5.11.2014

Moving to WordPress

I've put off the move to WordPress, which is superior to Blogger in every way, for a long time but I've finally done it. My new blog can be found here. Please go there, scroll down to the bottom of the home page, and enter your email address so you get all my new posts. It's very easy, only one step, enter your email, done. No confirmation steps or anything.

So everything new will be over there now. This blog will wither away and die (I think in September) when I don't renew it. (There is a way to import old Blogger posts to WordPress but it seems insanely complicated and no one reads old stuff anyway so I'm not even bothering.) There are a lot of things I hate about Blogger, and basically every writer I know uses WP (I now understand why), so this had to be done.

Don't forget to subscribe! And please offer comments when I start writing over there, as it makes everything much more fun.

5.01.2014

Does your country celebrate May Day?

Because mine doesn't. I have a piece up at Truthout today about the disturbing history of May 1 in the United States. Read it, share it, give me your thoughts, you know the drill. 

4.12.2014

New piece up Salon

Greetings. My piece on how police unions are dominating municipal budgets and crowding out badly needed social spending is finally up at Salon. I think the argument I'm making here has at least some appeal for people of all political stripes, and the feedback has been pretty positive so far. Thanks to anyone who shares it, and if you read the piece and have something to say about it, please join the discussion in comments.

3.31.2014

When cops become economic elites

I have a piece coming out in Salon at some point in the next few days (4/7 update: slight delay at Salon but it should run later this week), and I want to just quickly comment on some local news, as it will add some context to the argument I make in the piece.

Nassau County, comprised of the western half of Long Island, has long been in a state of persistent fiscal catastrophe, despite being one of the wealthiest counties in the United States. Nassau was so terribly mismanaged that, back in 2011, New York State was left no choice but to seize control of the county's finances, via a control board called the Nassau Interim Finance Authority (NIFA). This made national headlines.

Some progress has been made but NIFA still projects a $122 million deficit in 2014 and large deficits through 2017. Despite this, a report came out today revealing that twenty Nassau police officials earned more than $400,000 last year. One retiring police lieutenant made $554,000; more than $53,000 of that was in overtime pay alone. Several other cops also raked in more than a half a million. Not bad for a public servant, working for a fiscally ruined county, huh?

The argument I make in the piece is that obscene police salaries at the state and local levels deserve more attention from progressives (from people of all political persuasions, actually). These police salaries don't exist in a vacuum; state and local politics very often involve brutal, zero-sum wars over funding, and when cops are paid so handsomely, it necessarily sucks oxygen out of the budget and leaves less for other agencies. As an example, last week an article was published highlighting how Nassau (led by Republican County Executive Ed Mangano) has cut spending for 53 nonprofit youth organizations that do drug education and treatment. Many of these programs are in line for further cuts or even elimination of all funding. This in the middle of a legitimate heroin crisis that has caused hundreds of deaths on Long Island over the past few years. 

Needless to say, advocates for youth drug education programs have minimal political clout. Police unions, on the other hand, are often very powerful, and local politicians rarely have the courage to stand up to them. Paying cops salaries that place them in the top 1 or 2 percent of the income ladder, and slashing funding for desperately needed social services, is about as unconscionable as anything that can happen at the local level of politics. Until right-thinking people demand their local politicians prioritize social spending over paying cops outrageous salaries, the latter will have very little incentive to stand up to police unions, and will continue to happily turn more and more cops into economic elites. I present a number of other examples from across the country in the Salon piece, both at the state and local levels, and my hope is that people start talking more about this.