Thursday, 30 December 2010


Ken Berwitz

Want a classic demonstration of why, as a general rule of thumb, academics are best kept far away from seats of power?  Then read this excerpt from John Christoffersen's article for the Associated Press:

Upset the federal government recently extended tax cuts for the rich, three professors at Yale and Cornell universities have created a website that encourages wealthy Americans to give their tax savings to charities and send a political message in the process.

The professors started to allow Americans "who have the means" to calculate what their tax cut would be and donate that amount to a charity.

"Extending the tax cuts for the very wealthiest Americans is frankly unconscionable," Yale Law School professor Daniel Markovits said Wednesday. With the website's help, "donors can pledge their money to support the kinds of programs that will help families, create jobs, and set the country moving toward a just prosperity," the professors said in announcing the initiative.

Markovits, Yale political scientist Jacob Hacker, and Cornell law professor Robert Hockett started the campaign. Hacker is co-author of "Winner Take All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class."

The three recommend giving to groups such as Habitat for Humanity, Children's Aid Society and Salvation Army that they say promote fairness, economic growth and a strong middle class. They say the contributions could replicate good government policy and, in effect, draft the government as a funding partner when the donation is tax deductible.

What a brilliant idea!!!!  A demand that people who make a lot of money give charitable donations.!!!!

Who ever heard of such a thing?  I'll bet that, without Markovits, Hacker and Hockett (if that doesn't sound like a Wall Street law firm, what does?) every one of those greedy SOB's would have hoarded their last nickel.

Or maybe there's a little more two it......

Excerpted from Debra E. Blum's November 9, 2010 article at

Gifts to charities from wealthy Americans plummeted by an average of nearly 35 percent from 2007 to 2009, according to a new study released today on the giving habits of the rich.

Affluent donors who had donated an average of more than $83,000 in 2007 gave only about $54,000 on average two years later during the heart of the economic downturn, according to the study by Bank of America Merrill Lynch and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. Health-related charities took the biggest blow, as donors cut their giving to such organizations by nearly 67 percent.

The study is based on responses to a survey about giving and philanthropic habits in 2009 answered by 800 households that earned at least $200,000 a year or had liquid assets of at least $1-million. The average wealth of people in the study was nearly $11-million each. Similar surveys were conducted in 2005 and 2007.


As in past studies, almost all98 percentof the respondents reported making charitable gifts, and about two-thirds said they supported the same organizations or causes year after year. But average giving as a proportion of total income dropped slightly from 2007 (11.1 percent) to 2009 (9.1 percent), and the average total giving tumbled by 34.9 percent after adjusting for inflation.

Well, well, well. 

According to this study, virtually every one of those wealthy, greedy SOB's already give money to charitable causes.  And plenty of it. 

But their giving has dropped over the last two years.  Why?  Because of the economic downturn. 

And if the economic downturn continues, what will happen to their charitable donations?  Based on this study, they will stay lower.

And what is likely to extend the economic downturn?  How about, say, increasing taxes on the people most likely to create jobs.  

So what is the solution?  Is it a suggestion by three ivory-tower academics that wealthy people should give to charities -- i.e. do what they do already?  Or is it getting us out of this economic downturn - which just might be helped along if we make it less burdensome for job creaters to create jobs?

At the beginning of this blog I suggested that academics, as a group, are not the people you want in seats of power.  Maybe the fact that President Obama has stacked his administration with a preponderance of academics - and career politicians (probably even worse than academics) - is part of the problem.

When Mr. Obama starts appointing, and listening to, people with real-word experience, I'll start to hope he can do something about the economy.  Until then - based in no small part on Mr. Obama's "success" with his so-called "stimulus package" - that isn't going to happen.


Ken Berwitz

Did New York City's sanitation department intentionally sabotage snow cleanup?

Despite the first line of the article I am excerpting below, this is no joke.  And it didn't just affect basic vehicular traffic.  Because the roads were not accessible, emergency services could not reach people in need.  There were terrible tragedies, including the death of a newborn infant

Here is the beginning of an article in today's New York Post.  Take a look, click on the link to read the entire article, then decide for yourself:

These garbage men really stink.

Selfish Sanitation Department bosses from the snow-slammed outer boroughs ordered their drivers to snarl the blizzard cleanup to protest budget cuts -- a disastrous move that turned streets into a minefield for emergency-services vehicles, The Post has learned.

Miles of roads stretching from as north as Whitestone, Queens, to the south shore of Staten Island still remained treacherously unplowed last night because of the shameless job action, several sources and a city lawmaker said, which was over a raft of demotions, attrition and budget cuts.

They sent a message to the rest of the city that these particular labor issues are more important," said City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Queens), who was visited yesterday by a group of guilt-ridden sanitation workers who confessed the shameless plot.

Halloran said he met with three plow workers from the Sanitation Department -- and two Department of Transportation supervisors who were on loan -- at his office after he was flooded with irate calls from constituents.

The snitches "didn't want to be identified because they were afraid of retaliation," Halloran said. "They were told [by supervisors] to take off routes [and] not do the plowing of some of the major arteries in a timely manner. They were told to make the mayor pay for the layoffs, the reductions in rank for the supervisors, shrinking the rolls of the rank-and-file."

New York's Strongest used a variety of tactics to drag out the plowing process -- and pad overtime checks -- which included keeping plows slightly higher than the roadways and skipping over streets along their routes, the sources said.

The snow-removal snitches said they were told to keep their plows off most streets and to wait for orders before attacking the accumulating piles of snow.

If this is not true - i.e. the "snitches" are all lying - an apology is obviously in order. 

But if this is true, there had damn well better be retribution -- swift and sure.  This must never happen again.

Meanwhile, maybe Joe Mannion, the head of the union which represents agency supervisorsors, and Harry Nespoli, who heads the sanitation union, would like to extend their condolences to the mother of that newborn. 

It won't mean a damn thing.  The child will be just as dead.  But maybe they should do it anyway.

Zeke .... The unions hate Bloomberg, because they cannot push him around. ..... ...... They worked against the Mayor in the last election, and his victory margin was razor thin, despite all agreeing that he was, by far, the best candidate. .... ..... I don't know for certain that this was an anti-Bloomberg slowdown .... .... it might be city workers merely seeking to pad their overtime (which is quite generous) by working at a super slow pace, and the unionized supervisors giving full attention to matters other than the city's need to clear the snow. (12/30/10)


Ken Berwitz

If I wore a hat, it would be off to Tom Blumer, writing for, whose latest blog shows that:

The New York Times is heralding this year's Christmas sales by featuring Stephanie Clifford's article, in which she says:

Americans are splurging as though its 2007 again.

Shoppers spent more money this holiday season than even before the recession, according to preliminary retail data released on Monday.

Fascinating.  But here's what the Times' Michael Barbaro wrote about Christmas sales in 2007:

Article 1: Disappointing Sales During Holiday Season


Article 2: Holiday Spending Is Weak, as Retailers Expected

In 2007 Christmas sales were disappointing and spending was weak.  In 2010 we're splurging as though it is 2007 again.

Hmmmm, let's see:  What changed from 2007 to 2010 that would generate such a difference in outlook? 

Uh....wait......give me a minute.....this is a tough one.  I'm still thinkin......

AHA!.  I got it!

Wasn't George Bush President in 2007?  Isn't Barack Obama President now? 

And that, folks, is what the New York Times has devolved into.  "All The News That's Fit To Spin".


Ken Berwitz

There are a lot of reasons to like Newark's Mayor Cory Booker (including, but far from limited to, the simple fact that, if he's the Mayor, sharpe james is not).

Since my previous blog referenced how snow was (or, more exactly, was not) removed in New York City, I thought I would also write about how things went just across the Hudson River in Newark.

Excerpted from an article in Time Magazine:

If you're a mayor of a northeastern U.S. city, you probably despise Cory Booker right now, because the tweeting mayor of Newark, N.J., is now a social-media superhero, able to move towering snowbanks in a single push or by sending the shovels and plows your way.


After a blizzard started blanketing the Northeast on Dec. 26, an event that earned the Twitter hashtag #snowpocalypse, Booker turned the microblogging site into a public-service tool. Residents of the city, which has a population of around 280,000, swarmed Booker's account (@CoryBooker) with requests for help, and the mayor responded. He and his staff have bounced around Newark shoveling streets and sending plows to areas where residents said they were still snowed in. "Just doug [sic] a car out on Springfield Ave and broke the cardinal rule: 'Lift with your Knees!!' I think I left part of my back back there," he reported in one message. One person let Booker know, via Twitter, that the snowy streets were preventing his sister from buying diapers. About an hour later, Booker was at the sister's door, diapers in hand. (See photos of the blizzard that slammed the Northeast.)


Booker's frantic Twitter feed reads like an action novel. "I have a snowpocalypse crush on @CoryBooker," wrote one of Booker's million-plus followers. "He's like a superhero with a shovel." The mayor was out clearing snow until 3 a.m. on Dec. 28 before heading back out three hours later after a few winks. "This is one of those times you're just pushing," Booker told TIME while riding around Newark early Tuesday evening, anxiously awaiting a Twitter response from a Newark resident who said her 82-year-old grandmother was shut in by snow. A few minutes earlier, Booker, who played football at Stanford, helped dig out a New Jersey transit bus. "It's an endurance test." This is not the first time Booker has responded to distressed citizens on Twitter. He shoveled the driveway of an elderly man last New Year's Eve after the man's daughter tweeted about his predicament. He also hit the streets during snowstorms last February.

Helluva comparison, wouldn't you say? 

Is there some of this grandstanding on Mr. Booker's part?  Yep, of course.  But that does not change the fact that Cory Booker is someone who gets things done, and is not afraid to dirty his hands in the process.

If anyone can turn Newark around, Mayor Booker can.  He is a young, fresh, dynamic Democrat (in the party of Pelosi, Reid, Frank, Clyburn, Conyers, etc. etc. et. what a refreshing change that is), and a doer rather than a pontificator.

Newark is lucky to have him. 

Zeke .... Corey Booker is certainly trying to improve Newark. After Sharp James, who got tossed into the slammer at the end of his administration, anyone would look good. Booker is taking the right steps, but Newark is hugely incompetent and corrupt. ..... ..... Personally, I am not at all impressed by him shoveling - I expect a mayor to be a LEADER. Rudy Giuliani faced a huge blizzard a couple of weeks into his first administration as NYC mayor. He focused on setting expectations - of workers, of supervisors. He encouraged all the citizens to give a "good job" to the workers they saw clearing the snow. .... It actually worked, and the city was cleared very efficiently. He followed up on the details of the cleanup, ensuring that the work was being done properly. (12/30/10)

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