Monday, March 31, 2008

Do Fences Make Good neighbors? Maybe not.

Do you support the construction of a fence between Mexico and the United States to help protect our borders? If you're a Republican, you probably do. But wait, there's more to the fence idea than meets the eye. Some towns don't want to get fenced in.

How would you feel, for example, if you had to give up part of your land to build the fence on? Through eminent domain? Or if part of your town were fenced off from another part of the town. That's exactly what is happening in Texas. They're fed up with the Fed's Fence Fiasco, and feel they're being messed with. Those small border towns that cried foul for years about being impacted with the cost of illegal aliens from Mexico ---and now are being forced to give up land through the dreaded eminent domain to make room for the fence. Some mayors might not know what eminent domain is. Hint: It's in the Constitution.

There's a bit of NIMBY involved in all this, m'thinks. The idea of a border fence certainly sounds like a great notion, but not the actual fence itself.

The Department of Homeland Security is building almost 700 miles of fence, and has filed dozens of law suits against landowners---including towns---to assert its authority to take the land for the 'public purpose' of border security. Now, those same towns that whined and moaned are now fighting back.

For example, the Fence in Brownsville, TX would cut right through University of Texas campus, and cut off the town from a municipal golf course. The mayor of Eagle Pass, TX stated that they have a good relationship with the town of Piedras Negras in Mexico.
"If there is a fire in Piedras Negras, the Eagle Pass Fire Department responds. If there is a fire in Eagle Pass, the Piedras Negras Fire Department responds."
He also said that the idea of border fence has not worked since the 16th century.

So, what do you dislike more ---eminent domain or undocumented aliens?

Friday, March 28, 2008

Mensch of the Week and Putz of the Week

It has been a few weeks since I offered the Mensch of Week and Putz of the Week feature, and please forgive me its absence. And I thank Rick P. of Sayreville for writing and asking about it, as well as Janis L. of Staten Island [did not know I a fan base across the sea in New York], and Linda M. of Pittstown.

Putz of the Week

Andy Unanue is the new millionaire flavor of the month in the Republican Party to run for the Senate. The Repubs are not satisfied with the possibility of either Sen. Joe "Nationalist Party" Pennachio or Prof. Murray Sabrin as their standard bearer in this race against Senator Lautenberg. So, they have used their political magic wand to find someone who has no experience, but can self-fund. But his ability to self-fund does not come without some problems.

Apparently, Mr. Unanue may have committed voter fraud, by residing in New York City, but voting in New Jersey. Someone should have told him that was wrong.

From PolickerNJ:
Unanue does own a residence at 25 Central Park West in New York City.
Unanue's campaign said that, for all intents and purposes, Unanue lives with his parents.
A millionaire who lives with his parents in New Jersey, but maintains an apartment in New York City. And he "admitted he had come to work hung over and drank a lot at company parties. 'Work hard, play hard. That was my motto',".So, all this and more, Andy Unanue is the new Putz of the Week here at NJPoliticsUnusual.

Mensch of the Week

When I was in second grade waaaay back in 1962, in the aftermath of the Cuban missle crisis, we had to learn how to protect ourselves at school in the event of a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union. We were advised to 'duck and cover'----if you should see the flash of an atomic bomb in the distance while at school, we were told to immediately jump under the desk. I was very impressed that the wooden desks at P.S. 277 would be able to protect us from atomic radiation. "How cool is that?" I thought.

Today the issue is terrorism, and some folks in New Jersey have the same thought in mind. Teaching kinds what to do at schools in the event of a terrorist attack or a Columbine like attack.

Schools in New Jersey are drilling students for different types of emergencies. Bomb threats. Hazardous material spills. Armed, roaming sociopaths. Terrorist attacks. The State Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness is working on legislation to require such drills statewide as early as next fall.

Next month, the Middlesex County Freeholders will ask their Congressional delegation to "include schools among the critical infrastructures protected by the United States Department of Homeland Security, in hopes of getting money to pay for the drills."

For their commitment to the safety of students in New Jersey schools, the Middlesex County Freeholders are our Mensches of the Week.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Just when you thought Obama-Clinton was the only interesting race…

And you thought that the Obama-Clinton race was the only one grabbing headlines. How does this grab you?

Whiny Republican State Chairman Tom Wilson is really pissed off at Senator Lautenberg. Excuse me, while I cry and whimper. With his number one candidate dropping out of the race, and his new number one candidate acknowledging that he shows up hung-over at his office, Wilson sent via fax an angry letter to Lautenberg. Boo hoo. Wilson, if you can’t stand the heat…

He accused the Lautenberg campaign of tipping off the newspapers that about a lawsuit that led to new Republican Senate candidate Andy Unanue’s being dumped as Chief Operating Officer of Goya Foods.

The Daily Kos:
During a trial on a lawsuit about the firings, a company vice-president testified Unanue came to work drunk at least five times, possibly more. Unanue denied that, but admitted he had come to work hung over and drank a lot at company parties. "Work hard, play hard. That was my motto," Unanue testified.

Good luck with that, Wilson.

And from within the Democratic Party ranks…Former Democratic State Chairman Tom Byrne is giving some strong thought to running for Senate against Lautenberg in a primary.

He is waiting for the results of a poll, and will take the weekend to decide. Hopefully, he is not going out drinking this weekend with Unanue.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

So, so, sew your pants.

My Aunt Bella had two expressions, that would stop anyone in their tracks in an argument. She would have been an excellent participant in a debate.

First, no matter what anyone said to her, her response would be to repeat some key word and then rhyme it with a word beginning with the pre-fix “schm-”. For example, if you said to her “Inflation is bad for the country”, her answer might be “Country, Schmuntry”. Then she would be quiet. She would go back to knitting, her point well made.

And if she made an assertion, and then someone answered “So?”. Her answer would be, “So, sew, sew your pants”.

So, to Vice President Cheney, I say “So, sew, sew your pants”.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

You, Me and Dupre

Here are some of the late night talk show jokes about the unfortunate travails of New York's former governor:

"This 22-year-old brunette prostitute, Ashley Alexandra Dupre -- that's a hooker name if you ever heard one -- the one that got caught with the governor, she's now talking about writing a book. A book. So guys, let that be a lesson to you. Whenever you hire a prostitute, always go for the blondes. No chance of her writing a a book." --Jay Leno

"No, it turns out this woman is also a singer. You can hear her song on MySpace. She doesn't have a bad voice. Although, today, the governor said, 'You know something, you really got to see her perform live.'" --Jay Leno

"Now everybody's trying to get an interview with her. Right now, she said she's going to lay low and focus on her next step, marrying Paul McCartney." --Jay Leno

"More and more information is starting to come out about the young lady who charged the former governor $5,000 an hour for her services. It seems she's a singer. And on her MySpace page, she lists Celine Dion as one of her idols. Celine Dion. Of course, the big difference is, Celine Dion sang about going down on the Titanic." --Jay Leno

"You know the amazing thing to me about this whole situation is? Now, we didn't know anything about this woman. She'd given a fake name, 'Kristen,' and a vague general description -- 5'5", petite. That's all we knew. Yet, reporters tracked her down in a day and a half. A day in a half, they found her. Now, Osama bin Laden, the most famous terrorist in the world -- he's 6'6", he's got a beard, he wears the same robe and turban every day -- we have no idea." --Jay Leno

"Anyway, the young lady has been identified as Ashley Dupre. That doesn't sound like a hooker name, does it? No. She says she doesn't want to be thought of as a monster. She can also play a Catholic schoolgirl, a nurse, a dominatrix, any number of things." --Jay Leno

"More details are starting to come out about the $5,000 prostitute. Her name's Ashley Alexandra Dupre. She's a 22-year-old aspiring musician. I believe she is classically trained on the flute." --Jay Leno

State of State Health Care

I have health insurance. I am lucky. Other do not have it, and they're not. Health care should not be a function of 'luck', it should be a valued priority that everyone has access to.

Recently, I had the experience of having two procedures denied coverage by my health care provider, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield. Not that any reader needs to know the intimate details of my medical history.

Suffice it to say that in each occurrence, it turned out that either Blue Cross sent the wrong information or had the wrong computer generated "message code" denying coverage. Had I not had the wherewithal to ask the right questions, and the patience to wade through the hours of conversations and waiting time for the customer service supervisors, I would be out thousands of dollars. I would imagine that this is done on a regular basis, and has cost others thousands of dollars or labor hours correcting the problem.

So, even if you have health insurance, you have to be the strongest advocate for the proper administration of your health insurance benefits. Michael Moore was right with SICKO.

Senator Joe Vitale has offered a program of health care for New Jersey residents, which I heartily support. In the current environment of budget crisis, it's going to be a tough road. However, given the balance of a health crisis versus a budget crisis, I'd want to avert the health problems each and every time.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Back to Work: Some Quick Shots

I have not blogged for a while, which had been very unlike me.

I have been consumed with thoughts of Gov. Spitzer, Barack Obama and race relations, the issue of Michigan and Florida, and the 5th anniversary of this insane war.

Oh, year gas prices, too. Saw $4 a gallon in New York on my way to a gig last week. And they have to pump their own. That was for premium---but who needs premium these days anyway? But what do I know, I still ask for a fill up 'unleaded'.

So, here are some quick shots:

Gov. Spitzer: $5500? $5500?? Wow, that's lots for an evening of nookie. Even so-called 'unsafe' sex. And, now you're a joke on YouTube, SNL, and Jay Leno. You had to go to the Mayflower Hotel? At least Bill Clinton had the good sense to do it in the White House, and be available in case the Red Phone rang at 3am.

Senator Barack Obama: This situation with his minister's comments had originally concerned me, and then I thought that there had to be SOME Gennifer Flowers/Howard Dean Scream moment in his race sooner or later. The Tony Rezko issue went nowhere, at least for now. So, my thinking is better now, than an October surprise. And the issue was bound to be race. The jury is still out on his speech, but he excels when he is speaking. He is being tested, and he will prove he is the real deal.

Michigan and Florida: Blame should be on the state legislatures in MI and FLA, and no where else. They knew the rules, and their residents should take their own reps to task. However, you cannot give the delegates of MI to Clinton---when Obama was not even on the ballot.

Iraq: Go to a Peace Vigil tonight. In 2003, when I attended the Peace Vigils in front of the Historic Courthouse in Flemington, the war was still popular. I was concerned that my opposition of the war, would impact my re-election to the Flemington Borough Council. It did not; I won. My regret is that I did not make a CitiesforPeace.Org motion to oppose the war back then.

My heart goes out to the thousands of families who have lost loved ones since 2003. My eyes are filled with tears for you, and I am hopeful that the next president brings the troops home soon.

Peace is patriotic.

Friday, March 14, 2008

A Tough Month for Governors in NY and NJ

It’s been a tough month for governors in the New York/New Jersey area.

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you have noticed that one governor resigned after meeting with a high-priced hooker from New Jersey, and the other governor stayed put after meeting with about 200 mayors.Ours was the one to stay put and give them in person the bad news about state aid: There’s gonna be less of it. Ours was the one to stay put and give

I don’t know what was worse---having to resign in disgrace, or facing down a team of mad municipal mayors.

My hometown of Flemington stands to lose more than $250,000 in state aid, unless we figure out how to merge with the town that surround us. Raritan Township, the big gelatinous cell of a bedroom community, is the one that surrounds the Main Street nucleus that is Flemington.

Well let’s just look at that “merger”.

In 1910, Flemington separated itself from Raritan Township, and became it’s own community. I've read that the issue back then was much the same as it is today: property taxes that were too high. The residents of Flemington did not want to have to pay for the development in Raritan Township.

Ironically, we have still have the same issues today, as Flemington prepares for their centennial celebration. The fastest growing Township in Hunterdon County has placed nearly all its dense residential infrastructure around Flemington, choking the smaller town with traffic, stores and condo communities.

The governor has proposed to cut all aid for towns that have under a population of 5000. Flemington has a population of about 4200, and we are not about to jump over 5000 really soon. Raritan Township logs in at about 22,000 or so, according to the latest population estimates. So, according to the governor’s plan, their aid would not necessarily be cut.

What motivation would Raritan Township have to merge with Flemington? So, it goes.

I am sure that the issue will be hotly debated in the state legislature, and be fought sharply by the fine folks of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Love Client Number Nine

[Sung to the tune of "Love Potion Number Nine", with my sincerest apologies to original song writers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, as well as to The Searchers, who sang the best known version of the song].

Love Client Number 9

He’s trekkin’ down south to the Beltway hub;
To book a hooker from the Emperor’s Club
Their club’s got girls that are really so devine,
Guv Spitzer’s now known as Love Client Number 9.

The IRS noticed he was playing tricks
Stashing away bucks just to pay his chicks.
His career was moving up, but now it’s in decline.
‘Cause Spitzer’s now known as Love Client Number 9.

On Wall Street’s corporate beat, he gave them a fright.
He prosecuted crime bosses all day and all night,
By prostitution rings, guess he did things right;
They helped his flag gettin’ raised by dawn’s early light.

He laid his pipe at the Mayflower Hotel.
Never thought that his call girls would tell.
Was the New York Guv and now he will resign;
‘Cause Spitzer’s now known as Love Client Number 9.

Love Client Number 9.
Love Client Number 9.
Love Client Number 9......

Monday, March 10, 2008

Corzine and Rendell step up to the plate

Putting party unity over intra-party partisanship, Governors Corzine and Rendell have stepped up to the plate: They're willing to raise millions to pay the tab for do-over elections in Florida and Michigan. And they both support Senator Clinton, too.

Like author Thomas Wolfe said, "You can't go home again". The do-overs would just not be the same as getting it right the first time. And this time Senator Obama would be on the ballot in Michigan, and both candidates would give the voters the benefit of actually campaigning in the states. But the do-overs are the best we can do.

"We ought to have a revote," Corzine told the The Star-Ledger. "I think the money would be available if it brought peace to the party and a resolution to the nomination."

Friday, March 7, 2008

Power, Politics and Punchlines in NJ

This afternoon, I appeared again on Power & Politics with Laura Jones on News 12. They have invited me to be a guest on the first Friday of each month to talks about the lighter side of politics in the Garden State. I look forward to becoming a regular part of the show, and will enjoy working with them.

Maybe we will go with "Punchlines & Politics" as the title of the feature. Maybe, I will stick with "New Jersey: Politics Unusual".

Today, I spoke about the problems some towns will have if they merge with other towns---and what the names of the towns will have to change to. It was basically a re-run of my blog post from a few weeks ago on the same topic. I had fun on the show, Laura Jones was wonderful, and I look forward to the show again. For those of you who get News 12, my next appearance will be on Friday April 4th.

Today, I appeared on the show with
Zenon Christodoulou, who spoke on behalf of the Clinton campaign and Mayor Jun Choi of Edison, who spoke on behalf of the Obama campaign.

Also on the show was Steve Lonegan, the "number one" conservative in New Jersey---and the bane of Governor Corzine plans to get New Jersey out of debt. He gave me a copy of his book, "
Putting Taxpayers First". He asked me to read it, and "trash it on your blog, so people will buy it."

Agreed, Steve. I will read it and do so, if it rises to that level of trash.

So far, I read the introduction and the first chapter ---and there isn't much substance to it, and it seemed very simplistic thus far.

But I will plow through it, and report back. Anything to keep a right-winger happy.

No Country for Old Anybody

I was driving from Woodbridge to New Brunswick just yesterday, staying off any highway, and passing through the town of Highland Park where my good friend Meryl Frank is the Mayor. I was on my way to take a required class at the New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education.

As I was passing through Highland Park, I was caught in traffic on Route 27, the road going over the bridge toward New Brunswick. The car in front of me was stopped by a very old woman who appeared to me to be asking for a ride. I could see [but not hear] that the young driver was shaking his head, and giving some excuse to the old woman. The old woman returned to the sidewalk.

Thinking of my own family and my own grandparents, I decided to pull over and see if I could be of any help. I rolled down the window, and the woman approached the car. She said she had been waiting for a bus for quite a while, and needed to get home back to River Road. I told her to get in, and that I would take her there, since I was driving in that direction anyway.

She told me that she had been waiting for the bus for about 30 minutes, there was no bench at the bus stop, and she was too tired to stand any longer. She was from Germany, she shared, and had arrived in America 48 years ago. She spoke in a thick German accent. One thought that ran through my mind was the six degrees of separation---was she related or knew some one from Germany many years ago who had anything at all to do with any of my relatives in Poland who died in the Holocaust? A strange thought, I know. But I had it anyway.

She shared with me that she sometimes took the bus, sometimes had to pay for a cab [expensive, though] and sometimes got her daughter to drive her. I told her that when she reached my age, she could help a younger person like herself, too. She laughed, and said I had a good sense of humor

I dropped her off on River Road, and she kissed my hand and said thank you. I watched her walk slowly up the street to who knows where. I probably will never see that woman again, but I was glad to give her a ride.

I was curious about the local bus schedule in Highland Park, so I went to their website. No information on a bus schedule at all. I called the office of the Borough Clerk, and was told that she had no information on a bus schedule either; that she knew nothing about a local bus schedule in Highland Park at all. So maybe there are no local busses in town, and I got scammed.

Point is, if you see someone that needs help, give it to them. I list here, once again, as we move in to the spring, How to Build Community and How to Build a Global Community.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

We’ll be the judge of that, thank you, your honor.

Judge [or maybe soon to be ex-judge] Fred Kieser, Jr. has a unique sense of what is a 'racial slur'. He seems to think that it is OK to make a racial slur during a trial, so long as it is not one against the ethnic or racial group to whom it is articulated. Go figure.

Judge Kieser is up for a tenured appointment to the bench, and was appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and was being questioned by Senator Nia Gill of Essex County.

It seems that during a child-support case three years ago, Judge Kieser told an African-American woman seeking financial support from her ex-husband for her daughter’s college tuition to not use him as a “cash register” and called the daughter a “sponge”.

And when the woman could not provide immediate proof of her daughter’s matriculation at college, the judge cited the anti-Asian racial slur “No tickee, no laundry”. Wonder what law school the judge attended ---- I do not remember learning that in any class at Seton Hall School of Law.

Kieser defended himself by saying that,
“The litigants were African-Americans and the racial slur, I think, was a slur against Asians. Again, there's no excuse for it. All I'm saying is, there is a difference - at least in my mind there is."
Perhaps this is a judge that should be benched. But who am I to judge?

Monday, March 3, 2008

Makes Cents To Me

Way back in the early Seventies, I was in high school and helped organize a protest of the Viet Nam War with a group called the Students for Peace. The name was fairly straight forward, and the head of the student group was inspired by the kids from the Supreme Court case of Tinker v. Des Moines School District (1969), who wore black arm bands to protest the war.

We followed the lead of those Tinker kids by calling a moratorium and inviting students to not attend classes, and join us on the picket line outside the school. It was a fairly powerful method of disrupting the school day en masse. Of course, not everyone who joined us was actually protesting the war.

Most of the students just wanted to have a good reason to cut class. But, our methods certainly empowered our student group, Students for Peace, and made the administration fear us, or so we thought. The student leader of that group is now a wellknown national Weight Watchers organizer and weight loss guru. So, I guess the organizing skills he developed back then went to some good use anyhow.

So, I am always glad to hear that student organizing and protesting are still with us today----no matter what the issue.

Last week several student eighth-graders in Readington Township ---29 to be exact---protested the shortening of their lunch period to just 30 minutes by using pennies to buy their $2 lunches. This created a time issue for the cafeteria staff and more than 32 pounds of pennies to be dealt with. And school superintendent Jorden Schiff did not think that it made much sense/cents: He decided to punish the offenders with a two-day detention.

Some parents put in their two-cents plain and thought that the punishment fit the crime, and some thought it was too harsh. Either way, eventually Schiff decided to rescind the punishment: “The school community has been through a difficult period, and we need to move forward," he wrote in a note to the parents. "We discussed how the incident has been blown out of proportion and how it has affected our children and our school community."

Ahem. I think he just did not like all the publicity.

Now, it is true that time is money---whether you’re 14 in middle school or 40 and at your job. Thirty minutes is just not enough time to get a lunch, pay for it, and eat it. What the kids did makes cents to me.

Give them more time to eat lunch. Seems that a Superintendent making $153,000 a year could figure that out.

Unless he wants to get paid in pennies, too.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

March Mensch of the Week and Putz of the Week

To paraphrase Woody Allen, the month of March goes in like a lion, and out like a lion, but sometimes not the same lion. Much can be said of our Putz of the Week, the Hunterdon County Democrat newspaper in my home county of Hunterdon.

Many a joke has been made
about the misnamed paper because of just how Republican they actually are. However, I find no fault in their editorial policy per se; they certainly may endorse conservatives or Republicans to their hearts content.

It's their policy of which
“Letters to the Editor” they print and which they do not I find troubling. Their incessant need to print the racist rants of [current or former] Republican County Committeeman Carl Kettler is of concern.

Every once in a while, Mr. Kettler feels compelled to vent in his racist letters to the editors of the Democrat about Jews who “control” the state’s pension system [as he did during the Whitman administration] or [in his more recent rants] about the Hispanic men who “intimidate” and “loiter” on Main Street in Flemington.

Why does the Hunterdon County Democrat feel compelled to give Mr. Kettler a forum for his racist rants?

A strong
argument can be made that a newspaper certainly does have the right to choose which letters to print and which to not. As a strong supporter of the First Amendment, I support the newspaper’s right to print letters to the editor and Mr. Kettler’s right to draft them.

However, it should trouble readers that the Democrat makes such a choice over and over again. They continually give Mr. Kettler a forum, and never choose to challenge his assertions in their own editorials.

So, I assert my First Amendment rights and assert that the Hunterdon County Democrat editorial board is our Putz of the Week for choosing to give the racist letters of Mr. Kettler a forum over and over again.

March Mench-ness

In SICKO, Michael Moore made
note that many European nations provide PAID FAMILY LEAVE for their citizens so that they may care for a sick relative without the fear of being placed in a tough financial situation. Trenton will vote on a bill for Paid Family Leave on Monday.

From “The measure would extend state liability insurance to employees for up to six weeks, enabling workers to care for themselves, a newborn or a sick relative. Funding would come from the workers contributing what adds up to roughly $33 each per year out of their paychecks.”

The bill was released from the Assembly Labor Committee Friday, and the Senate is scheduled to convene for a vote on Monday. And for those Senators, like Loretta Weinberg, who truly support family values, a big March Mensch of the Week from

"I think it will be a
squeaker," admitted Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), a co-sponsor of the bill. "I would hope each of these people considers what it’s like with a brand new baby or someone with an illness."

Squeak a little louder to your state Senator Monday and seek support for Paid Family Leave in New Jersey.
Tell Your Senator To "Vote YES On S-786"!