The needler in the haystack.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

City missteps in Santiago suspension



As they say in the computer business, RTFM**.

That would probably be good advice for the Assemblyman and crew on the latest effort to get rid of Police Chief Santiago. (See
"Hearing needed before disciplining Santiago" in today's Courier.)

It's not rocket science, and it's not like it's never been done before, but -- Surprise! Surprise! -- Santiago has the right to a hearing. Public, if he so desires.

Is there a whit of intelligence at the heart of this operation?

The Public Safety Director has been around the block before -- and he doesn't know? Mayor Robinson-Briggs had to agree to the move -- and she didn't know? Granted, she doesn't have any experience, but who's advising her? And the Assemblyman, who's really in charge here? Well, no one can accuse him of being overly attentive to details.

Meanwhile, town is abuzz with rumors that there will be a large public contingent ready to speak up on the Chief's behalf at Monday's agenda-setting Council meeting. And that representatives of the police chiefs' association may also show.

With no hearing date set, have the powers-that-be set themselves up for a Chinese-water-torture of their own making if, over the next few weeks, citizens and their organizations demand an accounting?

PT proposes a new motto for the City, at least for the duration of the current administration: 'Ready, shoot, aim.'

**Read The F***ing Manual

-- Dan Damon

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Friday, March 30, 2007

Politicizing the Police Division

There is but one conclusion to draw from the Assemblyman's suspension of Police Chief Ed Santiago: Politics in a particularly lethal form is steadily worming its way down to the lowest level of municipal government.

We may expect that Department Heads will be political appointees; after all, elected officials have a right to their administrative priorities.

But it is unusual, given the continuing intense scrutiny by US Attorney Chris Christie, to see it being rolled out so dramatically as it is in Plainfield. Today's Ledger carries the story of Chief Santiago's latest suspension by this Administration (
"Plainfield suspends police chief a 3rd time").

Make no mistake about it, this is as political as it gets, notwithstanding Mayor Robinson-Briggs' declaration that "there have been no practices of retaliation on the part of this administration."

At issue is whether the Public Safety Director has the authority to manage the Police Division at the level of granularity being sought. The Chief has resisted, and has grounds for doing so, according to the state police chiefs' association.

PT's guess is that the trail of breadcrumbs -- when this goes to court -- will lead back to Plainfield's special charter.

While the Charter spells out powers of the Public Safety Director in some detail, you will search in vain to find other than oblique references to the Police Chief.

Does that automatically mean the Director has the upper hand? Stay tuned.

As for the Assemblyman's threat of an ex post facto law -- in PT's humble opinion, it's a non-starter in the America of the founding fathers ("The sentiment that ex post facto laws are against natural right, is so strong in the United States, that few, if any, of the State constitutions have failed to proscribe them... [T]hey are equally unjust in civil as in criminal cases." -- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Isaac McPherson, August 13, 1813).

Meanwhile, Frick and Frack, true Forces Of Entropy, are busily wreaking havoc elsewhere.

Of which more, later.

-- Dan Damon

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Councilor busted in DWI?

Thursday PM: It was confirmed to PT that the Councilor involved is Don Davis, who represents the third ward. -- DD

PT got word that a City Council member was arrested for driving while intoxicated last night. Have not been able to confirm details yet, but check back later in the day.

-- Dan Damon

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Bush's Monica - A reprise




"The Monica in Bush's future" -- A reprise. PT made it on a national political blog for this story yesterday, and they are carrying the link again today. Awesome number of page views were generated. Back to normal tomorrow. -- Dan.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Monica in Bush's future



There is a Monica in President Bush's future, and her presence may be even more toxic to him than Monica Lewinski's was to President Bill Clinton. Even without a blue dress or cigar.

This Monica is Attorney General Gonzales' deputy and liaison to the White House from the Department of Justice, Monica Goodling.

Why is her testimony -- which she is now withholding by invoking her 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination -- so important?

Others from the DOJ who have testified before Congressional committees have been shown to have given misleading, incomplete and perhaps false answers to questions posed them. And they are saying that they were prepped for their testimony by Monica Goodling, who assured them the White House was not closely involved in the firing of the US Attorneys.

Now she doesn't want to talk about it.

Meanwhile,
ANOTHER BOMBSHELL whose import is only beginning to be made clear is that it turns out White House employees, from Karl Rove on down, in executing their OFFICIAL duties, used email accounts housed on GOP email servers (both the Republican National Committee and the Bush-Cheney campaign committee). One source says that about 80% of Karl Rove's communications -- across the board -- are done via such a GOP email account.

On the face of it, such a practice raises the question of whether it was engaged in to circumvent the 1978 Presidential Records Act, which requires the preservation of communications by White House staffers acting in their official capacity as government records.

Fears have been aroused that the emails may be mishandled or destroyed. That is the dark side of the discovery.

The 'bright' side is that any emails using non-governmental email addresses, and housed on non-governmental servers, CANNOT CLAIM EXECUTIVE PRIVILEGE to block Congressional inquiries.

In PT's humble opinion, the import of all this hullaballoo is that Karl Rove was planning to politicize the US Attorneys and use them as partisan shock troops in the 2008 presidential election campaign to advance the GOP's candidate's chances.

If you think that is farfetched, check out this MSM story (
"GSA Chief Is Accused of Playing Politics in 'Improper' Use of Agency for GOP").



Links to stories are listed below --
-- Dan Damon

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Robinson-Briggs a 'Woman of Extraordinary Achievement'



Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs, one of 80 female mayors in New Jersey (see CAWP stats), is being honored on Thursday evening as a
'Woman of Extraordinary Achievement' at a reception sponsored by B.A.L.L.O.T.**

Though her achievement is unspecified, she outranks fellow honorees Mildred C. Crump, President of the Newark City Council, and Celia M. King, executive director of Leadership Newark and former Vice Mayor of Maplewood. She is only trumped by Joyce Wilson Harley, an attorney who is the Essex County Administrator.

Tickets will set you back $100 per, and you must make your reservation by EOB today, either by calling (973) 945-4958 or by email to contact@ballot-pac.org.

Be aware that
B.A.L.L.O.T. is registered with the NJ Election Law Enforcement Commission as a political action committee. That means it can contribute to the election of partisan political candidates. And though you may deem the cause worthy, your contribution is NOT tax-deductible.

QUESTION: Since this is a political activity and the Mayor CANNOT be acting in her OFFICIAL capacity, is Mayor Robinson-Briggs precluded from using her taxpayer-funded security detail at taxpayer expense to cover her at this event? Will she have to pay for them out of her own pocket? If she charges the cost to the City, is it merely an ethical lapse or is it grounds for a criminal complaint?

DETAILS: The event is Thursday, March 29, 6 - 8 PM. At Seabras Radizio, 1024 McCarter Highway, Newark.

Did PT forget to mention there will be food?



**B.A.L.L.O.T. (Black Americans Lobbying for leadership of Tomorrow) is a political action committee that provides financial support to elected officials and candidates for political office whose policies and positions benefit, serve and empower people of African descent.

-- Dan Damon

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Mayor and helicopter explained



It's just like the dance of the seven veils: If you hang around long enough, a lot will be revealed.

So Her Honor did use a helicopter for a Trenton trip (see Friday's post).

But it turns out it wasn't exactly of her own free will.

Seems she was summoned to a meeting on a Juvenile Justice pilot program at which her attendance was wanted, on time.

Now, a juvenile justice pilot program might put you in mind of dealing with issues like youth gangs, gunplay, school violence, and helping troubled youngsters with mentoring, wholesome activities, and job training.

And you might expect local elected officials to be on fire about participating in such a program and resolving some of the problems our young people face -- in a positive direction.

The helicopter?

PT hears through the ever-active grapevine that Robinson-Briggs' administration had been less than eagerly responsive and the helicopter was to guarantee attendance at the get-together.

Who pays? The taxpayers, of course. Though not as directly as if Her Honor had ordered and paid for it on her own.

Tip to the Juvenile Justice people: An old realtors' trick to get realtors out for an open house is to advertise free eats. Works every time.

For PT's money, it would be cheaper than helicopters, and every bit as effective as this crowd can't seem to get enough eats at the public expense.

-- Dan Damon

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

John De Marco sings!


John De Marco sings!

Beautifully.

Über-realtor John De Marco has just released his debut CD, Pure & Simple, and PT was pleased to get a sneak peek, after hearing about the release from a reader.

Around Plainfield, we all know John as the polished and consummate realtor, specializing in crème de la crème properties.

Well, take that image and translate it to cabaret music. Polished and consummate delivery of American classics in
crème de la crème venues such Judy's Cabaret Room and Helen's Hideaway Room in Chelsea, and the cabaret at The Mandalay in Las Vegas, some of John's most recent gigs.

Popping the CD into the player, PT was instantly transported back in time to The Five Oaks, a Greenwich Village cabaret where I spent a lot of time in the 70s listening to Marie Blake, who had been Billie Holliday's pianist.

Cabarets offer a sophisticated, worldly musical take on life and love. Small, intimate spaces with minimal technical baggage, they are a space where performer and audience can bond that is unlike any other.

Pure & Simple offers a selection of rare finds among the thousands of songs in what is called 'the American songbook,' those songs from the 1930s through the early 60s that formed the core of American popular music before rock 'n roll.

Here, you can find favorites ranging from Old Devil Moon and Witchcraft to Under a Blanket of Blue and I'll String Along With You, all done in John's incredibly smooth and buttery style.

Listening to these evocative songs takes one away from the suburban hubbub and routine to romantic fireside evenings, candlelight dinners for two, and long, quiet walks together.

You'll be glad to have Pure & Simple in your collection and I'll bet you'll listen to it often.



The CD can be ordered through John's website,
"John De Marco Entertainment".

One cut (
I'll String Along With You) has been posted for your listening pleasure on GarageBand.com.

-- Dan Damon


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Saturday, March 24, 2007

A crimefighting conundrum



Cops rely on informants -- snitches -- for information needed to fight crime.

No mystery here, it's as old as history.

Sometimes it's just a matter of giving police the bits and pieces needed to put a puzzle together in solving a particular crime or going after groups like chop shop networks or bra-and-panties rings (which have been in the news lately) -- or gangs.

Sometimes it's needed to clinch a prosecution, because in American courts, with their roots in English common law, proof must be 'beyond a reasonable doubt'.

When snitches figure in a prosecution, the authorities must disclose information about the snitch and the snitch's import to the case in court filings. Those filings become available to the defense, which means that they can become available to the DEFENDANTS, who can then intimidate -- or worse, eliminate -- the snitch.

This is illustrated by a story in this morning's Ledger (
"Two accused of attacking informant in Crips case") concerning the Grape Street Gang in Newark.

There are actually both federal and state cases involved, and there are different standards by which decisions about the safety of witnesses are made.

But the bottom line appears to be that using snitches to fight crime in New Jersey is seriously compromised by the lack of clear guidelines both protecting snitches.

And at the same not defeating the requirements of the defense's right of discovery.

Essex County prosecutor Paula Dow is on the case. Bet we can expect a proposal to give witnesses more protection.

But we can also expect criminal defense attorneys to object.

And there's your conundrum.**




** "A Conundrum is a puzzling question. In one variety of conundrum, the question is posed as a riddle and the answer is or involves a pun. More broadly, a conundrum is any problem where the answer is very complex, possibly unsolvable without deep investigation. A mystery or paradox can often be phrased as a conundrum."

Further reading --

-- Dan Damon

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Helicopter Mayor's new thing?



So the Mayor's got a brand new bag: helicopter transportation?

Word is Mayor Robinson-Briggs and entourage debarked from a HELICOPTER at Hub-Stine Field late yesterday afternoon, returning from a trip to Trenton.

As far as PT knows, no other Plainfield mayor has used a helicopter to get around. PT understands Route 1 -- which all of us mere mortals, including the Assemblyman, must use -- is a royal pain in the butt.

But isn't this a bit excessive, even for Robinson-Briggs? And who is picking up the tab? And what about the police escort detailed to meet Her Honor at the landing pad?

We have become accustomed to reading that the only safe way to get out of Baghdad is by helicopter -- where getting from the Green Zone to the airport can be life-challenging.

But if all of Plainfield IS a Green Zone, what's the Mayor's reason?

-- Dan Damon

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Vagina Monologues at UCC-Plainfield this Sunday



Can it really be more than 10 years since The Vagina Monologues burst upon the scene?

And it is JUST NOW coming to Plainfield?

Well, it is. And it is. And you won't want to miss it.

Eve Ensler developed the episodic show based on her interviews with more than 200 women about sex, relationships and violence against women. The play has gained worldwide attention, having been translated into more than 45 languages.
Although Ensler has stated the piece originally was intended to celebrate feminity and pleasure, it has since been aligned with a movement to combat violence against women and girls known as V-Day.

The Plainfield production has been adapted by Kean University theatre major Annie Fletcher as her senior year project. It is being directed by Brittany Blackburn and features Fletcher and Ilana Seagull.

Plainfield's Cultural and Heritage Commission is presenting the production as part of its Women's History Month observance with the co-sponsorship of Union County College-Plainfield Campus and the Student Government Association. The production was brought to the attention of the Commission by member Theresa Choate, Ph.D., a professor in Kean's theatre department.

The production will be in the main building of the campus, at East Second and Church Streets, this Sunday, March 25. Doors open at 1:30 PM and the show starts at 2 PM. The event is free, but seating is limited, so be sure to come early. Light refreshments will be served afterward, along with an opportunity to meet the production team.


-- Dan Damon

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A sinking feeling on Prospect Avenue

Thuh-WHUMP!

What the hell!?

PT glanced at the speedometer -- 25 mph. What the hell was that? PT was headed up Prospect Avenue from the five-points, and bellied out near the Evergreen School teachers' parking lot.

It was so unexpected that PT stopped the car, grabbed the camera and went for a look-see.



The 'dip' in the street near Prospect and Carnegie

The dip was formed by a crease that ran from one side of the street to the other. It was then that PT noticed the gap in the sidewalk across the street from the school.



Gap in the sidewalk on northerly side of the street



Closeup of the gap, nearly 6 inches

Now, you know if this were YOUR sidewalk, you would have been written up before it got to this point. What gives? Talking with three young men polishing a car in front of one of them's home, PT asked about the gap. How long had it been there? Had they noticed any recent change?

There had always been some gap they said, but when they saw me using a ruler to measure the depth, they opined that it had changed over time. One, a student at PHS, volunteered that he habitually trips on it at night returning from visiting an elderly church member who lives around the corner.

PT suspected this was the point where Plainfield's enormous underground floodwater diversion storm sewer crosses Prospect to wend its way under Plainfield High School and emerge behind the Stelle Avenue parking lot, thence to flow through Cedar Brook Park.



Section of the DPW mailer showing approximate flood zones in blue
(Click to enlarge)


The tax maps confirmed that this is the point where the storm sewer crosses Prospect Avenue.



Detail from tax maps, showing storm sewer right-of-way in blue
(Click to enlarge)

So, what IS going on here? Is the soil around the rigid storm sewer subsiding? Why? Could this also account for such things as the tilt of the tree at the rear of the photo below?



Notice the tilted tree at the rear of this photo

On the other side of the street, the green patch veering rightward toward the rear of the photo seems to be over the storm sewer as it heads toward PHS.



View toward PHS, green patch on right indicates storm sewer path

Shouldn't the city fix the sidewalk before it gets sued? Doesn't seem to PT that it's the property owner's fault. Shouldn't the city fix the roadway -- you can see obvious signs of patching -- before someone breaks an axle?

That would probably require an engineering study to correctly analyze and assess what's going on here.

And then what about checking out the rest of the storm sewer, which PT is told was put in place by the Army Corps of Engineers after the disastrous 1973 flood -- in which the entire area on the DPW map that slashes from behind the Sears store on Route 22 southwestward to Cedar Brook Park was under water.

Of course, the City COULD just ignore it.

-- Dan Damon

P.S. -- You may also want to check out the story about the Administration's bumbling of the renewal of the FEMA Flood Maps last September ("Administration: The Dog Ate My Homework")

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Rescuing the mayor's [non]-image

It is tempting for PT to characterize Mayor Robinson-Briggs' public relations presence as a shambles.

But that would be too generous. It's really been practically non-existent.

What does Laurence Rice do? PT sees him around with a camera, taking pictures. But the idea was he is supposed to do PRESS for the Mayor -- you know, press releases pitching her activities and accomplishments, staging press conferences, ribbon-cuttings and baby-kissings. That kind of stuff. Instead, the only print output we see is his monthly newspaper -- and no one seems to think there is an ETHICAL question here?

Then there is the Department of Community Newsletters, with Cynthia Crawford in charge. Have you seen one yet? What is that about? Your tax dollars at work?

The one exception is PCTV-74, the cable station, which is treated more like a personal MySpace site for Her Honor than what the cable franchise calls for: a station that trains and equips the public to produce programming about the community, which is then to be aired on the public access channel.

Where is that Cable TV Advisory Board? And why aren't they advising? PT suspects the Board of Public Utilities would not be happy with the content on the station at present. AND, aren't we supposed to be at the review point in the franchise contract? (PT has an inkling, since he was the secretary to the Commission that negotiated the present agreement with Comcast.)

The Mayor has a chance to fix things if the Council approves the creation of a Public Information Officer (PIO) on Wednesday evening.

That is, if she gives the person who gets the job the authority to do it properly and the expectation that it will be done competently.

Jazz Johnson might make a good PIO, but only if the Mayor empowers her.

Will she?

-- Dan Damon

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Plainfield Health Center in trouble?



Is the Plainfield Health Center in trouble?

The gist of some Trenton gossip PT heard over the weekend is that PHC is in fiscal straits and has been looking to the state for financial assistance.

This is doubly troubling: PHC is a key component of health care delivery for underserved and economically challenged area residents; and the State is broke.

PHC has gone through a number of changes since its founding director, Julane Miller-Armbrister, retired several years ago. (12:30 pm: PT stands corrected: the founding director was Oliver Bartlett; Miller-Armbrister was the second.)

There has been a revolving door of executive leadership, along with an aggressive expansion into other service areas including Phillipsburg, Elizabethport and the state's northwest corner.

At the same time, eyebrows have been raised over the organization's administrative topheaviness as well as the abandonment of a professionally-driven endowment effort.

The state, PT hears, is loath to consider taking over the agency and instead would prefer finding partners to throw a rescue line if the PHC cannot make it on its own.

Muhlenberg, which has its plate full, may not be able to help more than it already has.

Which would mean other health care organizations who, no doubt, would kick the tires and check under the hood before making a commitment.

Rumors that the PHC could get some temporary relief by selling off a portion of its property behind the Comcast facility are also circulating.

Comcast, PT is told, is NOT interested in the property.

Talk of condos or upscale stand-alone housing which circulated in the early days of the Robinson-Briggs tenure has abated -- no doubt partly because of the softness of the residential development market and also the possibility of Superfund issues on the property.

Would the PMUA be interested? Maybe. But taxpayers should be alarmed if a sweetheart deal is brought forward.

The way to go would be for the PHC to put the proposed land on the market and see who nibbles. That way, the public would get to see what the PHC thinks it is worth -- and whether anyone else sees it that way.

Meanwhile, perhaps the Assemblyman, who has been curiously silent, can do some rainmaking the same way he did for Muhlenberg.

Tens of thousands of clients' health care is at stake.



You can check out the PHC website, but don't expect much enlightenment. The welcoming message seems not to have been updated since the site was put up in 2002. The development pages are frozen in time with 2006 activities. The most recent press release on the press page is April 16, 2006. Clicking on the 'Newsletter' link brings up a PDF file of the Spring 2005 issue -- is that the most recent? And when you click on the 'Site Map' link -- a user-friendly way to navigate -- you get the following

-- Dan Damon

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Still shovelin' out



PT is still shoveling out. See you tomorrow.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

St. Paddy's Day




'Tis the day for celebrating all things Irish, part-Irish or Irish-friendly.

Want some background? Check out articles on St. Patrick's Day (Pàdraic, hence 'Paddy'), "Éirinn go Brách", and the "Batallón de San Patricio". Also, see the story in today's CLIPS on how get a piece of the 'auld sod' for yourself (
"Pining for Irish Soil? You Can Buy It by the Bag").

PT draws the line at green beer.

-- Dan Damon

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Friday, March 16, 2007

The mayor's little pickle



When Mayor Robinson-Briggs enlisted police union leaders in her campaign for mayor, she put herself in a pickle.

All politics is transactional.

The day would come when she would have to pay them back for their help. That day has come -- actually it came this past December -- with the expiration of the police union contracts.

Word is that the Mayor had the temerity to ask the unions to give up the supplementary medical benefits package that favors more senior members over those with less seniority.

Daring to bring up this item was the third-rail which short-circuited any hope of Mayor Al McWilliams for support by police union leadership for a third term.

So far, the Mayor's offer to the unions has been deemed unacceptable, and although several meetings have been held, PT's guess is that the pas de deux will be executed in the usual fashion, with the matter ultimately going to binding arbitration.

Traditionally, this is a desirable outcome for the union leadership as they have usually gotten the administration to up the ante enough by the time it goes to arbitration that the arbitrator's award will be quite satisfactory to the unions.

Elected officials -- no matter how much and how loudly they protest the arbitration settlement -- are relieved of responsibility for the settlement since they can claim it was "out of their hands."

Oddsmakers are guesstimating that the settlement will come in around 13-14% for a three-year contract. With the supplementary medical benefits plan untouched. If union members are asked to chip in any more toward their benefits costs, she can kiss their support goodbye.

Taxpayers need to keep in mind not only the potential impact this settlement will ultimately have, but the fact that the police union contracts set the pattern for the fire unions, the DPW workers and ultimately the rest of the city unions.

Add to all this the full offloading of pension and benefits expenses to municipalities, which will be completed over the next two fiscal years -- and the likelihood that the deterioration of the State's fiscal position will lead to hefty increases in school taxes -- and the stage is set for a taxpayer revolt just as the Mayor prepares to run for her second term.
(See the Ledger's Tuesday article, "Property taxes face 'ticking time bomb'")

So the question for the Mayor is what kind of pickle she will make of all this -- sweet or sour.

-- Dan Damon

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Fewer shell casings bad news for public safety?


9mm shell casing found curbside by pedestrian in NYC

Could fewer shell casings be bad news in crime fighting and ultimately in public safety?

Word in the street is that Bukhtiar Katchi was the innocent victim of gunplay between two Plainfield gangs.

There are rumors of other gunplay between two gangs over recent weeks. What?! You didn't read about it in the papers? No, but there have been reports by citizen groups of gunplay -- see here and here.

The Courier's story today about the young man's beef with a relative over property in Pakistan ("Victim made fake terrorist claims against a relative") -- including the mysterious reference to the British consulate in Toronto -- is an aside. The real story appears to be Plainfield gangs.

Was it only this past Sunday that PT posted an item on the rise in violent crime in cities ("Cities see violent crime surge")? It's all about guns, guns, guns, and young men.

Rumor is that the gang feud simmers and is likely to erupt in an all-out gunfight over the next few weeks. That's the BAD news.

But there may be WORSE news.

Seems that Operation Cease-Fire -- the guns- and gunplay-fighting program -- has taken so long coming that gangs are mounting a low-tech countertactic in the cat-and-mouse game between criminals and police.

Word is that they are turning to REVOLVERS as opposed to semi-automatic handguns. Reason? No shell casings left behind for forensics labs to tie to individual guns and eventually to use as evidence in prosecutions.

While there's been plenty of talk about beefing up patrols in the shopping district -- fat lot of good it did Mr. Katchi -- we haven't heard anything about getting rid of gang-related gun violence.

When will Mayor Robinson-Briggs give us a hint GANGS might be an important issue?

-- Dan Damon

P.S. -- Did anyone else find the picture in yesterday's Courier story (
"Resident shot, killed in downtown Plainfield") on the murder odd? The Segway -- which PT thought was for patrol and pursuit -- appears to be cruising INSIDE the crime scene tape. Isn't that strange?

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

More Plainfield needed in JerseyPride


What do Judy Blume, Sarah Vaughn, Loretta Swit, Paul Robeson and James Fennimore Cooper have in common?

They're all from New Jersey, as are Queen Latifah, Shaq, Bon Jovi and Jerry Lewis.

As are tons of other people, greatly and not-so-greatly famous.

There is a great Jersey fan site -- started by Jerseyan Jeff Kauflin, who was tired of hearing putdowns from classmates at his Vermont college.

The site is JerseyPride.com.

The fun thing is that Jeff is compiling an alphabetical list of famous Jerseyans -- and YOU are invited to help.

If you go to the "Famous New Jerseyans" page, you will find a submission link at the bottom of the page.

You can submit the names of Plainfielders -- and other Jerseyans you think should be listed.

Fill out the simple contact form with the name of the person you are submitting and their claim to fame. It wouldn't hurt to point the editor toward a reference -- online or offline.

PT was a little dubious at first -- especially since there was only ONE Plainfield listing, for Milt Campbell. But after submitting JOE BLACK and GEORGE CLINTON, I am happy to report they checked them out and posted the names to the list.

Go ahead, help yourself!

PS -- You may also want to take a look at the New Jersey Hall of Fame site.

-- Dan Damon

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The real news in the Dem news



There is a wacky scene in Disney's 1951 Alice in Wonderland, at the Mad Hatter's tea party, where the March Hare repeatedly offers Alice a cup of tea but pulls it out of her hands just as she is about to drink it.

The press may be forgiven if it feels a little like Alice after last night's re-announcement of the lineup of Democratic candidates for this year's primary.

Remember that the lineup was announced in last Friday's Ledger
("Plainfield Democrats switch allegiance"), with a note that the formal announcement would come on Monday AT CITY HALL.

ALL THE NEWS WAS ALREADY OUT OF THE BOX -- the dumping of Mapp for Van Blake and granting Carter and Storch the line.

So what was to come out for on Monday -- except maybe a photo opp?

Unless the change of venue to DEM PARTY HEADQUARTERS was the news?

The reason for the venue change heard in the street was that it seemed to the powers-that-be that a partisan political announcement at City Hall was somehow inappropriate.

To which PT says, "Who cares?"
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.
-- The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. T. S. Eliot, 1917.

-- Dan Damon

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Monday, March 12, 2007

PoliticsNJ website revived


Political news junkies in New Jersey just got a new I.V. drip and that is good news.

PoliticsNJ had been a daily staple for many over the past few years and developed a large and stable following.

That reputation rested -- in PT's humble opinion -- on a three-legged stool composed of
  • the anonymous 'Wally Edge' who has an encyclopedic knowledge of Garden State political lore, stats, players, grudges and achievements;

  • David Rebovich, the Rider College professor whose astute analysis and assessment of the odds on any given question made him New Jersey's answer to Jimmy the Greek; and

  • Steve Kornacki, adept and razor-witted reporter, who had excellent smoke-and-mirrors sensors and covered the daily flow of news, puffy releases from the pols and scanned the horizon for the next big thing.
That all started to fall apart when Kornacki left. The site seemed not to be able to keep up to speed and often PT found that it was rehashing news that he had found on his own in other places and days earlier. Things got so bad that I was forgetting to check it out at all for weeks at a time.

All that has changed.

The site was bought out by Jared Kushner, owner of the New York Observer, about a month ago and the fresh, clean new iteration went live last Thursday.

Surprisingly the only notice PT spotted was an AP feed, which he first picked up from Newsday -- the LONG ISLAND newspaper -- and later spotted on the Asbury Park Press. Where was the Ledger?

Wally Edge, who keeps his anonymity, will still be involved with the enterprise. Rebovich also stays. Kornacki returns and that is great news.

Other new contributors include former US Senator Bob 'Torch' Torricellli and former Governor Christine 'Christy' Todd Whitman. That should make for some interesting reading.

The site has been completely revamped and tidied up -- boy did it need it!

Gone is the annoying mandatory ad portal that was inflicted on all comers. Though the site has an advertising link,there are not any ads as of today. PT's guess is that they are renegotiating the advertisers that were up before -- who would be well-advised to pony up whatever increase is probably being asked for and get on with it.

There are also options for registering (though it's not clear exactly what you would be registering FOR -- they need to work on that) and RSS feeds. Geeky readers will appreciate the feeds, which deliver the headlines to your news reader in real time without your having to go to the website or wait for a periodic email (if they are keeping that function).

A quick glance this morning gives an idea of the freshness of the coverage -- the Hudson County shakeup gets covered, plus the latest on who's dropping out and dropping in for the 2007 elections, and an entry titled 'Bridge for Sale.'

This is going to be a happening site, folks. Stroll on over to the new PoliticsNJ and check it out.

-- Dan Damon

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Cities see violent crime surge




(Chart, NY Times. Click to enlarge.)

As winter breaks, news comes of a sharp surge in violent crime -- murder, robbery, assaults, gunplay and shootings -- in cities across the country since late 2005.

The NY Times ran the story in Friday's editions (
"Violent Crime in Cities Shows Sharp Surge"), based on a report released by the prestigious organization of law enforcement professionals, the Police Executive Research Forum.

The principal cause, as PERF sees it is --
[E]asy access to guns and a willingness, even an eagerness, to settle disputes with them, particularly among young people.
The Times continues --
Police officials say the violence tends to happen among young men in their late teens and early to mid-20s. In some cases, it is random. But in many cases, it is among people who know one another, or between gangs, as a way to settle disputes. Arguments that 20 years ago would have led to fistfights, police chiefs say, now lead to guns.

“There’s really no rhyme or reason with these homicides,” said Edward Davis, the police commissioner in Boston. “An incident will occur involving disrespect, a fight over a girl. Then there’s a retaliation aspect where if someone shoots someone else; their friends will come back and shoot at the people that did it.”

In Richmond (CA), Chief Chris Magnus said he would often go to the scene of a crime and discover that 30 to 75 rounds had been fired. “It speaks to the level of anger, the indiscriminate nature of the violence,” he said.

As for the effectiveness of some highly touted practices, Rochester (NY) Mayor Robert Duffy, who served as police chief for seven years, thinks something more is needed --
As a police chief, Mr. Duffy brought in programs that had reduced crime in other cities: a project cease-fire to end gun violence, a Compstat data collection program to identify the areas of most stubborn crime. But it has not helped.

“We’re doing all the right things consistently, but we have not seen relief,” he said. “It takes much more than law enforcement.”

All of this echoes themes that have been brought out by PT and others before.

Plainfield has had CompStat-type internal reporting and planning for several years in the Police Division. An Operation Cease-Fire program is imminent, or so we've been told for the last six months or so.

Unlike Newark, where Mayor Booker has been more proactive about keeping residents informed of the crime picture, Plainfield generally does not discuss stats except when the FBI's annual reports are issued in August or September of each year. Combined with less coverage by the daily papers, Plainfielders are generally being left in the dark about the actual state of affairs regarding crime and crime trends.

But, as PT noted in January, incidents involving guns and gunplay were up sharply in Plainfield in 2006 according to the Star-Ledger, as were robberies and burglaries. Assaults seem to have risen only slightly. And of course, murders were down over 2005 -- thank God! -- though not as a result of any proactive government effort.

How will things play out in Plainfield for the rest of 2007?

No one can know, but if Mayor Duffy of Rochester is right, there is plenty more to do and it will take much more than just law enforcement.



FURTHER READING

NYT - Article: "Violent Crime in Cities Shows Sharp Surge"

PERF Report: "Violent Crime in America: PERF Report" (PDF)
PERF Homepage: "Police Executive Research Forum"

Plainfield Today posts --
December 03, 2006: "Crime: Good news, bad news" -- The Ledger on guns and gunplay.
January 8, 2007: "Themes you will and [probably] won't hear tonight" -- In advance of the State of the City address.
January 14, 2007: "Guns and violence on everyone's mind"

John Farmer OpEd in the Ledger --
Sunday, January 14, 2007: "Rise in violent crime was predictable"
-- Dan Damon

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Will your computer spring ahead tonight?



Overnight tonight, we are going to adventure into the land of DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME (DST). Yes, early this year (and it will last a week longer in the Fall).

Will your computer's experience of SPRINGING AHEAD be smooth and painless or will it wake up tomorrow in STANDARD TIME?

Because the date on which DST starts and ends changes this year in most of the US and many other places, the magic trick by which our computers automatically change their internal time when we boot up on the morning of the change may need some tweaking.

First, let's count off by WINDOWS or MAC and form two lines.

MAC users will want to check out the following useful article --
The gist of Apple's advice is that whether or not you think you are ready, you ought to go through the steps outlined in the article.

All you wild and wooly WINDOWS users form up over here --
First, note that it is best to work through the Microsoft process by using Internet Explorer rather than another browser (such as Firefox, PT's default browser). The reason is that Microsoft uses some behind-the-scenes tricks (Active X) that are most easily supported by their own browser.

If your Windows system is set to automatically update, your computer may already have been tweaked. If you are not sure, it doesn't hurt to initiate the Microsoft process. You will get an annoying 'clunk' sound along with a message box letting you know you're already taken care of.

The updating process is quite smooth. When you boot up tomorrow morning, you should be greeted with a message that your computer has updated your clock. This will mean you're covered for the extended week this Fall and until the government gets another fit of fixin' at some point in the future.

AOL users have their own reference article here --
Don't forget to change your clocks AND your SMOKE ALARM BATTERIES.



Further reading
-- Dan Damon

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Friday, March 9, 2007

Who will replace Van Blake?



The life cycle of some news can be measured in nanoseconds.**

In case you missed it yesterday (
"Plainfield Democrats switch allegiance"), Council President Rayland Van Blake is slated to replace Adrian Mapp as Union County Freeholder. That is, of course, unless there's a GOP landslide in November. In Union County. Right.

Anyway, that was YESTERDAY'S news.

Since then, Plainfield's politerati have been busy guessing who Assemblyman Jerry Green will pick to replace Van Blake on the City Council.

PT had breakfast one day last May with the late Council President Ray Blanco. Ray told me then that it was "101% certain" that Mapp would be replaced in the 2007 lineup and that Van Blake had been tapped.

In Ray's mind, being a freeholder was like being sent to Siberia. He hadn't the slightest interest in the Freeholder Board. He regarded all the important action to take place in one of two locations: City Council or the Legislature. In-between was, in his view, smoke and mirrors.

So, who WILL replace Van Blake on the City Council?

Via email and cellphone, PT has heard the following Round 1 hunches --
  • BARBARA JAMES -- The longtime Green aide now serves as 'confidential assistant' and factotum to Mayor Robinson-Briggs. But it would mean giving up that job and a cut in pay.

  • ALEX TOLIVER -- Once he became a Democrat, former Republican Toliver has been a vocal supporter -- and effusive letter-writer -- on behalf of causes near and dear to the heart of the Assemblyman.

  • HATTIE WILLIAMS -- Ward-heeler responsible for the Richmond Towers vote. Green owes her a lot, and Council would perhaps be better than the City Hall info kiosk. Perhaps.

  • LIZ URQUHART -- Urquhart held Van Blake's seat for sixteen years before being ousted by the upstart neophyte in the 2002 election. It would mean a salary cut (Liz makes over $20,000 on the Union County Tax Board per the Courier database). But for Liz, it would no doubt be a delicious irony.
The MAGIC EIGHT-BALL says: "Don't rule out irony."



**Though a nanosecond has a technical definition as a millionth of a second, PT has always been partial to the folk definition: A nanosecond is the length of time between when the light in front of you goes green and the car behind you honks its horn.

-- Dan Damon

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Thursday, March 8, 2007

Libby: Liar, warmonger, pornographic novelist



'Scooter' Libby's conviction certifies him a liar.

You may also have known he was a warmonger. He was a founding member of the Project For The New American Century, the organization that began promoting a war on Iraq at its inception in 1997. Wikipedia has a thorough article outlining the organization's history, platform, founders and present and former members.

BUT, did you knew Libby was also a published PORNOGRAPAHIC NOVELIST? Seems so.

His 1996 novel, The Apprentice, has been reissued in paper by St. Martin's. If you don't recall, it centers around a group of travellers marooned in northern Japan in 1903 and is -- as the original publisher put it -- "an everyday tale of bestiality and paedophilia in Japan in 1903...packed with sexual perversion, dwelling on prepubescent girls and their training in prostitution." Did I forget to mention that a 10-year-old girl has sex with a bear. In the woods. Where else? You get the picture.

The New Yorker wrote it up in a 2005 'Talk of the Town' piece (which also noted a Lynne Cheney novel where a Republican VP dies while having sex with his mistress). What makes these people so dirty-minded? Where ARE the family values?

Not that you really want to know, but the novel is available on Amazon at $12.95 -- but don't be foolish, skip on over to the used books section, where PT usually trolls; it can be had there as a NEW, REMAINDERED COPY at the amazingly low price of 1¢. That's right, for one cent plain you can get this perfectly filthy and now highly collectible item. Shipping extra. PT ordered his copy. That means you have his permission to indulge. As a piece of Americana, of course.

-- Dan Damon

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Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Crime on Sherman Avenue?




1030 Sherman Avenue

This cozy little 1920s colonial on the edge of the Plainfield/South Plainfield line is a candidate for a teardown and replacement with new construction.

The matter is slated to come before the Zoning Board of Adjustment this evening.
Thanks to reader NP for the heads up.

The crime? Depends on your point of view.

Would it be a crime to tear it down just because it sits on a nice plump lot in a town where such are scarce? And the new construction might tower over its neighbors?

Is it a crime to leave this little dwelling standing when there is such a demand for NEW and FAUX-GRANDIOSE construction? After all, it is money that makes the world go 'round. Right?

This neat little house was once the home of David N. Kendall, Ph. D., Johns Hopkins class of 1943, and his wife and three children.

Dr. Kendall was a pioneer in INFRARED SPECTROSCOPY. What?!

Just another of those sciences that seem impenetrable yet have made their contribution to our daily well-being.

The infrared spectrum is a very narrow, precisely defined band of the light spectrum. Dr. Kendall was a pioneer in developing means of analyzing samples whose molecules 'dance' in particular, identifiable, patterns when excited and observed in this band of light.

Kendall founded Kendall Infrared Laboraties in 1953, which in 1987 became Metuchen Analytical/Kendall Infrared.

He was honored in 1973 with a gold medal for distinguished achievement by the New York section of the Society for Applied Spectroscopy.

He edited the 1966 text Applied Infrared Spectroscopy, which is still consulted.

His research has been important to the advancement of scientific ventures ranging from NASA to medicine, from the structure and development of polymers to such consumer products as sunscreens.

Change is inevitable. Perhaps the real crime would be to let his little house go without remembering the man and his contributions. And the family that lived there and took part in the common life of our community.

Ave atque vale, David Kendall, scientist and Plainfielder.



FURTHER READING
-- Dan Damon

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