All About Me

revised 4/7/2013

Welcome to my website! I am editing the All About Me section to
reflect some further personal changes. I created this site to share my
writings from the last decade. I also wanted to create a home for my
tribute to my sister, Lisa. There are some pieces I have written about Lise in the archives as well as pieces I have written about both my parents. All died in the last 4 years.

I intend to continue writing about politics, poetry, books, sports, music, dogs and whatever I feel passionately about. I grew up in the 60’s, in the era of the counterculture and the new left. As my generation ages and prepares to leave the historical stage, I feel the lack of alternative, critical perspectives daily in the media. I hope to offer some perspectives that reflect the progressive social justice aspirations of my generation.

This blog reflects only my views. Anything written here is solely my
responsibility and a reflection of my sensibility. It does not in any
way reflect the views or perspectives of my employer, the Social
Security Administration (SSA). SSA includes employees with views from
all over the political spectrum. I have been careful to write outside
of work time and outside of any work-related computer.

After spending 14 months in Anchorage Alaska, in August 2011 I  moved
back home to Wilmot, New Hampshire. I have now been home for almost two years.  It is great to be back around family and friends. The hardest part of my time away was my separation from people I love.

I spent the last half of 2010 and a good part of 2011 working as a federal Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) for SSA in Anchorage. I heard the claims of Alaskans seeking Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income
(SSI) benefits. Since August 15, 2011,  I have been working as an ALJ
out of a new SSA hearing office in Lawrence Massachusetts. I am personally very proud of the Lawrence Office of Disability Adjudication and Review. The people in my office work hard to carry out its mission. The office is full of very caring and committed people.

It is an honor to continue to have the opportunity to serve the American people
in my capacity as an ALJ. I do take very seriously my professional
obligation to apply the law fairly and to the best of my ability.

I enjoyed Alaska, the people and the place. I feel like I
barely scratched the surface of what there is to see and do there.
Alaska is a place of surpassing beauty. I have written about it some
and will write about it more.

Before I received the appointment to be a federal ALJ, I had a
wonderful experience working as a legal aid attorney for New Hampshire
Legal Assistance (NHLA), the state-wide legal aid program for NH. From
1986-1989, I worked in the North Country office of NHLA located in
Berlin NH. From July 1989 to May 2010, I worked in the Claremont
Branch Law Office of NHLA.

I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to be a legal aid
lawyer. I always looked forward to going to work. There is tremendous
purpose and satisfaction in the job. I would encourage students and
prospective law students/young lawyers to consider a legal aid career.
There are great opportunities for creativity as a legal aid lawyer
although admittedly the job market now is tough. You have to go after
the job doggedly. Whatever I did not accomplish as a legal aid lawyer
was mostly a reflection of my own shortcomings and lack of initiative.
I was never held back by any litigation director or other boss. NHLA
nourished its staff and gave advocates wide opportunities to make a
difference for low income people. I never have regretted my legal aid career choice. The program has gone through a hard time because of drastic funding cuts by the legislature but I expect it will bounce back. During my time at NHLA, there was a cyclical pattern of program expansion and retraction.

Most of my legal work at NHLA was on behalf of individual clients with
public benefit problems. I specialized in representing unemployment
insurance claimants and those denied Social Security Disability/SSI. I
also did eviction defense, fair housing, chapter 13 bankruptcy and
representation of domestic violence victims.

For more than 10 years, I lobbied the NH state legislature as a legal
aid lobbyist. My job was to help promote bills which helped low
income, elderly and disabled people and to oppose bills which were
harmful to our clients. I served as the Policy Director and chief
lobbyist for NHLA and I frequently appeared and testified in the
legislature. Some of the pieces I wrote that appear in the archives of
this blog supported legislative efforts which I had engaged on behalf
of NHLA and its clients. Many of the pieces originally appeared in the
Concord Monitor, my local paper, where I participated as a member of
its Board of Contributors.

I have been very proud of NHLA’s legislative work over the decade or so I worked in the NH Legislature. Among other accomplishments, NHLA played a key role in:

– helping to raise the state minimum wage from $5.15/hr to $7.25/hr
— imposing an interest rate cap on payday and auto title loans
— protecting homeowners from foreclosure rescue scams
— improving the scope of the unemployment program including raising
benefits and expanding eligibility for part-time workers
— allowing courts the discretion to hear about past abuse when
domestic violence victims seek protection from abuse orders
— giving domestic violence victims a defense against eviction when
the basis for eviction was an incident in which they were being abused

My past personal experience demonstrates the value and need for
progressives to make a long-term commitment to state legislative
advocacy. This commitment needs to be supported by high quality,
state-specific research. Legislators, with good reason, want to know
why they should support a particular initiative, its state-specific
history and its likely impact. Too often progressives, not unlike
conservatives, lack answers to these type of questions. National data
is not good enough.

What happened in the 2010-2011 session of the NH state legislature was a
tragedy where extreme right wing ideologues hell-bent on budget cuts
hacked away at various human services, including legal aid. They did
not care to hear about consequences. This recent experience does speak
to the point about the need for progressives to engage state
legislatures. Too often progressives are missing in action on this
front.

I dedicate this blog to the memory of my sister, Lisa Baird. After a
prolonged battle with breast cancer, Lisa died on October 21, 2009.
Lisa was an inspiration and a mentor to me. Not a day goes by that I
do not think about Lise and miss her.  Lisa was an accomplished
immigration law attorney as well as an almost life-long activist. She
set a very high standard in her dedication and devotion to her
clients. There was no better person on the planet than my sister.

  1. August 19, 2013 at 10:45 pm

    Hey! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any problems with hackers? My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and I ended up losing many months of hard work due to no backup. Do you have any methods to stop hackers?

    • August 20, 2013 at 12:12 am

      I have never had any problems like that. I do not have any methods to stop them. I have a very small readership. I am sorry to hear about your problems. I can only hope the hackers would not bother which may not be realistic.

  2. September 17, 2013 at 5:27 am

    I am extremely inspired together with your writing talents as well as
    with the format to your weblog. Is that this a paid topic or did you modify it yourself?
    Anyway stay up the nice quality writing, it is uncommon
    to peer a nice blog like this one today..

    • September 17, 2013 at 11:41 pm

      Thanks for your kind words and I am glad you like the blog. Really this is just a hobby for me. I like writing and having a chance to be creative. I appreciate your comments. Jon

  3. ERK
    October 22, 2013 at 8:00 pm

    Excellent writing with an interesting, authentic point of view. In comment to some of your ’60’s talk, and although I was born in 1959, I still experienced the 60’s and have wondered why in the world we don’t do it again. Well, maybe without all the hallucinogens and public sex. And, maybe without all the heart breaking meanness showed to the Vietnam Vets. Still, in spite of what I see as over-the-top activities, there was a mass purpose to the 60’s that was authentic and fair minded. Unlike now: How many passwords I need to use to protect my “stuff” from thieves? When did “give peace a chance” turn into “I wanna steal your stuff” and, from political point of view, when did “you’re not heavy, you’re my brother” turn into “these are entitlements and you’re not entitled? ”

    I’m rambling, but feel refreshed from reading through your blog and responding, and I thank you for that.

    My condolences about your sister and parents.

    A new fan

    • October 22, 2013 at 11:29 pm

      Thanks for reading and I am glad you have enjoyed it. I have to say I never saw all the meanness toward Vietnam vets. I do think people I knew in the movement distinguished between the architects of the war and rank and file soldiers. I think some of that supposed meanness was mythologized. Anyway, thanks also for your condolences. I plan to keep writing.. Jon

  4. January 9, 2014 at 8:58 pm

    Hi JP, I used to go to the gym and see you there and occasionally we’d talk politics. Do have an e-mail address? I have a question I wanted to ask you, but I don’t want to post it on here…Thanks! I hope you are well!

  5. cscenglishbabe
    January 9, 2014 at 9:03 pm

    Hi JP, Alicia here, (fellow Liberal, and we’ve definitely chatted a bunch about politics, I hope you are well, wondering if you could message me your e-mail address. I have some legal questions to ask trying to help a friend in need. Hope you are well! And Thanks!

  6. March 20, 2014 at 11:14 pm

    Dear Jonathon,

    I am the Director of the Office of Civil Legal Aid in Washington State. OCLA is an independent judicial branch agency that administers and oversees the state’s significant ($12 million/year) in civil legal aid services. I write to thank you for the extraordinarily thoughtful and measured opinion you wrote in the Concord Monitor yesterday. You offer a voice and perspective that is all too often defeated by the din of partisan criticism over federal funding of civil legal aid. I want you to know that I have shared the piece widely within our statewide justice community (Supreme Court on down to smallest provider). I also thought you might be interested in this wonderful historical reflection on Sargent Shriver, Lyndon Johnson and the War on Poverty.

    With gratitude and very best regards.

    Jim Bamberger
    Director, Office of Civil Legal Aid
    jim.bamberger@ocla.wa.gov

  7. job
    March 22, 2014 at 11:29 am

    Hey how are you doing? I just wanted to stop by and say that it’s been a pleasure reading your blog. I have bookmarked your website so that I can come back & read more in the future as well. plz do keep up the quality writing

    • March 23, 2014 at 1:24 pm

      Thanks. I am glad you enjoy it. I do plan to keep going! Jon

    • March 23, 2014 at 8:08 pm

      Thanks. I am glad you enjoy it. I have plenty of ideas so I do plan to keep going. Jon

  8. Steven Hamberg
    May 23, 2014 at 6:41 pm

    I am video producer (contract) at HHS and do education around the ACA.

    Here are few segments:

    Young Man in Tampa: http://youtu.be/kxWnePQVlLI

    Young woman in NOLA: http://youtu.be/iB4e7rKZmdw

    Young man in Pensacola: http://youtu.be/THIw2cfOIIg

    Would like to touch base, please email me next week when you have a moment.

    Thank you.

    Steven

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