Saturday, January 31, 2009

Public Support Grows for Rehabilitating Ex-Convicts

By Dr. Henrie M. Treadwell

Atlanta, GA (BlackNews.com) - The nation's appetite for mass incarceration appears to be waning, as many states confront the financial challenges of maintaining large prison populations and as public support grows for more services that better prepare prisoners to come home to their communities.

After four decades of tougher sentencing, the incarceration rate in the United States is the highest in the world at 715 inmates per 100,000 residents, far outdistancing the Russians, who are second at 584 per 100,000. But more Americans are recognizing that mass incarceration has largely failed. Their neighborhoods aren't any safer, and funding the expanded prison system has drained resources that could be spent more productively on rehabilitation, healthcare, education and other social services.


A poll conducted in December 2008 by Zogby International for Community Voices at Morehouse School of Medicine found that across the country and in Georgia there is substantial support for progressive rehabilitation and educational services for inmates and those recently released from prison. A majority of respondents said it was "very important" for former inmates to receive access to job training, drug treatment, mental health care, mentoring and family assistance.

Clearly, the public recognizes that the mass incarceration strategy is not working. Both nationally (72 percent) and in Georgia (86 percent), most respondents said they were concerned about crime in their communities. Moreover, at least half of all respondents agreed that when people leave prison, their life skills have not been improved and they experience too many obstacles to living crime-free lives. In fact, a majority of respondents supported the idea of state-funded rehabilitation services for inmates before and after they are released. Respondents also overwhelmingly supported providing former inmates with job training, public housing, student loans and medical services.

Perhaps the most significant finding was that 70 percent of the national respondents and 69 percent of Georgians said they would rather see additional state money spent on treatment programs and other services for ex-offenders than on constructing new prisons.

The key question now, however, is whether this strong public sentiment for ending mass incarceration and launching comprehensive rehabilitation will actually lead to changes in public policy.

It will take bold leadership by our political leaders, ideally starting with President Barack Obama. National, state and local politicians will remain under pressure to take the politically safe route and continue to emphasize locking up offenders. But this policy becomes problematic when states face severe budget shortfalls because of the recession, leaving elected officials to search for ways to cut prison expenses.

In California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is proposing to grant early release to more inmates, while in Kentucky temporary cost-saving measures have already led to the early release of nearly 2,000. Other states, such as Virginia and New York, are also debating whether to let out early thousands of inmates. In Michigan, state officials have agreed to make changes in parole policies that will reduce the state's prison population by thousands and save $262 million over the next six years.

Yet some officials are clinging to the status quo, despite its heavy costs and demonstrated ineffectiveness. In Indiana, Governor Mitch Daniels is under fire from opponents after proposing a budget that includes a $40 million expansion of two prisons, but cuts funding for several agencies and higher education, and offers no new spending on K-12 education. In Pennsylvania, Governor Ed Rendell wants fixed prison terms for repeat offenders, rather than flexible ranges.

It's clear, however, that sunset is coming for mass incarceration. Many state officials who are shifting policies to save money will find that this to be a winning strategy--if they steer more resources to rehabilitating ex-inmates. The public already recognizes that this is a better public policy for the safety of their communities. Now, it's time for public officials to get on the bandwagon.


(Dr. Henrie M. Treadwell is director of Community Voices at Morehouse School of Medicine, a nonprofit organization working to improve health services and health-care access for all Americans. Media seeking interviews with Dr. Treadwell please contact Alicia Ingram, 404-493-1724 to schedule.)

State Your Case: Cards or Steelers

Football fans like to debate whether their team is better than the other guy's. So do National Columnists. The AP's Tim Dahlberg and Jim Litke lay out their cases for why either the Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers will win. (Jan. 31)

After long wait, Hayes makes Hall of Fame


By BARRY WILNER - AP Football Writer
2009-01-31 17:52


TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -The long, slow wait to get into the Hall of Fame ended at last for one of the fastest men to play in the NFL, Bob Hayes.

``Bullet Bob,'' the 1964 Olympic 100-meter gold medalist who went on to star for a decade with the Dallas Cowboys, was elected on Saturday, 28 years after first becoming eligible for induction.

His problems off the field were believed to have contributed to the delay, and though he died in 2002, he made sure his sister would be prepared if, somehow, he made it someday.



``He left a statement for me to read in case this day came,'' Lucille Hester said.

In the letter, Hayes thanked everyone who supported him, even those who may not have voted for him. He thanked teammates, everyone who played for the Cowboys - singling out Roger Staubach - and also thanked the San Francisco 49ers, with whom he finished his career.

Hayes paid tribute to his high school, Florida A&M and concluded by thanking his hometown of Jacksonville, Dallas and the state of Texas.

``Just thank everyone in the whole world. I love you all,'' he wrote.

Hayes had drug and alcohol problems and legal issues in an era when the public wasn't nearly as accustomed to seeing its sports stars struggle off the field. He served 10 months in a Texas prison after pleading guilty in 1979 to delivering narcotics to an undercover officer.

That ``destroyed my life'' Hayes wrote in his autobiography, ``Run, Bullet, Run: The Rise, Fall, and Recovery of Bob Hayes.'' The prison term ended at about the same time he became eligible for the hall.

Earlier in week Staubach said he was pulling for Hayes to get in and spoke about how his teammate revolutionized the passing game, changing the way defenses played. Staubach claimed Hayes would be the fastest player in the NFL if he were playing today.

One of Hayes' biggest supporters for induction was Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. In 2001, Jones made sure Hayes was inducted into the team's Ring of Fame.

``This is a deserving honor for one of the Cowboys' most truly gifted stars,'' Jones said. ``We all know he changed the game on the field, but he also brought a unique star quality to the NFL that helped make professional football the most popular sport in the world. He was a world champion in two different sports, and he had a world-class heart.

``This is a great day for Bob Hayes' legacy, his family and the Dallas Cowboys.''

Hayes twice led the NFL in touchdown receptions and in average yards per catch. He also was a terrific kick returner.

At the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, Hayes won the 100 meters, tying the world record of 10.05 seconds. He anchored the U.S. 400-meter relay team to victory in a world-record 39.06. Hayes' relay split was a sensational 8.6 seconds.

That speed translated to the football field, but his other troubles seemed to obscure his accomplishments.

Until Saturday.

``It didn't matter how long it took,'' his sister said, ``The day is here, and it is historic.''

Serena Williams Beats Safina for fourth Australian Open title


Serena Williams Beats Safina for fourth Australian Open title

Melbourne, Australia: In Australian Open finals Serena Williams dominated Russian Dinara Safina, 6-0, 6-3, for her 10th major championship.

The Williams won this Grand Slam event title, who also won this event in 2003, '05 and '07, will assume the No. 1 ranking in the world come Monday.This Singles titles for Serena came just a day after she and sister Venus took home women's doubles title, topping Slovakia's Daniela Hantuchova and Japan's Ai Sugiyama.

Chavez Turns Nazi, Escalates Anti-Semitic Campaign

Chavez Turns Nazi, Escalates Anti-Semitic Campaign




"We don't want Jews here" and "Jews get out" were the slogans daubed on a Caracas synagogue's walls Saturday.

David Bitan, vice president of the Jewish community in Venezuela, told Ynet that late Friday night a number of assailants broke down the synagogue's door and threw scripture books on the floor, then proceeded to graffiti the hateful slogans on the walls.



"We found the guard on the floor, he had been threatened with a gun," Bitan said. "Until 3 am they destroyed the offices, opened the Ark of the Covenant, and threw the Torah books on the floor."



He said the Jewish community had filed an official complaint with the police. "This is a very complicated situation for the Jews in Venezuela. The slogans were not against Israel but against the Jews," he said.



Bitan added that the community has been troubled by numerous anti-Semitic acts over recent years, and a spokesman for the Federation of Jewish Communities in Venezuela, Daniel Ben-Naim, said the incident testified to the increasing hatred of Jews in the country.



"We've never had such an incident. It looks well-planned," he said. "We were afraid something like this would happen. The official press was becoming more and more anti-Israeli and anti-Jews. There are hundreds of anti-Semitic articles, ads, and fliers."



An Israeli residing in Caracas said images from the ravaged synagogue had been displayed in the local media. He said he had seen that another slogan, "Death to the Jews", was also sprayed in the synagogue.




Relations between Israel and Venezuela became strained over the IDF operation in the Gaza Strip. Caracas severed its diplomatic ties with Israel after Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez slammed Israel's actions as "inhumane".



On Wednesday the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem announced that it had ordered Venezuelan diplomats in Israel to exit the country by the end of the week. In response, Caracas stated that the country was proud its diplomats had been expelled, and called Israeli leaders criminals.

Bishop Apologizes to Pope but Does Not Retract Holocaust Denial


A Holocaust-denying bishop who was readmitted to the Catholic Church apologized Friday to Pope Benedict XVI for the "unnecessary distress and problems" caused by his "imprudent remarks."
Bishop Richard Williamson, one of four leaders of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X whose 1988 excommunications were lifted by the pope Jan. 21, posted the statement on his personal blog.

Jewish groups have voiced outrage that Williamson recently told Swedish television that "historical evidence is hugely against 6 million Jews having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler."


On Thursday, Israel's chief rabbinate, the country's highest Jewish body, severed ties with the Vatican.

In an apparent response to the controversy, Benedict on Wednesday condemned the Nazi genocide of "millions of Jews" and expressed his "full and indisputable solidarity" with the Jewish people.

The pope has not, however, explicitly condemned Williamson's remarks.

Williamson's apology came in the form of a letter, dated Jan. 28, to Cardinal Dario Castrillón Hoyos, head of the Vatican office that deals with the Society of St. Pius X and other traditionalist groups disaffected by church reforms stemming from the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).

"Amidst this tremendous media storm stirred up by imprudent remarks of mine on Swedish television, I beg of you to accept . . . my sincere regrets for having caused to yourself and to the Holy Father so much unnecessary distress and problems," Williamson wrote.

The bishop also expressed gratitude for Benedict's cancellation of his excommunication and promised to "offer a Mass" for the pope and Castrillón.

In an introductory comment for readers of his blog, Williamson suggested that critics had exploited his remarks merely to attack Benedict.

"Last week's media uproar" was "surely aimed rather at the Holy Father than at a relatively insignificant bishop," he wrote.

Williamson also hinted that his apology was not a retraction of his inflammatory historical statements but a gesture of deference to the pope.

Introducing the letter to Castrillón, Williamson noted that the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, founder of the Society of St. Pius X, "gave his Society the example of never so cleaving to God's Truth as to abandon respect for the men holding God's Authority."

Also Friday, an Israeli government official said that the Jewish state maintains good relations with the Vatican despite the controversy over Williamson, the Associated Press reported.

Israel's ambassador to the Holy See, Mordechay Lewy, said that "the climate is good" and that there is "a lot of potential for cooperation" between the Vatican and Israel.

Turkey's Erdogan Walks Out Of Davos Over Israel's Attacks On Gaza


ANKARA, Turkey -- Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan walked out of a heated debate with Israeli President Shimon Peres about the Gaza Strip conflict, at the Davos World Economic Forum late on Thursday (January 29th). Turkey had criticised Israel's actions throughout the Gaza operation earlier this month. In Davos, Erdogan criticised the Israeli government's attitude towards the Palestinians, as well audience members who applauded Peres as he defended Israel's actions. Erdogan walked out saying the moderator had given him far less time to speak than Peres.

"If we are moderated in this way, we will not leave Davos with what we want to achieve at this meeting and it will cast a shadow on the efforts for reaching peace," Erdogan explained. Arriving back in Istanbul, he received a hero's welcome from a huge crowd at the airport. Erdogan said Peres has phoned him to apologise for his tone. (Sabah, Hurriyet, Milliyet, Zaman, DPA, BBC - 30/01/09)

Limbaugh on Obama: “I hope he fails.”


When asked about his hopes for the Barack Obama presidency, radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh infuriated Obama supporters with four simple words: “I hope he fails.” But it is important to take Limbaugh’s words into context with his entire statement on the matter. (You can watch a video here.) Does Limbaugh actually want Obama’s presidency to fail, in that he wants the country to suffer?

What Limbaugh actually said is that he wants Obama’s policies to fail, meaning the defeat of President Obama’s legislative agenda. This is because Limbaugh believes Obama’s policies will be ineffective, counterproductive or destructive. This is a view I share. As I said in my letter to the editor in the Indianapolis Star, many Americans have serious philosophical differences with Obama on matters of public policy, and “it is foolish to expect these differences to be brushed aside in the name of ‘unity’ or bipartisanship.”

I also hope Obama fails, especially regarding his promise to sign the so-called “Freedom of Choice Act.” (I will write more on FOCA later.) I hope the Republicans and enough conservative Democrats defeat that in the House or Senate. I hope Obama fails to increase taxes, which is exactly what he promised to do when he said he supports rolling back President Bush’s tax cuts. I hope Obama fails to get legislation passed to expand “hate crimes” at the federal level.

(Read more after the leap).

The top item on Obama’s legislative agenda right now is a massive economic stimulus package. Back in 1993, President Clinton attempted to push a $16 billion economic stimulus package through the Congress, only to be blocked by a Republican filibuster in the Senate. Now, Republicans are considering getting on board with Obama’s stimulus, which leaves the Clinton package in the dust. Have Republicans given up on being the party of limited government? While Republicans have lost a lot of credibility as the party of limited government with Bush’s big-government agenda, there is no reason why they cannot reverse course and stand on libertarian principles as they did in the 1990’s.

Beyond objections to Obama’s legislative agenda based on effectiveness, there are questions about the role of the federal government that must be considered as well. As the government gets bigger, spends more money and takes more in taxes, we lose more and more freedom. The stimulus package pushed through last fall by Bush (after being delayed when the House Republicans revolted) was a huge expansion of government’s role in the economy. Do we really want to give the government even more control of the economy? Do we really want to take several more steps toward socialism?

Obama has made two significant political miscalculations in the first couple weeks of his Presidency. First, it is a mistake to complain about Limbaugh and encourage Republicans not to listen to him. For the leader of the free world to whine about a radio talk show host shows weakness and an inability to take criticism. Obama does not need to look like a crybaby this early in his presidency, especially considering his party expanded their control over Congress. I expect Limbaugh to be attacked through Obama’s surrogates, but Obama would be well advised to avoid criticizing Limbaugh directly.

Second, in discussions of the stimulus, Obama reminded Republicans that he won the election and said “I’ll trump you on that.” This displays an arrogance that is unbecoming of a President. Yes, elections have consequences and it is expected that Obama will implement his agenda, not a GOP agenda. But there is a difference between governing based on that and acting like a sore winner. Obama would be well advised to remember that the 2010 campaign will be in full swing in less than a year, and he could see his Party’s hold on Congress weaken or vanish.

On a personal level, I wish Obama the best and I hope this country enjoys peace and prosperity for the next four years. However, in terms of policies that expand the role of government, increase taxes, or advance a destructive social agenda, I agree with Rush Limbaugh. I hope Obama fails.

Obama's People Don't Pay Their Taxes... Again

First Geithner, now Daschle. Why can't Obama's people pay their taxes?! Tom Daschle apparently forgot to pay for his driver and car which cost 128,000 dollars. Apparently Daschle corrected the error and paid the fees on January 2nd. But this brings up a question, do we want people running this country who can't remember to pay what they owe in taxes!

Tom Daschle is supposed to be our Health Secretary. Health care is a major component of our national economy, and the high-cost of health care a major part of the economic mess we are in.

Now I have been optimistic about the pick of Tom Daschle, as he has a long history of strong efforts at health care reform. But this "forgetting" to pay taxes is very troubling. What if he "forgets" to conduct financial business when operating our health care system? I have the same fear with respect to Timothy Geithner. What are we to make of the fact that Geithner, who is supposed to be in charge of the national economy, can't file his taxes correctly?!

The natural response to my concern is to point out that many people make errors on their taxes, and that the mistakes of Geithner and Daschle are fairly routine errors. True enough. But, most people who make such routine mistakes are not running our economy, these guys are. Geithner directly, and Daschle indirectly, by running health care.

Now, both men may end up doing a fine job. We shall see. It seems clear to me, however, that these "tax problems" are a real concern, and must be very carefully scrutinized. Our country is in a real mess right now, we cannot afford to be careless.

Super Bowl XLIII Expert Picks


The Patriots may not be in the big game this year, but that doesn’t mean we still can’t enjoy a good ol’ fashioned Super Bowl Pick ‘Em.

Two of our staff writers, Geoff and Reid, have the exact same picks. If they tie, a coin flip will decide the winner of the Super Bowl Pick ‘Em. Reid will be heads, and Geoff will be tails.

Of course Geoff and Reid won’t be winners if the Steelers win the game, and if they win big, Chris will win the Pick ‘Em. He’s the only writer choosing Pittsburgh to beat the spread. View the whole list of picks below…

Super Bowl XLIII: Arizona vs. Pittsburgh Score Vs. Spread (PIT by 6.5) Over/Under (46.5) More Passing Yds? MVP
KC ARI 20, PIT 17 Cardinals Under Kurt Warner Larry Fitzgerald
Jeff PIT 27, ARI 23 Cardinals Over Kurt Warner Willie Parker
Mike PIT 24, ARI 19 Cardinals Under Kurt Warner Larry Fitzgerald
Pete ARI 33, PIT 30 Cardinals Over Kurt Warner Kurt Warner
Chris PIT 31, ARI 20 Steelers Over Kurt Warner Willie Parker
Geoff ARI 27, PIT 24 Cardinals Over Kurt Warner Larry Fitzgerald
Adam PIT 28, ARI 24 Cardinals Over Kurt Warner James Harrison
Dan PIT 20, ARI 17 Cardinals Under Kurt Warner Ben Roethlisberger
Reid ARI 27, PIT 24 Cardinals Over Kurt Warner Larry Fitzgerald

Participants will receive one point for each correct answer. For example, if Kurt Warner throws for 800 yards and the Cardinals win 92-30, choosing Kurt Warner as the MVP and the leader in Passing Yards would earn you two points, and choosing the Cardinals to win by more than 6.5 points and to combine with the Steelers to score more than 46.5 points would also earn you two additional points for four total.

In the case of a tie, we would follow this procedure:

The person closest to guessing Pittsburgh’s point total without going over wins.
If still tied, the person closest to guessing Arizona’s point total without going over wins.
If still tied, the person with the closest amount of total points to the game’s final score wins.
If still tied, fight to the death.
If still tied, coin flip.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Michael Steele Wins Election for RNC Chair

Michael Steele wins election for RNC Chair, here's his speech.

Charlie Rose: An appreciation of John Updike



An appreciation of John Updike with Judith Jones, Senior Editor and Vice-President at Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., David Remnick and Sam Tanenhaus

Kobe Bryant: NBA’s Most Popular Player?

The NBA just released the top selling jerseys for 2008-09 season. And guess who’s #1? Yes, it’s Kobe! Kobe returned to his rightful place at the top of the list replacing Kevin Garnett, who was tops in 2008, of the champion Boston Celtics. I guess winning the MVP, leading the Lakers to the NBA finals, and leading Team USA to gold makes you pretty popular. Also making the list was his Los Angeles Lakers teammate Pau Gasol coming in at #6. Here’s the rest of the top 10:

1.) Kobe Bryant
2.) Kevin Garnett
3.) LeBron James
4.) Chris Paul
5.) Allen Iverson
6.) Pau Gasol
7.) Paul Pierce
8.) Dwyane Wade
9.) Derrick Rose
10.) Nate Robinson

*this is based off the start of the 2008-09 season till January

The only player I’m surprised is not in there is Dwight Howard. I mean, didn’t he just receive the most votes for this year’s All-Star Game? What do you think about the top 10?

“K.G., you may have won the NBA title! But my jersey is kind of a BIG DEAL!!”

Apocalypse 2012 The End Of The World


Abandon all your possessions and run for the hills: It has been foretold that the world is coming to an end sooner than you think, in the year 2012. It seems that you can't pick up any newspaper or magazine without reading that the apocalypse is almost upon us.

What really is going to happen in 2012? Asteroid 433 Eros is going to pass within 17 million miles of the Earth in January; the United States will hand over control of the Korean military back to the Koreans in April; there will be an annular solar eclipse in May and a solar transit of Venus in June; the Summer Olympics will take place in London; the Earth's population will officially pass 7 billion people in October; the United States will elect a new President in November; construction of the new Freedom Tower will be complete in New York City; the sun will flip its magnetic poles as it does at the end of every 11-year sunspot cycle; and, as I'm sure you've heard by now, the Mayan calendar completes its 5,125 year cycle, presumably portending the End of Days.

Mayans had three calendars. They had a solar calendar that was 365 days long, and a ceremonial calendar that was 260 days long. These two calendars would synchronize every 52 years. To measure longer time periods, they developed the "long count" calendar, which expressed dates as a series of five numbers, each less than twenty; something like the way we measure minutes and seconds as a series of two numbers each less than sixty. And, just in case this might seem too simple, for some reason the second to last number was always less than eighteen. The first day in the Mayan long count calendar was expressed as 0.0.0.0.0, and by our calendar, this was August 11, 3114 BC. Every 144,000 days (or about every 395 years, which they called a baktun), the first number would increment, and a new baktun would start. Recall how we all got to enjoy the excitement on the millennium of watching the digital displays roll over from 12/31/1999 to 1/1/2000? Well, that's what's going to happen on December 21, 2012 to the Mayan calendar. It's going to roll over from 12.19.19.17.19 to 13.0.0.0.0, just as it has done each of the previous twelve baktuns. There's no archaeological or historical evidence that the Mayans themselves expected anything other than a New Year's Eve party to happen on this date: Claims that this rollover represents a Mayan prediction of the end of the world appear to be a modern pop-culture invention. It's true that the Mayan carvings of their calendar only depicted 13 baktuns, but what did you expect them to do? Carve an infinitely long calendar every time they wanted to express a date? The explanation could be as simple as they didn't expect people in the 21st century to still be obsessed with their archaic calendar.

Another story predicting doom in 2012 says that a new planet, variously described as Planet X, a planet/comet (which makes no sense), or the planet "Nibiru" is going to pass so close to the Earth as to cause earthquakes and tidal waves and all kinds of destruction, possibly even flipping the Earth completely upside down. This is an urban legend that's been around for a long time, but for most of the story's history, this was supposed to happen in May of 2003, as any Internet search for "Planet X" will reveal. Apparently what happened is that the Planet X advocates, perhaps embarrassed or disappointed that 2003 passed without incident, heard about the much more popular Mayan calendar story, and decided that 2012 is close enough to 2003 that it must be the correct date and that the Planet X destruction is probably what the Mayans were foretelling. The Planet X legend got started by misinterpretations of astronomical observations combined with an ancient Sumerian carving that has been erroneously interpreted to depict a solar system with ten planets. Why the craftsmen who made carvings in ancient Sumeria should be presumed to have planetary knowledge superior to that of modern astronomy is not convincingly argued. If you're interested in all of the actual science behind the Planet X story, there's no better source than Phil Plait's "Bad Astronomy" blog, which goes into all the facts, rumors, and sources in detail.

Here's one more reason people are frightened about 2012. About 500 years ago, Copernicus confirmed what Hipparchus had observed in 2200 BC: that the axis of the Earth, which leans over at 23.5°, completes one full rotation every 25,765 years. This means that in 12,000 years, Christmas will come to Australia in winter and the northern hemisphere will depict Santa in Bermuda shorts. Astrologers call this period a Great Year, and they divide it into 12 Great Months or astrological "ages", each about 2,147 years long. Each age corresponds to one of the signs of the zodiac. We are currently in the Age of Pisces, and like the song says, we're soon going to enter the Age of Aquarius. According to modern official delineations of the edges of the constellations, we'll move into the new age in the year 2600. But there's some disagreement, and some astrologers place it at 2595, 2654, or 2638. A few put it much earlier, as soon as 2150 or even 2062. However, once the news of the Mayan calendar broke, a large segment of the astrological community abandoned the official constellation definitions and stated that the Age of Aquarius will begin in 2012. So, you can call this a third major reason why the world will end in 2012, but you have to be awful loose with your astrology, and you also have to think of some reason why the dawning of the Age of Aquarius might bring on the end of the world. I have not found any plausible claims for how it might have this effect.

So that's a lot of reasons, weak though they might be, to predict that the we're all going to die in 2012. However, there's one significant fact that the 2012 doomsayers all seem to forget: Despite all the various 2012-ish predictions for the end of the world, there are far more stories of apocalypse with different dates. For example, popular interpretations of Nostradamus found predictions for the end of the world in July of 1999, December of 1999, June of 2002, and October of 2005. It's also been said that his writings could mean the dead will rise from their graves in either 2000, 2007, or the year 7000. Nostradamus never said anything about 2012.

Many Protestant Christians believe that the end of the world will come in the form of what they call the Rapture, when the righteous will all be whisked away to heaven. Shakers believed the Rapture would come in 1792. Seventh Day Adventists first calculated it would happen in 1843, then when nothing happened, they found an error in their calculations and corrected it to 1844. The Jehovah's Witnesses made firm predictions for 1918, 1925, 1941, 1975, 1984, and 1994. A book was published in 1988 called 88 Reasons the Rapture is in 1988. A number of Bible scholars found firm scriptural evidence that the Rapture would happen in October of 2005. Thousands of Koreans gave away all their money and possessions in preparation for the Rapture on October 28, 1992. Even Sir Isaac Newton made a calculation based on scripture that showed the Rapture could not happen before 2060. Some Jewish scholars place the "end of days" via Armageddon in the year 2240. I couldn't find 2012 mentioned in any of these stories.

In fact, James Randi's magnum opus publication An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural lists 44 distinct end of the world predictions that all came and went unfulfilled. Why should we think that the 2012 legends are any different? Any examination of the science behind any of the stories, even a glib examination, reveals a complete absence of plausible foundation. Only the Planet X story, which is the most easily falsified as it depends on concrete astronomical observations that are demonstrably false, offers a proposed mechanism for exactly how this "end of the world" is to be accomplished, the alleged gravitational destruction. Neither the Mayan calendar people, nor the Age of Aquarius people, have offered any claims for how or why the world will end, only that their particular legend points to a rollover in some ancient calendar. My calendar rolls over every time the ball drops in New York, and I've yet to see this cause any planetary cataclysm, except for the guy who has to mop out the drunk tank at the NYPD.

Many people tend to place more trust in ancient neolithic traditions than in the observations of modern science. There's nothing wrong with studying and respecting our predecessors' history for what it was, but when you turn things over and start believing that scientific knowledge of the natural world has only decreased over time, you're not doing anyone any favors.

Blacks as Conservative as Republicans on Some Moral Issues

One explanation: Black Democrats are much more religious than nonblack Democrats
by Frank Newport

PRINCETON, NJ -- Only 31% of black Democrats in America say homosexual relations are morally acceptable, roughly the same as the 30% of Republicans who agree, while very much different from the 61% of nonblack Democrats who say homosexual relations are morally acceptable.



The fact that black Democrats are much closer to Republicans' than to nonblack Democrats' position on this issue is noteworthy given that blacks overwhelmingly identify themselves as Democrats (to be discussed in detail below). The issue of black views on family-related moral issues is also noteworthy given the recent vote in California to approve Proposition 8, which effectively amended the state constitution to define legal marriage as only between a man and a woman. Exit-poll results after that vote on Nov. 4 suggested that black California voters had overwhelmingly voted in favor of the amendment, while overall, Democrats in California overwhelmingly voted against it -- essentially confirming the national attitude structure apparent from Gallup's analysis.

Gallup each year asks Americans to indicate whether they believe that each of a series of behaviors or actions is morally acceptable. The data reported in this article are based on an aggregated sample of the results from May 2006, May 2007, and May 2008, involving interviews with more than 3,000 Americans.

In this particular aggregate of data, 65% of blacks identify themselves as Democrats (and another 16% say they lean toward the Democratic Party). Only 5% identify as Republicans. Yet, as seen in the accompanying table, there are major gulfs between the attitudes of black Democrats and the attitudes of nonblack Democrats on a number of moral issues, and in most instances, blacks come much closer to the positions of Republicans than to those of Democrats.



There is an exception to the basic conservatism of black Democrats on the issues listed in this table. Black Democrats are actually less likely to find the use of the death penalty morally acceptable than are nonblack Democrats (or Republicans). But on the other moral-based issues included, black Democrats are consistently much more conservative than nonblack Democrats.

Just 30% of black Democrats say they would agree that marriages between same-sex couples should be recognized by law as valid, compared to 57% of nonblack Democrats. Black Democrats are not quite as conservative on this policy issue as Republicans (among whom just 22% favor legalization of same-sex marriage), but are closer to Republican attitudes than to nonblack Democratic attitudes. And, as noted at the beginning of this story, black Democrats' views on the moral acceptability of homosexual relations are almost identical to those of Republicans, and the attitudes of both blacks and Republicans are significantly different from the attitudes of nonblack Democrats on this issue.

One of the underlying explanations for the divergence between the views of black and nonblack Democrats on these moral issues is religion. Black Democrats are much more religious than nonblack Democrats, and religion is highly related to views on homosexual relations.






In general, it appears that black Americans may be conflicted in their attitudes toward certain values issues such as same-sex marriage and homosexual relations. Despite the liberal orientation of the Democratic Party toward moral issues, blacks, perhaps because of their high degree of religiosity, are pulled in the other, more conservative direction that is typical of Republicans. In the case of same-sex marriage, it appears that the power of religion in shaping black attitudes, coupled with the fact that black turnout in California was driven up in general because of the high-profile candidacy of Barack Obama for president, helped push Proposition 8 to victory.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 3,022 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted in May 2006, May 2007, and May 2008. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±2 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Obama Calls for Prompt Action on Stimulus

President Barack Obama is calling the economic slump a 'continuing disaster' for America's families. (Jan. 30)

Erdogan's Davos outburst



Davos got a bit more interesting yesterday when Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stormed out of a panel discussion after castigating Israeli President Shimon Peres for Israel's actions in Gaza. Erdogan was upset not just at the content of Peres's speech but by the fact that he had apparently been given less time to speak.

Erdogan returned home to a hero's welcome in Turkey where he gave a press conference saying Peres's manner was "unacceptable" and blaming the panel's moderator, Washington Post reporter David Ignatius for not allowing him to speak. "I cannot allow anybody to harm my country's dignity and honor," Erdogan said.

Peres says the relationship between Turkey and Israel won't be affected by the event, though Erdogan had earlier stated that Turkish moderated talks between Israel and Gaza had been "shelved" after Gaza.

Steel(e) Yourself: It's Election Day For Republican National Chairman

Today's the big day in the long-awaited and much-discussed contest for chairman of the Republican National Committee. It's the biggest election in national politics since last November's presidential vote (okay, it's also the only one).

The balloting starts at 10:30 this morning and you can find regular updates on this blog.
For weeks, six men have been aggressively pursuing the party job, which pays about $200,000 a year and is good for the next two years. Along with gaining the opportunity to oversee a national political organization that spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year, the winner will instantly becomes a leading Republican spokesman at party events, on television and elsewhere else that prominent heads talk.

Contenders include the incumbent, Mike Duncan of Kentucky; former Maryland Lt. Gov. (and former state party chairman) Michael Steele; former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell; and three current or former RNC members, Michigan Chairman Saul Anuzis and South Carolina Chairman Katon Dawson. The sixth candidate, former Tennessee Chairman Chip Saltsman, withdrew on the eve of the balloting.

The candidates made their final pitches (behind closed doors) to the electorate in the ballroom of the Capital Hilton in downtown Washington last night, followed by several hours of "hospitality" in various suites at the same venue.

Now it's in the hands of the voters, all 168 of them.

Here's how it works: Only members of the Republican National Committee -- three from each state, U.S. territory or the District of Columbia--may vote. It takes a majority of those voting to win.

There is no limit to the number of ballots and no requirement that the low man drop out after each round (as is sometimes done in these events). Unless someone gains a majority on the first round, which is considered unlikely, votes will start to shift from one candidate to another after the first or second round.

Duncan is regarded as the most likely candidate to come out on top in the first round, though probably without a majority. Hand-picked as chairman by then-President George Bush and Karl Rove, the White House political adviser, Duncan has to overcome anti-Bush sentiment on the committee and the feeling of some that the party needs a new face after losing the last two national elections.

If he doesn't win on the first and gain on the second, Duncan is probably done.

Steele and Blackwell, both African-Americans, would be breakthrough choices and the election of either man would send a loud message that the party of Lincoln is changing in the Age of Obama. Steele is regarded as suspiciously moderate by many conservatives, while Blackwell, who is perhaps the most conservative candidate in the field, is also the only one who never served on the RNC.

That matters a lot, since party chairmanship contests, when there's no president in the White House to dictate a choice, more closely resemble student council elections in high school than anything else. In other words, personal connections and concerns (who will get me a prime hotel room at the 2012 Republican National Convention) usually matter more than strategic considerations (who would be the best spokesman for the party).

For such reasons, some Republican veterans think Anuzis, the Michigan state chairman or Dawson, his South Carolina counterpart, may have the best chance if Duncan, the current national chairman, doesn't make it.

Many Republicans are worried about their party being viewed as a regional (read: southern), rather than a national, one. That could open the door for Anuzis, a likeable, if somewhat nerdy, political operator to wind up in the chairman's chair when the music finally stops.

Again, stay glued to this blog for breaking news--or even better, if you haven't done so already,
go to the bottom of that box with the gold outline on the right hand side of this screen and subscribe to the RSS feed for this blog. If you do, you'll be sure to be the first to get all the news about Maryland Politics and learn the identity of the next RNC chairman as soon as it happens.

Fourth Quarter 2008 GDP Report: Where We Learn Just How Poor the POR Economy Is (Update: Bad Enough at an Annual -3.8%; Hinting Recovery?)

Well, that long-awaited day is here — the day where we get the first major indication just how bad the damage has been from the POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) Economy we’ve been living with since June 2008.

The third quarter of 2008 came in at an annualized -0.5%.

That’s bad enough, but as you might expect, predictions for the fourth quarter are coming in much worse:

(Link)

Economists polled by Reuters offered a median estimate of a 5.4 percent decline in U.S. gross domestic product on an annualized basis in the fourth quarter, the worst since the first quarter of 1982.

The estimates of 81 economists ranged from a decline of 3.0 percent to a drop of 7.0 percent.

(Link — Don’t let the Obama Administration see this; they want us to assume we’re all gonna die unless his “Porkulus” package passes)

Strange as it may sound, there is a way an ugly fourth-quarter gross-domestic-product report could be a sign good news is afoot.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis on Friday takes its first crack at estimating GDP in the last quarter of 2008. Economists think inflation-adjusted GDP fell at a 5.5% annualized rate, the worst since 1982, as the economy was suffocated by the disappearance of credit.

Often such sharp declines in GDP are followed by significant snapbacks. The quarter following a GDP decline of 5% or more is positive 69% of the time in the past 48 such episodes in the U.S., U.K. and Germany, according to Merrill Lynch international economist Alex Patelis. He calls it a “heart attack” pattern because GDP’s course mimics the jagged line on an electrocardiogram.

(Link — These guys got the Obamemo)

Many economists think the decline will be a whopping 5 percent or more - which would make it the worst quarter for the U.S. economy since 1982.

“When we see fourth-quarter GDP … it will be bad,” said Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist at IHSGlobal Insight, an economic forecasting firm in Lexington, Mass. “What today’s numbers tell us is that first-quarter 2009 will be just as bad.”

Ben Herzon, senior economist of Macroeconomic Advisers, who said the GDP growth rate will likely be negative 5.5 percent, told USA Today, “It’s going to confirm what we already know, and that is we’re in a severe recession.”

Gloom has grown with the spreading realization of the refusal by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid to back down from their insistence on starving the economy of energy in the name of what might be the greatest fraud in human history, Barack Obama’s campaign promises of huge tax increases on the most productive (deferred but not deleted), and, more recently, the dogged determination on the part of all three players to ram a comically misnamed “stimulus” down the economy’s throat.

What to watch for: How many media outlets “forget” to include the word “annualized” or “annual rate” in their coverage, giving many viewers the impression that the economy shrunk by the amount reported all in one quarter (See Update below — The prediction came true twice in 20 minutes.)

The report will be here at 8:30. Here it is –

Real gross domestic product — the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States — decreased at an annual rate of 3.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008, (that is, from the third quarter to the fourth quarter), according to advance estimates released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the third quarter, real GDP decreased 0.5 percent.

Initial reax: Well, that wasn’t as bad as just about everyone thought. In fact, I’d characterize this as a huge miss by the prognosticators. It won’t be seen as that obvious, but it’s really no different than guessing -1.0% and having it turn out a bit less than +1.0%, which would most certainly raise eyebrows.

Initial theory: Factors cited in this post (lower gas prices, lower mortgage rates) began taking hold in December. This means that Obama’s race against the economy recovering on its own may indeed be on, and his lead may not be as great as he thought (better pass the Porkulus package quick, before those January and February reports start coming out).

I’ll have more to say later after reviewing the report and gauging media reaction.

Bloomberg To Address $4 Billion Budget Deficit Friday

January 30, 2009
The city’s budget deficit is on the rise and Mayor Michael Bloomberg will say how he plans to close it Friday.

The Bloomberg administration says the deficit has grown to $4 billion for this fiscal year, and blames falling tax revenues and the state’s budget.

The mayor is expected to announce cutting more than 23,000 city jobs if the state and governmental partners don’t provide aid.

Bloomberg is also expected to ask city unions to contribute to their healthcare plans if they are not doing so already.

Administration officials say the deficit would have been more than $6 billion if the city council and mayor hadn’t raised property taxes and cut spending at city agencies last year.

The mayor is expected to deliver his budget address at noon. NY1 will bring it to you live.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Aaron: Troubling numbers on juvenile detention in NJ


By LAWRENCE AARON
THE schoolhouse-to-jailhouse pipeline is clogged with African-American and Hispanic youth. The problem is spoken of often by black advocacy groups. This is not just Jesse Jackson rhyming. It's real.

The irrefutable phenomenon raised its ugly head again last week in the Kids Count report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a non-profit philanthropic group focusing on children's welfare.

The number of minority kids in the juvenile detention system is way out of proportion to their numbers in the general population. That disproportionality is a nationwide pattern. New Jersey is the worst.

The 8-to-1 ratio of minority kids to white kids in the juvenile system here is nearly three times the national average of 3-to-1.

This is horrible. Unfortunately, the foundation had no explanation for the disparity.

This lopsided ratio was one of several findings in Kids Count. Also alarming is the fact that the huge disparities have been acknowledged many times by various studies without much change in procedure to address them.

At several critical points along the many stages of a juvenile's case, decisions are left to the discretion of the judge, police officer, prosecutor, probation officer or other criminal justice system official. For example, prosecutors have the opportunity to downgrade charges and offer plea deals, or judges may have the option to send a kid home or jail him until trial.

Three and a half years ago, New Jersey's attorney general asked all 21 counties to review how they handle juveniles in trouble. The purpose was to find out if minority youths were being treated unfairly in the criminal justice system.

The Juvenile Justice Commission is working with a new policy analyst, the W. Haywood Burns Institute, to find explanations for the disparities.

"What we're about to do through the Burns Institute is to look at that data through the lens of race, looking at each and every decision-making point on the continuum of decisions that are made about any given kid in the juvenile justice system," said Lisa Macaluso, the commission's director of local programs and services. Statewide, in 2002, minority youths were 3.59 times more likely than white teens to be committed to juvenile detention. In 2006, they were 5.68 times more likely.

One of the positive findings in Kids Count's look at juvenile justice was a drop in the number of youths in pretrial detention and those committed to facilities for punishment.

Overall, the number of kids committed to juvenile facilities dropped 33 percent. That's significant. Bravo, New Jersey, for using alternatives such as ankle bracelets that monitoring a detainee but allow him to remain at home.

Detention alternatives

The study credited the decline to Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, which is run by the Casey Foundation in 10 New Jersey counties. While the juvenile violent offenders and chronic repeaters still need to be detained in secure facilities, in recent months juveniles being moved through the system in Bergen County have been able to take advantage of the alternatives such as electronic monitors, counseling and therapy.

State Attorney General Anne Milgram's statement in response to the Casey findings notes that since 2003, detention numbers for minority youths have been cut in half. Prison figures show no corresponding rise in the number of juveniles being convicted and imprisoned with adults.

"In January 1998, the New Jersey Department of Corrections housed 72 offenders who were under 18 years of age. As of today, the number is 19," said Corrections spokesman Matt Schuman.

The Kids Count acknowledgement of a significant racial component confirms the findings of several earlier studies dissecting the juvenile justice system. Released in 2000, one of those studies, called "And Justice for Some," was supported by the Justice Department and funded by several grants from the Ford, Rockefeller and MacArthur foundations.

It's not enough to simply make the observation year after year that enormous racial disparities exist and then do nothing about it. The consequence is that a disproportionate number of minority youths may be unfairly saddled with juvenile records that affect their transition to adulthood and their employability.

Illegal immigrants' role in drug trade shouldn't be ignored

Here's something the so-called "immigration advocates" don't want you to know: Illegal immigrants are deeply involved in the drug trade in Northern Nevada, and elsewhere on the West Coast and around the country.

The latest example of the dangerous and troubling connection between illegal immigration and drug trafficking occurred in Reno last month when federal, state and local anti-drug agents teamed-up to arrest 10 Mexican nationals - most of them illegal immigrants - on charges of possessing large quantities of illicit narcotics with the intention of selling them to our children and grandchildren. Members of the Northern Nevada High Intensity Drug Trafficking Task Force seized 100 grams of heroin, 500 grams of cocaine, more than five grams of meth and $100,000 in cash in a series of raids in Reno.

"It's hard to say what sort of impact this will have on drug trafficking in Northern Nevada, but every little bit helps," said Nevada's U.S. Attorney, Greg Brower. "This was much more than just a little bit (of drugs)," he added. Federal drug trafficking charges carry prison sentences ranging from five to 40 years and fines ranging up to $4 million.

Although illegal immigration advocates argue that most "undocumented workers" are honest, law-abiding people who want to work in the U.S. in order to provide for their destitute families in Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America, the truth is that far too many illegals are involved with violent Latino gangs and Mexican drug cartels. How violent are they? Well, according to Time magazine, at least 3,000 people (including women and children) have died in drug-related crimes since Mexican President Felipe Calderon, a law-and-order conservative, took office in December, 2006.

So far this year, victims of deadly drug violence have included two of Mexico's highest-ranking anti-narcotics officials, who were assassinated in Mexico City last month, along with local policemen, judges and a U.S. Border Patrol agent who was killed as he pursued drug traffickers fleeing from Arizona back into Mexico. In April, 15 drug cartel members were murdered in Tijuana, just across the border from San Diego. And we know that Latino gangs are major contributors to an increase in drug-related violence in Carson City. Recent evidence includes several drive-by shootings, an incident in which shots were fired at a deputy sheriff and a major drug trafficking case against four illegals, one of whom had violated federal deportation orders four times.

I trust that Sheriff Ken Furlong and District Attorney Neil Rombardo will continue to keep the heat on local gangs and that volunteer anti-gang coalitions will do everything possible to involve Hispanic and Latino leaders and families in their admirable efforts. Simply put, I want to see their actions match their encouraging words.

TYRANNY ON THE BORDER

In March, the Washington Post published an investigative report on border drug violence headlined "Tyranny on the Border." "More than 20,000 Mexican troops and federal police are engaged in a multi-front war with the private armies of rival drug lords," the Post reported. "Law enforcement officials and journalists, politicians and peasants have been gunned down in the wave of violence, which includes mass executions ...." And worse yet, "the violence is spilling over into the U.S."

According to the Post, more than 4,800 Mexicans were slain in the last two years, doubling the 2005 murder rate. "Drawing on firepower, savage intimidation and cash, (drug) cartels ... control key parts of the border," the article continued, "securing smuggling routes for 90 percent of the cocaine flowing into the United States." The result is that a river of cocaine and other lethal drugs carried by illegal immigrant "mules" is flowing up from Mexico through Southern California and on into Northern Nevada and the Pacific Northwest. That's why I'm pleased to note that federal, state and local law enforcement agencies have joined forces to combat large scale drug trafficking in our area.

As some popular Mexican cowboy bands sing the praises of drug lords, the death toll continues to rise in a once-peaceful nation. Sad to say, you can hear some of that pro-drug culture "golpe" music around here, but I don't hear any protests from alleged Hispanic "leaders." Meanwhile, just south of the California border, three Rosarito Beach (a popular tourist destination) police officers were beheaded not long ago for investigating the powerful Arellano Felix Drug Cartel. But, the Post noted, "to the children of Rosarito Beach, narco-gunmen had become local heroes because they drove fancy cars, wore the latest styles and acted like they owned the town ... (by) openly flashing their weapons (and) snorting cocaine in public ..." Now that's a nice role model for Mexican kids.

That's how bad it is just across our southern border and our federal government should pay at least as much attention to drug traffickers as it does to other international terrorists by giving President Calderon the help he needs to combat the drug cartels. Although the Bush administration has proposed a $500 million annual anti-drug package for Mexico, Congress has so far managed to ignore the proposal in this divisive election year.

My plea is for the Feds and state and local police to get serious about border control and drug trafficking and violence along the U.S. - Mexico border. And let's stop romanticizing the criminal illegal immigrants who make the drug problem much worse.



• Guy W. Farmer, of Carson City, worked on several major anti-drug projects during his 28-year career in the U.S. Foreign Service.

Charlie Rose Show: A conversation with John Grisham

World Economic Forum Tests Facebook’s New Polling Engagement Ads in Real-Time


Today Facebook announced that the World Economic Forum currently being hosted in Davos, Switzerland, will be running a serious of “real-time ‘pools’ during a select group of panels at the World Economic Forum”. There will be questions such as “Which renewable energy source is most promising?” and “If you lost Internet connectivity for an extended period, would there be vitally important data you’d leave behind in the cloud?”

This is the first example of Facebook’s polling engagement ads that we’re aware of. Best of all it’s in real-time, which is a feature not previously highlighted by Facebook when they launched this service a couple of days ago. Facebook will be integrating the real-time results of the polls into each panel, yet again mimicking some of the functionality previously provided by Twitter at numerous conferences.

The last example we saw of a real-time poll on Facebook was on voting day, when millions of users were asked if they voted, and a running tally was kept atop the news feed. One question was already launched this morning which was, “Will Pakistan and its neighbors experience greater instability in 2009?” In three minutes, 56 percent responded “Yes,” 19 percent responded “No,” and 25 percent responded “Not Sure.”

One thing that wasn’t mentioned was the total number of individual responding to the polls. This is clearly a value-added service for any conference that chooses to implement such types of services. It will be interesting to see if there are many other examples of this in the near future.

Teen Service Announcement (TSA) provides testimonials in support of new teen-led social change platform


MINNEAPOLIS, January 28, 2008 – Best Buy Co., Inc. (NYSE:BBY) today unveiled a new TSA (“Teen Service Announcement”) featuring Grammy Award-winning hip-hop artist Ludacris at www.at15.org. Ludacris participated in the TSA as an early supporter of @15, a new teen-led social change platform underwritten by Best Buy to give teens a voice and give them opportunities to direct the company’s philanthropy through the newly-created @15 Fund.

Christopher Bridges, better known by his stage name Ludacris, is a three-time Grammy Award-winning American hip-hop artist and actor. He is the co-founder of Disturbing tha Peace, an imprint distributed by Def Jam Recordings. Ludacris is the highest-selling Southern hip-hop solo artist of all time with over 15 million units sold in the United States.

“We all make mistakes, but you have to learn from your mistakes. Try not to make the same mistakes twice in life. We all have teenage years where we kind of were rebellious and just doing things that we’re finding out about life,” said Ludacris in his online TSA. “We’ve all been through some bad situations and you learn from them and you become a better person because of it. Adversity can make you a stronger person.”

Like a traditional PSA, the @15 TSAs are short, unscripted videos that share the collective thoughts and experiences of teens – and former teens – with messages of hope and inspiration for America’s youth. Over the next several months, the @15 Web site, along with its social networking pages and YouTube channel, will feature messages from teens engaged in Best Buy programs, celebrities and musicians, and Members of Congress.


About @15
Best Buy believes in the power of teens, and @15 is a new platform to connect with them, give voice to their perspectives, and invest our resources – including the energy and talents of our employees – to turn their ideas into action and support their efforts to lead social change. Teens bring passion and enthusiasm to tackling tough issues. They’re also important to our business – they shop in our stores, and they’re our future employees. There’s a real opportunity to listen to – and learn from – what teens have to say. And through the @15 Fund, we’ll put the philanthropic power of @15 directly into their hands. To learn more, visit www.at15.org.

Peanut Plant Problem Forces Wider Recall

The list of recalled peanut products linked to a national salmonella outbreak just keeps growing. Already more than 400 kinds of cakes, cookies and other goods have been pulled off the shelves in one of the largest product recalls. (Jan. 29)

Blagojevich says he has done nothing wrong


SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Gov. Rod Blagojevich has told the Illinois Senate impeachment trial that he has "done nothing wrong." He asked how the Senate can oust him based on a criminal complaint that hasn't been proven.

Blagojevich's own words prove "a pattern of abuse of power," the prosecutor at his impeachment trial insisted Thursday, as the embattled Democrat arrived at the state Capitol insisting he hasn't given up hope.

Blagojevich arrived hours before a possible vote to remove him from office, planning a "passionate" speech in what could be a last-ditch attempt to keep his job.

"I'm not giving up hope here. I'm going to keep fighting for the people of Illinois," Blagojevich said as his security detail dropped him off near a side door to the Capitol.

Inside, impeachment prosecutor David Ellis delivered a 40-minute closing argument, playing secretly recorded conversations in which Blagojevich appears to discuss using legislation to pressure someone into making a campaign donation.

He also quoted snippets of other conversations federal prosecutors released when they arrested Blagojevich last month.

"Every decision this governor made was based on one of three criteria: his legal situation, his personal situation and his political situation," Ellis told the state senators who will vote later Thursday on whether to remove Blagojevich from office.

Blagojevich's statement was to follow Ellis.

The two-term governor, who told reporters as he left his Chicago home that he looked forward to the proceedings, made a public showing of his arrival, saying he wasn't nervous about delivering the statement that could help decide whether he keeps his job.

Previously, he has said his removal is a foregone conclusion.

Blagojevich had avoided the trial all week — calling it biased and unconstitutional — but reversed course Wednesday and asked to make a closing argument.

His request shocked the Senate and lawmakers didn't know what to expect.

"Like so many others, I'm going to be on pins and needles just waiting to see what he's going to be delivering us. It could be anything," said Sen. Susan Garrett, D-Lake Forest.

Blagojevich was working past midnight Wednesday on his "passionate" speech that will explain why he decided to appear at the trial, his public relations firm Thursday. The two-term governor, a Democrat, has denied wrongdoing.

"He at least wants to have his final say," spokesman Lucio Guerrero said Thursday morning.

The governor will not testify, which involves taking an oath and answering questions from the prosecutor and senators. Instead, he has 90 minutes to deliver a closing statement.

Afterward, the House prosecutor has 30 minutes for a rebuttal. Then, senators then hold public deliberations, with each getting five minutes to speak. A vote on whether to convict, censure or acquit the governor could come later Thursday.

If Blagojevich is convicted, he will immediately be removed from office and replaced by Lt. Gov. Patrick Quinn, a fellow Democrat. No other Illinois governor has been impeached, let alone convicted in a Senate trial.

Sen. Dan Cronin, R-Elmhurst, called Blagojevich's decision to only make a statement "cowardly, but consistent with the way he has governed."

Blagojevich, 52, was arrested last month on a variety of federal corruption charges, including scheming to benefit from appointing President Barack Obama's Senate replacement and demanding campaign contributions in exchange for state services.

He was impeached in the House on Jan. 9 for abuse of power. The 13 accusations included plotting to give financial assistance to the Tribune Co. only if members of the Chicago Tribune editorial board were fired, awarding state contracts or permits in exchange for campaign contributions and violating hiring and firing laws.

Thursday's closing arguments came after the prosecution rested its case Wednesday, the third day of the unprecedented trial to decide whether Blagojevich should be punished for abuse of power.

A conviction is all but certain. Blagojevich presented no defense, and virtually the entire Illinois political establishment has turned against him. The House voted 117-1 to impeach him, and the lone "no" vote came from his sister-in-law.

Despite the long odds, one of Blagojevich's few friends in the Senate scoffed at the idea of a resignation. It's just as likely senators will see the Easter Bunny hopping through the Capitol, said Sen. James DeLeo, D-Chicago.

"I think he wants to be heard," DeLeo said.

Blagojevich repeatedly has said he won't resign. But he also said he wouldn't take part in the trial.

While the Senate has considered accusations Blagojevich is corrupt, the governor appeared on one New York news show after another earlier this week to proclaim his innocence and declare the trial rigged against him.

"It's a kangaroo court," Blagojevich said Tuesday on Fox News Channel. "My lawyers and I believe that to be part of a process like that is to dignify a fraudulent impeachment process that sets a dangerous precedent for governors in Illinois and governors across America."

But Wednesday afternoon, Blagojevich's acting chief of staff contacted Senate President John Cullerton's chief of staff to ask that the governor be allowed to make a statement before the trial concludes.

The case against Blagojevich, presented by Ellis, included audio of secretly recorded conversations in which the governor appears to discuss demanding a campaign contribution in exchange for signing legislation. Senators also heard from an FBI agent who vouched for the accuracy of eye-popping Blagojevich quotes that were included in the criminal complaint against him.

George Mitchell calls for Hamas border police to be replaced

President Barack Obama's new Middle East envoy George Mitchell has demanded Palestinian officials replace Hamas loyalists policing Gaza's after meeting President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank.

By Damien McElroy in Jerusalem
Last Updated: 5:53PM GMT 29 Jan 2009

President Abbas is a bitter opponent of Hamas rule in Gaza but Mr Mitchell said it was essential that the Palestinian Authority was re-established in the strip as part of any long-term truce.

He said: "To be successful in preventing the illicit traffic of arms into Gaza there must be a mechanism to allow the flow of legal goods, and that should be with the participation of the Palestinian Authority."

His trip to the Palestinian headquarters in Ramallah on the West Bank followed meetings in Jerusalem with senior Israeli leaders, including a briefing with Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi, the chief of the general staff.

The return of Palestinian officials for the first time since Hamas prevailed in a 2007 power struggle is a key Israeli demand. Israel also wants foreign monitors, probably led by Egypt, to patrol the crossings as well.

Hamas has said it will not stand in the way of an agreement that allows the rebuilding of Gaza but the return of its Western-backed rivals remains a humiliating step for the Islamic group.

In his first television appearance since the offensive was launched, Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas leader in Gaza, said a ceasefire deal must guarantee the lifting of Israel's siege.

Meanwhile Israel attempted a targeted assassination of a Gaza terrorist it blamed for roadside bomb attack that killed a soldier earlier in the week. Machmad Uda Chamdan Samiri, a member of the Tawhid e Jihad group that is loyal to al-Qaeda, was critically injured along with another man as his motorbike was hit from the air. Six bystanders were also injured.

The strike took place just outside of Khan Younis, the refugee town near the border with Kissufim where an Israel patrol was blown up. Despite acknowledging his al-Qaeda affiliation, Israel blamed Hamas for an attack that endangered the parallel ceasefire. "As the sole authority in the Gaza Strip, Hamas bears full responsibility for all terrorist activity originating from Gaza," a statement said.

The Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot reported yesterday that Ehud Olmert, the prime minister, conceded that Israel would evacuate up to 60,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank and hand over much of east Jerusalem as part of as part of any permanent peace deal.

The United Nations yesterday launched a £428 million appeal to help Palestinian civilians recover from Israel's attack on Gaza.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General, said that $613 million (£428 million) was needed urgently. He said that he was deeply moved by his visit to Gaza last week and had given his word that the UN would help.

Mr Ban said that the appeal covers the requirements of the UN and other aid organisations for the next six to nine months. It will help provide everything from medical care to clean water.

The Israeli offensive against Gaza's Hamas rulers and their fighters who had been launching missile attacks on Israel killed an estimated 1,300 Palestinians, many of them civilians. The UN estimates at least 5,300 people were wounded and 21,000 homes were destroyed or badly damaged.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Distraught Father Kills Wife, 5 Kids, Self By THOMAS WATKINS, AP



LOS ANGELES (Jan. 28) - In one upstairs bedroom, the bodies of twin 2-year-old boys were found beside their dead mother. In another bedroom, 5-year-old twin girls and their 8-year-old sister lay next to their lifeless father.
Officers discovered the horrific scene after rushing to a home in Wilmington, prompted by the father's distraught letter faxed to a TV station describing a "tragic story" and a call to authorities.

Police believe Ervin Lupoe, 40, killed his five children and his wife before turning the gun on himself. Both adults were recently fired from their hospital jobs.
"Why leave our children in someone else's hands?" Lupoe wrote in his letter faxed to KABC-TV. The station posted the letter on its Web site with some parts redacted.
The station called police after receiving the fax, and a police dispatch center also received a phone call from a man who stated, "I just returned home and my whole family's been shot." Police are unsure who the male caller was, but they suspect it was the father.

Officers rushed to the home in Wilmington, a small community between the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, about 8:30 a.m. Tuesday and found the bodies.
All the victims were shot in the head, some multiple times, coroner's Assistant Chief Ed Winter said. The killings may have occurred between Monday evening and early Tuesday, based on neighbors' accounts of firecracker sounds, he said.
Although the fax — addressed to "whom it may concern" and explaining "why we are dead" — asserted that the wife, Ana Lupoe, planned the killings of the whole family, police Lt. John Romero said Ervin Lupoe was the suspect. A revolver was found next to his body.
It was the fifth mass death of a Southern California family by murder or suicide in a year. Police urged those facing tough economic times to get help rather than resort to violence.

The Illegal Immigration Invasion..

A truthful documentary showing the people that deal with the Illegal Immigration Invasion upfront and on a daily basis. Watch what the mainstream media WILL NOT show you!!!

Illegal Immigration: How To Destroy America by Dick Lamm


(Editor's note: A 2004 speech on the dangers of multiculturalism in the United Stated titled "I Have a Plan to Destroy America", became famous after being frequently forwarded as an email. With the immigration debate again heating up, it is time to revisit the speech. Reprinted with permission.)

We know Dick Lamm as the former Governor of Colorado. In that context his thoughts are particularly poignant. Recently there was an immigration overpopulation conference in Washington, DC, filled to capacity by many of American's finest minds and leaders. A brilliant college professor by the name of Victor Davis Hansen talked about his latest book, Mexifornia, explaining how immigration - both legal and illegal was destroying the entire state of California. He said it would march across the country until it destroyed all vestiges of The American Dream.

Moments later, former Colorado Governor Richard D. Lamm stood up and gave a stunning speech on how to destroy America. The audience sat spellbound as he described eight methods for the destruction of the United States. He said, "If you believe that America is too smug, too self-satisfied, too rich, then let's destroy America. It is not that hard to do. No nation in history has survived the ravages of time. Arnold Toynbee observed that all great civilizations rise and fall and that 'An autopsy of history would show that all great nations commit suicide.'"

"Here is how they do it," Lamm said:

"First, to destroy America, turn America into a bilingual or multi-lingual and bicultural country." History shows that no nation can survive the tension, conflict, and antagonism of two or more competing languages and cultures. It is a blessing for an individual to be bilingual; however, it is a curse for a society to be bilingual. The historical scholar, Seymour Lipset, put it this way: 'The histories of bilingual and bi-cultural societies that do not assimilate are histories of turmoil, tension, and tragedy.' Canada, Belgium, Malaysia, and Lebanon all face crises of national existence in which minorities press for autonomy, if not independence. Pakistan and Cyprus have divided. Nigeria suppressed an ethnic rebellion. France faces difficulties with Basques, Bretons, and Corsicans."

Lamm went on: Second, to destroy America, "Invent 'multiculturalism' and encourage immigrants to maintain their culture. I would make it an article of belief that all cultures are equal. That there are no cultural differences. I would make it an article of faith that the Black and Hispanic dropout rates are due solely to prejudice and discrimination by the majority. Every other explanation is out of bounds.

Third, "We could make the United States an 'Hispanic Quebec' without much effort. The key is to celebrate diversity rather than unity. As Benjamin Schwarz said in the Atlantic Monthly recently: 'The apparent success of our own multiethnic and multicultural experiment might have been achieved not by tolerance but by hegemony. Without the dominance that once dictated ethnocentricity and what it meant to be an American, we are left with only tolerance and pluralism to hold us together.' Lamm said, "I would encourage all immigrants to keep their own language and culture. I would replace the melting pot metaphor with the salad bowl metaphor. It is important to ensure that we have various cultural subgroups living in America enforcing their differences rather than as Americans, emphasizing their similarities."

"Fourth, I would make our fastest growing demographic group the least educated. I would add a second underclass, unassimilated, undereducated, and antagonistic to our population. I would have this second underclass have a 50% dropout rate from high. school."

"My fifth point for destroying America would be to get big foundations and business to give these efforts lots of money. I would invest in ethnic identity, and I would establish the cult of 'Victimology.' I would get all minorities to think that their lack of success was the fault of the majority. I would start a grievance industry blaming all minority failure on the majority population."

"My sixth plan for America's downfall would include dual citizenship, and promote divided loyalties. I would celebrate diversity over unity. I would stress differences rather than similarities. Diverse people worldwide are mostly engaged in hating each other - that is, when they are not killing each other. A diverse, peaceful, or stable society is against most historical precedent. People undervalue the unity it takes to keep a nation together. Look at the ancient Greeks. The Greeks believed that they belonged to the same race; they possessed a common language and literature; and they worshipped the same gods. All Greece took part in the Olympic games. A common enemy, Persia, threatened their liberty. Yet all these bonds were not strong enough to overcome two factors: local patriotism and geographical conditions that nurtured political divisions. Greece fell. E. Pluribus Unum -- From many, one. In that historical reality, if we put the emphasis on the 'pluribus'. Instead of the 'Unum,' we will balkanize America as surely as Kosovo."

"Next to last, I would place all subjects off limits; make it taboo to talk about anything against the cult of 'diversity.' I would find a word similar to 'heretic' in the 16th century - that stopped discussion and paralyzed thinking. Words like 'racist' or 'xenophobe' halt discussion and debate. Having made America a bilingual/bicultural country, having established multi-culturism, having the large foundations fund the doctrine of 'Victimology,' I would next make it impossible to enforce our immigration laws. I would develop a mantra: That because immigration has been good for America, it must always be good. I would make every individual immigrant symmetric and ignore the cumulative impact of millions of them."

In the last minute of his speech, Governor Lamm wiped his brow. Profound silence followed. Finally he said, "Lastly, I would censor Victor Davis Hanson's book, Mexifornia. His book is dangerous. It exposes the plan to destroy America. If you feel America deserves to be destroyed, don't read that book."

There was no applause. A chilling fear quietly rose like an ominous cloud above every attendee at the conference. Every American in that room knew that everything Lamm enumerated was proceeding methodically, quietly, darkly, yet pervasively across the United States today. Discussion is being suppressed. Over 100 languages are ripping the foundation of our educational system and national cohesiveness. Even barbaric cultures that practice female genital mutilation are growing as we celebrate 'diversity.' American jobs are vanishing into the Third World as corporations create a Third World in America - take note of California and other states - to date, ten million illegal aliens and growing fast. It is reminiscent of George Orwell's book, 1984. In that story, three slogans are engraved in the Ministry of Truth building: "War is peace," "Freedom is slavery," and "Ignorance is strength."

Governor Lamm walked back to his seat. It dawned on everyone at the conference that the future of our great nation is deeply in trouble and worsening fast. If we don't get this immigration monster stopped quickly, it will rage like a California wildfire and destroy everything in its path, especially The American Dream.

Who is Steve Lonegan?


Steve Lonegan is New Jersey’s number one advocate for the overtaxed citizen. He is running for Governor to stand up for taxpayers, reverse the Corzine social engineering agenda and make New Jersey a great place to live, work, run a business and raise a family once again.

Steve was a successful small business owner who was elected Mayor of Bogota in 1995, defeating a longtime incumbent who left town finances in shambles. As Mayor, Steve stood up to powerful public employee labor unions and local left-wing interest groups, bringing a "Taxpayers First" philosophy to borough government.
Tough and independent, Mayor Steve Lonegan is the undisputed champion of New Jersey's overtaxed working families.
Mayor Lonegan kept taxes low and his Taxpayer Protection Act mandates a public vote for new municipal debt or public employee contracts exceeding inflation, and under Lonegan Bogota was the first town in New Jersey to pass a ballot initiative restricting Eminent Domain. The Lonegan approach has always been aimed at putting taxpayers first.

Written off by insiders as a one-term mayor, Steve was reelected twice by double-digit margins thanks to his strong, conservative leadership. Even more important, Lonegan’s Republican Team kept GOP council control for eleven straight elections in a town that voted 64% for Barack Obama and 66% for Frank Lautenberg.

Steve Lonegan saw that his role as Mayor took him beyond municipal borders. Whether it was fighting illegal state bonding or stopping gasoline tax hikes, toll scams or countless other taxpayer rip-offs, Mayor Lonegan has and continues to speak out for frustrated taxpayers all over the state taking on Governors and legislators in both parties to do what was right for working families.

The Star-Ledger’s Paul Mulshine said that "Lonegan single-handedly ignited the biggest taxpayer revolt since the Florio years" by defeating two ballot questions in 2007. Soon after, Steve led the successful fight to stop Governor Corzine’s $38 Billion Toll Hike and Borrowing Scheme.

Born in Teaneck's Holy Name Hospital on April 27, 1956, Steve grew up in Ridgefield Park where he set several high school track records. Steve earned a B.A. in Business Administration from William Paterson College where he was Football Team Captain and an All Conference Division Center, later earning an M.B.A. from Farleigh Dickinson University.

After graduating, Steve built and managed retail, custom homebuilding and manufacturing businesses that employed dozens of workers. Steve lives in Bogota with his wife Lorraine (Rossi) and daughters Brooke and Katherine where they attend St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church.

Tough and independent, Mayor Steve Lonegan is the undisputed champion of New Jersey's overtaxed working families. He is the man we need as Governor. He is New Jersey’s last hope.

http://lonegan.com/Home.aspx

Ahmadinejad: Obama Should Apologize For US ‘Crimes’

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks in Kermanshah, Iran, Wednesday Jan, 28, 2009. Ahmadinejad is calling for "profound changes" in U.S. foreign policy, saying the new U.S. administration should change the way it deals with the outside world and not just tactics. (AP Photo/ISNA, Saman Aqvami)


Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appears to be testing our new President:

The hardline leader also called on Washington to withdraw its troops from across the world as a proof of Mr Obama’s commitment to change.

“You were standing against the Iranian people in the past 60 years,” Mr Ahmadinejad said during an address in the western region of Khermenshah that was broadcast by state television.

“Those who speak of change must apologise to the Iranian people and try to repair their past bad acts and the crimes they committed against Iran.”

As to the troops, he said he expected two kinds of “deep and fundamental” change.

“Meet people, talk to them with respect and put an end to the expansionist policies. If you talk about change it must put an end to the US military presence in the world, withdraw your troops and take them back inside your borders.”

Mr Ahmadinejad said the advocates of change must “stop supporting the Zionists, outlaws and criminals”.

He called on the United States to “stop interfering in other people’s affairs”.

Perhaps Mahmoud senses weakness… Obama has promised to meet with him, a brutal tyrant, without preconditions. And Obama stated in his interview with al-Arabiya that he would “start by listening, because all too often the United States starts by dictating,” and he called for a new partnership in the Muslim world “based on mutual respect and mutual interest.”

Whether he meant to or not, he implied an apology was in order when he stated that the U.S. had made mistakes in the past but “that the same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago, there’s no reason why we can’t restore that.”

Meanwhile, Obama has quietly made missile defense concessions to Russia. How do we know? McKittrick, of Closing Velocity, an executive at the Missile Defense Agency, read about it in the paper:

Russia has dropped plans to install missiles near Poland after the Obama administration signalled a change in US attitude to the region, a Moscow military official has reportedly said.

The official suggested that Mr Obama’s White House had made clear it would not prioritise executing the Bush administration’s plan to install a missile defence shield in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Gore Urges Action on Economy, Global Warming

Former Vice President Al Gore urged lawmakers Wednesday not to let the U.S. economic crisis get in the way of addressing global warming. (Jan. 28)

A ‘Super’ Time to Choose a State Song, By Richard A. Lee



When Super Bowl XLIII gets underway in Tampa on Sunday, neither of the NFL teams that play their home games in New Jersey will be on the field. But one New Jerseyan who has performed for large crowds at Giants Stadium will be there at Raymond James Stadium when the Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers square off to determine this season’s NFL champion.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band will provide the halftime entertainment, joining the ranks of Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross and other superstars who have performed at the 42 previous Super Bowls. While this provides a great opportunity for Springsteen to appear before a capacity crowd of 72,500 and a television audience of up to 100 million viewers, it also represents a plus for New Jersey because of the unique and important role that the Garden State plays in his music and his lyrics.

Springsteen is not the only New Jersey native to gain widespread fame and popularity. The state has produced a number of individuals who have achieved great success as entertainers, scholars, athletes, governmental leaders and more. What sets Springsteen apart is the fact that the others are people from New Jersey who have become successful, whereas he is successful because he is from New Jersey. Springsteen’s New Jersey roots are not just something buried in the liner notes of his albums; they are the very essence of his music.

So with Bruce (and indirectly New Jersey) in the national spotlight, what better time to revive the campaign to make a Springsteen composition the official state song? After all, New Jersey is the only state in the union without a state song. Even American Samoa, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands have them – and they’re not even states. Moreover, if popular, but less influential artists such as John Denver (“Rocky Mountain High” in Colorado) and the McCoys (“Hang On Sloopy” in Ohio) can have their songs affiliated with states, isn’t the Boss deserving of a similar recognition in his home state?

It’s not that people haven’t tried. Back in June of 1980, the New Jersey General Assembly passed a resolution designating “Born to Run” as the state’s official rock theme. I even wrote an op-ed for The New York Times supporting the proposal. The legislation, however, died in the State Senate.

Truth be told, “Born to Run” probably was not the best choice for a state anthem. Although it did in many ways capture the spirit of the state, it probably was unrealistic to expect the Governor and Legislature to put their official sanction on a song that included references to suicide machines, death traps and wrapping one’s legs around velvet rims.

At the time, there were only three Springsteen albums from which to choose a state song. Today he has a body of work that includes nearly 30 albums and close to 300 songs. So from this vast collection, what Springsteen composition should become New Jersey’s official song? It’s a tough call. There is no shortage of songs with references and inferences to the Garden State, but most of them, such as “Atlantic City,” “Johnny 99”and “My Hometown,” paint accurate, but bleak pictures that make them unlikely candidates for any type of official state designation.

My vote is for “The Rising”. Sure it was written about 9/11, but songs often take on new meanings and grow with the times. Springsteen’s “My City in Ruins” is a case in point. Originally written about Asbury Park in 2000, the song later became more associated with New York City and the 9/11 attacks.

Since its release in 2002, “The Rising” has become a staple at Springsteen concerts with its upbeat chorus delivering a message of strength against adversity and hope and optimism for the future. Not a bad message for a state song. We’ve already seen that it works well with choral groups. Springsteen’s performance of the song at the start of the Obama inaugural concert included the backing of a 125-member female choir. The tune may not have the direct association of such popular state songs as “Oklahoma” and “Georgia,” but it does have more than a casual New Jersey connection. It made its public debut when Springsteen performed it on the Today show live from Asbury Park on July 30, 2002.

Over the years, there has been no shortage of efforts to designate a New Jersey state song. As related in Fitzgerald’s Legislative Manual, the state held a contest in 1939 that produced a recommendation that was never acted upon. In 1972, both houses of the Legislature approved Red Mascara’s “I’m From New Jersey,” but the Governor did not sign it into law. The State Arts Council conducted a competition in 1996 and ultimately submitted three songs to the Legislature for consideration, but no further action took place.

While choosing a state song has been a challenge, New Jersey has had less trouble designating items such as a state fruit (the highbush blueberry), a state bug (honey bee) and even a state dinosaur (the Hadrosaurus Foulkii). If we can do all that and more, certainly we can select a state song. It’s long past time.

As Bruce would say, “You can’t start a fire without a spark,” and what better spark to get the ball rolling than a Super Bowl Sunday that puts the Boss in the spotlight.

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Richard A. Lee is Communications Director of the Hall Institute of Public Policy – New Jersey. A former journalist and Deputy Communications Director for the Governor, he also teaches courses in media and government at Rutgers University, where he is completing work on a Ph.D. in media studies.