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Larry Benjamin's blog

Monday, April 30, 2007

Yes! for doing the right thing

It doesn't happen often enough, but sometimes things are said in courtrooms or from the Governor's Office that make you want to shout, ""Yes!'' Three instances from the front page of Saturday's Press:

Former Gov. Jim McGreevey and his estranged wife, Dina Matos McGreevey, are haggling over custody of their 5-year-old daughter Jacqueline. The back-and-forth news conferences and competing tell-all books are making this a public spectacle, with a little girl in the middle of it all. At their court hearing Friday, Superior Court Judge Karen Cassidy told the couple they should "use common sense.'' Yes!

At the sentencing Friday of the former bookeeper of the Jewish Community Center in Ocean Township, who admitting the theft of $120,000 from the center, her lawyer pleaded for mercy: She's the sole breadwinner, supports about 10 family members and is remorseful. Superior Court Patricia Del Bueno Cleary didn't buy the sob story. "I have no sympathy for thieves,'' she said before imposing a four-year prison term. Yes!

Even Gov. Corzine chimed in by doing what many people hoped he would do. He announced Friday that he would pay for his medical treatment out of his own pockets. Even though he is covered by the state's medical insurance plan, he won't tap it to pay for his recovery. Yes!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Scammers snared

It's another in the long line of N.J. news items that earn the "you can't make this up" designation. The latest is about the police chief from a tiny Gloucester County town - and his wife - who stole $150,000 from a charity, the attorney general's office announced Tuesday. Not just any charity, but MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), which complements the public safety work that police do. Why MADD? Well, both were former leaders of the state chapter and the chief is on the national board of directors, so we can guess they know how the charity works.

They took the money by forming dummy corporation to produce promotional items. But nothing was ever ordered or delivered, or even made. The chief, as an officer for the state MADD chapter, approved the check request forms for the phony orders and then pocketed the very real MADD money the requests produced.

Top state law enforcement officials quite properly decried how a police chief can betray the public trust, as this one is charged with doing. If found guilty, this guy and his wife should get the maximum: 10 years in prison and fines up to $150,000. And let's hope the chief is among the first public officials subject to the new pension-forfeit law. His wrongdoing might not be directly connected to his work, but he wouldn't have become involved with MADD if it weren't for his job. What he did is an outrage. He shouldn't get one penny of taxpayer pension money.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Oh, what a night ...

Patrons at the box office of the hit Broadway musical "Jersey Boys'' are greeted with a warning that profanity and "Jersey vocabulary'' are used as special effects in the production. And they definitely are, presumably to add a genuine voice to the story of the Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. The show would be a crowd-pleaser with or without the naughty words that wouldn't be allowed at the dinner table of that era -- the '60s -- and even now, 40 years later.

But students today aren't affected by warnings about coarse language stuck on CDs they buy or the movies they watch, our prize-winning Student Voices essayists told us for the op-ed page Tuesday. The vast majority of youngsters said the music and story line are what counts. And as one student put it: "The store might as well put a huge 'buy me' sticker on the CD.'' It's clear this younger generation won't let the obscenity or violence get in the way of their enjoyment.

Is this a healthy development? And is "Jersey vocabulary'' another distinction of our beleaguered state?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Behind the spin

You've got to love how some politicians spin the news. Take, for example, Assemblyman Joseph Cryan, D-Union, the Democratic State Committee chairman. In response to campaign finance reports Tuesday that showed the Democrats had $4.2 million in cash through the end of March while the Republicans had $1.4 million, Cryan attributed the difference to public approval of the job his party has done controlling the governor's office and both houses of the Legislature.

No, it's not. The Average Joe and Jane New Jersey aren't swelling the party's coffers. It's the big-time campaign donors and special interests currying favor with the party in power. They enjoy having the ears of the Trenton power elite and want to make sure they return after November's election. It's hardly a performance endorsement.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Whither common sense

The headlines in the aftermath of Gov. Corzine's accident acknowledge that the governor wasn't wearing a seat belt and that his trooper-driver was speeding at 91 mph with the SUV's emergency lights flashing. Which begs the question: Just because the vehicle is transporting the governor, its occupants are immune from common sense?

Corzine has a history of not buckling up while a passenger. His driver or his aide in the back seat couldn't insist on the governor obeying the law by fastening his seat belt? And if he didn't, the trooper would refuse to operate the SUV. The governor was in a hurry, but did the trooper-driver have to go 91 mph? That's even higher than the unofficial, move with the flow of traffic, speed of 80. And why flash the emergency lights when the only emergency is Corzine's haste to join the Don Imus-Rutgers women's basketball team sitdown the governor arranged? What does that say about real emergencies?

The investigation continues, but I doubt we'll get any real answers. As for common sense, I'm afraid this is another instance of what one politician told us a while ago: It's tough to talk truth to power. What a sad commentary.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Circle of hope

The state Department of Transportation finally got something right with its redesign of the Collingwood Circle where routes 33 and 34 meet in Wall. Yes, the same DOT that posted street-name signs that have faded beyond recognition and will cost $6 million to replace. We're no fans of New Jersey's infamous traffic circles. But judicious use of yield signs that clearly give drivers in the circle the right of way is making a difference.

It's no fun waiting in the line of cars for a break in the circle traffic, but at least you know what to do when it's your turn. Of course, drivers are pretty cautious now with the construction folks -- and police cars -- on the scene. But let's hope the circle doesn't become the adventure it has long been once they're gone.