Archive for the March Category


I do not claim to be an expert on many affairs that afflict the human condition, but I do claim some expertise in the field of labor relations.  I spent nearly 17 years working with grievances and bargaining and all the politics that go with labor relations.  My best guess is that I spent six years immediately after World War II working for the union before taking management responsibility for labor relations for another 11 years.  In the years when I was in the union movement, I moved through all of the stewardships plus the vice-presidency and the presidency of a local in the telephone union.  So I think it is fair to say that I understand the subject.

Now we find that since last November, there is a new governor in the cheesecake state of Wisconsin.  His name is Scott Walker.  Walker could have followed in the footsteps of the legendary Wisconsin senator and governor, Robert La Follette.  La Follette is widely revered as a paragon of the working man.  Instead, Walker has chosen to follow in the footsteps of the ugly monster Joseph R. McCarthy, a senator from Wisconsin who saw communists behind every bush.

In his first months in office, Walker has determined that the enemy is the union representing Wisconsin state employees.  Through political chicanery, he has moved to not only humiliate them, but to annihilate them.  These two factors give rise to the title of this essay.

The bill that he has had passed, using only the Republican Party, would require the unions to conduct annual elections to maintain their status as bargaining agents.  And further, the bill relieves the state of deducting union dues from wages.  And most importantly, the unions are barred from bargaining on benefits, pensions and can only bargain on wages under Walker’s salary cap.   Further, the bill also permits the governor to sell off state assets with no bidding.  This man is a dictator, the likes of which we have not seen for many years.  McCarthy must be looking up from his special place in hell admiringly.

I hope that you are aware that the Koch brothers, who are wealthy industrialists and who own power plants, will be among the first to benefit from Walker’s sale of state utilities because of their financial backing of Walker.  Not long ago, a reporter was able to call Governor Walker and pretend that he was David Koch.  A twenty-minute conversation followed, during which Governor Walker admitted that he had planned to put some trouble makers in among the demonstrators who sympathize with the unions.  Apparently this never took place.  But the fact that he took a call from the fictional David Koch was played on many of the newscasts that day, making it clear that Walker is in the hip pocket of the Koch brothers.

There is much more to say about Governor Walker, but it will be held in reserve because I believe that the developments in Wisconsin are far from over.  Among other things, there are recall petitions for some of the senators to be followed shortly, I suspect, by an attempt to recall the Governor.  My hope is that the turmoil in Wisconsin will end with Walker’s recall.

My assessment of the situation in Wisconsin is that from a labor relations point of view, it could not have been handled worse.  But this is only one chapter.  

My belief is that there will be other chapters to follow.  You may be assured that the editor of Ezra’s Essays will be involved in the efforts to right the wrongs of Walker’s attempt at castration and annihilation.  I look forward to this fight with great anticipation.  My belief is that before it is done, justice will prevail for the state workers in the luscious state of Wisconsin.



March 6, 2011

Essay 539


Kevin’s commentary:  Unfortunately, Walker did survive the recall, and is governor of Wisconsin to this day. And, as a function of being out-funded 3 times over, this issue was also lost for the unions. Money and politics are inseparable now and have created a feedback loop where no effort to change the relationship between the two can succeed because it would financially harm those who would nominally be in charge of passing it.  Not new, but incredibly frustrating.


Sven Lernevall is my long-time friend from Sweden.  From all appearances, Sven speaks the Swedish language with great proficiency. I will have to rely on expert witnesses whom I trust to testify to Sven’s use of the Swedish language.  Beyond that, Sven and his wife Ella speak an elegant brand of the English language.  On previous occasions, I have noted that Mr. Lernevall has identified the English language or the Anglo-Saxon language as a “rich language.”  Because I trust Sven’s assessment of the languages in the world, I must conclude that Sven knows whereof he speaks.  In this essay, I will try to prove Sven’s assessment of the English language in that the first part of the essay will have to do with two new words in the Anglo-Saxon vocabulary and the second will have to do with an assessment of our famous Governor of the state of New Jersey.

When Americans are asked about how they are feeling on a particular day, the answer is usually devoid of specificity.  This lack of specificity may include a reply such as, “I am feeling pretty good,” or “…not quite as good as I would like to feel,” or some other remark that does not reveal the reason for the person feeling either well or unwell.  In this essay, I am attempting to add two new words to the language of the Anglo-Saxons which will do away with a good bit of this vagueness.  Two words that I wish to add to our native tongue are first, “ungood,” and secondly, “unbad.”

It strikes me that when a person reports that he is feeling “fine” or “as fit as a fiddle,” he will know that, particularly at the age that some of us have reached, in a short while he will not feel as fit as a fiddle.  Similarly when an aged person such as me is asked questions about his health and replies that “It is not too bad,” because he believes that in a short while he will feel better.  The proper term for that is to say that he is feeling “unbad.”  These two new additions to the English language have a great virtue in that they are interchangeable.  Beyond that, they do not tell the questioner any more than he needs to know.

Oldsters such as myself are frequently asked the question, “How are you feeling?” probably with the thought that when the exchange of greetings is finished, the oldster will collapse.  It seems to me that the two neologisms are perfectly made for such occasions as this.  On top of that, there is the thought that economy in language is a virtue.  When someone is asked how he is feeling, the questioner will have to sort through the answer that the oldster may give him.  Now, when the oldster answers, “I am feeling ungood” or “I am feeling unbad,” the questioner will know exactly what he means.  This does away with such expressions as “I am feeling fairly well” or “I am feeling fairly bad.”

In the spirit of good sportsmanship, I intend to donate these two neologisms to our language and I will note that they were inspired by an inquiry from Senor Lernevall about the “richness of the English language.”  The joy in my heart from constructing these two neologisms is all of the reward that I seek.  And I assume that Senor Lernevall will feel much the same way.


Now we shift gears from the two neologisms to an expression voiced this summer in the presence of the New Jersey State Senate.  For reasons unknown to me, the Senate in the state of New Jersey elects a President who is almost always of the majority party.  In this case the majority is Democratic.  There are many things to recommend the views of this speaker whom I am about to quote.  In the first place his name is Sweeney, a household Irish name.  Secondly, Mr. Sweeney is a former labor leader coming from, I believe, the ironworker’s union.  That gives me two reasons to celebrate him in that the author is Irish and that he is a graduate of the labor movement in this country.

About two or three weeks ago, Mr. Sweeney was asked for his opinion of our glorious governor, Chris Christie.  Mr. Sweeney, the President of the New Jersey Senate, answered thusly, “I think he is a prick and a bastard.”  As most of you know, I spent the first 40 years of my life in a seminary and I had to consult Roget’s Thesaurus to grasp the meaning of Sweeney’s terms.  When I had grasped the meaning of those terms, I shouted, “Voilà!” because that is exactly what I think about Chris Christie, Governor of the great and glorious state of New Jersey.  There is no vagueness in what President Sweeney had to say.  It is a forthright and definite term.  Even more than that, I believe in his assessment.

And so we come to the conclusion of another essay, which in this case was brought about Sven Lernevall’s belief that the language of the Anglo-Saxons is “a rich one.”  I sincerely hope that my adding the words “ungood” and “unbad” to the language is acceptable to increase the richness thereof.

Finally, President Sweeney’s estimate of our Governor could not be more on point.  So on this drowsy summer afternoon in September, I am well pleased by the contributions that have been made to our mother tongue.  Rarely do we have the invention of two neologisms plus the remarks of Senate President Sweeney.  Relying on my seminary training, I must conclude that this juxtaposition of events is a “Godsend.”  Mortal men are best advised to leave “Godsends” alone and so with that thought I have nothing further to say in this monumental essay.

PS: Within an hour or so after dictating the foregoing essay, our computer located the original report (See attached article).  It was written by Tom Moran of the Star Ledger, another Irishman.  It is a more complete statement from Stephen Sweeney, whom I believe to be not a friend of the Governor.  I have only one suggestion for Mr. Sweeney.  If he were to call the Governor a spherical prick and bastard, which means a prick and a bastard no matter what angle he is viewed from, such a description would be apt.  With that small addition, I accept what Mr. Sweeney has said as pure gospel.



September 26, 2011

Essay 587


Kevin’s commentary: I of course cannot read the word “ungood” without thinking of 1984, the dystopian classic. Of course, this is a work of fiction so it would not normally interest Pop, but it strikes me that he may be interested in what the book has to say about language. Long story short, the masses in 1984 speak a language called “newspeak” which is a form of simplified English. For instance, the word “bad” has been replaced by “ungood” because “bad” is perceived as redundant. As Pop seems to enjoy the idea of adding things to the lexicon, he may find newspeak to be the most scandalous thing in the book. But still, Orwell’s thoughts about language efficiency were rather interesting.

Christie is still an ass; this is now well-documented by Ezra’s Essays. I’ll leave you with the article in question:

Sweeney unleashes his fury as N.J. budget battle turns personal

Published: Sunday, July 03, 2011, 2:05 PM

By Tom Moran/ The Star-Ledger

TRENTON — Senate President Stephen Sweeney went to bed furious Thursday night after reviewing the governor’s line-item veto of the state budget.

He woke up Friday morning even angrier.

“This is all about him being a bully and a punk,” he said in an interview Friday.

“I wanted to punch him in his head.”

Sweeney had just risked his political neck to support the governor’s pension and health reform, and his reward was a slap across the face. The governor’s budget was a brusque rejection of every Democratic move, and Sweeney couldn’t even get an audience with the governor to discuss it.

“You know who he reminds me of?” Sweeney says. “Mr. Potter from ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ the mean old bastard who screws everybody.”

This is not your regular budget dispute. This is personal. And it could have seismic impact on state politics.

Because the working alliance between these two men is the central political fact in New Jersey these days. If that changes, this brief and productive era of bipartisan cooperation is over.

“Last night I couldn’t calm down,” Sweeney said. “To prove a point to me — a guy who has stood side by side with him, and made tough decisions — for him to punish people to prove his political point? He’s just a rotten bastard to do what he did.”

It is a law of nature that Democrats and Republicans fight over budgets, like dogs chasing cats. And both parties are playing to their ideological scripts in this dispute.

But Sweeney’s beef with the governor goes much deeper. He feels the governor has acted in bad faith.

The governor’s budget, he says, is full of vindictive cuts designed to punish Democrats, and anyone else who dared to defy him. And he is furious that the governor refused to talk to him during the final week.

“After all the heavy lifting that’s been done — the property tax cap, the interest arbitration reform, the pension and health care reform — and the guy wouldn’t even talk to me?” Sweeney asks.

The details are even uglier. The governor, Sweeney said, personally told him they would talk. His staff called Sweeney and asked him to remain close all day Wednesday. At one point, the staff told him the governor planned to call in five minutes.

No call.

No negotiations.

“I sat in my office all day like a nitwit, figuring we were going to talk,” Sweeney says.

As for the vindictive cuts, Sweeney’s list of suspects is a long one.

The governor cut the Senate and Assembly budgets, but not his own, a move that is unprecedented. He cut money from the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services, the outfit that sided with Democrats on this year’s revenue estimates.

He cut a fellowship program run by Alan Rosenthal, the Rutgers University professor who served as referee in this year’s legislative redistricting fight, and sided with Democrats.


When Democrats tried to restore money to a few favorite programs — including college scholarships for poor students, and legal aid for the needy — the governor not only rejected the additions, he added new cuts on top of that.

He mowed down a series of Democratic add-ons, including $45 million in tax credits for the working poor, $9 million in health care for the working poor, $8 million for women’s health care, another $8 million in AIDS funding and $9 million in mental-health services.

But the governor added $150 million in school aid for the suburbs, including the wealthiest towns in the state. That is enough to restore all the cuts just listed.

“Listen, you can punch me in the face and knock me down, do what you want,” Sweeney says. “But don’t be vindictive and punish innocent people. These people didn’t do anything to him. It’s like a bank robber taking hostages. And now he’s starting to shoot people.

“I liken it to being spoiled. He was angry because he wanted a mutual budget. But do you hurt people because of that? Do you take $8 million in AIDS funding away? Legal services is drowning as it is, and you take away another $5 million? I’m just so angry that he hurt people like this to prove a point. He is a cruel man.”

The governor refused to discuss this, as did his chief of staff, Richard Bagger, and his treasurer, Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff. Republican legislative leaders, who have been reduced to impotent Bobbleheads in the Christie era, say only that they agree with the governor, whatever he says.

This tiff began when Democrats decided to draft their own budget, as an alternative to the governor’s and a means of contrasting their priorities with his.

The governor’s office wanted to negotiate a single budget instead. But they would not discuss it until an agreement was reached on pension and health reform, according to Sweeney and the chairmen of the budget committees in the Assembly and Senate. In the end, the reform wasn’t signed until Tuesday, just two days before the budget was due.

So Christie took the Democratic plan, and pruned it with his line-item veto, without talking to Sweeney. When Democrats saw it, they considered it a declaration of war. It gave no ground to their priorities, and it came with a condescending lecture.

“He’s mean-spirited,” Sweeney said in the Friday interview. “He’s angry. If you don’t do what he says, I liken it to being spoiled, I’m going to get my way, or else.”

And: “He’s a rotten prick.”

The truth is that in New Jersey, the governor has all the power in a budget fight. He simply vetoes any budget line he doesn’t like, and it disappears.

The bigger political question is whether Sweeney and Christie will ever find common ground again on big issues. Education reform is next, though it’s likely to wait until after the November elections.

That leaves time to cool off. But Sweeney may benefit from a continuing fight. The party’s liberal base is furious at him over pension and health reform. And unless he regains their trust, he’s not likely to win the party’s nomination for governor or U.S. Senate, as he hopes.

For now, Sweeney will have to content himself with making Republicans pay some price for this budget. He plans to schedule override votes on these line-item vetoes.

The Republican Bobbleheads will side with the governor again, and the vetoes will stand. But individual legislators will have to go on record supporting each of these ugly cuts.

Yes, this will be all theater. And yes, it will be all partisan. Sadly, it seems Trenton is reverting to form.

© 2011 All rights reserved.



In the last few months here in the great luscious garden state of New Jersey, we find that teachers are retiring in droves or perhaps flocks.  They are retiring at this time because they sense that shortly their benefits may be curtailed or removed through the generosity of the new governor, Chris Christie.  This is probably a good bet in view of the fact that Governor Walker of Wisconsin is leading the charge among Republican governors to skewer state employees.  Other Republican governors, particularly Chris Christie in New Jersey, are hot to do the same thing.

Why the governors announced the intent upon punishing teachers is beyond me.  In recent weeks, I wrote an essay the burden of which was that if we diminish teachers, we are shooting ourselves in “both feets.”  Several months have passed since that essay was distributed, but at this moment I can only say that my thoughts are the same.  By destroying teachers, the governors are indeed shooting our youths and the future of this country in “both feets.”

Here in New Jersey we have Chris Christie, a bully for a governor who is being touted as the next president of the United States.  He contends that in 2012, he will not necessarily be ready but he leaves open the idea that in future elections, say 2016, he will be ready.  If we elect Chris Christie to the Presidency, it will be a monumental mistake on the order of the ascendancy of George W. Bush.

Some of the teachers are retiring to enjoy some of “those golden years” that have been talked about so much.  As someone who has experience with “those golden years,” I take the liberty to inform teachers that the golden years are not that great after all.  I know that students such as myself shouldn’t be talking back to teachers, but in this case I suspect that I know more than they do.


There are millions of ailments that afflict teachers and other oldsters in their declining years.  To choose only one of them, there is the matter of strokes.  Strokes are usually followed by seizures, both of which will impede the memory process.  I should point out that strokes and their following seizures have to do with the brain and not with the heart.

All of this results in an affliction called aphasia.  Aphasia means that you cannot call names to mind, particularly nouns.  And in other cases, when the proper name does not come to mind, the stroke sufferer will make a substitution which he or she never intended.  Perhaps some of you will recall an essay done three years back having to do with mail.  On this occasion my wife, Miss Chicka, had gone to the post office to mail our tax returns to the Internal Revenue Service.  When she entered the car, I asked her, “Did you mail the umbrella?”  Obviously, umbrellas had nothing to do with the whole procedure but those word substitutions happen frequently.  Even though I am 13 years down the line from my stroke, those word substitutions still plague me.  Perhaps I should not use the word “plague,” because some of the substitutions have a degree of humor in them.

Recently one of the Carr daughters saw an advertisement for fancy cheesecakes produced on the West Coast.  She had a collection sent to me.  The cheesecakes, which were extraordinarily delicious, stuck in my mind as  “camel’s hair” and were pronounced as such.  Camels have very little to do with producing cheesecakes but unconsciously that is what I have said.  It has become ingrained in my memory bank, so that when I ask for cheesecake, I have to repress the thought of saying “camel’s hair.”

The next item has to do with an exercise program wherein I ride my stationary bicycle, ordinarily for fifty minutes four days a week.  In the 13 years since the stroke occurred, I have never been able to say the name “stationary” without thinking of a store in Summit, New Jersey owned by people named Siegel who sold stationery.  In recent days, I have found that there is an urge to use the word “sanitary bicycle” instead of “stationary bicycle.”  If there is a hidden meaning in all of these phrases, I would like to know about it.  Now let’s go on to another one.

I am perhaps the world’s greatest consumer of scallions.  In some circles, they are called green onions, which is what I called them until I moved to New Jersey.  After the scallions are bought at the grocery store, they have to go through a process in which I personally cut the bottoms off and the tops and strip some of the coarse growth on the outside.  In the last day or so, I asked Miss Chicka when I returned from the grocery to give me the cashews so that I could work.  And if somebody can tell me the connection between cashews and scallions, I would be a very eager listener.

Then there is the case of drumsticks.  They are a very small ice cream confection that had their start in the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis.  When an ice cream seller discovered that he had no more cones, he asked a fellow concessionaire if he could wrap his ice cream in a waffle.  And thus was born the idea of drumsticks.  I eat more than my share of drumsticks because they are good but not necessarily because they are fun.  The same with the camel’s hair.  I do not usually use the substitute word for drumsticks.  Rather I come up with something on the order of “that little ice cream cone.”   And this morning, when I wanted to ask for milk chocolate, I called it MaryJane.

So there you have a sample of the golden years wherein aphasia may await you.  Naturally I hope that such an ailment never comes your way.  But if it does, laugh a little bit because aphasia will not necessarily kill you and it might give you a few laughs.

Now the second thing, aside from aphasia, in those golden years has to do with arthritis.  Those of us who have wandered into territory unanticipated by the Bible in terms of age, are often afflicted with arthritis.  It is a miserable condition and is relieved in my case by riding the stationary or sanitary bicycle.  I have consulted some of the finest physicians who practice in the field of orthopedics and they are uniform in telling me that there is no shot or no pill that will cure arthritis or even relieve it.

On an allied subject, it may be that my problems with aphasia are spreading to my consultant, Miss Chicka, who in searching for the word orthopedics produced the word orthodontist.  I did not know aphasia was a contagious disease, but obviously it is.

I am distressed to learn that so many teachers are leaving their profession before their time.  I understand that they must do what is in their best interests.  But here we are in these trying times trying to balance state budgets on the backs of school teachers.  When we attack teachers, we are destroying future generations for the sake of salving the feelings of politicians such as Governor Walker of Wisconsin and Christie here in New Jersey.  This is completely backwards.  That is what the Republican governors seem intent upon doing.  In the long run, we will all suffer from their attempts to use the teachers as scapegoats.

But in any case, teachers who are now retiring have my best wishes and my hopes that they will avoid aphasia and arthritis in their golden years.  Aphasia and arthritis won’t kill you, but they will make life unpleasant when they appear.



March 6, 2011

Essay 537


Kevin’s commentary: I wonder how much Miss Chicka charges for her consulting services, and how Pop affords them. Does he get a discount when she makes mistakes? These are important questions.

Oh, and drumsticks are freaking incredible. I had no idea Pop liked them but I am henceforth assuming that I am genetically predisposed to enjoy them. Maybe they’ll make a camel-hair-flavored version for him sometime soon.

Read more of Pop’s thoughts on Christie here and here, and read about the shooting one’s own feets essay here.


Somewhere in this batch of essays, there is one called “Old Age is a Disease.”  That was a tribute to Hana Davis’s mother and to Howard Davis’s mother-in-law.  As I noted at the end of that essay, I never had the opportunity to meet the author of those lines about old age being a disease.  Unhappily, by the time I came to know Hana and Howard Davis, the woman who had propounded this maxim had passed on.  She of course was known in German as Frau Doktor Herta Knopfmacher Fischer.  While I missed the author of the line of that quote, “Old age is a disease,” fortunes were much better with respect to a gentleman from Harriman, Tennessee.  His name is Tom Scandlyn, and according to my determination, Tom Scandlyn and I have known each other since 1958, which according to the lunar calendar which I always use, comes to 53 years.

I first knew Tom Scandlyn in New York and then later I renewed my acquaintance with him when both of us worked in Washington.  He has been retired for several years now and lives in Madison, New Jersey so our acquaintance is still alive and vibrant.

Tom Scandlyn is an intellectual and when he speaks, his words mean something.  He would make a terrible bloviator on the cable talk shows.  For 53 years I have treasured the thoughts and musings of Mr. Scandlyn.

There was an occasion in recent years when Tom observed to me that he hoped his mind would outlive his body.  That is to say that in the choice between the body and the mind, he hoped that his mind would remain intact even while his body absorbs the ravages of time.

Those thoughts come to mind because of a recent case when arthritis afflicted the author of Ezra’s Essays.  As things now stand, Tom Scandlyn and I have no intention of entering the Olympics as pole vaulters or sprinters.  Tom and I are about the same age and we intend to hold on to both our minds and our bodies as long as possible.  The maxim that old age is a disease is not always kind to our bodies.  But from what I have observed, Tom Scandlyn’s mind is still hard at work producing progressive thoughts.

In my wife’s family, there is a lovely aunt who was born about the same time I was.  In recent years, although her body is strong, this lovely woman has shown signs of dementia.  She has good days and bad days.  The fact of the matter is that dementia is now a troubling factor in her life.  This case and others of the same sort have led me to conclude that Tom Scandlyn was on point when he observed that if age caused damage to his mind, he might give some second thoughts to how long he wished to stay around.  I hold the identical view.  If age in my case prevented my mind from working on at least six cylinders, I would call for the cops and tell them to get me out of here.

There are two other thoughts about Tom Scandlyn that should be observed here.  Tom was married to a physician named Naomi Green.  They enjoyed a loving relationship for more than 40 years and now that Naomi has gone, Tom has said to me that he “misses her terribly.”  I can understand that point of view and even I miss Naomi a great deal.

A final thought about Tom Scandlyn has to do with these essays.  You will recall that I write these essays as a means of repairing the damage done to my brain as the result of a stroke in 1997.  Whether they are restoring my brain is open to question.  At least I hope that whatever mental facilities I have can be hung onto for some time to come.   I send copies of Ezra’s Essays to Tom Scandlyn.  On the last batch of essays, Tom Scandlyn had this to say, “I regard each essay as a gift.”  I am here to tell you that I have never had such a great compliment before.  That Tom regards these essays as a gift, I am deeply indebted to him for that thought.

Well, on this cold Wednesday afternoon, these are my thoughts about the gentleman from Harriman, Tennessee.  After 53 years of knowing him, I can only say that Tom Scandlyn is a good and great man.  If I were to use an Irishism on Tom Scandlyn, it would be to say that he is a “decent man.”  So take your pick.  He is a good and decent man.



March 10, 2011

Essay 556


Kevin’s commentary: Bloviator is a beautiful word and I have no excuse for why I didn’t know it until just now.

Tom has been published on the blog before — check out his post here.

Two other stories mentioning Tom can be found here and here. Seems like a great guy — hope he writes in again! Would love to see more of what he has to say, especially about Pop.