Thursday, June 30, 2011

In PA. And Everywhere Else: Obama Isn't Working!

Over 100,000 Pennsylvania jobs lost since President Obama took office. 39,800 manufacturing jobs lost since 2009. 470,774 people looking for work. Obama isn't working.

Video: MSNBC's Halperin Calls Obama 'A Dick'

Year 2: Christie Balances Budget; Vetoes $1 Billion

For the second year in a row, Governor Chris Christie has enacted a constitutionally balanced budget that reduces spending, does not raise taxes and protects critical priorities like education and health care. The revised budget is grounded in reality and is the polar opposite of a reckless Democratic spending plan the Governor was forced to line-item veto by nearly $1 billion in order to meet the state’s constitutional obligation to deliver a balanced budget for the next fiscal year. At the same time, the budget builds on the hard-won progress made over the last year to right New Jersey’s fiscal course over the long term, and also protects key priorities and encourages job growth. The Governor maintained his commitment to education by increasing funding by $850 million over last year’s budget. In total, this means every dollar of cuts made last year has been restored and increased by an additional $30 million.

Additionally, the Governor took action rejecting job-killing tax increases and signed into law additional targeted tax cuts for small business and job creators.

“It is my solemn pact with the residents and taxpayers of New Jersey to never allow a return to the kind of reckless, autopilot spending that devastated our state’s economic health in years past and which was embodied in the budget I repaired, a relic of days when there was no concern for the state’s fiscal reality,” Governor Chris Christie said. “Let me be clear – New Jersey is only going to spend the money we have. We are not going to revert back to business as usual and undo all the progress that has been made to improve New Jersey’s long-term fiscal health. The actions I have taken today reinforce a commitment to protecting taxpayer dollars, safeguarding critical priorities like education, and rejecting tax increases that impede economic expansion and job creation.

“This budget is not only constitutionally balanced, but represents my commitment to education. This year’s budget managed to increase funding by $850 million and does so in a fiscally prudent budget. New Jersey continues to spend more money per pupil than any other state and now is the time to complement the dollars spent with real education reform. Now is the time to turn our focus and energy to tackling the next big thing for our state – education reform,” concluded Governor Christie.

The Governor’s remedies, a combination of the line-item veto on the appropriations bill and the absolute veto, ensure the state will go into the next fiscal year with a constitutionally balanced budget, puts New Jersey on stronger fiscal footing and funds key commitments:

·         Governor Christie’s adjusted budget spends $29.7 billion, $900 million less than the Democratic budget and maintains a healthy and necessary surplus;
·         Increases state aid to school districts by $850 million over last year. This commitment to education includes the Governor’s initial $250 million increase for all school districts, meeting the Supreme Court’s mandate by providing an additional $450 million to the Abbott districts, and an additional $150 million for non-Abbott districts;
·         Doubles the Homestead Benefit to provide property tax relief for New Jersey families;
·         Increases and secures funding for New Jersey hospitals by $20 million;
·         Provides full funding for healthcare to low-income earners and the uninsured through Federally Qualified Health Centers;
·         Provides $180 million in targeted tax cuts and incentives to grow the economy and create jobs;
·         Fulfills New Jersey’s commitment to make the state’s pension fund payment;
·         Doesn’t raise taxes on individuals and job creators at a time when New Jerseyans are already subject to one of the highest state income tax rates in the nation and New York is reducing its tax burden; and
·         Preserves critical spending for senior and disabled prescription aid.

In addition to returning a responsible and balanced budget to the Legislature, Governor Christie took other action today to stop job-killing tax increases and create a competitive climate for economic growth. Governor Christie vetoed Assembly Bill 4202, a Democratic proposal that would raise taxes on individuals and businesses at a time when New Jerseyans are already subject to one of the highest state income tax rates in the nation. The proposed income tax hike would directly hurt small business and exacerbate the volatility of New Jersey’s revenue base, considering that 71 percent of the taxpayers who pay the top tax rate under this legislation report income from business activity, and nearly 42 percent of the revenue subject to this tax increase represents business income.

The Governor signed into law today two additional pro-growth tax cuts that were part of his budget proposal that will eliminate the cap on the corporation business tax research credit and decrease the minimum corporation business tax on S-corps by 25 percent. Previously, on April 28, Governor Christie signed two tax cuts that he had initially proposed, the single-sales tax factor and net-loss carry forward. In addition, as initially proposed by Governor Christie, the Transition Energy Facility Assessment will phase out over the next three years, reducing energy costs for New Jersey families and businesses. In total, these pro-growth measures provide $180 million in targeted tax relief for New Jersey businesses and entrepreneurs.

The Governor also vetoed Assembly bill A-4204 in a fiscally responsible move that allows the State to continue to provide the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) at a level that the State’s taxpayers can sustain. While a difficult decision, providing the State EITC at 25 percent of the federal EITC is not affordable and not sustainable, which is why the Legislature passed and the Governor signed into law last year legislation to make the State EITC equal to 20 percent of the federal EITC. He also absolutely vetoed the Democrat’s supplemental spending bill, A-4203, which was unconstitutional because it provided educational spending outside of the budget appropriations act.

Jersey Seafood Industry Showcases Best Dishes

First Lady of New Jersey Mary Pat Christie judges entry in New Jersey Seafood Challenge
New Jersey First Lady Mary Pat Christie declared Scott Anderson of elements in Princeton the winner of the 2011 Jersey Seafood Challenge for his signature dish that featured fluke with garlic scapes, panko, arrowhead cabbage and herbaceous vinaigrette. As the champion, Anderson will represent New Jersey at the Great American Seafood Cook-off in New Orleans in August. Today’s competition was held in the gardens at Drumthwacket.

“New Jersey has a vibrant and thriving seafood industry,” said Mrs. Christie. “These talented chefs prepared an outstanding lineup of dishes that demonstrated the superior quality of our bountiful Jersey Seafood and Jersey Fresh produce. Thanks to all sixteen competitors and the restaurants they represent for participating today and congratulations to Scott Anderson. I am confident he will showcase our Jersey pride representing the Garden State in New Orleans later this summer.”

A native of the Garden State, Scott Anderson spent part of his youth in Japan where the exposure to foreign tastes and flavors left a lasting impact. He began his career as a line cook at Baystreet Grill in Edison and later joined the Terra Momo restaurant group. There, he spent six years at Teresa Caffe before becoming head chef at Mediterra in Princeton, and later at Nova Terra in New Brunswick. He has also worked at The Ryland Inn with Chef Craig Shelton. In October 2008, he opened elements. Relying on the seasons, the inspiration and the bounty of the farm, Chef Anderson continually improvises when creating a menu.

“At elements, we think of our dishes as canvases and paint what feels right, while staying grounded in the essence of the ingredients,” said Chef Anderson. “So, I am looking forward to the competition in New Orleans and being inspired by the diverse, local ingredients to create a new experience.”

Other chefs who participated in the cook-off sponsored by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture included: Christopher Albrecht, Eno Terra and Enoteca, Kingston; Mitchell Altholz, Highlawn Pavilion, West Orange; Michael John Chu, Mehtani Restaurant Group, Morristown; Chris Curado, Chakra Restaurant, Paramus; Kevin Guinta, Plate American Café, Trump Taj Mahal, Atlantic City; Demetrios Haronis, Fin (Tropicana Hotel Casino), Atlantic City; Michael Inferrera, Mia (Caesar's Hotel and Casino), Atlantic City; J. Geoffrey Johnson, Copper Fish on Broadway, West Cape May; Sofia Karakasidou, Kuzina by Sofia, Cherry Hill; Jack Koumbis, Assembly Steak House and Seafood Grill, Englewood Cliffs; James Laird, Restaurant Serenade, Chatham; Will Mooney, The Brothers Moon Restaurant, Hopewell; Elizabeth Penn, Student Chef, Academy of Culinary Arts, Atlantic-Cape Community College, Mays Landing; David Suscavage, The Foundation Room (Showboat Hotel and Casino), Atlantic City and Kevin Taylor, Los Amigos Restaurant, West Berlin.

Second-runner up in the competition was Christopher Albrecht of Eno Terra in Kingston; third runner up was Kevin Guinta of Plate American Cafe at Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City and fourth runner up was Kevin Taylor of Los Amigos Restaurant in West Berlin .

The Great American Seafood Cook-off is limited to 20 chefs with the champion being named King or Queen of American Seafood. The cook-off is televised by the Food Network and is part of the Louisiana Foodservice Expo.

“Consumers are demanding local and we are proud to partner with our state's chefs and restaurants to serve dishes featuring top quality seafood, vegetables, fruits and herbs caught or grown by our New Jersey fishermen or farmers," said New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher. “Eating Jersey Seafood provides many health benefits and there is a great variety, with 100 different species of fish and shellfish caught or harvested by local fishermen and fish farmers. We hope all residents will be inspired to cook Jersey Seafood along with Jersey Fresh produce or head to a local restaurant and ask for these local varieties from the Garden State."

Judging the competition were First Lady Mary Pat Christie; Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher; Jennifer Monaco, Club Managers Association of New Jersey; Bill Tillinghast, Vice President, American Culinary Foundation-Northeast Region; Jim Weaver, President, New Jersey Slow Food Movement; Larry Frazer, American Culinary Foundation-Princeton; David Burke, Fromagerie, Rumson and board member of the New Jersey Restaurant Association; Peter Genovese, Star-Ledger “Munch-Mobile” and Ed Coss, Milford Oyster House

Also on hand was Nicholas Davidson of Gusto Grill in East Brunswick, who created The Garden State of Mine, the winning cocktail of the 2011 New Jersey Restaurant Association’s Mixologist of the year competition.

Sponsors of the Jersey Seafood Challenge include Anheuser Busch, New Jersey Restaurant Association, Garden State Seafood Association, Atlantic Cape Fisheries, Inc., Barney’s Dock, Cape May Foods, Dock Street Seafood, Fisherman’s Dock Co-Op, Inc., Harbor House Seafood, Lund’s Fisheries, Inc., The Lobster House and Viking Village.

New Jersey’s seafood industry positively impacts the Garden State economy in many ways. For instance, in 2008, combined sales from commercial harvesters, seafood processors and dealers, seafood wholesalers and distributors and the retail sector added up to more than $2 billion. The industry also generates more than 40,000 jobs, with 2,000 commercial fishermen, and 1,380 employed by seafood processors/dealers; 4,176 by seafood wholesalers/distributors; and 32,426 by the retail sector.

Home to six major fishing ports, New Jersey fishermen reeled in 161.6 million pounds of seafood in 2009, valued at more than $149 million at all port combined. Four ports rank among the top 15 ports on the Eastern Seaboard – Cape May (3rd), Atlantic City (9th), Barnegat Light (10th) and Point Pleasant (11th). And, Cape May is the fifth largest port in the nation, hauling in 63.9 million pounds of seafood valued at $73.4 million.

New Jersey fishermen land more than 100 varieties of finfish and shellfish. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) ranked the state first in the nation for pounds of shellfish landed in 2009, with $28.3 million pounds valued at $8.1 million. The state also ranked first in the landings of clams or bivalves, with 45.3 million pounds worth $27.5 million. In 2009, New Jersey ranked second in the nation in scallop landings with 14 million pounds valued at $90.1 million.

For more information about New Jersey seafood, visit the Jersey Seafood website at

Christie: 'Didn't Get Sent Here To Be Elected Prom King'

From New Jersey Governor Chris Chrtistie's signing of the landmark pension and benefits reform bill on Tuesday In Trenton.

Exclusive: 100 Things To Love About America

In honor of Independence Day we proudly present (in no particular order) One Hundred Things To Love About America.
This is our own rather subjective list.
You can feel free to add or subtract from this list or create your own list. America gives you the freedom to do that -- and a lot more. God bless America!
1) Our constitution. The thread that holds us together and the bulwark of democracy.
2) Our federal system of 50 states, each distinctive, each free and independent but united as well.
3) The Liberty Bell. Forever flawed though nonetheless inspiring and eternal.
4) The Founding Fathers and what they wrought. They risked their lives, property, fortunes and sacred honor.
5) American summers, for summer is surely America's season.
6) Old glory, our flag -- proud, bright, brash and always flying high.
7) In God We Trust. Our ensuing faith in Him and His destiny for us.
8) Baseball. While football may be America's sport, baseball remains its pastime. There is a difference.
9) The 4th of July. Our birthday and our touchstone.
10) Free elections. The right to choose the leaders that we want.
11) Jazz. America's unique musical art form.
12) Those who served. Our veterans, protectors of our freedom.
13) The American Red Cross. There when we need them.
14) Our free enterprise system. A model for the entire world.
15) Country music. The hip-slapping spirit of America.
16) Hollywood. Tinseltown and its gift to the world -- movies.
17) The Statue of Liberty. May her torch always be held high.
18) Walt Disney. The gift of imagination and wholesome entertainment from an American genius.
19) Our military --every branch and every one who serves.
20) The Grand Canyon. In a word, breathtaking.
21) The legacy of Ronald Reagan -- the leader who showed us the way and opened the door to the 21st Century.
22) Freedom to worship, Our many houses of faith all across the land.
23) The Interstate Highway System. Thank you, President Eisenhower.
24) Our first responders, brave and steadfast.
25) Small towns. Where America's heart beats true.
26) Television. For better or worse, it reflects us and epitomizes the popular culture.
27) Our farmers. Keeping the agrarian spirit alive and the horn of plenty full.
28) Broadway. The Great White Way, and all that it represents and all the hustle and bustle that surrounds it.
29) American cars (and our love affair with the car). The US auto industry has seen better days but don't ever count it out.
30) Coca-Cola. The drink that IS America.
31) Las Vegas. Vegas, baby, Vegas!
32) Thanksgiving. A uniquely American holiday and the kickoff to our buying season.
33) The Rocky Mountains. America's sturdy backbone.
34) Neighbors and neighborhoods. Our real time, real people link in a high-tech age.
35) Our national park system. Even with those pesky rangers, it's a joy.
36) The Grand Old Party. The Party that saved the union -- keeping faith in America through good times and bad.
37) Apple pie. Yummy, yummy!
38) Gospel music. Expressing faith, love, joy and anguish.
39)The Gateway Arch. A soaring, inspiring welcome to America's frontier.
40) Cowboys. The soul of our wanderlust.
41) Elvis Presley. The King is on the premises.
42) McDonald's -- every one of them and every diner and roadside eatery in between.
43) Horticulture. Roses and marigolds and azaleas and magnolias and all those other beautiful flowers and all the people who help make them bloom.
44) Our volunteer spirit -- from Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys right up to the present day.
45) Those who gave their all. All those who died protecting our freedoms, many buried on foreign soil. And all POWs and MIAs. We shall never forget.
46) A free press. We love them. We hate them. We curse them. We praise them. But where would we be without them?
47) The blues. Sad, sultry, soulful.
48) Andy Warhol. He made the ordinary extraordinary.
49) Starbucks. Keeping us alert and ready.
50) Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey. Still the greatest show on earth!
51) Big Sur and the entire California coast, from top to bottom.
52) Free public libraries. Learn, baby, learn!
53) Our system of higher education -- especially our great public universities.
54) The legacy of Norman Rockwell. The man who showed us the best in ourselves.
55) Texas. Big. Bold. Proud. American.
56) Ferris wheels. From the 1893 Chicago World's Fair till now, still enchanting.
57) The Kentucky Derby. The legendary run for the roses.
58) Mount Rushmore. Our history wrought mammoth.
59) The Smithsonian. Endlessly fascinating and free.
60) NASA. To the moon and beyond.
61) Rush Limbaugh. The inimitable, indestructible Maharushdie.
62) The South. Lush land of tall tales, spirited music, colorful characters and firey history.
63) Hot dogs. Plump, juicy and smothered with your choice of dressings, garnishes, condiments, whatever . .
64) Home sweet home. The house you live it; your land, your property, your domicile.

65) The Great Lakes. Can you name all five of them?
66) Grandma Moses. The modern-day mother or primitive American art.
67) Marilyn Monroe. Defying convention, she made America sexy once and for all.
68) The Mississippi. Mighty from top to bottom and everywhere in between.
69) The Indy 500. Vrrroooomm, vrrrrroooomm!
70) The great wits. From Mark Twain to Will Rogers to Dorothy Parker to Art Buchwald to Erma Bombeck to P. J. O'Rourke.
71) The heartland. From Ohio to Iowa, where ordinary, everyday America thrives.
72) Blue jeans. On the farm, in the city and everywhere else.
73) "God Bless America." The people's anthem that Irving Berlin wrote just for us.
74) Independence Hall. Where it all began.
75) The Lincoln Memorial and the man it celebrates. The ultimate monument to the single most compelling figure in American history.
76) Rock 'n roll (aka rock). Rhythm 'n blues, jazz, honkey talk, soul, gospel -- all rolled into one.
77) The West. Where our restless spirit was born.
78) Sneakers. from PF Flyers, Keds and Chuck Taylor Converse to a $13 billion a year industry, we love 'em.
79) The Drudge Report. Because we need to know.
80) Barbecue. Beef or pork, wet or dry, hot or sweet, it's America.
81) The Washington Monument. The highest point in the capital and a fitting tribute to the father of our country.
82) Alaska and Hawaii. Our exotic and adventurous extremes.
83) Uncle Sam. When he calls, be sure to answer.
84) The Stars and Stripes Forever, and all of those great Sousa marches and their Sousa bands.
85) Native Americans. This land is their land.
86) Chicago architecture. Art that we live in, work in, play in; a living lesson in soaring beauty; a skyline to emulate.
87) Walt Whitman. "I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear . . . "
88) U. S. Olympic athletes. "USA! USA! USA!"
89) Our storytelling tradition and the Great American Novel.
90) New Orleans. A sassy, saucy, scintillating survivor.
91) Rugged individualists, gadflies, iconoclasts, muckrakers and all those who afflict the powerful. Charge onward!
92) Harley Davidson. Still the king of the road.
93) Geeks. Zuckerberg, Jobs, Wozniak, Gates and the whole damned Silicon Valley.
94) Comics and comic books. From zany dimwits and lovable losers to iconic super heroes.
95) Truckers and truck stops. Keep on Rollin!
96) New England. Lobster, chowder, rugged seacoasts and cherished traditions.
97) Scientific pioneers. The searchers, the discoverers, the trailblazers and all those who make the breakthroughs that enrich and lengthen our lives.
98) American fashion. From Ralph and Tommy and Donna and Vera. From Seventh Avenue to the world.
99) Willie Nelson. Is there any one he hasn't sung with or any genre of music he hasn't yet recorded?
100) The American Dream. A better life for our children and our children's children. Always, our best days lie ahead.
Copyright 2011 by Daniel A. Cirucci.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

People Are Fearful; The Flash Mobs Must End!

Here are the results thus far of an informal Philadelphia Inquirer poll on the flash mob attacks in the city.
It's clear that people are worried and concerned. They want action.
Click here to vote in the poll.
Mob attacks: How concerned are you?
1: No concern at all
  642 (4.1%)
2. Somewhat concerned
  1715 (11.0%)
3. Very concerned
  13277 (84.9%)
Total votes = 15634

When A Racist Isn't A Racist

Great commentary at Fox News from Bernard Goldberg. Here's an excerpt:
Let’s say a white guy goes on television, puts on an exaggerated "Amos ‘n Andy" “black voice” and proceeds to make fun of a black man whose politics the white guy doesn’t like. Actually, let’s say he goes beyond merely making fun of the black man. Let’s say he tries to make the black man sound downright stupid. Does that make the white guy a racist?
The correct answer is … it depends.
If the white guy is Rush Limbaugh and the black man is Barack Obama. Then of course the white guy is a racist – according to liberals.
But if the white guy is Jon Stewart and the black man is Herman Cain, the conservative businessman seeking the Republican nomination for president, well, then, that’s another story.
Click here to read more.

Crunch Time: Team Obama Getting Testy

The word from inside the Beltway is that Mr. Cool & Co. are starting to sweat.
And, they're getting testy.
Ohhh, yeah . . . economic numbers and prospects are apparently not going to be what Team Obama thought they would be. This is not the kind of climate they thought they'd be facing as they move into 2012 campaign mode.
It doesn't look good, folks.
Here's an excerpt from the National Journal:
It’s been a rough June for the White House. Instead of being able to run a campaign taking credit for economic improvement, President Obama will, according to the latest forecasts, be trying to win four more years amid a grim economy next year. The president’s reelection team, once hoping to run on a “Morning in America” theme now doesn’t have that luxury.  No wonder, the president’s advisers over the past month have been making moves that suggest they’re awfully concerned about his prospects.
Click here to read more.

Is Obama Losing Groud With Jewish Dems?

Could President Obama be losing ground with traditionally Democrat Jews?
For decades the Democrat Party has pretty much taken the Jewish vote for granted. And, why not? Jews have pretty much consistently supported the liberal line and voted Democrat. They were one of the keys to Obama's victory in 2008.
True, George W. Bush made some inroads with Jews in 2000 and 2004 and Karl Rove charted what appeared to be the first stages of a sound strategy to peel off thin slices of the Jewish vote -- just enough to begin to make a difference.
While many Jewish voters preferred Hillary in 2008, they fell in line behind Obama despite their doubts about his position on Israel. The economy played a key role in '08 and there was the ever-present factor of liberal guilt as Obama sought to be the first African-American president.
But now, some Jewish voters (enough to give Dems concern) are expressing misgivings and even threatening to bolt.
Here are some excerpts from a story at Politico:
“There’s an inclination in the community to not trust this president’s gut feel on Israel and every time he sets out on a path that’s troubling you do get this ‘ouch’ reaction from the Jewish Community because they’re distrustful of him,” said the president of a major national Jewish organization, who declined to be quoted by name to avoid endangering his ties to the White House. . .
When Obama was running, there was a lot of concern among the guys in my group at shul, who are all late-30s to mid-40s, who I hang out with and daven with and go to dinner with, about Obama,” recalled Scott Matasar, a Cleveland lawyer who’s active in Jewish organizations.Matasar remembers his friends’ worries over whether Obama was “going to be OK for Israel.”. . .
Now Matasar says he’s appalled by Obama’s “rookie mistakes and bumbling” and the reported marginalization of a veteran peace negotiator, Dennis Ross, in favor of aides who back a tougher line on Netanyahu.. . .
“He’d been very ham-handed in the way he presented [the 1967 border announcement] and the way he sprung this on Netanyahu,” Matasar said.
Click here to read more.

BTW: The president is in Philadelphia today for a Big Fundraiser and word is it's getting harder and harder to convince major Jewish allies to write big checks for Obama's campaign. Will any of this make a real difference in the end? Stay tuned.

Video: Campbell's Announces Significant Layoffs

In Philly & NJ: Hear The Call, Get Involved!

Here is a special message from the Independence Hall Tea Party Association:

We have a chance for more success in both Harrisburg and Trenton before the close of the legislative session, June 30.
If you do nothing else today, please do the following:
If you live in PA, please call your State Senator and tell him/her to pass the Voter ID Bill (HB 934) and the EITC Scholarship Bill (HB 1330). Click on the link below to find your Senator.

In you live in NJ, please call Governor Christie's office and ask him to veto S2946, a NJ Cap and Trade (Cap and Tax) Bill that passed the State Senate earlier this week by the narrow margin of 21-19.

Call Governor Christie @ 609.292.6000.

Also, President Obama will be in Philly this Thursday, June 30.
We will hold a 2 PM Fire Obama Press Conference in response.
If you attend, please bring signs that say 'More jobs, Less Spending' or 'Drill, Baby, Drill' or 'Drill More, Spend Less' or 'Obama, a one termer.'

Fire Obama Press Conference
When:  Thursday, June 30, 2 PM
Where:  Outside Bellevue Hotel, 200 South Broad Street, Philadelphia

Obama is expected to arrive around 3 PM.
Finally, don't forget about our 2011 Energy Independence Day Tea Party with Ambassador Bolton and Herman Cain on July 4th. Please note, reservations are required for the Ambassador luncheon and After Party.

Hope to see you soon!
On behalf of the Association Board of Directors,
Teri Adams, President

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Mr. President, Where Are The Jobs?

Ryan King of Midland, Michigan discusses his difficulties in the Obama economy

Christie Signs Landmark Pension, Benefits Reform

Today, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed into law landmark pension and health benefit reform, marking months of hard work, negotiation, compromise and ultimately bipartisan support. The fundamental reforms shake up New Jersey’s out-of-date, antiquated and increasingly expensive pension and health benefit systems and bring to an end years of broken promises and fiscal mismanagement by securing the long-term solvency of the pension and benefit systems. At the same time, critical savings for state and local governments are achieved – pension reform alone will provide savings to New Jersey taxpayers of over $120 billion over the next 30 years, and an additional $3.1 billion over the next 10 years from health benefits reform.

“This is a defining moment in New Jersey’s history. At a time when our state, along with dozens of others around the country are facing unprecedented fiscal challenges, a rarity happened. We stopped just talking about doing the big things and actually delivered. By working together, Republicans and Democrats have shown that when we put action before demagoguery and results before partisanship, we can accomplish great things for the people of New Jersey.

“By daring to be bold and take on the risks of addressing the big issues, we are doing what was once unimaginable – saving billions of dollars for taxpayers, fixing these systems in order to save them, and providing real, long-term fiscal stability for future generations of New Jerseyans.

“I want to once again thank Senate President Sweeney, Speaker Oliver, Senate Minority Leader Kean and Assembly Minority Leader DeCroce for their commitment and leadership in tackling these challenges. Every New Jerseyan can share in this victory that came through cooperation, bipartisanship and compromise,” concluded Governor Christie.

The historic bipartisan legislation was sponsored by Senators Stephen M. Sweeney (D-Salem, Cumberland and Gloucester) and Joseph Pennacchio (R-Morris, Passaic) as well as Assemblypersons Louis D. Greenwald (D-Camden), Declan J. O’Scanlon, Jr. (R-Mercer, Monmouth) and cosponsored by Senator Jennifer Beck (R-Mercer, Monmouth).

Bill Signed: Sen. Allen Champions Medical Choice!

Here's a special shout-out to our own New Jersey State Senator Diane Allen who has courageously and successfully championed medical choice across state lines. 
Senator Allen (R- Burlington/Camden) was the prime sponsor of legislation (S-2959) protecting the ability of public employees to choose their medical providers regardless of state boundaries. Today she thanked Governor Christie for signing her measure as part of the state's landmark pension and health benefits reform package. From Senator Allen:
"New Jersey residents are proud of our state, but healthcare decisions are not a question of pride; they're a question of life and death. If the best prognosis for one's condition can be achieved at an out of state facility, public workers should be able to obtain care at that facility without a bureaucrat looking over his or her shoulder.
"Section 76 of the pension and benefits bill as initially drafted was unacceptable to me, and as I stated on the floor of the Senate my first preference was to remove that section of the pension and benefits bill.
"I am thrilled that any restrictions to out of state medical care have been stricken entirely from the pension and benefits legislation. In the fog of negotiating a massive and urgently needed tax relief and reform package through the legislature, we took the time to get the details of the bill right and ensure that $120 billion in savings to the taxpayers did not come at the expense of patient choice in our healthcare system."
You are right, Senator Allen. And Governor Christie was right to sign your companion bill to the health and benefits reform package. But we also thank YOU for having the courage and determination and simple common sense to champion this measure against the will of some VERY powerful forces.
We thoroughly support your re-election and we will do all that we can to see to it that you continue to serve the people of New Jersey.

Major Media Laud Christie On Pension, Benefits Reform

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is winning plaudits for the pension and benefits reform measure that he engineered. Christie will sign the bill at 1 p.m. today in a special ceremony at the auditorium of the War Memorial Building in Trenton.
Meanwhile, here's what major media are asying about the Governor's latest accomplishment:

New York Post, “The result is a compromise … This is what happens when you govern with your eyes open. Kudos to Christie, once again”:
“New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie pulled off something of a miracle this week -- pushing through a package of pension and benefits cuts for government employees that will save the state $130 billion over the next 30 years. And he did it as the Republican governor of a blue state where Democrats run the House and Senate -- and where unions have long run the Dems. The changes are remarkable.…Christie's reform won't fill that entire hole, but will help avert disasters down the road. And he got help from top Democrats in the Legislature, including Senate Majority Leader Steve Sweeney, who's a union boss in his day job. The result is a compromise, to become law next week, that spares taxpayers from shouldering an unbearable burden. This is what happens when you govern with your eyes open. Kudos to Christie, once again.”  (Editorial, “Christie wins again,” New York Post, 6/25/11)

New York Post, “Jersey Leads Again”:
“… the deal should be a model for New York, which is rapidly sinking under the weight of its own soaring public-pension costs. Under the terms of the agreement, employees will contribute significantly more to their health-care premiums and pension benefits, though still well below what private-sector workers pay…These fixes are long overdue for the Garden State, whose pension and health-care funds are short a total $110 billion, thanks to years of non-payments and soaring costs. (And kudos to Democratic leaders there, who cut this election-year deal despite stiff opposition from the unions and their own members.) New Jersey is just the latest state to acknowledge the need for pension and health-care reform for its public employees. And it's not just Republicans arguing that things have to change. "New Jersey is setting a model for dealing with these problems in an honest, forthright and bipartisan way," said Christie. Now it's time for New York to come to grips with its own grim public-pension and health-care realities. Albany needs to pass reforms -- and never mind what the unions will say.”  (Editorial, “Jersey leads again,” New York Post, 6/17/11)

The Newark Star-Ledger, “Compromise. Tackling A Critical Issue…The Deal Saves Money. Billions. And We Applaud It”  
“It’s the Miracle of State Street: a historic agreement to roll back pension and health benefits for public employees — forged across party lines, with a testy governor and a reluctant Assembly leader, despite angry union opposition and a Democratic civil war. Compromise. Tackling a critical issue. Legislators doing what’s best for the state instead of what’s politically expedient for them — while telling unions to take a flying leap into the Delaware River. Whoa, this is still New Jersey, right? Is it the perfect deal? Of course not. Those are rare in politics — especially when emotions are involved. Is it a good deal for taxpayers? Unquestionably. It’s the first knot in the rescue rope as the state tries to pull itself out of a terrifyingly deep $120 billion pension and health benefits hole while also plotting a course toward long-term solvency…There is plenty of credit to go around: to Christie for prodding lawmakers and agreeing to compromises; to state Senate President Stephen Sweeney for starting this work before Christie arrived; to Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver for standing up to her caucus and the unions…The deal saves money. Billions. And we applaud it.”  (Editorial, “Benefits deal puts state on the right track,” The Newark Star-Ledger Editorial Board, 6/17/11)

The Bergen Record, “Radical change is needed. And radical change has arrived”:
“New Jersey's public pension and health care system is not sustainable as it exists. Radical change is needed. And radical change has arrived. To borrow from Don McLean's famous song, it is not so much goodbye to American pie. Public employees will still have pie. They will just have to pay more for a slice.”  (Editorial, “Day the unions died,” The Record, 6/19/11)

Wall Street Journal, “Mr. Christie Has Changed The Terms Of Political Debate In New Jersey, But Mr. Sweeney Deserves Special Taxpayer Praise For Bucking His Party's Union Base”:
“Republican Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey and the state's top two Democratic leaders struck a deal on Wednesday to modify public employee retirement and health benefits, which would save the state at least $122 billion over the next 30 years. Unions like to portray such reforms as GOP assaults on labor, but Garden State Democrats are demonstrating that saving taxpayer money isn't always partisan…While the compromise with Democrats scales back Mr. Christie's original proposal, it's still a large step in the right direction…Mr. Christie has changed the terms of political debate in New Jersey, but Mr. Sweeney deserves special taxpayer praise for bucking his party's union base.”  (Editorial, “Democrats for Pension Reform,” Wall Street Journal, 6/17/11)

The Bergen Record, “Public employees have to contribute more toward pensions and health benefits if both systems are to be sustained”:
“Make no mistake, we approve of almost all of the deal made among Governor Christie, state Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, D-Essex. Public employees have to contribute more toward pensions and health benefits if both systems are to be sustained.” (Editorial, “A Poison Pill,” The Record, 6/21/11)

Daily Record, “The state’s pension and benefits reforms .. are absolutely essential if the state ever hopes to climb its way out of the fiscal hole it finds itself in”:
“The state’s pension and benefits reforms are hardly draconian. But they are absolutely essential if the state ever hopes to climb its way out of the fiscal hole it finds itself in…These harsh realities for public union workers have been business as usual in the private sector for years. Now, however unfortunately, public-sector employees will feel that same tightened economic noose.”  (Editorial, “Union workers joining the club,” Daily Record, 6/25/11)

The Gloucester County Times, “[Legislators] should take courage in the knowledge that they will be doing the right thing, the responsible thing, for all New Jersey citizens”:
“Today’s workers and retirees are running up larger bills for health care than in the past. Also, today’s retirees are living longer than their predecessors, drawing monthly pension checks for many more years than anticipated when the plans were first set up. Union leaders want to keep health and pension benefits as the exclusive perquisite of collective bargaining, but that’s how New Jersey got into this mess. Legislators forced to listen to outraged state workers should take courage in the knowledge that they will be doing the right thing, the responsible thing, for all New Jersey citizens by keeping employee costs manageable.”  (Editorial, “Stay the course and fix benefits,” Gloucester County Times Editorial Board, 6/19/11)

Times of Trenton,  “NJ pension, health benefits reform is a necessary first step”:
“The simple conclusion is that something had to give. In this case, a great many things gave…Giving up more of their salaries toward their benefits will be a burden on the 500,000 workers affected by the changes. But it’s no more onerous than what their friends and neighbors who are employed in the private sector have been going though since the recession began. It’s easy to cast this as a case of Democrat vs. Republican, workers vs. the wealthy. Of course, it’s much more complex than that… The state Senate Budget Committee did the right thing last week in approving the overhaul. We encourage the full Senate to do the same today, and urge the Assembly to follow suit.”  (Editorial, “N.J. pension, health benefits reform is a necessary first step,” Times of Trenton Editorial Board, 6/20/11)

The Trentonian, “That unseemly symbiosis was long, long overdue for a challenge”:
“This measure — a legislative monument to Gov. Chris Christie’s resolution and tenacity — and refusal to be cowed — is indeed, as he said, “a watershed moment.”… It has previously been all about politics in that Democratic lawmakers were heretofore all too eager to do the bidding of public-sector unions and benefit, in return, from the unions’ direct-dollar and in-kind campaign assistance. That unseemly symbiosis was long, long overdue for a challenge.”  (Editorial, “It’s about time NJ faces reality,” The Trentonian, 6/21/11)

Philadelphia Inquirer, “The Agreement Is Laudatory As An Example Of Bipartisan Compromise”
“For months, battle lines have been drawn in New Jersey's debate over health and pension benefits for state workers. On most days, compromise seemed out of the question. But now, Republican Gov. Christie and Democratic Senate President Stephen Sweeney are making progress with bipartisan legislation that would force public employees to pay more for benefits and raise the retirement age for new employees from 62 to 65. The unions have balked at not being able to negotiate concessions under collective bargaining. But with New Jersey facing an obvious and escalating problem, the Senate budget committee Thursday understandably approved the Christie/Sweeney proposal. Whatever shortcomings the measure may have, it is welcome news to taxpayers who want to see spending decreased…the agreement is laudatory as an example of bipartisan compromise…” (Editorial, “Progress on benefits,” Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/17/11)

Tom Moran, The Newark Star-Ledger, “New Jersey Politics Worked Thursday Because The Leadership On All Sides Showed Courage”:
“Mark this as the day that the spell was broken, the day that the public worker unions finally lost their stranglehold on the Legislature, the day that Democrats ginned up the courage to confront the most important special interest group in their coalition. Union leaders were in a daze, like jilted lovers who couldn’t believe the breakup was actually happening. This is Jersey, and they have been kings for a long time, even when Republicans were in power…That’s right. New Jersey politics worked Thursday because the leadership on all sides showed courage. Strange as it may seem to say this, the state was well served by its politicians. Gov. Chris Christie pushed this cause hard, and to great effect. Despite his pugilistic style in public, he made key compromises behind closed doors that allowed this to happen. Senate President Steve Sweeney came up large as well. Many of his fellow Democrats hate him for it, as do the public worker unions. He wants to run for higher office, and this could snuff his chances. But he did it anyway. The surprise was Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver. Her fellow Democrats constantly whisper that she is a weak leader, and is tainted because she won the speakership through a backroom deal arranged by the bosses. But this was her defining moment…We don’t see this kind of behavior in Washington these days. Sweeney and Oliver are confronting their own coalition, telling the unions they can’t have their way because its simply unreasonable.” (Tom Moran, “Real leadership sang louder than N.J. unions' tired refrains,” The Star-Ledger, 6/17/11)

Alfred P. Doblin, The Bergen Record, “The World As We Know It May Never Be The Same”:
“Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, D-Essex, and Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, joined with Republican Governor Christie and state Republican minority leaders in announcing an agreement on reforms to the public pension and employee health benefits systems. The world as we know it may never be the same. Public employee unions are up in arms. The New Jersey Education Association is desperate. It has long been able to do what it wants because it controlled public officials. It is fast becoming irrelevant. Key Democrats are no longer concerned about union support. When the moon is eclipsed, tides do strange things…In Wisconsin, Democrats fled, rather than vote for union reforms. In New Jersey, Democrats bled. They are fighting to the death over what it means to be a Democrat, right here and now. They are in a tough place. They can defy the leadership they elected and stand with unions and hope those unions can get them reelected. Or they can risk standing up to those unions and enact sweeping reforms…And as for the unions rallying against Sweeney, Oliver and Christie, it’s too late. The tide has gone out, that ship has sailed and Chris Christie is at the helm.”  (Alfred P. Doblin, “Public unions are left high and dry,” The Record, 6/17/11)

Jennifer Rubin, Wall Street Journal, “Unflinching Resolve By The Governor And A Responsible Leader Of The State Senate”:
“This is New Jersey. No tax hikes. No end to collective bargaining. Just unflinching resolve by the governor and a responsible leader of the state senate. By gosh, if Democrats in Trenton can forgo tax hikes and pass real entitlement cuts, can’t they do it in D.C.?”  (Jennifer Rubin, “Christie’s breakthrough deal,” Wall Street Journal, 6/17/11)

The Burlington County Times, “It Is Bipartisan — A Compromise Between A Republican Governor And A Democratic State Senate President”:
“New Jersey’s public employee pension system is on life support — so desperately underfunded that retirees in the very near future may be issued IOUs. But here we are, looking at empty coffers. Something has to be done. The same goes for benefits costs. Counties and municipalities can’t continue to pay the lion’s share of health insurance premiums, which are exempt from the 2 percent cap, without raising taxes. Something has to be done. We realize the Sweeney/Christie bill isn’t perfect. But it is bipartisan — a compromise between a Republican governor and a Democratic state Senate president. Who would have predicted that six months ago?”  (Editorial, “Focus on education,” The Burlington County Times, 6/17/11)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Restaurant Reviews: Philly, DC, Hilton Head

We've had a chance to enjoy some really fine restaurants lately (with some good value) and we'd like to tell you about them.
In Philadelphia we stopped for a lovely Italian dinner with friends at Bellini (220 S. 16th St.)  where we enjoyed dining in a warmly lit dining area surrounded by beautifully hand painted Italian murals.
The place is intimate and welcoming and the management and staff go out of their way to please.
Bellini features a full menu with fresh, homemade pastas, fish, risotto, poultry and free range meats. Entrees are in the $18 - $25 range. If you don't see what you want on the menu at Bellini (or if you would like to alter your dish in some way) just ask and they'll be happy to accommodate you. Everything is done with a personal touch. Reservations are recommended -- particularly on weekends. We think you'll like Bellini.
In Washington we hit one of the town's new dining hot spots, Founding Farmers.
This place is one of the country’s leading restaurants to offer farm-inspired American "true" food and drink in a modern, casual setting. The interior is comfortable and down-to-earth with whimsical decorative touches. There's a lighthearted feel about Founding Farmers. From this "modern farmhouse," breakfast, lunch, dinner and brunch menus include homemade and ‘scratch-made’ traditional American classics inspired by the heartland. A collective of American family farmers actually owns the restaurant. They source their fresh products from family farms, ranches, and fisheries from across the United States.
In short, Founding Farmers is a place whee you will find great comfort food at reasonable prices in a delightful atmosphere that is refreshingly unpretentious. Dinner entrees run from $18 to $32 and reservations are a must.
Finally, here in Hilton Head we've just enjoyed the new Flatbread Cafe near Coligny Plaza in the space formerly occupied by Hinchey's.
Yes, Flatbread Cafe does feature what the name implies but this place boasts a sleek bar and a fresh, open, eclectic feel with a menu that includes soups, salads, sandwiches, pasta and one of the best pizzas we've ever tasted. The thin-crust pizza was fresh, flavorful, aromatic and cooked to perfection. Outdoor dining is available on a beautiful new deck and brick and wood interior is downright cool. Pizzas are priced from $8.95 to $18.95 depending on size and trimmings. It's a welcome addition to our favorite island.

Michelle's Trip Costs Us $700,000 to $800,000

Here's an excerpt from a very informative column by Keith Koffler at his White House Dossier:

First Lady Michelle Obama’s trip to South Africa and Botswana last week cost taxpayers well over half a million dollars, possibly in the range of $700,000 or $800,000, according to an analysis by White House Dossier.
Many of the trip’s expenses cannot be obtained with specificity, including the cost of local transportation for the first lady, Secret Service protection, the care and feeding of staffers, and pre-trip advance work done by administration officials in South Africa.
Click here for more.

Former Illinos Governor Guilty On 17 Counts

Ousted Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich was found guilty Monday on 17 counts. Paired with a conviction on lying to the FBI from his first trial, he faces up to 305 years in prison, though his sentence will likely be much shorter. Each count carries a maximum penalty of five to 20 years.
Click here for more.

Chris Christie Reveals His Big, Fat, Closeted Secret

We know that New Jersey's Governor has said it a million times: He's not running for President in 2012. No way.
And we believe Chris Christie when he says it.
We take him at his word.
But what if Chris Christie does decide to run someday? What if?
If and when that day comes and the media decide to shine a white hot light on him, what will they find? If they look into his closets and beneath the rugs and under his bed, what will they find?
Well, that's exactly the question that Don Imus decided to ask Chris Christie this morning.Imus wanted to know: "What are you holding back? What will they find?"
And here's how Chris Chritie answered: “You know what Don, you’re the only guy I can share this with, I’m fat. If they put the bright light on me I’m going to sweat.”

Philly Flash Mob Breaks Woman's Leg

Another day, another flash mob.
The memories of a flash mob looting of a nearby department store were still fresh when a mob of young people attacked again near the center of Philadelphia's downtown area Saturday.
This time the young thugs were after pedestrians.
They shouted "run, run" and then they swarmed, breaking someone's leg and injuring others.
Yes, these mobs have hit other cities as well: Chicago and Washington to name a couple.
But I'm talking about Philly now because this is what I'm most familiar with and most concerned about.
Let's be clear on this: The flash mob attacks must end if the city is to have any future whatsoever. Forget "Philly Rising." Philly ain't goin nowhere but down if these hooligans are allowed to continue rampaging through city streets.
And as Mayor Michael Nutter seeks re-election, he'd better get on the case, pronto lest he find an newly-emerged independent candidate snapping at his heels.
Mature, law-abiding, taxpaying citizens are not amused -- not one bit.
Here's an excerpt from this morning's Philadelphia Daily News:
A woman's leg was broken and several other people were injured Saturday night when a large group of teens accosted pedestrians in Spring Garden, police and witnesses said.
Philadelphia police responded to two reports of pedestrians being assaulted by a large group of young people along Broad Street about 9:30 p.m.
One of those reports came from Emily Guendelsberger, 27, city editor for local arts and entertainment content for the Onion, the satirical newspaper and website. She was walking with seven friends on Green Street near Broad when they were accosted, she said. Guendelsberger, who remained hospitalized with a broken leg yesterday, declined to comment further.
A friend who was with her at the time, Daily News staff writer Molly Eichel, said that they were walking down Green Street when a group of teens was walking down Broad. "We heard kids yell, 'Run, run,' " Eichel said. "Some kid just came out of nowhere and punched my friend Charlie in the face."
Eichel said that when her group tried to run, about 20 teens chased them down the street. "They were kicking kids down and punching them when they were down," she said.
Click here for more on this story.

A Musical Talent Worthy Of Recognition

Did I mention how much I like Darius Rucker?
Rucker first gained fame as the lead singer and rhythym huitarist of the rock band Hootie & the Blowfish, which he founded in 1986 at the University of South Carolina along with Dean Felber, Mark Bryam and Jim "Soni" Sonefeld The band released five studio albums with him as a member, and charted six top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100. Rucker co-wrote the majority of the band's songs with the other three members.
But after releasing a solo R & B album Rucker signed with Capitol Nashville and re-emerged as a country singer. And he's never lookes back.
His album Learn To Live scored big time with the single Don't Think I Don't Think About In 2009 Rucker became the first African-American to win the Best New Artist Award from the Country Music Association.
Right now I'm listening to Rucker's second album, Charleston, South Carolina 1966. It's beautiful. He has wonderful voice -- superb inflection and timing. I particularly like the song Southern State of Mind. It sums up everything about  the South that's good and decent -- friendliness, honest values, a sense of place and purpose, a distinct identity.
It's fitting that we're reflecting on all this while we're here in South Carolina. To put it quite simply, the sweetness of the South is intoxicating.
Darius Rucker was born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina, where his family history goes back generations. His single mother, Carolyn, who was a nurse, raised him with his five siblings: three sisters and two brothers. According to Rucker, his father was "never around," and Rucker only saw him before church on Sundays. His father was in a gospel band called The Rolling Stones. Rucker has said that he had a "typical Southern, African-American upbringing." His family attended church every Sunday and was economically poor, and at one point, his mother, her two sisters, his grandmother and 14 children were all living in a three-bedroom home.  Even so, he says that he looks back on his childhood "with very fond memories."
Here's what Rucker said in 2008: "You see a lot of people doing a one-off, saying, 'This is my country record.' But this is a career I'm trying to build. The people that say that they don't get it, I'll let the music speak for itself. I plan to do a lot of country records."
Darius Rucker doesn't have to convince me or anyone else that he's a great singer, a genuine artist in song and a real honest-to-goodness member of the country music family. Rucker proves that talent, hard work and determination still count for something. Yes, his music does speak for itself.
But don't take my word for it. Just remember that Frank Sinatra asked Rucker to sing at his 80th birthday party. Ole Blue Eyes knew talent when he saw (and heard) it.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

NY Bishops 'Deeply Disappointed, Troubled'

The following is a statement from Archbishop Timothy Dolan and the bishops of New York State: 
The passage by the Legislature of a bill to alter radically and forever humanity’s historic understanding of marriage leaves us deeply disappointed and troubled.
We strongly uphold the Catholic Church’s clear teaching that we always treat our homosexual brothers and sisters with respect, dignity and love. But we just as strongly affirm that marriage is the joining of one man and one woman in a lifelong, loving union that is open to children, ordered for the good of those children and the spouses themselves. This definition cannot change, though we realize that our beliefs about the nature of marriage will continue to be ridiculed, and that some will even now attempt to enact government sanctions against churches and religious organizations that preach these timeless truths.
We worry that both marriage and the family will be undermined by this tragic presumption of government in passing this legislation that attempts to redefine these cornerstones of civilization.
Our society must regain what it appears to have lost – a true understanding of the meaning and the place of marriage, as revealed by God, grounded in nature, and respected by America’s foundational principles.”

Michelle: 'Surreal' Mandela Meeting 'Like Thanksgiving'

Upon meeting Nelson Mandela in Africa, First Lady Michelle Obama was beyond awestruck.
In fact, she describes meeting Mandela as "surreal."
It has occurred to me that "surreal" is a word that's thrown around a lot these days. In fact, it's used almost as frequently as "awesome" and often seems to be used interchangeably with that word.
But what does "surreal" really mean?
The dictionary describes "surreal' as marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream. The emphasis are mine. The word comes from the art form known as surrealism: "the principles, ideals, or practice of producing fantastic or incongruous imagery or effects in art, literature, film, or theater by means of unnatural or irrational juxtapositions and combinations."
But why would this meeting be in any way irrational or incongruous? Michelle Obama is First Lady. It's perfectly rational and normal for her to be meeting people of this caliber from all over the world. 
And why would it be dreamlike? It might understandably be a dream come true. But that doesn't necessarily make it dreamlike.
Furthermore, how is it that anything that's "surreal" would be like the most commonly-celebrated American holiday, Thanksgiving? How many surreal Thanksgivings have you had?
Anyway, here's an excerpt on Michelle's comments from Politico::
First lady Michelle Obama flies back into D.C. early Monday from her weeklong goodwill tour of Africa, and Sunday she told ABC’s “This Week” of a “surreal” meeting with statesman Nelson Mandela and the trip’s effect on her two daughters.
Obama met Mandela without her husband, President Barack Obama, who did not travel to Africa, but was surrounded by the 92-year-old former South African president’s family, an environment she described as “surreal,” “powerful” and “sort of like Thanksgiving Dinner.”
Asked by ABC’s David Muir what she said to Mandela, who led South Africa from the yoke of racial apartheid to become its first black president, the first lady said: “I told him you cannot imagine how important your legacy is to who I am, to who my husband is, I just said thank you, thank you, thank you."
Read more:
My recommendation: Let's chuck the word "surreal" for awhile. Let's give it a rest. 

Christie Won't Support Gay Marriage. And This Is News?

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie went on Meet The Press and was asked if he would sign a gay marriage bill if it came to his desk.
Christie said "no."
For the life of me, I can't understand why the media are trying to turn this into a major story.
It's not.
Christie's views on this subject have always been clear: He supports civil unions but not gay marriage. He believes marriage defines a relationship between one man and one woman. That's it.
Chris Christie made this very clear during his campaign for the office he now holds. And as many times as Christie has been asked about this, the answer has always been the same: no.
Chris Christie is quick to point out that he's vehemently opposed to discrimination based on sexual orientation. He supports equal rights and benefits for gay partners in civil unions and all other rights accorded to gay people. It's just that he draws the line at marriage.
Marriage is for one man and one woman,
Oh, I know that New York State recently lagalized gay marriage and that's thought to be a Big Deal.
But Christie's hardly out of step. As I understand it, New York state is only the sixth state to legalize gay marriage. That leaves 44 other states that haven't legalized it.
Like more than a few states, New Jersey permits legally-sanctioned civil unions. New Jersey took the lead on this and until very long ago such a move was thought to be enlightened. Now, in some people's minds, it's no longer enough.
But in Chris Chritie's world "no" means no.
If the State Legislature of New Jersey feels that strongly about legalizing gay marriage, they can do it. They'll simply have to gather enough votes to override Governor Christie's veto.
BTW: With all of the issues facing the State of New Jersey (not the least of which is the state's dire fiscal predicament) it would seem illogical if this became a defining issue in the upcoming legislative races or in the next gubernatorial campaign. But this issue seems to be all wrapped up in  passion and emotion (not logic) and key Democrats such as Senate President Steve Sweeney are already seeking to placate angry liberals by doing mea culpas about any doubts they might have had about gay marriage in the first place. So, expect this to be a rallying point for those on the left.
And, as Obama seeks to solidify his base while facing what appears to be a tough re-election battle, expect
him to move closer to supporting gay marriage as well -- he's already signaled as much.
To people like Sweeney and Obama and the Cuomos "no" can actually mean maybe or even yes.
But Chris Christie has thus far refused to operate that way.
What part of NO don't you understand?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Sinatra's Salacious Secrets - But Only Till 1954

It's a tome of a book.
At more than 700 pages you would think that James Kaplan's big new book on Sinatra entitled Frank, The Voice would cover the entirety of Sinatra's life.
That's what I thought.
But I didn't bother to read the book jacket very carefully. This book only covers the years from 1915 to 1954. It chronicles Sinatra's rise and fall and then his amazing comeback via his Oscar-winning performance as Maggio in From Here To Eternity. The book proves the truth of an old saying: A setback is nothing more than a setup for a comeback.
I've lived that saying -- but that's another story.
And wow, did Sinatra have to work for his comeback. Still, his then-wife, the ravishing Ava Gardner really helped him to achieve his goal.
But Frank and Ava were just too much alike -- and too combustible. True, they were very much in love and their love was passionate. Yet, it was not to be. The fights were legendary and invariably involved wandering eyes, vivid imaginations and petty jealousies. She was so beautiful and alluring to men and he was so charismatic and attractive to women that they just couldn't seem to trust one another.
The stress of being one of the most famous couples in the world also got to them.
Was Ava an alcoholic? She could through them back alongside any man, that's for sure. She could match most men one-for-one. Was Frank bipolar? Even though the term didn't exist then, his mood swings were huge. He was volcanic one moment and sullen and introspective the next. He had to take downers late at night and uppers when he finally awoke in the afternoon.
Ava once said that the problems between the two of them were not in the bedroom. Rather, she explained the problems arose "on the way to the bidet."
Indeed, they were both said to be remarkably adept sexually, if only by virtue of their endowments. And those endowments allowed them to gain a good deal of early experience in the boudoir before they even hooked up. Ava was undeniably voluptuous and Frank, though relatively short and pencil-thin, was big in just the right place.
In this book there's a story about a reporter peppering Ava backstage during one of Frank's performances at a point in his career when Frank was hard-pressed to fill the seats in even a medium-sized auditorium.
"What do you see in him, Ava?" The reporter asked. "He's just a 119-pound loser."
"Yeah," Ava answered, "but he's 19-pounds of c - - k."
That was enough to silence the reporter.
And in early 1950s America, no reporter could print such a quote.
Anyway, it wasn't until I was more than 550 pages into this book that I realized that it only covered the first portion of Sinatra's life. I have a habit of picking up a book and reading the first 20 or 30 pages and if I like it, I just keep reading. I never look to see how many pages it has and I never jump ahead or skip pages.
I've always been this way with every book I've ever read ever since I was a child.
So, I was worried for the author because I could tell that I was about three-quarters of the way (or more) through the book and Kaplan was still chronicling the events of 1952. I should have known.
I presume that Kaplan will produce another volume. I hope so. He's a damned good writer.
Oh, here's another interesting fact from the book: While she was married to Sinatra, Ava Gardner slept with director John Farrow who was then directing her in one of her films. Farrow was the father of Mia Farrow who later hooked up with Sinatra for a notorious May-December pairing. So, Sinatra eventually married the daughter of one of his wife's lovers.
Ahhh . . . . . Hollywood!

Patricia Merbreier, AKA "Mrs. Noah," Passes Away At 86

"Send your pictures to dear old Captain Noah..."

As a child growing up in the Philadelphia area, I couldn't help but watch Captain Noah and His Magic Ark. It was almost mandatory.

Sadly, Patricia Merbreier, our beloved Mrs. Noah, has passed away.

From the online story at

Patricia Merbreier, 86, beloved by children for decades as television's "Mrs. Noah," died Thursday night after a prolonged illness.

Along with her husband, W. Carter Merbreier, she cohosted the long-running program Captain Noah and His Magical Ark.

Captain and Mrs. Noah (as they referred to each other even in their personal lives) invited scores of newsmakers and celebrities onto their program, which ran from 1967 until 1994. Among those guests were Elvis Presley, Charles Barkley, Jim Henson, Jon Stewart, the Phillie Phanatic, Frank Purdue, and Martina Navratilova.

Though the stars came out to shine on the unsinkable Ark, the program's bread and butter were vintage cartoons and rough-hewn puppets. While the extravagantly side-burned Captain was on the bridge, Mrs. Noah worked below decks as the puppeteer bringing to life a mischievious cast of supporting characters that included Wally the Walrus, Mumwup the Monster, and Maurice the Mouse.

The good captain and his lovely wife entertained children for well over 25 years. We've lost a Philly TV icon and she will be missed.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Christie To NJ Dems: Stop Playing Budget Games

Today, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie released the following statement:

“The proposed budget from the Democrats is just more of the same unrealistic, pie in the sky, fantasy budgeting they brought to New Jersey for the eight years before we arrived. Instead of continuing to put New Jersey on strong fiscal footing, this proposal reaffirms the Democrats’ commitment to job-killing tax increases and an unrepentant addiction to spending. New Jerseyans are the most over-taxed citizens in America and they want us to reduce spending and make government smaller. This proposal only serves to denigrate all of the hard choices made over the last year that broke from decades of state government spending money that just doesn’t exist.

“New Jerseyans know better and aren’t going to fall for the same spend at any cost mentality that got us into a fiscal mess in the first place.”

Christie Certifies Total Funds For Budget

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie today certified the total funds available to be appropriated for the Fiscal Year 2012 State Budget. The certification fulfills the constitutional obligation of the Governor to provide an official revenue statement identifying the total amount of revenue on hand and anticipated which will be available to meet appropriations during Fiscal Year 2012.

The Governor’s certification reflects a total of $29,640,697,000 in revenue available for the Fiscal Year 2012 Budget, and $696,366,000 in undesignated fund balances, resulting in a combined total of $30,337,063,000. These figures comport with the May 17 budget hearing testimony of state Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff.

“As required under our state Constitution and consistent with budget testimony delivered to the Legislature by the state Treasurer, I am submitting a certification of available revenue that is both realistic and achievable,” said Governor Christie. “Following modest revenue estimates that are based in reality is the only responsible course to avoid the same type of panicked, mid-year cuts that have plagued overly optimistic budget projections in prior years. That is our limit and our guidepost in developing a responsible, balanced and constitutional state budget.”

Under Article VIII, Section II, Paragraph 2 of the New Jersey Constitution, the Governor has the exclusive responsibility to certify revenues available to support a constitutional balanced budget.

Peter Falk 'Columbo' Dies At 83; Details

Peter Falk seemed born to play the role of Columbo on the TV series of the same name. But the fact is that he was a multi-talented actor who even played classic roles and was a standout in live drama.
Word out of Hollywood is that Falk has died at 83. He died peacefully in his sleep.
Falk became famous for his shambling manner and rumpled raincoat as detective Lt. Columbo.
Falk earned two Oscar nominations in the early '60s and won an Obie (an off-Broadway honor) for his performance in Eugene O'Neill's "The Iceman Cometh".
But who can forget him as that polite, raincoat-wearing, Peugeot-driving Los Angeles police detective who always wanted to know "just one more thing."
That line became so popular that Falk used it as the title of his memoir.
The character, which originated with "Columbo" writers and producers William Link and Richard Levinson, was given a unique spin by the actor.
"Before we ever had a script or anything, I was attracted to the idea of playing a character that housed within himself two opposing traits," Falk told CNN's Larry King in 2005. "On the one hand (he was) a regular Joe, Joe Six-Pack, the neighbor like everybody else. But, at the same time, the greatest homicide detective in the world. Now that's a great combination, and you can do a lot with that combination."
Here's an excerpt from Falk's story as reported by CNN:
Peter Michael Falk was born in New York City on September 16, 1927, and raised in Ossining, New York. After military service, he earned a master's in public administration and went to work for the Connecticut State Budget Bureau in Hartford as an efficiency expert.
"I was doing exactly what I was born not to do," he wrote in his memoir.
However, Hartford had a small theater troupe, and Falk immediately joined, which led to participation in other companies. Within a couple years -- while still working as a civil servant -- he was set to play Richard III at a summer workshop in Westport when, he says, a statement from acting teacher Eva Le Gallienne changed his life.
As Le Gallienne upbraided him for his chronic lateness -- he had to drive 45 minutes from Hartford every week -- Falk confessed that he wasn't really an actor. "Well, you should be," Le Gallienne replied, and that was enough for Falk to quit his job.
Click here to read more on this story.

Video: Christie Gets Interrupted By 'Singers'

During New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's Town Hall meeting in Fair Lawn on Wednesday, the Governor was interrupted by a group of "singers" who apparently were not singing a song that was favorable to the Governor.
Note how Governor Christie handles the situation.

Christie Files Many New Appointments

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie yesterday filed the following nominations and direct appointment with the State Senate and Secretary of State’s Office. The Governor’s nominations are subject to the advice and consent of the State Senate.


new jersey board of Cosmetology and hairstyling
Nominate for appointment Angela Pantaleone (Robbinsville, Mercer)

Capital City Redevelopment Corporation
Nominate for appointment Tracey D. Syphax (Trenton, Mercer)

new jersey historic trust
Nominate for appointment Kenneth Alan Miller (Morristown, Morris)
Nominate for appointment Cynthia B. Martin (Summit, Union)

government records council
Nominate for appointment Steven F. Ritardi, Esq. (Mendham Township, Morris)


Casino Rep
Appoint Robert F. Griffin (Linwood, Atlantic)

On Tuesday, June 21, 2011, Governor Christie also filed the following direct appointments with the Secretary of State’s Office.

New Jersey Veterans’ Hospital Task Force
Public Member - Veterans Health Care Services
Appoint Brigadier General Frank Carlini, Ret. (Bordentown, Burlington)

Public Member - Veteran Leader
Appoint Richard A. Pitman (Linwood, Atlantic)
Appoint Eugene J. O’Grady (Barnegat, Ocean)
Appoint Robert W. Looby, RPA (Pittstown, Hunterdon)
Appoint Bernard Epworth (Marlton, Burlington)
Appoint Colonel Debra Ellen Burr (Toms River, Ocean)
Appoint Isaac J. Rucker (Galloway, Atlantic)
Appoint James F. Donahue (Ocean City, Cape May)
Appoint Vincent Deprinzio (Cape May Court House, Cape May)

Public Member - NJBIA
Appoint Diana M. Pitman, RN (Vineland, Cumberland)

Public Member - NJHA
Appoint Miklos F. Losonczy, MD, Ph.D. (Yonkers, New York)