was reached to call for the formation of a broad, deep and larger coalition for a General Strike, first meeting to be held on Sunday, January 22 at 2:00 PM, location to be announced, around the following provisional program: Read the rest of this entry →

Cerf’s Up: How Privatization Will Wipe Out Public Education in New Jersey (Part 3)

3:21 pm in Uncategorized by DSWright

Part 1 Part 2

What have we learned?

Waiting for Superman, a propaganda film for school privatization, was not nominated for an Academy Award for documentary filmmaking because it was revealed that the “documentary” staged scenes. Michele Rhee, who was in consideration for NJ Education Commissioner and is the most public face of corporate education and teacher union busting, was considerably discredited when it was revealed that when teachers in D.C were told to act like greedy corporate executives they, not surprisingly, cheated on their evaluations to get more money.

It almost sounds impressive when people like Cerf and Rhee say they want to “run schools like a business” until you see how they run their businesses.

Public education is not a business. What? But business is magical, making things about money always makes them better.  Actually, no. Making things about money just makes them about money…

Public education is actually a relatively new idea. Previous to the introduction of a public or state education only the rich and powerful and their children received even the most basic knowledge. It was a genuine belief that poor and powerless people did not only not deserve an education but that it could be dangerous to give them one. One of the better examples of this view was that if an American slave was caught reading they would often be executed.

In fact, even public elementary school education was not widely available in America until the late 1800s becoming compulsory in the early 1900s with the launch of the Progressive Era – the heritage of those who believe in public education today. With the rise of Progressives came an expansion of public education to both the entire country and what would today be called high schools. Later colleges, notably land grant universities would be established (like Penn State).

Progressive John Dewey was one of the first to make a connection that seems obvious today; the link between education and civil society. Dewy proposed a radical notion that citizens in a democracy should be educated so they can make informed decisions. He would later be called a “dangerous radical” in the 1950s when progressive ideas were labeled communist and socialist. One of the chief smear merchants of progressivism was the John Birch Society, founded by Fred Koch – hmmmm.

In an intersecting and parallel track Booker T. Washington began advocating for black educational opportunities during the still segregated Progressive Era both elementary, high school and college.

With the rise of mass education also came the first Teachers Unions – National Education Association founded earlier was reorganized into its modern form in 1917 along with the American Federation of Teachers being founded in 1916.

Only after World War II, with the passing of the GI Bill in 1944 did higher education become something possible for the average person, and even then just for male war veterans.

Only after the civil rights and the Great Society bills passed in the 1960s were non-whites and women given full public education opportunities.

What’s my point? This is not a new battle. Entrenched powerful interests have always hated being taxed to pay for public services like education and have always wanted to exploit the poor/poorer who become more difficult to exploit once educated. School privatization is the tip of a very long spear. A spear that was present when public education was first instituted.

Bob Ingle, a political columnist for Gannett’s New Jersey newspapers, wrote a successful book called The Soprano State detailing corruption within New Jersey’s state and local government. Though Ingle may be a conservative, the idea of rooting out corruption among powerful interests (public or private) is well within the progressive tradition.

But somehow a clarion call for greater purity in public service has transformed into an obnoxious scream to drown out the sound of cash registers.

Chris Christie is not a “reformer” he is now what he has always been, a lobbyist, a shill for the rich and Big Business interests. It is not news to anyone who knows him or his history.

He and his friends are trying to make money. Money that will line their pockets, put an addition on their mansions and slowly but surely trickle its way into their campaign accounts. But there is a larger point besides corruption in New Jersey government.

Ronald Reagan and his fore-bearers, most notably Barry Goldwater, sought to undo Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. And starting in 1980 up to the present they have made considerable progress in turning the clock back to 1929 – with predictable consequences.

Now reactionary conservatives want to go even farther backward to a time when there were no public education. They claim a corporate business model is the best approach, that business is the solution – but public education is not a business. If public education was such a great business idea it would not have taken progressives to force its progress through coercion by the state. Rich people have never liked paying taxes for poor/poorer people’s children to be educated, this is not a new phenomenon.

So what has changed?

The rich and powerful have become shameless. They are more than willing to watch those less fortunate die in the streets than pay a pittance of the massive wealth they have captured beginning in the 1980s to provide for their fellow man (and woman). In an era of bank bailouts, crony capitalist defense industries and corporate tax cheats it is unions and public education that must be destroyed.

Some attribute this shamelessness to economics, culture, religion (or lack thereof) I attribute it to a reactionary attack on society itself. Margaret Thatcher, Regan’s contemporary and hero to the conservative movement once said “there is no such thing as society.”

If you believe that and most Neoliberals do, then progressives are truly a menace. “Collectivists” as Alan Greenspan‘s mentor Ayn Rand would call them. Looters, thieves, the worst kind of parasites – the weak who demand concessions from the strong. Nietzsche, Ayn Rand’s inspiration, called it “slave morality.”

Which is a useful term because if things keep going on like this it’s going to feel like the bottom 99% are living on a plantation.

So we know what the reactionaries trying to wreck government services like public education believe and we know what progressives believe. What does America believe?

I offer a view from one of the earliest Americans, even before there was an America. Reagan himself stole a key concept from him and in reciprocity so shall I.

John Winthrop was Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and once gave his view of the society some claim does not exist/want to destroy. It may be useful for the shameless to consider what some of America’s earliest leaders thought the country should believe in:

“We must delight in each other, make other’s conditions our own, rejoice  together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having  before our eyes our commission and community in the work, our community  as members of the same body.”