Court Decision a Victory for Mosquera’s Rightful 2011 Qualification & Election

(TRENTON) – Assembly Women & Children Committee Chairwoman Pamela Lampitt and Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman on Thursday praised the U.S. District Court decision that declared that the residency requirement in the debate over Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester)’s election was unconstitutional.

The District court rejected a previous decision by the state Supreme Court in the challenge to Mosquera’s 2011 election, where she overwhelmingly defeated her Republican opponent.

“The District Court’s decision is clear, rejecting a partisan sour-grapes effort to prevent Assemblywoman Mosquera from being seated, despite her overwhelming victory in November 2011.” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington).  “The courts and the people of the 4th legislative district have spoken–vindicating Assemblywoman Mosquera’s qualification and election despite a partisan lawsuit.  Having been decisively and duly elected in 2011, Assemblywoman Mosquera is laser-focused on fighting for the middle-class.  It is a shame that a partisan lawsuit and partisan court decisions have caused the 4th district to hold an unnecessary election this November.”

“The only leverage that Assemblywoman Mosquera’s opponents had was the state Supreme Court decision that her residency was invalid.  Today a federal court judge declared that was not the case,” said Watson Coleman (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “I think it’s time for her opponents to accept defeat and allow Assemblywoman Mosquera to focus on the needs of the people who overwhelmingly elected her to office. The taxpayers should not have to incur the cost of an unnecessary election, but unfortunately, partisan concerns mean they will have to foot the bill for it anyway.”

After the 2011 redistricting process and the ensuing legislative elections, Mosquera’s election was challenged by the losing candidate, who claimed Mosquera’s election was invalid because she had moved into the newly-configured district 10 months before the election. Despite a 10-year old federal precedent declaring the residency requirement unconstitutional in the election immediately following redistricting, state courts permitted Mosquera to be seated but required her to run in a special election in 2012.

Earlier this week, the United States District Court held that the failure to follow the federal court order was not proper.

The following Assembly Democratic women joined Lampitt and Watson Coleman’s call:

Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver
Assemblywoman Celeste Riley
Assemblywoman Annette Quijano
Assemblywoman Linda Stender
Assemblywoman Mila Jasey
Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker
Assemblywoman Grace Spencer
Assemblywoman Angelica Jimenez
Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter
Assemblywoman Marlene Caride
Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle
Assemblywoman Connie Wagner

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What We Can All Learn About Responsible Gun Ownership From the Tragic Mistakes of Others

Anyone who knows me knows that I, like most red-blooded American males, enjoy a good explosion every now and again.  Michael Bay movies were great for a while, but then I turned 13; and with the onset of puberty began what I hope will be a lifelong responsible relationship with projectile weapons.  You say “hope,” because as anyone who doesn’t live in fantasy land is painfully aware, people are not perfect; they make mistakes.  Mistakes can be painful and embarrassing, but mistakes made while in possession of a firearm can be downright life-altering.

I know that many people, myself included, are not immune to the “it will never happen to me” philosophy: I was one of them.  However, a recent tragedy in my own backyard of Boulder, CO involving the mistaken shooting by a homeowner of a drunken college girl who mistakenly wandered into his house caught me seriously off guard.  Essentially, a married couple were asleep in their bed late last Wednesday night when they were awakened by the startling sound of someone crashing around their house.  The unidentified perpetrator made its way to the couple’s bedroom after coming in through the closed-but-not-locked screen door, and woke the couple.  The man (who’s name is Justice, by the way, how fucking awesome is this line from the article: “Justice fired one shot,”), after screaming that he had a gun and he would use it if whoever-the-fuck-you-are doesn’t beat pavement right now, wound up taking a shot that hit this unfortunate girl in the hip.  The rest is history: Colorado’s make my day law protected the homeowner from criminal and civil liability in the matter, and the girl survived, though she is still in the hospital.

My initial reaction to this incident was one of horror: shooting someone mistakenly is a worst case scenario for a responsible gun owner.  In my world, just because I wouldn’t be charged with shooting her or having to defend myself in civil court would not mean that I could just let the whole thing wash off.  I’m not trying to judge, because after all I think the shooters did a lot of things right.  They heard someone in their house, outside their bedroom.  If that doesn’t get your hairs standing on end, I don’t know what will.  They shouted a warning to the intruder and told them they had a gun and would use it if they came any closer.  The intruder was silent: eery shit.  Then, he fired one time, not some spray and pray gangster crap.

However, while I can totally understand that armchair quarterbacking this scenario is unhelpful to everyone, there are some pretty valuable lessons that I learned from this and wish to share.    After all, if you’re going to own a weapon, you must temper that awesome power with responsibility less you wind up as a cautionary tale like these poor folks.  Better to have too much responsibility than not enough.

Lesson 1: A Locked Front Door is Your Friend

The trespasser gained entry through closed, but unlocked, screen door.  Given that the cops measured her BAC at .2 after they showed up, it strains credulity that this woman would have possessed the necessary motor skills to have found her way past the simplest (yet often most effective) security mechanism: the pesky deadbolt.  If she had to break into the house rather than simply gain entry through an open door, chances are it would have taken her longer to accomplish, and she would have made more noise that would have alerted the couple to her presence before she got to the entrance of their bedroom.  This may have given them time to have oriented themselves properly and maybe even make a better decision about whether to pull the trigger (though that is still not a guarantee).

I say this because my housemate constantly makes fun of me for locking the door when I am at home, as he thinks it is unnecessary.  I most passionately disagree, as even though the presence of our two dogs might provide some early alert to a potential intruder (though likely it won’t, as they tend to bark at goddamned everything that moves outside), it’s still not going to buy enough time to escape out the back or take up a defensive position in the (admittedly unlikely) scenario that some dude is busting through the door looking to fuck up my day.

Lesson 2: Back Light Your Target If At All Possible (And It’s Always Possible)

Shooting in the dark is hard, and shooting when you just woke up (I imagine, because I’ve never done it) is hard as well.  You can’t see what’s going on, and if you just woke up you’re not going to be 100% oriented and on the ball, so mistakes will be magnified.  That being said, you want to give yourself every conceivable advantage when dealing with these situations.  It is said in countless places that back lighting a target provides for a serious advantage.  If you turn on the lights in your bedroom, but the target is down the hall, that will just make you more visible to your target, and actually make the target less visible to you.  Advantage homeowner if you can set up a system that shines light on the target and leaves you in the dark.  That way you can see them and they can’t see  you.

As someone who maintains a nightstand gun, I have to admit that I never thought about the idea of back lighting until this article really brought the point home.  If you own your home, it would not take much to set up an electrical switch next to your bed that turned on the lights in the hallway outside the bedroom.  After reading this article, it is something I will most certainly do the minute I move into my own home.  If I’m in an apartment, and I want to keep the nightstand gun with the legitimate intention of using it if threatened, there is no excuse–run an extension chord to a standing lamp down the hall and connect that fucker to a foot switch near the bed.  Then you can be in a real advantageous position, as you’ll know what the fuck you’re shooting at before you pull the trigger, which brings us to…

Lesson 3: Know What The Fuck You’re Shooting At or Don’t Shoot At All

That’s basically the first rule of gun safety, loosely translated: don’t point a gun at anything you are not wishing to destroy.  When you aim a barrel at “shadows” you wind up putting lead through walls and into the baby’s room or a neighbor’s house, or in this scenario, a drunk chick who unfortunately got too schwasty after graduation and didn’t know what the fuck she was getting herself into.  I have a lot of sympathy for the girl, having done a lot of dumb shit myself while a bit too seduced by the water of life.  Thankfully, I never GOT SHOT IN THE HIP for my troubles.  I’m not making excuses for her–people need to be able to handle their shit–but I sympathize.  I sympathize with the guy who shot her too, because I’m sure he feels like a real goat (his wife had legitimate fears about stalking, and let’s be real, psychiatrists are the type of people who would be more exposed to actual crazies, which brings us back to Lesson 1…), but that’s the thing about sympathy: it just doesn’t put hemoglobin back into the circulatory system.

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Save the Post Office: Write to Your Friends ~ Matia Guardabascio

I have over four hundred friends on Facebook. Sometimes I wonder how many of them I actually talk to, how many I actually hang out with, or whether or not it matters if I do either of those things. Virtual communication and social media undoubtedly have many advantages, the most important of which being the immediacy of getting in touch with someone, like with text messaging. Social media, e-mail, text messaging, these are all synonymous with instant communication, or better yet, the instant gratification of immediately establishing contact with someone. But I wonder, how much of the human experience gets lost in virtual communication?

I cannot say that social media is destroying the bonds of friendship and really mean it. People are more connected than ever—finding long lost family, or friends from elementary school you thought you would never see again. But there is a difference between a Facebook friend and an actual friend. You know, a friend—someone you trust. Someone you actually talk to and know.

The interpersonal touch is obviously missing. You can’t shake hands with someone online. While social media offers many means of communicating, the intimacy of talking to a single person at one time is lost.  Facebook pages and Twitter accounts share information with everyone all at once. It’s all public. Even posts on friends’ pages are visible to anyone with access. People may be connected in a more vast and efficient way, but the intimacy, by which I mean the attentiveness, focus and honesty that goes hand in hand with one on one conversation, is all but lost in such a fast and efficient method of communication.

The epistolary form—letter writing—is a far more personal way of communicating with a good friend. People express themselves differently in written form than they do verbally or in a brief post on Facebook. Writing letters to friends opens up a whole world of expression that is otherwise buried by the concise methods of expression in virtual communication.

I write letters to some of my friends, mostly to those who live in other countries or on the Pacific side of the United States. These are friends I no longer get to see or talk to on any kind of regular basis. Writing letters to them enables me to tell them everything I want them to know—the kind of things one confides in good friends—in a space I choose to dedicate to them. And only them.

Sitting down to write a letter can be an arduous task sometimes. One of the reasons I use letter writing to communicate with my far away friends is because I can’t tell them directly what’s going on in my life on Facebook without telling everyone, or sending a long winded email. A letter carries with it the connotation of being long correspondence and of being personal. Still, the actual act of writing a letter requires a similar effort to writing a paper in that it requires a particular kind of uninterrupted focus, not to mention time. When I write to a good friend I have to focus only on that friend and what I would say if we were alone on a porch or by a fire drinking a bottle of wine. Letter writing requires honesty, focus and time, three things that are hard to come by in a world that insists on instant communication. But once the habit is established, writing letters to friends becomes a consistent way to speak truth to those who are too far away for a few beers and an afternoon chat on the porch or the stoop.

When you put your words on paper, you are creating a record. A record of a thought process, of an idea, or of a moment. And when you take the time to attach your words to a page and send them to the intended audience, you will have said everything you wanted to say, but couldn’t because other people were around. That friend now has a record of a moment in time in your life that he or she can read over and over again, if only to hear your voice.

Whenever I know I am to receive a letter, I wait anxiously for the mailman to come. I rush to the mailbox after he leaves and sift though it as if I’m searching for something of more value than a hidden treasure. For that reason, the mailman has always been one of my favorite people. I love expecting something other than bills to come for me. And the mailman is always the guy who gives me the good news.

There is something to be said for the anticipation of receiving snail-mail correspondence. The world of social media has undoubtedly spoiled us. Now, instant gratification is an every day thing when it comes to communicating. Waiting for a letter takes too much time in a world obsessed with efficiency and speed. But with efficiency and speed running the world of communication, how much substantial conversation can really be had? Already the deterioration of the English language is underway. Text messaging alone has been the biggest culprit… cuz like i luv like talking to u w/o actually speaking, u kno? Because of our abbreviated methods of communication, no one really seems to be talking or writing at length anymore. No one has the time because we’re all too busy trying to keep up with the pace of this virtual world.

But, how great a feeling is it to get a birthday card in the mail—the thought that someone actually took two seconds out of their day to think of you (and maybe help you out with a check or some cash)! They actually bought a stamp for you! How awesome is that? I mean—who buys stamps anymore?

But what would happen if we couldn’t buy stamps anymore? Or get birthday cards in the mail? What would happen if the Post Office died? Well, the answer is the same as it always is when a government service is diminished or disappears: the private sector takes over that entire market. UPS, Fedex, and DHL would be in charge of making sure your correspondence or package would be taken care of logistically! But at what cost? Soon you would be spending dollars instead of cents to RSVP to a wedding or mail a college application or send a ‘thank you’ note.

The Post Office is our last hope for paying a reasonable price for anything! While we’re paying four dollars per gallon for gas, you’re still paying less than fifty cents to mail a letter, less than a dollar to mail a letter anywhere else in the world. It’s easy to take advantage of a service like the Post Office because it has been around for as long as the United States has been a country.

The Post Office has this illusory aura about it, that it will always be around because it’s an American institution. But like most illusory things, this is untrue. Because communication has now exceeded speeds that the Post Office can maintain, its potential disappearance is now a real threat, as evidenced by the hundreds of Post Offices that have recently closed, and the thousands of postal workers who were consequently laid off.

We will lose more than jobs if the Post Office goes out of business. Listen to me… If you don’t write to your friends, then the most inexpensive service known to American society will die. And with it will die your last chance to really correspond with someone in the last intimate form of quality non-verbal communication.

__________________________

Photo courtesy of vocabulary.wordpress.com

(http://vocabulry.wordpress.com/2010/07/31/epistolary/)

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Occupying the Brooklyn Bridge and the Power of Protest ~ Matthew D’Elia

Part I

I did not know what to expect when I decided to go to New York on Saturday to check out Occupy Wall Street. In fact, I had only opted to go after seeing the now famous footage of police brutality, courtesy of inspector Anthony Bologna aka “Tony Baloney”(video). I had originally planned to go with a couple of friends, but that did not pan out. For a moment I was hesitant to go by myself because I rarely travel to New York City, let alone get involved in a protest in which people have been beaten, pepper sprayed, and arrested. But I decided to go anyway. After walking out of the PATH Station at the World Trade Center I was immediately taken aback by the number of police officers stationed in the area. Apparently the police have occupied their own portions of Lower Manhattan where they are keeping vans, buses, equipment and personnel at the ready just in case the word comes in to start making mass arrests.

I wandered a bit until finally making it to Liberty Plaza Park (formerly known as Zucotti Park), where I continued to wander aimlessly, snapping a few pictures until I happened upon fellow Rutgers University students, Kristin Clark, Matt Cordeiro, and Joel Salvino, who were looking for a bathroom. Joel pointed out a ninety-five year old Marxist-Leninist who had been yelling at a few Ron Paul supporters. I wanted to know why this man was so insistent on being a Leninist as well as a Marxist, so I decided to have a chat with him while I waited for them to come back. Here I learned a valuable lesson: ninety-five year old men do not take shit from anyone. He formed his political beliefs in the 1930s and they seem to have not changed since.What made him a Marxist-Leninist was the idea that radical social change was only possible through a tightly structured organization with ideological cohesion,  a specific set of goals, a powerful leadership and the willingness to achieve their ends by any means necessary. Occupy Wall Street does not follow this model at all.

It is usually difficult to categorize or try to make sense of mass movements and protests that emerge seemingly out of nowhere. Occupy Wall Street is marked partially by a strange alliance of both Ron Paul supporters on the far right (Anarcho-Capitalists) and socialists, Marxists, and Anarcho-Syndicalists on the far left. Barring their consensus on the full expansion of civil liberties, the only agreement among the two sides is that greed and, to borrow a quip from the historian Thomas Bailey, the “international gangsterism” of the global finance industry and powerful states has crippled the global economy and propped up the power of a handful of elites at the expense of the majority.

Liberty Park is not only Occupy Wall Street’s staging ground, but has also become a temporary, indefinite home for the movement’s core group of organizers, including Zu, a former Rutgers student and resident of New Brunswick, who after getting laid off decided to sublet her apartment and move into the park. Most of the youth living in the park seem to be in a similar situation.  In order to accommodate themselves they have set up sleeping spaces, a kitchen of sorts, a medical station, and even a library.

As we began preparing for the 3:00pm march, there were whispers that we would be marching over the Brooklyn Bridge. At the time—and even now—I did not know whether this meant that we would be marching over the walkway or one of the traffic lanes. In any case, the march got underway without incident. We were positioned in the back because Zu had taken up the task of setting the pace from the back of the march. The senior citizens were to take up the vanguard. Ironically enough, there is a much higher chance of getting arrested in the rear of any given protest march, because from there it is much easier for the police to use the “kettling technique” to trap demonstrators. However, being positioned there actually prevented us from joining those on the traffic lanes and subsequent arrest.

The group of marchers was increasing in size as we moved north along Broadway towards the Brooklyn Bridge. This was easy to notice because in order to continue setting the pace from the back we had to keep moving behind all of the new people joining the march. People were getting really excited. There was a very energetic young woman (one of the organizers), who was running around starting up chants and trying to get everyone to close off the gaps between marchers. She accidentally stepped on the back of my shoe, causing my foot to fall out. She quickly said “Sorry, baby!” with real sincerity, and ran ahead to energize the rest of the group.

As we were approaching the bridge, I was still not sure if we were going to cross into the traffic lanes. The police had blocked traffic from travelling eastbound into Brooklyn, but had also formed a line to prevent protesters from entering. We were still at the very back of the march. The police were patrolling up and down the lane parallel to the walkway. It was not until we had travelled a few hundred yards up the bridge that we realized protesters had somehow made it down into the street. I had assumed that the police formed that line blocking protesters from entering the entire time; apparently that was not the case. A large number of protesters had stopped on the walkway to look, take pictures, and express solidarity with those who were fenced in on the street below. The police had already started making arrests, singling out specific individuals and grabbing them as the opportunity presented itself. After making our way a bit further up the bridge, past the penned in group, I heard a familiar shout. I squeezed over to the side to get a look and saw that energetic young woman, struggling and yelling as two police officers were dragging her away.

Those who were not trapped on the street or standing on the walkway to provide moral support made their way across the bridge into Brooklyn, where we rallied at Cadman Plaza Park, surrounding the William Jay Gaynor monument. Here the organizers passed along information regarding our fellow protesters on the bridge as well as advice on what to do next: who to call if a friend has been arrested, etc. Because Occupy Wall Street demonstrators are not permitted to use loudspeakers or megaphones, communication is done through a massive game of telephone. One person shouts the original message, and the surrounding crowd shouts it along to those standing out of earshot of the speaker.  I noticed that the same person never spoke twice. A different person conveyed each message.

While all this was happening, the police were slowly surrounding the park and making their way inside. According to them, we would not be arrested so long as we “did not break park regulations.” They conveniently failed to enumerate these regulations.

I would have loved to stay at Cadman Park, but I had a few obligations that night in New Brunswick. Joel and I decided to walk back across the bridge to get to the PATH station. As we started up the walkway, two police officers warned us that “protesters were blocking the path up ahead and not letting people through.” We snickered to ourselves, musing at how we could assume different identities by not walking with a large group of people.

The police were stationed throughout walkway, telling people that they had to keep moving to the other side of the bridge. Now there were buses (some of which were from MTA) lined up in the street below, outside of which arrested protesters were waiting to be loaded up and taken down to the station. Joel and I shouted down to one of the protesters asking, “how did you get down there!?” The response was “I don’t know, I was just following the group!” We then came upon the group of alledgedly obstructive protesters who, roughly twenty strong, were standing on one side of walkway in solidarity with those below. A few police officers were standing around them, telling them that they had to get off of the bridge. One man questioned the legality of forcing people off of a public walkway, to which an officer in a white shirt responded by grabbing the protester and threatening arrest. They said that we were allowed to be on the bridge, but that we “had to keep moving.” One of the officers began approaching me as I was trying to take a picture, so I quickly put down my camera and walked away.

As Joel and I walked to the train station, I could not help but mull over the greater significance of what happened and what my role was within these events. It was a shared role, of course. I am grateful to have had support from Matt, Kristen, Zu, and Joel. I feel like we are a part of what could become the largest social movement of our generation, but I do not yet know how to classify it.

Part II

History certainly verifies the power of protest, but despite this common technique, Occupy Wall Street is decidedly different from its predecessors in its organization and goals.

Solidarity, which with roughly ten million members would become the largest trade union in history, emerged  from a strike at the Lenin Shipyards in Gdansk, Poland, in 1980.  Solidarity used civil disobedience and nationwide strikes to demand workers’ rights and social change from a government whose legitimacy was founded upon notions of workers’ rights and social change. Though this movement was violently suppressed by the Communist government in 1981, they would remain underground throughout 1980s until finally reemerging in 1988-89 to successfully negotiate for democratic elections. This set into motion a chain of events leading to the Revolutions of 1989 in the Eastern Bloc and arguably the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Similarly, the Civil Rights movement demonstrates the efficacy of non-violent protest and civil disobedience in an American context. This movement exposed the inherent contradictions in a supposedly liberal, democratic state, which emphasized human equality in theory while in practice systematically marginalized the political power of a select group. In this case, the legal basis of the state itself had provided the means for its own criticism. The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution could be used as effective tools to compel the U.S. government to concretely meet its theoretical obligation to guarantee political freedom for all citizens of the United States.

When compared to Solidarity and the Civil Rights movement, Occupy Wall Street lacks the means to make very specific demands because the enemy is not so clearly defined. For those living in the Eastern Bloc, information came from the Politburo and one could either accept it as fact or, as most did, reject it entirely. The goals of the Civil Rights movement were legitimized by the state itself.

Today’s issue is far more nuanced: the enemy is amorphous, and mainstream sources of information provide no basis from which this systematic oppression can be criticized.

Wall Street has become an institution fundamentally embedded within the political and economic structure in not only the US, but the entire world. So much so that its sudden failure carries with it the threat of global collapse through a process that practically nobody–let alone Wall Street bankers– truly understands. By creating specific demands that fit into the typical logic of American politics, the Occupy Wall Street movement would compromise its essence and surrender its claim to representing “the 99%.”

For example, demanding a specific tax increase on large corporations or a clearly defined fiscal policy on Wall Street–within the framework of mainstream economics–would do little curb their power over society.Wall Street and other corporate interests have gained such influence over the political and economic sphere that any such maneuver would require the support of these institutions to succeed. Having the power to convert and move its capital anywhere in the world in an instant, Wall Street could easily adapt to new economic circumstances. Large corporations, using the money they have already accumulated, could likewise send their productive potential outside of the country. In short, operating within the mainstream political, economic, and social paradigm would be self-defeating.

The failure of this paradigm  is apparent in its inability to predict the economic crisis of 2008, while Libertarians like Ron Paul and Marxists such as David Harvey had a sense that the system was untenable.

More importantly, creating narrow demands would undoubtedly alienate individuals who, although they support the revolutionary spirit of Occupy Wall Street, may see certain demands as being counterproductive to the overall intent of this movement. If the group’s demands do not receive something like unanimous consent, leaders would have to take the charge and set the agenda. Such an organization has certainly worked for movements in the past, but conditions in the present seem to belie this kind of structure.

Solidarity was lead by the personality of Lech Walesa and individuals such as Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks were specific figures of inspiration within the Civil Rights Movement. These were all charismatic figures around whom personality cults formed and served as a source of inspiration and ideological cohesion.

Despite their effectiveness, Solidarity and the Civil Rights movement often did not represent “the 99%.” They represented certain classes of people who were clearly being oppressed within the legal framework of society. So they applied pragmatic political means, within the structure of their society, to achieve their ends. After taking power, Solidarity itself, as a political organization, succumbed to infighting among the leadership, causing its decline (Paradox of Change). Even Dr. King had to refrain from openly opposing the Vietnam War until after 1965, as doing so would have undermined support for the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts.

Occupy Wall Street has no definitive leaders, just familiar faces.

This movement is not about playing politics with actors in a broken system. It has emerged as a result of the inability of so-called “leaders” to deliver on their promises and fix these errors. The masses of unemployed, underpaid, or indebted are sick of these political games and are seeking to build a new system in which they are free to use their vast creative potential and are not subject to all of the crap being shoveled by our political institutions. The only option is to try to create a movement that stands outside of this paradigm.

Occupy Wall Street should be seen as continuation of the Arab Spring, like the protests in Wisconsin, the demonstrations against austerity measures in London, and the protests in Greece and Spain in May. This is a global protest against the current organization of power: one that is suppressing the power of most individuals through exceedingly complicated mechanisms which are run by only a few. But this movement may be even more than just a reaction to thirty years of lying by global elites that is to be considered only within the context of recent history. Perhaps it is the enduring idea that those in power, whether they are political, bureaucratic, financial, or industrial elites, must be held accountable for their actions. An expansion of democracy beyond polls and voting booths, following through with principles established during the Enlightenment. In this regard, it may be more appropriate to consider this movement as a part of a tradition that dates back to the revolutions of 1688, 1776 and 1789.

_____________________________

Photos by Mr. Matthew D’Elia. All rights reserved by the artist.

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Occupy Wall Street (Day 13) Video and Photography ~ Dan Bracaglia

#Occupy Wall Street – Day 13

I avoided the enigma that is #OccupyWallStreet for nearly two weeks, despite it essentially taking place in my backyard. However, this past Friday I made my way down to Zuccotti Park around 2pm, to experience it for myself. Well, that is not completely true. I originally left work early on Friday, with a Canon 5D Mark II (with a 70-200mm 2.8 L lens) and Nikon D3s (with a 35mm f/1.4 lens) in hand (how’s that for democracy?!), at my boss’ suggestion, due to circulating  rumors that Radiohead would be performing in the park around 4pm. I was to shoot the show, if it happened, for Sound and Vision Magazine. Those rumors proved false—and that is probably for the best.

I ended up spending about 6 hours with “the movement,” on Friday, mingling about, talking to protesters, police officers, local shop owners, and bystanders alike. The day went a little something like this:

At 2pm I arrived in Zuccotti Park and found between 300-500 individuals present—most stood around one of two drum circles either dancing, playing instruments, or simply observing, while others were mulling around the makeshift sleeping areas, library, and media center.  Admittedly, the music coming from the circles was intoxicating.

By 4pm, the number of individuals in the park grew to somewhere around 3000, as a “General Assembly,” began to take place. The second and third image in this series are from that general assembly, which is a free-form open forum, in which anyone can address the crowd by shouting “Mic Check,” to which everyone in the park repeats back “Mic Check.” Messages are passed around the enormous crowd in a “telephone” like way—those standing nearest to you repeat the message back to you even louder, those who hear it then repeat it even louder to those even further away. It is by no means an ideal way to get information around, but worked surprisingly well.

By 5:00pm, the number of individuals in the park was probably somewhere between 4000 and 5000, excluding police officers. It was at this point I learned that the group was set to march down Broadway, 15 blocks, to One Police Plaza, in solidarity for those individuals who were allegedly beaten by police during a march the previous week.

By around 6pm, all 4000 to 5000 protestors had peacefully made it to One Police Plaza without any incident—their cheers upon entering the plaza were deafening. I stuck around there for another hour and a half before going back to my office.

You will notice several things in the images and audio slideshow that follow. First and foremost you will notice the immense diversity of those participating in this movement. That was by far what most impressed me. This is not a movement to support any cause in particular, in fact, I am not even sure you can call this a movement (however I will continue to as I don’t know any other name to call it).

The second thing you will notice is how dismayed, embarrassed and simply exhausted the NYPD looks in all of these images. All in all, I think the NYPD drew the short straw in all of this. Sure, a handful of police officers a week and a half ago may have abused their power and perhaps acted criminally, but in comparison to the number of times a day these protesters are marching, and the insane amount of man power it takes to keep everyone safe and traffic moving, the NYPD has beyond earned my respect. Every officer I encountered Friday was polite and courteous. In fact, I heard a protester use some pretty nasty language to a police officer who asked him to please stay off the street. The officer’s response? “Hey man, we are human too; we are just trying to keep you safe.”

I know 700 protestors were arrested Saturday for blocking traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge. There are conflicting reports from several individuals, that police tricked the protestors, saying at first it was OK for them to march on the bridge, and then arrested them all. I find this very hard to believe. Every officer I encountered Friday made it very, very clear that IF you were to block traffic in anyway, you WOULD be arrested, no questions asked. To those protestors who now have to deal with NYC municipal court, many of which I probably spoke with the day before, you have my condolences, however you have no one to blame but yourselves.

Speaking of the NYPD, other things you will notice from the audio slideshow are that a large number of police officers were equipped with video cameras and documenting the protest. I can only assume that this is the NYPD’s response to backlash from the protestors’ and journalists’ videos showing uncalled-for and illegal brutality some day’s prior. Either way, it is very interesting.

All in all, a lot has been said about #OccupyWallStreet in the past two weeks, some of it true, some if it not. If you are curious what this movement is all about, I would highly recommend taking an afternoon and experiencing it for yourself. Overall, I must say, I am impressed with the courage and passion of those core individuals who are so dedicated to this. What they aim to change, when it will happen, how it will happen, they don’t even know. But they aren’t going away anytime soon, and I think that is a very good thing.

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Tragedy and Outrage in New Brunswick Shooting ~ Kine Martinussen

New Brunswick, NJ–According to reports, New Brunswick resident Barry Deloatch, 47, was shot twice and killed by a New Brunswick Police officer on Wednesday, September 21, 2011, near the intersection of Throop Avenue and Handy Street in New Brunswick.

Reacting to this tragedy, nearly 150 people gathered Thursday in front of the New Brunswick City Hall in protest against police violence.  Most were friends of Mr. Deloatch, and identified the shooting as part of a long-term and ongoing attack on New Brunswick’s African American and Hispanic communities. I came by to see what was going on. Here is what I heard from members of the community affected by the tragedy, in their own words.

The sign reads: ASSASSINATED: Shawn Potts, Sissy Adams (Tanya Lanham’s drill team coach), Barry Deloatch, Silvia Parson and André Showell

Cedric Goodman, Middlesex Country Democratic Committee person, and friend of Mr. Deloatch, called for an independent and outside investigation into the matter. He claimed that the NBPD has a long history of racist and brutal behavior.

Nina Webb feels for the Deloatch family: “We went through the same thing. My brother got shot in the back seven times. He was twenty years old. I want justice for my mother, and I want justice for the Deloatch family.” Commenting on the New Brunswick Police, she said “You don’t have to draw your gun all the time. You’re trained to apprehend people by other means instead of deadly force. He was a nice man and I feel for his family.”

Several agreed that there needs to be an effort to include the police in the community. Protester Sarah Lee is tired of the police circumventing their own protocol: “Cops should be from here, from our community. They need to live here for three years in order to join NBPD but they keep faking their addresses and moving away as soon as they can.” Publisher and community activist Tanya Lanham is sad to see that the police make no effort to connect to youth from her area: “The police officers don’t visit the schools and the mayor doesn’t visit the schools. My son is 23 years old and he has never seen the people he is supposed to vote for.”

Her son has however had encounters with the police, having been searched twice, once when he was 13 and again last August.” According to Ms. Lanham, both searches were unlawful. She also says her sister’s husband has been pulled over with a frequency of “once a week” on Remsen Avenue for “the last five years.” She concludes, “I am scared to come outside.”

The family of Mr. Deloatch was also present at the protest, and could be singled out by that raw, dazed, and wounded aura that clings to those who have recently lost of someone dear. Mr. Deloatch’s brother, Bennie, is appalled that he never got a proper courtesy call from the police. “We were never notified,” he says. “I had a friend call me telling me he saw my brother get shot. I got out of bed and I rushed to the hospital as fast as I could, but he was already dead.” To him, the pieces don’t match up. Nate, his other brother, kept repeating “My brother should still be alive right now.”

This is not the first time the NBPD has faced criticism for its alleged use of excessive force, let alone the first time this year. One protester said his brother’s jaw was broken during an interrogation, and that frequent searches have become routine. Last February, Rutgers students Jake Kostman and Kareem Najjar sued for police violence after being beaten during a search on their Somerset student home (which can be seen here).

New Brunswick Mayor Jim Cahill had this to say: “It’s fully understandable that people want, demand answers to numerous questions that arise. I think that we need to be patient to make sure the answers that are given are accurate.”

Neither the Mayor nor the NBPD have commented further since…

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Photos by Ms. Kine Martinussen.

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Waving to Solidarity: An Art Event at coLAB Arts Gallery

This Thursday coLAB Arts is hosting an opening event for the month long show, “Waving to Solidarity,” featuring one of the Johnsonville’s former artist contributors, Dave Peters. Below you will find the Press Release for the event. We hope that you will attend the event, or visit the gallery during the month long showing in support of coLAB and the Johnsonville’s own, Dave Peters.

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – coLAB Arts is pleased to present Waving to Solidarity, a one-month exhibition featuring the work of the emerging artists, Dave Peters and John Leschak, curated by Theresa Francisco. Our Opening and Second-Look Reception will take place on Thursday August 18th and September 15th from 7-10 PM at coLAB Arts (49 Bayard Street, 3rd Floor, New Brunswick, NJ 08901). These free receptions will feature complimentary wine, food, and live music. Custom made, interior design elements added by kliasi style.

Waving to Solidarity offers the viewer a glance at both meditative solitude and painful alienation through the artists’ formal conflicts with and emotional connections to, their environment and community. Dave Peters and John Leschak both work in a similar vein but their individual messages are quite opposite.

Dave Peters focuses on serene, biomorphic forms and quiet landscapes that are cerebral, captivating, and dream-like. Peters opens his subconscious and paints what comes naturally. This method often conjures up the repetition of imagery, creating both common, visual elements and narratives in many of his paintings. Even though Peters is very detail oriented, he wishes to keep his paintings ambiguous and open for personal interpretations. Dave Peters graduated from Rutgers University with a B.A. in Spanish Literature. Though colorblind, Peters is a self-taught painter and is working towards a full-time career in the arts.

John Leschak uses heavy symbolism to make a direct commentary on modern society. He contextualizes human passions, vices, and fears to illustrate their effects on relationships and the community at large. Though often depicting scenes of individual despair and powerlessness, Leschak believes his images can bring about a need for action and empowerment. John Leschak is a practicing labor law attorney at Weissman & Mintz and immigrant rights activist.

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CoLAB Arts is a non-profit organization located in New Brunswick, NJ, dedicated to the development and presentation of emerging local artists. coLAB Arts’ mission is to cultivate a hip, mindful, and inclusive Hub City community of artists, audiences, and critics, empowered to create inspired and inspiring art.

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The Struggles of Modern American Youth and the Coming Together of a Generation ~ Matia Guardabascio

Modern American Youth are notoriously referred to as Generation Y or Millennials. Attempts to name and define our generation have mostly come from those who are not members of this generation. Our identity as a group, as a demographic, as a social class: it must come from within. We cannot let the world tell us who we are; we must assert our own identity. We are Modern American Youth. I call us the MAY Generation. This name not only serves as an acronym for our demographic, but it also refers to the month of May—the time of year when many of us who have completed a college degree are tossed into a world that offers little in the area of employment. May is the month in which we are unleashed into a world that is simply not ready for us.

Part I: The Struggle

I have often heard people joke that the only jobs for college graduates these days are barista positions at Starbucks. Though this remark is often made in jest, it rings true to my ears as I have met many of my fellow young people who complain about their crappy low wage jobs. They should complain. They—we—have every right to be upset. The MAY Generation has incurred debts from either college or credit cards, or both, that near the cost of a car or even a small mortgage. Many have taken on this debt for the sake of higher education—an education that supposedly ensures better job opportunities upon its completion. There are several articles available to read on research that states that those who have a college degree will make more money in their lifetime because the work offered at that level pays significantly more than not having a degree would earn.[i] Under more stable economic circumstances, this assertion would be true. With growing debt and few prospects for a reliable income, many among the MAY Generation are questioning whether the college degree was worth it in the first place. Many of us are angry or may feel betrayed because of the lack of employment and the ever-rising cost of college. ‘What am I supposed to do now?’ is a question I often hear. So what are we doing? How is our generation coping with the unfulfilled promise of higher education?

The truth is that instead of competing with other college graduates for entry level jobs, today’s college graduates are competing not only with each other, but with others among our generation who have not completed a college degree, for minimum or middle wage jobs. This competition in turn only adds to the unemployment issue.

However, beyond the competition for barista positions, the MAY Generation is seeking out ways to defer or pay down debt or to gain job experience through unpaid internships or community service oriented opportunities. One such path is Teach for America. In 2009 around 35,000 applications were received for 4,100 possible positions. Last year the number of applicants increased by 11,000 to a total of 46,000 applications for only 4,400 openings. Back in 2006 there were only 19,000 applicants for 2,400 positions. The number of applicants has more than doubled whereas the number of available positions has yet to do so, even though there has been a noticeable increase in Teach For America opportunities.[ii] Others among the MAY Generation are joining the Peace Corps or partaking in other long-term commitment community service programs like Americorps or City Year in order to stave off debt or to wait for the job market to bounce back.

More and more I hear of recent graduates who are leaving the U.S. to teach English in another country (many to East Asian countries like Korea where the demand for native English speakers is high). The ‘Teach English Overseas’ gig is growing very popular from what I’ve gathered. It’s an exciting prospect for many because of the traveling and the ability to renew terms in case one chooses to stay longer. A large number of recent graduates among the MAY Generation are also going back to school almost immediately in order to not only continue to defer debt, but also to wait out the job market and try again to find a job when yet another degree has been earned and even more debt incurred.

Still—many among the MAY Generation are stuck in dead end jobs, continuously exploring the barren wasteland of entry level job opportunities. Discouragement spreads quickly when so many have so little hope. But this is no time for despair. This is a time for self-betterment—a time to get creative. With spare time building up between applying for jobs, or the lingering hours after a day at some in between job, or the time spent traveling—all this left over time breeds uncertainty.

I say, embrace the uncertainty. Harness it. Channel it towards something positive, something creative, something that exemplifies those parts of yourself that lay in wait while you do the things you must. Unleash those parts of yourself that a world built of hopelessness would aim to crush. Our generation has an opportunity to reach out to one another, to forge a connection because of our shared struggles. We have an unprecedented opportunity to come together and make our place in society and in this world—to show everyone what we’re really made of. The MAY Generation is smart, resourceful, creative, spirited, and adventurous. It’s time to harness those traits and put them to use in order to realize our collective social power and cultural influence. It’s time to start the MAY Movement.

Part II: The Movement

When I say ‘movement’ I do not mean marching in the streets with signs chanting “Employment Now! Employment Now!” We are not a labor union. But we cannot sit idly by. Inaction is not an option. Our movement is not a political one, but rather a social and cultural one. Consider what the MAY Generation is already doing to occupy their time: community service projects and teaching stateside and overseas. These pursuits are altruistic in nature and have a positive social and cultural impact. We have already started the movement; what we need now is to make our efforts widespread. One of our greatest assets is the fact that there are so many of us. Power in numbers, right? But like any movement that aims to be successful, we must first have goals and a sense of direction. What are those goals? In what direction are we, or should we aim to head?

The greatest obstacle that we face in pursuing this movement is not imposed upon us like the forces of nature or of the economy. Our greatest obstacle is overcoming the uncertainty within ourselves that has built up as a result of our uncertain place in the world. The first goal of the MAY Movement is to embrace uncertainty. What do I mean by that? How does one embrace uncertainty? The answer is remarkably simple: to embrace uncertainty is to accept it. The only way to accept it is to understand that our uncertain place in this world is actually a tremendous freedom. The author Andre Gide said “to know how to free oneself is nothing; the arduous thing is to know what to do with one’s freedom.” For us this means that to realize our freedom is the easy part; it’s what we should do with it that poses the real challenge.

The second goal of the MAY Movement aims to meet that challenge. As I said previously, this is a time to get creative, to exemplify what you’re good at; this is a time for self-betterment. How do you do that? You find ways to keep up with the things you want to do. Let me say that again, keep up with the things you want to do. So often I hear people our age say, “I work at blah place doing blah, but what I really want to do is this…” “What I really want to do is…” Don’t talk about wanting to do it. Do it. Make it a personal project. Maybe you’re an artist and you’d like to put your work out there: find a blog or an organization or a publication that needs some artistic know-how. Maybe you’ll write for a blog or for a free subjective publication like the Johnsonville Press—who knows! The point is to gain experience doing what you want to do. It may not be paid, but it’s a way to get better at what you want to do, to practice, to help out someone else who needs what you can offer. Let’s say for example that you speak a foreign language, but you can’t afford to travel: you could offer yourself as a private tutor at a local high school or middle school (perhaps even your old high school if you live at home). Many cities also have embassies and cultural centers that offer events, courses and various opportunities to meet and converse with people who also want to maintain their language. Whatever your trade, hobby or area of interest, you should seek out places where you can put them to use. Maybe you can make a little side money from these projects. You can even start something of your own creation and become an entrepreneur.

Just think for a second about the skills that our generation has that don’t even come from the education system. The MAY Generation is on the up when it comes to social media. That is a marketable skill. Just think about how many small businesses lack good social networking, like a Facebook page, or even a maintained website. You can help them with that while at the same time gaining valuable experience and building a network of people you’ve helped. The goal of these suggestions is to show you that there are many ways to keep up with the things you want to do.

By pursuing these personal projects you are opening the door to the third goal of the MAY Movement: networking. Networking is about mingling. It’s about conversing with people, giving them a sense of who you are and what you’re about. It’s about reading people and learning to understand the dynamics of professional and socially professional situations. If you want to be successful at networking you need to be a good observer. Good observations lead to good talking points in a conversation. You should also definitely get business cards that tell people who you are and what you do. Keep it simple; you can even design them yourself if that’s your trade. The exchange of business cards is always a good conversation starter. Networking helps you develop your conversational skills so that you become really good at telling people who you are. This is a particularly valuable asset in a job interview. Some people call it “knowing how to sell yourself,” but I’d say it’s more like “knowing how to confidently talk about yourself”. You are not for sale. Anyone who tells you that you are, you should avoid. If you can show someone that you know who you are, if you can assert yourself like that, then people are going to notice you. Confidence stands out.

Ultimately networking not only helps you develop your conversational skills and build a network of like-minded people, but it also leads to the fourth goal of the MAY Movement: Build a community. When pursuing these personal projects, I implore you to reach out to others in our generation. We can help each other and we can help other people. The most important thing to understand about this fourth goal is it’s meant to bring us together as a group—put us all on the same wave length so that we’re in tune enough to knowingly steer American culture. That is our power.

I say this to you: Don’t expect the world to give you what you’re looking for; a lot of the time you have to make it work for you. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. There will always be haters and appreciators. Put that aside. This is our moment. You can choose to commit to it or not. You can choose to do something creative for yourself or not. Embrace your freedom or let it pass? It’s your choice. I choose to embrace it. I will continue to do so here at the Johnsonville Press. And the Johnsonville Press will continue to be a space for the free exchange of ideas, a platform for anyone who chooses to pursue their personal projects in a public setting. We are already a part of the MAY Movement, and I invite you to join us.

More than anything, I implore you, the MAY Generation–my generation–to pursue your passions, to create opportunities for yourself, and to assert yourself in this world. Only then can we take our place in society as the social and cultural powerhouse that we truly are. Finally, you must remember that you are not alone in your pursuits. We all share these struggles. Lean on the people around you. The MAY Movement will be the most successful if we help each other out. For that reason, I am personally available to any of you who need guidance, advice, suggestions, or just someone to bounce ideas off of. Write to me and Iwill write back.[iii] I want to see this happen and I will do everything in my power to see that our generation finds success in the pursuit of our passions. Good luck my friends. I look forward to hearing from you.


[i] Benefits of College Education: 1.http://www.collegetocareers.com/10-benefits-college-education-2/; 2.http://education.yahoo.net/articles/college_degree_benefits.htm;
[ii] Teach for America:http://www.teachforamerica.org/newsroom/documents/PressKit_Overview.pdf;http://www.teachforamerica.org/admissions/;http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/05/28/national/main5046901.shtml
[iii] Please email me at: johnsonvillepress@gmail.com. I sincerely hope to hear from you.

Photo courtesy of davidmusingsthoughts.blogspot.com
(http://davidsmusingsthoughts.blogspot.com/2011/03/generation-y-characteristics.html)

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The Rise of Local Arts in New Brunswick ~ Matia Guardabascio

Recently I sat down with Theresa Francisco of the coLAB Arts organization in New Brunswick to chat about the organization and the people involved. CoLAB Arts is a non-profit organization that seeks “to cultivate a hip, mindful, and inclusive community of artists, audiences, and critics” as they so eloquently say in their mission statement. The people involved in coLAB work there on a volunteer basis. They are a passionate group of people whose goal it is to promote the local arts so as to make them accessible to the widely diverse audience of the New Brunswick community. CoLAB offers a starting point for local artists who want to make a career out of their passions, or who simply want to make their work available to the masses.

CoLAB is representative of the kind of organization that is so valuable to the promotion of the arts in an area that to many would seem bereft of cultural pursuits. They are a beacon of hope that enables otherwise unknown or unheard artists to connect with a wide audience. Like the Johnsonville Press, the people who are involved in the organization do it because they want to, because they are passionate about the arts, and because they want to give local artists the chance to be known and to promote themselves. They are making an incredibly valuable contribution to the growing cultural scene in New Brunswick.

I am proud of what they are doing for this community. It is my hope that they continue to gain support so that they, in turn, can continue to promote the arts with the same vigor and enthusiasm that I have already witnessed from them. I encourage the reader to visit their website to learn more about the organization and their mission. And please continue to check in with the Johnsonville Press for announcements of upcoming events. To the folks over at coLAB: keep up the good work! Cheers to you guys!

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Discernment of Spirits by Robert Addessi at coLAB Arts

Discernment of Spirits
Robert Adessi

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – coLAB Arts is pleased to present Discernment of Spirits, a one-month exhibition featuring the photography of Robert Addessi, curated by Theresa Francisco. Our Opening and Second-Look Reception will take place on Friday July 8th and July 15th from 7-10 PM at coLAB Arts, 49 Bayard Street, 3rd Floor, New Brunswick, NJ 08901. These free receptions will feature complimentary wine, food, and a live band. 

Discernment of Spirits is a collection of photographs that emphasizes the incredible variety of subjects in Addessi’s work ranging from landscapes, to portraiture, to abstraction. The images stir up feelings of warmth and nostalgia as they project the idea of a much slower and tranquil time in life. Along with these recollections and feelings of nostalgia, come a demand for solemn self-analysis and reflection on one’s relationship with nature and community. Although some images evoke communal memories, others consist of spaces and patterns of confusion that are dissociated from our understanding of reality. Discernment of Spirits asks the viewer to reassess and heighten his or her level of awareness to self and environment, challenging our ability to distinguish or discover what is visually new, beautiful, or important.

Robert Addessi was introduced to film photography in 1995 at Brookdale Community College. Shortly after, he was invited to join a workshop led by New York photographer Ralph Weiss and has been attending monthly sessions there for the past fifteen years perfecting his technique and developing his identity as an artist. He has chosen to capture each scene with film and transfer the image as purely as possible to reflect the subject as originally seen. The challenge, Addessi believes, is to find new in the ordinary. His creativity lies in his ability to approach his subject with levity and an open mind. He shoots what he finds interesting or entertaining as he
documents his day. In doing so, Addessi has discovered the surreal, the spiritual, and the novel in what most people consider to be the familiar.
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coLAB Arts is a non-profit organization located in New Brunswick, NJ, dedicated to the development and presentation of emerging local artists. coLAB Arts’ mission is to cultivate a hip, mindful, and inclusive Hub City community of artists, audiences, and critics, empowered to create inspired and inspiring art.

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