Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Sabrin and Paul: Perfect Together.

I had the chance a few months back to meet Murray Sabrin at a conservative libertarian presidential caucus sponsored by Michael Illions and the folks at Conservatives With an Attitude. Prof. Murray was there to stump for Congressman Ron Paul for president. I was there live blogging.

Sabrin’s advocacy won the day as Paul walked away with the most votes and the endorsement of NJ’s conservative libertarian elite. No surprise there. Now, Ron Paul is returning the favor by coming to the Garden State to help raise some cash. Seems like the ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ dealmaking works for Republicans, Democrats -----and Libertarians, too.

Murray and Ron have been good buds for more than 25 years and are on a “parallel course, focusing on the monetary issues," according to Prof. Sabrin.

Good thing they are simpatico on those issues. Not too many in New Jersey are. Paul’s campaign garnered just 5% here.

Sabrin is executive director of the Center for Business and Public Policy at Ramapo College, where he teaches finance. Ron Paul is a Congressman from the 14th district in Texas, who has yet to end his presidential bid.

According to a poll reported in the Press of Atlantic City, “…the poll found either Rep. Rob Andrews or incumbent Sen. Frank Lautenberg would mop the floor with any of the announced Republican candidates.”

So it goes, Prof.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Wasn’t there a second Seder night?

Oy, boy:

It seems that although the Governor endorsed Senator Lautenberg for re-election, he couldn’t make room at the Passover Seder table for two more people at Drumthwacket this year.

In all my years of saying the Four Questions at my seder table at my Aunt Shiffie’s house, I never was invited to Drumthwacket, either.

According to The Auditor in the Star-Ledger, “the incumbent Senator was told not to show up” to the governor’s seder. Such a shanda! Governor Corzine, maybe, just maybe that was a fercockt thing to do to the man you’re endorsing for the Senate. I am sure that Senator Lautenberg was all farpitzs, with no seder to go to.

The senator was invited as usual, but said he had other plans. However, then, he calls at the last minute, and tries to get re-invited to have some matzoh with the Governor. By the way, not to change the subject, but I would imagine there are lots of places to hide the afikomen in Drumthwacket! You could be looking for weeks and weeks for that thing! Luckily, stale matzoh tastes almost the same as new matzoh. I am sure there are still matzohs that have not been found since the Woodrow Wilson Administration.

So, oy, maybe Senator Lautenberg will have to wait until this whole primary thing is over and done, and then he can share a nice glass tea with the Governor. Maybe they can celebrate Lag B'Omer on May 23rd or Shavuot on June 9th, after the Lautenberg victory.

Here at NJPoliticsUnusual, we heartily endorse Senator Lautenberg for re-election, and cannot wait to wish him Mazel Tov on the night of June 3rd, when the primary votes are all counted.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Seven flavors of Republicans for the 7th CD

I had the opportunity this week to attend the Hunterdon Chamber of Commerce breakfast forum featuring the REPUBLICAN candidates for the 7th Congressional District. And no, the caps lock on my keyboard did not slip when I typed in “Republicans”.

I capped it because the Hunterdon Chamber of Commerce did not. In the newspaper piece, and in their invitation, the breakfast was touted as featuring the “candidates for the 7th Congressional District”. They failed to include Democratic candidate Linda Stender. Their answer at the event: “Linda Stender spoke to our group two years ago, when she ran against Mike Ferguson.” And “she is not facing an opponent in the June primary.” But, still, folks.

She is a candidate; at least list the event as the REPUBLICAN candidates for the 7th Congressional District. Anyway, so it goes. Back to business.

The Republican candidates in attendance were: Scotch Plains Mayor Marty Marks, Sen. Leonard Lance (R-Hunterdon), businesswoman Kate Whitman, former Summit Councilwoman Kelly Hatfield, Iraq War veteran Thomas Roughneen, Seton Hall University business professor A.D. Amar, and former Libertarian candidate, Darren Young.

The appearance was listed as a ‘forum’, and not a ‘debate’. In the introductions, each candidate tried to out ‘conservative’ the another---with the exception of Senator Lance and Tom Roughneen, the only candidates of substance up there. But more on that later.

Quick points: Kate Whitman is clearly out of her league in this Congressional race, and is not deserving of all the attention her family name brings to the table.

Upon arrival, she asked of Suzanne Lagay, the Hunterdon County Chamber President, “So, how long have you been a Chamber member?”, trying for the standard small talk. Ms. Lagay introduced herself as the Chamber President, which seemed to surprise Whitman. She clearly did not know who Ms. Lagay was. Bad move for the candidate. On the dais, she was even worse, as she did nothing more than ‘parrot’ back positions already stated by other candidates. “I have a six point plan on my website,” she said. She was passionless, had no spark. She sounded like her website as she listed only four of her six points. Even a story meant to be cute about how as a six year-old she would hand out flyers for her mother by stepping on the toes of event attendees, came off flat and lifeless.

Seton Hall University business professor A.D. Amar: Spoke about how he chose to be a Republican upon arriving here from India. He is pro-life, for 'traditional' marriage, thinks we should finish the job we started in Iraq, and would make the Bush tax cuts permanent. A bright, well-spoken man, but not a chance of finishing even in the top three.

Kelly Hatfield: She should be sticking to state issues for now, as she spoke mostly about property taxes, the business climate in New Jersey, and how people are leaving the state due to high taxes. Maybe she should be running for freeholder or state legislature. She did not handle the questions on national issues well enough to be considered a serious candidate for Congress.

Scotch Plains Mayor Marty Marks: This is the guy I hope Linda Stender gets to run against.

He declared himself solidly pro-life, solidly conservative, pro-Iraq war, and asserted affirmatively that the detainees in Gitmo do not deserve ‘equal protection’ under the law. And he said, regarding torture, that "it's all in the way you define" torture. How enlightening.

Marks also declared that it should the generals, not Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid, dictating the way the war is conducted. I don’t know the last time Marks read the Constitution, but the Senate and Congress are allowed to chime in every now and then on our national policy regarding wars. It’s in the rules, Mr. Marks. Anyway, he is so hopelessly out of touch with the moderate independent thinking voters of the 7th CD ---even moderate Republicans---that he contrasts best with progressive Linda Stender. Bring him on.

Darren Young: He was the former Libertarian candidate from 2006, who was an interesting combination of being opposed to the war, and wanting to lower taxes and get the government out of everywhere. Young said he was qualified to be in Congress because he was the only one at the table who had debated Linda Stender in 2006---as the Libertarian candidate. No shot at all, but makes the debate interesting. And on his website, he lists his GPA from college---3.1. He is the only candidate to do that.

And then we get to the only two Republican candidates I think deserve to be running for Congress. Senator Leonard Lance and Iraq War vet Tom Roughneen.

Tom Roughneen,
an attorney, is an Iraqi War veteran who proclaimed that he used to be a Democrat, but flipped years ago when he saw “what the Democrats were doing to the country”. He is pro-life, fully and solidly supports the war, and wants to make the Bush tax cuts permanent. He was the best speaker on the dais for a first time candidate, and we will not see the last of him. He is bright, articulate, and well suited for politics.

Gave the best answer on a number of issues including what to do with the prisoners in Gitmo---says they deserve to be treated as POWs under the Geneva Convention. Good for him; the right, if unpopular answer. This was as opposed to Whitman’s narrow minded response of, “They are terrorists, they deserve to be there,” and Marks’ response of ‘they do not deserve due process or equal protection under US law'. He was sincere, and unj-aded by NJ politics…yet.

Mr. Lance is clearly the classiest amongst the bunch. Years as a well-respected legislator, and in the leadership of his Party up until last year. He is too nice for the rough and tumble world of New Jersey politics, some say. At the forum, Mr. Lance announced that he was saddened by the passage of the Paid Family Medical Leave Act. He then asserted that since New Jersey was the first state on the east coast to pass the law [California already has such a law], we would be at a disadvantage economically in comparison to states like New York and Pennsylvania. Furthermore, he stated that such a law should be done, if at all, on the national level. So, it was hard to tell if Lance opposed the law as so much government interference, or favored it only if it was passed by Congress. Too bad no one got to ask that question of Mr. Lance.

The real issues for me for Congressional candidates include their stand on the Iraq War, the economy, and national health care. The Republicans all seem to come with the same flavor: All oppose national health care. There was rhetoric about the war, but none had the courage [except Young] to declare their opposition to it. And none made any connection at all between the failed policies of the Bush administration, and the economy.

So, if your favorite flavor is all-conservative-all-the-time, your candidate is Mayor Marty Marks.

If you like your candidates a little bit conservative and a little bit liberal, with a touch of niceness and family history thrown in for good measure, then your candidate is Leonard Lance.

If you like that self-made Republican/Republican by choice candidate, then Seton Hall University business Prof. Amar is your guy.

However, if you want a bland lifeless flavor who is nothing more than a poor carbon copy of the other candidates but with a prominent Republican NJ family name4 for a little spice, then Kate Whitman's your gal. Or, if you don't want the extra expense of the family name, you can go for Kelly Hatfield.

And if you like your conservatism straight up, on the rocks with no punches pulled, you have Tom Roughneen.

Finally, if the flavor you like is a mixture of a little of everything, but don't like the War, then maybe Darren Young is for you.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Have the British been watching “John Adams” at all?

Obviously, the British Royal Family does not spring at all for HBO. All those billions and they cannot afford to pay to watch “John Adams”. If they did, they’d realize that ‘monarchy’ is so 18th century.

Their biggest problem right now: Seeking to abolish the male royal succession law.

Yup, right now if you’re a royal chick, and have a younger brother ---even a goofy one with just three brain cells working, the ‘he’ gets to be king before you get to be ‘queen’. And some in the UK say that’s not fair. M’thinks their standards should be higher than that: Move to scrap the monarchy all together. But that’s just me. The law was passed waaaay back in 1701, just after the 17th century ended.

And today Solicitor General Vera Baird told the Sunday Times that the 1701 law was “unfair” and "a load of rubbish." Come Baird, watch your language. You’re never gonna get the House of Commons to agree with you if you trash talk them like that. And by the way, Queen Elizabeth II became queen because brothers she had none.

However the Queens daughter, Princess Anne was number three in succession to the throne, behind Prince Charles. But it did not matter if she tried hard or not. Once Andrew and Edward were born, she dropped in the British ranking. Now with Prince William and Prince Henry –Chuck’s kids---she’s dropped out of the top ten.

The Liberal Democrats think the succession rule should be "confined to the dustbin of history." The paper also says that Baird wants to “repeal the law banning the heir to the throne from marrying a Catholic.”

Whoop-dee-doo for them for going out on a limb like that. Hope the Pope hears about this ---he will flip his pope hat right off.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Week's Best Late-Night Jokes from TV

From Daniel Kurtzman:

Late-Night Political Jokes"According to a new poll, Barack Obama has a 24-point lead over Hillary Clinton in North Carolina. Obama is doing particularly well with one important demographic: voters." --Amy Poehler

"Hillary Clinton was shown at a bar in Indiana drinking a beer, and doing a shot of whiskey. Hey, and it worked. Today, Ted Kennedy switched back. 'I'm for Hillary now!'" --Jay Leno

"Did you all see that? She took the shot with the beer chaser. Did it like an old pro. To give you an idea how much she drank, when the phone rang at 3 am, slept right through it." --Jay Leno

"Hillary Clinton attacked Barack Obama, called him 'elitist,' and said he was out of touch with poor people. Later, Bill Clinton gave a speech on the subject, and charged a million bucks for it." --Jay Leno

"You know, I hear what you're all saying, but doesn't elite mean good? Is that not something we're looking for in a president anymore? You know what, candidates? Come with me. I know elite is a bad word in politics. You want to go bowling and throw back a few beers. But the job you're applying for, if you get it and it goes well, they might carve your head into a mountain. If you don't actually think you're better than us, then what the f*ck are you doing?" --Jon Stewart

"A former Pentagon official said that before the start of the war in Iraq, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld gave the Bush administration a list of horribles, things he believed could go wrong, which the Bush administration apparently mistook for a to-do list." --Amy Poehler

"Barack Obama got himself into a little hot water in Pennsylvania, when he said small town people become bitter, and cling to guns or religion because of economic problems. Well, sure, you pray your house doesn't repossess, and when they take it, you pull out your gun. Makes perfect sense." --Jay Leno

"John McCain said he disagrees with President Bush on the issue of climate change. And believe me, McCain knows what he's talking about on this subject. Of all the presidential candidates, he is the only one who's actually lived through an ice age." --Jay Leno

"The president picked up the pope at the airport. How bored is our president? He's not the president anymore. Now he's like your college stoner roommate, doing favors for pizza. Next week I think he's helping Putin move." --Jon Stewart

"Did you hear what President Bush said to the pope after his speech today? This is an exact quote. I'm not changing it. He said, 'Awesome speech, your Holiness.' That's what he said to the pope. See, he didn't want to say 'dude,' because it was a formal affair." --Jay Leno

Friday, April 18, 2008

On the short end of the stick

I ran in to Hunterdon County Republican Chairman Henry Kuhl the other day, and we started chatting, as we will from time to time, about the 7th Congressional District race. The Republican have not been short of candidates there---there are seven –count’em---seven, at this time. Senator Leonard Lance seems to lead the pack, if there can be a leader in a pack of seven.

However, the Republicans have had a tougher time getting candidates in the race for United States Senate. Folks have been coming and going so quickly in that race. And some, like Andy Unanue, was gone before he came.

So, former Congressman Dick Zimmer was recruited to get in to the race. Zimmer lives in Delaware Township in Hunterdon County.

The last time Zimmer ran, he lost in a squeaker to Rush Holt in 2000. Before that, he lost the Senate race to Robert Torricelli in 1996. So, the last time he won a race --any race—he ran for Congress for the 3rd time against an unknown Democratic candidate, Joe Youssouf whom he beat by more than two to one. That was in 1994.

So, one would think that Zimmer could easily get the all-important-party line in his home county. Not a chance. The Hunterdon Republicans already endorsed Joe Pennacchio, giving him the line. But Kuhl called a meeting and reposed the question.

Last week both Pennacchio and Zimmer went before a special meeting of the Hunterdon County Republican Committee, to re-give the line to Zimmer. Problem was, Zimmer lost 34-30. So, Pennacchio won the line twice.

Chairman Kuhl’s answer: “He did not get his people there.” Certainly one would think that Zimmer knows more people than Pennacchio in Hunterdon. But, apparently, they were all ‘busy’ that night.

Zimmer has a long way to go to November, if he cannot win in his own county. He still must beat Prof. Murray Sabin and Joe "Nationalist Agenda" Pennacchio.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

NJPP: Definitely smarter than a fifth grader.

Last year the fine folks at New Jersey Policy Perspective turned 10 years old, the same age many kids New Jersey turn when they are in the fifth grade. And Jon Shure and NJPP are definitely smarter than any fifth grader. And way ahead of the curve, too.

They said, regarding NJ’s income gap:
The numbers are in and the trend continues: the rich are indeed getting richer. The latest confirmation comes from the state's own Status of Income report on tax returns.
“the New Jersey Treasury Department found that just about half the income in the state goes to those making more than $100,000 a year, and only about 25 percent goes to those making less than $50,000-even though there are far more of these people.
And finally, they cited Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll of Morris “saying the numbers mean the economy is creating opportunities for everyone.” Carroll warned against dealing with the income gap by raising the state income tax, arguing that ‘The politics of envy doesn't work. All you will do is scare people off to Florida or Pennsylvania. You want very productive people to stay here.’ "

Very forward thinking, NJPP. Thing is, you said that waaay back in 1999 in a press release, talking about the income gap back then ---when you were just a mere tot of 2 years old. Even at that age, you were smarter than most Republicans, and, of course, Mr. Carroll.

Unfortunately, things in NJ have not changed much since you were two.

More recently, at the end of March 2008, you guys were right on the money again:

“Nearly 1 in 5 New Jersey Families Struggles To Make Ends Meet despite Having a Working Adult”
“Despite being one of the nation's most affluent states, New Jersey is home to close to 200,000 families that have a working adult but still make too little in pay and benefits to adequately support themselves, a new study has found. According to a study by Rutgers Center for Women and Work and New Jersey Policy Perspective, Climbing the Ladder: How to Invest in New Jersey's Working Families,

“The number of low-income working families in the state has climbed by 16 percent since 2000, the study found. In all, these families include about 750,000 mothers, fathers and children.”
Some recommendations in the report include increasing the minimum wage, providing family leave insurance, increasing spending for adult education, and making higher education, particularly county colleges, more affordable and accessible to low-income working adults.

Keep up the good work, NJPP. Now and for the next ten years, too.

The New Jersey report is available at www.njpp.org or www.cww.rutgers.edu.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Starbucks they’re not.

Coffee is a work of Art. Mayor Art Ondish, that is. The Mayor of Mt. Arlington makes sure that his borough administrator and his crack municipal staff has coffee everyday to keep them alert and friendly. The coffee "was just something nice to provide for the employees. A small token of appreciation," Ondish said.

And the Mt. Arlington Borough governing body spends about “$200 a year on free coffee for borough employees.” For this town of just 5,708, that comes out to just about 3.5 cents per person per year.

But maybe not too much for coffee.

However, that still makes no sense [or cents] to Livecchia, a local resident who has OPRA’d Mt. Arlington left and right on many financial issues, both big and small. Apparently to Ms. Livecchia coffee, “…birthday candles and a brownie are not a legitimate expense. “You want coffee, buy your own.”

It’s just good old fashion courtesy to buy a cup o’ java for a customer, friend, or employee, m’thinks. Maybe if the cups are not measured by Starbucks sizes -- Tall, Grande, and Venti---and are always just small, Livecchia would be satisfied. Certainly, the less-than-4 cents per person cost won’t make her property taxes very “Venti”, either.

And maybe Mayor Ondish can try to cut his coffee costs by sharing coffee services with another town in Morris County or merging with nearby Lake Hopatcong, like the governor suggests.

Either way, I would hate to be invited to Ms. Livecchia home and ask for a cup of coffee. Or maybe the Mayor should just give her back her 3.5 cents and call it square. And maybe it's time for Ms. Livecchia to cut back on her caffeine intake ---- at least on Council nights.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

“It’s déjà vu all over again.”

Yogi Berra, the greatest living Yankee, said, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”

And that what it was like speaking to a group of Clinton supporters this weekend. Just as they were back in the fall of 2007, they were appalled that anyone could support Senator Obama for president, and openly hostile to the thought of supporting him, should he be the Democratic nominee.

For my part, I supported Gov. Bill Richardson early on. However, in the debates he had the charisma of a small vile of used motor oil, and never rose to the level of my expectations for him. So, when he dropped out, I decided to support Senator Obama. And as Senator John Edwards’ campaign lost momentum, many of his people floated over to Obama, too.

Now, I must declare that should Senator Clinton be the Democratic nominee, no one will work harder for her than me in Flemington. I will donate to the campaign, canvass for her, and surrogate speak for her if called upon. And that is whether she gets the nomination at the hands and votes of the SuperDelagates or not. Having said that, let’s move on to the Clinton supporters and my problems with their stated problems with Obama.

All statements are actual statements made to me over the weekend by various Hillary Clinton supporters. I do not share their names, because, after all they are friends and fellow Democrats.

“It’s not his time. He should not be running. He lacks the experience she has.”

This assertion seems to be ageist on one level, and perhaps racist on another. And whether or not it’s “Obama’s time” to run is essentially a political question. He puts out there what he has to offer, and he is measured point for point against all other comers. “Experience” is not the only criteria by which a candidate is judged. Indeed Gov. Richardson, Senators Biden and Dodd each had more experience than Edwards, Obama, and Clinton put together. So, “experience” was not the capital by which voters gave the greatest weight.

“He’s just running as a black man. His support comes from blacks and naïve 20 year olds.”

Again, perhaps ageist and definitely racist. Why the Clinton supporters choose to disqualify the African-American vote that way is a curiosity. It’s as if that voting block is somehow not as valid as the white vote. And just what is wrong with being so inspirational as to motivate 20 years olds to go the voting booth? The coalition that Obama has supporting him ----college educated Baby Boomers, young people, African—Americans are large in number. Certainly when African-Americans supported Bill Clinton, that voting block was not so disdained.

“She has more experience than he does.”

Mrs. Clinton has been in the Senate exactly four years longer than Senator Obama. Then the Clinton supporters lay claim to her years in the White House as “experience”. Also, when you cite as part of her “experience” her support for the War in Iraq, their assertion is alternately that she [1] had to support the war because that’s what her constituents wanted, or that she [2] did not vote for the war, but just gave the president the power to use force, if necessary or [3] it’s been five years and that does not matter now. Certainly there are many Democratic Senators who did not support the war. Our own former Senator Corzine was one of them back in 2002.

So, given all of this I still will be a strong supporter of Mrs. Clinton, should she be the nominee. I hope that the Clinton supporters show the same support for Obama.

The Republican Senate Turnstile turns on Dick Zimmer

The last time we saw Dick Zimmer, he was conceding defeat to Congressman Rush Holt in 2000 in what was a mirror image of the Gore-Bush race. Unlike the national presidential race, the local congressional race turned out better for the district and the Democrats.

So, after going through Senate candidates like bloggers go through cliches, the Republicans finally landed on Zimmer.

What's left of the Gang of Six----is Doherty-Estabrook-Sabrin-Unanue-Crowley-Pennacchio, the Sabrin and -Pennacchio campaigns are the only ones left to deal with the mess.

The Republicans have turned to two-time loser, Dick Zimmer. Once unbeatable, Zimmer first fell to Robert Torricelli in 1996 in the Senate race and then to Rush Holt in the 2000 squeaker. Since then, Zimmer has worked as a lobbyist. He was hired by the Hunterdon County Freeholders for thousands and thousands of tax dollars to try to defeat the legislation that created the Highlands. Yupper, he's gonna work out just fine.

Once considered unbeatable, the last time Zimmer won a race in 1994. If you’re voting for the first time, then the last time Zimmer won a race you were four years old.

He is not as well known state-wide as the Republicans think he is.

If he is the best the Republicans have, let’s get on with it.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Hello, I am a recovering politicaholic….

I served two terms as the Chairman of the Hunterdon County Democratic Party. I served 12 years ----four terms ----as a Councilman in Flemington, the County Seat of Hunterdon, one of the most Republican counties in the state. And I am in my ninth year as the Flemington Democratic Municipal Chair. As we have struggled bit by bit over the years, we have finally established a Democratic majority in town.

While Fiorello LaGuardia said that there is no Democratic or Republican way to fill a pothole---there are certain core differences between the parties, even with a task as mundane, as filling a pothole.

Who would be the labor that fills the pothole? Left to the Republicans, they would hire below minimum wage, non-union labor with no health care. Democrats would hire union labor, those who receive a livable wage, and guaranty health care.

How would the filling of the pothole be paid for? Left to the Republicans, they would have no problem bonding and bonding, rather than raise taxes to pay for the pothole being filled. Or they would administer a short-term one-shot gimmick to fill the pothole. Democrats would pay for the filling of the pothole as a current expense. And when Democrats, faced with such a current expense, sometimes are compelled to raise taxes to do so -----rather than burden future generations with debt for current expenses.

While most issues that confront local borough councils and township committees are ministerial and essentially do not require political decisions, some very important ones matter. How will the town revitalize the economic environment? Is budget process open and transparent? Is the legislative body open and transparent? Does the town use only union labor? These issues can regard the core differences in policy between the two parties.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Making Art is The Best Revenge

Thank you to all of you wrote emails telling me you saw me on News 12 New Jersey, “Power and Politics” show with Laura Jones. It was fun, and they have invited me to be on the show each and every month to chat about the lighter side of politics in the Garden State. I look forward to May.

This passed weekend I took a workshop with Mike Daisey, an outstanding monologist who is regularly on NPR, and who tours nationally in theaters. He teaches an intensive workshop in storytelling---not the ‘fable’ or ‘myth’ or ‘bedtime’ kind of stories, but real stories from real people. His work is not unlike the Story Corps project.

What is political about it? It’s about what real people go through every day in their work lives, their jobs, their families. Kind of like the book “Working” by Studs Terkel, only in performance form.

Nothing is more political for me than what real people do everyday just to survive.

A quote I heard in the workshop that I found very inspirational, was “Making art is the best revenge”. So, it was then I thought to myself, “Aha! I am a writer and stand-up comedian.” Not far from being a story teller, I thought. So now, I compelled to write more about politics than ever before.

The daily occurrences of politics in New Jersey---locally and statewide are great stories for any gathering. Once again, real stories from real people in New Jersey.

For example, as the election season comes upon us [today is the filing deadline for all state candidates], I was inspired by a very new Committtee person in my town who said to me in an email,
“I would not be comfortable striking a deal with them [the Republicans to not run a candidate]. I agree with the suggestion that we respect the democratic process, run a candidate, and let the voters decide.”
Simple, yet eloquent and profound.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Happy Birthday, Dad.

In honor of my father, Private First Class Bernie Novick, and on his birthday, I repeat my blog from Memorial Day 2007:

What did you do in the war, Dad?

That was the question that Miss Connor, my 4th grade teacher at PS 277 in Brooklyn ,wanted each kid in our class to ask their dad. We had an entire sheet of questions that Miss Conner handed out---you know, printed on mimeograph paper that had that rich chemical smell.

"What rank did your father have?" "What was his job in the war?" "What countries did he go to?" were some of the questions we had to ask. We were assigned to do an oral report for the class; this was to be a school project for Veterans Day in early November 1963.

I had heard many of my father’s WWII stories told over and over again. There was the story about his train ride from New Jersey to the training camp Alabama, the train ride where he walked up and down the train cars saying hello and meeting everyone. There was the story about how he hid a bald man’s cap, and the man got mad at him. There was the story behind an old photograph, where he met his lifelong friend Irving in Paris and how they went AWOL.

But his experiences in the war were never analyzed with an academic approach. I had never written the stories down and told them to anyone outside our family. So, I sat down with my dad, and began to ask the questions, telling him about my project. My dad, Bernie, answered with a bit of whimsy, in his playfully humorous way.

“Well, I helped beat the Nazis in World War II. I won the war. I used to meet regularly with Roosevelt, Stalin, Churchill and all the Generals, Eisenhower, Patton,----and I advised them on what plans we should make for winning the war. We made plans to invade Normandy in France. I was the one who called ahead to see which day would be best to invade Normandy, and made the appointment. The person I talked to had a very thick French accent, and he said, 'De best day vould be June 6th, Zat day we are free. Zat should be De day’. And the name ‘D Day’ stuck.”

I was very impressed. I believed all of this to be true. At the age of nine, I was not the world’s most skeptical child.

I reported these findings to my class in my oral report, and Miss Connor stated sternly in a disapproving tone, “Mr. Novick, that sounds quite improbable. What rank was your father?”

“A Private. First Class,” I said proudly.

"Hmmph. Then it is not possible that he met with Roosevelt and Churchill and the Generals, young man. Chris Link, your report please.”

Miss Connor dismissed me just like that, moving on to Chris' story of his dad as a SeaBee in the Navy.

I returned home completely dejected, not knowing what to believe. Had my father really made all that up? Did he really not win the war? Did he not really meet with Roosevelt and Churchill?

My dad cleared up the mess.

“No, no. I was a Private First Class. That was the rank for someone who met with the Generals and President Roosevelt almost everyday. You see, we had to meet in PRIVATE. That was the point. You couldn't go off and tell everyone when and who you were invading, could you? That information had to be PRIVATE."

"No, you would have to keep that info PRIVATE," I thought. "Seems logical to me."

"And the places we met were always the best. We met in FIRST CLASS hotels and restaurants. So, my rank was PRIVATE - FIRST CLASS. Now, you go back to school and set that teacher straight.”

Made sense to me. Never again did I doubt my dad, Private First Class Bernie Novick. The man who won World War II.

Happy Birthday, Dad.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

I heartily endorse the reelection of Senator Frank Lautenberg

Throughout the rhetorical buzz over the last few days of opponents popping up hither and yon to challenge Senator Frank Lautenberg, one thing remains quite clear: Frank Lautenberg is the best candidate the Democrats can put up these year for Senate, period.

Former State Democratic Chair Tom Byrne. Congressman Rob Andrews. Morristown Mayor Donald Cresitello. Good folks all. But they should stay put, and get behind Senator Frank Lautenberg, and here’s why:

He is solidly pro-choice. Supports gun control. He has been a chief critic of the Bush administration on national security issues. He opposes the war in Iraq. He has been very involved in various anti-smoking legislation, anti-alcohol legislation as well as airline safety legislation, and is probably best known for being involved with, and authoring some of, the legislation that banned smoking from most commercial airline flights. His name is also associated with the Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban, which prohibits any persons convicted of misdemeanor or felonious domestic violence from possessing firearms or ammunition.
I have had the experience of working with Lautenberg on many occasions. He is vibrant, has a great sense of humor and a great sense of people. And no one can doubt his dedication to New Jersey: he has been both the senior Senator and junior Senator twice.

New Jersey could not ask for a better advocate.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Whoopie! The Most Famous April Fool is From New Jersey

Jerry Lewis. Bud Abbott & Lou Costello. Ernie Kovacs.
Joe Piscopo. Jon Stewart.

Famous Jersey jokesters all.

But the best, the original, the most famous Jersey Jokester is none other than ----Samuel Sorenson Adams. Huh? Who’s that? ---- you may ask.

He is the inventor of the famous practical jokes of all time. And the founder of the S.S. Adams Company ----right here in Neptune, New Jersey. Their catalogue has an astounding array of practical jokes for all occasions: Fake ants. Blood capsules. Fake fly in an ice cube. Chattering teeth. Fake rubber chocolate candy. All these and more would get big laughs in Trenton these days.

Adams invented the most widely known April Fools jokes: The Exploding Cigarette Box. The Snake Nut Can. Itching Powder. The Stink bomb, The Dribble Glass. The Whoopie Cushion. And even, yes, The Joy Buzzer.

Adams’ first big invention was Sneeze Powder, which he produced from his company the Cachoo Sneeze Powder Company. Making people sneeze uncontrollably was Adams first money maker and it became a national fad. The powder was spread in halls, churches, schools, and even houses of state legislature.

His gag empire eventually included fake vomit, onion-flavored chewing gum, and even fake dog poop.

So, April Fools fans----next time you decide to play that practical joke by making your best friend sneeze uncontrollably, or dribble water on to your spouse, or make your mayor step in fake dog poop, keep in mind the man who started it all: The prince of practical jokes, The madman of weapons of mirth destruction, The sultan of sneeze ----- Samuel Sorenson Adams.

Happy April Fools Day, New Jersey.

Step in some dog poop, and be proud. It all started right here.