NJ For Change

Friday, March 31, 2006

Illegal Immigration Gone Wild

Maybe someone could explain to me what “rights” illegal immigrants in the United States believe they should be entitled to and how they have come to the conclusion they should have any?

How about me, do I have a right to live in a country where the borders are secured? Do I have a right not to pay for public school educations, healthcare or any other services now offered to people in the country illegally? Do our immigration laws matter or are they simply “guidelines” that can be overlooked to suit the individual?

I simply don’t get why there is any controversy over the need for tougher immigration laws and penalties for breaking them. So far the current laws on the books haven’t stopped the flow of illegal immigration and the amnesty program in the mid ‘80’s seems only to have made matters worse. Why would our leaders in Washington even considering similar solutions that we know have failed miserably? I’m not in the minority on this issue, the vast majority of my fellow countrymen agree.
A Gallup Poll (March 27) finds 80 percent of the public wants the federal government to get tougher on illegal immigration.

An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll (March 10-13) found 59 percent opposing a guest-worker proposal, and 71 percent would more likely vote for a congressional candidate who would tighten immigration controls.

An IQ Research poll (March 10) found 92 percent saying that securing the U.S. border should be a top priority of the White House and Congress.

A Quinnipiac University Poll (March 3) finds 62 percent oppose making it easier for illegals to become citizens (72 percent in that poll don't even want illegals to be permitted to have driver's licenses).

Time Magazine's recent poll (Jan. 24-26) found 75 percent favor "major penalties" on employers of illegals, 70 percent believe illegals increase the likelihood of terrorism and 57 percent would use military force at the Mexican-American border.
Please don’t anyone tell me illegal immigrants are making my bed, cooking my food, cleaning my house or cutting my grass. I am not now and have never employed anyone, illegal or otherwise to do my household chores. Employers should not be hiring illegal workers, regardless of industry, period. I follow the laws and I expect other people to do the same.

If the government aggressively prosecuted employers breaking the law, the job market for illegals would dry up and the illegal immigrants would begin the process of self-deporting. If states stopped offering any services other than emergency medical care to illegal immigrants, the U.S. would stop being a good deal for those remaining in the country illegally.

As far as I’m concerned if this illegal immigrant rights nonsense doesn’t stop and if our leaders fail to act, then I think it’s time for Americans to take to the streets and make our voices heard.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

New Jersey Medical Schools

Today I read article on Home News Tribune about the possibility of a merger of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey with Rutgers University.
Talks of a merger are taking place against a backdrop of scandal at UMDNJ, which is under investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office, which is looking into charges of influence peddling and the awarding of no-bid contracts. UMDNJ, which has its main office in Newark, has already been charged with Medicaid fraud, and its operation is overseen by a federal monitor.
Most of the article is old news and typical of New Jersey – political scandal, corruption, money wasted, legislators getting into the act. But it was this small bit that caught my attention:
Several medical students interviewed at the Piscataway campus embraced the idea. Nicholas Mapoli, a first-year medical student from Highland Park, who graduated from Rutgers College with a degree in Spanish, said a merger would make it easier to tell people where he attends school. "Rutgers is easier to explain than an acronym."
Things must have really changed since I went to school. I thought you had to major in one of the sciences – chemistry or biology as an undergraduate to qualify for medical school. Now apparently good grades (I hope) in Spanish are enough to do the trick. I won’t even get into Mapoli’s reasoning for “embracing” the idea for a merger of the two schools. Anyway, I’ve written his name down for future reference. Perhaps you should too.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

NJ and Camden's New Budgets

The longer I blog the more I realize that I haven’t paid enough attention to what goes on in New Jersey, especially when it comes to the state’s finances.

Enlighten New Jersey has been doing a great job of analyzing Gov. Corzine’s 2007 state budget and suggesting ways to reduce spending. I hope people in Trenton care enough to do the same because a $30.9 billion budget that increases spending by more than 9% is unacceptable.

I say all that as a lead into two articles I read today about Camden. The first is from the Inquirer dealing with the city’s budget. Camden’s “deficit for fiscal 2006 grew by more than $3 million from the previous year, officials said last night as they presented City Council with a $154 million budget.” That’s bad enough, but this part was a real shocker to me:
The budget contains a $40.5 million hole, which must be filled by the state. The city's chief operating officer, Melvin R. "Randy" Primas Jr., blamed the expanding hole on rising costs for utilities and health benefits and on contractual agreements with two employee unions.
Camden already receives tons of money from the state and federal governments to supplement its own tax revenue. Now they’re claiming a $40.5 million hole that must be filled by the state. How does that work? Spend as much as you like and the state’s taxpayers have to pick up the tab? I really wouldn't mind as much if I saw some real progress.

Which leads to the second article I read today about Camden. This one is from the Courier Post and it contains this nugget.
The Camden school board has approved a $373 million budget for 2006-07, up $63 million, despite the state aid freeze.
Heaven help us, that’s a 17% increase in just one year for a city that’s been losing population for years. Just adding the municipal and school budgets together, Camden is spending more than one-half billion dollars a year. And that’s not counting the Medicaid, welfare, housing assistance, food stamps and all the other programs the state and federal government pays for.

I can’t find any more information about Camden's budgets beyond these two articles and the Star-Ledger report that shows the people of Camden pay only 4% of the city’s combined municipal and school budgets. That would be about $21 million or $263 per person collected by the city from residents. I can't find total spending for Camden by local, state and federal governments, but it must be a staggering amount per person.

There are fewer than 80,000 living in Camden. How is it possible to spend so much money and not see any improvement in the lives of the people? Does this make sense to you? As I’ve said before, the money is being spent but it’s not helping to pull people out of poverty. I am begining to think that all this spending has a negative effect - the more we spend the worse it gets.

No one is happy with the situation in Camden, it’s not getting any better and yet government keeps trying the same old strategy - add more ‘programs’, spend more money. Like Newark, Camden needs someone to come in and lead the city away from dependency and despair. It’s time for real change. I just hope it comes sooner rather than later – we can’t afford the status quo.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Sharpe James Mystery

I always wondered why Newark Mayor and state Senator Sharpe James wasn’t behind bars. Today an article in the New York Times helps to shed some light on this mystery. Federal authorities couldn’t get any of James’ crooked cronies to turn on him, providing the necessary evidence needed for a conviction.
Jeffrey D. Smith, the federal prosecutor who referred to Newark City Hall as a supermarket, noted yesterday that in general, "A high percentage of these cases rely for their success on the help of a witness who was an insider and can credibly testify as to direct dealings with the target of the investigation."

Another former prosecutor, Larry R. C. Stephen, who oversaw corruption inquiries in the United States attorney's office in Newark from 1994 to 1998, said graft flourished under Mr. James's tenure.
Yet, there was nothing but silence from two former presidents of the Newark Municipal Council convicted of pocketing bribes and not a word from a Newark police director caught stealing from municipal coffers. Nothing from James’s chief of staff, Jackie R. Mattison and who is also a relative of James’ wife, who was caught with thousands hidden at the home he shared with his mistress.
For federal officials, one of the biggest stumbling blocks in trying to pursue a case against Mr. James was the unwillingness of Mr. Mattison or another close mayoral associate to cooperate. Prosecutors pressured Mr. Mattison to turn on Mr. James in return for a reduced sentence, but he would not and was convicted at trial.
The clues to the Mayor’s corruption where everywhere. James’ extensive property holdings, his $175,000 yacht, the Rolls Royce and the millions that were raised and spent by a private, unregulated group that he controlled, called the Sharpe James Civic Association. Even though most of the money was donated to the association by companies and people doing business with the Newark, the U.S. attorney's office was never able to bring an indictment against Sharpe James. James just explained it all away and the voters in Newark continued to elect him.
Mr. James and his lawyers repeatedly said that he had done nothing wrong and suggested that prosecutors were conducting a racially motivated vendetta against him. The beach house, yacht and other accouterments were the product of savvy investing, he said.
Savvy investing, ha! So far Sharpe James has played his cards well, the race card and the get out of jail free cards provided by his silent partners. I keep hoping Cory Booker will be able to uncover the evidence that will finally lead to the confiscation of the millions James’ has surely stolen from the people of New Jersey and the criminal conviction that is long overdue.

Things are begining to change in Newark and that makes me very happy!

Monday, March 27, 2006

Sharpe James is Out

Sharpe James is dropping out of the race for a sixth term as mayor of Newark. This is the best thing James has done in his 35 years in New Jersey politics.

"Mr. James, who has also served as a state senator since 1999, said in the letter that he was stepping down because he was "an opponent of dual office holding" and wanted to focus on state issues. He emphasized that he thought he would have won the May 9 election if he remained in the race because Newark is better off now than when he was first elected in 1986."

The Times calls James the “last of the big-city mayors to come out of the civil rights movement” and the builder of a political machine that could “determine the outcome of statewide races.” The scandals James presided over are too numerous to mention, although a few were highlighted in the New York Times' article.
His police chief went to prison in 1996 after being convicted of embezzling $30,000 from city accounts. A year later, his chief of staff was convicted of taking kickbacks for contracts with the city after investigators found $157,000 under floorboards in his home. The Housing Authority, after a federal audit last year, was ranked as one of the most troubled in the nation.
However, the largest scandal is the personal fortune Sharpe James has amassed and his abysmal legacy.
“James leaves behind a city with failing schools and entrenched poverty. Though he was elected 20 years ago on a promise to improve living conditions for a city he then described as "two-thirds poor, one-third struggling to make a living," little has changed for many of the city's residents.

One-third of Newark's children still grow up in poor families, according to state figures. The unemployment rate of nearly 11 percent is still roughly twice the state average, and the median household income of $26,000 makes Newark poorer than Baltimore, Detroit, Biloxi, Miss., and every other major American city except Miami, according to 2004 census figures.
Sharpe James has sucked New Jersey’s taxpayers dry, helped to nearly bankrupt the state and made himself and his friends very wealth people. Our elected leaders in Trenton aided and abetted this crime through turning a blind eye or embracing James’ for political and economic profit. “Helping the poor” was code for helping politicians to billions and billions of taxpayer dollars and it has been nothing short of a disgrace.

I’ve got my fingers crossed that Cory Booker is not a smoother and better educated rip-off artist. Much is riding on Booker - the hope of Newark and the trust of the entire state of New Jersey. Don’t let us down Cory Booker!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Week Five

Okay, five weeks of blogging and here’s what I’ve learned:

  1. I have many ideas in my head, but I’m having trouble deciding what I want to write about each day. It can be very frustrating when you can’t get your thoughts to come out easily through the keyboard.

  2. Before submitting a posting to the Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers, look to see who the host is for the week. It’s not wise to submit one that contains references to the host.

  3. Technorati does not show all the actual links to your blog and returns different results from one day to the next. I’m not alone in my confusion with the service.

  4. One commenter (See item #2) suggests I should be using Technorati tags. I’ve placed “tags” on my list of blogging ideas to investigate. Although given the spottiness of the service I wonder if it it’s worth the trouble.

  5. I really appreciate everyone one that comes by to check out what I’ve written and my small band of regular readers are the best.
No Sopranos tonight for my cousin and I, so we are both a bit cranky at the moment. Hopefully soon we’ll have enough saved to buy a replacement TV. Although for the most part I really don’t miss it (not counting the Sopranos), but my cousin on the other hand is moping around as if her best friend died. Do you think I should take that as an insult?

See ya next week and thanks again for coming by.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Moynihan Challenge

On Wednesday I wrote a posting about blogger, Steven Hart trashing the idea of school choice using a voucher system. Steven brought up the issue in relation to the Newark mayor's race because a website published a piece in 2002 slamming Booker on a number of issues including school choice. As in 2002, Booker is again running for mayor of Newark against Sharpe James.

Steven has decided that although Newark's public schools are a disaster, a school choice voucher system would make matters worse. He gives two reasons for his conclusion. One, school choice would "undermine teachers unions -- the last truly effective labor organizations in America" and two, "the voucher cult offers nothing but a chance to turn poorly performing public schools into even more poorly performing private schools".

Steven offers no reason or facts to backup his theory that a school choice voucher system would turn lousy public schools into lousy private schools. Blogger, Michael Hill points out a great article on school choice that recounts several studies reaching the opposite conclusion - students learn significantly more in school-choice programs and school-choice parents are very satisfied.

The author of the article also offers this challenge that I pass it along to Steven and other school choice naysayers:
The first person in the nation who can send me two random assignment school-choice studies showing significant declines in either academic performance or parental satisfaction will win a steak dinner. I'll even throw in drinks and dessert - the whole nine yards. You have one month to send the studies to Mladner @goldwaterinstitute.org. Feel free to forward this to your anti-school-choice friends and invite them to play. The more the merrier.
I'll be curious to see if the last truly effective labor organization, its members and backers will be able to prove school choice leads to declines in student academic performance or parental satisfaction. If we are going to have a meaningful debate on the issue it would be nice if facts were included.

I don't know if school choice would work in districts such as Newark, but I think most people agree major changes are needed to improve student achievement in the city's schools. As we look for solutions, I think it's important for everyone to keep an open mind and to weigh the evidence before rejecting ideas on purely political grounds. The goal is to provide every child with the best educational opportunity, not to preserve the status quo for the benefit of teachers unions. At least that's why I thought we had public schools.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Gov. Corzine’s Best Friend the Rev. William Watley

Yesterday, Gov. Jon Corzine was warmly greeted by the Rev. William Watley and about 400 members of the African Methodist Episcopal Church at a meeting held by the group at the Cherry Hill Hilton Hotel.

The article in the Courier Post said the governor’s speech about the proposed $30.9 billion state budget and the new spending programs aimed at helping the poor were received with cries of “Hallelujah!" and "Amen!"
Rev. Watley served under former Gov. McGreevey as head of the state Commerce, Economic Growth and Tourism Commission. He resigned in 2004 after it was disclosed that his church was affiliated with a Newark housing project that was going to get an $11.5 million state loan.

A state audit of Watley's commission also found mismanagement, including $9 million spent without the comptroller's approval. Watley's chief of staff, Lesly Devereaux, resigned after it was revealed she had hired five relatives and it wasn't clear what they did for the money.
But Corzine greeted him warmly.
"I don't think I have a more close personal friend," Corzine said of Watley. "I consider him a brother."
I think that just about says it all, don’t you?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Taxes


I think this sums up the the general consensus of New Jersey taxpayers.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Fear of Cory Booker and School Vouchers

Steven Hart is using old propaganda from a 2002 article on Black Commentator to trash Cory Booker as a candidate for mayor of Newark.
I can see that Newark's public schools are a disaster. But I can also see that vouchers are a false hope, dangled before desperate parents by people who ordinarily couldn't care less about lower-class black people, but who have a great deal invested in the conservative religion of privatization and would love to undermine teachers unions -- the last truly effective labor organizations in America, and thus the favored targets of winger commentators across the country.
Wow, so many assumptions in one very long sentence and not a lick or link of proof to back any of them up. Is Booker campaigning on school vouchers, because if he is I must have missed it? This is 2006 isn’t it?

If Booker favors vouchers, I doubt it’s because he “couldn't care less about lower-class black people”. God forbid someone dare shakeup the status quo in Newark, good things might happen. And what’s this about “lower-class black people” from someone who claims to be a progressive?

Newark’s schools are a disaster, as you can see from the student proficiency tests, but what’s the answer to the problem? Newark’s per student cost is the highest in the state, so money isn’t the problem. Steve offers no solutions, just a commercial for the “last truly effective labor organizations in America”. Teachers unions have been effective in one thing, feathering their own nests while crapping on everyone below.

As I have said before, an attitude change by many parents is desperately needed, but there are parents who care deeply about getting their children the best education possible. Shouldn’t these parents have a chance to get their kids out of failing schools? Not according to Steve, the teachers unions and government know best.

Steve thinks the education system in Newark is hopeless and he seems more concerned about protecting the teachers unions than about helping the kids. What's the objective here, improving the kid's chances for a better life or preserving political power and the education monopoly?
But I know a Trojan horse when I see one, and the voucher cult offers nothing but a chance to turn poorly performing public schools into even more poorly performing private schools.
Steve has no proof to backup his opinion and he makes the ridiculous assumption the children would do poorly no matter what school they attend. Competition has a way of waking people up and kicking their performance up a notch or two. Why should it be any different with schools? Produce a lousy product and people won’t buy it. Vouchers would allow parents to buy the better product whether it is a public or a private school. Why the fear of competition if Steve truly believes private schools would be even worse that the public schools, if that’s even possible?

Steve fears change, change to a system of school choice and change in the way Newark is governed. A successful departure from the failed progressive polices and the usual Democratic control of Newark would put the lie to everything Steve believes and champions. That’s a change and outcome he’s not willing to face. And that’s why he’s trashing Cory Booker.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Jury Duty

Many years ago I was called to jury duty. I have been called regularly over the years, but this one tour of duty makes me laugh every time I think about it. Today it comes to mind because my cousin received a jury duty notice.

Anyway, everyday for two weeks I reported for jury duty and would sit around in a room with my fellow citizens waiting for our numbers to be called for a trial. It was a busy courthouse and with the docket loaded with cases everyone had their number called often. But just as often, most of us would not be needed or we would be rejected and sent back to the waiting room. There was little to do except read and chat with the people sitting around you. I became friendly with several people and this story is about one of them.

As it worked out, one of my new friends and I were called for the same trial. In the courtroom we were asked a number of questions as a means of weeding out jurors unacceptable to one side or the other. One by one we answered the questions, either being accepted or excused from the case. Some of the questions were of a personal nature, such as where you and your spouse worked and your complete address, including street.

The trial was for a man accused of robbery and a brutal assault and as each prospective juror answered the lawyers’ questions, the friends or family members of the accused would take down the juror’s address and then give the juror a very intimidating look. When it was time for my new friend to give her address, she surprisingly asked the judge for “a sidebar.” A couple of weeks hanging around a court room and she had learned the lingo.

After quite a stir, she was asked to approach the bench, along with the attorneys for the prosecution and the defense. I couldn’t make out what was being said, but I could tell the judge and the defense lawyer were not pleased. Conversation went back and forth until the persecutor turned to the side and covered his month as if to keep from laughing. Then with a resigned look and the faintest hint of a smile the judge excused my friend from the court.

As it worked out the trial never did take place with the accused ending up taking a plea and we were all excused. Later, I found my friend in the waiting room and asked her what happened. She explained she told the judge she was not going to give her address in open court. She told the judge about the friends of the accused writing the down the addresses and the threatening looks. No way was she setting herself up to be robbed while sitting on the jury, the friends knowing her husband was at work and her address. She told the judge he knew her address and that should be good enough. The judge said otherwise, but she held her ground.

So then the judge asked, “What if everyone was like you? And she said, “If everyone was like me, none of us would need to be here today". With that my friend was excused. It makes me laugh every time I remember her.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Bad Policies, Bad Life Choices Have Consequences

The New York Times points out new studies from Columbia, Princeton and Harvard universities finding an alarming percentage of young black men are disconnected from mainstream society.

The studies show for black men, especially those in the country's inner cities, finishing high school is the exception, work in a legal job is rare and “prison is almost routine, with incarceration rates climbing for blacks even as urban crime rates have declined.”
"If you look at the numbers, the 1990's was a bad decade for young black men, even though it had the best labor market in 30 years," said Harry J. Holzer, an economist at Georgetown University.

In 2000, 65 percent of black male high school dropouts in their 20's were jobless — that is, unable to find work, not seeking it or incarcerated. By 2004, the share had grown to 72 percent, compared with 34 percent of white and 19 percent of Hispanic dropouts.
In the inner cities, more than half of all black men do not finish high school. By their mid-30's, 6 in 10 black men who had dropped out of school had spent time in prison. Dropout rates for Hispanic men are as bad or worse but are not associated with nearly as much unemployment or crime, the data show.
Among black dropouts in their late 20's, more are in prison on a given day — 34 percent — than are working — 30 percent — according to an analysis of 2000 census data by Steven Raphael of the University of California, Berkeley.
What’s the cause of this tragedy? The studies point the finger at terrible schools, absent parents, racism, the decline in blue collar jobs and a subculture that glorifies swagger over work.

Racism is a convenient excuse for the destructive behavior that has ruined the lives of so many of these men. The government programs of the last 40 years, aimed at helping the poor, have made the life stories told in the article commonplace in our cities.

Curtis E. Brannon, 28, quit school in 10th grade to sell drugs, fathered four children with three mothers, and spent several stretches in jail for drug possession, parole violations and other crimes.

William Baker, 47, sold marijuana for his parents, left school in the sixth grade and later dealt heroin and cocaine. For decades he was addicted to heroin and easily kept the habit during three terms in prison.

Neither of these stories and millions more like them had to happen if just a few simple rules had been followed: 1) graduate from high school; 2) get married before you have children, and stay married; 3) work at any kind of job, even one that starts out paying the minimum wage; 4) avoid engaging in criminal behavior and 5) don’t abuse alcohol and drugs.

Instead of teaching our men responsibility, the importance of family and the value of an education, we’ve encouraged and subsidized the opposite lessons. And we’ve pitied them as victims and have given them the excuse of racism. Bad choices in life have consequences and all the excuses in the world aren’t going to change the reality of life. Attitude and life choices are the keys to a happy and productive life - start making the right choices today.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

I’m Hooked

As I mentioned before our TV conked out, but my cousin and I have been lucky enough to be invited to a friend’s home to watch the Sopranos the past two weeks. We just got home.

I don’t normally get hooked on serial shows, but for some reason this show is different. Even my cousin, who originally made fun of me for watching the Sopranos, can’t wait to see each new episode. The show is well acted and written, but there something else that keeps us coming back.

Why we do enjoy the show so much? For me I think it’s because I enjoy the physiological aspects of the show, the relationships among characters and the window we have into their thoughts and feelings.

Despite all of the horrible things the Tony character has done, broken every one of the 10 commandments on a regular basis, I feel deep down he is a decent person and I want to see him change. I want to see good triumph over evil – inside the man. I have always wanted to see Tony change on his own accord.

Where the show is going, I don’t know, but if …

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Week Four

The big news on week four of my blogging was Jim at Parkway Rest Stop sent a “Jimbolaunche” my way. His posting and support are very much appreciated. More emails and comments with advice, encouragement and wit came from valued readers and fellow bloggers, so a big thank you to everyone who took the time to send some motivation my way.

I do appreciate the advice and you’ll notice I have changed the comments configuration so that anyone can leave a comment – registered on not. I hadn’t realized I was making commenting a hassle for some people, cross my fingers I made the change correctly.

More blogs were added to my links section this week - Bob the Corgi, eCache, Fausta's Blog, NJ Fiscal Folly, Parkway Rest Stop and Sluggo Needs a Nap. All blogs I’ve enjoy reading and hope you will visit often if not already on your regular reading list. You’ll also see I added a blog with the every inviting name, Knit Along With Me, so go on over and make yourself at home.

I want to thank everyone who stopped by New Jersey For Change and hope to see you again next week – my week five.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Liberian President Sirleaf’s Address Before Congress

Last Friday I posted about the New Jersey teacher, Beatrice Munah Sieh, tapped to be the head of Liberia’s police force by that country’s newly elected President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. This week I thought I’d follow up with one about President Sirleaf’s address to the U.S. Congress this past Wednesday.

President Sirleaf began her speech by remembering the strong historical ties between Liberia and the United States. She then thanked President Bush for helping to negotiate the 2003 exile of former President Charles Taylor, which ultimately brought about her election to office. She also thanked Congress for its support and the financial aid that helped lay the foundation for a durable peace, not only in Liberia, but in the whole West African region.
Thanks to President Bush, whose strong resolve and public condemnation and appropriate action forced a tyrant into exile, and thanks to you, the members of this august body, who spurred the international effort that brought blessed peace to our nation.

With your prayers and with your help, we will demonstrate that democracy can work, even under the most challenging conditions. We will honor the suffering of our people, and Liberia will become a brilliant beacon, an example to Africa and to the world of what the love of liberty can achieve.

We will strive to be America's success story in Africa, demonstrating the potential in the transformation from war to peace; demonstrating the will to join in the global fight against terrorism; demonstrating that democracy can prevail, demonstrating that prosperity can be achieved.
My county, the United States of America and my President, George W. Bush helped to make the free election of the first female African head of state possible. I am so very proud of them all and pray Liberia will at long last be at peace.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Sharpe James Will Run For Re-election as Mayor of Newark

New Jersey state Senator and Newark Mayor, Sharpe James announced today he is seeking re-election to a sixth term as major of the state’s largest city.

Sporting a bright yellow jacket, James made his announcement while riding a bicycle around the atrium of City Hall. The only thing missing from this clown’s act was a big red nose and a bicycle horn.

Now that Sharpe James is in, Newark Deputy Mayor and state Senator Ronald Rice will no doubt drop out of the May 9 nonpartisan election. This sets up a rematch against former city councilman Cory Booker and Sharpe "Rolls Royce" James.

Cory Booker, 36, is a Rhodes Scholar and Yale Law School graduate and Sharpe James, 70, is a scam artist who has milked Newark and the state dry for his own personal profit. This really should be no contest if the voters in Newark have paid any attention to what’s been going on for the past twenty, plus years. But, look for another slime campaign from James and for money winding up in all the right pockets.

The corruption in Newark has got to be rampant and deep. James needs to stay in office to protect himself and his cronies from all the dirt that would come out if a new Mayor was elected. I’m sure Cory Booker would enjoy nothing better than watching Court TV with Sharpe James as the star. Me too.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Cranky Man in a Bubble

Have you noticed “progressive” bloggers in New Jersey seem cranky lately? A case in point is a progressive Christian blogger known as the Xpatriated Texan who has written a nasty post – You Can Lead a Conservative to the Library but you can't make them think. Or even stop being intentionally misleading.

This guy is so closed minded. Here’s what he wrote, “For the most part, I ignore the Conservative blogosphere. There are a few bloggers I respect, but exposure to their tactics and tantrums only shortens that list. However, against my better judgment, I flipped over to a Con-blog and read some disturbingly inaccurate info.”

Tactics and tantrums? Has he read the major “progressive” blogs lately? Anyway, Xpatriated Texan is picking on a “particular blogger, Smadanek and the inacurate (sic) info is the direct connection between "tax climate" and Gross State Product growth rates.”

He’s calling Ken Adams out for being stupid and a liar? Very cranky indeed. Enlighten-NewJersey points out the slight of hand the former Texan employs – when the data doesn’t fit your worldview ignore it. This attitude also explains his avoidance of “the Conservative blogosphere”, the truth is more than he can bare. It makes him cranky.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Stem Cells Multiplying

What did I tell you yesterday? Building stem cell research centers in New Jersey is just a cover for funneling money to the powerful friends of politicians. I said $200 million was just the beginning of the boondoggle. Was I right or was I right?

In less than 24 hours the need for a third stem cell research center in New Jersey has been discovered. The state Senate has amended the original spending bill to include an additional $50 million for a stem cell research facility in, you’ll never guess, Newark.

“New Jersey needs to be one large laboratory," Assemblyman Neil Cohen, D-Roselle, told the committee, adding the state should be a "network of as many facilities as possible."
Can’t you just see the dollar signs in Cohen’s eyes? The state is flat broke, but the folks in Trenton continue to spend with abandon, this time for a pig in a poke – stem cell research. What a scam.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Stem Cell Research In New Jersey

Our former Acting Governor, Richard Codey is pushing again for the state to pay for stem cell research centers in New Jersey. He’s looking for $200 million to start the ball rolling. I think it’s ridiculous.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against stem cell research. I just doubt $200 million is going to do the trick. People are researching stem cells all over the world, including elsewhere in the United States. What makes Codey think New Jersey’s investment is going to bring about the big break through? I see this as a $200 million boondoggle.

When the state’s in dire financial straights from spending too much money, you’ve got to be creative in order to get a new spending measure passed. Stem cell research is just the ticket. Who’s going to come out against curing illnesses and creating new jobs? Throw on top of that an opportunity to help the poor and only a cruel heart could say no. At least that's what Codey, now presidernt of the state Senate, is banking on.

Codey’s bill would build two, we can’t get by with just one, stem cell research centers - one for a $150 million in New Brunswick and one for $50 million in Camden. “Codey credited Sen. Wayne Bryant, D-Lawnside, with pushing for money to come to Camden.” Codey said, “he feels support from Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts, D-Camden, will allow the bill to pass this time”.

They can’t fool me, I see right through these deals. Codey’s bill is just another way for politicians to funnel money to their well connected friends. This time it’s under the pretense of helping to find the holy grail of medical cures and bringing jobs to New Jersey. In reality it’s for the construction unions and other political insiders.

Codey compared the research facility to Campbell Soup Co., once a major employer in the area. “A stem-cell research center in Camden could usher in the next generation's equivalent of factories and industry that once drove Camden”, Codey said. Uh huh.

I had relatives who worked for Campbell soup and I can tell you there’s no way their work experience is going to get them a job at a stem cell research facility. Who is Codey trying to fool? Camden needs jobs, but a stem cell research center won’t help the jobless in that poor city and anybody with half a brain knows it.

"If we can cure people at some point and help the economy in the meantime, that's a home run to me," said Codey.

Anyone want to make a bet how this turns out? I'll give you a hint - $200 million is just the begining of this scam, no miracle cures will be found in these centers, the people in Camden will be as poor as ever and a few guys will be laughing all the way to the bank. Any takers?

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Thank You

Just thought I’d let you know there are some really nice people in the New Jersey blog scene. Nordette from Confessions of a Jersey Goddess included me in the Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers #43 and several of my favorite bloggers stopped by today and left some very encouraging comments.

Ken Adams really went out of his way to give me a lift, he devoted an entire posting on this blog, Smadanek to NJFC. I finally figured it out, Smadanek is his name spelled backwards. I’m probably the last person to get it. I wonder how you pronounce it?

Thank you one and all for your encouragement.

Time for bed, work tomorrow.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Week Three

Three full weeks of blogging and I don’t have much progress to report on readership. My cousin is on again, off again and DBK has abandoned me. That leaves the serendipitous reader as my audience.

On the bright side Technorati shows NJFC is now on the blogrolls of two New Jersey blogs, SmadaNek (a very unusual name) and Enlighten-NewJersey. As I mentioned before, as a way of measuring progress I’m going to add links on my sidebar as blogs link here.

I read hundreds of blogs over the course of a week. Some I read everyday and others I read everything they’ve posted since the last time I dropped by. Others I glace through, reading a post here and there. For many others I am the serendipitous reader.

Some of my daily reads outside New Jersey include: Betsy's Page, La Shawn Barber’s Corner, Just One Minute and Outside the Beltway.

Some of my New Jersey daily reads include: A Blog For All, Blue Jersey,
Bob the Corgi , Center of New Jersey Life, Confessions of a Jersey Goddess, DynamoBuzz, Enlighten-NewJersey, Fausta's Blog, Parkway Rest Stop, TigerHawk and Uncle Tonoose.

I started out as a reader of mostly non-New Jersey blogs, but have been changing my reading habits over the past year or so. I think this change prompted me to start this blog. I always wanted to join in with comments, but I felt awkward and held back. My cousin is reading over my shoulder and says I should’ve stuck with making comments, that way I’d have more readers.

She, who shall remain nameless, has a way of trying to take the wind out of my sails. It’s on to week four.

Friday, March 10, 2006

NJ Teacher to Become Top Cop in Liberia

Here’s an interesting story that caught my eye. A New Jersey special education teacher is about to become Liberia's chief of police. Beatrice Munah Sieh, 48, has been teaching math, science and reading to students with learning disabilities for the past six years at a Trenton middle school.

Sieh is returning to her home country to become the West African nation’s first-ever female police chief. Sieh's new job came as a surprise to her boss, Principal Ruben Flores, who says he exclaimed, "Oh My God!" when she told him she would be leaving for the post. Flores had known that Sieh had done some police work in her native land, but not that she had actually been deputy director of police operations before fleeing for fear of her life with her three children in 1996.
The police chief at the time was Joseph Tate, one of the most powerful men under now-deposed warlord-turned-president Charles Taylor. Sieh said she had confronted Tate about apparent corruption, which elicited a phone call from Tate just before gunmen shot up her house. Luckily for Sieh, she wasn't home, but she knew it was time to leave the country."I felt lucky and I got out of there," Sieh said.
Sieh was appointed to the position last month by Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Sirleaf is a Harvard-educated former finance minister, who took office in January as Africa's first elected female head of state.
"Our country is starting from zero, from bottom, and the first thing we have to do is fight crime," said Sieh, a Hamilton resident whose final day teaching is Friday. Sieh says she will miss her students, and two of her three sons are grown and will be staying behind when she leaves.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

NJ Gov. Bails Lobbyist Out Of Jail

Gov. Jon Corzine's decision to bail out a lobbyist accused of stalking the head of the Democrat State Committee has managed to raise more than a few eyebrows here in New Jersey. That’s saying something in a state where people generally yawn at the revelation of each new political scandal.

Corzine has admitted loaning Karen Golding, a lobbyist with Prudential Financial, $5,000 to cover her bail after she was arrested for allegedly stalking Assemblyman Joseph Cryan (D-Union), the Democrat State Committee executive director, on Feb. 6.

Golding had worked on the gubernatorial campaign of disgraced, former Gov.Jim McGreevey in 1997 before signing on as one of Corzine's first senate campaign employees in 2000. On Wednesday night, after a town hall meeting in West Long Branch, Corzine said that he had recommended Golding to Prudential after the 2000 campaign.

Corzine’s “generosity” got him into hot water during his campaign for governor last year when it was revealed that he had given Carla Katz, the president of the largest state employees union, a $470,000 loan for a mortgage, which he later forgave. He also donated millions to organizations controlled by New Jersey's Democratic power brokers.

Corzine now admits it was a mistake to bail Golding out of jail. "I think I was reacting like a human being would react,” Corzine said. All I can say is the politicians in New Jersey live a very weird and tangled life. Unfortunately, the citizens of the state wind up paying the price for their political shenanigans.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Spending Priorities

Our Governor, Jon Corzine is going around the state making presentations on New Jersey’s finances in advance of his budget proposal to be unveiled later this month.

When Corzine first took office in January he bluntly told one group “the state’s broke”. This must have come as a shock to the former Goldman Sachs executive and U.S. Senator because during the campaign he was “invest, grow, prosper”. Invest referred to all of the new spending programs he had in mind if we elected him. I’ll let you figure out who or what was going to being growing and proposing. Anyway, Gov. Corzine has placed those ideas aside and is now softening us up for the bad news.

"Describing the problem is not that hard. We are spending more than we take in," Corzine said. He said "reasonable people" can differ on the size of the gap he must close before July 1, but added, "I can tell you we have a very significant, multibillion-dollar problem that's more like $4billion than $3billion."
Having identified the problem – spending, the solution would seem straight forward – cut spending. That’s what you or I would need to do if we had more money going out than we brought home.

By necessity, I have to prioritize my needs and budget my spending accordingly. Even needs have to be prioritized. In my case, I want a new TV because ours just conked out, but I really needed to purchase a new hot water heater, ours just died. I couldn’t afford to buy both now, the hot water heater became the priority. So, that's what we bought.

A vacation away from home is a desire and that’s just not going to happen this year, unless I win the lottery. I buy one ticket one week, my cousin buys one the next week. That’s about as reckless as I get with my money. Buying a lottery ticket comes under frivolous and it would have to go if my $26 a-year extravagance tipped my budget into the red.

Anyway, there’s a big difference between essentials and nice to haves. The TV fell into the nice to have category. I don’t believe in going into debt, except for a mortgage or a medical emergency. I might consider taking a loan for school tuition or a car, but it would have to be the last resort. Both my cousin and I have spent our lives working from an early age to pay our own way and to stay out of debt.

Unfortunately, the state chose a different course. Everything’s a priority to the folks in Trenton and no one seems capable of telling the difference among essential, nice to have and if money where no object type spending. It kills me to see the state squander people’s hard-earned money. I work hard, handle my finances responsibly and then have to watch government blow our tax money without a second thought. Their attitude is "there's always more where that came from".

So now we will all just have to wait and see what the Governor will come up with to solve the state’s spending problem. I do feel strongly about this, if $28 billion isn’t enough for the essentials, and that includes helping the truly sick and helpless, we’re being scammed. I don't like being scammed.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Tami, the One Untrue

Today I feel moved to write about something I was saddened to read, but can’t let pass without comment. I happened upon a New Jersey blog, The One True Tami, and was really taken aback by her posting - Stuff You Didn't Want to Know About Me. She’s right, I didn’t, but now that she’s shared her views, I feel I should comment.

Before I do, you should know Tami considers herself a progressive and her blog is typically devoted to parroting the usual liberal talking points on every issue. What struck me about this particular posting was her willingness to admit she was raised a bigot and that she unapologetically remains a bigot. Is this a "progressive" value? No, but it is a trend I'm beginning to notice on far-left blogs.

Tami, as she explains, was raised to be anti-Christian and “managed to grow up wondering if all the people in the world who actually believe that Jesus died for their sins, literally - and that's a LOT of people! - were really, really stupid, naive, or a combination of the two.”

Tami comes by way of this conclusion, because she as tells the story she’s Jewish and “my parents experienced just enough antisemitism in their lives to try and give me a healthy dose of caution to use in my day-to-day dealings.” Got that? For the record, anti-semitism in any amount is too much for me. Anyway, Tami writes “I'm anti-Christian, but I'm not anti-values.” Where have I heard that logic before?

Tami goes on to tell us “I really do feel like we have to take responsibility for our own behavior, and that following the glamorously named "golden rule" does indeed make the world a better place for everyone.”

Next, Tami offers another confession - she derives pleasure from the misfortunes of others. “I'm still guilty of a giant dose of schadenfreude. Oh, yeah, I love watching people who pretend to be righteous get busted.” What a sad and telling realization to share. She pretends to be progressive and clearly she is not.

For me, I was very sad to find a woman proud of her prejudiced beliefs and who is thrilled by the misfortunes of others. Tami’s attitude is poisonous and will lead to nothing but her own personal unhappiness. I honestly feel sorry for her, but I won't accept her excuses for her bigoted outlook and expressions. She's obviously free to say whatever she likes, just as I am free to call her out for the narrow-mindedness she espouses and her hypocrisy.

It is my belief that people in a civil society should speak out against bigotry in all of its forms and we each should do whatever we can to discourage it. Consider this my attempt to do just that. Tami needs help, let us pray that she receives it.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Camden School Success or Scam?

The New Jersey Department of Education is investigating three Camden public schools where students showed a dramatic improvement in their standardized math test scores.

The investigation was triggered after an analysis of test scores by the Philadelphia Inquirer showed that fourth-grade students at Camden’s H.B. Wilson Elementary School had the highest average math score of more than 1,300 elementary schools in New Jersey. The fourth graders at Wilson had a 57.4 percentage point gain from their third-grade scores.

Almost as remarkable was the improvement at Catto School in Camden where fourth grade math scores jumped from 35 percent to 82.4 percent proficient in one year and at Washington Elementary School, where scores jumped 38 percentage points to 86 percent passing.

Camden district and school officials insist that the scores are legitimate and credit “targeted work with computerized math programs” for the unheard of progress. The state plans to conduct its own analysis, but New Jersey’s Department of Education officials call the improved test scores "a success story."

Philip E. Freeman, Camden school board president, said it was unfortunate that the district's gains were subjected to a "degree of skepticism." If the scores are legit, all schools better start using those computerized programs and fast. If they can find one for reading, better still. But before we all get carried away with the wonders of technology, consider this:
Joseph Carruth, principal of Charles Brimm Medical Arts High School, told state officials that a high-ranking district administrator pressured him to rig math scores. At Brimm, the 11th-grade passing rate for math jumped 21 percentage points from the previous year.
It does make you ask why it took the Philadelphia Inquirer to spot this trend and bring it to the attention of the New Jersey Department of Education. It should have been the other way around. If it’s a success story, the state should have been studying the program for use in every school district. And if it’s a scam, the state should have been all over the Camden district to end the dishonesty and to weed out the cheats harming Camden’s children.

As much as I hope Camden students are becoming whizzes in math, consider me skeptical.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Practicing

My blog was included in this week’s, Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers # 42 but I don’ think anyone cared much for my idea for Ft. Monmouth – no comments. Maybe I expect too much, too soon. But on the bright side the link did generate some visitors.

I thought about emailing bloggers I enjoy reading and introducing myself and this blog, but I just don’t feel comfortable doing that. Although, I wouldn’t mind if someone wrote to me. How do other people get started? My cousin says try writing something interesting. That doesn’t sound encouraging does it? Better practice my writing.

I’ve also been thinking I should add blogs I read frequently to my links section. My original thought was to add blogs to the list as they linked to NJFC as a way of measuring progress. But maybe that’s one of the purposes of Technorati. I still come back to Overlawyered linking to me and not showing up, so who knows how you find out who’s linking. I’m not really obsessed with this linking stuff, it’s just a recognition that if no one links, no one will read.

My cousin, who has asked to remain nameless on this blog, is still giving me a hard time for starting this project. She doesn’t think it’s a proper use of valuable time. As if talking non-stop on the telephone was. I’ll try to take her advice and write something interesting this week. And I'll give another shot at the Carnival of the Insanities – New Jersey’s got to have something worthy of that distinction every week. Right?

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Week Two

I’ve been blogging for two weeks now and I think I’m making some progress in attracting a few readers. Monday was my big day with over 300 visitors, thanks to a link by OverLawyered, a post on a message board and an email that must have been sent around with a link to my posting on Richard Kreimer's Homeless Scam.

Other than that, I haven’t had anyone else link to NJFC - that’s short for New Jersey For Change. I’ve sent a posting to the Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers for this week - maybe I’ll be included this time. I also have added the Carnival of the Insanities button to my side bar and sent in a link for this Sunday’s Insanity Carnival. Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream is perfect for the Carnival of the Insanities, don’t you think?

I don’t really understand how Technorati works. The owner of Overlawyered emailed to let me know he linked, but it never showed up in Technorati. Maybe I’m missing others that have linked – wishful thinking.

Hey did you notice two pieces in the Star-Ledger similar to mine on Sharpe James? Tom Moran’s - $50M Newark deal is vintage Sharpe James and the article - Questions surround development panels Newark's: creation of 2 firms to award grants stirs contention were both published on Friday, mine on Wednesday. Makes me think I’m picking topics of interest to blog about.

It's on to week three. See you tomorrow.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Handicapping Children from the Beginning

Hunterdon County ranked number one out of all 21 New Jersey counties when comparing 13 measures of child health, safety, education and the overall well-being of children. Cumberland, Cape May, Atlantic, Salem and Passaic were the five lowest ranking counties, while Hunterdon, Morris, Somerset, Bergen and Sussex got the highest scores according to a New Jersey Kids Count report.

Cumberland County ranked last, No county had a higher rate of teenage pregnancy or infant mortality, according to the study. None scored worse on standardized tests, with Cumberland's students placing 21st on the third-, fourth-, eighth- and 11th-grade exams. But, Cumberland County had the highest percentage of children enrolled in state-approved preschool programs. So much for the effectiveness of the $12,000 a year state funded pre-school programs.

Here’s why. The children are falling behind in school because many of them don’t speak English. Rather than immersing them in English only classes from the beginning, the state handicaps them with “bilingual classes”.

Tony Melendez of the Family Power Center, a recent start-up, based in Vineland said “Cumberland's poor ratings reflect, in part, the huge recent influx of Mexican immigrants. Many of the first generation immigrants don't speak English. Many dropped out of school at an early age.”

“The language is a major barrier,” said Melendez, who spent 27 years in investigative and other roles with the state Division of Youth and Family Services. “If the parent doesn't understand the language, they cannot teach it. It's the kids who take bilingual classes, not the parents.”
Bilingual education is a dooming these children to failure in school and poverty in adult life. Bilingual ed is a bonanza for teachers and a disaster for taxpayers and most of all for children who never receive a proper education. This needs to change.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

NJ Buys Homestead of Dr. James Still, "Black Doctor of the Pines"

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection bought the Medford homestead of Dr. James Still, known as the "black doctor of the Pines". The 8.8 acre property, purchased by the state for $875,000, will be turned into a museum dedicated to Still's life.

Dr. Still, the son of runaway slaves, was born 1812 in Indian Mills, NJ. He had only three months of education as a child, but he taught himself to read and developed an encyclopedic knowledge of herbs and plants. By the age of 40, Still had became one of the largest landowners in Medford and a well respected doctor, famous throughout New Jersey for his ability to heal many illnesses with his herbal remedies.

Dr. Still’s brother William still, was a famous abolitionist known as the “father of the Underground Railroad” and his son James Still Jr., was the third black man to graduate from the Harvard School of Medicine.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Sharpe James – Running the Biggest Scam in New Jersey

Newark received a total of $450 million when it settled a lawsuit with the Port Authority over lease payments for the air and seaports located within the cities boundaries.

So what will Newark do with the money? Use it for school construction or towards footing the tab for other city programs and projects that Newark forces onto the state's taxpayers?

Heck no, Mayor Sharpe James plans to spread $80 million around to his political cronies. I’m sure some of that money will also find a way into James’ bank account.
Newark Mayor Sharpe James wants to use $80 million from the settlement of a lawsuit with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to endow two nonprofit corporations designed to help the city with neighborhood and economic development projects.
Look no further than the ethical and financial mismanagement of Newark’s Housing Authority under James’ pal Harold Lucas and other more recent events to understand what I’m talking about.

After taking the oath of office, now disgraced ex-Assemblywoman Evelyn Williams praised one of her predecessors, Jackie Mattison, who had been removed from office following a criminal conviction. Mattison is back doing redevelopment projects in Newark with the blessing of his old mentor, Sharpe James.

This is what happens with the bottomless money pit that is Newark. Money flows to the politically connected while the people in need of help get crumbs. It’s unbelievable to me that state Senator and Mayor Sharpe James is not being investigated for corruption. Does anyone else find it strange that Sharpe James, supporting himself as a “public servant”, owns a Rolls Royce, two yachts and and multiple homes?

When are the people in Newark going to throw this crook out of office? When are the state’s law enforcement agencies going to investigate and bring Sharpe James to justice?