Monday, December 27, 2010

Tuesday Night Football - The Politics of Snow Removal

"Vince Lombardi would be spinning in his grave", said Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell, in an on-air rant about the NFL's decision to postpone the Vikings/Eagles game, scheduled for Sunday night, to Tuesday. Rendell and Fox-29's John Bolaris even went at it about the actual number of inches of snow (paging Dr. Freud) that actually fell on and around Lincoln Financial Field, the home of the Eagles.

Here in the Mid-Atlantic states, a major snowstorm is almost always a no-win situation for local government and their limited resources. Places like Buffalo experience storms like this on a regular basis and are able to justify ample snow-removal capabilities in their budgets. In places like the Philadelphia area, it is impossible to predict, on a winter-by-winter basis, what the snow removal needs will be, so they do their best when budgeting for snow emergencies.

On Sunday morning, after careful review of all the meteorology available to him, Mayor Michael Nutter urged the NFL to postpone the game. NFL diehards immediately cried "wimp!", but the Mayor's decision, in this writer's opinion, has merit. Imagine the outcry if the full force of Philly's snow removal efforts was focused on getting ready for a football game, while the neighborhoods were neglected, snowed in, and residents were unable to get out of their homes.

It would not only have been necessary to clear all the snow from the parking lots and surrounding roads, but every flake would have had to be removed from the inside of the stadium. Did we really need another spectacle of snowball-throwing Eagles fans on national TV?

Here in New Jersey, such a decision did not need to be made, as the Jets and Giants were both away on Sunday. NJ State Senate President and acting NJ Governor Stephen Sweeney, who is currently holding the position after the Governor and Lt Governor both got out of  Dodge for simultaneous vacations, called a state of emergency in NJ due to the blizzard.

Back to the Eagles - Interesting that they are scheduled to play the Vikings, a team from a city well-prepared to deal with snow emergencies, except when the roof collapses on their domed stadium. The Birds managed to clinch the NFC East title anyway, thanks to the Giants' horrific loss to Green Bay Sunday. 

And so, after more than a bit of griping, Eagles fans will head to the Linc or tune in to NBC-TV Tuesday night to enjoy the game, with visions of an NFC Conference title once again dancing in their heads. And life will go on.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Go Ahead, Senator Sweeney, Make My Day

Talk about "below the fold".

On Christmas Day, 1:00pm, when most people were not reading the Star Ledger or, came the news that Governor Chris Christie and Lt Governor Kim Guadagno are both taking vacation out of state, leaving Senate President Stephen Sweeney as acting governor while both are away. Maybe I missed something, but wasn't the position of Lt. Governor created to provide for continuity in the NJ Executive branch while the Governor was unavailable to discharge his duties? How do they get away with leaving the state at the same time?

While we know that the Governor will be in Disney World in Florida with his family, it has not been released (not to this writer, at least) where Lt Gov. Guadagno will be, other than that she will be out of state. Perhaps she will be in Disney World with the governor, standing behind him, gazing longingly, Nancy-Reagan-like, while Christie hob-nobs with Mickey and watches his kids enjoy the rides.

According to the Star Ledger:
"Theoretically, Sweeney could sign legislation Christie hasn’t acted on or even file nominations Christie would never dream of filing. Sweeney could even re-nominate former state Supreme Court Justice John Wallace Jr. to the bench, whose pass-over by Christie in favor of attorney Anne Patterson angered Sweeney. But he won’t."

Says Sweeney:
“I wouldn’t do that to him. The guy is going on vacation with his family, and I’m not going to ruin it by creating mischief. The governor’s office is something that people shouldn’t think is a toy. It’s a serious responsibility.”

It speaks volumes that the governor has left the State government in hands of Sweeney, with full confidence that there will be no "mischief", where "mischief" may be defined as reinstating Justice John Wallace, or signing the "Back To Work NJ" and the anti-bullying bills.

While we're on the subject of missed opportunities, since this is a time when teachers, and many others, have the week off, this would have been the ideal time for the governor to defer his vacation and hold some "Town Hall" meetings at a time when his audience would include members of his constituency who typically cannot attend such meetings on normal weekdays. After all, if his "Reform" is so urgent, why leave the state now? Certainly a Disney vacation can wait until the next school break in the spring.

So, how about it, Senator Sweeney? You're right, the governor's office is a serious responsibility. So how about some mischief? .

Saturday, December 25, 2010

One More Time From Mister White Christmas....

before we retire him until next year....

Thursday, December 23, 2010

"The Spirit of Christmas", featuring the Mabel Beaton Marionettes

CLICK HERE for an update on 2011 airing

This vintage Christmas special, featuring marionette performances of "A Visit From St Nicholas" and the story of the Nativity, has been shown in TV every year since 1950.

As a public service, Pick's Place is providing the show times for "The Spirit of Christmas":

The Mabel Beaton Marionettes perform " 'Twas The Night Before Christmas" and "The Christmas Story" 
Where: WHYY Channel 12
When: Friday, December 24  —  5:30am & 7:30pm
You can now see these vintage shows on YouTube, or DVR them, but there's no substitute for catching them in real time on regular TV (for me, at least).

"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night"

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

From the "You Can't Make This Stuff Up" Department....

Comes news that NJ Governor Chris Christie has compared the New Jersey Education Association to Alabama Governor George Wallace attempting to block the entrance to the University of Alabama to prevent integration of the school.

"Southern Strategy", anyone?

For my comment calling this "sending an obvious dog whistle to his potential Southern constituents for when he runs for President in 2012", I was called a simpleton and a dumbass. I guess I should wear these two labels as a badges of honor?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

It's My Christmas, and I'll Cry If I Want To

So, the Republicans in the Senate are terrified that they may have to work up to and including Christmas, to settle some unresolved legislation, including ratification of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), and the $1.1 trillion omnibus funding resolution, that the Democrats want to complete before the end of the lame duck session.

According to Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ):
“It is impossible to do all of the things that the majority leader laid out without doing — frankly, without disrespecting the institution and without disrespecting one of the two holiest of holidays for Christians and the families of all of the Senate, not just the senators themselves but all of the staff.”

How many recesses and breaks does Congress get, including practically the entire month of August? Certainly more than people in these professions, many of whom must work, not only Christmas, but other holidays as well:

  • Members of the military, especially those stationed overseas
  • Police, firefighters, EMTs - yes, those same ones who came to the World Trade Center site to help and were told by our own Christie Whitman that the air was safe, and are now being denied health benefits for illnesses contracted from breathing the "safe" air.
  • Health workers: doctors, nurses, orderlies, maintenance crews. Hospitals have no days off.
  • Pilots, flights attendants, air traffic controllers, other airport crew members (how many are flying members of Congress home for Christmas?)
  • Food service workers, cooks, waitstaff, caterers (how many are working on Christmas to feed members of Congress who can afford paid help for their holiday meals?)
  • Workers at 24/7 convenience stores, who help us out when we forgot to pick up a container of egg nog or whipped cream for our desserts.
  • Workers at 24/7 gas stations, who, here in New Jersey, stand out in the cold because we don't pump our own gas.
Are there more? You bet. Let's not forget members of the press, who are charged with keeping these public servants honest.

If these pious Senators are so concerned about their holy holiday, especially one whose motto includes "Peace On Earth, Good Will Towards Men", why can't they take the time to work out a peace treaty before Christmas?

Stop whining and get to work.

Sunday Night: Are You Ready For Some Softball?

You would not know it from the 60 Minutes website, but thanks to my friends at Blue Jersey I learned that Governor Chris Christie will be featured tonight. When I went to the site to check for information, there was nothing there about an appearance by the Governor of NJ. The featured preview was a story called "The Gift of Endless Memory" (interesting juxtaposition).

The good news is, ever since the "Heidi Bowl" (for those of us old enough to remember), we do not have to worry about the Steelers/Jets game being cut-off in favor of 60 Minutes while the Jets are in the throes of yet another nail-biting comeback. However if you're not quick enough on the channel changer after the game you may catch an unwanted glimpse of the bloviations of the Great Reformer of NJ, repeating the same platitudes in response to whatever softballs are lobbed his way. (Who would be best to interview Christie: Anderson Cooper? Katie Couric? I wonder if he can answer a hard-hitting question like "What do you read"?).

As an apprentice contributor to Blue Jersey, I am on self-appointed Christie-watch, so I will be watching, and taking notes. CBS News is good at timely posting of transcripts so anyone who cannot watch (or bear to watch) can read all about it the next day.

So, what do you think? Will this be the usual hagiographic puff-piece that the Governor has become accustomed to, or will our interviewer hit him with some real questions, other than his fandom of Bruce Springsteen and his "YouTube moments"?

I am not optimistic but I hope 60 Minutes surprises me and proves me wrong. After all, I'm still going through Boardwalk Empire Withdrawal.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Who Are You Riding For?

Now, before the Grammar Police jumps all over me, the title of this post is the motto of the American Cancer Society Bikeathon, coming next year on Sunday, June 10, 2011. Once again, I've signed up to ride the 66 miles and will be hitting up my friends and family for donations sometime in the future.

As you know, from time to time I write for iReport, CNN's place for citizen journalists. As iReporters, we can write about anything we want. We can also respond to assignments posted by the CNN staff. Coincidentally, a new assignment called "Your questions about cancer" came up at the same time I was signing up for next year's ride. The assignment was to post a question to oncologist Siddhartha Mukherjee, author of Emperor of all Maladies: A Biography of Cancer

My question was, "What does the American Cancer Society do with the money raised by such events as the bikeathon?".

Apparently, CNN liked my question, as evidenced by the little red "CNN iReport" badge the stamp on the upper left side of the photo, which in this case is a still from my video question. So much so, that, when you go to the "Assignment" page, there is my mug, on the main page. Unfortunately the screen grab and facial expression make me look like I'm suffering from severe intestinal distress, but there I am.

So, look for me soon on when the Dr. Mukherjee segment is aired, or posted. Of course I'll tip you off when I find out when.

As for the title question, "Who are you riding for?", the answer, sadly, is too many to name. Friends, relatives, coworkers, many lost to this disease, many who have fought and survived, and many who are still fighting. You know who you are, and this is for you.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Chicken Or The Egg?

No, I'm not referring to that terrific restaurant in Beach Haven, but a recent study that reveals the startling revelation that Fox "News" viewers are alarmingly uninformed.

  • 91 percent believe the stimulus legislation lost jobs
  • 72 percent believe the health reform law will increase the deficit
  • 72 percent believe the economy is getting worse
  • 60 percent believe climate change is not occurring
  • 49 percent believe income taxes have gone up
  • 63 percent believe the stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts
  • 56 percent believe Obama initiated the GM/Chrysler bailout
  • 38 percent believe that most Republicans opposed TARP
  • 63 percent believe Obama was not born in the U.S. (or that it is unclear)
Of course none of this is news to most of the readers here. But I can't help but wonder, are Fox viewers blank slates, thirsting for knowledge, with no pre-conceived notions, or are they the already uninformed, looking for validation?

Which came first?  

From One Nation Rally 2-Oct

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Slacktivism: My New Favorite Word


Have you seen this:
"Most people have 1000 wishes for Christmas; a cancer patient only has one,to get better. I know 97% of you won't repost this to your status, but my friends will be the 3% that do. In honor of someone who has died, or is still fighting, or survived cancer, copy this to your status."

Or this:
"Change your facebook profile picture to cartoon from your childhood. The goal? To not see a human face on FB till Monday Dec 6. Join the fight against child abuse. Copy and paste to your status and invite your friends to do the same."

"Slacktivism": Defined in the Urban Dictionary as "The act of participating in obviously pointless activities as an expedient alternative to actually expending effort to fix a problem, The search for the ultimate feel-good that derives from having come to society's rescue without having had to actually gets one's hands dirty or open one's wallet."

Now, I have nothing against fighting cancer or child abuse. In fact, I ride every year in the Philadelphia American Cancer Society Bike-a-thon, and contribute to others who participate in similar events. As for the cartoon character thing, I was taken to task by my otherwise sensible friends for not participating. My take: if you want to fight child abuse, do something about it, beginning with taking care of your own kids.

I am currently the administrator of a Facebook page called NJ against Chris Christie. How I became administrator was by accident. I came across the page in March, when I was angered by some of the items in the 2011 budget proposal, and wanted to engage in some slacktivism of my own. I contacted the creator of the page, exchanged some emails, and he made me the administrator. My duties consist of finding interesting news items and comments to post on the page, to spur some lively debate. Membership has grown to over 43,000, up from 60 in March.

This is all well and good, but not much gets accomplished except complaining and arguing. Very few members have actually attended any Christie Town Hall Meetings (I have). Very few have contacted the Governor or their State Legislators to air their grievances (I have).

I am ready to hand control of the NJACC page to someone else willing to preside over complaints and fat jokes. I am happy that my inaugural post to Blue Jersey was so well received and look forward to being a more regular contributor. I'm also teaming up with some friends on a special project which will be unveiled soon.

There is a great deal to be done in NJ politics in the near future: The next budget battle and State Legislature elections in 2011, keeping the White House and Senate Democratic in 2012, as well as gaining back the House majority, and of course, replacing the Current Occupant of Drumthwacket in 2013.

The next time someone asks you to join a Facebook group, "like" a page, join a cause, or sign an e-petition, ask them: "What are your DOING?"

Monday, December 13, 2010

An Open Letter to Governor Chris Christie

The Honorable Christopher J. Christie
Office of the Governor
PO Box 001
Trenton, NJ 08625

Dear Governor Christie:

I am writing with respect to the "Town Hall" meetings you have been conducting across the state.

It is a common misperception that the attendees at these events are pre-screened and your supporters are given preferential treatment for admission. I know for a fact this is not true. I am a registered Democrat, and was not subjected to any political or ideological litmus test for admission to a recent event.

The reason, I believe, for this misperception, is that these events are always held in the daytime, making it difficult for anyone other than retired persons to attend. That these events are usually held in towns with a predominantly white population makes the demographic look very much like the Glen Beck rally at the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 2010.

I recommend that you consider holding some of your Town Hall meetings in the evenings, and in places like Camden, Elizabeth, Jersey City, and elsewhere, where you can get your message to a far more diverse crowd.

I also recommend that you scrap the "YouTube Moment" meme when inviting citizens to ask questions, and engage them in civil discussion, rather than berating them for the benefit of the camera. Having your State Police bodyguard manhandle a questioner, bring him up to the stage, scold and rail at him, then have the officer remove the citizen from the stage, without giving him the opportunity to respond, may make for entertaining television, but it is no way to govern.

It is also in direct contradiction to your repeated admonitions that "there is nothing left unsaid between us".

If you wish to get your message out to anyone other than the usual amen chorus that predominate your Town Halls, I suggest that you expand the demographic scope of the audience and engage in real discussion of ideas. Otherwise, you cannot expect to win the hearts and minds of anyone in your opposition, not one.


Jeffrey R. Pickens