Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The poor are characterized as lacking wisdom. Those who most sit in harshest judgment of the poor & defend the rights of the wealthy claim to  be Christians. The more vocally Christian they are, the more they speak for the prerogatives & power of wealth.

The  good, they say, depends on unfettering those with wealth so that the wealthy may better demonstrate their beneficence & become more Christian.  That's how I read the gist  of The Beatitudes as presented by the Hoover Institute: They are intended for the spiritual empowerment & salvation of the wealthy. Sheesh.

I was thinking about this because my e mail delivered a quote from liberation theologian Jon Sobrino,  & as usual with liberation theology I nodded in agreement: "The kingdom of God will come as a civilization of poverty, in opposition to the civilization of wealth.."  But then ran into a statement that didn't please me  so much:  "We must struggle to take back control of words and their definition,...." It's always a war of language, I'm not on the side of  the "language of empire" or  "the language of God," the two sides Sobrino gives. In the United States, the language of God & of empire get all mixed up. If he means the language of justice & compassion, you don't need religion for that.

I suspect "kingdom of God," a mysterious metaphor, means something quite different for mainline protestants growing up when Dr. King was alive. We didn't reside in a poor,  predominantly Catholic Latin American nation where an authoritarian Catholic Church was allied with a repressive government, the two institutional structures mirroring each other. So we didn't see a necessity for actual revolutionary change in government. If people could be changed, government would follow. The problem then, as now, is making injustice visible as injustice. Dr, King was master of this. Our media was hypothetically free enough to show it.  Images of violence done peaceful civil rights activists had a profound, permanent influence on me. Unlike other people in my family, I couldn't emotionally resist those images. I imagined myself standing with both sides. If one truly believed in segregation, in racial inequality, then one should have the minimal "courage" of one's convictions to join those jeering, spitting, rock throwing racists, to man the high pressure fire hoses & unleash the dogs. Join the lynch mob if lynching is what you want. But to look at the TV & mutter insults & racial epithets in the privacy of one's home & then go out & smile at black people  & dance to Motown records was unacceptable to me. It was more cowardly than cracker behavior.
 I reside just outside the urban battlefield, as I did in nearby towns of Rahway & Linden. The streets west of me so remind me of the town where I grew up  (the next town over) that I  felt deja vu when I first walked down them. I lost my taste for the dangerous adventure of cities a long time ago, but I want the diversity, & to be honest I like the "white" people who live in these places, the ones who refused to leave & the ones who move in. A lot of people here actually nod & say "hi" when you pass them on the street.  Sometimes I get weary of hearing Spanish, but then I think I ought to learn the language.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Your Father's Feathers

My shrink's previous clinical social worker assistant had so many problems of her own & spoke so much about them that I didn't want to bother her with minor problems of my own, & I didn't trust her professional detachment. Now he has a new one, a young woman who sounds & looks freshly minted from some graduate school social worker mill.  Despite all the effort & expense required  to become one, I suspect Licensed Clinical Social Worker is a high attrition occupation.  The older social workers I've met are battle-tested.  On one hand they don't take any shit from clients - they've heard it all,  but on the other hand when  they advocate for you stuff happens & bureaucrats get out of the way. Came home straightaway via cab, didn't expect a thunder shower but figured if I walked  downtown there'd surely be one.

Labels: ,

Monday, June 27, 2011

Michele, ma belle

Campaigning in Waterloo, Iowa, Michele Bachmann praised the spirit of John Wayne. The "Duke" was born in Winterset, Iowa. The gaff was that serial murderer John Wayne Gacy resided for some years in Waterloo & was where he began raping boys, if not killing them. It was a shockingly tasteless  faux pas.  But Googling John Wayne doesn't return Gacy on the first page (except  Bachmann's remark). More alarming were Bachmann's evasions of some very direct questions put to her by Bob Schieffer on yesterday's Face the Nation. Bachmann just makes stuff up. She lies a lot. She has the weird belief common among Republicans that misinformation is perfectly acceptable if  they believe it's in the service of a Greater Truth.  For Michele it's God's Truth which validates  her ignorant opinions on everything from energy policy to medical care & turns them into religious imperatives.

She's a member of one of the most conservative protestant denominations in America, Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, which demands doctrinal conformity in all Christian fellowship (they wouldn't have a friendship picnic with Methodists), & forbids any church role for women which would give them authority over men (which may mean that any man from the congregation could go into the church kitchen & add salt to the gravy).


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Perth Amboy NJ

Bayard's Beach

The water is probably cleaner now than it was when this photo was taken.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A New York State of Marriage

New York will become the sixth and most populous state to allow gay marriage. State senators voted 33-29 to approve marriage equality legislation introduced by Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat in his first year of office.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an advocate for gay marriage who lobbied state lawmakers in recent weeks, said the vote was an "historic triumph for equality and freedom."
Equal marriage rights are well worth supporting. Those who most vociferously oppose use of the word marriage also oppose civil unions that grant rights identical to marriage, on the grounds that civil unions then become too much like marriage in all but name. So civil union & domestic partnership laws carry in them a separate-&-unequal status. I came to this view of civil union inadequacy rather late, realizing - after finally listening to gays & lesbians - that the only effective way to legally strengthen same sex  families, which is good for society, is by reaching all the way for marriage. One has to ask oneself, "Are there any civil  rights opposite  sex married couples have I don't want same sex couples to have?" For me the answer is none. The right whittles away  at women's rights, workers rights, & the rights of homosexuals through one piece of legislation & another piece of legislation, & they  add up after awhile. A law like New York's marriage law not only extends rights, it protects those rights from compromise. It's marriage. No semantic games. After the law takes effect, Archbishop of NY Timothy Dolan can believe all he wants that a same sex couple in NY isn't really  married in NY.

If you're against same sex marriage, maybe there's some solace in the fact that the law doesn't  make  divorce any cheaper or easier for gays.

(A New York Times article implies that Dolan was so out-maneuvered by Gov. Cuomo, who had assembled a coalition including some  Wall Street Republican heavies, that he couldn't or wouldn't put the full power of his Church to bear against the bill. Perhaps he just had the good sense not to ask Catholics to reach for their wallets on this issue while he's closing parishes & schools. )

Labels: , ,

Friday, June 24, 2011

Peter Falk

Of course, Falk was a whole lot more than Columbo. But in this bit he pulls off one great gag & deadpan line after another, Frank playing along with the routine perfectly.

Labels: ,

The Star-Ledger on Monday & Tuesday were so thin I wondered who would pay a buck for it.

Dailies have been in decline for 70 years, maybe more. The decline steepened with the advent of cable news, but they were doomed when the internet ruined the classified ad business. You wanted to buy a used anything, look for a job, rent an apartment, find a soulmate, you bought a newspaper. People read classifieds as entertainment. The pages adjacent to the classifieds were filled with large ads from car dealers & realtors. The "news" wasn't what sold newspapers. It was classifieds; also comics, Dear Abby, daily horoscope, the crossword, the word puzzle. When Calvin & Hobbes & Far Side ended, I didn't have much reason to buy the Star-Ledger at all.

My step-sister's son - that makes him my step-nephew - sent me a friend request on Facebook.  I don't know why, curiosity maybe. I accepted. I liked my two step-siblings' kids when their kids  were kids & I saw them two or three times-a-year. They were energetic, noisy, cheeky without being disrespectful. Years after my dad passed & I'd lost touch I ran into several of them,  high school kids on the Point Pleasant Beach boardwalk one August night. They all resided down that way. They recognized me first. I was pleased they were hanging out on the boardwalk.  My step-sister was an amusing, smart woman, probably still is.  But she's turned - not unexpectedly - into a raving Tea Partier.   That's where Republicans go now & it's sad. Can't even talk to them anymore.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bud Shank - Summer Wind

Exploring Bud Shank's commercial recordings for World Pacific in the Sixties. Long reviled by jazz purists, I haven't read anything about Bud denigrating them. He did complain about earning a living in that decade. But it may have been the difficulty of  maintaining the Southern California lifestyle to which he was accustomed. He was a  top studio musician, played on hundreds, perhaps thousands of soundtracks, commercial big band & singer sessions, all while releasing quality solo jazz LPs in a variety of musical contexts. The rise of rock changed the demographics of pop music,  the bossa nova craze was ending, & so-called West Coast cool jazz was no longer so cool.   Certainly it took  chutzpah for Bud to record an album titled Magical Mystery that covered six songs from the Beatles LP including "I Am the Walrus," with drug-addicted Chet Baker toodling along on some of the numbers (Chet really did record some sh*t for World Pacific). Girl In Love was Bud's most easy listening release, stringy arrangements by Oliver Nelson. Nelson also worked both sides of the street, & we don't lose any of what they did by enjoying Bud's clear alto sailing over Oliver's bed of violins & voices on "Summer Wind."


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Why I'm not a Methodist

One reason why I'm not a Methodist: The United Methodist Church in Wisconsin put the Rev. Amy DeLong on trial. The two charges were that she conducted a lesbian wedding ceremony,  & that she is a "self-avowed practicing homosexual." She was unanimously found guilty of the former;  it was "on the record" & she wouldn't deny it, or  promise she wouldn't do it again.   But she was acquitted of the second charge by a vote of 12-1. She is "self-avowed" & freely admits to loving her  "life-partner."  But they couldn't prove she was "practicing." To try to prove it, the church prosecution actually asked her, in open court, if she had ever engaged in "genital-to-genital conduct." Of course, DeLong refused to answer such an outrageous, intimate question, & not just because the answer might be self-incriminating. It would also mean confessing to having sex out-of-wedlock, also prohibited pastors, but for which no heterosexual pastor, to my knowledge, has been brought to trial.  It was an embarrassing, absurd moment for the UMC, which knew for years that DeLong  is a lesbian, but didn't smack her with the Book of Discipline until she performed the wedding ceremony.

This isn't really why I'm not a Methodist. A number of reasons.  But the trial is symptomatic of most of them. I don't like the episcopal governing structure, the power of appointing pastors to individual churches reserved to the local conference Bishop. To allow openly gay & lesbian pastors, key changes would have to made to the Book of Discipline (especially a passage that was voted into it in the 1970's),  these changes would apply to the entire denomination, & even the most conservative Methodist congregation  by rule would have to accept a homosexual pastor if the Bishop assigned one. This makes compromise impossible in the UMC, unless the denomination adopted  the kind of policy it had until 1968 that treated African-American pastors as a special category so that white churches wouldn't get black preachers.

So the UMC now has an unofficial network of  "welcoming" churches,  largely tolerated if they aren't too vocal or too visible. Methodists prefer to avoid conflict.  How? During a break in the DeLong trial, everyone in attendance sang a hymn, & when the judicial panel returned the presiding officer thanked the audience for the music. (I'm currently reading a book titled When in Doubt, Sing, which could be Methodist theology summed up in four words. )  What's attractive about Methodism is that it's rooted more in  a practice rather than a doctrine (which actually is sort of doctrinal, but I'd have to explain a peculiarity of Wesleyanism & I'd probably get it wrong). So when you're raised Methodist you don't get much in Sunday School about how or why you're different from other denominations

By-the-way, marriage in the Methodist church is a covenantal relationship not a sacrament. Whatever that means. I write about it because I find it interesting, not because I care all that much what denominations require of people who sign up for a particular viewpoint of Christianity. That's  what a denomination is - a place to sit down, a choice of who you want to sit with.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Elmore Leonard

Of all the tough guy writers I admire (some of the tough guys are females), I'm most in awe of Elmore Leonard. Ross Macdonald wrote paragraphs that absolutely stopped me; the  Archer novels are my favorite P.I. series. I'm generally fond of Californian settings; writers have to be aware of the standards set by Hammett & Chandler.  But Elmore's craft is so invisible, his mastery so complete, his range so wide, his humor so dark & quirky, his amazing ability to fill out a character's character in so few words ...   Sometimes I can guess where he's going  - he has his predictable story  traits - but how he gets there is almost always a trip.  I've only read about 1/4th of his novels. His most recent, Djibouti, is one of the few that disappointed me, but by comparison with Elmore.  It was still a really good read. Elmore has a special gift for finding the strange ethical code or good heart at the core of a seemingly amoral personality, & showing how a seemingly  moral person may be amoral.  The latter is a feature of American popular fiction, since our peculiar arrogance regarding our moral superiority  constantly  needs debunking. Elmore completely comprehends what  philosopher Alan Watts called 'the irreducible element of rascality" in human beings.

Labels: ,

Monday, June 20, 2011


Black bear in Metuchen tree causes stir in quiet town

Union Township Police shoot and kill black bear near high school

I'm four blocks from the Union line & a couple of miles from the high school. directly up Morris Ave,  two blocks away.

Union & Metuchen are both densely populated suburban towns.

This local invasion of black bears didn't happen overnight. It took about four decades. I went to a Boy Scout camp in north Jersey that had some wild forest around it. You could get seriously lost & some hapless campers did. There were a few bears around, but we didn't expect to encounter them & I never saw one. We were very careful with food, more because of skunks than bears.

A few years later I went to college in North Jersey about 15 miles east of that camp, & resided in Pompton Plains, a suburban town south of the school. By then  black bears were occasionally spotted nosing around garbage cans in residential areas up that way, but it wasn't a common occurance. Within a decade it became common. The bear population was growing. Bears are territorial, & every subsequent spring saw young bear spreading out, mostly following the wooded river pathways. Then the bear paths became local creeks, parks, golf courses, & the buffer zones next to highways. Finding food poses no problem for the bears; Jersey is a cornucopia of discarded food. They want space, & if humans are already occupying it, tough,  When a young bear in suburbia is tranq'd & relocated back to the woods of northwest Jersey, it's in some bigger, older  bear's territory, & the young bear starts  the journey all over again.

Labels: ,

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Eight records my dad liked

Dad wasn't very knowledgeable about music; neither was mom, although she had been a more "typical" teen. I recognized fairly early on that dad's tastes could be a bit odd. He despised rock & roll, but I think he was always indifferent to the "Hit Parade." He wasn't like so many of the fathers I knew who tediously went on & on about how great the big bands & old singers were. We didn't even have a good record player. But our home had plenty of  music, & it was never a guilty pleasure.

(Pogo was an adult comic strip, slyly topical, rather liberal actually, but dad read it faithfully. The record is children's song for adults, filled with nonsensical wordplay, sophisticated & corny.  I loved it. It's still available. Victory at Sea taught me to listen to soundtrack music. One of the Leroy Anderson numbers had a real typewriter in it, that was cool. )

Labels: , ,

Asbury Park NJ

Mrs. Jay's in the 1940's

The corner building was sold in 1974 & became the Stone Pony,  the open air "Mrs. Jay's Garden" next door operated as a beer & music venue popular with bikers, it was a dump.  That was eventually razed & became the Stone Pony outdoor stage.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Clarence Clemons

It just plain sucks that Clarence Clemons died of complications from a stroke he suffered last weekend. He wasn't The E Street Band's best musician, but he certainly was its face from the very beginning. He physically dwarfed Springsteen, a rather slight man, & Springsteen knew Clarence could steal the show whenever he wanted. The story of Clarence meeting Bruce, perhaps a bit apocryphal, has the wind ripping the door to an Asbury Park club off its hinges during a thunderstorm  as the Big Man walked in,  & was then introduced to Bruce.  He was a star entertainer in his own right.When Springsteen performed without E Street, Clarence was the one you noticed wasn't there,
When the change was made uptown
And the Big Man joined the band
From the coastline to the city
All the little pretties raise their hands
"Tenth Ave. Freeze-out"
Clarence's diminished role in Springsteen's recordings probably didn't matter that much to him. He always had studio work. Lady Gaga gave him a call.  He was paid handsomely & given plenty of perks for his long, grueling tours with Springsteen & E Street, was the second most popular musician on stage, & was indispensable to the classic, big numbers Springsteen performed night after night. I don't envy the horn man who tries to fill Clarence's shoes in 'Jungleland."

Clarence in his dressing room with his portable "Temple of Soul." If E Street tours again, Springsteen will have a saxophonist but probably make "Jungleland" a Clarence tribute & use a recording of  the famous horn solo.

Labels: , ,

Saturday Poem

When you were a child,
we strolled along a rural road
in the Poconos at dusk,
& the woods were filled
with little animals,
rustling among the leaves & twigs
as they accompanied us,

& you were surprised,
& delighted, perhaps a bit
curious as to what they wanted.
I confess to you now
I was flipping noisy pebbles
into the  underbrush
when you weren't looking.

I wanted you to know
the creatures were really there,
unseen & unheard, aware of us,
oh beautiful soul,
the God's honest truth
is that we are all foraging
in the deepening dark.


Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday Poem

Run Toward the Gunfire

bored old man
always standing in the foyer

rummage shop clothes
he probably brought new

nothing to see outside
since the bar closed for good

& the crew quit the corner
as unprofitable

one day he said to me
"I wish I still lived in the projects"


Beanee Weenee

Anthony Weiner was a great liberal congressman. I'm sorry to see him resign. Should he have resigned? Probably. He lost the support of Democratic leadership & the President. The scandal was a distraction from all the important issues that won't be discussed anyway. His behavior has a compulsive feeling about it, there may be more revelations to come.  None of it so far  has been deemed more than "inappropriate."  I don't know who decides what is inappropriate behavior for a congressman. Are certain inappropriate behaviors for conservative politicians  the same as inappropriate behaviors for liberal politicians? Since when does hypocrisy disqualify a politician from anything? It's hypocritical for Mitt Romney to pretend he's like you & me, & far more deceitful to the public than whatever Weiner did.  Mitt is as like us as a guy waving from a million dollar yacht. At the moment, Weiner's transgressions are mainly toward his wife, Huma Abedin (who used to figure in the weird Hillary Clinton lesbian gossip as the mysterious campaign aide who carried Hillary's shoulder bag).


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Thursday Poem

Asbury Park

Bruce Springsteen
standing on the boardwalk
outside Convention Hall
while his wife's band rehearsed inside.

Three, four people chatting with him,
I'd left my camera on a table
at the space age Howard Johnson's
that looks like a flying saucer

while I checked out Bruce's 'vette
& some other classic cars
successful musicians
can afford to own.

"How ya doing, Bruce?"
"Hey, Buddy, howya doing?"
He was never a regular guy
but he has it down in theory.

Labels: , , ,

Where is Andros?

Bruce Longstreet is one of my oldest, dearest friends, unfortunately for me resides in Northern California.  When he lived nearby, Bruce was good at challenging my ideas without sounding like he was attacking them - definitely the touch of a true goombah.

Last night he called out of the blue to say he was attending a writer's conference & workshop on the Greek isle of Andros, "famous for its Sariza spring at Apoikia where the water comes out of a lionhead" (I looked it up). This isn't the sort of adventure I associate with Bruce.  Bruce had seen a flyer for the event, decided it something he wanted & needed to do, counted his money, & signed up. I was delighted. "It'll  change your life," I said.  Every Greek island has a poet, perhaps a god or two. Andros was the home of  a Greek comic poet named Amphis, contemporary of Plato, works survive only in fragments. Some of the titles of his works: The Female Oiler; Women in Power, Crazy About Women, The Female Barber, The Vagabond Acrobat.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Wednesday Poem

Newark Logic

Texas Fried Chicken and Pizza
don't belong together under the same roof
in New Jersey, Texas or anywhere else

& the off-duty cop buying a slice
was shot through the window
from a moving car, & murdered

by a teenage boy trying to kill
a woman who had insulted his mom
at his mom's engagement party.


Lighthouses for Sale

U.S. Coast Guard looks to sell 2 Jersey Shore lighthouses
The lighthouses for sale are the Romer Shoal Light Station, just north of Sandy Hook Bay, and the Great Beds Lighthouse, one mile east of South Amboy in Raritan Bay. Romer Shoal is a romantic but rusty 54-foot iron tower with brick interiors and broken windows sitting atop a necklace of slimy rocks.

Great Beds is a better-kept 47-foot tower perched on a narrow block of concrete in a section of the bay with heavy ship traffic.

The lighthouses are only accessible by boat. Their solar-powered lights are still active and maintained by the Coast Guard, which will retain the right to access the facilities after they are sold.

Built in the 1880s, both lighthouses need more than a coat of paint before they can resemble the cozy getaways of prospective buyers’ dreams.
Everyone gazing over Lower New York Harbor sees sees these fireplug lights, not necessarily clearly; they're small & easy to overlook. The red Romer Shoal is large enough to be habitable, & has the best views. Great Beds is cramped. Both are a mess outside & in. Ideally, they ought to be taken apart piece by piece & reassembled on land as museums. But it would be cheaper to build facsimiles from scratch, Neither is a good candidate for state ownership. Jersey already owns lighthouses. Cape May light is maintained by Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts, & much of Barnegat's cost of restoration & upkeep is raised through civic organizations. The Victorian Hereford Inlet Lighthouse is owned by the city of North Wildwood. Sea Girt Light, run by Sea Girt Lighthouse Citizens Committee, is a rarely open to visitors.  Maybe a couple of people are wealthy & crazy enough to purchase these two little lights.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tuesday Poem

Instant Beethoven

Labels: ,

Monday, June 13, 2011

Monday Poem

La Vita è Bella

When a woman named Melodi
from Southern California
told me that her father
was Dean Martin's favorite
stage band trombonist,
I believed her instantly.

Labels: ,

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Hackettstown NJ

Petty's Cabins

Labels: , ,

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The small msiexec.exe window is open & I can minimize it but I can't shut it off. "An unidentified program want access to your computer." I have two choices, allow & cancel. Cancel is supposed to close the window. I've seen it before, when I've downloaded freeware or trial software. & allowed.. But I have no idea what program wants access & it wont tell me. Whatever it is, it's smart enough to disable the cancel. So, there it is, blinking on the bottom toolbar. & there it will stay. I figure it's harmless as long as I don't allow it to install the program..

Friday, June 10, 2011

Charles Earland - Betty Boop

Earland probably wrote this for his wife, Betty.
From the 1977 album "Revelation." Charles Earland & Odyssey: Keyboards - Charles Earland; Bass -- Paul Jackson; Drums -- Harvey Mason; Guitar -- Eric Gale; Percussion -- Patrick Ankrom; Tenor Saxophone -- Michael Brecker; Tenor Saxophone, Bass Clarinet -- Arthur Grant; Trumpet -- Randy Brecker.

Labels: ,

Thursday, June 09, 2011


The electric in this neighborhood is screwed up. I turned off the PC while the thunderstorms came through, booted up & went  online when they passed, & then the electric shut off for 15 minutes. I looked out the window & saw street & house lights over on the next block, but my corner of the city was out.
I try to be  polite to the exterminator guy. He has a crappy job. All day long he goes from apt building to apt building, apt to apt  spending maybe two minutes in each, squirting chemicals under sinks as required by the city. That's all he does.  I've seen his beat up company car parked in  front of lousy apt buildings & in front of  the better ones that attract airline employees & young professionals.  I'm certain he's contemptuous of us all; it leaks through his personality: Affluent people for  their taste in furniture or for not  owning a house; the poor  for taking rental assistance; seniors for being forgetful or slow to open the door. The interesting exterminating jobs, trapping mammals, getting rid of bees & termites, are for the better paid specialists in his company. My guess is that he doesn't have that kind of job because he's not very smart & he has a big mouth not suited for work that would bring him into contact with people for more than two minutes & which sometimes calls for discretion: Even "nice" people get bedbugs these days; carry them  home from expensive hotels.

Today he comes in for  his monthly spritz  & immediately starts griping because I haven't yet installed the 50 lb 8000 BTU a/c in the window, I just have a  fan blowing warm air around. I wasn't feeling so comfortable myself, but I knew the heat wave was breaking this evening. I blurted out, "Mind your own fuckin' business."  That really surprised him, & he went out of here muttering about  immigrants, taxes, etc. If I had been ready to put the a/c in, I would've said, "You're right, help me lift this thing & carry it to the window."

Labels: ,

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Condolences to my dear friend Gail, who lost a cherished cat & companion today.

Two days of scorchers here I'd like to get through without putting the a/c in the window. Heat supposed to break Thursday evening for a week of spring temps. I lose a screened window when the a/c is in, & I'm too inclined   to turn it on when the fan would do fine.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Primary Election Day

 Primary is the general election in my city,

My state senator has been in office so long, is so powerful, so privileged, so wealthy (million dollar shore house, apt in Soho), that he doesn't even have to disguise his motivations. He wants twenty million to renovate some crappy projects a few blocks from his home in Elizabeth -  gang-infested  warehouses for the poor - throwing good money after bad when they need to be demolished & replaced with low density housing. He supports school vouchers only because his main political opposition comes from the Elizabeth Board of Ed machine. No regular organization Democrats in other towns support vouchers.

His opposition - the Board of Ed machine - takes millions in state & federal money thanks to liberal legislation & court decisions yet sucks up to our Republican Governor. We have a Ronald Reagan Academy - yup, named for the president who promised in 1980 & 1982 to abolish the Cabinet level Dept of Education but was prevented from doing so by a Democratic congress.  That political faction is also too cozy for my comfort with a local evangelical church. They talk like Republicans & expect to eat at the Democrat's table. If they won. this city would have no allies in Trenton.

Update: The insurgents were beaten back, quite badly - 2 to 1 -  in the county-wide Freeholder races, but I don't know what the tallies were in Elizabeth.


Monday, June 06, 2011

The Invisible Children

Girl's death calls into question how DYFS investigates abuse

IRVINGTON — Four times between March 2006 and April 2008, anonymous tipsters called the state child abuse hotline to report that a woman in their Irvington neighborhood was screaming at her three children and beating them with a belt.

Each time, the Division of Youth and Family Services investigated, found no injuries or harm and deemed the abuse and neglect allegations against Venette Ovilde "unfounded," closing the family’s file for the last time on May 1, 2008.

Now Ovilde’s oldest child, 8-year-old Christiana Glenn, is dead from an untreated broken leg and malnutrition. Ovilde, 29, is sitting in jail. And child welfare veterans and advocates are questioning whether investigators missed any clues that could have foretold the family was headed for tragedy.
The mother had come under the influence of a crackpot Haitian "preacher."

  Like all government child/family agencies, DYFS has a mixed reputation. No one is sure how it operates. Caseworkers are overloaded.  It has been known to bring a heavy hand down on households that could, with better community resources, have been held together, while overlooking situations that turned tragic.

What puzzled me in this case was Ovilde's claim that she was home-schooling her children. It turns out New Jersey is one of 10 states that do not in any way track home-schooled children. There are no standards, none of the requirements public & private schools must meet.  In New Jersey, parents don't have to initiate any contact at all with the state or local school board. So, as far as Irvington, Essex County & the state were concerned, these three children just disappeared from the education system. They were invisible. They were not enrolled in any school.

Home schooling is not easy. To do it well, home schooling parents have to put as much effort, organization & discipline into it as any school teacher. There are abundant web resources, instructional materials, cooperative groups, & online courses. If Ovilde had been required to show some - even minimal - evidence that she was, in fact, home schooling her three children, I doubt very much  she could have complied.  She would then have been ordered to enroll the children in an approved public or private school until she could come up with a month's lesson plans, or teaching materials, or something. The horrible physical abuse given these three children -  starvation & beatings - would not have passed unnoticed in a school, nor would have long, unexplained absences.  A local Board of Education should know all the school age children residing in its district, & how these children are being educated as required by law.  I leave it to legislators to decide how much information local government needs to have. At the very least it needs to know children exist.

Labels: ,

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Hammonton NJ

Ideal Manufacturing Corp.

Labels: , ,

Friday, June 03, 2011

National Donut Day

When I was a kid, a couple of times each year my dad brought us siblings to The Donut Bus. It was a converted school bus  parked on the corner of North & Morris Avenues  by Kean University (then

Newark State College), a few blocks from where I currently reside. It was a mobile donut factory. The Donut Bus sold only one kind of donut, plain, deep-fried in vats of bubbling oil, crunchy on the outside, soft inside, without or without powdered sugar. Also available were bags of broken donut pieces at a discount. They were equally good.

By the time I grew up the bus had disappeared.

Fast forward several decades. It's 1999. A small tornado has hit Rahway NJ, knocking down big trees across a swath of the town. I was at work when it happened  & had to pass through a police checkpoint downtown to reach my apt. Power was out. I walked around looking at the damage. A police car came around broadcasting that there was no driving permitted in the affected areas &  police had blocked traffic into & out of downtown where I lived. By later that evening I was getting bored. I was also getting a craving for a certain brand of donut  - I forget the name, it was from Pennsylvania - I knew was sold at the Quick Chek in the next town over. I liked the brand because they were plain donuts crunchy on the outside & soft on the inside & reminded me of the Donut Bus. So about 11 pm I got in my car, negotiated a maze of side streets, some blocked by fallen trees, very dark, assuming correctly that the police had only enough personnel to maintain road blocks on the three or four main streets. I made it to the Quick Chek, where the power was on, bought a box of my preferred donuts,  took it next door to a Dunkin' Donuts, which was crowded with refugees like myself,  ordered a cup of coffee & ate some of my donuts,  Then I sneaked back home the way I had come.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Sarah visits the Garden State, sort of

Sarah Palin slept  in Jersey last night, at the Hyatt Regency in Jersey City, on the waterfront a couple of blocks from WFMU, you see the hotel if you look in that direction when you come up out of Exchange Place PATH station.But most people look at Manhattan & remember 9/11, you can't help it.

Sarah's on some kind of tour, she has a special bus,  traveling around America learning the history she ignored in college. To this end she spent an hour at Gettysburg & later was disappointed to discover Davy Crockett didn't patch up the crack in the Liberty Bell.   Drove straight up the Turnpike to J.C.  I wonder if someone mentioned that Jersey is the "Crossroads of the Revolution," had a few major battles, dozens of skirmishes, & some deadly neighbor-against-neighbor action. The Revolution was also a civil war in Jersey. Washington spent two winters  at Morristown.  Lots of important history.

But I think Sarah would be more pleased with Lucy the Elephant.

Donald Trump called up his limo &  escorted Sarah to a chain pizzeria in Times Square, where she used a knife & fork. This is not unknown in Italy, & is actually socially acceptable with certain specialty pizzas. Of course, around here everyone learns how to drive while eating a slice. It probably did more damage to Trump's rep, if that be possible, he's supposed to be Mr. Manhattan & know all the fashionable upscale eateries according to the people he hires for that purpose;  maybe he wanted to make Sarah look like a tourist.

Today Sarah visited Ellis Island, which is in Jersey, where she used the example of legal immigrants to slam "The Dream Act" (a sensible piece of legislation). I suggest she learn more about the experiences of "legal" Chinese & Japanese immigrants in California.  She went to the Statue of Liberty, also clearly in Jersey, but the courts, I think, have ruled  that it belongs to New York State.

Some liberal blogger said Americans are being "hookwinked" by Sarah & blah-blahed about the religious right.  Sarah isn't hookwinking anyone. Her devotees know she's WYSIWYG, & that's fine with them. She's quite guileless compared to our President

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." Thomas Jefferson

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?