Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Stupid is as Stupid Does

The video of Miss South Carolina/Teen America Lauren Caitlin Upton has been blasted over the web for the past several days.

I read somewhere that she has been seen by an astounding twenty million-plus people world-wide ---more people than who watched the actual Miss Teen America pageant itself.

A Republican elected official in Hunterdon County criticized me in an email for pointing out that Ms. Upton’s representative in Congress is a Republican. "What difference does that make?” he wrote. Your always trying to prove that Republicans are stupid and Democrats are smart.”

I needn’t point out the irony of his spelling “you’re”, ‘Y-O-U-R’.
Indeed, a point well made.

However, I do think our presidents, by and large, are smarter than theirs.

We have Jimmy Carter (winner of the Nobel Peace prize and a guy who studied nuclear physics in his youth) and Bill Clinton (a guy who won a Rhodes Scholarship to attend Oxford and who attended Yale Law School). They have Ronald Reagan ("Trees cause more pollution than automobiles do,") and George W. Bush (too many to list here!).

You decide.

However, here is the real question:
Is President Bush smarter than a Miss Teen South Carolina? Again, you decide:

And finally, Ms. Upton quizzes YOU on geography, too.

Think you're so smart?

Maybe she cannot find the U.S.A. on a map of the world, but obviously her Press Agent was able to find a great connection at People Magazine.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The plight of Mapless Americans.

Next time you complain about the high cost of New Jersey property taxes, make sure you include this in your thought process: the high cost of the lack of a good education.

New Jersey is the fourth smartest state in the country. We rank right behind Vermont at number one, and Massachusetts at number two, and Connecticut at number three. All states that have relatively high property taxes and good school systems, apparently.

However, South Carolina came in at number 26 ---in the bottom half of the nation. Their school system was judged on the same criteria as ours was.

Such factors as the percentage of their school budget used for in class room instruction. The percentage of high school students who actually graduate. The percentage of fourth and eighth graders who are proficient in math, reading and writing. It is a school system that few would place on the same map as New Jersey's.

Well, except for one South Carolina high school graduate, perhaps.

The South Carolina school system will now be on the map ---so to speak---because one of their own, Lauren Caitlin Upton ---Miss South Carolina/ Teen America ---seems to believe that 1 out of 5 Americans cannot locate America on a map of the world because many Americans don’t have maps. If she goes on to the Miss America pageant in the future, she may take on as her ‘platform’ the plight of Mapless Americans.

For those of you who had trouble finding 'her response' in that response, here is a ‘map’ of her response:

Ms. Upton attempted to redeem herself on the Today Show. In a mock repeat of the interview question, Ms. Upton proudly declared, "Well personally, my friends and I, we know exactly where the United States is on our map. I don't know anyone else who doesn't."

Well, good for her ---she says 'Our map'. Unlike the Mapless Americans she recognized in her earlier response, she has her own map.

That certainly settles the question.

She is a product of the school system of Lexington, South Carolina ---Lexington High School.

And of course, it comes as no surprise that her representative in Congress is Joe Wilson, a Republican who supports Bush in everyway he can. Perhaps Rep. Wilson cannot locate the United States on a map, either.

Wesley Lance, a true gentleman and dedicated public servant.

New Jersey lost a true gentleman and dedicated public servant this week.

Wesley Lance served New Jersey for more than 70 years ---first as a representative from Hunterdon County to the New Jersey State Legislature, and most recently as the attorney for the Township of Lebanon. It was at a Lebanon Township committee meeting I had the first opportunity of meeting Mr. Lance.

In early 1995, I was giving a presentation for the First Night Flemington to the Lebanon Township Committee, and Mr. Lance served as their Township Attorney. I introduced myself as the newly elected Councilman from Flemington Borough, and he could not have been more courteous.

I served as the Hunterdon County Democratic Committee chairman from 1996 to 2000. During that time I had the privilege of developing an acquaintanceship with Wesley Lance, the father of Senate Minority Leader Leonard Lance. The younger Lance would be the first one to tell you that it was not too long ago that he would be introduced as the son of the father, rather than the other way around.

While I was Chairman, Mr. Lance would sometimes call me out of the blue to discuss some local or statewide issue. The issue I remember most vividly was his telling of the story of the 1968 meeting of the Electoral College, where Richard Nixon was chosen as president over Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey.

Mr. Lance told me that he served as the president of the Electoral College that year, and that he was not a big fan of that method of choosing the president. His articulation of that point of view proved prophetic 32 years later in the 2000 Bush-Gore debacle.

He was a very bright and respectful man, who generously shared stories with me about the early days of Hunterdon County. He told me bits and pieces of many stories: How he was chosen by the Republican Party to run for the Legislature; How the Republican Party used to have picnics on the property that is now St. Magdalene’s Church in Flemington; How the 1947 New Jersey State Constitution changed the power of the governor in the state.

His thoughtful consideration of issues, as well as his good-natured articulation of the stories behind the people of Hunterdon showed a unique combination of intelligence and humor.

His like is rare in politics today. We are better off in New Jersey for his having been a public servant.

My condolences go out to Senator Leonard Lance, his wife Heidi, and to James Lance, and the rest of the Lance family.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Turning back the Primary Election Clock

I can see the latest pollster, calling voters regarding the 2008 presidential election:

“Good morning, I am calling on behalf of the CBS News-N.Y. Times election poll.

If the Democratic primary was being held tomorrow, who would you be
supporting for president?”

“Didn’t you hear? The primary IS being held tomorrow.”

The 2008 presidential is in full swing with debate after debate happening on both sides of the aisle. The primary season seems just around the corner. New Jersey decided to move up their primary to an earlier date than usual, the same as many other states. The Democrats in many states are frustrated by a primary process that gives too much power in deciding who the nominee is to the mostly white and rural states like Iowa and New Hampshire.

For New Jersey voters, a June primary was often meaningless, since by that time the presidential field had largely thinned out to include the eventual nominee and…. Dennis Kucinich. Not much of a choice for New Jerseyeans most of the time. Our primary in 2008 will be held on the Super Duper Primary Day of February 5th.

For now, at least, New Jersey will join 21 other states in deciding who gets the total of 1,433 Delegates to be pledged that day. It is the closest thing to a national primary the country has ever experienced.

But wait, the Democratic Party of fourth-most populated state Florida ---who played a big role in both the 2000 [remember that?] and the 2004 elections, has decided to move up their primary day to even before February 5th, to January 29th. The Democratic National Committee, voted “refuse to seat any Florida Democrat at the Democratic presidential convention in 2008 if the state party did not delay the date of its 2008 primary to conform to the party’s nominating calendar."

The DNC has given 30 days to Florida to get their act together, and change their minds.
Conventional wisdom says: Florida will rescind their decision, albeit begrudgingly. Or else this issue will most assuredly end up in court, giving the Democrats unwanted headaches in a state we badly need to win. The D’s have lost Florida twice this century, one at the hands of the Supreme Court. Had the DNC not acted, there might have been an onslaught of earlier and earlier primaries.

On the Republican side, South Carolina is attempting to move their Republican primary day to January 19th.

At this rate, some primary or caucus dates could take place before the end of the summer.

Or maybe this will culminate in the creation of a new concept: ‘flex-primary’ dates ---“The State of Florida's primary will be scheduled two weeks before what ever day will make it the first in the nation, no matter what”.

Now, you can vote early and often, and earlier still.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Last weekend before Labor Day

This is the last weekend before Labor Day weekend, and I have been reading [sadly] about how the generals in Iraq expect American involvement well in to 2009. I find it repugnant the the American president taking office on January 20, 2009 will be saddled with this Administration's mistakes.

The troops on the ground in Iraq deserve so much better. Have a good holiday week with your family, and think of those in service overseas not with their families.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Doherty on marriage equality: An Evil Plan

Mike Doherty thinks that marriage equality is an evil plan to divert the public's attention from 'real issues'. But first, the background story...

Assemblyman Michael Doherty’s call for a statewide vote on marriage equality brings to mind this verse, which Lee Hays credited to E.Y. "Yip" Harburg when he sang it on stage in 1980 at a Carnegie Hall Weavers reunion concert:

“Democracy gives us the choice of which machine to vote with.
Or choose which brand of razor blade we'd rather cut our throat with.”

Does Doherty really believe in democracy as the best way to settle such issues? I think not.

Of course, Doherty is the same guy who, when the issue is something he adamantly opposes, also opposes placing the issue on the ballot.

Like the bond issue on the ballot this fall for funding embryonic stem cell research. That issue Doherty voted against sending to ballot. Doherty and democracy? Go figure.

Seems kind of hypocritical to me, Mike.

But wait there’s more: According to this week’s Hunterdon County Democrat, Doherty believes that "gay rights advocates are using the [marriage equality] issue to divert law makers and the public from 'real issues like state debt, property taxes or the governor’s plan to sell the states transportation assets.' "


Incredulously, he says. “Frankly I am sick and tired of having the issue shoved in my face every day and every way…It’s a constant agitation of society, much like former President Bill Clinton’s "Wag The Dog" antics to keep the heat off his personal indiscretions.”

Of course, two of the ‘antics’ of President Clinton’s that Doherty refers to were “Operation Desert Fox”, a bombing campaign in Iraq against military targets, and "Operation Infinite Reach", a pair of missile strikes against suspected terrorist targets in Sudan and Afghanistan. But I digress.

Yes, I am sure that the evil master plan of Steven Goldstein and Garden State Equality ---- is to divert the public’s attention from “state debt” and “property taxes”.

Yeah, that's the ticket. An evil master plan. I can see the GSE Exec Board meeting now…

Steven Goldstein: “OK, folks we need an evil master plan to divert public attention from ‘property taxes’ and ‘state debt’. Whaddaya got for me?

Exec Board Member # 1: How about we advocate for huggin' trees? People love trees. That should divert their attention.

Goldstein: Nope, it’s been done. The Sierra Club. What else?

Exec Board Member #2: How about we advocate for animal rights? People love those little kittens and puppies!

Goldstein: Not bad. But I think we need to involve 'humans'. What else you got? We need ideas, dammit…

Exec Board Member #3: I got it! They’ll fall for this one: We advocate for marriage equality. Gay marriage. And get this: We start out with “domestic partnership”. Then we move on to “civil unions”. Then we hit the public with “full fledge marriage equality”, when civil unions don't really work out.

Goldstein: Brilliant! Fabulous! That should keep the public attention off of “property taxes” and “state debt” for years! Mwa -hahaha! Mwa-hahaha! I'll call Corzine! Let’s get the ball rolling!

Mr. Doherty, If you were truly conservative, you’d support marriage equality.

After all, what is more conservatizing than allowing two people who love each other, two people who wish to form a bond and raise a family, two people in love who wish to put down roots in to their community, buy a house, pay property taxes, ----to be able to express that love in the form of a civil marriage?

The NJ Supreme Court has already laid the groundwork on the issue, and the legislature has spoken. And Mr. Doherty, as a legislator, you are bound to follow the law.

Marriage equality is a civil liberty. We don't 'vote' on civil liberties.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Candidate Less Than Zero.

Maybe it’s the thin air and lack of oxygen in his district in Colorado that compelled Rep. Tom Tancredo to fly east to New Jersey, and inflame an already emotional situation.

Maybe it was the possibility of getting some national attention for his failing presidential campaign on the backs of the families who lost loved ones in the recent killings in Newark.

According to the latest Gallup poll [conducted August 13-16], Tancredo is running just under 1%, up from less than .5% a month ago. That places him somewhere after “Who?” “Other” and “No Opinion”. And, the poll has a margin of error of plus/minus 4%, so he could place as low as MINUS 5%: Candidate Less Than Zero.

But nothing could place him lower than what he did in Newark: He flew in from the 6th Congressional District in Colorado, and stood on the steps of the Newark City Hall. He then blamed local elected officials for the killings. He told a small crowd of supporters and a larger crowd of protesters, “If the suspects are found guilty, Newark and its political leadership share a degree of responsibility…I encourage the family of the victims to pursue a lawsuit against the city.”

Those same officials found Tancredo’s accusations offensive and inflammatory.

Mayor Booker said, “These folks descend from out of town to protest in front of City Hall at this time; I find that troubling…Talking about anyone being complicit in such a heinous crime — I find those words vulgar.”

Paula T. Dow, the Essex County prosecutor, said, “I think it’s absolutely abysmal that anyone would challenge and accuse or lay the blame on the Newark Police Department or anyone in law enforcement for the status of Carranza.”

Well-said, Mayor and Prosecutor.

Tancredo is a right-wing Republican opportunist who has been named one of the “Ten Worst Congressman” by Rolling Stone Magazine.

The stunt in Newark was not his first:

In September 2006, when Pope Benedict XVI sparked riots by condemning Islam as "evil," Tancredo urged him not to apologize.

Even his own Party thinks ill of him:

During a 2005 radio interview on Orlando talk-radio station WFLA AM 540 he proposed that America respond to any future terrorist attack by bombing Mecca and other holy sites. The conservative National Review described him , Tancredothusly: "Tom Tancredo is an idiot."

His statement drew extensive criticism from the Council for American-Islamic Relations and a deputy spokesman for the State Department, told CNN that the congressman’s comments were "reprehensible" and "absolutely crazy."

In November 28, 2006, Tancredo was quoted in several news sources as referring to the city of Miami, Florida as a "Third World country”, curing the wrath of then-Governor Jeb Bush who called him “naïve”.

Tom, next time the urge to fly to the Garden State strikes you, stay home in the Centennial State.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Me, Myself and I

Last spring, the folks at Campaigns and Elections started covering the political scene in New Jersey. Their usual articles include titles such as “Property Tax Debate Turns Partisan” , about how the property tax debate has turned partisan. Or the article entitled “Republicans Zero In On Immigration Issue”, about how the Republican Party has zeroed in on immigration as an issue. Or, finally, the article whose title is “Fair and Clean Elections Program Passes ‘Success’ Threshold”, which is about how the 2007 Fair and Clean Elections program was successful. You can see their keen insight into the New Jersey political scene has no equal, as their titles clearly reveal the article you are about to read ----unlike my posts.

So it was with great pleasure and humility that I caught the title of their latest venture in to the New Jersey political scene, with a piece entitled "Joey Novick Embodies Politics Unusual", I figured out quite quickly that the article was about me. As has been said about me by my long time friend Mike Z, "You have a firm grasp on the obvious." Indeed.

I spoke with their ace reporter for New Jersey, who peppered me with questions left and right, probing my background. “Where did you get started in comedy?” "Who inspired you to do stand-up comedy?" When did you move to New Jersey?" I tried my best to lead him down the path of what it is to be "me". Since I am me, this was fairly easy.

He spoke to a number of people about me, including some comedy-world colleagues such as comedy club owners and booking agents. The one person from the world of local NJ politics their reporter tried to speak with was current Flemington Mayor Bob Hauck, the longtime Borough Clerk and former Councilman. Hauck was my opponent in the Flemington mayor’s race last year. Republican Hauck refused to speak to the reporter, making “it clear he did not want to talk about his former opponent.” Go figure.

As I tell everyone, in that race, I know I won the hearts and minds of the people. But Hauck won the pancreas, the liver, at least one kidney, and the esophagus. Since he won more body parts than I did, he became the Mayor.

Unfortunately, like most Republicans these days, his values are as about as useful as an appendix, but that's another story.

So it goes in New Jersey politics.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Flintstones, Meet The Flintstones

Now Assemblyman Mike Doherty has a place to visit and learn all about creationism.

Just when you thought the right-wing religious fundamentalists couldn't do anything else more goofy, they have opened a museum in Kentucky (where else?) dedicated to the 'fact' that man and dinosaur stood side by side, not more than 6,000 years ago.

Yup, Fred, Barney, Wilma, and Dino were all real to these folks.

The Genesis Creation Museum presents a
“walk through history. Designed by a former Universal Studios exhibit director, this state-of-the-art 60,000 square foot museum brings the pages of the Bible to life.” Of course, here Darwin is the anti-Christ ---so to speak. He is vilified every step of the way with multi-screen video projections and animotronics Walt Disney himself would envy.

The exhibits have names like
“Culture in Crisis”, which shows a suburban house with several windows where museum goers can ‘look in’ on a typical American household challenged by today’s ‘culture’ corrupted by Darwin and evolution.

The first window shows two boys looking at porn and doing drugs; the second window shows a teen girl crying while looking at a pamphlet on abortion; and the third window shows a wife and husband arguing. Apparently, the museum designers seem to have no problem with people looking in the windows of their neighbors, as long the issue is the evil of evolution.

Other exhibits are called
“God’s Word versus Human Reason”, “Trail of Life” (which show dinosaurs walking right along with Adam and Eve), and “the Six Cs of History” [creation, corruption, catastrophe, confusion, Christ and the final C, ‘consummation’ ---the Apocalypse. Of course, someone should tell them that Apocalypse begins with an “A”.] Even the café has a theme, “Noah’s Cafe”. Maybe on the menu are pairs of sandwiches made from of every kind of animal.

Perhaps the Republican Presidential candidates who don’t believe in evolution (Brownback, Tancredo and Huckabee) could join Assemblyman Mike Doherty and his family on a vacation there, as a respite from their busy campaign schedules.

If you go, tell them Fred and Barney sent you.

No NJ State Song: I would adjust

New Jersey is the only state without a state song. Our neighbor to the east, New York, has, of course, I Love New York. Our neighbor to the west has one with the appropriate title, Pennsylvania. But, New Jersey ---we ain't got nothin'.

We're not deficient in other areas, though. We’ve had a state flower since 1913: The Violet or Viola sororia [yes, I know that sounds like a character from The Sopranos.] We have a state bird: The eastern golden finch. We even have a state bug: The honey bee. How cool is that?

But, alas, we have the no state song. But it’s not like we haven’t been trying like heck to get one on the books:

Sometime after the American Revolution, our fourth governor, Gov. Richard Howell, tried to get down to business and pick a song. He wrote his own tune called "Jersey Blue", which was used in 1794 by New Jersey troops marching to help put down the Whiskey Rebellion. Unfortunately, the song never caught on beyond helping to quell the rebellion. Try as he might, Howell was not the Bruce Springsteen of his day, but you have to give the Gov major points for trying.

Later on in 1939 and 1954, both the state legislature and the Department of Education respectively also failed to come up with a worthy song, although they both tried in vein.

Red Mascara's "I'm from New Jersey" has been erroneously listed as the state song, but never became officially so. It passed four times in the Assembly in [‘66, ‘68, ‘71, & ’80]. It passed both houses in 1972 and 1979, but neither Governor William Cahill nor Governor Brendan Byrne signed the song in to law.

Of course, the Assembly approved in June 1980 Born to Run" as the official rock anthem of New Jersey. The Senate never followed through ----so, how the hell did any senator get re-elected a year later after dissing the Boss that way?

Finally, in 1996, the state legislature called upon the State Arts Council to hold a contest for a state song, with mixed results. After reviewing more than two hundred entries ---including one from a fourth grade class in Bridgewater entitled “In New Jersey”, and one called "Be Proud to be in New Jersey" by a married couple from Springfield ---- Trenton politicos chose not a one. Nada Zip. Zilch.

So, mostly we don't have a state song because Trenton never picked one.
Folks, just pick one. At this point, any song.

I recommend another song entitled “I’m From New Jersey”, this one by John Gorka. The lyrics are too true to behold:

I'm from New Jersey
I don't expect too much
If the world ended today
I would adjust

I'm from New Jersey
No I don't talk that way
I watched too much TV
When I was young

I'm from New Jersey
My mom's Italian
I've read those mafia books
We don't belong

There are girls from New Jersey
Who have that great big hair
They're found in shopping malls
I will take you there

I'm from New Jersey
It's not like Texas
There is no mystery
I can't pretend

I'm from New Jersey
It's like Ohio
But even more so
Imagine that

I know which exit
And where I'm bound
The tolls on the parkway
They will slow you down

New Jersey people
They will suprise you
Cause they're not expected
To do too much

They will try harder
They may go further
Cause they never think
That they are good enough

I'm from New Jersey
I don't expect too much
If the world ended today
I would adjust
I would adjust
I would adjust

Saturday, August 18, 2007

I see England, I see France…

Trenton seeks to tuck underwear back under TRENTON, N.J., Aug. 17 (UPI) -- Trenton, N.J., city officials want the city's children to keep their underpants undercover. An ordinance was suggested banning baggy pants styles embraced by teenagers, the Trenton Times reported. "I'm asking the support of council to send a message to our young people that they must cover up their undergarments," Councilwoman Annette Lartigue said during Thursday's meeting. Council Vice President Cordelia Staton said peek-a-boo underpants aren't only unseemly on the streets but in a school setting as well. She urged school officials to consider a ban similar to the one raised in the city council forum.

The war in Iraq rages on; the state is 30 billion in debt; locally, towns have issues with illegal immigrants. I am gratified, though, to see that none of these topics are problems any longer in the state capital. Their number one issue now: the display of underpants in public.

Whether you wear boxers or briefs, I am sure that you are as concerned as the folks in Trenton with the weight of this issue. It must be the waning days of the summer news cycle. I guess some politicos will do anything to get press in a slow news month.

I would imagine that Trenton already has on the books an ordinance against indecent exposure, so perhaps an anti-baggy pants ordinance is not really necessary. But where will it end? I just got back from Florida where the style of ‘pants wearing’ seems to include loud plaid pants pulled up almost to your chest. If you’re a man in your eighties you're always in style with the other folks at your condo complex if you're wearing your plaid pants ‘high and tight’.

However, is the exposure of white socks, pale ankles and brown sandals as upsetting to the town council of Miami Beach as baggy pants/underwear exposure is to Trenton Council-members Staton and Lartigue? I thought I would try and find out.

I called the office of Mayor of Miami Beach on this issue, and for some reason, his office referred to me to his 2005 "State of The City” address. I thought for sure that either the ‘high and tight’ pants issue or the ‘baggy pants’ crisis would be the center-piece of his speech. The closest policy statement I found was the following:

“We all recognize that there is no greater responsibility we have as a government than ensuring our public’s safety, and our highest safety priority must be the protection of our children.”

Hmmm, I guess the hidden meaning: He is concerned about baggy pants.

Furthermore, he expressed his, “concern for our residents, especially our children and senior citizens. [We have] worked hard for our children and families so that our parks and recreational programs are affordable for all of our residents.”

Obviously, they have it all handled in Florida, with good family values when it comes to pants issues.

So, the world takes what Trenton makes, and I guess the next thing they’ll make is good policy to deal with the age-old problem of baggy pants.

We will be sure to contact Jon Shure of NJPP, and keep him posted on the progress.

Age before beauty

“Three out of five New Jersey voters are concerned about Sen. Frank Lautenberg's age and think it's about time for someone else to take his job, a new Rutgers-Eagleton poll released yesterday shows. It is the second poll this summer in which the incumbent's age emerged as a major issue with voters. Lautenberg (D-N.J.) would be 84 at the start of a new term.” (Donohue, Star-Ledger)

In the Senate race, 60% of the voters are concerned about Senator Lautenberg’s age [83]. Of course, he is more experienced, accomplished and energetic than people half his age. But the ‘age’ issue will weigh heavy in the election. For those on the Republican side of the aisle, who consider this an issue, here is your political doyen, Ronald Reagen on the issue of ‘age’:

In other news: Although the calendar reads 2007, 2008 is floating closer and closer in the minds of all New Jersey politicos, with 2009 not too far in the rear-view mirror.

The presidential races are in full swing and it is a two-horse race everywhere between Hillary and Obama, with John Edwards shouting “But what about me?” somewhere in the distance.

Me, I lean toward Bill Richardson, the candidate with the most experience in the race:
Clinton Administration Cabinet member. UN Ambassador. Governor. Congressman.

He does not have the best bank account or the best hair or was he the funniest on The Tonight Show. But he is the person I would like to see in charge on January 20th, 2009.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Corzine: A Stand-Up Guy

There are few governors who stand up for their states like Jon Corzine. He’s a guy who knows how to make sure New Jersey doesn't get dissed on late night talk shows.

Almost every night on late night TV [and almost 24/7 on Comedy Central] the Garden State is a punch line to a joke or two or three or more. From “You’re from Jersey? What Exit?” to the “Top Ten Ways You Know You’re from New Jersey”, we are the most maligned state in the nation. Well, you can thank Governor Corzine for putting an end to that ---one late night show at a time.

He is starting with The Late Late Show with host Craig Ferguson from CBS. Seems that Ferguson [no relation to Congressman Mike Ferguson, I hope] is a Scotsman, and is interested in becoming an American citizen. He is employed in the U.S., and I do not know if his current immigration status is legal or not.

Ferguson is asking towns and states to name him an honorary citizenship, and has been named an official citizen of about 16,000 or so towns. Corzine, ever the good business man, has made Ferguson an offer he can’t refuse. Here is the letter sent by our Governor to CBS by regular mail, not email:

Dear Craig -

I understand you are seeking to become an honorary citizen of the state of New Jersey.

Before we bestow this great honor upon you, however, I feel the need to explain to you the burdens and responsibilities of being a citizen of the great Garden State.

First, anytime anyone refers to the New York Giants, New York Jets or New York Red Bulls, you have to sigh, roll your eyes and remind that person that all of those teams actually play in New Jersey. Same goes for the Statue of Liberty.

Second, anytime someone only knows New Jersey because "Tony Soprano is from there," you are required to mention that there is an endless list of notable and accomplished individuals who lived in or are from New Jersey, including two current Supreme Court Justices, Albert Einstein, and Joe Piscopo.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, you must immediately adjust your musical tastes so that Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi and Queen Latifah are the only artists on your iPod. This is non-negotiable.

Finally, enclosed with this letter, please find a chip that is to be placed directly on your shoulder (left or right). This chip must be clearly visible to anyone who suggests that New Jersey is simply "the state between New York City and Philadelphia."

If you are prepared to take all of those steps, I am thrilled to grant you honorary status as a citizen of New Jersey.

Governor Jon S. Corzine

I would have added the following, just to sweeten the pot:

• Two tickets to see “The Jersey Boys” on Broadway

• An EZPass good for one year
• A recording of Abbott & Costello’s "Who’s On First" routine, along with a picture of the Lou Costello statue in Paterson.
• A six-month subscription to “Weird New Jersey”.
• A Beach Tag good at any beach in New Jersey between Beach Haven and Wildwood for the remainder of the summer.
• I would add the follow famous New Jerseyeans to the list Ferguson must mention when he hears a NJ joke: Frank Sinatra, Meryl Streep, Paul Robeson, Tom Cruise, and Jack Nicholson.

That should lock in the deal.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Go East, Young man.

A face for radio: Craig Carton will now drive from Pennsylvania to New York. He was just passing through New Jersey, anyway ---and now he will do it regularly. Hope he has an EZ PAss. Or doesn't meet up with anyone he has insulted.

Another 101.5 afternoon drive host has been bumped upstairs. Apparently, in any other office or job if you insult Latinos, Jews, women, Asians, gays & lesbians ----you’d be fired. But in radio, you get a raise and a promotion. Carton will now be one of the two morning guys on WFAN on the old time period formally held by Don Imus. Will WFAN ever learn? I guess if they had a guy who insults African-American women, they figure they will do better with a guy who insults everyone equally. Go figure.

Hope Carton can rise early enough to get to work on time ---unless, of course, he is now living in New Jersey so he can be closer to New York.

In other news, Don Imus has settled with CBS, and may get back in to radio.

We all long for the days when the toughest thing anyone would hear on the radio was the “Holy Cow!” of Phil Rizzuto. So it goes, Scooter.

You will be missed. If there is a baseball heaven, you know they have a heck of an infield.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Impeachment is looking better and better... least of Cheney, maybe.

Two months ago, I went to an impeachment forum in Princeton attended by Mark Crispin Miller. He is a strong advocate for impeachment, and at the time I was not. My thinking was that as long as the Democrats now control Congress, the most important issue [for me, at least] was ending the war, and having a time-tabled plan for leaving Iraq. Impeachment, while important, was not something I thought the American people would tolerate with GW’s term ending on January 20, 2009.

Miller made a good case for impeachment. There are certainly many reasons to impeach Bush/Cheney: The war in Iraq. Signing statements. Outing of a CIA operative. The firing of federal prosecutors along political lines. Spying on American citizens.

But, I thought, the political “To Do” list for Congress should have as its number one item: Ending the war. And I thought that Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Senator Harry Reid would agree with me. So, I thought.

Well, the Democrats rolled over on war funding in June. They are willing to wait another month or so for a report on the “progress” in Iraq. It is kind of weird to think that “progress” includes more than 3600 American troops dead, and more than $450 billion in cost.

And now they are willing to allow the Bush administration to spy on Americans. Rep. Rush Holt had the best take on the issue: "Legislation should not be passed in response to fear-mongering."

So, if the Democrats are not going to actually end the war---the key reason why they won back Congress ---maybe impeachment should be on the table.

After all, the Democrats are not doing anything else of importance.

Dumont and Bergenfield, we have a problem.

"Activists on both sides of the immigration debate squared off Saturday on the street that divides Dumont and Bergenfield, rallying within shouting distance of the day laborers who are at the center of their battle. Members of the pro-immigrant Residents Against Racism showed up to counter-protest an anti-illegal immigration group, the United Patriots of America, which holds weekly rallies on the Dumont side of Columbia Avenue. The UPA has targeted the location for more than a year because of a day laborer pick-up spot across the street in Bergenfield.” (Shih, Bergen Record)

This issue will soon be playing at a theater near you. Morristown was last month; this month it is Dumont and Bergenfield.

Next month, maybe somewhere in a western New Jersey county. With the group "United Patriots of America", a Linden-based group present leading the way.

This is not an issue that developed happened overnight. It was years in the making and the components were:

[1] a federal government cutting the budget of the INS to pay for those tax cuts the Republicans wanted;
[2] small businesses and private home-owners willing to hire those willing to work at low-paying jobs ---some times ‘off the books’ and less than minimum wages; and
[3] a group of men and women willing to do the job.

Requiring local law enforcement to police such activity will result in doing nothing more than shifting the cost of enforcement from the federal government to local governments --- which will have an impact on local property taxes. Training local police to be knowledgeable in the laws will also be a cost factor.

The Linden-based group, United Patriots of America [a dubious name for a group espousing such racism, to say the least], brought in some supporters last week from across New Jersey and across state-lines: The Carlstadt-based NJ Citizens for Immigration Control and the New Yorkers for Immigration Control and Enforcement joined them.

Their claim that their “big gripe is with the employers…It's illegal for businesses to hire these people, but they do” rings somewhat hollow. Week after week they come and intimidate the day laborers waiting for work. None of their actions seem to be focused on the employers’ businesses, as per their statement.

Their website has pictures of unidentified day laborers, with the caption reading "Illegal aliens are pictured below behind the Bergenfield police station." And the picture is followed by statistics regarding illegal aliens.

Strangely enough this website page also contains the disclaimer, "Privacy is important to us; therefore, we will not sell, rent, or give your name or address to anyone." However, this is on the same page as the photo of the "day laborers" ---and I am sure that the UPA failed to get the permission of those in the photo to post their likeness on the web. Obviously, privacy is not that important to the UPA.

The website also contains the following picture under the link "Tar and Feathers", with the following high-lighted text:

Tarring and feathering
is a physical punishment, at least as old as the Crusades, used to enforce formal justice in feudal Europe and informal justice in Europe and its colonies in the early modern period, as well as the early American frontier, mostly as a type of mob vengeance (compare Lynch law).

Why this is on their website is never fully explained.

Sadly, their activities reminded me of the scene in “Gangs of New York” where the jingoistic ‘nativists’ shout profanities at the Irish coming off the boats to New York circa 1860, protesting their arrival in America.

The more things change, the more they remain the same.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Objects in Mirror are More Evil Than They Appear

"Karl Rove, the adviser who masterminded President Bush’s two winning presidential campaigns, is resigning, the White House confirmed today." (JIM RUTENBERG, New York Times)

Well, it’s about time. It’s about seven years too late, but we guess it’s better late than never.

Rove engineered to the White House possibly the worst president ever. And brought a new low level of bare-knuckle politicking that continues to be a standard even in local elections.

He has failed this president and the nation on so many levels; it is hard to list them all here. The Iraq War. Spying on American citizens. The outing of a CIA operative. A march to an imperial presidency. The firing of federal prosecutors. A dozen or so impeachable offenses. A new term for negative politicking: Swift-boating.

This information garnered from Wikipedia says it all:

"In 1960, at the age of nine, Rove decided to support Richard Nixon. According to Rove, "There was a little girl across the street who was Catholic and found out I was for Nixon, and she was avidly for Kennedy. She put me down on the pavement and waled on me and gave me a bloody nose. I lost my first political battle."

Had only that little girl completed the job.

So, summing up Karl Rove, this quote from Woody Allen comes to mind as appropriate:

“His lack of education is more than compensated for by his keenly developed moral bankruptcy.”

Sunday, August 12, 2007

What I learned on my summer vacation.

Just got back late last night from our summer vacation in Florida. Yes, I know ---‘Florida in the summer?' you must be thinking. Part vacation, part family visit. We also go there during the winter months, too. But it is very hot all the time, although everything
in -doors is so air-conditioned that you can hang frozen beef.

So, I learned the following on my summer vacation:

  • Don’t try to get a hotel in the middle of the summer anywhere near Atlantic City without a reservation. Everything was more than sold out. Hotel after hotel had lines of people waiting to be told the same thing: No Vacancy. Note to hotels on Black Horse Pike: Invest in a sign that can be lit up to read “No Vacancy”.
  • The fresh water conservation issues in New Jersey dwarf ours. They have to pull water out of the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee, the freshwater lake in the center of Florida. It is the second-largest freshwater lake wholly within the continental United States, second only to Lake Michigan.
  • Florida newspapers really do not care much about what happens to the New York Yankees, or the fact that they are now five games back, or that they have a better record than the Mets. However, perfectly good Yankee and Met fans from New York moved to Florida and now root for the "Florida Marlins", a team named for a fish. Hard to wrap my brain around that.
  • It is very easy to find your way around south east Florida. East is to the beach. West is not. Guess it’s the same in New Jersey, though, now that I think of it.
  • They have tolls in Florida, too.
  • New Jersey bagels are better than Florida bagels. We have better pizza, too.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

From Florida, with love

We fly back from Ft. Lauderdale to AC; in fact I am in the Ft. Lauderdale airport as we speak. Wireless abounds everywhere these days. Caught in the airport while you wait for your flight? Get out your laptop and pass the time posting on your blog.

The wireless signals fly through the air with the greatest of ease, but not our flight to AC on Spirit Airlines which is delayed.

We had a week in south FLA, which is like living in a Seinfeld episode. We eat dinner at 4pm, have lunch at 11am, and breakfast the night before.

Fun in the sun. But I will be glad to be back in NJ. There is lots of work to do.


Friday, August 10, 2007

Just when you thought Sonny was safe....

“ATLANTIC CITY — What happens in Atlantic City should stay in Atlantic City. And that includes casino profits. The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority’s policies should be changed to provide more money to improve Atlantic City and the rest of Atlantic County, rather than contributing millions of dollars to projects throughout the state, State Sen. James “Sonny” McCullough, R-Atlantic, said Tuesday.” (Clark, Press of Atlantic City)

State Sen. James “Sonny” McCullough has tried this kind of stand-up comedy before: last month he told a reporter from PoliticsNJ a racist joke. Seems like he has not learned much since then.

His idea that money made in Atlantic City should stay in Atlantic City may sound good to his constituents, but it is most certainly not a policy road the state should go down. New Jersey is an entire state ---from the shores of the Atlantic Ocean to the banks of the Delaware River. From Cape May Ferry to the Palisades north of the GW Bridge. We share revenue from taxes from all industries and the state distributes the funds on an as needed basis. Such is the strength and challenges of a democracy: there are many priorities and municipalities around the state that need funding. This is but one of many issues to be negotiated by the legislature come budget time.

Should state funds collected in taxes from the pharmaceutical companies go only to improve those communities in which the companies are headquartered? No, that tax be distributed around the state where needed. Should tolls collected from bridges, roadways and tunnels go only to support the infra-structure of those communities in which those facilities exist? No, the funds are used to repair and maintain roads and bridges all around the state. The same with the funds from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority.

When Atlantic City needed a tunnel to connect the Atlantic City Expressway to the new casinos in the “other Atlantic City”, did they pay for it themselves? No, they did not. The cost was largely paid out of money in the state transportation trust fund ---bonds authorized by the voters of New Jersey, and backed by the credit of the state. Our tax money went to help build that tunnel, the same way that roads in Flemington are funded.

If Atlantic City is to expand by adding more casinos, an expansion of the airport may be necessary. Will the expansion be paid for by Atlantic City itself? No --- the AC powers that be will seek assistance from the state, of course. And that is appropriate policy.

There is no doubt that AC needs to better its infrastructure in order to compete with the growing gambling competition from Connecticut and Delaware. The entire state shares in the success or failure of AC, and investment dollars from the state are certainly justified. However, a change of traditional state funding policies is not the road to go down.

It’s not warranted in this case, and too much of a gamble.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Random thoughts while on vacation.

January 20, 2009: A date we are all waiting for with impassioned patience. Homer had the right idea more than 2000 years ago -----seemingly about Bush 41 and Bush 43:

"For rarely are sons similar to their fathers: most are worse, and a few are better than their fathers.”
Homer (800 BC - 700 BC), The Odyssey


NASA keeps Earth's nasty germs at home Los Angeles Times
By Amber Dancer

“When NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander rocketed into space Saturday, it went, like all missions, with the assurance that as few Earth microbes as possible tagged along. Hitchhiking microbes could impair the experiments, or worse: An errant microbe could contaminate the planet."

It’s obvious that NASA has a much better policy regarding invading foreign lands than the Pentagon does.

Back to the beach tomorrow:

Florida charges no one to get on their beaches. They’re beautiful, and parking was a minimal cost or free.

Assemlylman Neil Cohen is right ---let's start next season right and stop charging people to get on Jersey beaches.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Immigration and New Jersey: We, The People

“It was the perfect setting for an immigration related press conference: an old train terminal in Jersey City’s Liberty State Park, within view of the Statue of Liberty, where countless immigrants poured off ferries from nearby Ellis Island to board trains for points West. It was here that Gov. Jon Corzine signed an executive order creating a new blue ribbon panel on immigration during a well-choreographed, well-attended event. But there was a less jubilant undertone as well -- it was clear that the Governor did not want the tension that characterized the recent Morristown anti-immigration rally to replicate across the state." (Friedman,

New Jersey shares the immigration history with New York. And I think it is great that Gov. Corzine has moved to establish a commission to deal with the issue in New Jersey.

However, it is not unlikely that the issues and the proposed solutions facing Morristown will begin to replicate themselves around towns in New Jersey. It is a very questionable solution to the immigration issue to deputize all local law enforcement officials. The already overburdened local police cannot necessarily take on yet another task that should be borne in cost and labor by the federal government.

It is not unsurprising, though, that the federal government lacks the staffing at our borders and at the Immigration and Naturalization Service [INS] to deal with the immigration issue. Prior to 9/11 the matter was just not a priority in anywhere but the border states of Arizona, New Mexico, California and Texas. And the Border Patrol and the INS were agencies that received huge cutbacks to help pay for the Bush tax cuts. So, know what your tax cuts are paying for before you buy them.

It is estimated that there are somewhere between 12 to 20 million ‘illegal’ immigrants in the United States. That is not a number reached over night. It is a combination of lack of attention by the federal government and small business owners that like the cheap labor. You cannot simultaneously yell and scream about the ‘illegals’, and enjoy the benefits of tax cuts and the cheap labor.

In my home town of Flemington, there is a growing population of Latino families that work day and night to provide for their family members. They work sometimes two and three jobs; they pay high rents and live in overcrowded apartments, walk or bicycle to work, have no health care, and are subjected to racism nearly every day. Indeed, the landlords who rent these overcrowded apartments and the employers who hire Latino workers at below minimum wage aid and abet in the creation of these problems.

Flemington has a mayor who has referred to the Latino population as ‘the ethnics’ or the ‘ethnic problem’ in public, and made jokes about the ‘five-footers’ in private to other Council members. I am compelled to think that such a person is ill equipped to handle this issue as the matter comes to a head.

We need to remember that more than half the population came from immigrants, through Ellis Island. I cannot say that every member of my family [or any family, for that matter] came here legally or illegally dating back more than 125 years ago. But they came, they worked, they learned English without any government requirement that they do, and their ancestors flourished. From factory workers, tailors, garment workers, push cart vendors, and union organizers, etc, they became lawyers, doctors, teachers, business owners, mayors, councilmen, senators, presidents and political organizers.

These is America, and let’s not forget what makes us great. It’s we, the people.