Archive | February, 2013

Hey, What Exit?

10 Feb

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When it comes to population density New Jersey is first!…among states that is. The District of Columbia actually has more residents per square mile and Puerto Rico is a close second, but they don’t count because when it comes to states,  we’re still the most crowded! ..at least for now…

However, according to the moving company United Van Lines which released its 36th annual study of customer migration patterns, New Jersey and You are apparently no longer perfect together.

These patterns, analyzing a total of 125,000 moves across the 48 continental states in 2012 show that  New Jersey has the highest ratio of people moving out compared to those moving in. Of the 6,300 total moves tracked in the state last year, 62% were outbound. Ouch!

Apparently New Jersey has been suffering from deindustrialization for some time now and even though it’s  starting to smell better  it’s still tied to New York, and its  high housing costs which may also be pushing people out.

And sadly, just when we had finally figured out how to keep New York’s garbage from washing onto our beaches, it’s now washing off of our beaches!… in the form of our houses, cars, boardwalks and amusement park rides…thanks to global warming (Yes, it is real) helping to bring those mega-storms up the coast on what’s becoming a yearly basis.  

And with new and more strictly drawn FEMA flood zone maps being approved along with  requirements to rebuild “off the ground” or above the flood plain,  insurance costs are sky rocketing,  not to mention the costs of rebuilding. . .and what was once our greatest asset is fast becoming our greatest liability…It will be interesting to see just how many of the homes destroyed during hurricane Sandy will actually be rebuilt.

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Of course we still have “Snookie” and her friends around somewhere to help draw people back in although most of us New Jersians don’t see them as an asset, and even though I think we still lead the world in pizza, bagels and wise guys, if the trend continues perhaps someday soon the old Jersey joke, “Hey what exit?” will no longer refer to where we Jersy-ites live along our parkways and turnpikes but rather by which egress we are leaving.

But maybe the numbers are wrong and my beloved New Jersey will not have to  relinquish its claim to fame as the most densely populated state …maybe we New Jerseyers aren’t really leaving. We’re just being nudged, jostled and pushed out because it’s so crowded. Hey, could be… I bet if you look around you can even find some of us who have spilled into your state.

 Here in New Jersey, that’s called looking on the bright side…or a vacation.

 

 

Finding Nemo

8 Feb

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Well, they’ve done it again. Now the dreaded storm named Nemo is bearing down upon us here in the Northeast and once again I have to ask: Is that the best they can do? Nemo? A cute fish is about to devour Boston, New York City and half the eastern seaboard and we have to call it Winter Storm Nemo???

The Abominable Snowstorm works for me, and then like the Superbowl, just keep adding Roman numerals. Then we will know exactly what’s coming while also being reminded of exactly how many times this has happened before. “Oh no! It’s Abominable Snowstorm MCDXL!”

Really though, must they name every storm now? Remember when we just used to have storms?

Sadly, while reviewing my flood, earthquake, hurricane and homeowners, insurance policies I noticed a little addendum at the end that stated…and I quote,

A $500 deductible applies to covered perils other than storms named by The National Weather Service, to which a $10,350 deductible applies. These deductibles are part of a broad effort by the insurance industry to have homeowners take more steps to protect their homes, by having these owners share some of the risk. (let me know if you can find this clause in your policy)

So thank you insurance companies everywhere and the National Weather Service too for helping out the little guy and leading us undoubtedly towards a future that will probably see no storm, no matter how great or small, go unnamed.

So get ready for Light Flurry Flo! Foggy morning Frank! and Drizzly Daytime Dan! Soon coming to a town near you.

Book ’em Danno

8 Feb

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No doubt by now you’ve already seen or read the story about the young woman who was disrespectful to the Florida judge while receiving her bail and had the book thrown at her to the tune of 30 days in jail and bail set at $10,000 for a prescription drug infraction.

I know that many people view this as proper justice and a case of a disrespectful young woman getting what she deserves but if you watch the video carefully you’ll see that the disrespect began with the judge and not the young woman.

She was a first time offender on an illegal prescription drug charge and she wasn’t behaving seriously enough for his liking so instead of releasing her on her own recognizance which would have been standard procedure for an 18 year with no prior offenses, he set her bail at $5,000 and dismissed her with an unprofessional “Bye, Bye, you can go now.” To which she simply responded, “Adios”. 

Even I know that means goodbye. Does it mean goodbye disrespectfully? Simply because it is a Spanish word? Ironically, Judge Rodriguez-Chomat thought so and called her back to increase her bail to $10,000 and then dismissed her with the same, although much more sarcastically spoken, “Adios”. That led to the young woman giving the judge the finger and a verbal expletive which led to the judge calling her back again and then ordering her to spend 30 days in jail for contempt.

As an educator and an adult who can attest to having had classrooms filled with 20 or more students, exactly like this young woman in Florida I have absolutely no doubt that he started it. Why? Because as a professional and an educated adult and a person with an extreme amount of power…he is the one who should definitely know better. In fact and whether he likes it or not, that’s precisely part of his job.

But even if you disagree with me consider the fact that at the average price of $31,000 per year to keep some one incarcerated in a county, state or federal jail in the USA that judge just cost us all about three grand! And multiply that by our world record prison population of over 2 million citizens and you have an annual cost to the tax payers of over 74 billion dollars.

And if you then consider the fact that over 7million adults are under correctional supervision  including  probation, parole, jail or prison (fully 3% of our population) then the total costs are even more staggering.

Yes, over the last 40 years or so there has been a staggering shift in the way that people behave disrespectfully to one another and we teachers know that there is nothing funny about being disrespected… but when this happens on almost every television show on the air these days there is always an accompanying laugh track to keep us amused.

Unfortunately for the young woman in the Florida court room she tried to add her own laugh track to the proceedings which just made matters worse for her. Curiously enough I have noticed over the years that no one, not teenager, nor adult, professional or non, likes being insulted in any way shape or form …

Yet everyone on Television seems to enjoy it, including the audiences. Why is that?

It seems to me that we have a love/hate relationship with disrespect in this country. We like to be disrespectful and we hate to be disrespected…and it’s costing us upwards of 70 billion dollars a year and destroying millions of lives…and because it really isn’t funny there’s not a laugh track to be heard.

 

 

 

 

Luke! I Am Your Father

5 Feb

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Just when you thought our government might finally be headed in the right direction, the Open Society Foundations releases a report revealing that,  The U.S. counterterrorism practice known as “extraordinary rendition”, in which suspects were quietly moved to secret prisons abroad and often tortured, involved the participation of  54 other nations.

Rendition, in law, is a transfer of persons from one jurisdiction to another  after legal proceedings and according to law. “Extraordinary rendition,” however, is a transfer which is extralegal. Extralegal means, “outside the law” or in other words, or rather words that everyone can understand,  illegal.

Our top secret program was widely expanded by the President Bush administration after the 9/11 attacks and although administration officials said that they never intentionally sent terrorism suspects abroad in order to be tortured, the countries where the prisoners seemed to end up like Egypt, Libya and Syria, among others, were known to utilize “coercive interrogation techniques.”

So Imagine our friends in Egypt, Libya and Syria (We have friends in Egypt, Libya and Syria?!) resorting to torturing prisoners that we send them. Who could ever have anticipated that?

Not to mention that it was in one of these extraordinarily renditioned camps where we learned from a tortured prisoner that Saddam Hussein had been training al Qaeda in biological and chemical warfare. Naturally this helped lead to the invasion of Iraq and later that most amusing video footage where President Bush is seen laughing about not being able to find any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq…or under his desk.

Some people will say anything when tortured! Excuse me, I mean, extra legally coerced.

But thankfully, following President Darth Vader’s tenure, a young Jedi knight was elected President and he pledged to end the U.S. government’s use of torture and issued an executive order closing the CIA’s secret prisons around the world…role credits…

But wait! President Obama did not fully end the practice of rendition. Instead, the administration said it was relying on the less certain “diplomatic assurances” of host countries that they would not torture suspects sent to them for pretrial detention…isn’t that exactly what happened in episode 1?!

And now, in the apparent sequel, NBC News is reporting that a Justice Department Memo has been obtained which states that The United States can target its own citizens with drone strikes if they have recently been involved in violent attacks.

Isn’t that always the way? Just when you think that the Death Star was built for other planets only, the empire announces that it can kill citizens with robots!

Mr. Vader, may I call you dad?

Mine Eyes Have Seen My Shadow!

3 Feb

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In honor of Groundhog Day I went outside and saw my own shadow…and it was shivering so I went back inside. This told me that it is still winter! I’m sure that’s what the poor marmot in Pennsylvania was thinking when those silly Punxsutawnians  took him out of his home and held him in the light of a freezing day.

We have some strange and weird commemorative days in our calendar and I just had to look this one up.  The 2nd of February was once (and I’m sure still is) a Christian holiday traditionally known as Candlemas. It is also known as the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin, and the Meeting of the Lord.

According to the gospel of Luke, Mary and Joseph took the baby Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem forty days  after his birth to complete Mary’s ritual purification after childbirth, and to perform the redemption of the firstborn, in obedience to the Law of Moses. When they got to the temple the Gospel also records that they encountered  Simeon who had been promised by the holy spirit that “he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ”

So once upon a time 40 days after Christmas Simeon saw the baby Jesus and today 2 thousand and some odd years later a groundhog sees his shadow and then Spring comes!…eventually…like it always does.

Really the whole thing was about the celebration of light and it’s return. The days are getting longer and that’s always a good thing especially in times when electricity hadn’t been encountered yet. And metaphorically speaking Jesus is also known as the “light of the world” and his birth is often viewed as the shedding of light upon the human soul and condition. So let’s celebrate!

I have no idea why all of these religious icons and ideas have all been replaced by cute animals, parties and jolly old elves etc…but isn’t it curious that many pagan celebrations and festivals which began with the worship of earthly places and deities in the pre-Christian era morphed into religious holidays and the celebration of personal icons during the advent of Christianity and now thousands of years later have morphed again into celebrations of cartoon-like characters, who seemingly have nothing to teach us except that we should have a party and buy things.

Speaking of which, we now celebrate the Superbowl at this same time of year, a truly pagan festival  which commemorates the end of the barbaric football season and the thankful return of the light of baseball, a truly civilized sport of Spring, warm weather and safely returning home.

So…Happy Imbolc, Candlemas, Groundhog Day and Superbowl Sunday!

Some things just never change…even though they always do.

Let Me Be Your Weatherman

2 Feb

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Every morning while I am driving in my car I hear the same commercial.

“Is your home underwater? (not literally but in the figurative sense as in:) Do you owe more on your mortgage than your home is worth?”

And I think to myself, how is this even possible?

Have you ever attempted to or actually bought a home?

It’s not possible unless you have a battery of, no, gang of, no, a veritable gaggle of “professionals” who swarm around you like house flies and come out of the woodwork like cockroaches just to charge you extra money for their necessary, no, needed, no, required by law, “expertise” to make sure that you can not only afford said homestead, but can also pay the absolute highest possible market value for that humble abode that you so happily desire.

There will be people employed by banks and law firms and mortgage companies with titles like, Loan Officer, Title Attorney, Home Appraiser, Escrow Officer, Credit Evaluator, Tax Assessor, Insurance Officer, you’ll meet adjusters and investigators and inspectors and application officers and termite investigators and more people with more titles than you’ve ever heard of or ever thought you would need to buy just one little old house.

And they will all be well schooled and well certified and well trained and professionally paid…by you the lucky home purchaser, and they will all come to a professional and certifiable agreement as to what your home is worth and what you can afford to pay and then of course what you will be expected to pay over the next 30 years or so.

And that’s pretty much how the process works, and yet amazingly enough, without one crime being committed 10.8 million Americans or 22.3 percent of all homeowners (The research firm Zillow has estimated that nearly half of homeowners under the age of 40 are underwater right now) have discovered that all of these professionals, with their degrees and diplomas and pedigrees backed by large banks and mortgage companies and financiers and government officials, have apparently had to take no more responsibility for their being wrong about the value of these homes being inflated and overvalued than a weatherman does when he gets the weather wrong!

“Oops, sorry but you now owe more than your home is worth. Our bad. We sold you something that wasn’t worth all of our professional opinions put together and guess what? Who could have seen this coming? Like a bad storm that took a wrong turn, we “the professionals”, just didn’t see it coming. It was a housing bubble that burst! You know, like a festering blister. Who could have seen that coming?”

Unfortunately for these homeowners they weren’t swindled, as it would have been called in the old days, but rather they now just own what is known as… “Negative Equity”. Ironically the very first meanings of equity  in English were a direct translation from the original Old French equité,  a word whose Latin root means “even,” “just,” and “equal.” So today’s unfortunate underwater homeowners are simply suffering from negative evenness, negative justice and negative equality. Which of course is not a crime when the wind is blowing like it’s 1984 outside!

But I digress because there is good news. Fortunately for all of the well paid “housing professionals” what happened was not a crime and today, the unfortunate homeowners or rather  “Underwater borrowers” owe an average of $72,235 more than the value of their home, which must still be good news for the “professionals”, no?

And because the “homeowners” (I ask you: what do they actually own if the home that they “bought” has less value than the money they borrowed to pay for it?)  can’t sell their homes and move without incurring a steep financial penalty… And since the homeowners and not the “professionals” are penalized for taking such lousy advice from “the professionals” in the first place (the word today is that prospective homeowners need to do their homework and checkout the professional advice they get before taking it!) the homeowners only recourse…as the advertisement spokesperson concludes in the commercial, is…REFINANCE!

Or in other words, since crime just ain’t what it used to be…as in criminal… please, please, please…

Let me be your weatherman.

GRACEFIFTEENTEN

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