Friday, December 31, 2010

Christie Acts To Help Storm-Ravaged Towns

                                                                                                  To help New Jersey municipalities and counties recover costs from this week’s severe winter snowstorm, Governor Chris Christie today signed a letter to President Barack Obama seeking a major disaster declaration to secure federal funding and ensure New Jersey communities most affected by the storm receive all possible resources to address extraordinary and unforeseen costs from the snow emergency.
 
“My pledge is to do all we can to help our municipalities and counties in the aftermath of the blizzard, to clean up and to ease the storm’s financial impact,” Governor Christie said.  “I want New Jersey to be in the best possible position to receive disaster aid through a prompt application to the federal government and FEMA.
 
”In the face of such a ferocious and unusual winter storm, our Department of Transportation, State Police and other agencies mounted an effective response, maximized resources and worked tirelessly for days. The eastern municipalities and counties most impacted also did the best they could under very difficult circumstances. There are always concerns about how things could have gone better, but the fact is this was a rare and unanticipated force of nature that hit our state, and we owe our thanks to all those who worked tirelessly to get us through it."
 
Also today, Governor Christie announced the distribution of more than $11.18 million in FEMA disaster aid from successful applications following major storms earlier this year.  Distribution of payments to municipalities and counties began yesterday and will continue through Monday.  Payment amounts to some of the hardest hit counties from those storms include, for example, $386,344 to Camden County, $308,936 to Burlington County, $291,612 to Gloucester County, $284,561 to Atlantic County, $278,638 to Cumberland County and $278,091 to Salem County.  Payments for amounts ranging from thousands of dollars to tens of thousands of dollars will go to dozens of other municipalities and counties.
 
In his letter to President Obama, the Governor noted that storm conditions in 13 counties exceed the standards set to qualify for federal disaster assistance.  The qualifying counties are Atlantic, Bergen, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Somerset and Union.  New Jersey, through data being collected by the State Police Office of Emergency Management, will provide additional supporting information following the completion of a Preliminary Damage Assessment pursuant to FEMA’s Snow Assistance Policy.
 
The snowfall, which began the morning after Christmas, broke many of the historic records established and maintained by the National Weather Service and National Climatic Data Center, as described in an attachment to the Governor’s letter.
 
“In light of these severe conditions, federal assistance is critical to properly and fairly mitigate the financial impact of this major snowstorm on State and local budgets, which are both currently under tremendous pressure due to severe economic conditions,” Governor Christie wrote in his letter to the President.
 
Governor Christie urged counties and municipalities to prepare damage and cost assessments as quickly as possible to move the aid application process along as expeditiously as possible. 
 

 
 
 

New Year's Eve & Day: Dumb & Dumber

About all the silly hoopla over the new year: I just don't get it. Never have gotten it, in fact.
New Years Day is a dumb "holiday." It signifies nothing. It's merely the first day of the year - just a unit of measurement, that's all. It's just a way to keep time.
New Year's Eve is equally as dumb if not dumber.
Just because the clock moved ahead an extra second we're supposed to get all worked up? I don't think so.
This is simply an excuse for clubs and restaurants to make a big deal of nothing and charge you big bucks for it. The rudest, loudest, most obnoxious people come crawling out of the woodwork on New Year's Eve. These are the people who don't get around very much (and don't go out very much) during the rest of the year. Trust me, you don't want to be around these people.
This is a sadly artificial holiday - a holiday that reeks of beer, tobacco and lost dreams; a holiday plagued by sticky champagne stains, stale leftovers, weary Christmas decorations and nothing to look forward to but cleaning up and getting ready for the two dreariest months of the year.
Happy New Year, everybody!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Justin Bieber's End-Of-Year Reflections


. . . with apologies to Justin and thanks to Jimmy Fallon.

GOP Decries 'Shocking' Obama Appointment

Fox News is reporting that President Obama has "outraged Republicans by directly appointing six officials this week without the consent of Congress, including his pick for deputy attorney general, who once compared the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks to the drug trade."
Here's more:
Obama appointed four new U.S. ambassadors, along with the U.S. public printer and the deputy attorney general. 
The latter, James Cole, had been in limbo since he was nominated in May, though his name did clear the Senate Judiciary Committee over the summer. Republicans had questioned his past consulting work with bailed-out insurance giant AIG but had been particularly critical of his stance on prosecuting terror suspects. 
That concern flared up again after Obama installed Cole on Wednesday. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., incoming chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, accused Cole of wanting to pursue terror suspects as a criminal matter in civilian courts. He cited a 2002 Legal Times column in which Cole called the Sept. 11 attacks "criminal acts of terrorism against a civilian population" -- like the Oklahoma City bombing.  Cole went on to write that the United States has faced "many forms of devastating crime," from the drug trade to organized crime to rape and child abuse. "The acts of Sept. 11 were horrible, but so are these other things," he wrote.
Rep. Peter King of New York has called Cole's appointment "shocking."
Click here to read more at Fox News.

Mickey Rooney Deserves Kennedy Honor

The Kennedy Center Honors recently bestowed its 32nd annual annual awards. Many great luminaries of stage, screen, music and the movies have been honored by the Kennedy Center over the years.
But one of Hollywood's greats has been neglected year after year.
Crawling onto the stage during his father’s Vaudeville act at 18 months in 1922, Mickey Rooney began a truly legendary career - one that has spanned nine decades.
Now celebrating more than 80 years in show business and with more than 200 films to his credit, Mickey Rooney is one of the last great stars of Hollywood's Golden Age. Recently he appeared in the hugely successful movie comedy "A Night At The Museum."
Mickey earned an Honorary Oscar for Lifetime Achievement, a special Juvenile Oscar he shared with Deana Durbin in 1939, five Oscar nominations, one Emmy Award, five Emmy Nominations and two Golden Globes. Mickey's career has extended through many generations and in many different directions.
Mickey Rooney is also an American patriot who served in the Army during World War II. As a regular GI, during the war he entertained frontline troops with the "Jeep Shows". The "Jeep Shows" consisted of three men in a jeep who delivered much needed entertainment to the troops in foxholes at the front. For his services in the war, Mickey was awarded the Bronze Star with clusters. In 2004 he braved the cold weather to ride with fellow World War II vets in the Inaugural Parade honoring President Bush. He has been welcomed to the White House by nearly every American president since FDR.
But Mickey Rooney has never been chosen for Kennedy Center Honors.
How long will the Kennedy Center wait to recognize this great American talent?

Nidnight Wrench Drop -- And Other Weird NYE Customs

The Times Square Ball Drop is a New Year's Eve tradition -- a dumb tradition, but still a tradition.
But did you know that many other cities have their own midnight "drops" on New Year's Eve?
No joke. Here is a list of some of the other drops:
Raleigh, N. C. - Acorn drop
Carlisle, PA.. - Car
Miami - Orange
Atlanta - Peach
Bethlehem PA. - Peeps (yes, those funny marshmallow chicks)
Marion, Ohio - Popcorn
Harrisburg, PA.. - Strawberry
And my two personal favorites:
Mechanicsburg, PA.. - Wrench (Whoa - Watch out when that wrench drops!)
Dillsburg, PA.. - Pickle (Beats me why anyone would celebrate a "pickle drop" or droop.)
Groundhog Day. And strawberry, car, wrench and pickle drops. The Mummers. Something about Pennsylvania seems to attract sometimes silly faux-folk customs.

Sen. Elect Toomey Announces Key Hires

Senator-Elect Pat Toomey announced a number of key hires for his Pennsylvania Senate offices, including, State Director, Deputy State Director, Western PA Director, Eastern PA Director, Regional Manager for the Lehigh Valley, Regional Manager for Northwest Pennsylvania, and Regional Manager for Southeast Pennsylvania.
 
Bob DeSousa – State Director.  Mr. DeSousa brings a long and impressive resume of serving Pennsylvania to the job of Senator-Elect Toomey’s State Director.  Currently serving as counsel for Dethlefs-Pykosh Law Group, Mr. DeSousa began his prestigious legal career as a Federal Law Clerk in Williamsport, PA, and then as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for Pennsylvania’s Middle District in Scranton and later Lewisburg, PA.  He went on to serve as the Chief Counsel for Pennsylvania’s Department of State and the Inspector General of the Commonwealth under Governor Tom Ridge, a cabinet level position.  Mr. DeSousa also has many years of business and legal experience in the private sector.
 
Mr. DeSousa is an Officer in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, the National Treasurer of the Federal Bar Association, the State Judge Advocate for the Department of Pennsylvania Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Treasurer of the Dauphin County General Authority, and the Past Chairman of the Board of the National Civil War Museum.  In addition, Mr. DeSousa currently serves as the Regional Trial Defense Counsel for nine northeastern states.  Mr. DeSousa received his bachelor’s degree from Bucknell University in Lewisburg, PA and his law degree from the Dickinson School of Law in Carlisle, PA.
 
Susan Zimskind – Deputy State Director.  A resident of Pennsylvania for 25 years, Ms. Zimskind has many years of experience working for Senator-Elect Toomey and serving her community in the Lehigh Valley.  She previously served as the Deputy District Director for then-Congressman Toomey in Pennsylvania’s Fifteenth Congressional District.  Ms. Zimskind has also volunteered for the Jewish Day School of Allentown, the Allentown JCC Women’s Auxiliary, and Temple Beth El.  She graduated with Distinction from McGill University in Montreal.
 
Matt Blackburn – Western Pennsylvania Director.  A native of Erie, PA, Mr. Blackburn has many years of experience working in the legislative, policy, and political arena.  Mr. Blackburn started his career as a Legislative Assistant for then-Congressman Toomey in 2003 and went on to join the Congressman’s 2004 Senate campaign as the Director of Grassroots for Western and Central Pennsylvania.  He continued to gain legislative and policy experience as a Legislative Assistant for Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) and as the Government Affairs Director for Express Search, Inc., a patent research company.  Most recently, Mr. Blackburn served as the Policy Director for Senator-Elect Toomey’s 2010 campaign, overseeing all research and policy issues.  Mr. Blackburn received his bachelor’s degree in political science from Gannon University in Erie, PA.
 
Josh Novotney – Eastern Pennsylvania Director.  Mr. Novotney joins Senator-Elect Toomey’s staff as the Director for Eastern Pennsylvania, after serving as the Finance Director for Senator-Elect Toomey’s 2010 campaign.  He brings many years of experience in the political arena, including service as the GOTV Coordinator for the Republican National Committee, the Fundraising Program Director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Finance Director for Jim Gilmore for Senate, and the Deputy Financial Director for Senator Arlen Specter’s campaign committee.  Mr. Novotney received his bachelors in political science from Notre Dame University.
 
Marta Gabriel – Regional Manager for the Lehigh Valley.  Ms. Gabriel’s service to Pennsylvania is well-known throughout the Lehigh Valley.  She brings years of experience in the private sector, including her current position as Executive Vice President-Operations & Easton Initiatives of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce.  She has also worked for some of the Lehigh Valley’s largest businesses, including Air Products and Chemicals in Allentown and Crayola in Easton.  Her experience includes community relations, philanthropy, foundation and development, and media outreach.  Ms. Gabriel has also served in a number of volunteer positions, including sitting on the Board of Directors of Renew Lehigh Valley and the Secretary of the Easton Heritage Day Board.  Ms. Gabriel received her bachelor’s degree in business communications from Moravian College and her masters in political science from Lehigh University.
 
Sheila Sterrett – Regional Manager for Northwest Pennsylvania.  Ms. Sterrett has spent many years working in public service in Pennsylvania’s northwest region.  For over a decade, Ms. Sterrett has served as the Director of Government Affairs for the Manufacturer & Business Association in Erie, PA, where she represented more than 4,500 member companies located throughout northwest Pennsylvania.  Ms. Sterrett has also taught political science and public administration courses at Mercyhurst College and Penn State Behrend.  Ms. Sterrett received her masters in public administration from Gannon University in Erie and her bachelor’s degree from Clarion University.
 
James Fitzpatrick - Regional Manager for Southeast Pennsylvania. A native of Philadelphia, Mr. Fitzpatrick has spent many years in the political arena. Most recently, he served as the Southeast Regional Field Manager for Senator Toomey’s 2010 campaign, overseeing all field work for Bucks, Montgomery, Chester, Delaware, and Philadelphia Counties.  Mr. Fitzpatrick has also served as a Regional Political Coordinator for the Republican National Committee, overseeing 14 states, and as the Philadelphia Field Director for the McCain-Palin campaign.  Mr. Fitzpatrick graduated with a degree in history from Lehigh University in Bethlehem.
 
“I am very proud of the team we are assembling both in Pennsylvania and D.C.,” Senator-Elect Toomey said.  “All of these new hires bring experience, a terrific work ethic, and a passion for the work they do.  There is much challenging work before us, but with such a committed and hardworking group of people around me, I know we can make real and constructive progress for Pennsylvania and our country.”

On The Passing Of John A. "Jack" Hila

We were sad to hear of the death of prominent New Jersey attorney and civic leader Jack Hila.
Jack was an exceptionally vital and active public citizen and we were proud to know him.
He was a positive force for good in Central Jersey.
He loved New Jersey and he devoted much of his life to the betterment of his community and his state. He was also a person of fine character and a loving husband, father, brother and friend.
John A. "Jack" Hila Sr., of the Avenel section of Woodbridge Township, died suddenly Monday, Dec. 27, 2010, at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Rahway.
Born in Perth Amboy, he was raised in Carteret by his parents, the late John and Julia Kachur Hila. He graduated with honors from Carteret High School, Fordham University and Fordham University School of Law and practiced law in Woodbridge Township for the past 45 years.
Mr. Hila was former Deputy Attorney General, Outside Counsel to the Department of Transportation and was a Woodbridge Township Councilman and Council Vice President.
He was House Counsel to the Middlesex County Utilities Authority, a trustee of the Avenel Democratic Club; serves on the Board of Trustees for the George Street Playhouse, the Board of Directors of the Woodbridge Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce; is a member of the Colonia Country Club and the Flame of Charity for the Metuchen Diocese. Mr. Hila was a communicant of St. Andrews Catholic Church, Avenel and belonged to St. Andrews Council 5088, Knights of Columbus. He was an avid freshwater fisherman, enjoyed the Jersey Shore, loved both watching and playing tennis, exercising daily at The Club at Woodbridge, was a sports fan, particularly of the N.Y. Yankees and Giants and loved music, particularly jazz.
Surviving are his beloved wife, Carol Safchinsky Hila; daughter, Melissa Tew and her husband, Jonathan of Columbus, Ohio; son, John A. Hila Jr. and his wife, Kathleen of Keyport; grandchildren, Greta and Maci Tew and Jeanine and Robert Hila; sisters, Jacqueline Fontanella of Highlands and Camy Surowiec and her husband, Joseph of Cherry Hill; sister-in-law, Barbara Safchinsky of Avenel; aunt, Anne Boyer of Carteret; nieces, Jill Shifty and her husband, Don, and Justine Trinidad; nephews, Jack Safchinsky, Jeremy Trinidad, Paul Surowiec and Glenn Surowiec; great-nephew, Michael Chegus; and many cousins, including Mary Ann Gilrain, Mark Checki, Candy Marren and Andrew Marren.
Funeral services will be at 8:45 a.m. Monday, Jan. 3 from the Costello-Koyen Funeral Home (www.costello-koyen.com), 399 Avenel St., Avenel. A Mass of Resurrection will follow at 9:30 a.m. at St. Andrew's Catholic Church, Avenel. Interment will be in St. Gertrude Cemetery, Colonia. Visitation will be from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 2 at the funeral home. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the John A. Hila Sr. Memorial Fund, c/o Melissa H. Tew, 1119 Mulford Road, Columbus, Ohio 43212.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Breakthrough Documentary On The Way!


CATHOLICISM is a global effort to produce and distribute a groundbreaking documentary series presenting the true story of Christianity and the Catholic faith.  In just 2 short years the producers have raised over $2.5 million and filmed in over 50 locations in more than 15 countries, telling the Catholic story.
They are urgently trying to raise $500,000 to fund global marketing and distribution.
You can help. Click here to get involved.

PA Judges Must Restore Trust In Courts

Our friends Shira Goodman and Lynn Marks had a great opinion piece in yesterday's Philadelphia Inquirer.
Here's part of what they said:

There is a troubling disconnect between the courts and the public. The recent media reports about rules governing judicial ethics, policies on gifts to judges, and benefits such as car leases for appellate judges demonstrate this clearly. Both judges and members of the public are frustrated that those on the other side of the bench don't seem to understand the key points. As this disconnect persists, collaboration between those who use the courts and those who work in the courts becomes more elusive.
It is often said that people don't really understand what judges and courts do and the special role they play. Judges, court personnel, lawyers, and bar associations have an obligation to fill this information gap.
Click here to read the rest of this fine commentary. It's worth your attention.
And, while you're at it click here to visit Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts.

Philly Buses Ready For 1/5 Congress Inaugural In DC

On Wednesday, January 5, 2011, victorious Tea Party endorsed Congressional candidates will be sworn into office as part of the 112th congress. It will be a great day for America.
The Independence Hall Tea Party Association of Philadelphia would like to provide members and friends with an opportunity to witness this historic occasion.
The Association will forward information regarding ceremonies and celebrations.
If there is enough interest, the Association will stage buses in the following areas:
Bus #1 -- In Honor of Congressmen Fitzpatrick, Dent, Barletta, and Sen. Pat Toomey
Staging locations -- Allentown, Doylestown, Willow Grove
Bus #2 -- In Honor of Congressmen Meehan, Gerlach, Pitts, and Sen. Pat Toomey
Staging locations -- West Chester, Havertown, Center City
Bus #3 -- In Honor of Congressman Jon Runyan, Cherry Hill; Christiana, DE
We have traveled to Washington to rally and protest.
Now it's time to celebrate!
If interested, please call 215.690.4043 ASAP.
The Association will sponsor buses provided there is a demand.
When: Wednesday, January 5, 2010, 7 AM -- 6 PM (tentative)
Where: Washington DC
Cost: $35.00 Round Trip

Carol Channing (kinda) Headed To Broadway (sorta)

Well, it was inevitable, wasn't it?
The legendary Carol Channing (in a manner of speaking) is headed back to Broadway (or close enough, anyway).
Let me explain.
RICHARD SKIPPER  is CAROL CHANNING  in "Carol Channing" in Concert, a show that celebrates the career and persona of the unique theatrical legend.
Skipper is an award-winning "Carol Channing" tribute artist and he is accompanied by a three-piece band as he blends Channing's standards with original material and other familiar songs sung in a spot-on Channing-on-Broadway recreation.
The musical production surveys Channing's life with many stops along the way for Skipper's unique--and riotous--"ad-lib" interactions with the audience.
Skipper is a 4-time recipient of the MAC (Manhattan Association of Cabaret) Award, a Back Stage Bistro Award, and a Cloney Award in Las Vegas for best performer. He was named as one of the Top Ten Cabaret Performers by Cabaret Hotline and as one of the Top of the Century Premiere Cabaret Acts by Cabaret Scenes Magazine. The show is directed by Mark Robert Gordon and produced by The Camelback Kid.
Here's what Carol Channing has to say about the show: "The first time EVER I have been shown with such love, respect and polish! Richard Skipper is a true musical theater star! He is FABULOUS as me!" 
The show is now in previews and is scheduled to open January 12.
Click here for ticket information.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

New Elite Sports Academy Impresses, Attracts Pros



When Oakland Athletics pitching ace Andrew Bailey came back to his home turf in South Jersey one of his first stops was the new South Jersey Elite Sports Academy in Mt. Laurel.
Bailey, who starred for his Paul VI High School team came home to support Cherry Hill West graduate and friend Shawn Senior, a former pitcher in the Boston Red Sox organization and the man who shared pitcing tips with Bailey. Senior is part of the Elite Academy's baseball staff.
We visited Elite last night and found that he Academy is an impressive facility.
Elite is located off of Church Road at 14 Federal St, in Mt Laurel. It's convenient to Route 38, Route 73, the New Jersey Turnpike and Route 295.
Full baseball, soccer and other sports programs are available along with workout and changing facilities.. Check it out.

Toy Story 3 On Ice In Philly: Wonderful!



Last night we had a chance to enjoy Disney's phenomenal Toy Story 3 On Ice at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. The show runs through January 2 and we urge you not to miss it.
It's a great show for kids of all ages and fortunately we attended with two of the nicest kids we know.
But here's the truth: While it was heartening to see so many kids (and families) having a fun time, this is a show that you can enjoy with or without the kids.
The characters are wonderful. The themes are universal. The lighting, costumes are staging are impressive. And here's one of the best parts: The ice skating is marvelous.
Thanks to Disney, ice shows have moved well beyond the days of mere pageantry. Now, the show encompasses a story. And since it involves the classic toys from the Disney feature films, even the tiniest tots can relate to the characters and the story.
On top of all that, the folks at Philly's Wells Fargo Center (formerly the Wachovia) are so courteous, professional and helpful that it's a joy to visit this world class sports and entertainment facility. Bravo to Comcast Spectacor!
Photos copyright 2010 by Dan Cirucci.

Ski Tragedy: Five Chairs Fall In Lift Mishap

There's been a terrible ski tragedy at Sugarloaf Resort in Maine.
Five chairs have reportedly fallen from a ski lift after the cable came off its tracks.
The ski mountain has been ravaged by the coastal storm and high winds in recent days.
Life saving medics and medivac helicopters have been called in.
More information as it arrives. Click here for additional information.

Two Numbers To Remember: 660 And 87

Here are two numbers for Democrats to remember as 2011 approaches: 660 and 87.
The first is the number of seats won by the Republicans in Congress, state legislatures and among governors throughout the United States. Six hundred and sixty seats. That's lots of new power for the GOP -- power from local, individual legislative districts in each state right on up to the nation's capital. As a result of the 2010 elections, that's REAL power.
The second is the number of new Republican members of the House and Senate who will arrive in Washington next week to take their oaths of office. Eighty seven. That's a huge number and it represents a significant shift in power.
Ohhhhhhh, yes . . . Elections really DO have consequences!

Those Awful Snow Covered Vehicles

On a short two mile trip from my home this morning I spotted four moving autos and one truck covered with snow --lots of snow, especially on their roofs.
Who are these idiots who don't bother to clean their vehicles off?
They are placing all of the rest of us in danger.
Be forewarned: In New Jersey there is a $120 fine for driving a snow covered car or truck.
Get with the program!

Feinstein & Hamlisch: Piano Virtuosos In Philly

There is no doubt that both Michael Feinstein and Marvin Hamlisch are piano virtuosos.
You know this as soon as Feinstein plays "I Love A Piano" on the Steinway concert grand.
You know this as soon as Hamlisch plays his adaption of Scott Joplin from the classic film The Sting.
Feinstein's sound is more Broadway, accompanied by his gentle, melodic vocals.
Hamlisch is more Hollywood, with clever riffs and jazz elements thrown in.
They are both superb entertainers.
Feinstein is a master historian of the great American songbook but he doesn't lecture. Instead he weaves his vast knowledge into the stories surrounding the music. Hamlisch incorporates a self-effacing humor and dry wit into his commentaries and they blend seamlessly with the music.
We saw the two of them in a performance at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia over the weekend and enjoyed every moment.
Feinstein the first half; Hamlisch the second.
But here's the best part: The two performed together for several numbers in the final portion of the program. It was perfection.
Every young person (at least every young person over 18) should be brought to a concert such as this and -- just once -- be exposed to masters of the great American songbook.
Our nation would be the better for it.
BTW: Speaking of a better nation, in the audience (at the other end of the row we sat at) were two of Philadelphia's finest citizens, former Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor Sayde Ladov and her husband, Cozen & O'Connor law firm partner David Ladov. What a joy it was to see such good friends.

The King's Speech: A Major Contender

Britain's Queen Elizabeth has been on the throne for so long now that she is not only a part of history but she's appearing as a character in historical dramas. In 2006 it was The Queen.
Now we have the new film, The King's Speech in which the Queen appears as a child with her late sister Margaret as they are thrust into the spotlight with her father's unexpected ascendancy to the throne. Were it not for this event, Elizabeth would probably not be the Queen of England today.
Of course we all know the story of King Edward (Elizabeth's uncle) and his abdication of the throne to marry a twice-divorced American socialite from Baltimore named Wallis Simpson. This couple later became the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
But how many of us know the real story of Edward's brother who became King George VI upon Edward's departure?
The King's Speech stars Colin Firth as King George VI and Geoffrey Rush as speech therapist Lionel Logue, who helped George VI overcome a stammer. The stellar cast also includes Helena Bonham Carter, Derek Jacobi and Guy Pearce.
As a hopeless anglophile I found myself enthralled by this historical drama. But you don't have to be an honorary (or actual) British subject to enjoy the film.
The story is engrossing. The acting is first-rate. The whole production is masterful.
And there's this: Colin Firth's performance is a joy -- human, restrained and deeply affecting. And Firth is ably matched by the great Geoffrey Rush. So, this becomes a dual acting tour de force the likes of which we rarely see nowadays.
The Kings Speech is the unexpected story behind one of the great stories of the twentieth century.
And now the film itself seems destined to make history.
Oscars? The King's Speech is likely to be nominated more than once.

Must Read: Carol Burnett's 'This Time Together'

The Carol Burnett Show ran on CBS-TV from 1967 to 1978.
It was one of the last of the great TV comedy-variety shows.
Each week (for 278 editions) Carol Burnett and her company of players, along with weekly guest stars, presented a full scale hour of comedy, dance and music featuring high-quality production values and some of the greatest names in entertainment.
The team that Carol Burnett assembled for her show was top notch, all the way.
Now Burnett has written a delightful book of recollections (This Time Together) touching upon important parts of her life, including the 11 years that encompassed The Carol Burnett Show. The book is subtitled "laughter and recollection" and even the sad parts are lightened by Burnett's distinctive comedic take on the human condition.
The book is like a series of  short anecdotes that almost take the form of a conversation with Carol. In fact, you can hear Burnett's voice on every page and this is what makes the book so honest and so real. These truly are authentic, irrepressibly human reflections from Carol Burnett herself.
In this book you will find unforgettable about Cary Grant, Lucille Ball, Marlon Brando, Walter Matthau, Beverly Sills, Julie Andrews, John Huston, Carol Channing, John Crawford, Garry Moore, Bob Mackie, Laurence Olivier, Mike Nichols, John Steinbeck, Ray Charles, Zero Mostel, Peggy Lee and of course Tim Conway, Harvey Korman, Vicki Lawrence and Lyle Waggoner. Through these stories and through her own reminiscences, Carol Burnett tells her own story as well. And it's funny, revealing and poignant at the same time.
Count this one as an absolute must read.
BTW: The title of the book comes from the song that Carol Burnett sang at the end of each one of her shows: I'm So Glad We Had This Time Together.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Year's Ten Biggest Jerks

Who are the biggest jerks of the year?
Well it just so happens that in 2010 there were more than a few jerks in the public spotlight.
From philanderers, to creeps, to tiresome public officials, to liars and swindlers and dumbbells, the jerks (and the jokes) just kept on coming.
It seemed that every day, some new jerk popped into public view.
Some were well known and some became instant celebrities but all were stupid or clueless or inept or dishonest or just plain insufferable.
This year's crop of jerks really got to us. In no particular order, here they are:
SNOOKY - This busty, foul-mouthed, obnoxious dame has no reason whatsoever to be famous or even recognized other than for her inanity and her piled-high hair -- and neither one of those is anything to be proud of. She's a sad commentary on what passes for the popular culture.
CHARLIE SHEEN - Is there no end to this man's excesses? And why does he keep getting away with it? When they allowed him to trash his room (and then covered for him) I lost all respect for Manhattan's legendary Plaza Hotel.
JESSIE JAMES - Why would you act like this when you're married to a certified beauty (with smarts and talent) like Sandra Bullock? Why? And why in hell did Bullock ever get involved with him? What did she see in him?
HARRY REID AND THE PEOPLE OF NEVADA - The people of Nevada really, really, really don't like Harry. So first, they nominated the weakest candidate to run against him. Then they looked the other way while Harry lapped up special favors and special interest money. And finally a bunch of them voted for him anyway. And Harry? Well, he kicked his son under the bus, chuckled and went right back to his Washington suite at the Four Seasons where he promptly resumed his jerky ways.
LADY GAGA - If you don't believe she's a jerk, you haven't looked at her lately.
BRET FAVRE - Brett apparently has a strange way of  picking up gals. Though he's way past the age for it, he seems to be into sexting. Allegedly, he texts photos of his, well . . . you know. But apparently he still has very little to show for it.
JOY BEHAR - The Mouth That Bored. She gives new meaning to the phrase: "The empty barrel makes the most noise."
TONY PARKER - Hmmm . . . So what if I'm married to a gorgeous actress? How bout an affair with my teammates wife? That sounds like a good idea! What is it about zillionaire athletes thinking with the wrong head?
NANCY PELOSI - This woman still doesn't seem to get it. Yo, Nancy: You ain't gonna be Speaker anymore, understand? Next week you're gonna have to give up your office and all your perks. And all those so-called moderates who stuck out their necks for you? They lost. They lost and you lost, Nancy! It's over.
JOHN EDWARDS - Need we say more?

Video: The Whole World Loves Christmas!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

So, Who Really IS The Greatest Entertainer Ever?

When  Michael Jackson passed away numerous speakers at his memorial service described MJ as "the world's greatest entertainer."
It's quite an accolade.
But so many others have also been exalted as "the greatest."
As long as there have been entertainers people have been trying to identify "the greatest." This has been an especially popular pastime in the modern media age.
Indeed, the 20th century has been replete with "greatest entertainers."
At Jackson's memorial someone sang the song "Smile." You know this song ("although a tear may be ever so near . . . "). But how many people know that the song was written by Charlie Chaplin? 
Chaplin was not only a great movie actor but also a comedian, musician, writer, director, mime and acrobat. He started as a music hall performer in England. He surely must be considered one of the greatest entertainers ever and his work has certainly endured. His legacy is secure.
In fact, Chaplin is one of the few entertainers from his era to still be recognized throughout the world. Even today, upon seeing his photo most young people are able to identify him
Many people felt that Al Jolson was the greatest entertainer ever in his time. Jolson was a superstar before there were superstars. He electrified audiences with his live performances. But he's not easily identified today.
Still, there is no doubt that Jolson inspired people like Sammy Davis, Jr. Like Jackson, Davis was a child star. Davis sang, danced, acted and became an accomplished impersonator as well. He conquered the stage, screen, television and the movies long, long before African Americans were accepted in such roles. And, of course he charted new paths for black entertainers. Sadly, Davis died in relative obscurity and virtually broke. He did not receive the sendoff that Michael Jackson received.
One of the people who helped Davis gain a foothold was Frank Sinatra. For longevity alone Sinatra must be considered one of the greatest entertainers ever. And most people instantly recognize his distinctive voice. The "Chairman of the Board" was an entertainment empire all to himself. He produced, directed, sang, danced, acted. Let's not forget that "Ole Blue Eyes" won an Academy Award for his acting and that he starred in numerous movies.
Sinatra, Jolson, Chaplin, Davis -- they mostly created themselves.
Elvis Presley was largely created by Col. Tom Parker, his domineering manger. Parker molded an entertainment sensation - The King of Rock and Roll. Presley's career was well-managed but the control was stifling and many feel it held Elvis back. Certainly, Elvis starred in a string of forgettable flicks and he was tormented by the endless typecasting imposed on him by Parker.
Have we mentioned the great Noel Coward?
The Master, as he was known, was a playwright, director, actor, writer, composer, singer, comedian. There seemed to be nothing he could not do. And, his music is still heard and his plays are still performed today.
So many other great entertainers come to mind: Judy Garland and her daughter Liza Minelli remain two of the most sensational live performers ever to grace the stage. Liza eventually won the Oscar that her mother should have won. In fact, Liza achieved the rare distinction of winning the Grammy, Emmy, Oscar and Tony awards.
Those who saw Judy Garland in person never, ever forgot her. And she certainly dominated the movies as one of MGM's most popular stars ever.
Besides Liza, another to achieve the quadruple awards crown was Barbra Streisand. Stresand's talent (especially in her early recordings and performances) can only be described as dazzling.
She defined the word "superstar."
World's greatest entertainer?
Where do you begin?
Who would you pick?
I'm sure I left out more than a few greats.
We could argue over this for ages.
Just remember: This title should not be tossed about indiscriminately.

Cherry Hill Township: Ready For Storm

Camco Roads Pre-Salted; Burlco, No

I've just come off the roads here in the South Jersey region and I can report that the major roads in Camden County  (NJ) have already been pre-slated as the snow begins to fall throughout the area.
I crossed over into Burlington County and found quite a different situation.
As far as I can tell, the major roads in Burlington County have not been pre-salted.
So, take precautions as you move about Burlington County.
And congratulations to the Camden County road crews for getting out ahead of the storm.
Click here to find out more about Camden County's pre-treatment efforts.

Movies To See Right Now

I've not yet seen them all but I'm reliably told that (in no particular order) these are the movies to see right now:
The King's Speech
The Fighter
Chateau Marmont
True Git
Rabbit Hole
Gulliver's Travels
I Love You, Phillip Morris
If you're trying to pick a movie, try one of these.
More than a few of them are said to be Oscar contenders.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Video: The Queen's Christmas Message 2010

Photo: The Cousins At Christmas

The Cirucci cousins gathered around the Christmas tree for their annual holiday photo once again this year.
Several generations of cousins gathered to continue this annual Christmas custom.
Some of us still remember when the Cirucci brothers (Danny, Carmen, Lou "Doc", Enrico "Henry", Johnny and Mike) would visit all the Cirucci homes on Christmas morning. This progressive Christmas caravan -- from house to house -- heralded the arrival of Christmas for so many of us when we were children. The unabashed love that the uncles showed (the men never hesitated to kiss one another and often became teary-eyed) inspired us.
Of course, in those days we all lived much cloer to one another (many in small row homes in South Camden, NJ) and the uncles' Christmas caravan was boistrous, indulgent, bountiful fun.
We don't live around the corner from one another anymore and not all of the cousins can be with us. But our successive generations try to keep at least a bit of the tradition alive by gathering some among us together -- and visiting with one another (either physically or virtually) this time of the year.
We keep the uncles (and aunts) with us in our hearts. Cherishing their memory, we continue to be strengthened by the unconditional love that they gave us.
Today and every day they walk alongside us.

A Blessed Christmas To All!

Merry Christmas

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Delicious Christmas Snowball Cake!

My Christmas snowball cake is complete and ready to top off tonight's Christmas Eve feast.
I used a pre-prepared vanilla cake mix along with fresh eggs, shortening and milk.
Then, I decided to top it all off with vanilla icing and shredded coconut.
When I reached that point, it looked so nice I decided to leave it just the way it is.

Christmas: Its Bittersweet Memories And Its Meaning

It's Christmas, a joyous time of the year.
And I see dead people.
They are all around me and they are here to celebrate Christmas with me.
I turn on the TV and Jimmy Stewart is racing down Main Street in Bedford Falls hoping to escape the confines of a small town but knowing that he never will.
And Alastair Sim, the quintessential Scrooge, is grimacing in the classic black-and-white version of everyone's favorite Christmas tale.
And in living color I still see Judy Garland and Bing Crosby and Perry Como and Dinah Shore and Andy Williams singing Christmas songs. Judy's still full of pathos as she tenderly sings Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.
Jack Benny is here too and so is Lucy in a tender episode that ends with two Santas where there should be only one. One of the Santas is clearly Fred (William Frawley) but who's that other guy?
And when I turn on the radio I hear Christmas carols by Luciano Pavarotti and Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra and Mahalia Jackson and Mario Lanza.
On You Tube I watch President Reagan deliver a Christmas message from the White House. The President is warm and reassuring and he speaks confidently of faith in God and our Judeo-Christian heritage.
My mind tumbles back to the gritty, industrial city that I grew up in -- a riverfront city that didn't realize back then that its glory days were already behind it. It's a bleak, damp, gray December day but I'm warm and secure in the confines of my father's old Plymouth as we rush from place to place through narrow city streets marked by row houses and the occasional corner store.
We don't speak very much but I'm so happy to be with him. He's making lots of stops, picking up small treats and gifts from a variety of friends and businesspeople for whom he may have done odd jobs during the year. Whatever he manages to gather will help to make our Christmas a bit happier.
Even in the run up to Christmas, he's a tough negotiator. He barters with merchants and grocers. as he tries to select just the right provisions for our Christmas feast.
He maneuvers through and around streets, neighborhoods and landmarks with the swiftness of a true native.
His energy fills the room wherever he goes. He's not a big guy but he makes a huge impact. And I know that as long as I'm by his side, no harm can come to me.
On Christmas eve aunts, uncles, cousins and neighbors come and go as the all-night feast of the fishes drifts into the wee hours of Christmas day.
On Christmas morning the uncles begin their ritual home visitations, gathering more participants as they move from house to house. Loud, boisterous and well-lubricated, they pass out silver dollars to the children. These will be accepted as treasured tokens and saved in a safe place.
Through it all I see my mother, full of wry wit, optimism and just a the right perspective on the whole panoply. She's got a sharp eye and she's a great mimic as she jokes about people, places and personalities.
If you press her, she may even remember some of the people from her own earlier Christmases but she'd rather dwell in the present. She's very much about her own family, right here, right now.
Of course, now I understand why she took that approach.
As you get older, this is what happens.
Christmas isn't totally joyous. It isn't always candy canes and sugar plums.
So many Christmas memories; so many Christmases past.
Christmas with dead people is bittersweet.
Not to worry, though.
The memories are good. And the sights, sounds and glad tidings live within me.
Plus, at this time of year all of these people seem to come alive once again -- alive in a very special way. They are with me. They are part of me. And I treasure them.
And I suppose that's one of the lessons of Christmas: Let all the people and the events and the memories of the Christmases past deepen and enrich your understanding of this wonderful holiday. Savor it all.
Bring them along with you. Let them walk by your side. Be strengthened by their presence and pass on what you know, who you are, how you feel, what you have learned.
And be proud, strong and tender -- especially for the children who watch you more closely now than at any other time of the year.
In that way, you'll keep the true spirit of Christmas.

Obama VS Reagan: Figures Don't Lie

No explanation needed!

111th Congress Showers Itself With Holiday Gifts

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Caring For Your Pet: Cold Weather Tips

The American Humane Association believes that pet owners should take special care with pet animals (particularly dogs) during the cold weather months. The AHA says: if you must leave an animal outdoors in cold weather, follow these tips:
  • Snow is not an adequate source of water and water left in regular bowls will freeze — heated water dishes are essential.
  • Provide your pet more, high-quality food — animals will burn more calories when left outside.
  • Take extra care of elderly and very young pets — they are most susceptible to suffering in cold weather.
  • Elevate doghouses off the ground so cold and moisture don’t rise through the floor. Face the doghouse away from the wind and provide a door flap to keep wind and snow out. Pile up straw around the outside of the house to insulate it.
  • Your indoor dog will appreciate the extra warmth of a doggie coat, but if your dog stays outside, don’t use a coat — the fabric will freeze when wet.
  • When walking your dog, consider dog booties to protect foot pads from chemicals, salt and sand. Also, wear gloves that will not impede your ability to properly hold the leash and clear the leash clasp of ice build-up.
  • Antifreeze is highly toxic to pets, but its sweet flavor is enticing. Keep containers sealed and out of reach and check for puddles. If you suspect your pet has ingested antifreeze, seek immediate emergency veterinary treatment.
  • Don’t leave your pet in a parked car — the car will act as a refrigerator and could result in death.
  • Cats and other animals are often lured to warm parked-car engines. Bang on your hood before starting up the engine.
  • Don’t let your dog chew on firewood and keep him away from indoor or outdoor fires, matches and accelerants.
  • After being outside, check your pet for signs of hypothermia: shivering, muscle stiffness, low body movement, a weak pulse rate, lethargy, shallow breathing and disorientation. If you suspect your pet has hypothermia, seek immediate veterinary treatment. Don’t submerge your pet in warm water or place anything hot on his skin. Warm water bottles wrapped in towels, as well as blankets and towels fresh from the dryer, are best.
  • In addition to protecting your own pets, keep an eye out for other animals exposed to the weather and contact your local animal control or humane society to report concerns.
  • See more winter care tips on the AHA website.

Christmas, Hannukah Holidays Explained

Our longtime friend Stu Bykofsky has a great column in today's Philadelphia Daily News. Here's part of it:

Ask the average Jew when Hanukkah comes next year, he will tell you, "I'll go look at the calendar." Ask the average Christian when Christmas falls next year, she will say, "Dec. 25th, d'uh!"
Like clockwork, Christmas is always December 25. Score one for the Christians.
Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, is a party for eight nights. Score one for the Jews.
Hanukkah was unusually early this year, starting Dec. 3. Hanukkah and Christmas usually are closer and the proximity explains why American Jews upgraded their Festival of Lights.
They pumped up the volume, bought into decorations and gift-giving (alas, most gifts are "practical") but stopped short of putting a yarmulke on old St. Nick and re-branding him Santa Klutz.
Confusion reigns not only over the date on which it falls each year, but even how to spell it: Chanukkah, Chanukah, Hanukah, Hanukkah, etc. For Christians it's either Christmas or the short-hand Xmas (which everyone knows is improper).
Christmas celebrates a birth, Hanukkah celebrates a victory, which a few Jewish holidays do. (Jewish "victory" usually means spoiling their enemies' plans to destroy them. Israel's still doing it.)
Most American Jews like Christmas because they get the day off, they have movie theaters to themselves and eat in Chinese restaurants with so many Jews it seems like a deli.
While the big deal is timing, there are other intersections between Hanukkah and Christmas. Here is a brief list compiled from a variety of sources and research techniques (i.e., the Internet.):
* Christmas has been commercialized. Ditto Hanukkah, but there's a limit to how much you can spend on candles made in China.
* Christmas brings jewelry, fur coats, TVs, perfume, sporting goods, even cars. Major stuff. Hanukkah brings scarves, towels, maybe a Dirt Devil or (how I hated this) handkerchiefs and socks for school. Minor stuff.
* Christmas carols are lyrical and beautiful. Hanukkah songs are about spinning tops made of clay (really plastic or wood) or dancing the hora, which is more dangerous than a Segway. (The beloved "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" was written by Jewish Irving Berlin, who did not write "I'm Dreaming of a White Hanukkah" because he knew which side his matzoh was buttered on).
Click here to read the entire column.

Join Philly Tea Partiers' Christmas, Dec. 27!


2nd Annual Commemorative Christmas Tea Party (and Pre-Inaugural After Party)
A family event celebrating the 237th Anniversary of the First Philadelphia Tea Party, with Dom Giordano as Dr. Benjamin Rush.

When:   December 27, 2010, Christmas Tea Party,1-2 PM; Pre-Inaugural After Party,
                2-4  PM.
Where:  Christmas Tea Party, Independence Mall (outside), 5th and Chestnut Streets,
                Pre-Inaugural After Party, Downtown Club, Public Ledger Building, 6th and
                Chestnut Streets.
Cost:      Commemorative Christmas Tea Party, Free and open to the public. 
                 Hot cocoa and hot cider will be served, along with traditional cookies.
                 Commemorative program booklets will be distributed. 
                 However, we're asking you to donate a small Christmas gift to our troops.
         
                 Pre-Inaugural After Party, Celebrating the New Congress.
                 Special Guest: The Honorable Anna Little  
                 $25 per person; $40 per couple; Children 12 and under free.
                 Hors d'oeuvres and cash bar. 

For further information or to RSVP:  Call 215.690.4043.
Sponsored by the Independence Hall Tea Party Association

Christmas In Italy: Buon Natale E Tutti!


On Christmas Eve in Italy, Christmas trees are decorated, but the focal point of decoration is the Nativity scene.
Italians take great pride in the creation of the manger, which was thought up in 1223 by St. Francis of Assisi, who wanted to involve the peasants in celebrating the life of Jesus.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City possesses a presepio from Naples that contains figurines carved from wood and dressed in garments of satin, along with 30 gold-trimmed angels of the Magi, all framed by majestic columns.
Bagpipes are the most common Italian Christmas sound. The zampognari, the shepherds who play the bagpipes, come down from their mountain homes at Christmas time and perform in the market squares. The playing of bagpipes is popular in the regions of Calabria and Abruzzo, and in the piazzas of Rome.
The melodies played are adapted from old hill tunes. Modern zampognari wear the traditional outfits of sheepskin vests, leather breeches, and a woolen cloak.
The tradition of bagpipes goes back to ancient Roman times. Legend says that the shepherds entertained the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem.
On Christmas, the zampognari perform their own private pilgrimage, stopping before every shrine to the Madonna and every Nativity scene.
Children in Italy believe in a female version of Santa Claus called La Befana, an old woman who flies on a broom and brings presents.
According to Italian legend, Three Wise Men asked La Befana for directions to Bethlehem. La Befana was asked to join them but declined three times. It took an unusually bright light and a band of angels to convince La Befana that she must join the Wise Men, but she was too late.
She never found the Christ child and has been searching ever since.
On January 6, the Feast of Epiphany, La Befana goes out on her broom to drop off stockings filled with treats to all the sleeping children of Italy.
Just as children in America leave milk and cookies for jolly Santa Claus, La Befana collects messages and refreshments throughout the night.
Buon Natale e tutti!

Video: How The Obama Stole Christmas (Almost)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Video: Christie Delivers on NJ Arbitration Reform

NJ Democrats Block Shared Services Measures

New Jersey Senate Republicans attempted to force consideration of eight unfinished toolkit bills during Monday’s voting session, including those that dealt would greatly encourage shared services among towns and school districts. The bills were unanimously opposed by Senate Democrats when motions were made to consider them on the floor. In reference to shared services, the Democrats declined the GOP's motions to take up the following pieces of legislation:

S-2024 (Kyrillos)- Provides latitude to local government bodies to combine workforces/services
Goal: To encourage greater sharing of services among municipalities by easing workforce consolidation rules.

S-2025 (Kyrillos)- Requires executive county superintendents to expand sharing of services among school districts


Goal: To take advantage of cost saving opportunities between school districts by sharing certain services and functions where possible and appropriate.

For good measure, Senate Democrats also opposed considering legitimate Civil Service Reform:

S-2039 (Bateman)- Civil Service Reform/Local Opt Out

Goal: To provide meaningful civil service reform that affords local governing bodies greater layoff and furlough authority, as well as the opportunity to opt out of a system first conceived prior to modern collective bargaining and labor law employee protections.

Christmas & Terrain At Styer's: Perfection!







We've told you before about how much we love Terrain at Styer's on Baltimore Pike in Glen Mills (PA).
There is only one word to describe this place: "Enchanting!"
And at Christmas, well that word barely begins to describe this place. Everything is just more magical.
Terrain at Styer's is a Garden Center, Greenhouse Cafe, Home Decor Shop and Landscaping Service all combined in a beguiling atmosphere that soothes your jangled nerves and gives you hope for a aesthetically sensitive world.
Styer's likes to say that they've been bringing people and plants together since 1890 when Jacob Styer opened a flower stand alongside Route 1 in Philadelphia. Over the years Styer's has emerged as one of the country's most respected names in gardening with a 10 acre treasure trove of trees, shrubs, perennials and other plants. All of that is still intact.
But now, there is so much more.
Styer's has combined with Terrain to produce a one-stop destination that is a veritable year-round feast for the senses.
Terrain has picked through barns and bazaars to collect unique garden and home artifacts. Everyone promises unusual items but this place delivers. Their selection includes designs by American, European, and Asian artisans - things you will find nowhere else.
Of course the live plants and flowers defy description.
Right now Terrain at Styer's is a testament to understated Christmas beauty, proving that over the holidays less can truly be more. Simple, whimsical decorative items present the season of joy in a totally new light - calmer, purer and easier on the eyes.
And the cafe offers a simple lunch, brunch and dinner menu in a greenhouse atmosphere that is charming and nostalgic. Plus, a special Chef's Dinner is offered on the third Thursday of every month.
Here's the bottom line on this place: It simply must be experienced!

AFP Condems Obama Regulatory Power Grab

Americans For Prosperity VP for Policy Phil Kerpen issued the following statement on the FCC's adopted network neutrality order:
"The FCC has fittingly chosen the darkest day in 372 years to impose potentially devastating regulations on the up-to-now free-market Internet. As the moon was eclipsed earlier today, Congress and the American people will be eclipsed by this regulatory coup d'├ętat -- orchestrated by the White House -- that will substitute the judgment of three Democrats at the FCC for the legitimate democratic process.
"Congress must make it a top priority to overturn these regulations early in 2011, preferably with a Congressional Review Act Resolution of Disapproval that can avoid filibuster and cleanly invalidate the order. Not only is the imposition of government's heavy hand on the economy's most vibrant sector at stake, but so are the basic principles of our democratic republic. If these principles are discarded, the door will be open for a breathtaking series of executive branch power grabs that will leave our society and its constitutional system of government unrecognizable."
Americans for Prosperity has been tracking Obama administration power grabs of this type at www.ObamaChart.com and recently wrote about the need for Congress to act in the Washington Times.
A web site to demand Congress step in is at: www.NoInternetTakeover.com
Read more: http://www.americansforprosperity.org/122110-statement-fcc-net-neutrality-power-grab#ixzz18r2SG9D2

Christie Signs Arbitration Reform Measure

Fulfilling a critical element of his Reform Agenda, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has signed comprehensive arbitration reform legislation as part of a wider set of far-reaching reforms designed to curb property tax costs for hard-working New Jerseyans. The measure is the result of a bipartisan agreement reached on December 9 with legislative leadership to change the long-overdue interest arbitration reform process by providing municipalities with the tools they need to rein in property tax costs and live within their means.
“Trenton is demonstrating what can be done when we work together to find substantive solutions to the issues facing the hard-working taxpayers of our state,” said Governor Christie. “Working with Senate President Steve Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean and Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce, we are delivering meaningful and substantive reform to New Jerseyans, transforming the interest arbitration process and providing a long-term solution that will help local governments keep property taxes down and costs under control.
“Our work, however, is not done, and I urge the legislative leadership to keep the momentum going by acting on other critical pieces of the tool kit of reforms that will ultimately help to keep property taxes low. New Jerseyans can no longer afford inaction and delay which is why the legislature must move on real, comprehensive civil service reform as I have proposed, not a watered-down version,” concluded Governor Christie.
The civil service bill proposed by the legislature falls short by, among other things, not offering municipalities the option to opt-out of the antiquated and burdensome civil service requirements. As proposed by Governor Christie, arbitration and civil service reform get at the root of the problem faced by many local governments struggling to live within their means – ever-expanding operational costs.
Also awaiting legislative action is Governor Christie’s conditional veto of Senate Bill 2220, which would more effectively stop the abuse of sick and vacation benefits and prevent future use of sick days -- meant for employees who are sick -- as supplemental cash payouts for employees who already have generous pensions. Among improvements to the original bill, the conditional veto would phase out the practice of distributing cash payouts for sick days by prohibiting supplemental compensation for sick days that accumulate after the effective date of the legislation. It would also suspend supplemental compensation for any employee under indictment for a crime that involves or touches his or her public office and mandate the forfeiture of any supplemental compensation if convicted. The Governor continues to urge the legislature to act quickly to adopt the substantive changes in the conditional veto. The news release outlining the Governor’s conditional veto can be found HERE.
The bipartisan agreement signed into law mirrors Governor Christie’s call for a meaningful cap that matches the tax levy cap of 2.0. This 2 percent cap will be applied to all salary items, such as across the board and cost of living increases, step increment payments and longevity pay. In addition, there will be no additional exceptions for non-salary economic terms moving forward. The agreement also created a prohibition on allowing non-salary economic issues to be arbitrated above the cap, unless already included in an existing contract. This is an important provision because arbitrators will no longer be able to create new cost items in successor contracts.

The Christie Bipartisan Agreement on Interest Arbitration Reform:

· Provides a meaningful cap of 2 percent on arbitration awards that will be applied to all salary items, such as the cost of across the board and cost of living increases, step increment payments and longevity pay.

· Has no Exceptions for Additional Non-Salary Economic Terms Moving Forward. The agreement prevents arbitrators from awarding any new economic items moving forward. The agreement creates a prohibition on allowing non-salary economic issues to be arbitrated above the cap, unless already included in an existing contract. All salary items are subject to a maximum 2 percent cap. This is an important provision because arbitrators will no longer be able to create new cost items in successor contracts.

· Eliminates Accruing Labor Costs By Creating a Fast Track Arbitration Process. The agreement transforms the system by putting in place concrete deadlines to help eliminate delays in the arbitration process, from contract negotiation to the receipt of the actual award. Traditionally, once a contract expires, labor costs continue to mount until a new contact is reached. Enforcing deadlines and speeding up the process will ensure timely implementation of new contracts and the cap on interest arbitration awards. Effective January 1, 2011, there will be a concrete deadline of 45 days from the filing of a request for interest arbitration to the date of award, without any extensions. All appeals must be decided within 30 days, if arbitrators do not comply with the 45 day deadline, they will be penalized financially.

· Caps Arbitrator Pay. The agreement will cap arbitrator compensation at $1,000 per day and $7,500 per case. Capping arbitrator pay will further incentivize speedy resolution of arbitration cases.

· Increases Ethical Standards and Training for Interest Arbitrators.

· Randomizes the Selection of Interest Arbitrators.

The legislation also creates a Task Force to examine the impact of interest arbitration reform and the effectiveness of the cap on restricting municipal spending. The taskforce will study the impact of the cap on taxes, services, expenditures, public safety, recruitment, retention and professionalism. The Governor will directly appoint four members and two members will be directly appointed by the Senate President and Assembly Speaker. The Task Force will provide its recommendations no later than December 31, 2013. Since September, Governor Christie has been traveling the state to talk about the importance of enacting a tool kit of reforms to help local government leaders directly address cost drivers and manage within Cap 2.0 without adversely impacting core government services. Hundreds of mayors and local elected officials across political parties have voiced their support for the tool kit, and underscored the tool kit’s importance in helping them manage their local budgets.

Cherry Hill Leads Way In Services Consolidation


In October, Cherry Hill (NJ) put a landmark joint-purchasing agreement out into the marketplace that included five separate government entities and encompassed more than 45,000 homes. Now, the results are in, and the Township, Gloucester Township, Merchantville Borough, the Cherry Hill School District and the Cherry Hill Fire Department have realized a savings of about 10 percent across the board on their trash services – a clear victory for shared-services and for the taxpayer.
“Our message was clear: We went out to the marketplace and told these contractors to sharpen their pencils to get our collective business,” Mayor Bernie Platt said. “Acting as a single entity, we were able to leverage economies of scale to realize a substantial savings over the course of this new contract.”
“There is no question in my mind that this shared-service experiment was a success; we’ve secured the absolute best price for the taxpayer,” Platt added.
This was the largest residential solid waste and recyclable materials collection pickup and disposal bid in South Jersey, and just the latest example of Cherry Hill working with other government agencies to share services and consolidate costs. Currently, the Township has existing shared service agreements with Merchantville, Haddonfield, Gloucester Township, the Cherry Hill Schools, and Camden County.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Bishop Strips Phoenix Hospital Of 'Catholic' Standing

St. Joseph’s Hospital no longer Catholic
Statement of Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted
Diocese of Phoenix
December 21, 2010
Jesus says (Cf. Mt 25:40), “Whatever you did for the least of my brothers and sisters, you did for me.”
Caring for the sick is an essential part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Throughout our history, the Church has provided great care and love to those in need. With the advent of Catholic hospitals, the faithful could also be confident that they were able to receive quality health care according to the teachings of the Church.
Authentic Catholic care in the institutions of Catholic Healthcare West (CHW) in the Diocese of Phoenix has been a topic of discussion between CHW and me from the time of our initial meeting nearly seven years ago.
At that first meeting, I learned that CHW already did not comply with the ethical teachings of the Church at Chandler Regional Hospital. The moral guide for Hospitals and Healthcare Institutions is spelled out in what are called the Ethical and Religious Directives of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. I objected strongly to CHW’s lack of compliance with these directives, and told CHW leaders that this constituted cooperation in evil that must be corrected; because if a healthcare entity wishes to call itself Catholic (as in “Catholic” Healthcare West), it needs to adhere to the teachings of the Church in all of its institutions. In all my seven years as Bishop of Phoenix, I have continued to insist that this scandalous situation needed to change; sadly, over the course of these years, CHW has chosen not to comply. . . . 

Let me explain.
CHW and St. Joseph’s Hospital, as part of what is called “Mercy Care Plan”, have been formally cooperating with a number of medical procedures that are contrary to the ERDs, for many years. I was never made aware of this fact until the last few weeks. Here are some of the things which CHW has been formally responsible for throughout these years:
• Contraceptive counseling, medications, supplies and associated medical and laboratory examinations, including, but not limited to, oral and injectable contraceptives, intrauterine devices, diaphragms, condoms, foams and suppositories;
• Voluntary sterilization (male and female); and
• Abortions due to the mental or physical health of the mother or when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.
This information was given to me in a meeting which included an administrator of St. Joseph’s Hospital who admitted that St. Joseph’s and CHW are aware that this plan consists in formal cooperation in evil actions which are contrary to Church teaching. The Mercy Care Plan has been in existence for 26 years, includes some 368,000 members, and its 2010 revenues will reach nearly $2 billion. CHW and St. Joseph’s Hospital have made more than a hundred million dollars every year from this partnership with the government.
In light of all these failures to comply with the Ethical and Religious Directives of the Church, it is my duty to decree that, in the Diocese of Phoenix, at St. Joseph’s Hospital, CHW is not committed to following the teaching of the Catholic Church and therefore this hospital cannot be considered Catholic.
The Catholic faithful are free to seek care or to offer care at St. Joseph’s Hospital but I cannot guarantee that the care provided will be in full accord with the teachings of the Church. In addition, other measures will be taken to avoid the impression that the hospital is authentically Catholic, such as the prohibition of celebrating Mass at the hospital and the prohibition of reserving the Blessed Sacrament in the Chapel.
For seven years now, I have tried to work with CHW and St. Joseph’s, and I have hoped and prayed that this day would not come, that this decree would not be needed; however, the faithful of the Diocese have a right to know whether institutions of this importance are indeed Catholic in identity and practice.
Click here for more on this story.

Santa To Be Outlawed Under 'Little Billy's Law'

I'm officially proposing "Little Billy's Law" to outlaw Santa Claus.
And I'm looking for sponsors in key states to get things rolling.
Here's why: Little Billy is frightened. He's afraid of Santa Claus.
Little Billy has heard that Santa has taken an unnatural interest in him. He's been told that he "better watch out" for Santa because Santa "knows when he is sleeping and knows when he's awake" and that frightens little Billy.
Little Billy is an aware, sensitive kid.
And he understands when somebody is trying to entice him and/or frighten him or bully him. He also knows that he must watch out for other children as well. In fact, we must all watch out for one another and collectively, the state must watch out for all of us. Little Billy's enlightened and compassionate parents have taught him all this.
He and his parents know and understand that Santa is clearly using toys to entice children to consume unhealthy items like candy canes, sugar cookies and hot chocolate.They also know that Santa may be pushing inappropriate and/or needlessly violent or dangerous toys.
So, to protect the little children all over America, we must act quickly.
In fact, we must act now.
Will you join me to help enact "Little Billy's Law"?
I assure you: The world will be a better, safer, happier place if we succeed. Trust me.

Christmas 'Sweater Club' HS Students Punished

It's come to this: Some students in Manassas, Virginia who formed a high school Christmas Sweater Club have been punished by there school.
WUSA 9 News in Manassas reports as follows:
They call themselves the "Christmas Sweater Club" because they wear the craziest ones they can find. They also sing Christmas songs at school and try their best to spread Christmas cheer. Now all 10 of them are in trouble because of what they did at their school.
"They said, 'maliciously maim students with the intent to injure.' And I don't think any of us here intentionally meant to injure anyone, or did," said Zakk Rhine, a junior at Battlefield High School.
The boys say they were just tossing small two-inch candy canes to fellow students as they entered school. The ones in plastic wrap that are so small they often break apart.
Basically, these were just a bunch of young guys trying to have some fun.
Click here to read the whole story and view a video of the Christmas Sweater Club.

What's So 'Offensive' About Christmas

A reader (Joe Welsh of Haddonfield) placed a letter in the Courier-Post today that makes a lot of sense when it comes to the whole issue of Christmas in today's "politically correct" environment.
Here's part of what he had to say:
When people say "happy holidays," it seems logical and appropriate for Thanksgiving and New Year's celebrations, but what exactly are they celebrating on Christmas Day? Do they know or are they embarrassed and just trying not to make waves and to be politically correct?
I also wonder why songs for Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and Santa are sung in public schools to the exclusion of traditional Christmas carols? Don't any Christians go to public schools? This movement begs the question: How long will the words "under God" remain in the Pledge of Allegiance, or "In God We Trust" stay on our money?
This not only attacks religion, it attacks the U.S. Constitution at its core. It should be noted that nowhere in the constitution is religion excluded and more than 85 percent of Americans are Christians of many, many denominations.
To read the rest of this fine letter, click here.

Sen Allen, GOP Women Lawmakers: Act On Patterson

Monday, December 20, 2010

Don't Miss NBC 10 At K'NEX Toys Tuesday AM!

Santa's elves at K'NEX Toys will be on NBC 10 tomorrow morning.
Check it out from 5-7 am if you're up e-a-r-l-y (or just stay up after the lunar eclipse!). Ho ho ho!
And congratulations to KNEX PR pro Aimee Cirucci for pulling off this major coup.
K'NEX is the next generation of construction sets. It inspires creativity, builds self-confidence and encourages interaction among children and parents. The possibilities are endless!
K'NEX Brands, L.P. is a privately held company, with the headquarters and manufacturing facility located in Hatfield, Pennsylvania. Today, K'NEX is the most innovative and fastest growing construction toy company. Internationally, K'NEX products are distributed in over 30 countries. K'NEX Brands is also proud to distribute BRIO trains and toys, as well as Lincoln Logs in the North America.