Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Katrina, Meet Achilles.

Six months ago today, while Hurricane Katrina was having her way on the Gulf Coast, I was in an operating room having my recently-ruptured Achilles tendon repaired. (see pic, with nephew Chase, 2 weeks post-op) Naturally the events are unrelated, other than the coincidental timing, but somehow as I sit here staring at my crutches, I can't help but feel solidarity with the folks in the New Orleans area--who like me--are still struggling to get back on their feet.

My recovery time from the injury was supposed to be eight weeks. 10 weeks tops. I had every confidence in this timeframe, after all I had ruptured the other Achilles in Feb. 2002 (both times playing tennis) and was back on the court the following June. Just to clarify: Yes, you read correctly, I have managed to somehow rupture both Achilles tendons. Thank goodness I one have two feet, huh? But seriously, this injury is no joke. There is a reason this Achilles business is the stuff of epic mythology!

At the time of rupture #1, I had pretty comprehensive health insurance , and the surgery and recovery were routine. Basically, I had access to optimal treament and physical therapy and accordingly, I was back on my feet--better than ever--in no time flat. When lightning struck a second time there I was again, writhing in agony on the tennis court with another torn-up foot. Only this time, I was uninsured. I don't what was more excruciating, the pain of the injury or the anxiety associated with being uninsured at the time of a major health challenge.

So I did what everyone does when they're broke, uninsured and temporarily disabled: I became a charity case. Yup, that's what they call it when you get "charity care." Hey, I'm not too stuck-up to admit it. I just wanted to get my foot fixed. I could eat some crow and do whatever I had to in order to obtain treatment. In addition to the challenges of accessing care, I had some post-op complications as well. When the doc removed my cast, we discovered a blod clot had formed and that the original incision never closed. So what started as an orthopedic issue had become a serious wound-care issue. The first few weeks after an operation are critical in the recovery time. And since the problems were occuring underneath the cast and unbeknown to be or my doctor, it really set me back bigtime.

Summer turned to fall and I was still on the crutches. (see pic) And still unemployed. That's when I started this blog. (I should note that my partner Greg has been the sole breadwinner this whole time. I can't even contemplate what this would be like without his support.) Anyway, it was becoming increasingly clear at this point how much more patience it would take before I would be sprye as a gazelle again.

I should confess that all this "down time" has given me a chance to tend to some stuff that I might never have gotten around to: I got my credit back on track, got some dental issues straightened out, (hey, charity care has its perks) took up Mandarin Chinese, started the blog, and got heavily immersed in progressive activism.

But it's still been an ongoing challenge. Six months on and I still have to change the bandages on my foot twice a day. The incision is still not completely closed. It sucks dealing with a challenge as daunting as this. But when everything that could go wrong does go wrong, it can feel overwhelming at times. (Katrina anyone?) Which is why when I learned that today is the six month anniversary of Katrina is today, I cringed. Has it really been that long? Frankly, I stopped keeping track. Didn't even see the gruesome milestone coming.

So spring is almost here and I'm still on crutches. (see pic) Won't be long before it's tennis weather again. And hurricane season.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Liberal media, my left butt cheek!

What liberal bias? I'm ready to suggest that the media actually has a right-wing bent, a position I've held for ages. Don't believe me? Turn on Fox-TV news, where they're trying to spin Bush's lastest mis-steps into political points. Things in Iraq are great and democracy is on the march?? TRY CIVIL WAR!

I have a message to theFOX-News gang: all this time spent polishing President Bush's turds, you're bound to end up smelling like poo!
(Image courtersy of Steve Sack)

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Bush getting a taste of his own medicine

For the past several years, the president has taken every opportunity to remind Americans how much things have "changed" since the terrorist attacks of 9-11. The public outcry over the port operations scandal is merely a consequence of Bush's politics of fear.

Mr. President, you reap what you sow! (Image courtesy of Steve Sack)

Friday, February 24, 2006

Maybe Bush has a point?

With the Bush Administration's curious announcement to turn over American port operations to the United Arab Emirates, we sure have been hearing a lot about Dubai lately. (see pic) As it turns out, that plan is now on the slow-track pending some further nit-picking. Like I mentioned yesterday, I have no idea if the the President's plan to turn over the ports to the U.A.E. is a bad idea or not, I admit I'm still skeptical. But there may be a silver lining: Americans are (finally) talking about port security and that is a good thing.

This scandal plays out the same week that Dubai is hosting a million dollar pro tennis tournament. Additionally, the Dubai Duty Free firm is actually the title sponsor of the entire women's tennis tour. (Who knew?) Back in the 1980's and 90's when the tour was sponsored by a cigarette company, Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova battled week in and week out to win the Virginia Slims Cup. Today's top stars are vying to become the Dubai Duty Free champ.

One quick peek at the tournament website and you see that Dubai really is a premiere tourist destination. There are even tips for what to wear:
With its liberal attitude, there is not much that visitors to Dubai cannot wear. However, as in all countries, a healthy amount of respect for the local customs and sensibilities do not go amiss. Dubai is an Islamic state and dress should be modest, especially when visiting the traditional areas of the Emirate. Lightweight summer clothing is suitable for most of the year, but something slightly warmer may be needed in the evening for the winter months. In the evenings, restaurants and clubs usually have a mixture of styles, including Arabic, Asian and Western. During the day, good quality sunglasses, hats and sun-cream are definitely needed.
Good to know the girls won't have to wear a birque out on the court.

Aparently a clever Sheikh realized that one day the petro-chemical dollars will be gone and decided to invest heavily in Dubai's tourist industry. And they spared no expense whatsoever. Amazing hotels, golf courses, and resort facilites are springing up all over Dubai.

There's men's tennis tournament in the U.A.E. as well. And a falcon hunt (!) plus golf and polo tournaments. Dubai is clearly going after the high-end dollar, euro and yen. For a country that seems to be pinning its economic destiny on tourism, it occurs to me that the United Arab Emirates just might be the very best agent for operating American ports. (Did I really just say that?)

Think about it for a minute: in the last 20 years, the U.A.E. has invested God-knows-how many billions transforming itself into a desert paradise, and in order to capitalize on that investment, tourists need continue to go there! Add to that another $6.8 billion for the port contract, and you see the vested interest that Dubai has in keeping our ports in outstanding working order. Clearly the U.A.E. has plenty at stake here as well.

The government of the United Arab Emirtates recognizes the finite nature of the country's oil reserves. That gave rise to large investments in tourism and shipping industries to shore up the country's financial future. The way I see it, Dubai has tons of built-in incentive to dutifully and properly perform their mandate with American ports. Frankly, the entire economic future of the U.A.E. might be jeopardized if there were a security breach at one of the ports in question. I believe no expense would be spared to avoid possible tragedy.

The plan to turn over U.S. port operations to a foreign government-run firm maybe represent a certain degree of political tone deafness of the part of our president. But from a security or business point of view, I believe this decision may be perfectly sound.

(Men's Dubai champ Andre Agassi plays tennis atop one of Dubai's luxury hotel.)

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Why are the Canadians so good at this?

Curling rocks. I watched it for the first time today on the USA network.
(Image courtesy Cagle.com)

Homeland Security and Outsourcing DO NOT MIX!

Why can't we find an American company to manage American ports? Just a thought...

I live in Cherry Hill, NJ, USA. The Port of Philadelphia is six miles away. Ports in N.Y.C., Newark and Baltimore are all within 100 miles of where I live. So the idea of port operations being taken over by the United Arab Emirates is serious business to me. If nothing else, at least this controversy has everyone talking about port security. It's about time!
(Image courtesy Christo Komar)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

What Song Topped the Charts the Day You Were Born?

Since I have a doctor and dentist appointment today, I'm gonna keep it nice-n-easy on the ol' blog. So for those of you tuning in for thoughtful prose, or for political analysis, I offer up something altogether different and delicious......

What song was #1 the day you were born? (Find out here!)

My song is a magnificient one: Roberta Flack's "First Time ever I Say Your Face." In any event sounds like the perfect song to be born to!?

(hat-tip to my gal-pal Sharon)

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Bush Administration staggering from disaster to disaster

What the next Republican crisis mean for America?
(image courtesy Bill Mitchell)

You're not watching the Olympics either?

I am sick of avoiding Olympic results on the Internet in order to be suprised watching NBC's awful, canned programming every night. What was NBC thinking? Don't they realize that showing the Olympics on six-hour delay is a ridiculous idea? NBC sucks!
(Photo courtesy of Gary Varvel)

Monday, February 20, 2006

Why I support Rich Sexton for Congress

I am running for Congress because we need strong leadership for a new course in Washington and representation for the citizens of New Jersey's 3rd District that is more in tune with mainstream America and working class families, not the hard right wing agenda from the Bush-Cheney-DeLay-Saxton team.
-Democrat Rich Sexton

Why are we in the pits in Cherry Hill NJ? You would be too if your voice in Congress was Republican Jim Saxton. Unfortuately the good people of New Jersey's 3rd Congressional district have repeatedly been let down by Congressman Saxton, whose right-wing politics seem better suited to Texas than here in moderate-to-progressive New Jersey.

Most of us are pragmatic enough that we can accept any moderate voice, whether Democrat or Republican. But voters in New Jersey were victims of a classic bait-n-switch. Jim Saxton ran under the banner of MODERATE COMPASSIONATE CONSERVATISM. What voters got instead, was a voice in Congress that is in lock step with the Bush Administration's values.

Republican Congressman Jim Saxton does not represnt the values of New Jersey's voters. One look at his voting record (click here, see for yourself) proves that Congressman Saxton is consistantly on the wrong side of everything that seems important: from education (he voted for Bush's ironically-named 'No Child Left Behind' disaster. He also voted to cut student loan programs. Twice!!) to Health care (including the goofy new drug prescription plan) to jobs (his vote sent good jobs abroad) and the environment (where do I begin there?) Jim Saxton is WRONG for our state!

Democrat Rich Sexton is a moderate voice of change for New Jersey. Not only is Rich Sexton sharp as a whip (he's a Naval Academy grad) but his values show he's got loads of heart as well! Judge for yourself:

Democrat Rich Sexton on the Ecomomy:
For a relatively few very wealthy Americans, the past five years have been the best of times but for most Americans these years have not been easy, with stagnant economic growth coupled with job losses and declining wages. (read more)

Democrat Rich Sexton on Foreign Policy:
We need a common sense approach to American foreign policy instead of the haphazard policy now in place. (read more)

Democrat Rich Sexton on Health Care:

We must make health insurance accessible and affordable for all Americans. As it now stands, over 45 million Americans have no health insurance of any type. (read more)

Democrat Rich Sexton on Education:

The Bush Administration’s massive budget deficits have forced reductions in education funding from top to bottom, and at a time when we can least afford it. (read more)

Democrat Rich Sexton on Social Security:
We must protect Social Security and we can do so by making small adjustments in the program, but we must not privatize Social Security which will destroy the most successful government program in the history of our country. (read more)
Looking to get involved?
Check out Candidate Rich Sexton's website!
(Not registered to vote yet? click here!)

My latest discovery

As soon as men decide that all means are permitted to fight an evil, then their good becomes indistinguishable from the evil that they set out to destroy.
-Christopher Dawson

I was recently turned on to the comical stylings of Andy Singer. Until I can learn to draw myself, I'll use my site to promote the best editorial humor I can find.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Is that a blogroll in your pocket or are ya just excited to see me?

You can tell a lot about a man by the contents of his Blogroll. For those of you who don't know what a blogroll is, in my case it's a list of other sites (mostly Blogs) I read a lot. It's also a way for me to participate in the Blog-0-sphere that makes me feel interconnected. It kinda fosters a sense of rootedness between bloggers.

Lemme introduce you to some of the talented folks on my own blogroll site (located at right, underneath the world map.)

First a quick shout out to my fellow New Jersey bloggers: Thurman at Xpatriatedtexan, the Blanton's & Ashton's posse, Sharon at Center of NJ Life, and Steven at theopinionmill. I learned a lot by watching these guys. Not only do they challenge me to challenge myself, but they share in my progressive values.

Moving beyond the Garden State, I dig thoughtful, sassy, metrosexual prose of Shakespeare's Sister and Pam's House Blend is a must read for gays, lesbians and their friends.

Now go ahead and check 'em all out and say hello! Tell 'em Lassiter sent you.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Gay Marriage in New Jersey? You betcha!!

I've been studying the tea leaves and I'm gonna go out on a limb and predict that within a year, gay couples in NJ will have the legal option to marry. Further, I believe it may happen as early as this summer. Wouldn't that be something? Me and Greg could actually tie the not official-like. I get giddy just thinking about it!!
Then again, I could be wrong?
Stay tuned.

Here's a pic of me (left) with the man I'd marry if I could. Don't we look normal?
(Top image Courtesy Steve Sack)

Friday, February 17, 2006

Our Budget, Our Priorities

You can tell a lot about someone's values by watching how they spend money. It's a matter of priorities, and the war budget is depriving Americans of much needed services back home, such as education and healthcare.

I guess if Bush's defense policies were actually working, I'd feel differently. But this Iraq war folly is an unmitigated disaster.

Do you feel safer?
(Image courtesy of Clay Bennett)

Thursday, February 16, 2006

New Jersey Supreme Court Hears Gay Marriage Argument

Yesterday's Supreme Court battle in Trenton over gay marriage is something I was glad to be a part of, even if all I did was stand outside holding a sign. While it's impossible to predict the outcome, I can't help but being encouraged by what transpired......

I was part of a conference call last night debriefing activists, and according to the uber-smart Rutgers Law professor (and Garden State Equality member) Suzanne Goldberg, "from a litigators perspective, we (gays) got everything we wanted."

According to Prof Goldberg, the judges asked just the types of engaging questions that we hoped they would:
*How can the state justify baring gays from marriage?
*What compelling interest does the state have to draw the line between gays and straights?

It seemed like the Court's questions focused on 3 areas.
1) How to best interpret NJ constitutional doctrine.
2) If the court does recognize expanding the definition of marriage, what are the limits?
(eg: if we strike down the dividing line between gays and straights, is bigamy next? I should note that this red-herring-of-an-argument has floated around each case challenging the traditional idea of marriage including mix-race couples back in the olden days. In the NJ case, the Court seemed to recognize that bigamy, etc was *not* at issue here.)
3) The final focus of the proceedings asked if Gay Marriage was a matter best left to the legislators to decide. Should the legislature's preogative be underminded by a four judge majority? One judge's reply hinted that NJ has a long tradition of relying on the State Supreme Court to enforce constitutional rights.....that the court must not defer to the legislators when they (state legislators) violate their (gay and lesbian) constituents' constitutional rights.

Closing arguments were straight forward:
The plaintiffs asserted that NJ has a traditon of public policy against discrimination. The arugment that there is a guarantee of equality in the constitution, that "similarly situated people should not be differentiated unless the state can provide a compelling reason to do so."

The state countered that the state is entitled to make the gay/straight marriage distinction based on "history" and "tradition."

I should add that the judges seemed to be aware that the concept of marriage is ever-evolving and that the state also has a history of sexual equaltiy-- that a *history* of discrimination does not justify further discrimination.

As I mentioned earlier, the Judges seemed engaged. Most of them anyway. While five of the seven were actively asking "the right kinds of" questions, Two judges: Wallace and Rivera-Soto asked nothing. Not sure what to infer from that....of the two, only Soto is considered conservative. Perhaps the justices have different areas of expertise?
Again, i stress, it's foolish to predict an outcome, but I can't help but try to make sense of all the tea leaves.

When the plaintiffs came out of the courtroom, they were positively beaming. You could tell that they were all relieved that this phase of the battle is behind them.

Garden State Equality hosted a big, gay lunch at the Mariott afterwards. After standing out in the cold all morning, it was nice to be well-fed. That was a nice touch! Mostly it was a chance to cross-pollinate with other bloggers, activists and journalists.

A decision is expected from the Court in a few months. I believe we will prevail on this one.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Bush Plan to Sell Off Public Land

(Tata at Blanton's & Ashton's reports)--

Shout, and don't quit. You will have 30 days!

Bush team seeks to sell land:
Is selling off Bitterroot National Forest or the Sierra National Forest or Yellowstone National Park a good idea? No, not in general," said Under Secretary Mark Rey. "But I challenge these people who are engaging in this flowery rhetoric ... to take a hard look at these specific parcels and tell me they belong in national forest ownership."
This is so immoral I can barely speak. Your only choice:

The public will have 30 days to comment after maps of the acreage proposed for sale are published, which the agency expects to do by the end of the month. Some parcels might be removed after public comment if they are deemed too valuable to lose.

Read the whole article. This is what happens when fake ranchers use real wilderness to finance an illegal war. Can we cut 'em off at the pass?

(Image courtesy of Monte Wolverton)

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Dick Leak

Aparently the U.S. Olympic biathalon team can't hit the broad side of a barn. After a disgraceful 80th place finish by the top American, (Europeans swept the medals) I can't help but thinking Team USA does't have its best biathalon team competing in the Olympics.

This just in from Torino (cnnsi reports)--
Jay Hakkinen couldn't believe what he was seeing through his scope. The target didn't go
down! Are you kidding?

Puzzled, he checked his rifle.


He lined up his sights and fired again.

Another miss!

Panicked now, another check of the rifle. Still no explanation for what was happening.

Was he firing at the wrong targets? No.

His equipment? Fine. Heart rate? Good. Eyesight? Perfect. Breathing? Excellent.

He peered again and fired again. Another miss.

And so it went ...

A fourth miss, a fifth miss, a check of the rifle after every perplexingly errant shot as the crowd at the Olympic biathlon course grew silent at the anguishing sight of a man's lifelong dreams dashed.

Never in his life had the 29-year-old from Kasilof, Alaska, missed all five shots in a round on the range.

Just like that, the Americans' best hope for a biathlon medal were gone.

Now are you thinking what I'm thinking? Maybe the very best American sharpshooters are somewhere in Texas shootin' quail. And their friends. Hey, at least the Vice President hit something, that's better than our Olympic team could manage.

Image courtesy Daryl Cagle
Top image courtesy of cnnsi.com.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Come Back to the Five-n-Dime Tonya Harding, Tonya Harding?!

Is it me or have the Olympics become totally lame? In my opinion, the Games were a lot cooler in the old Cold War days. Without all that exquisite geopolitical tension, the competition seems a lot less captivating.

Remember when we beat the Soviets in ice hocky? Most people do, even non-sports fans. Back then, watching Team USA take on those Warsaw pact nations--our ideological arch rivals-- was really satisfying, especially when Americans struck gold. Nowadays American athletes are batting Swissmen and Canadians and Finns for glory and somehow it doesn't seem nearly as titillating.

It's too bad Iran and Afghanistan don't have a winter Olympic squad. Imagine how fun that would be to watch. Ice dancing in a birqe? I must say, the mind reels.......

Speaking of ice dancing, you probably know that ice skating is still the gay man's Superbowl. Naturally, I'll be watching tonite. It's the pairs long program. Should be a pretty good one, but not as good as the ol' USA v/s USSR days of my childhood.

Top and bottom Images Courtesty of Bruce Beattie

Black History, Green Grass

February is Black History Month, that once-a-year opportunity for white people to remind ourselves just how culturally sensitive we can be. So this year I wanted to avoid another culture-bound, Euro-centric tribute to Black America. And since African American History seems offered up mostly for Caucasian consumption, I wanted to share a sliver of Afro-American culture that would actually give Black folks something (new) to contemplate, as well. As a tennis junkie, it wasn't hard to come up with the perfect example.

Did you know that Black Americans have triumphed on the lily-white lawns of Wimbledon sixteen times? Yes, that Wimbledon, a place so seeped in vanilla tradition that a white-clothing-only rule is still strictly enforced!

Althea Gibson won the first of her five titles in 1957. (see photo) Her achievement was all the more remarkable as she was the first player of either sex to to shatter the color barrier in international tennis. But it wasn't easy. According to ESPN.com,

She was the first black to play in the national indoor tournament in 1950 and finished second, which should have won her an invitation to the U. S. Nationals. No invitation came until after a letter from former champ Alice Marble appeared in the July issue of Tennis magazine. "If Althea Gibson represents a challenge to the present crop of players, then it's only fair that they meet this challenge on the courts," she said.

She would go on the with the U.S. Open and become the #1 player in the world.

In 1975 Arthur Ashe reigned supreme at Wimbledon , along the way thumping world #1 Jimmy Connors who at the time was at the height of his lofty powers. To date, Arthur is the only black man to hoist the Wimbledon trophy. He is also the only Wimbledon champ ever to sport a (mini) Afro. After Arthur's death from AIDS complications in 1993, scholar and writer William Rhoden offered this tribute,
First and foremost Arthur Ashe was an activist. His vision was that athletes, especially African American athletes, would play a pivotal role in shaping a society in which they command an increasingly visible presence on the global landscape.
Much like baseball's Jackie Robinson, Gibson and Ashe will likely be remembered more for breaking barriers than for athletic accomplishments. Fast forward 20 years and things have definitely changed.
Venus and Serena Williams have dominated at Wimbledon for the past decade. Both Williams sisters clearly benefited from their predecessors Arthur Ashe and Althea Gibson who struggled for just for acceptance.
Venus and Serena not obliged to fit in. Not when they can stand out instead. And their record is astonishing: 10 Wimbledons, 3 Olympic gold medals, and over $3o million in prize money between the pair. Add to that the $4o million Venus (pictured here after taking last year's title) was paid to wear Reebok and Serena's $30 million deal with Nike and it's clear that their stranglehold on women's tennis has earned them top dollar in the sports marketing world. The Williams' influence extends beyond Center Court and Madison Avenue, however. All over American little black girls are taking up the sport. According to Tina Tharpe, Coordinator of the Arthur Ashe Tennis Academy in Philadelphia (and my former boss) girls comprise 70% of the Academy's enrollment. I reckon it'll be another dozen years before be know the legacy of the Williams Sisters. For now, they're still adding to their trophy case! At 24 (Serena) and 25, the sisters still should have time to add to their legacy--both on and off the court.

Sports has always been a good medium for advancing social causes. And when you consider that Black athletic progress has long been a step or two ahead of Black social progress, I think we can look at the successes of the Williams Sisters at Wimbledon and be kinda hopeful.
(Picture: Serena checkin' out the hardware)

Photos courtesy of the Wimbledon website.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Electric Bill Blues

It looks like I'll have to get a paper route to keep myself in Chanel. My electricity bill is an astonishing $246.19, and that amount even includes a $20 monthly credit I enjoy for the solar panel on the roof which provides hot water for the house. The bill for the same this time last year was just over $100.

I guess my plan to pay an extra $10 each month for clean renewable energy sources will have to wait until I can afford it without having to turn to a life of crime to pay for it. Too bad.

I better go turn some lights off.

Image courtesty of Jimmy Margulies

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Panel: NJ Clean Election Program Shows Promise

The panel assessing the state’s experiment to remove big money from elections said last year’s effort showed promise to clean up New Jersey’s culture of corruption and should be ready for prime time, so to speak, ahead of the 2007 legislative elections. The good people of South Jersey are keeping their fingers crossed. Personally I'm sick of people looking at me funny when I tell them I am from Camden County. Sometimes I need T shirt that says, "I have nothing to do with anyone in the Norcro$$ clan." But I digress...

Anyway, given the shady and salacious nature of South Jersey politics it seems fitting that last year's pilot program was conducted in the 6th District, made up of 16 towns in Camden County, including (my hometown) Cherry Hill, as well as the 13th District.

In the end, only one team of Assembly candidates, 6th District Democrats Louis D. Greenwald and Pamela Rosen Lampitt, managed to gather enough $5 and $30 donations to qualify for state funding. They ended up giving a portion of the $260,000 to their Republican opponents (who were unable to raise the requisite amound of small donations) but nonetheless prevailed in Democratic-leaning Cherry Hill.

Let me repeat that:
They ended up giving a portion of the $260,000 to their Republican opponents , which at first blush sounds pretty darn civilized.

(AP Reports)--

Although only two candidates succeeded in raising enough of the small donations to qualify for state funding, "We cannot allow the difficulties the candidates faced to stop this program. We need to fix the details," said Assemblyman William E. Baroni Jr.

The pilot program offered candidates campaign money from the state treasury if they raised $20,000 from 1,500 donors in their district and agreed only to take contributions of $5 or $30.

The aim was to encourage more door-to-door campaigning while limiting the influence of party bosses, special-interest groups and political committees, which can contribute up to $8,200 to a single candidate for office in New Jersey.

Under a law passed in 2004, the program took place in two of the 40 legislative districts last year; 10 Assembly candidates participated. They were eligible for up to $130,000 in state funds, depending on the district.


Acknowledging that surveys found little public awareness of the clean elections project, Assemblywoman Linda R. Greenstein, urged the media and citizens' groups "to go forth and educate." Greenstein, D-Middlesex and Mercer counties, is a member of the commission and co-sponsor of the law that created the pilot.

Although the program cost taxpayers $260,000 and the state is facing a budget shortfall, the amount is "infinitesimal" compared to special grants annually made by the Legislature, said commission Chairman William E. Schluter, a former Republican state senator who ran for governor as an independent in 2001.

Added Baroni, "It's a public investment in cleaning up a culture of corruption."

In a statement, Assembly Speaker Joseph J. Roberts Jr. said many of the commission's concerns were valid.

"The most noteworthy finding is that clean elections should continue to go forward in this state," said Roberts, D-Camden.

Panel members hope that NJ will ultimately expand the clean elections program to all districts. Arizona and Maine have similar programs, and Connecticut recently adopted one.

I should add that back in 1977, NJ instituted public financing for gubernatorial candidates who adhere to spending limits. All major party nominees have participated since, except last year, when gazillionaires Jon Corzine and Doug Forrester bankrolled their own gazillion dollar race for the Governor's mansion.

Who knew? Not me, that's for sure. One thing is clear, the more folks in NJ hear about this program to clean up Trenton, they more they seem to like it

Friday, February 10, 2006

Friday Funny

It gets a little gruesome writing about politics all the time, so today I am offering up a little gem which brought a broad smile to my face.
(Image courtesy of Mike Lester)

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

A Homosexual, a Newspaper Editor and a Radical Danish Imam Walk into a Bar....

I got a call from the BBC yesterday inviting me to be a guest on their show "World Have Your Say." Apparently I sent the the show's producers an email and I must have written something smart because they seemed pretty eager to get me on. I was given the opportunity to ask some questions of two major figures in this whole Muhammad cartoon scandal. On hand to field my questions were Arnaud Levy (the editor of the newspaper France Soir, which published the cartoons early in the controversy) and Danish Imam Mustapha who spearheaded the effort to distribute these images in the Muslim world. I wanted to know what did he hope to accomplish by taking these cartoons publicdanish cartoon
We have Jay on the line from New Jersey in the U.S............
First of all, this story is getting a ton of play in the media here in the U.S., um, but I really don't believe that these pictures of Muhammad--which are causing so much controversy--really inform a negative stereotype of Muslims as much as watching people buring down embassies does, quite frankly. I guess my question for Imam Mustapha is what were your motives, what were you hoping to accomplish by encouraging distribution of these images in the Middle East? I guess I'm wondering if you're trying to encourage some kind of dialogue or were you, you know, just trying to get people angry?
Imam Mustapha:
Can I have a word now?
Yes actually, I mean we have to make something clear, to clarify something which is very very important. Nobody has to tell about freedom of speech because, in the Bible, ummm, in the Old Testament, God I mean Allah was speaking to Satan and gave him the chance to clarify what he said to Adam. Freedom of dialogue isn't freedom to insult, insulting Islam! You can criticize, you're not supposed to believe in Muhammad if you don't like to! But criticizing, but you can criticize, but it's insulting. So if you're insulting something else, I mean, Mr. Levy tried to run away! I mean, he praises loudly Hitler for example, for what he did to the Jews, he can not of course, not....
Ok, but Imam with all due respect, We've asked you to answer Jay's question......
What his question was? Yesterday our committee, we have welcomed, umm, since we are starting this, we have started with the dialogue now. We have welcomed the call of the (Danish) Foreign Minister and State Minister and let's together and make a delegation and, well, because I am living in Denmark I want only peace for my country, the country I'm living in.
Do you take any responsibility for the lives lost and the damage done?
Eh, no! I should not take any responsibility but I condemn what's happening, but actually if anything is happening--harm I mean--the damage at the embassy it's because of you (refering to Levy) not because of us! This newspaper is hurting 1.2 billion of Muslims who, at least, I mean, being civilized to say, "I'm sorry, I did not mean that." An expression we can accept. As for the violence, it's not in my hands to stop everything. But we have welcomed that that we have sent a letter to foreign minister, that we are calling for dialogue. Then we can sit together and make a dedication to go and stop this. It's only crazy people who like what happened in Iran! Nobody likes, very hurting what's happening and we are very sorry for what happened because the people, but we can not control all of them. And about the prophet Muhammad, these big writers and thousands of others, they know he's our prophet.....
Ok, Imam, let me stop you there 'cuz we've got a lot of people who want to get on and speak with you. But let me give Jay a brief opportunity to respond. Jay does that answer your question? Is that sufficient?
Not really Sir, but let me take this opportunity to apologize if you and your Muslim brothers and sisters took offense at these images. But I don't wanna make this a free speech argument. What I am suggesting that all this response to the controversy, which i believe you, umm, I believe was sort of predicated on your own ambition. It's, you know, a lot of energy and attention is going toward this and no one is thinking about, um, all this wasted effort. This isn't going to get the Danish troops out of Iraq, this isn't going to address the Palestine question, this isn't gonna accomplish any of the goals of the Muslim community here or abroad. Or is it?
Are you trying to say that, to suggest that Muslims aren't putting enough effort into protesting against violence or hostage-taking, this type of thing? Is that what you're getting at, Jay?
Not, not exactly. What I'm saying is that I find it very curious that there is such an uproar over comics. Maybe this is my own culture-bound western sensibility, but quite frankly-- instead of ostensibly inciting violence-- maybe a more appropriate response would have been for the Imam to challenge Muslim cartoonists to parody Danish culture.
Reporter: Thanks Jay very much indeed.
Is it me or is this guy nuts? Here's the mouthpiece of the radical Muslim cleric's organization that made it their business to inflame tensions in the Muslim and Arab world with these cartoons, and he's trying to tell me that he seeks to encourage peaceful dialogue between the east and west. Sounds like a bunch of hooey to me. I hate to say it, but chatting with a radical Imam really reminded me who the enemy is here.
Listen for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

(I hope to have it on mp3 later tonight.)

In Memory of Coretta

I miss her already. Image courtesy of John Branch

New Jersey's Renewable Energy Initiatiave

Trenton, NJ (Sharon at Center of NJ life reports)--
Lower Property Taxes? Go Solar!

Well, not quite- but if A1882 passes, you won't pay property taxes on your solar system. A press release on PoliticsNJ reports that the bill was released from committee to go to Appropriations for further consideration. From the release:

The bill would allow for a tax exemption for solar energy systems that provide heating, cooling, or general energy."Property owners who install certified solar energy systems, from cooling towers to solar cells, should be rewarded with tax exemptions for their environmental stewardship," said McKeon (D-Essex).

According to the Department of Energy, an estimated 50,000 American deaths per year are caused by airborne particulate matter of which one-third is generated by power plants. Solar energy is a clean resource that produces little or no air pollution or waste which reduces global warming and protects the environment.
"By supporting the use of renewable energy, we are protecting New Jersey's clean and healthy air. The state's most vulnerable residents, including children and seniors with asthma and allergies, will have less respiratory problems once we have reduced our reliance on power plants that generate particulate matter known as smog," said Gusciora (D-Mercer).

If this bill passes, it will be one more way to cement Our Fair State's position as a leader in alternative energies. And, good for those of us who made the investment in our solar system. Hoody Hoo! Write your legislators!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Bush+Budget=Scuzzy Math

In the long term the biggest challenge to our nation's fiscal health comes from unsustainable growth in entitlement spending. We do not need to cut these programs, but we do need to slow their growth.
-President Bush

In the long term the biggest challenge to our nation's fiscal health stems from President Bush's sense of priorities. One example is Bush's plan to cypher American tax dollars from domestic programs (student loans and Social Security, for starters) in order to hemorrhage money in a "War on Terror" that actually puts Americans in evermore peril.
-Jay Lassiter

(Image courtesy of John Sherffius)

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Rx Plan: Side Affects and Donut Holes

President Bush's prescription plan has gotton off to a slow start. I'll keep my fingers crossed because it doesn't matter how I feel about George Bush, I still desperately want his perscription drug plan to work out. All Americans do. What I've seen at my drugstore doesn't inspire a lot of confidence, not yet anyway. But what do I know? Ask your pharmacist or your grandparents and see what they have to say!
(Image courtesy of Matt Davies)

Los Warm Fuzzies dela Venezuela!

Black Gold, Texas Tea
(-from the themesong of Beverly Hillbillies)

Venezuelan President (and Bush-archrival) Hugo Chavez is at it again. The oil-rich country (via Citgo, its U.S. subsidiary) is expanding home heating oil subsidies to Vermont and will provide 2.4 million gallons of heating oil at a 40% discount to households that qualify for state home heat assistance. Another 108,000 gallons will be donated to homeless shelters. (Quick aside: imagine being homeless in Vermont in winter and count your blessings!!) This follows similar arrangements that El Chavez has already brokered with politicians in Massachusetts and New York City.

Sr. Chavez has been a thorn in the side of the Bush Administration with his hard-lefty policies, maybe it offends Bush's sensibilities to see someone helping poor people. Anyway, since Venezeula is sitting on a shitload of oil, Chavez has some clout on the global scene. His latest example of petro-diplomacy in Vermont should only expand his sphere of influence, no doubt to the chagrin of the Bushes and the Saudi royal family.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Culture Wars in the Funny Pages

Satire has been a strong and effective, yet unbloody tool for centuries. Maybe if more parties in today's global conflicts adopted this form of jostling, there'd be less hate and bloodshed.
-Ed Karten, London (BBC message board)

I reckon most of you have heard by now about those now-infamous cartoons (check out a few here)that appeared in the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten which depict the profet Muhammadin a less-than-flattering light? According to the folks at Technocrati, (who keep track of 'blog traffic) this is by far the biggest story at the blog-o-sphere at the moment.

Dan Rubin at Blinq reports--
Newspapers across Europe are reprinting cartoons that ridicule the prophet Muhammad in solidarity with papers in Denmark and Norway that have become the subjects of widespread protests in the Muslim world.

Germany's Die Welt published one of the offending caricatures on Wednesday's front page proclaiming the "right to blasphemy" is a democratic freedom. Other wide-circulation papers to make the gesture include Italy's La Stampa, Le Soir in France and the Spanish El Periodico. Le Soir fired its managing director yesterday, and apologized to the Muslim community.

Protests and boycotts have spread across the Middle East and Europe following the publications of the cartoons-which include Muhammad with a bomb in his turban. The Islamic faith considers any depiction of the profit to be blasphemous. Someone phoned a bomb threat to the conservative Danish daily Jyllands-Posten and the Washington Post reposts there have been calls for a religious decree to attack Danish troops serving in Iraq.

First of all, I was pretty shocked to learn that the Danes were in Iraq, but that's for another day. Rather than issuing a fatwah to bomb newspapers and kill Danish soldiers, why not a call for Muslim cartoonists to parody Danes and their culture instead?

This slice of the culture wars represents a real philosophical and moral dilema for this progressive American. On the one hand, I wanna be open-minded to religious diversity and respectful of others' opinions and worldviews. But in this case, for me to do so would be a real compromise of my own values. Freedom of expression is important to me.

I've been told I lean so far left to the political continuum, that sometimes I come back around on the other side. Perhaps this is one of those times.

In response to the controversy, yesterday's
France Soir newspaper ran this comic on their front page which shows Buddah, Jesus and Jewish God saying, "Don't complain Muhammad, we've all been parodied here!"

Culture Wars in the Funny Pages Part II

Food for Thought?
This is one of the comics that launched the scandal as it appears in the Danish Newspaper Jyllands-Posten. You can draw your own conclusions.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

100 Dead British Soldiers

Hard to believe I missed this sad milestone in last night's State of the Union media vacuum. Yesterday our cousins and coalition patners, the British, marked their 1ooth fallen soldier in the Iraq War. It's pretty hard to believe that my homestate of New Jersey has suffered almost half as many (forty-two at last count) casualties as the entire British Army. What's the casualty count where you live? State-by-state casualty count
(Image courtesy Gaurdian.co.uk)

What State of the Union??

If you're looking for State of the Union Analysis, you won't find it here. Sorry! If you want the skinny on that, check out Shakespeare's Sister or my fellows at BlueJersey for the latest. We've started podcasting over at BlueJersey, and Democratic Congressman Rush Holt offers up his reply to Bush's speech. Check it out, everyone's doing it!

In the full spirit of denial, I boycotted the State of the Union altogether and last night Greg and I did bonghits and watched "Happy Endings" instead. (Sounds kinda like a porno?) It was a pretty good flick! ( a lot better than listening to Bush's "Stay the course" drivel....) Here's a review from the 'net:
The two major stories revolve around step-siblings: hardened and neurotic Mamie (Lisa Kudrow) and gay restaurant owner Charley (Steve Coogan.) In their teens, a random sexual encounter produced a baby that Mamie secretly bore to term and gave up for adoption. Throughout the film, they are both on the prowl for lost offspring.
I'll take slick, arty type movies about bisexual threeways over State of the Union anyday! Happy Endings also stars a surprisingly funny Tom Arnold and Maggie Gyllenhaal, whose brother is in that gay cowboy flick everyone's talking about.