Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

WP Comments on Judicial Elections, Religion in Politics, the Energy Independence Sham, and the Link Between Crime and Lead Exposure

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

gasoline lead crime

 

In It’s a Smart, Smart, Smart World, Nick Kristof celebrates the fact that humans have gotten more intelligent over the past century.  In response to Mr. Kristof’s reference to the removal of lead from gasoline playing a role in such increase in intelligence, Winning Progressive explained that the removal of lead from gasoline and paint is also credited with helping to significantly reduce crime over the past few decades”

I was glad to see you identify the removal of lead from gasoline, which occurred only thanks to the strong advocacy of environmentalists, public health professionals, consumer safety groups, and others in the 1960s and 1970s, as playing a role in increasing levels of intelligence.

A growing body of science shows that the removal of lead from gasoline and the removal of lead paint from houses has also played a key role in the dramatic drop in crime that has occurred throughout the US over the past 30 years.

Lead is a neurotoxin that damages or hinders the development of the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which provides humans with impulse control. When that area of the brain is damaged or underdeveloped, people become more aggressive and impulsive. By reducing lead exposure, we’ve reduced such prefrontal cortex damage and, according to a number of convincing studies, helped create the 30-70% drops in crime experienced throughout the country.

Of course, more work remains to be done as many houses, especially in older and poorer neighborhoods throughout the country, still have lead paint that is impairing childrens’ development. Every dollar spent on lead paint removal is estimated to save $17 to $221 in societal costs. But the fiscal scolds have succeeded in slashing the CDCs lead paint prevention budget from $29 million to $2 million for 2013.

In Social Science Palooza III, David Brooks provided a seemingly random sampling of the findings of recent social science research.   Winning Progressive commented on one such study, which found that state court judges in Washington State hand out harsher sentences in criminal cases as the judges get closer to election day:

Evidence that judges hand out harsher sentences around election time provide yet another reason why judges should be appointed, not elected.

The election of judges undermines the judiciary and our system of government in two ways. The first is that, in our system of checks and balances, the judiciary is supposed to serve as a check on the power of the other two branches. One of the critical checks that the judiciary provides is making sure that the other two branches do not unjustly trample the rights of groups that are not in the majority. But if judges are elected, they become just as susceptible to majority will as the executive and legislative branches are and, therefore, judicial protection of the minority becomes largely a non-starter.

Secondly, courts lack any real enforcement power for their rulings, except what comes from the moral authority they gain from being seen as independent and neutral arbiters of the law. But if judges are ruling with an eye out for their next election, they aren’t engaging in such neutral enforcement of the law and their credibility goes out the window.

While our federal court system, with its lifetime appointments, is far from perfect (see, for example, Bush v. Gore), it is widely understood to be a fairer and more professional forum than state courts. And part of the reason is that most state court judges are worried about re-election.

In The God Glut, Frank Bruni interviewed former Senator Bob Kerrey, who is a rare agnostic public official, and addressed  concerns about increasing officially sanctioned religious proselytizing at the West Point military academy, as reported by former West Point cadet Blake Page.  Winning Progressive offered some thoughts on the role of religious belief in politics:

I am a technical agnostic (I don’t think there is a god, but I don’t have enough faith to be able to definitively say that there absolutely is not a god), but I readily acknowledge that religious belief does and should play a role in politics for many people.

For example, religious belief has always been a prime motivator of the civil rights movement, the social justice work of people like Dorothy Day, and of groups opposed to war and the death penalty. In many, many areas, religious belief has been a force for social good. I am motivated by secular humanistic values, but if other people are motivated by religious belief to help society, that’s great.

Where problems arise is when people try to use politics to impose their religious beliefs to limit the rights of others, whether it is on issues of choice, marriage equality, or access to contraception. If you don’t believe in gay marriage, then don’t have one, but don’t try to use the power of the state to prevent other people from having them.

And certainly we shouldn’t be using government to indoctrinate people in religious faith. That is especially so when it comes to the military. History has shown us time and time again that the combination of religion with military power is a dangerous mixture. Let’s make sure we don’t go any further down that road here.

In American Bull, Roger Cohen offers a significantly misguided argument that increased domestic natural gas and oil production will create energy independence for the US that will lead to a geostrategic shift by ending the “political dependency and expediency” that results from our reliance on Middle East oil.  Winning Progressive responded as follows:

Mr. Cohen, I hate to rain on your parade, but this whole energy independence thing is mostly a sham.

For one thing, we are not nearly as directly reliant on oil from the Persian Gulf as people think. 38% of our oil already comes from the US. Another 20% comes from Canada, and 7.5% comes from Mexico. That’s 65% that comes from North America, compared to only about 12% that comes from the Persian Gulf. So, it is hard to see how increasing the portion that comes from the US to 50% would lead to any major change.

Second, with regards to price and the need to stay involved in the Middle East, it doesn’t matter all that much where we get our oil from because the oil market is an international one. As such, major changes in the Persian Gulf or elsewhere will impact our oil prices even if we aren’t purchasing directly from countries there.

Finally, what we need to be focused on is reducing our dependence on oil and other fossil fuels regardless of whether it is domestic or foreign. If we achieve “energy independence” simply by drilling, fracking, and mining more, the impact on the climate and the environment will be disastrous. Instead, we need to be prioritizing efficiency, and the development or renewable sources of energy. If we don’t, any energy independence “victory” will be hollow and short-lived.

 

The Republican’s Debt and Deficit Blackmail

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012
GOP blackmail

(By The Pragmatic Pundit)

Republicans have been using debt and deficit blackmail as a bargaining strategy since the days of Ronald Reagan.Reagan’s brand of politics was successful at promoting the notion that federal government spending on social programs is mostly wasted on pointless handouts to lazy recipients. He carefully cultivated the impression that “government spending” meant “free money” for people who were nothing more than moochers.  Sound familiar?

Ronald Reagan was swept into office on the same Republican fearmongering-propaganda that grips the country today…”spending is out of control, the country is going bankrupt and government is too big.”

There is no denying Reagan inherited an economy that was in a deep recession, but his response to the debt crisis was far different than Republicans would have us believe.

Despite his “small government” rhetoric, Reagan expanded the federal government by 7%, employing a larger federal workforce (those greedy public employees) than any President in history other than Johnson who presided over the Vietnam War.

He did enact a huge tax cut, but then raised taxes eleven times; increased defense spending; ballooned the federal deficit to the largest peacetime deficit in history; raised the debt ceiling 17 times and accumulated a debt burden that equaled the previous 200 years of American history, turning the United States from a creditor nation into a debtor nation.  For the first time in the history of the nation, the United States borrowed in order to cover federal budget deficits.

David Stockman, Reagan’s economic wizard and the architect of the trickle-down budgets wrote:

“The Reagan deficits were intentional, designed to cut revenue as a way of pressuring Congress to cut programs Republicans wanted to destroy….The plan… was to have a strategic deficit that would give you an argument for cutting back the programs that weren’t desired….”

The “small government” mantra and “debt and deficit” narrative continued after Reagan left office and another Republican, Bush (41)  took the helm.

Daily News 1990:  Legislators Say There’s No Money.

During the tenure of these two Republicans, deregulation and imprudent real estate lending contributed to a Savings and Loan crisis and quite possibly the stock market crash.  Between 1980 and 1994, more than 1600 banks were closed or received financial assistance from the FDIC.  Over 1,000 banks with total assets of over $500 billion failed.  The number of savings and loans declined from 3,234 to 1,645.Taxpayers assumed the bill for a $124 billion bailout, while corporate scandals and bankruptcies made matters worse. Enron represented the biggest corporate scandal in history, while Worldcom MCI filed the largest bankruptcy in history.

That was the economy Republicans left for Bill Clinton and they were singing the same song: “spending is out of control and the country is going bankrupt.”  
 
CNN – 1995
Americans blame GOP for budget mess

Buffalo News 1995
GOP FRESHMEN AREN’T COMPROMISINGTHIS OUTRAGEOUSLY PHONY BUDGET CRISIS

Then as now, Republicans focused solely on cutting the social safety net and entitlement programs.  Remember welfare reform?  Republicans take credit for Clinton’s 1993 deficit-cutting package, but the truth is the balanced budget passed without a single GOP vote in either house of Congress.   By the time Clinton left office, there was a surplus.Bush/Cheney inherited the Clinton budget surplus and immediately began turning it into a deficit.

Despite their opposition to entitlements, Republicans passed the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 expanding the program (can’t privatize it, figure other ways for private corporations to extract money from the program).  After being debated and negotiated for several months, the bill finally came to a vote  on a November morning at 3 am while America slept.  Among other things, the bill prohibits the federal government from negotiating discounts with drug companies.  Read the curious legislative history.

Bush launched wars with Iraq and Afghanistan and introduced tax-cuts that primarily benefited the rich.  None of these expenditures were offset and they all were kept off the books, giving the illusion that the country was in a much stronger fiscal position than it was.  Republicans admit under Bush they  “spent like drunken sailors”,   but when the spending was taking place, not a single Republican rebelled.  Remember, running up debt and deficits is a strategy.  
 
Six weeks before President Obama was sworn in, the economy collapsed and the Republicans began their familiar chant…“spending is out of control and the country is going bankrupt.” 
 
Newly installed Governors cut the federal workforce; remember, Reagan ( the man Republicans credit with economic problem-solving) increased the federal workforce to one of the largest in history.  They cut employee pay and pensions, while they delivered more tax cuts to the wealthy.  They busted unions, destroying employees last firewall between workers and employers.  All of these acts redistribute the treasury from the middle class and working poor to the wealthy.

It isn’t ideology that drives the Republican insistence on spending cuts, it’s a strategy.  Think about it…the Republicans controlled the House, the Senate and the White House for four consecutive years.  They could have fixed Medicare and Social Security, but for some reason, there’s never a problem unless a Democrat is in the White House.Listen to how fervently they defend cuts to defense.  Why?  Afterall, defense workers are unionized public employees.  Because there isn’t a department that shifts more taxpayer money to the private sector than the Defense Department.  There is no other federal vehicle that allows the wealthy to extract more money from the treasury, convert more taxpayer revenue to the private sector than the Defense Department.

Throughout history, since 1783, tax cuts for the wealthy and increased defense spending and union busting have increased the gap between the revenues and the expenditures. Shareholders and those on Wall Street have enjoyed inflated returns, while the wages for workers have taken a beating.   It’s a 21st century Gilded Age.

In the final analysis, the real targets are Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid; any program that supports the less fortunate.   Republicans have a long-standing, deeply-held  antipathy for both Social Security and Medicare. Not only did Reagan advocate that Social Security should be privatized, he was at the forefront of a coalition against Medicare with the same arguments we hear today.

How did the public ever buy the idea that Republicans are good stewards of the economy?   Studies have been done comparing every phase of economic growth, during Democratic and Republican presidencies and congresses, and they all show stunningly better performance when Democrats are in power.

The trickle down miracle never worked because lower taxes don’t generate more revenue, they generate deficits.  It is a fact that is so mathematically  basic, it borders on common sense.

‘Union Thugs,’ ‘Employee Freedom,’ and Conservative Lies

Monday, December 17th, 2012

union thugs

(By NCrissie B)

I hope the proverbial cooler heads will prevail in Michigan, as the right-wing media are eager to tell tales of “union thugs” who take away “employee freedom.”

Take Steven Crowder, a contributor to the conservative Dana Loesch Radio Show, who went to the union protests against Michigan’s right to work Freedom to Freeload law with a camera crew in tow, looking to provoke a fight. And he got one:

There was also come clever editing. At about 35 seconds into the video, Crowder is arguing with his hands raised. At 39 seconds there’s an abrupt shift in the camera angle to show a union member throwing a punch. The effect suggests the Crowder was still standing there with his hands raised when the union man started swinging, but we don’t know because of course we can’t see what was cut out during that shift in camera angles. Maybe the unedited footage would spoil the conservative meme of “union thugs.”

This isn’t a new meme. Business supporters have a long history of provoking or even carrying out violence and then blaming unions. The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation – a corporate-funded union-busting group – calls union representation contracts “a classic mafia enterprise: the protection racket.”

Of course, they’re all about “freedom to work without coercion,” says Michelle Malkin.

That clever lie ignores the existing federal law that says no one can be forced to join a union or pay union dues as a condition of employment:

Right-to-work laws do not, as one might think, confer any sort of right to a job. Nor do they have anything to do with people being forced to join a union or pay dues for political causes they do not support. Federal law already guarantees that no one can be forced to join a union, and no one can be required to pay union dues that fund political causes they oppose.

What is permitted under federal law is for a group of employees to propose – and if their employer agrees, to write into a contract – that all employees who benefit from the terms of a union contract are required to pay their fair share of the costs of administering that contract. Right-to-work laws make it illegal for employees and employers to negotiate such a contract.

In other words, the new Michigan law allows non-union members earn union wages and union benefits and use union arbitration to settle disputes with the boss, without contributing anything to support the union that negotiated those wages, benefits, and arbitration rights. It’s a Freedom to Freeload law, and its intent is to starve unions of members and money until the unions disappear entirely:

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

So if this isn’t really about worker’s rights, what is it about? Allahpundit at the conservative HotAir lets the real agenda slip here:

It’s a tough choice, and I sympathize with the unions, but the fact is that in the global economy where you have to compete on wages and other elements, of the units of production, you can you either have, you know, high wages with low employment or you can, as Obama would say, spread around the wealth.

That is, you can “spread around the wealth” of hardworking families. When it comes to tax increases for billionaires and big corporations, Allahpundit writes in another article, that’s “squeezing the rich.”

So this is really all about making hardworking families poorer so the rich can get richer. No wonder union leader James Hoffa predicted “a civil war.”

Needless to say, conservatives are outraged by that phrase. Not so much about blogger Ace of Spades’ reply: “I would advise conservatives – don’t retreat, reload.”

Like I said, I hope cooler heads prevail and the rhetoric is toned down. But if Republicans continue helping billionaires and big corporations prey on hardworking families … at some point, even squirrels will fight to protect their kids.

(Crossposted from Blogistan Polytechnic Institute (BPICampus.com))

Weekend Reading List

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

 

For this weekend’s reading list, we have articles on guns, criminal background checks, Japan’s miniscule rate of firearm killings, the Congressional Progressive Caucus’ Deal for All budgetary proposal, and always low wages at McDonald’s.

More Guns, More Mass Shootings – Coincidence? – Mother Jones’ investigation of the links between the proliferation of guns and the high number of mass killings in the US

Fatal Gaps – a report about the substantial gaps in the federal criminal background checking system for firearm purchases, and proposals on how those gaps can be closed

A Land Without Guns – an essay on how Japan has as few as two firearm killings per year in part because almost all guns are banned.

The Deal for All - a detailed accounting of the Congressional Progressive Caucus’s budgetary proposal, which seeks to protect earned benefits programs, increase revenue mostly through increased taxes on billionaires and big corporations, reduce military spending, and stimulate economic growth through investments in infrastructure and education

McDonald’s $8.25 Man and $8.75 Million CEO Shows Pay Gap – a story on the economic and other struggles of McDonald’s employees, and how many of those employees would have to work for 1 million hours to earn the amount of money that McDonald’s CEO takes home in a single year.

Yes, We Should Politicize the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting

Saturday, December 15th, 2012

In Newtown, Connecticut yesterday, the United States’ culture of violence flared up yet again in an especially tragic and gruesome way when Adam Lanza reportedly shot and killed 27 people, including 20 children and his mother, and killed himself at Sandy Hook Elementary School.   According to a comprehensive report by Mother Jones magazine, this killing rampage is just the latest of more than 60 mass killings that have occurred throughout the nation since the early 1980s.  And while high profile, mass killings account for only a small portion of total firearm homicides in the US, which numbered more than 11,500 in 2009.

Whenever a heinous murder spree like the one in Connecticut yesterday occurs, gun rights activists offer two responses.  The first is to argue that killings like these could have been prevented if there were more guns in our society.  For example, Larry Pratt, the executive director of Gun Owners of America, responded to the Newtown tragedy by stating that:

Gun control supporters have the blood of little children on their hands. Federal and state laws combined to insure that no teacher, no administrator, no adult had a gun at the Newtown school where the children were murdered. This tragedy underscores the urgency of getting rid of gun bans in school zones. The only thing accomplished by gun free zones is to insure that mass murderers can slay more before they are finally confronted by someone with a gun.

This view that the solution to gun violence is more guns is a common one among gun fanatics – for example, the Republican-controlled legislature in Michigan on Thursday passed a law, which Governor Rick Snyder (R-MI) is still evaluating, that would allow concealed weapons in bars, schools, child-care centers, colleges, hospitals, and places of worship.  It is also a view that is flatly wrong.   While it is hypothetically possible that a teacher could have stopped the shooting in Newtown if he or she had been armed, the far more likely result if multiple people in such a situation are armed is a shootout that could lead to even more deaths and mayhem.  And a wide array of scientific research bears that point out, by demonstrating that the higher the number of guns in a society, the higher the number of firearm homicides.

The second major response to mass killings offered by gun rights activists is to try to squelch any discussion of guns in the wake of the killing by claiming that we should not “politicize” the situation by talking about guns at a time when families and the nation are mourning the victims of yet another shooting.  But this response is utter poppycock.  To “politicize” something means to make it “political” which, in turn, means simply that the issue relates to or deals with the affairs of government, politics, or the state.  The death of 27 people, including 20 children, at the hands of an individual who was able to obtain weapons better suited for military or police work is already an issue that relates to or deals with affairs of government or the state.  In fact, as Ezra Klein has pointed out, gun rights activists are themselves politicizing the issue by trying to prevent a discussion of gun laws in order to preserve the status quo of little regulation of gun possession.  And gun control advocates can only change that status quo if they treat this as the political issue it is.  If anything, using the Newtown massacre to help get stricter gun legislation passed so that schoolchildren will be less likely to be killed by a firearm would demonstrate a compassionate understanding of the situation, not an inappropriate politicization of an already political tragedy.

To the gun rights activists who offer spurious claims of politicization to argue that now is not the time to discuss our nation’s gun laws, Winning Progressive asks when is the right time to discuss these issues?

- If the  firearm killing of 27 people, including 20 children, is not the right time to discuss gun laws, when is?

- If the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), and killing of six others was not the right time to discuss gun laws, when is?

- If the firearm killing of eight people in a salon in Seal Beach, California in 2011 was not the right time to discuss gun laws, when is?

- If the firearm killing of five people in an IHOP in Carson City, Nevada in 2011 was not the right time to discuss gun laws, when is?

- If the firearm killing of seven people at Oikos University in Oakland, California earlier this year was not the right time to discuss gun laws, when is?

- If the killing of twelve people and injuring of fifty-eight people in a shooting spree in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater was not the right time to discuss gun laws, when is?

- If the shooting deaths of 11,500 people nationwide in 2009 was not the right time to discuss gun laws, when is?

- If the firearm killing of 33 people and injuring of 23 people at Virginia Tech in 2007 was not the right time to discuss gun laws, when is?

While gun rights fanatics may not be able to answer these questions, Winning Progressive believes that the time to discuss and strengthen our nation’s gun laws is now.  Such laws should be based on the core principal that with the right to bear arms comes responsibility to make sure that guns are used safely, that they do not fall into the wrong hands, and that ownership of the most powerful weapons that are clearly meant for little else than killing people is restricted or forbidden.  Consistent with that core principal, we need common sense gun legislation that reinstates the assault weapon ban, fixes the gun checks system, closes the gun show loophole, bans ammunition clips that hold more than 10 rounds, and makes it easier for police to trace guns that are used in a crime and to revoke the licenses of corrupt gun dealers.

In order to get such common sense gun control legislation passed, we must all raise our voices in demanding government action gun control.  You can help do that by:

- Contacting President Obama - 202-456-1111 – and urging him to show leadership on the issue of gun control

- Write a letter to your local newspaper editor in support of common sense gun control laws

- Support the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and Mayors Against Illegal Guns, both of which are working to establish sensible gun control laws in the US

 

Winning isn’t Enough…Ten Steps for Staying Politically Enaged

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

 

(By The Pragmatic Pundit)

As Republicans recover from the gobsmackery of their tremendous loss, Democrats have been reveling in success at the ballot box.  It was a righteous win.  United citizens proved we could overcome and defeat Citizens United… but winning isn’t enough.

The Middle Class, Democrats, Obama supporters must stay engaged!

The election is over but the Republican party is a perfect circus act…managing to juggle several balls at once.  Here are ten steps for staying engaged so that we can continue winning:

1.    Don’t be distracted by side issues, punditry and the incessant chatter.  The war against voters, women, unions, workers, education, healthcare, science, the gay community, immigration, minorities, the President and even Christmas will continue.

Many like to believe the Tea Party is gone.  Fair warning!  As everyone is abuzz about Tea Party Kingmaker Senator DeMint’s move from Congress to The Heritage Foundation,  remember what The Heritage Foundation really is.  The organization is not about the business of advancing scholarship, but influences, structures and advances conservative policy.

More than twenty years ago, author Russ Bellant wrote:

“The Heritage Foundation will continue to be a key element in the phalanx of rightist groups with an agenda of austerity for the poor, hostility to minorities and women, upward distribution of wealth for the rich, economic domination of the Third World….”

2.     Get your voter identification.  Just because the election is over doesn’t mean Republican dirty tricks will stop.  They will continue to try to suppress voting through voter ID registration and any other means they can.  Get your identification or help someone else acquire theirs.  Give Republicans no excuse to deny anyone the right to vote in the next election.  Don’t wait until another election is near…do it now!

On election day, Minnesota voters rejected a voter ID ballot initiative. In September, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand introduced S.3608: Voter Empowerment Act of 2012.  You can read the text of the bill and follow its progress at  GovTrack.us.

National Conference of State Legislatures has a database with all state voter identification requirements.

You can also find valuable information at Brennan Center for Justice.

3.    Register to vote.  Then make certain your registration has actually been recorded.  During this past election, Republicans destroyed Democratic registrations, switched Democrat registrations to Republican or failed to record them at all.  It isn’t enough to just sign your name…make certain you are “correctly” registered to vote…even if you just voted…take nothing for granted.

USA.gov has voter guides, registration information, voting accessibility, and information for military and overseas voters.

Register to Vote.org makes it convenient to register in any state.

4.    Follow the legislation that affects your life, and the voting record of your state and federal representatives.

You can follow the top ten legislative items of interest at The Library of Congress – Thomas.

OpenCongress is a non-profit, non-partisan public resource where you can track all of the legislation in Congress.

5.    Don’t get blindsided.  Candidates have records!

Voters have a tendency to make decisions based on campaign rhetoric, when candidates are telling the public “what we want to hear”, but candidates have records that will give a clue to what they “really” believe.

Based on earlier revelations, it should have come as no surprise to women that Gov. McDonnell of Virginia would promote intra-vaginal probing or approve legislation that discriminated against the gay community.  It isn’t what they say in the heat of a campaign that counts, it’s what they’ve done.

Project Vote Smart is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that gives the biographies, voting records, issue positions, ratings, speeches and campaign information of politicians.

another is On The Issues.

6.    Pay attention!  “States Rights” have very special implications and because of gerrymandering, Republicans control many state governments and are likely assured to do so for the next 10 years.  It is where the “real” assault is taking place.  Who runs your state?

State Government – USA.gov. – Resources and websites on U.S. states and territories, local and city governments.

Library of Congress – State and Local Governments

7.    Let common sense, instinct and knowledge be your guide.  We are all too often swayed by emotional and superficial values; for example Governor Chris Christie’s approval rating is at 77%, an all-time high.  Why?  Because of his response to Hurricane Sandy?  Because people appreciate his frank and nitty-gritty dialogue?  Hurricanes don’t happen everyday and many consider Governor Christie rude. Still, neither should determine whether or not he is fit for office.

Here’s what’s important about Gov. Christie:

He vetoed a bill that would have legalized same sex marriage in New Jersey as well as other bills that respect a woman’s right to equality.

Christie opposed a law which limited the number of handguns that can be legally purchased in New Jersey to one per month.

This is how he approached New Jersey’s  budget shortfall:

He laid off state workers, closed state psychiatric institutions, cut education, suspended a property-tax rebate program, raised the deductible and doubled some drug co-payments for participants in a state prescription-drug plan for the elderly and disabled, cut state-financed school breakfasts, rental assistance and trimmed the state’s earned-income tax credit.

He reduced funds for pension contributions,  funding for nursing homes and medical day care services.  All while he gave tax cuts to the wealthy and the so-called job creators.  Still, just before Sandy, New Jersey’s unemployment rate was 9.8%, the third highest unemployment rate in the country.

The question should be…how effective has he been at governing?  Have his policies enhanced the Middle Class?  That should be the litmus test for any legislator…even if you like them.

8.    Find reliable sources to stay abreast of current events.  Try to steer clear of ideological agreement and seek out sources that report based on facts.  Sadly, that may not always be the media, so it’s important to

9.    Do your own fact-checking.

Congress.org is a nonpartisan news and information website dedicated to encouraging civic participation.

10.    Get involved and stay involved.  Support petitions, contact your representatives…rally for the legislation and legislators who support your cause.  Write, call, fax, email, tweet, rally …make your voice heard!

Contact your elected officials.

Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper

The most important rule of engagement is to STAY ENGAGED!