Category Archives: Facebook

Attention All Swim Club Members

Press Release:

This is an urgent call to all members of the
Middletown Swim and Tennis Club, Middletown Residents and Taxpayers.

On the agenda for the Township Committee Workshop Meeting is:
Item l: Swim Club Utility Dissolution/Property Sale

We are requesting all Middletown Swim Club members attend the Township Committee Workshop Meeting to be held on Monday, February 6, 2012 at Town Hall at 8:00 with their children, friends, posters and/or signs. Car pooling is an option.

With the pool club operating with business as usual in 2012 – our Township Committee says there may be an $81,000 shortfall that taxpayers will have to make up for.

Take note: This would be the first time since the club was purchased in 1997 that the town would have to supplement any loss to the club.

Here’s how we see it:

If the pool club does not operate at all this year, a $225,000 bond payment still must be paid by Middletown taxpayers.

Solution: The SOS Committee is working on a solid business plan to have our MSTC operate at NO COST to taxpayers. To accomplish this, it HAS TO OPEN THIS SUMMER. Members and Non-members, it is your duty to show your support this Monday night! If it opens all 67,000 of us win!

Our swim club offers an affordable summer comfort for seniors, families, teens and tots and has done so since the 1960s!

What is at stake?

· Summer camps where children can play games, create crafts and swim.

· Availability of swim and tennis lessons for members.

· Organized activities: dive and splash contests, water polo, sharks and minnows, basketball games, Frisbee baseball, candy hunts, bowling trips and water aerobics to name a few.

· Our championship swim team who have brought opportunity to young athletes and pride to our town. Senior citizens enjoying a dip during adult swim or a game of cards with their friends.

· Special events: Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Senior Day and Family Fun Nights with music and fun activities for the whole family.

Middletown Swim and Tennis Club is a safe, fun-filled haven for families to connect, relax and make friends. It has produced an Olympic medalist and elite Navy Seal. It is an asset to our community and important center of summer activities for families in Middletown Township.

Please plan to attend to support our town summer center for fun!

Your presence at Monday’s meeting is critical!!

Save Our Swim Club Committee
For more information see our Facebook Page

Leave a comment

Filed under agendas, Facebook, Middletown Swim and Tennis Club, Middletown Township Committee, property sale, save our swim club committee, workshop meeting

Monmouth Freeholders adopt weak State pay-to-play rules, abandon stronger County rules in place since 2008

Fortunately, former Monmouth County Freeholder Amy Mallet is still on the job as a outspoken member of the public. The Middletown Patch reported on 1/31/12 that this year’s all-GOP Freeholder Board voted unanimously last week to loosen the County’s pay-to-play rules, and Amy was there to call them on it!

In a vote on Jan. 26th, the Board chose to abandon the tougher County pay-to-play rules for the lax State ones. The reason given by the Board is that contractors were confused by the County rules. However, many other municipalities and counties have the stronger pay-to-play rules in place, so contractors doing business in other towns would already be familiar with them.

The Board’s decision opens the door to rewarding politically connected persons and businesses with County contracts. The move weakens competition and may have the direct effect of increasing property taxes in line with higher contract costs. It’s hard to imagine why any ethical publicly-minded governmental body would do such a thing, unless for personal benefit. It appears the Board members have chosen to grant themselves the latitude to direct contracts at will to ensure their pockets will be lined at election time.

State Comptroller Matthew Boxer said himself that the State pay-to-play law does nothing to prevent the practice by local governments. In September 2011, he released a 20-page report “blasting the law for being toothless” as NJ.com put it.

The effectiveness of Christie’s Tool Kit at holding down property taxes would be vastly improved if it closed the loopholes in the State’s pay-to-play law. But until that happens, it is incumbent upon local governments to do what’s right by having strong pay-to-play rules of their own.

Public advocacy group The Citizens Campaign is calling for the public to attend the Monmouth County Freeholder meeting on Feb. 9th, when the Board will be asked to reinstate the stronger pay-to-play policy. For details, check out their facebook page and if you can, make plans to attend.

Leave a comment

Filed under Amy Mallet, Facebook, Middletown Patch, Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders, NJ.com, pay-to-play, property taxes, the Citizens Campaign

MoreMonmouthMusings Blog Taken Down

It would appear that sometime this morning that Art Gallagher’s blog MoreMonmouthMusings.net has been taken down and is, at this time not operational.

The last posting to the blog made by a mysterious administrator was at 11:16 last night and was an awkward attempt to discuss a few local issues in 12th LD as reported by Eatontown Patch.
The post also attacks local republican Jim Sage, who has made it his mission in life to see that State Senator Jennifer Beck who is now seeking reelection in the newly created 11th LD, does not return to Trenton. Sage has a facebook page titled Dump State Senator Jennifer Beck that is a thorn in the side to Beck and disdained by many Republicans in Monmouth County.
No word on why the blog was shut down or when, if ever, it will return.

Leave a comment

Filed under arrested, Art Gallagher, Facebook, forgery, fraud, Jennifer Beck, Jim Sage, MoreMonmouthMusings, theft

Facebook to form its own PAC to back political candidates

According to TheHill.com people at Facebook has have filed paper work to form their own political action committee (PAC), possible calling their PAC either FBPAC.org or FBPAC.us.

In doing so, Facebook wishes to avoid the problems that other tech firms like Google and Microsoft have had in the past lobbying lawmakers.

Facebook confirmed it filed paperwork on Monday to start its own political action committee.

“FB PAC will give our employees a way to make their voice heard in the political process by supporting candidates who share our goals of promoting the value of innovation to our economy while giving people the power to share and make the world more open and connected,” said a spokesman via email.

The firm acknowledged the formation of the PAC after reports emerged of Facebook registering the domain names FBPAC.org and FBPAC.us. Creating a PAC is just the latest step in Facebook’s continued expansion of its presence in Washington, but this is the first time the firm will back candidates.

Facebook is likely looking to avoid the type of Washington scrutiny that has affected other firms like Microsoft and Google, which is currently under a Federal Trade Commission antitrust probe. The perception Google was previously sympathetic towards Democrats hasn’t helped with the GOP in charge of the House.

Facebook’s lobbying spending has totalled $550,000 for fiscal 2011, a significant boost over he $350,000 spent in 2010 and $200,000 in 2009.

Leave a comment

Filed under Facebook, Google, microsoft, political action committee, The Hill

>Letting The "Sunshine" In Monmouth

>By Monmouth County Freeholder Amy Mallet

Common sense tells us that government is more responsive and ethical when its actions are open to public scrutiny. As Supreme Court Justice Brandeis famously said, “Sunlight is the best of disinfectants.” Woodrow Wilson, who appointed Brandeis to the Supreme Court, wrote about the need to shed light on the government. He said, “Light is the only thing that can sweeten our political atmosphere.”

As far back as the 1890s several states were already experimenting with disclosure rules to combat corruption in campaign finance. This is not a new conversation. Modern times change the delivery, but history provides us with perspective, and sometimes even inspiration.

The digital age allows more opportunities to let the sun in than ever before. We are living in unique times where technology creates new, exciting opportunities to widen access between the public and government. New tools such as imaging, scanning, the Internet, mass storage capacity and millions of hand-held devices have the potential to give people better insight into governmental decision-making, budgeting and spending.

This progress allows for two-way communication. For example, through the county Web site, individuals can send an e-mail with concerns or comments on a particular issue. The success of our political system requires that citizens be involved.

Human nature is such that elected officials who see no public interest in their activities are more likely to stray from the core interests of their constituents. At its worst, circumstances where elected officials face an apathetic public provide a breeding ground for corruption and abuse. Citizens need to care about how we govern, understand how government works and be aware of the issues we are addressing. They also need the tools to hold elected officials accountable for their actions.

Since taking office, I have advocated for certain changes geared toward a more transparent, accessible government:

In 2009, the Board of Chosen Freeholders supplemented online meeting agendas with the resolutions that were up for consideration by the board. This allowed the public to see more than just titles of these items.

Also in 2009, Monmouth County embraced social media and developed Facebook and Twitter sites.

In 2010, Monmouth County also began posting its proposed budget online. In the past it was posted only after it had been adopted.

Also in 2010, at my request and at little expense to the taxpayers, our Clerk of the Board moved from an antiquated tape system of recording minutes to digital recording technology. I would like to say this brought us into the 21st century, but it is more accurate to say it brought us out of the 1980s. This simple improvement has now allowed staff to more accurately transcribe the minutes, freed up space that had previously been used to store cassette tapes and gave the freeholders and staff immediate access to the important discussions that take place.
I am proud that as a result of moving to digital recordings of freeholder meetings, full audio of regular and workshop meetings are now available on the county Web site,http://www.visitmonmouth.comThis allows residents who are unable to attend meetings to hear the discussions that took place and stay more engaged in issues that are relevant to their lives.

The benefits of this technology go beyond convenience. We find ourselves in troubled times where citizens and the governments that serve them confront dire financial challenges. Municipal, county and state governments must be held to the highest standards of efficiency and productivity. The best means of reaching that goal is to pull back the curtain. In addition to posting meeting minutes and the budget we should post expenditures and employment and other contracts.

Despite these technological advances, I recommend that residents attend the meetings. They are generally held at the Hall of Records, 1 East Main St. in Freehold, with workshops at 2 p.m. and regular meetings at 7 p.m. on the second and fourth Thursday of each month. There are exceptions when the board takes the meetings on the road. A full and detailed schedule of meetings, as well as a wealth of other information, can be found on the county Web site.

Moving forward in this fashion would be a marked departure from the way many of our local public bodies have approached accessibility. But as technology advances excuses for failing to make this type of information available will evaporate.

Public officials need to be imaginative and efficient in organizing and making these documents available to the public. They should be encouraged in the knowledge that their efforts to promote government transparency fulfill the intent of those who founded our great country and ensures that the power entrusted to elected officials will not be abused.

3 Comments

Filed under Facebook, Freeholder Amy Mallet, Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders, New Jersey, sunshine laws, transparency, Twitter

>District 11 Assembly Candidate Schlossbach NY Times Profile; "From a Waitress to the Owner of a Mini-Empire"

>Back on June 8th of last year, the New York Times printed a profile piece on Marilyn Schlossbach, the chef/restaurateur from Asbury Park that will be seeking the a seat in the NJ State Assembly this fall as a Democrat in the new 11th legislative district. The piece profiled Schlossbauch’s rise as a waitress in her brother’s Avon resturant, to her becoming the chef owner of several resturants along the Jersey shore. It’s a good read for those that are not familar with Schlossberg and want to get to know her a little:

MARILYN SCHLOSSBACH may run a mini-empire of restaurants on the Jersey Shore now, but her career did not begin brilliantly. Not at all.

Back in 1985, on her first weekend as floor manager of a restaurant in Avon owned by her brother, Richard Schlossbach, the chef quit.

Ms. Schlossbach, 45, had never cooked anything, she recalled recently. She had been a waitress before her promotion at the restaurant, named Oshin and since closed.

“I was in the kitchen on this huge portable phone with my brother,” she said. “I’m going, ‘What’s the tuna supposed to look like? When are you supposed to turn it over?’I knew how it was supposed to look on the plate, but I didn’t know how to get it there.

” Somehow, she got it there. Now Ms. Schlossbach is executive chef at the five restaurants she co-owns; she and her husband, Scott Szegeski, 35, plan to open two more by the end of the year.

Their restaurants have 200 employees, and last year they rang up more than $3 million in business. Within their domain are Trinity and the Pope, with a Creole and Cajun theme, which opened in Asbury Park last month; Langosta Lounge, which opened in 2008 and serves what Ms. Schlossbach calls “vacation food — a mix of Mexican, Caribbean and Asian,” including sushi; two seasonal casual Mexican spots called Pop’s Garage, one in Normandy Beach that opened in 2008 and one in Asbury Park that came a year later (a third, which will be open year round, is planned for Shrewsbury this fall); and Labrador Lounge, in Normandy Beach, which opened in 2005 and has a menu similar to Langosta’s. (Richard Schlossbach is a third co-owner of Trinity and the Pope and Langosta Lounge.) ….

For those that wish to learn more about Schlossbach, she has a facebook page that can be access. Based on what I have heard so far about Marilyn Schlossbach thus far, I think she will be a credible candidate that will have considerable resources at her disposal to help run, organize and fund her campaign. I think her Republican opponents in the district need to be worried!

Leave a comment

Filed under 11th Assembly District, blogging, Democratic Candidate, Facebook, Jersey Shore, Marilyn Schlossbach, NY Times, restaurateur

>M’Town HSS Teacher Suspended For Inappropriate Facebook Post On Student’s Wall

>Yesterday morning I received an email from, I assume, a parent whose child attends Middletown High School South. In this email, the parent (name being withheld) informed me of an English teacher, Rachel Singer, who was recently suspended from her position at High School South for making an inappropriate comment on a student’s Facebook wall.

The parent was very upset and wanted to know “Why is it that if a teacher is suspended in Middletown we hear nothing about it? I think it should be public knowledge because others could have input to just how inappropriate the teacher is and rather than suspend the teacher, she would be fired…”

Do to the hour in which I opened this email yesterday, I wasn’t able to call over to High School South or the Board of Education office for confirmation or comments on this, so I reached out to the only person I know that has a child of theirs attending Middletown High School South. When I contacted this person, she had not heard of the incident but said that she would ask around and get back to me.

When my contact got back to me a short while later, she started off by saying that her son had this teacher last year and that he didn’t care for her, he called her a “lousy” teacher but in her defense added that she is friendly with the student’s family and was joking around. Someone who didn’t care for her “ratted” her out.

My contact also talked to a friend of hers’ that is a member of MHSS Parent Faculty Association (similar to PTA or PTO), who stated to her that recently Middletown High School South Principal, Dr. Anthony Shallop, addressed the PFA about this teacher and told those in attendance that she (Singer) was suspended due to posting an inappropriate message on a former student’s wall. The PFA member thinks but wasn’t sure, that Singer has been suspended for the rest of the school year.

I can understand the anger and frustration from the person who sent me this email, in situations like this parents have a right to know exactly what happened and any results from an investigation should be made public. It doesn’t really matter if she is a good teacher or a lousy one. Transparency through full disclosure and trust in knowing that the interests of the children are first and foremost in the minds of administrators is really what’s important here.

In defense of Ms. Singer, her student rating on the website RateMyTeachers.com is respectable with an overall grade from students of 26 out 30 possible points (she scores lower in her student popularity grade with a 23) and it seems that she has been teaching at the school for more than a few years.

So without actually knowing what Singer posted and the context in which it was posted, parents shouldn’t jump to drastic conclusions about her, if indeed, she is a family friend of the former student. If this was a current student or if it can be shown that Ms. Singer has a history of interacting inappropriately with other students this way, than I would have cause for concern but the key here is the word former.

Often when dealing with friends, people let their guards down and sometime forget what they are saying, or in this case posting on Facebook. This is a frequent mistake that far to many people are making these days, they forget that there is no privacy on the internet, whatever is posted can come back to haunt you for the rest of your life.

In this case it just may cost a teacher her job.

1 Comment

Filed under bad teachers, Facebook, good teachers, inappropriate post, Middletown High School South, Parent Faculty Association, PTA, PTO, teacher suspension

>L. Frank Baum’s "A Kidnapped Santa Claus"

>I found this at the Facebook page of TrustSanta.com and thought that it was worth passing on to readers here

“A Kidnapped Santa Claus is a Christmas-themed short story written by L. Frank Baum, famous as the creator of the Land and Wizard of Oz; it has been called “one of Baum’s most beautiful stories” and constitutes an influential contribution to the mythology of Christmas. It was first published in the December 1904 edition of The Delineator, the women’s magazine that would print Baum’s Animal Fairy Tales in the following year. The magazine text was “admirably illustrated” with “pen drawings of marked originality” by Frederick Richardson, who would illustrate Baum’s Queen Zixi of Ix in 1905.”

A Kidnapped Santa Claus

Santa Claus lives in the Laughing Valley, where stands the big, rambling castle in which his toys are manufactured. His workmen, selected from the ryls, knooks, pixies and fairies, live with him, and every one is as busy as can be from one year’s end to another.

It is called the Laughing Valley because everything there is happy and gay. The brook chuckles to itself as it leaps rollicking between its green banks; the wind whistles merrily in the trees; the sunbeams dance lightly over the soft grass, and the violets and wild flowers look smilingly up from their green nests. To laugh one needs to be happy; to be happy one needs to be content. And throughout the Laughing Valley of Santa Claus contentment reigns supreme.

On one side is the mighty Forest of Burzee. At the other side stands the huge mountain that contains the Caves of the Daemons. And between them the Valley lies smiling and peaceful.

One would thing that our good old Santa Claus, who devotes his days to making children happy, would have no enemies on all the earth; and, as a matter of fact, for a long period of time he encountered nothing but love wherever he might go.

But the Daemons who live in the mountain caves grew to hate Santa Claus very much, and all for the simple reason that he made children happy.

The Caves of the Daemons are five in number. A broad pathway leads up to the first cave, which is a finely arched cavern at the foot of the mountain, the entrance being beautifully carved and decorated. In it resides the Daemon of Selfishness. Back of this is another cavern inhabited by the Daemon of Envy. The cave of the Daemon of Hatred is next in order, and through this one passes to the home of the Daemon of Malice–situated in a dark and fearful cave in the very heart of the mountain. I do not know what lies beyond this. Some say there are terrible pitfalls leading to death and destruction, and this may very well be true. However, from each one of the four caves mentioned there is a small, narrow tunnel leading to the fifth cave–a cozy little room occupied by the Daemon of Repentance. And as the rocky floors of these passages are well worn by the track of passing feet, I judge that many wanderers in the Caves of the Daemons have escaped through the tunnels to the abode of the Daemon of Repentance, who is said to be a pleasant sort of fellow who gladly opens for one a little door admitting you into fresh air and sunshine again.

Well, these Daemons of the Caves, thinking they had great cause to dislike old Santa Claus, held a meeting one day to discuss the matter.

“I’m really getting lonesome,” said the Daemon of Selfishness. “For Santa Claus distributes so many pretty Christmas gifts to all the children that they become happy and generous, through his example, and keep away from my cave.”

“I’m having the same trouble,” rejoined the Daemon of Envy. “The little ones seem quite content with Santa Claus, and there are few, indeed, that I can coax to become envious.”

“And that makes it bad for me!” declared the Daemon of Hatred. “For if no children pass through the Caves of Selfishness and Envy, none can get to MY cavern.”

“Or to mine,” added the Daemon of Malice.

“For my part,” said the Daemon of Repentance, “it is easily seen that if children do not visit your caves they have no need to visit mine; so that I am quite as neglected as you are.”

“And all because of this person they call Santa Claus!” exclaimed the Daemon of Envy. “He is simply ruining our business, and something must be done at once.”

To this they readily agreed; but what to do was another and more difficult matter to settle. They knew that Santa Claus worked all through the year at his castle in the Laughing Valley, preparing the gifts he was to distribute on Christmas Eve; and at first they resolved to try to tempt him into their caves, that they might lead him on to the terrible pitfalls that ended in destruction.

So the very next day, while Santa Claus was busily at work, surrounded by his little band of assistants, the Daemon of Selfishness came to him and said:

“These toys are wonderfully bright and pretty. Why do you not keep them for yourself? It’s a pity to give them to those noisy boys and fretful girls, who break and destroy them so quickly.”

“Nonsense!” cried the old graybeard, his bright eyes twinkling merrily as he turned toward the tempting Daemon. “The boys and girls are never so noisy and fretful after receiving my presents, and if I can make them happy for one day in the year I am quite content.”

So the Daemon went back to the others, who awaited him in their caves, and said:

“I have failed, for Santa Claus is not at all selfish.”

The following day the Daemon of Envy visited Santa Claus. Said he: “The toy shops are full of playthings quite as pretty as those you are making. What a shame it is that they should interfere with your business! They make toys by machinery much quicker than you can make them by hand; and they sell them for money, while you get nothing at all for your work.”

But Santa Claus refused to be envious of the toy shops.

“I can supply the little ones but once a year–on Christmas Eve,” he answered; “for the children are many, and I am but one. And as my work is one of love and kindness I would be ashamed to receive money for my little gifts. But throughout all the year the children must be amused in some way, and so the toy shops are able to bring much happiness to my little friends. I like the toy shops, and am glad to see them prosper.”

In spite of the second rebuff, the Daemon of Hatred thought he would try to influence Santa Claus. So the next day he entered the busy workshop and said:

“Good morning, Santa! I have bad news for you.”

“Then run away, like a good fellow,” answered Santa Claus. “Bad news is something that should be kept secret and never told.”

“You cannot escape this, however,” declared the Daemon; “for in the world are a good many who do not believe in Santa Claus, and these you are bound to hate bitterly, since they have so wronged you.”

“Stuff and rubbish!” cried Santa.

“And there are others who resent your making children happy and who sneer at you and call you a foolish old rattlepate! You are quite right to hate such base slanderers, and you ought to be revenged upon them for their evil words.”

“But I don’t hate ’em!” exclaimed Santa Claus positively. “Such people do me no real harm, but merely render themselves and their children unhappy. Poor things! I’d much rather help them any day than injure them.”

Indeed, the Daemons could not tempt old Santa Claus in any way. On the contrary, he was shrewd enough to see that their object in visiting him was to make mischief and trouble, and his cheery laughter disconcerted the evil ones and showed to them the folly of such an undertaking. So they abandoned honeyed words and determined to use force.

It was well known that no harm can come to Santa Claus while he is in the Laughing Valley, for the fairies, and ryls, and knooks all protect him. But on Christmas Eve he drives his reindeer out into the big world, carrying a sleighload of toys and pretty gifts to the children; and this was the time and the occasion when his enemies had the best chance to injure him. So the Daemons laid their plans and awaited the arrival of Christmas Eve.

The moon shone big and white in the sky, and the snow lay crisp and sparkling on the ground as Santa Claus cracked his whip and sped away out of the Valley into the great world beyond. The roomy sleigh was packed full with huge sacks of toys, and as the reindeer dashed onward our jolly old Santa laughed and whistled and sang for very joy. For in all his merry life this was the one day in the year when he was happiest–the day he lovingly bestowed the treasures of his workshop upon the little children.

It would be a busy night for him, he well knew. As he whistled and shouted and cracked his whip again, he reviewed in mind all the towns and cities and farmhouses where he was expected, and figured that he had just enough presents to go around and make every child happy. The reindeer knew exactly what was expected of them, and dashed along so swiftly that their feet scarcely seemed to touch the snow-covered ground.

Suddenly a strange thing happened: a rope shot through the moonlight and a big noose that was in the end of it settled over the arms and body of Santa Claus and drew tight. Before he could resist or even cry out he was jerked from the seat of the sleigh and tumbled head foremost into a snowbank, while the reindeer rushed onward with the load of toys and carried it quickly out of sight and sound.

Such a surprising experience confused old Santa for a moment, and when he had collected his senses he found that the wicked Daemons had pulled him from the snowdrift and bound him tightly with many coils of the stout rope. And then they carried the kidnapped Santa Claus away to their mountain, where they thrust the prisoner into a secret cave and chained him to the rocky wall so that he could not escape.

“Ha, ha!” laughed the Daemons, rubbing their hands together with cruel glee. “What will the children do now? How they will cry and scold and storm when they find there are no toys in their stockings and no gifts on their Christmas trees! And what a lot of punishment they will receive from their parents, and how they will flock to our Caves of Selfishness, and Envy, and Hatred, and Malice! We have done a mighty clever thing, we Daemons of the Caves!”

Now it so chanced that on this Christmas Eve the good Santa Claus had taken with him in his sleigh Nuter the Ryl, Peter the Knook, Kilter the Pixie, and a small fairy named Wisk–his four favorite assistants. These little people he had often found very useful in helping him to distribute his gifts to the children, and when their master was so suddenly dragged from the sleigh they were all snugly tucked underneath the seat, where the sharp wind could not reach them.

The tiny immortals knew nothing of the capture of Santa Claus until some time after he had disappeared. But finally they missed his cheery voice, and as their master always sang or whistled on his journeys, the silence warned them that something was wrong.

Little Wisk stuck out his head from underneath the seat and found Santa Claus gone and no one to direct the flight of the reindeer.

“Whoa!” he called out, and the deer obediently slackened speed and came to a halt.

Peter and Nuter and Kilter all jumped upon the seat and looked back over the track made by the sleigh. But Santa Claus had been left miles and miles behind.

“What shall we do?” asked Wisk anxiously, all the mirth and mischief banished from his wee face by this great calamity.

“We must go back at once and find our master,” said Nuter the Ryl, who thought and spoke with much deliberation.

“No, no!” exclaimed Peter the Knook, who, cross and crabbed though he was, might always be depended upon in an emergency. “If we delay, or go back, there will not be time to get the toys to the children before morning; and that would grieve Santa Claus more than anything else.”

“It is certain that some wicked creatures have captured him,” added Kilter thoughtfully, “and their object must be to make the children unhappy. So our first duty is to get the toys distributed as carefully as if Santa Claus were himself present. Afterward we can search for our master and easily secure his freedom.”

This seemed such good and sensible advice that the others at once resolved to adopt it. So Peter the Knook called to the reindeer, and the faithful animals again sprang forward and dashed over hill and valley, through forest and plain, until they came to the houses wherein children lay sleeping and dreaming of the pretty gifts they would find on Christmas morning.

The little immortals had set themselves a difficult task; for although they had assisted Santa Claus on many of his journeys, their master had always directed and guided them and told them exactly what he wished them to do. But now they had to distribute the toys according to their own judgment, and they did not understand children as well as did old Santa. So it is no wonder they made some laughable errors.

Mamie Brown, who wanted a doll, got a drum instead; and a drum is of no use to a girl who loves dolls. And Charlie Smith, who delights to romp and play out of doors, and who wanted some new rubber boots to keep his feet dry, received a sewing box filled with colored worsteds and threads and needles, which made him so provoked that he thoughtlessly called our dear Santa Claus a fraud.

Had there been many such mistakes the Daemons would have accomplished their evil purpose and made the children unhappy. But the little friends of the absent Santa Claus labored faithfully and intelligently to carry out their master’s ideas, and they made fewer errors than might be expected under such unusual circumstances.

And, although they worked as swiftly as possible, day had begun to break before the toys and other presents were all distributed; so for the first time in many years the reindeer trotted into the Laughing Valley, on their return, in broad daylight, with the brilliant sun peeping over the edge of the forest to prove they were far behind their accustomed hours.

Having put the deer in the stable, the little folk began to wonder how they might rescue their master; and they realized they must discover, first of all, what had happened to him and where he was.

So Wisk the Fairy transported himself to the bower of the Fairy Queen, which was located deep in the heart of the Forest of Burzee; and once there, it did not take him long to find out all about the naughty Daemons and how they had kidnapped the good Santa Claus to prevent his making children happy. The Fairy Queen also promised her assistance, and then, fortified by this powerful support, Wisk flew back to where Nuter and Peter and Kilter awaited him, and the four counseled together and laid plans to rescue their master from his enemies.

It is possible that Santa Claus was not as merry as usual during the night that succeeded his capture. For although he had faith in the judgment of his little friends he could not avoid a certain amount of worry, and an anxious look would creep at times into his kind old eyes as he thought of the disappointment that might await his dear little children. And the Daemons, who guarded him by turns, one after another, did not neglect to taunt him with contemptuous words in his helpless condition.

When Christmas Day dawned the Daemon of Malice was guarding the prisoner, and his tongue was sharper than that of any of the others.

“The children are waking up, Santa!” he cried. “They are waking up to find their stockings empty! Ho, ho! How they will quarrel, and wail, and stamp their feet in anger! Our caves will be full today, old Santa! Our caves are sure to be full!”

But to this, as to other like taunts, Santa Claus answered nothing. He was much grieved by his capture, it is true; but his courage did not forsake him. And, finding that the prisoner would not reply to his jeers, the Daemon of Malice presently went away, and sent the Daemon of Repentance to take his place.

This last personage was not so disagreeable as the others. He had gentle and refined features, and his voice was soft and pleasant in tone.

“My brother Daemons do not trust me overmuch,” said he, as he entered the cavern; “but it is morning, now, and the mischief is done. You cannot visit the children again for another year.”

“That is true,” answered Santa Claus, almost cheerfully; “Christmas Eve is past, and for the first time in centuries I have not visited my children.”

“The little ones will be greatly disappointed,” murmured the Daemon of Repentance, almost regretfully; “but that cannot be helped now. Their grief is likely to make the children selfish and envious and hateful, and if they come to the Caves of the Daemons today I shall get a chance to lead some of them to my Cave of Repentance.”

“Do you never repent, yourself?” asked Santa Claus, curiously.

“Oh, yes, indeed,” answered the Daemon. “I am even now repenting that I assisted in your capture. Of course it is too late to remedy the evil that has been done; but repentance, you know, can come only after an evil thought or deed, for in the beginning there is nothing to repent of.”

“So I understand,” said Santa Claus. “Those who avoid evil need never visit your cave.”

“As a rule, that is true,” replied the Daemon; “yet you, who have done no evil, are about to visit my cave at once; for to prove that I sincerely regret my share in your capture I am going to permit you to escape.”

This speech greatly surprised the prisoner, until he reflected that it was just what might be expected of the Daemon of Repentance. The fellow at once busied himself untying the knots that bound Santa Claus and unlocking the chains that fastened him to the wall. Then he led the way through a long tunnel until they both emerged in the Cave of Repentance.

“I hope you will forgive me,” said the Daemon pleadingly. “I am not really a bad person, you know; and I believe I accomplish a great deal of good in the world.”

With this he opened a back door that let in a flood of sunshine, and Santa Claus sniffed the fresh air gratefully.

“I bear no malice,” said he to the Daemon, in a gentle voice; “and I am sure the world would be a dreary place without you. So, good morning, and a Merry Christmas to you!”

With these words he stepped out to greet the bright morning, and a moment later he was trudging along, whistling softly to himself, on his way to his home in the Laughing Valley.

Marching over the snow toward the mountain was a vast army, made up of the most curious creatures imaginable. There were numberless knooks from the forest, as rough and crooked in appearance as the gnarled branches of the trees they ministered to. And there were dainty ryls from the fields, each one bearing the emblem of the flower or plant it guarded. Behind these were many ranks of pixies, gnomes and nymphs, and in the rear a thousand beautiful fairies floated along in gorgeous array.

This wonderful army was led by Wisk, Peter, Nuter, and Kilter, who had assembled it to rescue Santa Claus from captivity and to punish the Daemons who had dared to take him away from his beloved children.

And, although they looked so bright and peaceful, the little immortals were armed with powers that would be very terrible to those who had incurred their anger. Woe to the Daemons of the Caves if this mighty army of vengeance ever met them!

But lo! coming to meet his loyal friends appeared the imposing form of Santa Claus, his white beard floating in the breeze and his bright eyes sparkling with pleasure at this proof of the love and veneration he had inspired in the hearts of the most powerful creatures in existence.

And while they clustered around him and danced with glee at his safe return, he gave them earnest thanks for their support. But Wisk, and Nuter, and Peter, and Kilter, he embraced affectionately.

“It is useless to pursue the Daemons,” said Santa Claus to the army. “They have their place in the world, and can never be destroyed. But that is a great pity, nevertheless,” he continued musingly.

So the fairies, and knooks, and pixies, and ryls all escorted the good man to his castle, and there left him to talk over the events of the night with his little assistants.

Wisk had already rendered himself invisible and flown through the big world to see how the children were getting along on this bright Christmas morning; and by the time he returned, Peter had finished telling Santa Claus of how they had distributed the toys.

“We really did very well,” cried the fairy, in a pleased voice; “for I found little unhappiness among the children this morning. Still, you must not get captured again, my dear master; for we might not be so fortunate another time in carrying out your ideas.”

He then related the mistakes that had been made, and which he had not discovered until his tour of inspection. And Santa Claus at once sent him with rubber boots for Charlie Smith, and a doll for Mamie Brown; so that even those two disappointed ones became happy.

As for the wicked Daemons of the Caves, they were filled with anger and chagrin when they found that their clever capture of Santa Claus had come to naught. Indeed, no one on that Christmas Day appeared to be at all selfish, or envious, or hateful. And, realizing that while the children’s saint had so many powerful friends it was folly to oppose him, the Daemons never again attempted to interfere with his journeys on Christmas Eve.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christmas, Facebook, L Frank Baum, Santa Claus, TrustSanta.com, Wizard of Oz

>World Aids Day: How many people a day?

>Today is World Aids Day – Help put HIV prevention on the world’s agenda today. Share this video and take part in the campaign to prevent HIV/Aids on 1 December 2010. Find out more http://www.facebook.com/UNAIDS

Leave a comment

Filed under Facebook, HIV prevention, UNAIDS, World Aids Day

>NJPP Monday Minute 10/4/10: ‘Friending’ schools in Newark

>

There are those in New Jersey, among them Governor Christie, who argue that the state spends too much money on too many things – including its public schools. But in order to have an honest, informed debate about that public investment, it’s important to compare the rhetoric with the actual numbers to see if they match up.

Sometimes they don’t.

Take for example state spending on Newark’s public schools. Compare the numbers discussed publicly in recent weeks and the actual numbers reported by the state. And then contrast those figures with the pledge of $100 million of Facebook stock to the Newark schools that was announced September 24.

A day before Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made his announcement, alongside Newark Mayor Cory Booker and Governor Christie, on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” the governor decried the deplorable and wasteful state of education in Newark, telling the Star-Ledger that New Jersey spends a whopping $24,000 per student in the Newark school system.

That figure is incorrect, according to data from the governor’s own administration. The New Jersey Department of Education’s Office of Fiscal Policy and Planning puts per student spending in Newark at $16,911 in the 2009-2010 school year budget (down from $19,756 the previous year.) The 2009-2010 state average for per student spending is $13,860, according to DOE.

The Education Law Center, a non-profit legal advocacy group that focuses on public school finance, says even that overstates the true cost per student, which varies widely by district. ELC argues a “weighted” calculation is a more accurate measure than simply dividing the total school budget by the number of students because it factors in the higher cost of educating students who might be impoverished or have special learning needs or limited English proficiency. The ELC’s weighted calculations from its March 2010 analysis, which is based on state figures, puts spending per student in Newark at $10,517 for 2009-2010.

Both the Department of Education’s and the Education Law Center’s figures are substantially lower than the figure cited by Governor Christie. The Governor’s Office of Communications referred a question for clarification to the DOE’s Office of Communications. A DOE spokesman said Newark’s per student cost of $23,600 – rounded up to $24,000 by the governor – covers all expenses in Newark, including transportation and “other” costs. The spokesman did not respond to a follow-up inquiry about what “other costs” are included in that more expansive calculation.

Per student spending is one thing, but how much does New Jersey spend in total on Newark’s public schools?

“For context, we spend $900 million plus or minus in the City of Newark school system right now in state funds,” Governor Christie told reporters at a news conference in Newark the day after the Oprah announcement.

The actual figure is $815 million — $85 million less than the figure given by the governor, according to state Department of Education documents. The Education Law Center also cites the $815 million total as the state’s contribution to Newark.

To give the governor his due, he did say $900 million “plus or minus,” but rounding up from $815 million amounts to almost all of Zuckerberg’s donation. It’s unlikely the governor would want to equate the Facebook CEO’s gift with a rounding error. A Department of Education spokesman did not respond to inquiries about the difference.

The state has cut total state aid to all school districts by $1.2 billion since January (which amounts to 10 percent of the yearly total in a state that already ranks near the bottom in state spending on schools). In Newark, to date, the Christie administration has cut $56.3 million in public school aid — $13.7 million in mid-year FY2010 cuts and $42.6 million in FY2011, according to both DOE and ELC.

That lost aid makes Zuckerberg’s $100 million matching grant very important to Newark. Zuckerberg’s grant even dwarfs the $23.7 million that Newark received from the federal legislation signed by President Obama in August to help school districts rehire laid off teachers.

While Zuckerberg’s largesse might be welcome, it raises complicated issues.

The money is focused entirely on one city, to the exclusion of neighboring Irvington or other urban cities like Camden or Trenton. That raises questions of fairness and favoritism in a public school system established on the ideal of equal education for all students.

It is also an unprecedented injection of corporate money into a public school system, which raises questions of governance and democracy. Decisions in the public schools are supposed to be driven by the local voters through the school board and state Department of Education – not 26-year-old fledgling billionaires. In the words of ELC founder and Rutgers Law School Professor Paul Tractenberg to the Star-Ledger’s Bob Braun, “This is a very dangerous moment for public education. Instead of facing up to our responsibilities to support the schools, we are tearing them apart. We are destroying the very values that created the public school system.”

The least we could do, then, is get the numbers right.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cory Booker, Education Funding, Facebook, Gov. Chris Christie, Jeff Zuckerbg, New Jersey Policy Perspective, Newark NJ, public schools