"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance

 and a people who mean to be their own governors

 must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."

Monday, February 28, 2005

Tax Cuts -- A Simple Lesson In Economics

The next time you hear a politician exclaim; "It's just a tax cut for the rich!" Ask yourself what does that really mean? Let's put tax cuts in terms everyone can understand. Perhaps this little story will help clear up the issue.

Suppose that every day, ten men go out for dinner. The bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:

The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
The fifth would pay $1.
The sixth would pay $3.
The seventh $7.
The eighth $12.
The ninth $18.
The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.

So, the ten men ate dinner in the restaurant every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement. Then one day, the owner of the establishment decided to give the steady customers a break.

"Since you are all such good customers," he said, "I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily meal by $20." So, now dinner for the ten only cost $80.

The group still wanted to continue paying their bill the way we pay our taxes. So, the first four men were unaffected. They would still eat for free. But what about the other six, the paying customers? How could they divvy up the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his 'fair share'?

The six men realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being 'PAID' to eat their meal.

So, the restaurant owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the percent of their normal contribution toward the tab, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay. And so:

The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).
The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33% savings).
The seventh now paid $5 instead of $7 (28% savings).
The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings).
The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings).
The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to eat for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.

"I only got a dollar out of the $20," declared the sixth man. Pointing to the tenth man saying,” but he got $10!"

Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth man. "I only saved a dollar, too. It's unfair that he got ten times more than me!"

"That's true!!" shouted the seventh man. "Why should he get $10 back when I got only $2? The wealthy get all the breaks!"

"Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison. "We didn't get anything at all. This system exploits the poor!"

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up. The next night the tenth man didn't show up for dinner, so the nine sat down and ate without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!

Moral of the story – Keep requiring more and more taxes from the most productive, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up at the table anymore.

Armanious Family ATM Card Used After Murder

Let’s hope the ATM machines had surveillance equipment that captured the images of people using the family’s bank card. Let’s also hope investigators strategically decided not to place a stop on the family’s account in an attempt to identify suspects or gain leads to the actual murderer(s). Star-Ledger article here, summary below

Hossam Armanious, 47, his wife, Amal Garas, 37, and their daughters, Sylvia, 15, and Monica, 8, were found stabbed to death inside their Jersey City home on Jan. 14. Investigators believe the family was killed the night of Jan. 11, although their bodies were not found until Jan. 14. That delay, authorities say, has made tracing the killers extremely difficult.

Each victim had been bound, gagged and stabbed in the throat. Investigators have determined they were killed with a knife that had been kept in the family's home. The family's furniture drawers had been rifled through, Armanious' wallet was found
empty near his body and the pocketbook of Sylvia Armanious was empty, authorities have said.

Yesterday, Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio said someone withdrew "thousands" of dollars from Armanious' bank account using his ATM card and secret password. The ATM card was used on "a number of different occasions" at banks in the Heights section of Jersey City, where the family lived, and in Midtown Manhattan.. The withdrawals continued for several days after news of the slayings was broadcast and splashed across front pages throughout the region.

Thousands of dollars were withdrawn from his account, though DeFazio would not disclose the exact total, the number of transactions, nor the banks involved. He also would not comment on whether investigators believe the person using the card was the same person, or people, who killed the family.

Many ATMs are equipped with video cameras, but DeFazio declined to say whether investigators had obtained photos or video of the person, or people, who used Armanious' card.

Church leaders and others in the Coptic community have speculated about a religious motive, saying they believe Armanious was targeted by Muslim extremists for criticizing Islam in Internet chat rooms.

"We have not been able to corroborate this Internet ... speculation," DeFazio said. "So I'm not going to say for sure that that is not involved, but I am going to say that we haven't been able to corroborate it and we have corroborated this monetary motive." Asked specifically about possible religious motive, DeFazio said, "It could still be. It could be a hybrid."

Authorities say the killers left behind no hate messages not did they desecrate Coptic Christian artifacts in the home or the traditional cross tattoos each family member had on their wrists.

DeFazio said investigators remain "guardedly optimistic" the killer or killers will be found.

Codey Declines To Release Income Tax Returns

This can't be good:

Going against a tradition among New Jersey governors that dates back to the early 1980s, acting Gov. Richard J. Codey has declined to release his income tax returns, according to a published report.

A spokesman for Codey said according to the terms of blind trust set up for the acting governor's insurance firm, the Olympic Agency, Codey does not even know when his tax return is filed.

We wonder if this a cover to allow Jon Corzine not to release his tax returns. We can hear it now, "not all candidates and Governors have released their tax returns"

New Jersey's Got The Blues

Conventional wisdom has it that New Jersey is a “blue state” – both U.S. senate seats, majority of representatives in Congress, Governor and both houses of the state legislature – all controlled by the Democrats. The state even went for Kerry in the last presidential election.

Now we wonder, are the people of New Jersey happy with how the state is being run and how well they are represented at the federal level? Are Democrats doing an effective job for all New Jersey citizens? We would answer no, the state is not being represented or managed well.

New Jersey has a $4 billion budget deficit; highest property taxes in the country; far too many failing schools, even with the highest per student spending in the nation and receives 57¢ for every federal tax dollar sent to Washington – ranking dead last in the entire U.S.A.

How can we spend so much and have such meager returns? How is it possible for the people of New Jersey to return the same people or party's candidates to office, over and over again? It just doesn’t make sense.

Perhaps there are other measurements people might use to determine the effectiveness of New Jerseys' Democrat leaders – we’d like to hear them. There has got to be some reason for New Jersey’s “blue state” status.

Maybe the majority of the folks in New Jersey just “feel” the Democrat Party better reflects their positions, values and beliefs. It’s hard to believe and sad to think the majority of our fellow Jerseyans “feel” aligned with a party represented by Howard Dean. Here are just a few quotes from the new Chairman of the Democrat Party from the last several weeks. Does this man represent the beliefs of the majority of voters in New Jersey?

Dean told a crowd of party faithful in New York, “I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for….”

Dean told a group at a Hiebert [Kansas] fund-raiser that, “moderate Republicans can't stand these people (conservatives), because they're intolerant.

They don't think tolerance is a virtue," Dean said, adding: "I'm not going to have these right-wingers throw away our right to be tolerant." And concluding his backyard speech with a litany of Democratic values, he added: "This is a struggle of good and evil. And we're the good."

Is Dr. Dean a model of Democrat Party tolerance? Does he represent the thinking of Senators Corzine and Lautenberg, Governor Codey and all the other Democrats in the state? You read that last sentence about the struggle of good and evil – and we’re the good, you’d think he was referring to our country’s terrorist enemies. He’s not, Dean’s talking about those that don’t agree with him, non-Democrats. He’s talking about us.

It’s one thing to disagree about issues, policies, problems and solutions but, isn’t this going a bit too far? What the heck have we (non Democrats) done to drive the Chairman of the Democrat Party to consider us evil and to hate us? This level of hostility from a fellow American and we’re intolerant?

At some point don’t the Democrats need a little more to their play book than hurling insults, trying to “stop things”, a desire to spend more and raise taxes? Just sticking with the facts, can someone please explain how this agenda helps the majority of people?

Let's all pray New Jersey is able to get rid of the "blues, assuming that it is still allowed.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Speculation On 2006 New Jersey Senate Race

Patrick Ruffini weighs in on the 2006 New Jersey race to replace Jon Corzine in the Senate. We hope this implies Corzine will lose his bid to become Governor in 2005 and will then retire from “public service” when his term expires.

We don’t see Lisa Beamer or Debra Burlingame running for the Senate and we can’t imagine the boys of New Jersey being open to the idea of stepping aside. We don’t know enough about either woman to know if they would make a good Senator but, it is not possible to represent New Jersey any less effectively then Corzine and Lautenberg.

The Republican nominee for U.S. Senate needs to be someone who can capture and own this sentiment in 2006. State Sen. Tom Kean, Jr. and Rep. Mike Ferguson are certainly capable alternatives, but would they shake up the race? Would they bring a single-minded focus to the issue of defeating terrorism, which is the prime mover in New Jersey?

That's why the GOP might consider drafting Lisa Beamer or Debra Burlingame, who have proven to be two of the most poised and graceful representatives of the 9/11 families. Beamer is the widow of Flight 93 hero Todd Beamer, and the author of her own book Let's Roll! In a 2002 interview, she discussed the role her faith played in bringing her family through this wrenching period.

AARP And Donkey Rising

AARP bills itself as”a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization for people over 50.” Now check out the AARP’s blog roll – entire roll shown below.

The AARP has been attached to Jon Corzine’s hip as he has traveled around the state on his Social Security disinformation campaign. Nonpartisan? Who are they kidding?

Daily Kos
Donkey Rising
Dude, Where's my retirement?
Talking Points Memo
The Left Coaster
There Is No Crisis

Corzine Faces The Nation

Jon Corzine will be on Face The Nation tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. to discuss President Bush's proposal for private Social Security accounts.

We wonder who CBS will have on the show to correct the disinformation Corzine will undoubtedly spout to his follow citizens. We also wonder if CBS will provide equal time to a New Jersey Republican running for governor.

Jon Corzine’s press releases have gone from saying Corzine is “considered among his party's chief economic and finance experts” to calling himself “one of the nation’s foremost experts on the economy and financial markets.”

From here on out we will refer to Enlighten-NewJersey as one of the nation’s foremost authorities on Senator John Corzine (D-NJ), the former C0-Chairman of Goldman Sachs.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

12th Anniversary Of ’93 World Trade Center Terrorist Attack

Today, family and friends of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing victims will dedicate a temporary memorial on the 12th anniversary of the terrorist attack. The previous memorial was destroyed in the September 11, 2001 attacks. Rescue workers managed to recover a piece of the original memorial, which was used to make the new one.

On February 26, 1993, a car bomb was planted in an underground garage below World Trade Center Tower One. The bomb, planted by Islamic terrorists with ties to Al Qaeda, exploded at 12:17 p.m., opening a 30 meter wide hole through 4 sublevels of concrete. Six people were killed and at least 1,040 others were injured.

Killed were Bob Kirkpatrick, 61, Steven Knapp, 47, and Bill Macko, 57, mechanical supervisors for the Port Authority and Monica Rodriguez Smith, Macko's secretary. The fifth and sixth victims were Wilfred Mercado, 37, who worked for the Windows on the World restaurant atop the North Tower and was checking in food deliveries in the basement, and John DiGiovanni, 45, a dental salesman who was in the parking garage when the bomb exploded.

More here, here

Let’s not forget the Iraq - al Qaeda connection to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

"There's no question Saddam Hussein had al Qaeda ties." U.S. intelligence officials, meanwhile, have confirmed that fact once again. Abdul Rahman Yasin, a suspect in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, was being harbored in Iraq; documents recently found in Tikrit indicate that Saddam provided Yasin with monthly payments and a home. According to federal authorities, the Ramzi Yousef-led terror cell that carried out the 1993 bombing received funding from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, alleged mastermind of the 2001 attack.

President Bush Coming To New Jersey

President Bush has scheduled a town hall-style gathering in Westfield, N.J., to discuss his Social Security plan, this coming Friday at the Westfield Armory at 10:40 a.m.

Friday, February 25, 2005

The Monmouth 11 And The Duke

We were so disgusted with the latest political corruption in New Jersey, we couldn’t even bring ourselves to do a post. It really wasn’t necessary given the great coverage by the Jersey blogger gang. Read the posts by DynamoBuzz, JerseyStyle. MisterSnitch, ParkwayRestStop, SluggoNeedsANap, more Sluggo, and Smadanek.

The second chapter in this story was just too Soprano like to pass up:

He called himself "Duke" and drove around in a flashy black Cadillac with two beefy guys. He hobnobbed with elected officials and government workers in Monmouth County, telling them he owned a demolition company, and did some illegal loansharking to boot.

Authorities say he eventually handed out envelopes of cash in return for the promise of government contracts.

But Robert "Duke" Steffer was actually cooperating with the FBI in its corruption investigation of public officials. In fact, when a reporter from The Star-Ledger of Newark knocked on the door of his Florida home Wednesday, Steffer answered it wearing a blue baseball cap with the letters "FBI" on the front.

School Construction Corp Cutting Costs To The Bone

Boy these guys running the New Jersey School Construction Corp are really taking cost cutting seriously. This is the agency that is supposed to mange an $8.6 billion budget to make repairs and build new schools for certain districts.

Jack Spencer, chief executive officer of the Schools Construction Corp., has already blown through $5.7 billion of the budgeted $8.6 billion and says he needs at least another $6 billion to get the job done. More on the subject here and here.

So now we learn the SSC is cutting costs to the bone - they're eliminating a $2 million advertising campaign. We suppose a "look what we're doing for you" campaign was to be mounted just in time for the elections in November. Are these people good stewards of taxpayer money? In the private sector these people would have been fired long ago. So few people pay attention and so it's business as usual - spend with abandon.
The School Construction Corp in charge of doling out $8.6 billion to build and improve schools in New Jersey - particularly in poor districts - is cutting its costs.

Officials at the SCC announced Wednesday that they would eliminate a $2 million advertising campaign and take other steps to reduce expenses. The agency on Wednesday approved an operating budget of $34.6 million for 2005 - $5 million less than last year.

Road Work

Just thought you'd like to know:

Noon. NEW BRUNSWICK-ROUTE 18 REHABILITATION-New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner Jack Lettiere holds a briefing on the state's largest rehabilitation project this year, the $200 million rehabilitation of Route 18 in New Brunswick.
Location: New Jersey Turnpike Authority Headquarters, Board Room.

1:30 p.m. BRIDGEWATER-ROUTE 22 FUNDING-U.S. Reps. Rodney Frelinghuysen and Mike Ferguson announce $3 million in federal funding for the Route 22 improvement project.
Location: Former PNC Bank, 1130 Route 22 E.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Quote OF The Month

We've begun a new feature on Enlighten-New Jersey - Quote Of The Month. All readers are invited to submit quotes about New Jersey or statements made by a citizen of the Garden State. Quotes must have been made within in the past 30 days and be submitted with a link to a legitimate source for consideration.

All submissions must be posted in the comments section or sent to enlightenj@excite.com by no later than 11:59 pm of the last day of the month. All quotes including the name of the person or blog submitting the quote will be published the first day of the following month. The winner will be recognized with a special Enlighten-NewJersey award.

To kick things off, reader "Not Throwing Stones" has submitted the following quote.

"We cannot balance the budget on the backs of the traveling public and small-business people."
-- Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), in a letter to President Bush criticizing a federal proposal to raise airline ticket fees by $3.

NJ Transit To Become Ferry Godmother

The NJ Assembly passed a bill requiring NJ Transit to take over the Hudson River Ferry service should the private operator go under (no pun intended) and “reasonable” fares be maintained. The bill now goes to the NJ Senate for consideration.

Can New Jersey afford to take on transportation projects that serve so few people? Is it cost effective? The article excerpted below states the ferry serves 15,000 riders. That’s not correct – the ferry provides 15,000 rides. Most of them round trips, meaning about 7,500 people are using the ferry service.

Remember the River Line, where riders pay a one-way fare of $1.10, and New Jersey taxpayers pay $35.00. A reasonable fare, reasonable to whom?
Commuters who rely on ferries to get back and forth to work would be shielded from excessive fare increases or sudden service disruptions under a measure passed Thursday by the Assembly. The measure empowers NJ Transit to assume control of the New York Waterway ferry services if private ownership fails to provide New Jersey commuters with satisfactory service.

The bill, which now heads to the Senate, was prompted by a near shutdown late last year of the Hudson River ferry service, used by 15,000 daily riders. "We must ensure that as many people as possible have access to a comprehensive mass transit system at a reasonable price, and a quality ferry operation needs to be part of that equation," said Assembly Speaker Albio Sires, a co-sponsor of the bill. "A contingency plan needs to be put in place in the event new private ownership of New York Waterway ferries results in burdensome fares or less than optimum service for commuters."

The other side of the story:

NJ Transit may give NY Waterway a break on the lease payments that the struggling company has agreed to make on the new $53 million ferry terminal being built in Weehawken, officials said.

The Port Authority had been charging NY Waterway $50,000 a month. But the agency agreed to revise the payments as part of a deal that shifts the Hoboken Terminal routes to William Wachtel, a well-connected Manhattan lawyer.

Wachtel, who is buying 16 ferries from NY Waterway for $19.1 million, would have to pay less than half the current fee under the deal that may be approved by the Port Authority at its meeting Thursday.

Senator Corzine And Working Families

A reader’s email got us to thinking again about the term “working families”. Politicians love this term, especially the Democrats. So what does this term mean?

When we first heard the phrase we thought in literal terms. Working families meant exactly that – families in which everyone works, kids included. Good hardworking people - mom and dad with full-time jobs and the kids, flipping burgers, working at the mall, etc.

However, somehow we knew we really hadn’t grasped the real meaning of the term, because when a Democrat spoke of “working families” there always seemed to be a sad story implied by the phase. Someone (usually a Republican) was hurting “working families”. So, we realized the term had to have a more specific meaning, because in our “working family” it was usually a Democrat behind the government policies that were hurting us.

We gave up on trying to figure it out, just put it out of our minds until a reader contacted Enlighten-New Jersey. Our reader tells us that about three weeks ago he sent an email to Senator Jon Corzine asking him for a clarification on the term “working families.” As of today, the Senator has not bothered to reply, not even an auto respond. When you read what he sent, you’ll understand why.

Dear Senator Corzine (Or Staff Member receiving this email),

I hope I’m not bothering you with what may seem like a trivial question. Last night a group of friends got to talking about Senator Corzine’s support for working families. During the conversation someone asked “What does the term “working families” mean? We all recognized we had heard the term often. We’ve heard the Senator and others use the phrase, but our group could not agree upon a common definition.

So my question - what does the term mean, at least what does the Senator mean when he speaks of working families? I’ll give you some examples of the confusion among my friends.

The group all decided I would not be included under their definition. I’m divorced and have no children – therefore, they believe I don’t fall within the working family category. Some believed there had to be at least two people in the household, some thought at least one person in the home had to be a child. Some thought retired couples didn’t count – no longer working and others thought you couldn’t make more than “X” amount of money. Most thought that at least one person in the home had to work and earn a paycheck.

I volunteered to email the Senator to clear up the confusion. Oh yea, my friends agreed on one other thing – the Senator’s staff would be too busy to answer our dumb question. So I now have $50 riding on the side I will receive more than a thank you auto respond. I hope you won’t let me down.

Thank you in advance for your reply.

P.S. I do work for a living.

Truth Revealed – Bush Went To War To Help “Uncle Bucky”

Now we know the real reason George Bush lead the nation to a war on terror and then expaned the mission into Iraq. Forget what you’ve heard about blood for oil, Haliburton, revenge for Poppy Bush, did we say Dick Cheney’s Haliburton - all wrong. Walter F. Roche Jr., investigative reporter for the LA Times, has uncovered the real reason. Bush’s “Uncle Bucky”.

Yep, you read that correctly. President Bush cooked up the whole war thing at a family reunion in Texas. The story begins in 2000, before “W” was elected.

Step one was to have “Uncle Bucky” wrangle a spot on the board of a company that supplies armor and other material to U.S. troops. Step two was to steal the presidential election. Step three was to antagonize the Muslim world to bring about a horrendous terrorist attack on the country. Step four was to keep the war going with “whatever it takes” – on into Iraq.

With the help of Karl Rove step five was launched – the creation of a hoo-ha over the lack of armor for the troops. Once everyone, including the press, was clamoring for more armor, Bush directed the Pentagon to purchase the material from “Uncle Bucky”. Orders flew in and “Uncle Bucky” was able to cash in some stock options, netting him a cool $450,000, because of the “war-related” profits that trickled down to ESSI. Now at long last we know the truth. Time to start a Congressional investigation.

Original Article via the Newark Star-Ledger
The Iraq war helped bring record earnings to St. Louis-based defense contractor Engineered Support Systems Inc., and new financial data show that the company's war-related profits have trickled down to a familiar family name -- Bush.

William H.T. "Bucky" Bush, uncle of the president and youngest brother of former President George H.W. Bush, cashed in on ESSI stock options last month with a net value of more than $450,000.

"Uncle Bucky," as he is known to the president, is on the board of the company that supplies armor and other material to U.S. troops. The company's stock prices have soared to record heights since the run-up to invasion, benefiting in part from contracts to rapidly refit fleets of military vehicles with extra armor.

William Bush exercised options on 8,438 shares of company stock Jan. 18, according to reports filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. He acknowledged in an interview that the transaction was worth just over $450,000.

In an earnings report issued yesterday, the company disclosed net earnings for the first quarter ending Jan. 31 reached a record $20.6 million, while quarterly revenues hit $233.5 million, up 20 percent from a year ago. As a result, the company boosted its projected annual revenues to a range of $990 million to $1 billion.

William Bush, 66, a one-time St. Louis bank executive and head of an investment firm, joined the board in 2000, eight months before his nephew won the White House.

The president's uncle said in an interview that he never used his family connections to help the company win contracts.

"I don't make any calls to the 202 area code," he said, referring to Washington, D.C. He also said he sought legal advice before accepting appointment to the ESSI board to be certain there would be no problems.

Dan Kreher, vice president of industrial relations for ESSI, said Bush was one of several people added to the board about five years ago and was selected because he had "a long history of involvement in the local business community. We've known him for a long time."

"Having a Bush doesn't hurt," said Kreher, who acknowledged that the company is routinely engaged in Washington lobbying efforts. But, he said, Democrats, including a party fund-raiser, also serve on the panel.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

What Where They Thinking?

We don't watch the show The Simple Life and don't suppose we ever will. Of course we have heard of Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie, even here behind the pinhole. There is no accounting for other's taste, but could someone explain how these two idiots and their producers thought an internship in a funeral home would be funny? Better yet, why would an owner of a funeral home open his doors to such tackiness? Really adds to New Jersey's reputation doesn't it?

Several viewers are horrified by Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie's latest internship on "The Simple Life." Hilton and Richie worked at the Kohler Funeral Home funeral home in Wood-Ridge, NJ.

They spilled what seemed to be ashes on the floor and vacuumed them up, they filled in a grave while wearing fancy clothes and held a fake funeral. One viewer says it was "totally tacky." She tells the Record of Bergen County that her father's casket
was in the same room as the mock funeral.

Another woman says her "knees were shaking" while watching Hilton and Richie help an old couple shop for caskets.

According to John Podesta, the owner of Kohler Funeral Home a disclaimer at the end of the show said no human bodies were used in any of the scenes, but that failed to appease some viewers.

Podesta said he has received few complaints and would not have participated if he thought the episode would hurt the funeral home's reputation. He said the funeral home was not compensated for hosting the show's taping.

No Internal Security Systems Present At NJ Water Treatment Plant

The water treatment complex in Totowa, where chemist Geetha Angara was found murdered earlier this month has no internal monitoring or security systems. Once an individual passes through a 10-foot-high gate, a uniformed guard and a surveillance camera, security measures stop. All employees have access to all buildings, with no doors requiring pass cards and no indoor video capturing their movements, workers and borough officials said.

"There are no secure doors. There's no card access. Even visitors from the outside can go anywhere," said Allen Del Vecchio, Totowa's fire marshal and emergency management coordinator and one of the first to respond to the missing persons call. "We walked that entire site without any problem at all."

That freedom of movement and lack of surveillance have complicated the work of detectives seeking to explain how senior chemist Geetha Angara wound up dead in an underground water tank - apparently at the hands of one of her co-workers.

Commission officials declined to say if security changes are planned for the site. A spokesman said PVWC, which directly supplies water for 17 North Jersey communities, has invested $70 million in recent years "to ensure the safety and security of our water supply."

Normally, a 50-pound, aluminum plate covers the tank opening. The plate is kept in place with about a dozen screws, Del Vecchio said. But he and several officers who went to search for Angara found the screws either broken off or missing, he said."There's no way that thing was screwed down," Del Vecchio said. Among conflicting points in the investigation is whether the panel was found in place or dislodged when workers first began searching for Angara.

Nothing about Angara's life has suggested any reason why someone would want her dead, investigators say. There is no evidence that she had any enemies or a secret relationship. As senior chemist, she had no hiring or firing privileges, co-workers said, so workplace grudges seem unlikely. And with no signs of drug use at the crime scene, detectives consider it unlikely she came across a wayward addict.

Other than saying that Angara drowned and was not sexually abused, authorities have refused to disclose autopsy results. Co-workers say she was hard-working, friendly and never boasted about her credentials. "She didn't even want to be called 'doctor,' " one plant supervisor said."She didn't bring it up that she had a Ph.D. She just wanted to be 'Geetha."

More here.

The Rest Of The Abu Ali Story

Yesterday we posted about Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, the 23 year old charged with conspiring to assassinate President Bush and conspiracy to support the Al Qaeda terrorist network. We also noted Abu Ali was a U.S. citizen and the valedictorian of his high school class.

Well, as they say, here’s the rest of the story. Abu Ali’s father has worked at the Saudi Embassy in Washington for more than 20 years in computer operations. The high school Abu Ali graduated from, at the head of the class, was the Islamic Saudi Academy, a private school in Alexandria, Virginia subsidized by the Saudi government.

After studying engineering briefly at the University of Maryland, Abu Ali moved to Saudi Arabia in 2000 to study the Koran at the Islamic University of Medina. Tuition at the university is free and 8590 of the total enrolment has been allocated to non-Saudi students.

"After the devastating terrorist attack and murders of Sept. 11," said Paul J. McNulty, the United States attorney in Alexandria, Mr. Abu Ali "turned his back on America and joined the cause of Al Qaeda."

More here and here

The Downside Of Blogging

The sheer volume of craziness going on in New Jersey, not to mention in the country, has left us in a state of paralysis, along with a bad case of writers block. This after our blood pressure was high enough to cause the casual observer to assume we had returned from vacation with a bad sunburn. A closer look revealed throbbing veins popping from our neck on up and nails being spit out every time we opened our mouths. This state is not conducive to writing.

Calm down and be rational, but where to begin. We start a post on one issue and twenty more catch our attention. We begin research on one, which leads us to another and the next thing you know we have become completely overwhelmed with about 20 posts in various states of readiness. So here we are, sitting in front of the keyboard alternating between mumbling to ourselves and ranting to anyone unlucky enough to pass by.

Instapudit once said "there are two downsides to blogging. One is that it can fill up your time, one five-minute chunk after another. The other -- much worse -- is that it forces you to pay attention to the news, which is usually depressing, infuriating, or frightening, or some combination of all three." Glenn Reynolds has captured our thoughts and mood precisely.

We have an acquaintance that does not follow the news and therefore, believes it would be inappropriate to vote, so she doesn’t. When asked about her lack of interest, she says she is much happier not knowing. In other words, ignorance is bliss. We happen to agree, people without a clue on issues or candidates should not vote. We wish every potential voter that hasn’t bothered to educate themselves would stay away from the polls. We’d all be much better off.

We also realize, more importantly, if no one paid attention to what’s going on we’d all be in real trouble, the kind that no one, no matter how hard they tried, would be able to ignore. It really is our duty as citizens to pay attention. This is the reason we started this blog, to force ourselves to pay attention and hopefully to provide information to others lacking the time to sort through all the clutter.

With that in mind, for at least the time being, we will keep blogging. If nothing else, we're learning a lot. Now, if we could only learn to clam down. Any tips or suggestions would greatly be appreciated.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Conspiracy To Assassinate President Bush

Ahmed Omar Abu Ali was charged today with conspiring to assassinate President Bush and conspiracy to support the Al Qaeda terrorist network. The indictment said that in 2002 and 2003 Abu Ali and an unidentified coconspirator discussed plans for Abu Ali to assassinate Bush. Abu Ali is charged with six counts and would face a maximum of 80 years in prison if convicted.

Abu Ali had been arrested and detained in Saudi Arabia after the May 2003 bombings in Riyadh, which killed 23 people, including nine Americans. A recent demand by the U.S. government to the Saudis to either charge Abu Ali or release him to the U.S, led to the transfer of custody.

Federal prosecutors have previously alleged Abu Ali had a relationship with some members of what has been called the "Virginia jihad network," whose members were charged with providing material support to a terrorist organization.

More than 100 supporters of Abu Ali crowded the courtroom and laughed when the charge was read aloud alleging that he conspired to assassinate Bush.

Abu Ali, a 23 year old U.S. citizen, made an initial appearance today in U.S. District Court. He claimed that he was tortured while detained in Saudi Arabia since June of 2003 and offered through his lawyer to show the judge his scars. Ali was a former high school valedictorian in Virginia.

More here, here, here and here

Corzine’s Cribbing

We’ve been working on a post about Jon Corzine and his sudden interest in political ethics and ending pay-to-play in New Jersey. But someone else with far superior writing skills has covered the subject much better than we ever could. Just a little bit of our opinion before you get to the good stuff.

Typically when you give campaign contributions you choose a party or a candidate that supports your position on the major issues. Some give contributions in the hope a candidate’s position can be influenced through the donation. Wouldn’t you think with all the money he’s spent on “party building” Corzine could have pushed for some ethics reform if he really cared about the issue?

Of course it might have been a bit awkward for Corzine to buy their support and then demand they abandon their pay-to-play ways. Now that he looks a bit compromised on the issue, he’s all over it. We are discovering that the Senator is not very sincere in his public pronouncements. But you already knew that didn’t you?

Read Charles Webster’s column - Corzine cribbing from GOP’s playbook in the Trentonian. Snips below.
Corzine says he wants to clean up New Jersey politics and he insists he is the only man that can deliver.

Ol’ Jonnie is shopping a plan to put a stop to influence peddling, contract swaps for campaign donations and other assorted schemes better known as pay-to-play.That’s what voters in the Garden State want, but they have been looking for it to happen for a long while now.

The big news is that Corzine’s ideas are nothing new. In fact, Corzine’s ideas are ripped right out of the Republicans’ playbook.You got it! Corzine stole GOP ideas and is now shopping them around as his own.Call it stealing, call it plagiarism, call knowing a good idea when he sees one, but don’t forget to call it exactly what it is -- and that’s downright dishonest.

Republican lawmakers Rick Merkt and Michael Patrick Carroll already have a bill introduced to create a new elected office of state comptroller. If Corzine is sincere about wanting to see that post created he needs to get Assembly Speaker Albio Sires and Assembly Majority Leader Joe Roberts off their collective duffs and tell them to post the bill for a vote.

By the way, Jon, If you can’t find the bill on that long list of "ideas," reference it as ACR 55.And as for that pay-to-play ban you say you want to see in place, well, same thing applies here. There are already bills introduced in the Legislature to get the dirty deed banned, but they’re collecting dust over in the Democrats’ Twilight Zone.

Bill Baroni, Kevin O’Toole and Tom Kean, Jr. all have bills pending that will stop pay-to-play dead in its tracks. But good old boys Sires and Roberts keep moving the bills to the bottom of the pile.You want to be the Democrats’ leader in New Jersey? Well, get those guys in line first, everything else will fall into place.

So Jon, it’s nice to see you’re finally playing the ethics reform card.But I’m sorry to inform you that you’re a little late in the game. Eight million dollars in donations from you and Mommy over the last five years does buy you a bye. If you want to be governor, you’ll have to come up with a sharper game plan.In the meantime, the Republicans are waiting to see their bills passed. All you have to do is make the call.

Monday, February 21, 2005

New Jersey Through A Pinhole

In a speech Friday night Bill Keller, the executive editor of the NYT, provided his opinion on bloggers and the reason the public’s trust in journalists is at its lowest point in decades. Read the summary below, the entire article here.

Funny we thought bloggers and blog readers were among the largest consumers of news. Oh well just for fun - as you read this summary of Keller’s remarks, substitute any derivation of the word “blog” with the “New York Times” and make the same substitution with the word “public”. Any ring of truth? More of our attempt at humor here.

Bill Keller, executive editor of The New York Times, gave a speech this past Friday that focused on the struggle of print journalism to maintain its relevance in the face of constant cable news updates, increased blogging, and failures in credibility.

Keller noted that, according to a recent opinion poll, the public’s trust in journalists is at its lowest point in decades. He attributed this in part to the increasingly polarized nature of the American public, who look to the press for support of their viewpoints.

Keller also sees “blogging,” or online writing that blurs news and commentary, as a mixed blessing. While he celebrated the blogger’s ability to uncover breaking news, he noted that a blog’s inherent bias might be detrimental to the reader. “A blog is still a view of the world through a pinhole,” he said, noting that it can sometimes fall as low as being a “one man circle jerk.”

“There is a pressure to feel well informed without ever confronting an opinion that confronts your prejudices,” he said of blog readers.

Let’s Hope The “Thing” We Stop Is Jon Corzine

Apparently Jon Corzine has come around to our evaluation of his performance as Senator. Admitting he has accomplished nothing during his time in the Senate, he has decided to redefine success. Corzine says, "Sometimes the things you stop are more important than the things you do". Okay, so how did the Senator do at “stopping things”? According to the Star-Ledger, even by this measure Corzine’s a failure.

Most of Corzine’s efforts have “been spent opposing President Bush on economic, social and foreign policy. He voted against the administration's tax cuts, the war in Iraq, the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, the ban on partial birth abortion and the Medicare prescription drug bill.” So, we can safely say Corzine is not very effective at “stopping things.”

Corzine has said he’s been against Bush's tax cuts, preferring smaller, more targeted tax reductions for the middle class and the poor. That’s interesting because the “poor” aren’t paying any federal income taxes. The most recent Bush tax cuts increased the number of tax filers paying zero federal income tax by 3.8 million, to a record 40 million.

Nearly 10 million tax filers have been taken off the tax rolls because of the last three Bush tax cuts. Nearly 30 percent of the roughly 133 million tax filers this year will pay no income tax. In addition to these income tax filers that pay no tax, 14 million individuals or households do not earn enough to file a tax return. Overall, some 58 million households pay no federal income tax.

In fact, low-income families not only pay no federal income tax, they receive checks back from the government as a result of the "refundable" portion of the child credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). While most Americans think of a "refund" as getting money back because you overpaid your taxes to the IRS, in the case of low-income families, it means you get a check back because you don’t owe any tax.

We also wonder about Corzine’s identification of the middle class requiring “targeted tax reductions.” What income level places a person or family in the middle class in the mind of Senator Corzine? An income starting at $68,000 places you in the top 20% of all federal income taxpayers in the United States. In New Jersey, $68,000 doesn’t go very far given the state’s high cost of living, the state’s gross income tax and of course the highest property taxes in the nation.

As we have written before, Jon Corzine’s federal income tax philosophy hurts New Jersey taxpayers more than those in any other state. Thankfully, Senator Corzine was a failure at “stopping things” or the taxpayers in New Jersey would really be in a world of hurt.

Do the citizens of New Jersey really want a man with Jon Corzine’s tax and spend voting record and philosophy as Governor? Imagine the plans a Governor Corzine might implement to “solve” New Jersey’s budget gap and property tax woes. Hopefully voters will learn the facts before they vote for another disaster in the making.

There is hope. In a recent survey, 20 % of New Jerseyans believe Corzine has no major accomplishments and 45 % credited the Senator with minor ones. Survey’s have also shown New Jersey voters give Corzine a 59 % approval rating, apparently thankful that he has not accomplished anything on his agenda in the U.S. Senate.

The following is a summary of the Star-Ledger report referred to above. The entire article may be read here.

During four years in the U.S. Senate, New Jersey Democrat Jon Corzine has compiled a voting record that places him firmly in his party's liberal wing. The National Journal, a respected weekly magazine that covers Washington politics, recently rated Corzine's voting record as the fourth most liberal in the Senate.

But the liberal label may not be a major handicap in a state that in recent years elected Jim McGreevey Governor returned Frank Lautenberg to the Senate and voted for John Kerry for President.

Corzine received 100 percent rankings from NARAL Pro-Choice America, the National Conference on Civil Rights, the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence and the AFL-CIO. He also received an 84 percent ranking from League of Conservation Voters and 95 percent from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

Corzine's positions have brought him low ratings from conservative and business-oriented interest groups. In 2003, he received zero ratings from the Christian Coalition and the National Federation of Independent Business. He received a 27 percent score from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 17 percent from the National Taxpayers Union and 15 percent from the American Conservative Union.

But the liberal label may not be a major handicap in a state that in recent years elected Jim McGreevey governor, returned Frank Lautenberg to the Senate and voted for John Kerry for President.

Much of Corzine's energy since January 2001 also has been spent opposing President Bush on economic, social and foreign policy. He voted against the administration's tax cuts, the war in Iraq, the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, the ban on partial birth abortion and the Medicare prescription drug bill. He is now a leading critic of Bush's plan to partially privatize Social Security.

"There are very few senators who have voted more consistently against President Bush. He is in very select company with Sens. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts and Barbara Boxer of California -- people who are on the party's left wing," said Rutgers political science professor Ross Baker, an expert on the Senate.

Corzine said he has been "consistent in trying to work for the state" on a variety of issues including housing, education, transportation and health care by "taking a thoughtful approach" and "not trying to demagogue things."

The senator said he is "most proud" of his vote against the Iraq war, and many of his other votes against Bush policies he believes were not good for the country. Sometimes the things you stop are more important than the things you do," he said.

Throughout his tenure, Corzine has been a vocal opponent of Bush's tax cuts, saying he would prefer smaller, more targeted tax reductions for the middle class and the poor while putting money into increased aid for state governments and shoring up Medicare and Social Security.

However, only 16 percent of those surveyed credited Corzine with major accomplishments as a Senator, while 45 percent said he had minor ones and 20 percent said he had no real accomplishments.

Corzine, in fact, devoted considerable time during 2003 and 2004 to an unsuccessful effort to win back Democratic control of the Senate. He recruited candidates and raised $86 million as head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, but the Republicans ended up increasing their majority from 51 seats to 55 in the November elections.

While state issues such as the budget gap, rising property taxes and calls for government reform may dominate this year's gubernatorial race, Corzine's record in Washington likely will become campaign fodder, New Jersey Republican Party Chairman Tom Wilson said.

"I am hard-pressed to find anything he has done in Washington to improve the life of the average New Jerseyan," Wilson said.

Presidents' Day

George Washington's Biography

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Government “Helps” Pleasureland, NJ Residents

We’re from the government and we’re here to help. Just ask the residents of Pleasureland, NJ how government help is working out for their community. [Summary below, article here]

An Army Corps of Engineers' project to reduce flooding along the Ramapo River now causes an inch or two of rain to flood the homes and streets of Pleasureland. Last month, 1.2 inches of rain caused the worst flooding the area has seen since Hurricane Floyd.

What’s causing this to happen? Several years ago, the Army Corps of Engineers began a $21.6 million, three-phase project to reduce flooding along the Ramapo. The federal government contributed $19.6 million, and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection chipped in $2 million.

Phases 1 and 2 of the project called for widening and deepening almost two miles of the Ramapo River and creating an eight-acre wetland in Potosh Lake. Once those phases were complete, the Army Corps started phase 3, installing flood-control gates last year at the Pompton Lake Dam.

Most of the overflow coming through the dam had to be obstructed to accomplish that task. Since then, water traveling downstream reverses when it hits the restriction at the dam. It's called a backwater effect. "The lake essentially moves upstream," said John O'Connor, project manager for the Army Corps of Engineers. This little snag causes the flooding in Pleasureland.

Pleasureland Councilman Jim Geraghty told residents the corps miscalculated when it constructed a model of the project. He said that led the agency to falsely assume there would be little to no flooding during the dam work, despite the widening and deepening of the river beforehand. "The model does not reflect reality," Geraghty said.

"We're now at a crisis situation," said Lew Levy, chairman of the flood commission and a resident of Lakeview Drive. As the snow melts and the spring rains come, "it's going to be catastrophic," he said. Levy says the Corps has been less than responsive to residents' complaints. "When they started [the project], a lot of us said, 'It's backwards. Don't move the water here first."

The Corps is considering several options, but won't have an answer until the end of the month. The options include using existing water supply facilities or modifying the spillway. In the meantime, Oakland's Office of Emergency Management is developing an evacuation plan for the area - something that hasn't been needed in the more than 50 years that Pleasureland has existed.

When it comes time to evacuate, a borough-owned dump truck would be used to shuttle residents to higher ground. Then they would board a bus and be transferred to the first-aid squad on Ramapo Valley Road. At that point, residents would be on their own. Emergency personnel said that residents should arrange ahead of time for friends or family to pick them up at the first-aid squad.

State Threatens Not To Pay For Local Roadwork

It will be interesting to see Acting Governor Codey‘s priorities in the budget he unveils for the state of New Jersey next month. Be prepared because it won’t be pretty and the usual battle between the taxpayers versus the tax receivers will truly get underway.

Business as usual, but wouldn’t you think basic government services, such as road maintenance and construction, would escape the cost cutting axe? Apparently government programs that benefit all citizens are not priorities for Codey and his fellow Democrats.

Based upon a Star-Ledger report, Acting Governor Codey is willing to slash $120 million for improvements to local roads and bridges from his new budget. This action would cost New Jersey Taxpayers an additional $120 million in lost federal matching funds. Thankfully the law requires the state to set aside a minimum of $30 million dollars for local roads; otherwise nothing would be allocated in Codey’s budget for these projects.

New Jersey should be maximizing opportunities for federal matching funds for necessary state infrastructure projects. Instead we expect to see Acting Governor Codey’s budget increase funding for projects that benefit special interest groups and add a whole laundry list of new programs he deems far more important than investing in critical infrastructure.

Desperate to find money for major projects, the New Jersey Department of Transportation may eliminate $120 million earmarked for improvements to local roads and bridges, state officials say. Cutting those "local aid" grants also would jeopardize $120 million in federal matching funds for towns and counties, unless local governments were able to put up the cash themselves.

"If they pull the plug on this, the only way these projects would get done is through the local property taxes," said Peter Palmer, chairman of the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority and a Somerset County freeholder.

The DOT's preliminary $2.6 billion capital budget includes $270 million for local aid projects. About $30 million of that total is set aside under state law and cannot be reduced. But $120 million is provided by the state transportation trust fund, and that allocation is not protected by law. The rest of the local aid money comes from the federal government, which has agreed to match the $120 million provided by the state.

Physician Heal Thy Self

Dr. Esha Khoshnu, a New Jersey psychiatrist traveling to San Diego to attend a conference apparently became frustrated with airport personnel. While changing planes in Phoenix, Khoshnu got testy at a Mesa Airlines ticket counter, saying, "If I had a bomb, you wouldn't find it."

Airport personnel responded by detaining Khoshnu for questioning. After questioning the Doctor, FBI investigators reportedly cleared her to take a later flight to San Diego. Unfortunately, her suitcase got past security and was loaded onto Khoshnu’s original flight.

The airliner containing Khoshnu’s suitcase made a routine landing at Lindbergh Field in San Diego but, the pilot was instructed to taxi to a remote area of the airport, where about 35 passengers were taken off the plane and escorted onto two buses.

Members of the San Diego Fire Department's bomb squad searched the plane but found no explosives, officials said. They removed the woman's suitcase and inspected it in an open area on the grounds of the airport, finding nothing suspicious. But taking no chances, they blew up the bag with an explosive charge and then doused it with water.

Authorities in Phoenix said Khoshnu is not going to be charged with a crime but that she may have to pay for the search and destruction of her luggage, which could cost about $10,000.

Dr. Khoshnu has been practicing psychiatry since finishing training at Yale University in 1993 and has extensive training/experience in crisis intervention. She has long-term interests in recognizing and treating the special needs of women. More on the story here and here.

Jim Florio Still A Burden To New Jersey Taxpayers

Former Governor Jim Florio may have been voted out of office, but that hasn’t kept him off New Jersey’s payroll. Shortly after leaving office, Florio has been listed as a full-time employee of Rutgers University at annual salary of $90,947, plus a generous state benefits package. As an added bonus, his state pension will be boosted by his time at Rutgers.

Florio moonlights at Rutgers downtown New Brunswick campus as a "university professor", teaching one class, with 10 students, that meets for just under two hours on Mondays. Part-time instructors at the state university make about $3,300 per course and receive no benefits.

James W. Hughes, Dean of the university's Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy says “Florio provides full-time value for the school, smoothing the way and otherwise making introductions when the school needs to deal with state agencies and corporate donors.”

In addition to his Rutgers job, Florio is chairman and CEO of Xspand, a tax-lien collection firm with several lucrative municipal contracts in New Jersey. The former Governor also is associated with the New York law firm of Fischbein Badillo Wagner Harding, known for its lobbying prowess.

An Outrage That Deserves Your Attention and Action

This is an incredibly sad story of a Livingston, New Jersey man dead in his home for over nine months before he was discovered. Unable to find any relatives, Essex County appointed an administrator to oversee Fred Hagmann’s estate and to provide the man a proper burial. The proper burial did not include a plaque or tombstone to mark Hagmann’s burial spot, even though the State of New Jersey absorbed all of his assets.

This is complexly outrageous and unacceptable. How dare the state take the man’s estate, apparently in excess of $250,000, and not buy an appropriate grave marker for the man’s burial plot. We hope if you are as outraged as we are, you take some action to have this ultimate injustice rectified. Here is the web page for Essex County and a Google search produces this result for Attorney Howard Waxman with an office in Newark.

A summary of the story below, the entire article here.

Fred Hagmann, 76 had been dead for at least nine months when he was found by police in his home in Livingston, New Jersey. No one missed him. He had no relatives and no friends. He didn't even bother to leave home to cash an estimated $235,000 worth of Social Security and pension checks police found scattered around the one-story Cape Cod he bought in 1961.

Police believe Hagmann died around Christmas of 2003, judging from one of the last pieces of mail he opened -- a greeting card from Thomas Green, a former colleague at Schering-Plough. Green, 85, has not spoken to Hagmann for years, but sent Christmas cards every year because he felt indebted to the man. On a snowy night in December, 1960, Hagmann drove through a storm to be by Green's side after his youngest daughter died unexpectedly.

"He was one of the first ones to come to the house and tried to be of assistance to me," said Green, a Scotch Plains resident. "He was like that with everybody." Hagmann, he said, was a very quiet man, but he was well-liked because of his work ethic. He worked at Schering-Plough for 40 years and was a chemical foreman when he retired.

Police tried to track down relatives, but their search was futile. Hagmann was an only child whose mother died in 1996 and father died in 1998. He never married nor did he father any children. Essex County appointed an administrator, attorney Howard Waxman, to oversee Hagmann's estate. Waxman has to settle any outstanding debts, including the $400 electric bill that accrued while Hagmann was dead. The house and all other assets will be absorbed by the state.

Waxman also was responsible for giving Hagmann a proper burial. On the afternoon of Feb. 4, Hagmann was laid to rest without ceremony in Graceland Memorial Park in Kenilworth. It took about 20 minutes to dig the hole and lower his casket in. There were no tears, no eulogy, no mourners. The sole attendant, the funeral director, said a prayer. There are no plans for a plaque or tombstone to mark his burial spot. It will soon be covered with fresh grass.

This Is Some Coincidence

The TV show ' "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" recently filmed a scene inside a Passaic Valley Water Commission plant last year that included a body floating in a tank of water, commission officials said Friday. The show was filmed in the same water treatment plant where chemist Geetha Angara was found murdered February 9th.

"This is certainly an unfortunate coincidence," commission spokesman Ernie Landante said. [Ed. Boy is that an understatement.] "My guys [detectives] looked at the video and said it [the plot] had nothing to do with this case," Passaic County Prosecutor James F. Avigliano said.

Avigliano would neither confirm nor deny a published report that investigators had identified three plant employees who "could have had the opportunity to commit the crime." "The people in my office deny telling anyone that there were three suspects, and I certainly didn't say it," Avigliano said. "If somebody gave out that information, they would certainly be subject to disciplinary proceedings." Totowa Police Chief Robert Coyle said he knew nothing about such a suspect list.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

State Taxpayer Bill Of Rights

New Jersey must control the cost of state government and business as usual in Trenton will not bring about necessary change. The people of New Jersey need to pass an amendment to the state’s constitution limiting state spending to the rate of inflation plus population growth. Our legislators need to look no further than Colorado’s TABOR amendment to find a successful model for this initiative.

The chart below shows the dramatic reduction in spending that would have been possible had all states adopted this “bill of rights for taxpayers”.

NJ Chemist Murder Investigators Looking For A Motive

Ten days after Geetha Angara drowned in a subterranean tank on the grounds of a water-treatment plant run by the Passaic Valley Water Commission, authorities say the 43-year-old chemist's death remains a riddle. It is a homicide certainly, authorities say, but one with few clues.

There is more behind the homicide designation, but Prosecutor James Avigliano said he cannot discuss it. Asked if Angara's body had suffered trauma that might suggest she was murdered, the prosecutor responded: "The cause of death is drowning. Drowning does not give rise to a homicide (designation), so obviously, there was something else."

Angara mainly worked in a lab inside the commission's Totowa water-treatment plant, but her job often took her down to a pair of frigid tunnels in the basement, where she calibrated water-monitoring equipment and collected water specimens from hoses along the wall for testing.

Avigliano said investigators do not believe Angara committed suicide. Nor do they believe it was an accident, in part because someone replaced the steel access panel separating the tunnel floor from the mammoth tank.

Geetha Angara was the perfect mother, the perfect wife, the perfect scientist. She was not the perfect murder victim. "That's what's bizarre about this whole thing," Avigliano said. "There's no indication she was disliked. If she was a target of something, you'd at least have something to go on, but here you have this innocuous case of a woman just doing her job."

Angara, a native of India who was cremated in a Hindu funeral ceremony over the weekend, was married with two daughters, 19 and 8, and a son, 13. Angara, who earned a doctorate in organic chemistry from New York University, went to work for the Passaic Valley Water Commission 12 years ago. Relatives said she loved her work, and she was rewarded for doing it well. Last year, she was promoted to the position of senior chemist.

Armanious Family Murder - Hate Crime Or Robbery?

More than month ago the Armanious family was found brutally murdered in their home and police have still not announced a suspect. Police have suggested the murder was for money. But almost no one in Jersey City's Coptic community is accepting that. Because, rightly or wrongly, there is a real fear in this tightly knit immigrant community of Egyptian Christians that police don't want to find the real perpetrators of this crime.

After the murder, a photo of Hossam Armanious and his wife was posted on a radical Muslim Web site Barsomyat.com, with this message: "This is a picture of the filthy dog, curser of Muhammad and a photo of his filthy wife, curser of Muhammad. They got what they deserved for their actions in America. They were slaughtered along with their children as a punishment from the heavens to those who curse the most divine of all who were created."

Investigators recently told a New Jersey newspaper that they still believe the murders were about money, even though relatives of the victims said the Armanious family did not have hidden wealth. Police say the house was ransacked and money was taken, but relatives said almost nothing was taken.

Ayman Garas is Mrs. Armanious’ brother. He said, "It's out of the discussion if you even say robbery. This is not acceptable. It's not robbery, no." Family members also wonder why, if it was robbery, did Amal Armanious still have a $3,500 ring on her finger when her body was found?

But some are wondering if there is political pressure to somehow turn an anti-Christian hate crime into a robbery. Coptic Christians said they came to America to be protected from Muslim extremism. But many now feel as if America is letting them down. One woman said, “Our families in Egypt are under this type of threat every single day. Keep this story alive. Remember these people, these people were normal human beings asleep in their homes."

Corzine - One Of The Nation's Leading Experts On The Economy

Did anyone see Jon Corzine on Fox News Special Report tonight? He was interviewed by Jim Angle about his views on Social Security reform during a short segment. We were struck by his inability to articulate his opinions, but we shouldn’t have been surprised given his rambling performance during the Senate Banking committee hearing with the Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan this past week.

Frankly, we expected more from the Senator with the modesty to describe himself in his own press release as: “Corzine, who is considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the economy and financial markets …”

Tip: To finding a word on a web page. Left click "edit" on your browser bar. Select "find on this page" option on the drop down menu. This will bring up the “find” dialogue box. Enter the word(s) you wish to locate on the page in the space next to "find what". Click on the "find next" button to be taken to the first occurrence of the word(s) on the web page. You may also use the short cut Ctrl+F to bring up the "find" dialogue box.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Three Suspects Identified In NJ Chemist Murder

Investigators yesterday identified three suspects in the drowning murder of a New Jersey water-treatment chemist, with roughly 40 of the woman's co-workers left to be interviewed.

A fellow employee shoved Geetha Angara, 43, into a dark, 35-foot-deep well at the Passaic Valley Water Commission plant in Totowa last week, authorities said. Because the plant closely monitors who comes and goes, only a co-worker could have committed the murder

"We have now interviewed about half of the 85 people who worked with her," said Passaic County Prosecutor James Avigliano. A law-enforcement source said that only three of those already questioned "could have had the opportunity to commit the crime."

Meanwhile, the family of tragic mom of three, who came to New York from India in 1984 for a better life, are urging a sweeping review of security procedures at the supposedly ultra-secure plant, which supplies water to Passaic, Clifton and Paterson.

Corzine Makes His Choice and It’s Not For New Jersey Taxpayers

Where does Jon Corzine stand on federal spending, income tax policy and the deficit? A review of his recent actions in the Senate and his statements to the press may help us to identify his positions. All quotations cited in this post have been made by Senator Corzine since February 1, 2005.

As part of his prebuttal to President Bush’s State of the Union, Senator Corzine said:

“… the President has a responsibility to offer a real road map for deficit reduction which does not place the burden on New Jersey’s working families.”

Reducing the federal deficit can only occur if taxes received by the federal government are increasingly greater than federal spending. How can this be achieved? One way is to grow the economy in order to raise taxpayer income that in turn increases tax revenue to the government. Another is to cut federal spending below present levels and of course the government can raise taxes. A combination of increases in tax revenues and spending cuts will also do the trick.

How would Senator Corzine achieve a reduction in the federal deficit? The Senator never proposes a road map, but perhaps we can infer from his Senate record and press releases his position. Criticizing the President’s budget proposal Corzine said:

The President’s priorities are skewed and are wrong for New Jersey, as it became clear that the President’s spending proposal would have significant and negative impacts on delivering services at the local and state level.

New Jersey priorities simply are not met in this budget and, as such, I will fight to protect our state’s priorities and values as deliberations on the budget unfold.”

Corzine in the same press release goes on to cite a number of examples of cuts proposed in the Bush budget that he believes would negatively impact New Jersey:

“President Bush’s budget also denies 32,822 kids in New Jersey a safe place to go after school by cutting New Jersey's funding for after school programs by $24 million.”

New Jersey residents stand to lose $45 million just from the Community Development Block Grant, cut. In effect, President Bush has proposed a property tax increase of at least $45 million on the people of New Jersey with this cut. (New Jersey received $113 million last year under the CDBG program).

Senator Corzine doesn’t provide alternatives to these or other proposed budget cuts. Significant cuts in the federal budget do not appear to have a major role in a Corzine deficit reduction plan. As a great man once said, “a litany of complaints is not a plan.”

In recent weeks Senator Corzine has sponsored or co-sponsored a number of bills that would increase federal spending. The spending measure he announced today caught our attention.

New Jersey Democrats Sen. Jon Corzine and Rep. Frank Pallone introduced bills Thursday to establish a global tsunami warning system and called for long-term assistance and relief for victims of December's catastrophe in South Asia.

The bills would earmark $38 million in the next fiscal year for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to expand the early warning system now in place in the Pacific Ocean to include the coastlines along the Atlantic and Indian oceans, and the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, Mediterranean and European waterways. After the system is in place, the bills would provide $32 million annually to maintain it.

Expanding the U.S. early warning system is a worthy and charitable goal, especially in light of the recent tsunami devastation in south Asia. But why is it the sole responsibility the United States to pick up the tab? Certainly the cost of a project that benefits the entire population of the earth could be shared. Is spending on this project a priority of the United States?

Is this global project more important to Jon Corzine than the $24 million for after school programs the Senator complained would be lost under the President’s proposed budget? Would Corzine rather spend $38 million to expand the warning system and $32 million a year to maintain it, than fund Community Development Block Grants for New Jersey? Is Corzine proposing a property tax increase of at least $38 million on the people of New Jersey with his spending proposal?

We think Senator Corzine would say that he is not suggesting one program take precedence over the other and he is not proposing a property tax increase. More than likely he would answer by saying, we can and we should pay for all these important programs. However, doesn’t opposing budget cuts and calling for increased spending place the Senator in somewhat of a dilemma? How it is possible to oppose budget cuts, increase spending and bring about deficit reduction without placing the burden on New Jersey’s taxpayers?

This leads us to question Senator Corzine’s sincerity in his call for federal deficit reduction or his seriousness about not wishing to place the burden on New Jersey taxpayers. Perhaps he isn’t genuinely concerned with either objective. We do know from his voting record that he opposes income tax cuts and that he favors rolling back the income tax cuts of the President's first term. Corzine has made it quite clear, with a choice between budgets cuts and tax increases, he’d opt for tax increases.

Denouncing the President’s budget proposal Senator Corzine said:

“And, while the President is fighting to extend tax cuts to those who need them the least, this budget is cutting programs designed to give a hand up to those who need the help the most.”

What happened to Senator Corzine’s cry for not burdening the taxpayers of New Jersey? Whose side is Jon Corzine on – certainly not the taxpayers of the Garden State? New Jersey has the lowest federal spending-to-tax ratio of any state at 57¢. That means for every dollar of income tax we send to the federal government, the citizen’s of New Jersey receive 57¢ in return, the worst return in the nation. This is not a new phenomenon, high cost of living states like New Jersey have been on the losing side of federal tax and spend policy for decades.

Clearly, federal income tax cuts are most beneficial to states that are net losers - those that receive less than a dollar back from Washington for every income tax dollar sent to the IRS. And New Jersey taxpayers, the biggest losers in the country, have more to gain from federal income tax cuts than taxpayers from any other state.

So much for not wanting to burden New Jersey taxpayers. A Senator that truly represented the interests of the state would be calling for greater income tax cuts and less federal spending. But that’s not Jon Corzine’s opinion – he’s already told us what he believes. “The President is fighting to extend tax cuts to those who need them the least.” Apparently Senator Corzine believes the people of New Jersey need federal tax cuts the least, the facts prove otherwise. Thank God New Jersey has a friend in the Whitehouse.

Just Another Day In New Jersey

We’ve seen ads for this eye surgeon on T.V. and there is currently a click through ad on Nj.com. for the Doc. The whole thing is scary when you learn an insurance company for prominent Bergen County eye surgeon, Dr. Joseph Dello Russo, must pay $15.3 million to cover malpractice claims made by 16 former patients.

After years of budget raids and record unemployment payouts, the state trust fund set up to pay benefits to jobless workers has dropped below $1 billion for the first time in 20 years, sparking talk about whether emergency action is needed to bolster it.

More New Jersey School construction projects out of control.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Giving New Jersey’s Budget Their BEST

We can just imagine the folks in Trenton working on Acting Governor Codey’s budget proposal for New Jersey – looking for anything to close the $4 billion budget gap. Developing the budget in our state must be an extremely difficult task, because strategic planning in New Jersey is almost non-existent.

The state does not have a statewide strategic plan and there is limited agency planning. There is little evidence of a state and agency-wide formal process to produce and use performance and cost information during the budgeting process. So lacking any plan, costing models or data to evaluate program effectiveness, we guess they just “wing it”. Little wonder New Jersey is in such a fiscal mess.

That reminds us, what ever happened to the BEST commission? In FY 2003, Trenton appropriated $250,000 for the Budget Efficiency Savings Team (BEST). This commission was established by Executive Order No. 2 of 2002 to undertake a “complete comprehensive and thorough examination of all aspects of the state’s spending practices to identify areas of waste, mismanagement, abuse, and unnecessary spending.”

The BEST Commission was supposed to provide the Governor with a list of recommendations and was supposed to issue a final report of its findings. So far, no report has been issued and this is not the only report the New Jersey's executive branch has failed to prepare over the years.

It makes you wonder what became of BEST and their report. Was the $250,000 spent? Was the report completed but, the findings just too embarrassing to be shown to the public? Was a decision made not to undertake the project because its mission wasn’t a priority to the leaders in Trenton?

Can you believe McGreevey and company raised state spending by double digits after writing this document.

WHEREAS, the State is confronting a severe fiscal crisis caused by a pattern of profligate spending and irresponsible borrowing practices;

WHEREAS, these fiscal practices have been exacerbated by increasing statutory spending obligations and declining tax revenues;

WHEREAS, the State has heretofore failed, even in the face of mounting evidence that the State would confront tremendous and debilitating budget deficits in Fiscal Years 2003 and 2004, to implement timely remedial actions such as implementing significant budget freezes, cutting costs and ending unnecessary discretionary spending.

WHEREAS, the denial of the magnitude of the fiscal problems confronting the State and the consequent failure to take sufficient and timely corrective actions have placed the State in fiscal jeopardy, causing the leading rating agencies to downgrade New Jersey's creditworthiness;

WHEREAS, the unprecedented scope of the fiscal dilemma has impaired and will impair the ability of the State to provide necessary programs to its citizens;

WHEREAS, as Governor, I have a responsibility to ensure a balanced budget, manage the operations of State Government effectively and efficiently, and maintain necessary government programs and assistance to the public;

WHEREAS, N.J. Const. (1947), Art. VIII, §II, ¶2, requires that State government expenditures do not exceed available State revenues....

New Jersey Teacher and Police Officer Busted For Gun Trafficking

An Irvington school teacher and his wife, who is a police officer, were arrested today as part of an undercover operation to crack a gun trafficking ring that included the teacher's brother-in-law, authorities said.

William Mayes, a ninth-grade teacher at Success Academy, part of West Side High School in Newark, and his wife, Irvington police Officer Cynthia Owens-Mayes, were arrested at their Irvington home. The Newark school district has suspended William Mayes with pay.

Will The Honest Democrats Please Come Forward

It’s hard to believe a grand jury would be the least bit surprised by anything involving a New Jersey politician. The Democrats had a banner year last year, as chronicled in this post. It’s just more of the same – corruption, corruption, corruption.

We think it’s time for the honest Democrats to step forward and do a complete house cleaning – their party is completely out of control. Can anyone think of a single reason the people of New Jersey should entrust running the state to the Democrats? Read about the latest scandalhere, snips below.

A state grand jury is hearing testimony into allegations that former State Police officials and a former state senator conducted a covert operation that used confidential files in an effort to smear Republicans and help James E. McGreevey run for governor four years ago.

The grand jury investigation began in September, 10 months after the accusations were detailed in The Star-Ledger and only weeks after McGreevey announced he would resign as governor because of a sex scandal. The probe, which has been conducted in secret so far, is focusing on the alleged theft and misuse of confidential State Police records, according to two state officials with direct knowledge of the case.

"They granted me immunity," Bellaran said. "I testified three times. Once they asked me a question, I started spewing. ... These people (on the grand jury) had their mouths agape."

Bellaran said he took grand jurors through the key points he had already made both in sworn statements and in interviews with The Star-Ledger. Bellaran said that between 1999 and early 2002, he and Lt. Col. Cajetan "Tommy" DeFeo took confidential information, including personnel orders and medical records stored under lock and key, from State Police files, with the aim of damaging state Republicans and helping McGreevey, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, in the 2001 race.

Bellaran said the operation was orchestrated by McGreevey's longtime mentor and ally, then-state Sen. John Lynch (D-Middlesex). Some of the information was passed to Lynch for use in legislative hearings into the State Police practice of racial profiling, Bellaran said. Other information was passed to newspapers in an attempt to generate stories aimed at humiliating people close to then-Gov. Christie Whitman.

Lynch denied any knowledge of such an operation and said he was unaware of the grand jury probe.

Three ranking officials familiar with the investigation confirmed a probe was opened after months of private reviews inside the Attorney General's Office. Bellaran first made the allegations in a deposition in a civil lawsuit in September 2003.

Codey Can Solve The Budget Crisis If He has The Guts

We have noticed a few references about a potential windfall to the state’s treasury from the conversion of Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, a not-for-profit company, into a public corporation. Should Horizon make this conversion, the new, “for profit” entity would be required to repay New Jersey an estimated $1 billion to $ 3 billion for decades of tax exemptions.

The infusion of cash, under these circumstances, would not come in a lump sum, but would be paid to the state of New Jersey over a period of years, in keeping with federal securities law. See references here and here.

Should New Jersey be the fortunate recipient of this windfall, we suggest the folks in Trenton not include the anticipated payments by Horizon as part of the State’s operating budget, found money to be used for additional spending or pet projects. In our opinion the money should be used for retirement of State debt.

Using nonrecurring revenue to fund ongoing state expenses merely kicks the budget problems down the road and doesn’t solve the underlying issue – spending that is greater than normal revenue streams received by the state. We realize Acting Governor Codey is hoping he may be able to save property tax rebates with the windfall but this is not a prudent financial decision.

Casting about for ways to generate new revenue for the state is not the answer. This is just a typical Democrat knee-jerk reaction – raise taxes. Leasing the state’s turnpike to a foreign firm is not an answer. But the fact a company believes it can give Trenton a big bag full of money, run and maintain the turnpike and make a profit, speaks volumes. New Jersey is just not run efficiently, it hemorrhages money due to mismanagement and it wastes money on programs that are not effective. Fraud and corruption in the state only add insult to injury.

Codey is a lame duck, but he has the power of the veto and he should use it to the advantage of all taxpayers. He should submit a balanced budget to the legislature that does not include a single tax increase. He should vow to veto any bills containing a tax increase and we think he’d have enough support within the legislature to sustain his resolve. If he doesn’t have the guts, then we will just need to wait for the new Republican Governor in 2006.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Life Discovered On Mars – Well, Not Exactly

We know this post has nothing to do with New Jersey, but the story did grab our attention. You see Blogger has been eating our posts lately, so we went searching for a possible explanation and came across a report claiming life had been discovered on Mars.

Space aliens are often cited as a possible cause of any number of strange and weird occurrences, so we wondered could it be that newly discovered life on Mars was responsible for our posts vanishing into the ether? It turns out no, life may exist on Mars, but no “grays” or “little green men” were found. Our problem remains a mystery.

Scientists Carol Stoker and Larry Lemke of NASA’s Ames Research Center told a group of space officials at a private meeting on Sunday, they have found strong evidence that life may exist today on Mars. Life that may be hidden away in caves and sustained by pockets of water.

So have the scientists actually found life on Mars? Not exactly. What Stoker and Lemke have found is not direct proof of life on Mars, but methane signatures and other signs of possible biological activity remarkably similar to those recently discovered in caves here on Earth.

Property Tax Rebates In Jeopardy

New Jersey’s property tax is 33% higher than it was five years ago. The politician’s response to the out of control tax hikes was to increase property tax rebates. A political gimmick, costing who knows much to administer, which provides minimal tax relief. The whole program should be scrapped and real property tax reform should be enacted.

Least you think we are willing to give up the tiny bit of relief taxpayers enjoy, more than likely rebates this year will be greatly reduced or nonexistent according to this Star-Ledger report.

Acting Gov. Richard Codey said yesterday the state's looming budget deficit could force him to slash property tax rebates, just one year after lawmakers boosted them by raising the income tax on New Jersey's richer residents.

In an hour-long interview with the editorial board of The Star-Ledger, Codey said middle-class homeowners who were eligible last year for a maximum $800 rebate may end up with checks of $300 or less. He said seniors and disabled people would see their maximum rebate drop from $1,200 to $800. The acting governor will propose his budget March 1.

Chemist Death At NJ Water Treatment Plant Ruled a Homicide

We hope the authorities are able to get to the bottom of this horrible crime. It certainly gives you pause when you think about a murder committed at a water treatment plant and the potential reasons and suspects. Unfortunately the crime scene may have been compromised, complicating the investigation.

A senior chemist whose body was found at the bottom of a tank at a water treatment plant last week drowned, and her death has been ruled a homicide, Passaic County Prosecutor James Avigliano said yesterday.

Geetha Angara's was apparently killed as she went about testing water at the massive Passaic Valley Water Commission complex in Totowa, NJ. Investigators plan to question all 85 employees who worked on her daytime shift for clues.

However, investigation into the mysterious death was compromised by scores of employees and police walking through the scene and possibly moving evidence before detectives arrived, according toPassaic County Prosecutor James Avigliano

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Corzine News Brieflet # 11

Corzine, Schumer, Reed Challenge Greenspan on Social Security, Debt Prior to Fed Chairman’s Appearance before the Senate Banking Committee - Senators Pre-but Fed Chairman’s Likely Support for Private Accounts

Nothing like keeping an open mind. How effective are these preemptive strikes by Corzine and his fellow Democrats? Pre-buttals to Bush’s Inaugural address, his state of the Union speech, Social Security reform and now to a highly regarded expert‘s testimony.

It seems to us the only way Corzine; et al could correctly anticipate Greenspan’s testimony, is if they know what he will say under oath is correct and will logically bolster the President’s call for Social Security reform.

Corzine Votes to Confirm Chertoff as Homeland Security Chief - Even Corzine couldn’t buck the tide of a unanimous senate vote

New Jersey Muslim Group Seeks Tolerance

When we originally came across this report on Sunday evening we had decided to ignore it. Just one more case of Senator Corzine and his Democrat pals pandering to the latest group of “victims”.

Speakers at an annual Islamic brunch on Sunday called for greater understanding and tolerance, saying Muslims face constant threats to the kind of everyday existence that other Americans take for granted.

Among the speakers were U.S. Sen. Jon S. Corzine, D-N.J.; Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-Paterson, and Assemblywoman Loretta Weinberg, D-Teaneck.

"The American Muslim community has never felt so insecure and apprehensive due to discrimination and intolerance," "Our government's actions following 9/11 have impacted and continue to impact tens of thousands of individuals in ways which seriously violate our Constitution. They include ethnically and religiously based interrogations, detentions, raids and closures of Muslim charities."

Though the event came just one month after the slaying of four members of a Coptic Orthodox family in Jersey City, that incident was hardly mentioned. After the killings, a police source said that one of several leads being pursued was the possibility that the deaths were carried out by religious extremists.

Of course this report reminded us of the killing of the Armanious family in Jersey City. It also called to mind this quote from Ahmed Shedeed, director of the Islamic Center of Jersey City. His remark apparently prompted in response to the fear and speculation growing among the city’s Coptic Christians that the killings might have been religiously motivated.

"We Muslims living in America are getting sick of this crap," he said. "Why should we have to apologize for or make a defense of something we had nothing to do with? There is no proof at all that Muslims had anything to do with this, yet we are taking the blame again. Is Islam on trial, or is a killer on trial?"

One month later the Armanious case has not been solved, but this is what we know based upon today’s report by North Jersey.com

We do know that a Coptic Christian husband, wife and their two young daughters were savagely murdered.

Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio still won't discuss the intricate details of the case or explain why investigators are leaning toward a financial motive for the killings. But he did provide a glimpse into the probe, which has included assistance from an FBI profiler.

One investigator familiar with the case said, the extent of Hossam Armanious' injuries suggests a substantial effort was expended and that the killers likely spent a "considerable amount of time" inside the house. Armanious clearly suffered the worst of the injuries, including numerous stab wounds. Each member of the family was found bound by duct tape, a bag over their head and all appeared to have suffered "ritualistic" injuries that included holes bored under each victim's neck.

DeFazio conceded: "This was a savage, savage attack. Whoever did this are not humans." However, he insisted the injuries aren't consistent with those in ritualistic homicide.

One theory holds that the victims were significantly wealthier than their modest home indicated and the killers were trying to gain access to the hidden money. Although there was evidence of robbery, a large amount of jewelry remained untouched, authorities said. Several religious symbols - including cross tattoos on each family member's wrist - weren't damaged.

Investigators were still pursuing court orders to gain access to family records. DeFazio wouldn't say which, nor would he discuss the family's finances, other than to say, "They didn't live hand to mouth."

"Do you think if it was financial they would not take the gold and a ring from my sister's finger?" said Ayman Garas, the dead woman's brother. "Do you think if Hossam had a lot of money he would have complained about his job not giving him enough hours? "I mean, he never complained about money, but he wasn't rich." Armanious was laid off from the catering job about six months ago and Amal Garas had recently gotten a job with the U.S. Postal Service, said Rafique Iscandar, a family friend.

"There's a lot of confluence in this case, I'll give you that," said DeFazio, who has been studying writings about the Quran, the Muslim holy book, to gain knowledge about Islam.

A mitigating factor in how many Coptics view the killings is a deep mistrust of the Egyptian government, which many accuse of systematic discrimination. Many Copts fled Egypt to America in the 1980s and 1990s to avoid what they perceived as growing Islamic fundamentalism and an increase in tension between the Muslim majority and the Christian minority.

"Americans are stupid and naïve," Iscandar said. "They don't understand the Middle East."

The report goes on to recount Hossam Armanious searching for the deposed Bishop of Luxor during a trip to Egypt this past summer and that Mr. Armanious found him in a monastery in the desert. We learn the FBI has gone to Egypt to investigate and that it is not known whether Armanious' trip or visit with the bishop had any connection to the homicides. No matter how you look at this case, it is not your run of the mill robbery, mass murder.

So what’s our point? Every time we read one of these stories about Muslims complaining that they live under constant threat in the U.S. because of their religion, we want to scream. We could spit nails every time an American politician falls in line with this Muslims are victims meme.

Those complaining never point to any actual facts or provide substantiated cases in which Muslims have been harmed in the United States because of their religious faith. Instead we get vague references to the impact of the Patriot Act on the Muslim population, purported treatment of Muslims in violation of the U.S. Constitution and tales of unfounded raids on Muslim charities.

We think it is a testament to the tolerance of the American people that Muslims living in the United States have not been subjected to a major backlash by the American people after the Islamic terrorist attacks of 9/11.

When will non-Muslims be afforded religious tolerance by Muslims? We are sick of living under a constant barrage of Muslim threats. The never ending threats that come from the audio and video tapes of Bin Laden and Zawahir; the barbarous acts we witness committed by jihadists around the world in the name of Islam and the hate and violence incited by Muslim leaders against the infidel in American mosques, as well as those around the world.

Americans have shown our tolerance and compassion towards Muslims in the outpouring of sympathy and charitable donations to the Asian tsunami victims and through our military action to save Muslims from being slaughtered in Bosnia and Kosovo. Recent actions by Americans that occurred before and after 9/11. If there has been a reciprocal expression of tolerance by a Muslim group, we’ve missed it.

We are all for religious tolerance and recognize that you can’t judge a whole people based upon the actions of the few. However, we think Muslims might cut the rest of us a break the next time someone gives them a “dirty look” in light of their 300 million calling for our death and destruction.

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