Thursday, April 26, 2007

Pathetic #2

Did Earth Day get you choked up? Or, did you see Al Gore's documentary and realize the impact humans make on our planet? How about Time magazine's cover story on environmental change? The wonderful Frontline on the politics of climate change?

Maybe I was the only one. Apparently, we don't care enough to bother to pull the newspaper out of the garbage can on a regular basis:

20 years later, state's recycling effort wanes

New Jersey in 1987 became the first state to require mandatory recycling, and over the next 10 years recycled an average 67.1 percent of the glass, metal, plastic and paper that used to wind up in garbage dumps.
But on the 20th anniversary of Gov. Thomas Kean signing the re cycling bill into law, New Jersey is no longer considered a recycling leader. No more than 34.3 percent of the recyclable materials are being separated from regular trash.
Former Gov. Jim Florio, who guided recycling efforts during the early years, addressed the change in the numbers during an event yesterday in Trenton marking the anniversary.
"It is troubling to see a reduction in the commitment to recycling," he said. "It leads to air and water pollution and global warming, and leads to a reduction in job opportunities. We should take today's event as a recommitment to recycling."

With all the publicity given toward climate change, it looked like (most reasonable) people were finally starting to accept that humans do change their environment. I guess not here in Jersey.

Cm'on folks, this one is easy.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Immigration debate heats up Central Jersey

A couple of weeks ago, the Washington Post ran an article on how some cities are adopting a don't-ask policy on immigration status. Residents can access city services, including calling the police, without fear of immigration status questions or problems. The small central Jersey borough of Hightstown was a frame for this story:
In the aftermath of a series of raids in 2004, the town council in this historic borough of 5,300 -- transformed in recent years by an influx of at least 1,300 Latin Americans -- unanimously approved a sort of immigrant bill of rights.
Joining a growing list of cities enacting a no-questions-asked policy on immigration status, Hightstown now allows its undocumented residents to officially interact with local police and access city services without fear of being reported to federal authorities.
It has opened new lines of communication here, officials say. One illegal immigrant at the complex where the raids were staged called on the police recently to help place a family member in alcohol rehabilitation; others have reported domestic abuse, extortion, theft and other crimes. Some are calling the town's pro-immigrant mayor for advice on City Hall weddings and landlord troubles. Hightstown has
added services aimed at immigrants, including free bilingual computer classes last month. Noting the shift, one Spanish-language newspaper recently dubbed Hightstown the "Paradise Town" of New Jersey.

The backlash was swift.

From the Windsor-Hights Herald, the local paper to Hightstown:
That includes, among dozens of e-mails, one with the headshots of Mayor Bob Patten and the members of the Borough Council, calling them "deranged and dangerous" and asking readers to report their activity to federal immigration officials.
"One wonders ... how your elected officials can uphold their oath when they disregard enforcement of immigration laws," reads one e-mail from a writer who said he learned of the story from MSNBC," read one e-mail. (sic) "It seems that you have taken the less responsible path and in so doing have created a safe house for everyone who sneaks into this country for whatever reason, including terrorism."

Intermixed with the notes calling Hightstown a city of criminals which should declare itself an independent country free of US law, however, came emails and calls in support of Hightstown's policies, including from people wishing they had similar policies in their states.

The resolution didn't really change much about how borough police business was handled:

The Borough Council in March 2005 unanimously approved a resolution committing the borough to restoring trust and confidence Latinos have in borough police while taking ICE officials to task for allegedly identifying themselves as police officers during a raid. It specifically states that immigrants should have the "confidence to contact and interact with local police without fear of immigration consequences."
"When we passed that resolution, it did a fabulous job in letting the members of our community know that they would be treated fairly and justly and equally," the mayor said this week. "It created confidence that they can interact with police and interact with our government they can report crime."
Police Chief James Eufemia said this week that the resolution served to educate members of the Hispanic community that their citizenship was never an issue when they needed police. But he acknowledged, "That was their biggest fear."
"As a matter of course, we didn't do that prior to the resolution or after the resolution," he said. Citizenship issues can become part of the process if someone arrested can't produce identification, he explained.

Without such a policy, the illegal population were often successfully targeted as victims by criminals. Crimes went unreported and predators remained free of prosecution. If people know the authorities will help them and not treat them as criminals, they're more likely to report thefts and violent crimes. The police can do their jobs and pursue the truly dangerous.

The face of the town has changed somewhat in the last ten years: there are more Hispanic-themed businesses & restaurants, more places where Spanish is spoken, more classes at the library and local churches for English as a Second Language. None of this is a negative to me; I'm happy and proud to be in a community which cares for its own, no matter where they came from. I'm not alone in that, but it's pretty clear that there are two sides to this story, even in a heavily-Democratic little Central Jersey town.

(cross-posted at Blue Jersey)

Do you have an extra $3317?

Our Fair State (or should I say Our Broke State?) is $33.7 billion in debt, the fourth-worst of the fifty states. That's $3,317 for every person- so I need over $13K for my family of four.

New Jersey has been among the nation's five most indebted states since 1998, when public officials borrowed to pay for everything from public employee pensions and school construction to business incentive grants and the state's annual operating expenses.
With about $3 billion allocated to repaying the debt each year, state Treasurer Brad Abelow and Gov. Jon Corzine have said the state's credit card is maxed out. They are considering leasing operating rights to the New Jersey Turnpike, the State Lottery or some other high-profile state asset to pay down the debt so that they can borrow the additional billions of dollars needed for school building, highways and open-space acquisition.
The increase in state debt last year, $800 million, was the smallest since 2001, the report shows. While New Jersey was taking a breather, Massachusetts piled on $2.5 billion in new debt, pushing it past New Jersey on the list of top debtors.

Corzine has made some financial improvement in Our Fair State; at least our rate of borrowing has slowed.

Hey, it's something.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


13.9% of voters showed up for school board elections this year:

Voter turnout was down from last year in some local districts. And statewide, only about 13.9 percent of voters took part in this year's election -- casting a total of 674,709 votes -- as compared to last year's 15.7 percent turnout, according to the state Department of Education.
That's "not terribly good," said Mike Yaple, a spokesman for the New Jersey School Boards Association. Those statistics represent a small but not insignificant drop in participation this year, he said.
While larger elections always generate a greater voter turnout, the stakes are high in school district elections, said Yaple.
"Usually, more than half the average property tax bill goes to pay for schools, and the vote can really impact the quality of education in a town," he said. "Quality schools can have quite an effect on property values in a community."

But, it was rainy, and maybe there was somethin' good on TV, so folks decided to stay home instead. They'll save their opinions for when they get their property tax bills, I guess.


Lazy Linkin' Thursday

Drinking Liberally has a new chapter as of May 2... in Pennsauken!

State Senator Ellen Karcher has a discussion of clean elections, ethics issues and even a full time-legislature.

Steve Kornacki waxes poetic about the Accidental Governor, who I just wish I could vote for someday. And, yes, describing a Jersey politician as having "a house in West Orange, two kids, a standing Saturday-night movie date with his wife, an addiction to basketball—and an admirable aversion to traditional grandstanding" is waxing poetic.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

School Elections Today!

Across Our Fair State, voters will flock to the polls to voice their opinion on school board members, budgets, and specific quesitons.

Actually, that's a lie. Voters will flock to file their taxes, which are due tonight. A dedicated few will vote, far, far too few, fifteen or sixteen percent of voters if we're lucky. Everyone will reserve the right to complain about the results, however.

Polls are to be open from 5-9PM today, but many are open earlier and may even be open now. Check with your individual school district's web site. The flooding experienced in many parts of the state shouldn't make a difference; however, Manville and Bound Brook did have to postpone their elections.

Make your voice heard.

Good luck and get well, Sean

Gloucester County resident Sean McQuade was shot in the face in yesterday's horrific shooting at Virginia Tech. He is in critical condition after surgery at a hospital in Virginia. Our thoughts are with him and his family.

UPDATE 10:26 A.M.: CNN reports that Matthew La Porte, a student from Dumont, New Jersey was also among the victims. I cannot possibly imagine what his family is going through right now. May they someday find peace.

UPDATE AGAIN: The victim list from New Jersey is:

Matthew La Porte, 20, of Dumont
Julia Pryde, 23, of Middletown
Michael Pohle, 23, of Raritan Township

Our hearts go out to their families.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Help for flood victims in North Central Jersey

(I stole this post completely from nathanrudy at Blue Jersey. I think he not only wouldn't mind, but would be glad for more folks to see it. -SGR)

Just saw this in the Courier News today about the flooding in Bound Brook, Manville, South Bound Brook and some of the other towns along the Raritan River.
A lot of folks are homeless due to the flooding, or have lost all their belongings for good or for at least a little while. They really need some help, and Blue Jersey seems like a good place to go.

BRIDGEWATER - The American Red Cross, Somerset County Division, helping victims of today's floods, is requesting donations of the following items: clean towels, blankets and socks, baby food and baby formula, diapers, new personal care
items, and sanitary products. However, clothing will not be accepted.
Donations should be taken to the Food Bank Network, Building 9E, Easy Street (off Chimney Rock Road). Contact Marie Scannell at (732) 560-1813 with questions or for directions.

The flooding is really bad, though not as bad as with Hurricane Floyd. I drive through this area in my commute every day, and could not get through. Every crossing from Green Brook to west of Somerville was closed down, so it's pretty serious.

If you can help, please do.

Major Storm Developments

The Star-Ledger just posted a list of updated storm news.


Blue Jersey is doing a survey of its readers. If you haven't visited, stop on by and say what you think.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Indoor Smoking Ban Anniversary

Sunday, April 15th is also the one-year anniversary of the indoor smoking ban- and, surprise surprise, it's been a success:

The first year of New Jersey's ban on smoking in restaurants, bars and other public places was pronounced a success yesterday by state and local health officials and anti-smoking activists.
The Smoke-Free Air Act, which will be a year old Sunday, has been met with widespread compliance by business operators, has overwhelming public support and has led to significant improvements in the air quality of indoor public places, state Health and Senior Services Commissioner Fred Jacobs said.
"I am pleased to say that patrons and employees are working in healthier environments thanks to the successful implementation of the Smoke-Free Air Act in New Jersey," Jacobs said. "This landmark law ... is a giant step forward in public health prevention."
Citing a survey conducted by the New Jersey Medical Society, the commissioner said 73 percent of people expressed strong support for the ban, and 89 percent believe it has made restaurants and bars safer for customers and employees.

Not everyone is happy, of course. It's a shame to see small businesses close and a reduction in business for some others. It's only a shift, however: overall, food and beverage service jobs have increased in the last year.

I have to agree with Dr. Conway:
...New Jersey lawmakers said they had seen little if any negative effect in the state and are unlikely to adjust the ban, unless it is to eliminate the exemption for casinos.
"The Legislature would have to see data before it would be prepared to subject people to the health risks of indoor smoke," said Assemblyman Herb Conaway Jr. (D., Burlington), a physician and sponsor of the ban. "It would be a very tough road to travel."

Breathe easy, Fair State.


Sunday, April 15 will be two years here at the Center of NJ Life. It's pretty amazing to me that I'm still doing this and that folks are still visiting. Thanks, fans and friends.

Put your feet up, relax, grab a homebrew, and let's keep going.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

How's about a check before you vote?

Here's something you've never heard me say before: I agree with Sen. Leonard Lance.

Property tax rebates coming N.J. homeowners via snail mail:

Gov. Jon S. Corzine had wanted a direct credit against tax bills instead of the checks, which the state has been sending for 30 years and which as sometimes viewed as an election-year ploy.
Corzine said the credits would be cheaper for the state to administer.
But he changed course at a forum Tuesday on property taxes. He said logistical complications and privacy concerns led him to ditch the credit idea.
Some Republicans, such as Senate Minority Leader Leonard Lance, say the switch is politics-as-usual in a state known for not always being on the up-and-up.
"It doesn't surprise me the checks will go out right before the election," he told the Star-Ledger of Newark for Wednesday's newspaper.

Me either.


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A Tale of Two Movies

I saw two movies in the last week: An Inconvenient Truth and Grindhouse. Both movies were so remarkable that I feel I must remark on them.

Let's start with An Inconvenient Truth. I've been waiting to see this for a while, since we rarely go to movie theaters ($9.50 for a ticket- each- plus how much an hour for a babysitter? I can borrow DVDs from the library for free!) and the request queue for it was huge. Finally making it to the top of the list, we watched it last night.

This movie was everything I expected and then some. Al Gore was singularly impressive and his message even more so. The gravity of it is more than a little sobering and frightening. The sky actually is falling, and we're doing almost nothing to prop it up. It's not a liberal issue, it's not a political issue- it's a Human Problem and all humans need to act. If you haven't seen this movie, you should. No- you must. Then we all must get moving on it.

*Cool side note- the University of Delaware yesterday unveiled their new hydrogen fuel cell bus. Go Blue Hens!

*Hopeful side note- Al, run again. Please. We need you.

The second movie was Grindhouse. For this, we paid the $9.50 per ticket and bummed some free babysitting off a relative because it just wouldn't have been the same seeing it without a crowd in a theater. It was packed full on a Friday night in Edison so we ended up with rotten, crane-your-neck seats where we were stuck for three hours.

And what three hours they were. It was an assault on the senses from the first moment.

Grindhouse is a double feature. The first movie, Planet Terror, is insane. The action never really stops or barely slows down at all. Freddy Rodriquez is great in this campy, funny, gore-filled horror ride. I have never seen a better use for a missing reel, either , not ever. A go-go dancer with a machine gun for a leg? How could you possibly go wrong?

Then come the previews between the movies, which were almost as bloody, if not more so. Keeps the momentum up and the laughs rolling.

The second movie, Tarrantino's Death Proof, is true to his style. He spends a long time establishing characters- way too friggin' long, in my opinion, since we're pumping adrenaline from the first movie & trailers and in no mood to listen to women talk, and talk, and talk, and establish side plotlines that have no business being there.

But once he establishes the characters, he begins the killing. Then we establish more characters, and the real joyride begins. Fear and joyride, that's what the last half hour of this movie is, and it's truly spectacular. Kurt Russell reminds us why we loved him as he has the ability to be every part of the spectrum without really changing much more than his smile. Amazing.

*Side note- I don't like horror movies. How did I end up here? And why did I enjoy it so much?

So, to sum up: Al Gore puts the fear into us, and Rodriguez and Tarrantino ratchet up the fear and gore. I highly recommend both movies, for very different reasons.

The natives are restless

Coyote Attack at Monmouth Home

The toddler is ok, luckily.

Coyotes have been spotted in all of NJ. Coyote attacks are so rare that police accompanied the family to the ER because they thought their story wouldn't be believed otherwise. This one is believed to be sick- possibly mange or rabies- or it wouldn't have attacked.

Keepin' our eyes open...

Friday, April 06, 2007

Hate and Bigotry almost daily

State Sen. Raymond Lesniak has formed a "Coalition Against Bigotry and Hate" with several religious leaders, equal-rights activists and ethnic groups to oppose NJ101.whine's radio hosts Carton and Rossi, saying they are spewing hate and bigotry almost daily.

The response from the knuckle-draggers was just what you'd expect:

Carton said, "We are surprised and disappointed that at a time when we should be uniting communities, Senator Lesniak and his Coalition Against Free Speech have decided to pick the eve of the holiest of holidays to further divide us as a people.

Was it uniting communities to call Polish people "Polacks" who supported Nazis in the Holocaust- or did it serve only to divide us?

Was it uniting communities to slam Edison mayor Jun Choi, make fun of Asian accents and residents- or did it serve only to divide us?

How about picking on Mary Jo Codey, who wanted to bring attention to post-partum depression by being honest about her own journey through it? Where's the uniting force in that?

Y'know, now that I think about it, Carton and Rossi are a uniting force in the community: they've united the New Jersey Catholic Conference, Garden State Equality, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, the New Jersey Council of Churches, the Lutheran Ministry in New Jersey, the Interfaith Dialog Center, the Gender Rights Advocacy Association of New Jersey, the Anti Defamation League, the Polish Legion of American Vets, the Polish American Congress and the Pulaski Day Parade Committee.

All of those organizations are part of the Coalition Against Bigotry and Hate.

Brindle Brothers update

They took and ate a bag of eight bagels this morning.

Blackjack stole a bag of cornmeal the other day and got maybe a cup of it before I caught him.

Darkman stole a bag of oat bran the other day and I let him have at least a cup of it before I took it away; I figured it might help him, since he's been stealing and eating banana peels from my composting bins and therefore has ugly loose bowels. There were some whole wheat bagels, so maybe that'll help some too.

They're settling in just fine. And, contrary to their opinion, I am feeding them enough.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

What do April Snow Showers bring?

It's flurrying in Western Monmouth and Eastern Mercer Counties.


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Yes, I do have another blog

I got some emails about the previous post, which I mentioned was cross-posted to SFoodBlog. So, to clarify: Yes, I did start another blog, about food.

I do so love food.

From SFoodBlog: "My reason for starting this blog is that I've got several recipes that I promised someone or other that I'd share with them, and I haven't done so yet. Probably the most efficient way of disseminating information is to post it here, and that way anyone can use it."

Thanks for your interest, fans and friends!

Supporting Local, Sustainable Agriculture in the Center of NJ

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Washingtons Crossing is having a forum tonight to "introduce the public to area growers of organic foods and farmers engaged in other environmentally sustainable techniques," (according to a Trentonian article that I couldn't find online.) Called "Supporting Local, Sustainable Agriculture," the forum will include Honey Brook Organic Farm in Pennington as well as a grass-fed beef farm, an organic dairy from Pennsylvania, and a community supported agriculture program.

(Cross-posted at sfoodblog)

Monday, April 02, 2007

Super Jersey Tuesday!

It is done- NJ's primary is moved up to the first Tuesday in February. For the first time, Our Fair State will be a factor in picking the party candidates.

"It's going to be over on Feb. 5," Codey said of the race for party nominations. "If we were going to have a primary in June, we'd be irrelevant like wearing brown shoes with a tuxedo."
The increased relevance already is noticeable in the attention being paid New Jersey by the various campaigns, Corzine said, and not just for money but for endorsements and organizational support. "These candidates are all over us," he said.

Just what we want- Rudy Guliani and Hillary Clinton all over us. (Sorry for that mental image; must go wash brain out with soap.)

Don't get me wrong: it is a good thing that we matter in the primary. I just dread the vicious pandering ads that will sweep over us for months beforehand, only to have the losers suddenly recant and support the winners right after.

I better keep that soap handy.

Because it bears repeating

Snakes on a Plane.

Absolutely horible movie. Absolute fun.

I got together with two of the folks with whom I saw it in the theater, and three folks who hadn't seen it yet, and watched the DVD on Saturday.

We laughed just as much. It is such a fun movie to watch with a crowd.


that I haven't posted in so long. I'll try not to do that again.