Monthly Archives: March 2010

Video: The Health Care Slime Machine

Last night’s Daily Show with Jon Stewart was another example of classic television as only Jon Stewart and company can make.

After returning from a weeks vacation Stewart wants to know who is really responsible for fanning the flames of violence over health care reform following the passage of the health care bill.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Health Care Slime Machine
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Health Care Reform

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Filed under health care reform, Jon Stewart, The Daily Show

N.J. Gov. Chris Christie’s approval rating drops 9 points after budget proposal

It looks like the Honeymoon is over for Chris Christie, according to a new Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind survey the governor’s popularity around the state has taken a 9% nose dive since the beginning of March when a similar poll found that Christie enjoyed a 52% job approval rating before making dramatic announcements of cuts to the state budget.

Better than two-thirds of Republicans approve of the job he’s doing, and independents approve by 49%-19%, while Democrats disapprove by 45%- 23%. The governor approval rating in non-public-employee households is 44%-28% but drops in public-employee households to 37%-49%.

“It’s a bad time to be governor of any state,” said Peter Woolley, a political scientist and director of the poll. “You’re damned if you cut the budget and damned if you raise taxes.”

Read more from NJ.com >>> Here

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Filed under approval rating, Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind Poll, Gov. Chris Christie, NJ.com

What Were They Saying Before The Decision To Cancel The Sports Complex

I went back to my archivist to see if he could grabbed me some audio clips of what everyone had to say about using the bonded funds for the artificial turf fields for other uses.

He sent me 5 clips of Township Attorney Brian Nelson,Township Administrator Tony Mercantante and Mayor Gerry Scharfenberger stating that the bond money has to be used for recreation or turf fields. These clips are from Committee meetings on February 1st, March 1st and March 15th .

Nelson and Mercantante address a person’s question concerning whether or not the bond for the turf fields could be appropriated for other use during the February 1st meeting.
Scharfenberger adds his two cents in the following three sound bites, the first two of which are from the March 1st Township Committee Workshop meeting where he is heard saying that the money for the turf fields could not be used for other projects but could be appropriated for a different facility. He later stated that the turf fields were part of Green Acres and there for needed to be discussed at an official public meeting that would be scheduled for the end of March.

The last clip is from the March 15th Township Committee meeting and is of Mayor Scharfenberger announcing that the resolution that would give the go ahead for CMX Engineering to finalize plans and proceed to mark up project bidding specifications for the sports complex at West Front Street was being pulled, but they were going to move ahead with the field at WFSP anyway just not with all the amenities.
Then all of a sudden at the informal March 23th Neighborhood Meeting at Croydon Hall, Gerry Scharfenberger announced that himself and those members of the Township Committee that were in attendance that evening came to a consensus decision to cancel the turf project all together due to concerns over state aid figures that he had just been informed of, and because of this the Township would recall the bond and return the money to the lender.
Using the decline in state aid as a cover story for cancelling the turf projects was just a convenient excuse on Scharfenberger’s end. Both he and Pam Brightbill, had been telling everyone for months prior to the meeting that the bonded funds for the turf fields had no impact on the budget and based on the article that appeared in the Independent, the Township knew a week earlier about the state aid cut, which they had been talking about for the past few Committee meetings anyway.
So will the audio shine anymore light onto the shady dealing that go on down at Town Hall? Not really, but they do give a little bit of insight into the thinking of for what and how the money that was bonded for the turf fields in 2006 could be used for even if it was contrary to the actual language of the bond ordinance.

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Filed under artificial turf fields, Brian Nelson, CMX Engineering, Gerry Scharfenberger, Middletown Township Committee, Neighborhood meetings, the Independent, Tony Mercantante, West Front Street

Michael Steele Spent RNC Money on Bottle Service at a Bondage Club

It amazes me how this guy still has a job, his creditability has to be close to zero. I bet those in the GOP can’t wait until his term as Chairman is over.

Posted at GAWKER.com

Michael Steele is just wasting RNC money on limos and private planes and, yes, private bondage-themed nightclubs with topless ladies.

Tucker Carlson’s The Daily Carlsoning has a wonderful story about how Michael Steele considered buying a private plane, because he spends so much time flying to nightclubs and Hawaii, but he decided not to. Instead he found many other creative ways to waste money.

Once on the ground, FEC filings suggest, Steele travels in style. A February RNC trip to California, for example, included a $9,099 stop at the Beverly Hills Hotel, $6,596 dropped at the nearby Four Seasons, and $1,620.71 spent [update: the amount is actually $1,946.25] at Voyeur West Hollywood, a bondage-themed nightclub featuring topless women dancers imitating lesbian sex.

Now, Voyeur is not really a “strip club” so much as a terrible-sounding nightclub with bottle service, long lines, Lindsay Lohan, and, yes, half-naked ladies simulating oral sex on each other. Which, to be honest, sounds way stupider than a proper, respectable strip club. Shame on you, Michael Steele, for encouraging this kind of thing.

The GOP really has to get around to firing the embarrassing and inept Michael Steele eventually. Steele spent $1.4 million on the GOP’s terrible new website, he charges $15,000 for speaking appearances, and his RNC continues to spend more than it takes in as we begin the campaign season in earnest.

But it would still present a bit of an image problem to fire the one prominent black Republican in America.

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Filed under Gawker.com, nightclub, private planes, RNC Chairman Michael Steele, strip clubs, the GOP, wasted money

NJPP Monday Minute 3/29/10: Proposed budget cuts anger many at budget hearings

New Jersey citizens and groups have been packing hearing rooms throughout the state as the legislature begins public hearings on Gov. Christie’s FY2011 budget proposal. The governor has repeatedly said everything but spending cuts are off the table to close the nearly $11 billion budget gap, a move that has angered advocates for children, schools and healthcare to name just a few.

In her March 23 testimony before the Senate Budget Committee, NJPP Interim President Mary Forsberg stated that the economic crisis facing New Jersey is too severe for just one approach, as the governor seems bent on doing. “You can respond to shortfalls like these in three ways,” she said. “You can raise taxes, you can reduce expenditures, or you can opt for a balanced approach that includes increased revenue and responsible savings.”

Senior Policy Analyst Raymond Castro’s testimony on March 25 before the Senate Budget Committee focused on the governor’s cuts to FamilyCare, noting that Gov. Christie had already closed enrollment to all parents above 133 percent of the federal poverty level and plans to increase premiums for many of parents remaining in the program.

“While closing enrollment to 39,000 parents in 2011 will save $25 million in state funds, it results in a loss of $45 million in federal funds-the last thing New Jersey needs in a recession,” said Castro.

The proposed budget also ends all state funding for FamilyCare outreach, making it impossible for the state to meet its goal of insuring all children by 2013. Again this results in a loss of federal funds.

As part of the Better Choices for New Jersey coalition, NJPP has identified $1.6 billion in additional revenue and savings that would allow the state to avoid the worst of these cuts:

  • Restoring the marginal tax rate increase on those making over $400,000 a year would generate about $1 billion in revenue.
  • Increasing the motor vehicle registration fees on gas guzzlers could bring in $140 million.
  • Retaining the surcharge on corporate business tax liabilities and increasing it to eight percent instead of four percent would provide $160 million in revenue.
  • Closing corporate loopholes and instituting a system of combined reporting for businesses could save New Jersey taxpayers close to $250 million.
The Senate and Assembly will continue to hold hearings over the next few months in the lead up to negotiations with the governor over a final budget, which must be signed by the end of the day on June 30, 2010. There are still opportunities to testify about the impact of the budget on issues of concern to you. It is possible to sign-up either online or by phone.

In addition you can contact your legislator. Tell him or her that everyone should share in the sacrifice-not just students, teachers, public employees, transit riders and those who have no voice.

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Filed under budget cuts, Gov. Chris Christie, Monday Minute, New Jersey Policy Perspective, public anger

Saturday Morning Cartoons: SUPERMAN & THE MAD SCIENTIST

Look, up in the sky!

It’s a bird…It’s a plane….NO IT’S SUPERMAN!!

It’s cartoon time

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Filed under Saturday morning cartoons, Superman

President Obama’s Weekly Address: 3/27/10 Two Major Reforms on Health Care & Higher Ed

The President looks back on a week that saw the passage of two major sets of reforms: one putting Americans in control of their own health care, and one ensuring student loans work for students and families, not as subsidies for bankers and middlemen.

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Filed under Education, health care reform, President Obama, student loans, weekly address

HOLT TOUTS IMMEDIATE HEALTH INSURANCE REFORM BENEFITS FOR NJ

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 25, 2010

(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12) today highlighted benefits of health insurance reform that would go into effect within the year. Holt attended President Obama’s bill signing on Tuesday.

“Health care reform has been a long time coming – almost 100 years in the making. Yet, the benefits will be felt immediately, giving families and small businesses control over their health care,” Holt said. “Small businesses will soon receive tax credits, patients will no longer lose coverage when they get sick, and seniors will have help paying for prescription drugs and have access to free preventive care. And as it turns out, lawyers combing the legislation have failed to find any death panels.”

The following reforms would go into effect within the year:

• Providing tax credits for small business owners who help pay health insurance for employees

• Providing $250 payments to help seniors who find themselves in the prescription drug donut hole (and eventually the donut hole will be eliminated)

• Banning insurance companies from dropping coverage when someone gets sick

• Preventing Insurance companies from denying coverage to children with preexisting conditions

• Prohibiting insurance companies from setting lifetime limits or restrictive annual caps on benefits

• Extending free preventive care in all new private plans

• Establishing a new independent appeals process for those who feel they have unfairly been denied an insurance claim

According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), health insurance reform legislation would cut the deficit by $143 billion in the first ten years and by $1.2 trillion in the second decade. CBO determined that the bill would extend Medicare’s solvency by at least 9 years and expand health coverage to 32 million Americans, guaranteeing coverage for 95 percent of Americans.

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Filed under Congressional Budget Office, Congressman Rush Holt, health care reform, Health Insurance Reform, press release

Health insurance reform: How will it affect YOU this year!

From my friends at Newjerseynewsroom.com:

“Health care reform has been a long time coming – almost 100 years in the making,” said U.S. Rep Rush Holt (NJ-12). “Yet, the benefits will be felt immediately, giving families and small businesses control over their health care.

“Small businesses will soon receive tax credits, patients will no longer lose coverage when they get sick, and seniors will have help paying for prescription drugs and have access to free preventive care. And as it turns out, lawyers combing the legislation have failed to find any death panels.”

The following are key provisions that take effect within a year:

FOR SMALL BUSINESSES

SMALL BUSINESS TAX CREDITS — Offers tax credits to small businesses to make employee coverage more affordable. Tax credits of up to 35 percent of premiums will be immediately available. Effective beginning for calendar year 2010. (Beginning in 2014, small business tax credits will cover 50 percent of premiums.)

FOR SENIORS

BEGINS TO CLOSE THE MEDICARE PART D DONUT HOLE — Provides a $250 rebate to Medicare beneficiaries who hit the donut hole in 2010. Effective for calendar year 2010. (Beginning in 2011, institutes a 50% discount on brand-name drugs in the donut hole; also completely closes the donut hole by 2020.)

FREE PREVENTIVE CARE UNDER MEDICARE — Eliminates co-payments for preventive services and exempts preventive services from deductibles under the Medicare program. Effective beginning January 1, 2011.

HELP FOR EARLY RETIREES — Creates a temporary re_insurance program (until the Exchanges are available) to help offset the costs of expensive health claims for employers that provide health benefits for retirees age 55-64. Effective 90 days after enactment

FOR THOSE PRIVATELY INSURED

NO DISCRIMINATON AGAINST CHILDREN WITH PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS — Prohibits health plans from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions. Effective 6 months after enactment. (Beginning in 2014, this prohibition would apply to adults as well.)

NO RESCISSIONS — Bans health plans from dropping people from coverage when they get sick. Effective 6 months after enactment.

NO LIFETIME LIMITS ON COVERAGE — Prohibits health plans from placing lifetime caps on coverage. Effective 6 months after enactment.

TIGHTLY REGULATES ANNUAL LIMITS ON COVERAGE — Tightly restricts new plans’ use of annual limits to ensure access to needed care. These tight restrictions will be defined by HHS. Effective 6 months after enactment. (Beginning in 2014, the use of any annual limits would be prohibited for all plans.)

FREE PREVENTIVE CARE UNDER NEW PLANS — Requires new private plans to cover preventive services with no co-payments and with preventive services being exempt from deductibles. Effective 6 months after enactment.

NEW, INDEPENDENT APPEALS PROCESS FOR NEW PLANS — Ensures consumers in new plans have access to an effective internal and external appeals process to appeal decisions. Effective 6 months after enactment.

MORE FOR YOUR PREMIUM DOLLAR — Requires plans to put more of your premiums into your care, and less into profits, CEO pay, etc. This medical loss ratio requires plans in the individual and small group market to spend 80 percent of premiums on medical services, and plans in the large group market to spend 85 percent. Insurers that don’t meet these thresholds must provide rebates to policyholders. Effective on January 1, 2011.

NO DISCRIMINATION BASED ON SALARY — Prohibits new group health plans from establishing any eligibility rules for health care coverage that have the effect of discriminating in favor of higher wage employees. Effective 6 months after enactment.

FOR THOSE UNINSURED

IMMEDIATE HELP FOR THE UNINSURED WITH PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS (INTERIM HIGH-RISK POOL) — Provides immediate access to insurance for Americans who are uninsured because of a pre- existing condition — through a temporary high-risk pool — until the Exchanges up and running in 2014. Effective 90 days after enactment. (Beginning in 2014, health plans are banned from discriminating against all people with pre-existing conditions, so high_risk pools would phase out).

EXTENDING COVERAGE FOR YOUNG PEOPLE UP TO 26TH BIRTHDAY THROUGH PARENTS’ INSURANCE — Requires health plans to allow young people up to their 26th birthday to remain on their parents’ insurance policy, at the parents’ choice. Effective 6 months after enactment.

GENERAL REFORMS

COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTERS — Increases funding for Community Health Centers to allow for nearly doubling the number of patients served over the next 5 years. Effective beginning in fiscal year 2010.

MORE PRIMARY CARE DOCTORS — Provides new investment in training programs to increase the number of primary care doctors, nurses, and public health professionals. Effective beginning in fiscal year 2010.

HEALTH INSURANCE CONSUMER ASSISTANCE — Provides aid to states to establish offices of health insurance consumer assistance to help consumers file complaints and appeals. Effective beginning in FY 2010.

CREATES NEW, VOLUNTARY, PUBLIC LONG-TERM CARE INSURANCE PROGRAM — Creates a long-term care insurance program to be financed by voluntary payroll deductions to provide benefits to adults who become functionally disabled. Effective on January 1, 2011.

MORE REFORMS THAT BEGIN IN 2014 (WHEN EXCHANGES HAVE FORMED)

NO DISCRIMINATION AGAINST ADULTS WITH PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS

BAN ON HIGHER PREMIUMS FOR WOMEN

PREMIUMS BASED ON AGE CAN ONLY VARY BY A MAXIMUM OF 3 -TO -1 RATIO

CAP ON OUT-OF-POCKET EXPENSES for private health plans.


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Filed under healthcare reform, New Jersey Newsroom, Seniors, small businesses

Questions Remain About the Sudden About Face On The Middletown Sports Field Issue

There are still many questions that remain and need to be answered when it comes to the sudden announcement that Gerry Scharfenberger made during Tuesday night’s Neighborhood Meeting at Croydon Hall.
It has become apparent based on an email I received that some are starting to ask those questions and want answers:

I’m sure many of you have heard the news, about the fate of the turf fields, that was announced at last night’s Neighborhood Meeting. There are many questions still unanswered about this decision:

1. The Neighborhood Meetings were billed as an event that “no formal action will take place”. The Mayor decided to take formal action by announcing this decision. I have announcements, below, that explain the purpose of the Neighborhood Meetings.These were taken from the Township website and the alert system that the Township has in place.

Neighborhood Meeting – Senior Center
3/23/2010 – 7:00:00 PM
The Township Committee will hold a Neighborhood Meeting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 23 At the Middletown Senior Center, 900 Leonardville Road, to give residents an opportunity to speak informally with township officials and staff about life in Middletown. Township Committee members, and representatives from the departments of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs; Planning; Police and Public Works are scheduled to attend. No formal action will be taken.


Location:
Middletown Senior Center
Croydon Hall
900 Leonardville Road

Leonardo, NJ 07737

Source:

http://www.middletownnj.org/html/EventDetails.asp?EventID=2f8b8140-7923-480e-9c2d-e1b80643d843&EventDate=2010-03-23

Neighborhood Meeting 3-22-2010
posted Monday, March 22, 2010 4:08 PM
Dear Resident:The next Middletown Neighborhood Meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 23rd at the Middletown Senior Center, 900 Leonardville Road. Neighborhood meetings are held annually to give residents an opportunity to speak informally with township officials and staff about life in Middletown. Township Committee members, and representatives from the departments of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs; Planning; Police and Public Works are scheduled to attend. No formal action will be taken. The last Neighborhood Meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 30th at the Tonya Keller Bayshore Community Center, 50 Bray Ave.

Source:

https://my.c3alert.us/middletownnj/home/welcome

2. At what public meeting did the Committee decide to return the bond? This is not a decision that can be made by the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, or any other Committee person. It must be decided in a public meeting with a vote by ALL Committee members. I believe that a bond ordinance must be have approval of at least 4/5 of the Committee to become effective. The question is, Can the Mayor legally announce this since no formal action was taken on his decision?

3. According to the by-laws of the Township, the Mayor is a member of the Committee and is appointed by the other members of the Committee. His sole functions are to lead Committee meetings and sign legislation that is passed by the Committee. I don’t believe that he has any other authority than that, besides what the other Committee members have. Any announcements, coming from the Township, should be with the approval of the whole Committee, not just one member of the Committee.

These questions need to be asked as well as:


– How much interest have WE paid over the past 4 years on this bond?
– How much has OUR bond counsel (Middletown GOP Chairman) charged US to sell the bonds and now buy them back?
– What other legal expenses are associated with the whole bond. beginning with the sale to retirement?
– Why isn’t the plan presented, by Mr. Vrabel, acceptable? Who determined this?

The sudden announcement of the cancellation of the turf projects at a neighborhood meeting that wasn’t suppose to be an official meeting where actions would be taken on any subject specific subject is troubling.
What really changed the collective mind of the Township to drop plans for the fields and when and with whom were theses plans discussed with? As the email stated, the Mayor doesn’t have the authority to act alone when making decisions regardless if the Town Administrator or others thought that the plan should be cancelled. This is a decision that would have had to be have been made during a formal meeting with every committee member present and from what I know that did not happen.
Middletown’s “shadow government” has once again crept in from the darkness and reared its ugly head.

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Filed under artificial turf fields, Asbury Park Press, Croydon Hall, Gerry Scharfenberger, Middeltown Township, Pop Warner, shadow government, sports complex, Tony Mercantante, Trezza Field