Tuesday, October 04, 2005


As I write this on Word at 7:28 PM Tuesday October 4, 2005 I have been unable to post to my blog, do anything on the internet or use my house phone since around 9 AM Monday morning. That’s a few minutes after a crew working for Comcast began trenching in the park strip in my cul-de-sac to lay new underground cable. Even though all the underground utilities had previously been “marked out” for them so they could avoid the existing electricity, telephone and TV cables, they promptly sliced through the telephone cable servicing the entire street. Encountering hard ground they, unfortunately, decided to use a pick-axe and did the deed.

They notified their office, who notified Verizon, who arrived on the scene in a short time and began work on the already located cut cable. Between 3 and 3:30PM, splice completed, the Verizon lineman left. But he apparently did not bother to check whether service was actually restored to the homes! The Comcast crew, who had suspended work and hung out pending the repair, quickly learned from the neighbors that the phones were still out. They again notified their office, who again notified Verizon and were told a crew would be dispatched. This crew never came.

I had arrived back home around 4PM and quickly got up to speed. Was I ticked!! I phoned the Verizon repair line to add some urgency to the matter. I managed to get them to have a repair foreman call me, which he did at about 4:20PM. I explained that many families were without phone service and how inconvenient and unsafe this was. I demanded that he send a crew immediately to fix the problem. Through his profuse apologies he steadfastly refused to do so. He claimed that he “had no one to send” and danced around my questions about their capability to field crews in an emergency. He assured me that he and a crew would be on site at 8AM sharp Tuesday morning.

So much for “We never stop working for you”, an empty refrain we see repeated ad infinitum on Verizon’s TV and in print ads.

As my neighbors began arriving home from work I filled them in, one by one, on the events of the day and Verizon’s refusal to dispatch a repair crew to restore service that day. The first one told me that in addition to his phone, the Comcast work detail had knocked out his TV cable as well! The second, a professional who operates a business from his home, was furious to find his phone line still dead. He conducts business on his DSL line via e-mail, as well as by telephone. His work was greatly impeded. The third has a second phone line dedicated to an alarm system which automatically notifies the police or fire department in case of an intrusion or fire. He too was quite frustrated and angry. I advised all three that I had also called the Washington Township Police Department to see if I could get their support in motivating Verizon to return to finish the job. I argued that the lack of phone service to so many homes constituted a public safety emergency—people would not be able to contact police or fire officials quickly should emergent situations arise. Police, after all, are responsible for public safety in the community. The officer I spoke to did not see a role for the police in this situation and could offer no help.

Eight AM Tuesday morning came and went. It was actually 9:04AM when the first Verizon truck rolled up. I was still so pissed that I was keeping close score. More and heavier equipment kept arriving throughout the day. It seemed that Verizon was relying on the Comcast subcontractor to do the actual digging in the effort to locate a second cut in the phone cable (the Comcast crew foreman confided to me on Monday that there was a good possibility that they had cut the line in another place). At one point during the morning there was some very lethargic hand digging going on by two young guys. No supervisor was in sight. Much of the day was devoted to locating the problem and excavating. It wasn’t until late afternoon that a lineman actually started splicing the second severed line together.

Darkness fell with the lineman persevering at his tedious task. Portable lights were now in place. I kept wondering: “They ended up working into the night today so why couldn’t they have done that yesterday and restored service sooner”. I saw it as Verizon’s blatant disregard for their customers, proceeding at their own convenience instead of giving us the service we pay them well for.

At 7:45PM my wife told me that the phone was now working. The activity out in the street continued well past 8, the last time I checked.

This kind of situation always reminds me of how little freedom and power we really have. Fact is, in many ways we are at the mercy of corporate America. Mundane activities such as banking, shopping and going to the doctor take place within a tightly controlled scope determined by the policies of the banks, credit card companies and HMO/health insurers that we are necessarily entangled with. Those companies make the rules to suit themselves. We are a captive audience. Participation in modern life is just about impossible without interfacing with those institutions. And to do so, we must do it on their terms. The corporations that control our lives have the enormous momentum of the “free-market” juggernaut behind them. That includes the sanction of our government for their anti-consumer behavior. “The customer is always right” and “customer service” are quaint, outmoded concepts. Corporations in these service businesses are aggressive and punitive in pursuit of their profits. They are also devious and deceptive. They know most people will give up out of frustration when trying to pursue fair treatment. The few outfits out there fighting on our behalf such as Citizen Action, NRDC and Consumer’s Union are invaluable.

Sunday, October 02, 2005


George Bush's numerous lies and blunders would seem to present the Democrats with opportunity after opportunity to weaken his and the Republican's choke-hold control of our government. The reality is, however, that the Democrats have not forcefully and consistently exploited those opportunities and there are two principle reasons for that. The first is that they have no compelling, agreed upon alternative vision to offer the American people. And the second (which, in part, explains the first) is that the power of the Democratic party is too much in synch with what the Republicans are doing to effectively distinguish themselves to voters. I have asserted before in my posts that we really do not have a two-party system because, in practice, the policy and program similarities between the two are greater than their differences.

For example, despite his rhetoric to the contrary, Bush has promoted "big government" in several areas, to the point of alienating true conservatives. Traditionally, big government has been identified with the Democrats. So, they can't take him on on that account. Moreover, with few exceptions Democrats in Congress voted to support Bush's war on Iraq. Even today, only a few lonely anti-war Democratic voices can be heard. All the Democratic noise criticizing the John Roberts Supreme Court nomination turned out to be empty bluster. Time after time, when the opportunity to offer a different, hopefully better, position on an issue has presented itself the Democrats have abdicated their responsibility as an "opposition" party and simply conceded to the President and the Republican majority.

So who in government now represents the majority of Americans who want an end to the war? In truth, no one. Once again, the people are out ahead of their so-called representatives and are resorting to mass action to drag their Senators and Representatives forward to do their will. The reluctance of those elected officials, of course, is tied to their own self-interest--they place their chips on the colors they believe will get them re-elected, regardless of what is in the public interest.

Since the Katrina tragedy/Bush travesty the buzz has been about the large opening it has given the Democrats to make hay for the 2006 elections. There is lots of talk about impeachment. Ramsey Clark has collected over 600,000 citizen signatures on his www.ImpeachBush.org website. Though there is no chance now for initiating impeachment with this Republican controlled Congress, some can taste it with the possibility that the Democrats may be able to wrench control in 2006. The bad news for Republicans keeps coming: DeLay indicted, Scooter Libby decides to reveal himself as the second White House leak in the Plame case, Delay's replacement, Blunt, looking like he too has skeletons in his closet, and so on.

I suppose even a mindless backlash in 2006 would be an advance. Hopefully, it would serve to contain the remainder of the disastrous Bush agenda. Of course, I would prefer that Republicans (and fellow-traveling Democrats) get dumped because progressive politicians running on platforms favorable to the real needs of our people and our country simply beat them on the strength of their offerings. Alas, this is but a fantasy. Even if the Democrats take control of one or both houses all we can really expect is a continuation of the ping-pong, tweedle-dee tweedle-dum pattern of American politics every 4 to 8 years going back forever. Unlike science, technology and medicine, which continually progress and improve, American politics and government only moves laterally--two steps forward, two steps back. It is built into the system. The system needs an overhaul!

Monday, September 26, 2005


Is there not a single person in the Bush White House or Cabinet who has a clue, a heart, the sense, the honesty, integrity or courage to say "Enough is enough"? To break ranks? To quit in protest? Are they a cult? Brainwashed all, with no will of their own, marching in lock step? Is there not a single compassionate human being among them? What kind of person, whose sworn duty it is to defend the Constitution and to serve the American people, could observe the disastrous national and international results of four years of Bush policy and remain silent and committed? Does Karl Rove have them under some hypnotic spell? What explains this lemming-like, headlong rush to crash and burn?
How can Condoleeza Rice say with, a straight face, that she could not believe for a minute the inept Federal response to the victims of Katrina had anything to do with racism? She is an African-American woman with a Ph.D. She certainly knows the score. What possesses her to put loyalty to an exposed George Bush ahead of that to her brothers and sisters, for whom she could be a very valuable asset? What a betrayal! Something tells me the people she abandoned will remember this come next election.
And Chertoff, claiming not to know about the victims and their situation at the New Orleans Convention Center! Is that disinterest or simple incompetence? What is he saying to himself? Do these people sleep at night?
And Bush, responding to Paula Zahn's question about the delayed and chaotic Federal response, with "What went wrong"?
In my lifetime there has not been a more arrogant, bankrupt, dangerous and dishonest Administration in Washington than that of George Bush. He and his henchmen and women have brought shame on our country and promoted the perception throughout the world of America as an outlaw nation as a result of his aggression and occupation in Iraq.
We deserve much better than this bunch of unprincipled lowlifes. Since Congress is in Bush's pocket, impeachment, though deserved, is unlikely. The Democrats are still nowhere to be found. So it falls to the American people to put up and elect independent and progressive candidates in the mid-term congressional elections in 2006.

Sunday, September 25, 2005


Bush can kill two birds with one stone if he put the New Orleans' unemployed, poor and homeless to work in a massive public works project rebuilding that city. Such projects were used during the Depression to sustain many families who suddenly lost everything and to build vital infrastructure and National Parks. Since the President has promised to rebuild the city and address the poverty conditions that existed prior to Katrina, using this approach seems like a no-brainer. Rather than lining the pockets of the already wealthy major contractors who would ordinarily get the job, pursuing the task as a Federal public works project would save us taxpayers considerable money, minimize the inevitable corruption and rebuild lives as well as the city. It is a unique and awesome opportunity to do something that has great meaning as well as value. Those New Orleanians would have a special interest in the work since they would be making a tremendous contribution to their town and may even have valuable insights and ideas to add. It would provide lifelong skills to the participants and make them more employable once the project was completed. It would also eliminate the need to expand the existing welfare bureacracy or create a new one to service the displaced New Orleans poor.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Fight to Defeat John Roberts






Monday, September 12, 2005


Just because the President rarely answers journalist's questions (and never ours) directly or honestly, that does not mean we should not pose them and share them with each other. So here are some of mine:

Mr. President:

Just how did you make your decision that the Federal Emergency Management Administration did not require managers with emergency management experience at its top levels?

Today, you told the press that you and the government can do two things at once. Which two are they?

Are you disappointed that the religious fundamentalist state that you are creating in Iraq is Islamic and not Christian?

When you were a kid did you like to take things apart? You seem to have a real knack for it. For example, you have done that really well to Iraq, to US constitutional democracy, to formerly well functioning government agencies, to the UN and to the awesome good will the international community had toward America after 9/11.

I saw you on TV riding around a desolate Gulf Coast town today in an open truck. Why don't you do that when people are around?

Does Cindy Sheehan have BO?

When you were in the National Guard (heh, heh) would you have volunteered to go to war if the President had not yet called up your unit?

Do you share your mother's view that being crammed into Camp Astrodome is "working very well" for the evacuees, who have lost everything, are separated from family and displaced from their homes, and who are now sleeping on cots next to thousands of others, "since they were underprivileged anyway"?

Saturday, September 10, 2005


Michael Brown is a symptom, not the disease. Addressing symptoms alone allows the underlying disease to flourish. Sure, symptoms need to be identified for it is in the identification of particular group of symptoms occurring together that the disease itself is recognized. Let's say our movement succeeds in driving Brown out of office. Bush would inevitably replace him with a like-minded minion. What have we really accomplished? I am not at all sure that incompetence played a big role here, so much as the Administration's studied approach to demonstrating that we should no longer expect "big government" to take the lead in disasters. It is no secret that Bush favors turning over government functions to the private sector and faith-based organizations. It is the free-market philosophy applied to disaster relief with the predictable chaos that ensues. He stepped FEMA down from its former Cabinet level status. He made it subordinate to the head of the Department of Homeland Security, increasing bureaucracy and all the extra SNAFU that entails. The Katrina disaster was a deliberate withholding of leadership from Washington. A test case that failed and forced Bush to belatedly jump in, all the while denying and minimizing the government's culpability. Perhaps Bush and Co. even cynically hoped or believed that the American public shared their dismissive attitude toward the desperately poor victims, primarily black and marginal, and would not express the outrage that has, indeed, been immediately and powerfully forthcoming.

Progressives cannot succeed in moving the US forward using the fire-brigade approach, one conflagration at a time. Progressives must consistently put forward a political analysis which takes each symptom or issue--Brown, the Iraq war, Haliburton, GITMO and Abu Graib, homelessness, 48 million without health insurance, 7 million more people living below the poverty line since 2000, the highest rate of incarceration in the world, the obscene concentration of wealth in the hands of a few, to name only some examples--and draws the links to all the other issues and uses each to support and "prove" the analysis. We must identify the "disease" and offer treatments. The "single-issue" approach has never had more than limited value. Reforms have been achieved that way but in the absence of structural change those reforms are subject to changing political winds. Gains made through the New Deal, the civil rights movement, the women's movement, gay rights, etc. have either been eroded or are under serious attack. Democracy itself has been seriously compromised by the Bush-neocon cabal in Washington.

I find it rather amazing that despite the fact that there is no light of difference shining through the purported space between the Republican and Democratic parties, the American people are incredibly polarized along party lines. They seem to buy into a mythology that significant party differences exist and feel so strongly that they resort to trashing each other on radio call-in shows and on-line discussion groups and fora. This superficial bashing serves to distract people from the real issues and from their real enemy--capitalism and the corporate elite. The media tends to support and encourage this meaningless squabble, which, deliberate or not, keeps the public from having its eyes opened to the truth. It could not be more obvious that the Democrats have offered no substantial pole of opposition to the Bush presidency. It is incumbent on Progressives to help discouraged people to understand that swapping a Democrat for a Republican in the White House is not the answer to their problems. Sure, their are small differences. Social needs may get more attention. But the enduring issues that impact quality of life: a living wage, decent housing, quality, affordable healthcare, will not improve without structural change.

For too long Progressives have shied away from making public, principled criticism of capitalism. We need to get over it and get on with the work. Commit to the long haul. Open the discussion. Develop an analysis. Design an alternative system that suits this society and organize, organize, organize.

Monday, September 05, 2005


Let me say that the Bush White House is only a particularly toxic example of American Administrations that have always represented a system that consistently puts profit before people, before the environment (our HOME) and before the future. This so-called "free market system" is far from free. As we all see from Katrina it is very costly to regular folks, especially the poor. White House Administrations (regardless of party), Congress and their corporate patrons share goals and objectives that are often at odds with what is good for the American people in general. The free market system by nature, and its boosters, are amoral, unconcerned with right or wrong. Its goal is to maximize profits without regard for consequences. By not spending the money that was known to be necessary to protect New Orleans the Administration could better afford to conduct an illegal war in Iraq and pass tax cuts for billionaires. The free market philosophy is what directs car companies to aggressively market gas-guzzling SUVs in an era of proven declining crude oil supplies. Scoop up big bucks today, the hell with tomorrow. Its what's behind pharmaceutical companies rushing to market potentially dangerous drugs that have not been fully tested. Drugs that earn them billions but have human casualties along the way. Deaths that they have already calculated and consider "acceptable losses".

Of course, the free market system also promotes "individualism" and "self-reliance". On the Gulf coast that translated into "you folks with no way out, you are on your own". Bush and them call that getting government out of peoples lives. I call it criminal. It may not be too far fetched to understand Bush's delay in sending help and getting himself down there as his way of underscoring his view that government's role is one of backup, rather than first responder. His remark this weekend, referring to the Red Cross as the nation's primary giver of comfort, seems to support this notion. As does his initiative to get his father and Clinton to shake the corporate tree for disaster relief money. Put it on volunteer agencies and the private sector.

Nature brought the hurricane but the decisions and policies of Bush and former Administrations are responsible for the failure of the levees, the lack of a coordinated emergency management plan and the resultant increase in loss of life and devastation. The neglect and incompetence become even more of an outrage when one learns that last year, when a very powerful hurricane hit Cuba, the Castro government, in coordination with neighborhood citizen committees and local Communist party cadres, evacuated 1.3 million people without a single loss of life!

Friday, September 02, 2005


That George Bush is incompetent is not a new idea. Now, his handling of the Gulf Coast catastrophe demonstrates once again how dangerous his incompetence really is. Directly as a result of his decisions and actions tens of thousands have died in Iraq, including nearly 1800 American soldiers. Directly as a result of his decisions, poor judgment and inaction probably thousands more have died in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
The American people need to adopt a Zero Tolerance policy for Bush's incompetence!
Congress, observing the Emperor's New Clothes up close, simply looks the other way! How can it be that in all of Congress they cannot muster the courage to plug the judgment gap in the White House?


A People's Petition to Impeach George Bush is intended to influence Congress to finally do right by the American people.

Many Americans have felt duty-bound to support the President, even despite a nagging feeling that he really does not have our interests at heart. Now, his mishandling of the human tragedy wrought by Katrina is likely to tip the balance for those people who have thus far given Bush a lot of rope. It caps the list of dissatisfactions that has accumulated over five years. It brings his incompetence home even more than the death of our troops in Iraq. We realize it could have been us down there on the Gulf Coast. That it is us, our family, our friends. We ask, "How could this happen in our own country?" How could this happen with our shiny and well funded Department of Homeland Security in charge? Where was the security for our citizens on the Gulf Coast? Katrina was no surprise, like 9/11. We all saw her coming and our government sat on its hands! Evacuation orders were given and the fact that hundreds of thousands of people had no means of evacuating was ignored! Our government telling the people to Sink or Swim!! Outrageous. Criminal.

Impeachment requires the commission of high Crimes and Misdemeanors. There is no shortage with Mr. Bush. Check out www.votetoimpeach.org. He is waging an illegal war on a sovereign nation. He lied to Congress and the American people. He was criminally negligent in his handling of the Katrina disaster.

Sign and distribute this petition demanding that Congress impeach George Bush. We must capture the attention of the American public and unleash their initiative to take our country back.


Dr. Max Mastellone
Marie Mastellone