Monthly Archives: June 2011

A Tale of Two Governors

It was quite a week for governors on both sides of the Hudson.

First, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo achieved one of his most important goals when the New York Legislature mustered the votes needed to approve a same-sex marriage bill, which he promptly signed into law. Less than seven days later, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie scored a major victory of his own when the New Jersey Legislature passed a landmark measure reforming the state’s public pension and benefit system, which he signed promptly into law.

Cuomo and Christie are different governors from different states and different parties, and the goals they achieved this past week addressed vastly different issues. Still, there are a few similarities in the circumstances surrounding each governor’s success. Continue reading

A Lesson in Politics from the Big Man

I never had a chance to meet Clarence Clemons while I was a music critic for The Aquarian Weekly in the early 1980s, but the time I spent covering rock’n’roll in New Jersey coincided with the few years that Clarence owned a club in Red Bank called Big Man’s West.

I spent several memorable nights at the club. I saw Clarence perform with his own band, the Red Bank Rockers; I was in the audience when Bruce Springsteen Continue reading

It’s the Wrong Time to Cut Support for Public Media

When Josh Silver, one of the founders of the media reform organization Free Press, spoke at Rutgers University in March, he suggested that the key to re-invigorating American journalism is to increase investment in non-commercial media.

Silver noted that support for public media in the U.S. pales in comparison to the funding that other nations provide. In fact, a Free Press study he co-authored found:

“At around $420 million in federal funds per year, the United States has one of the lowest-funded public media systems in the developed world. The federal government allocates a paltry $1.43 per person each year to maintain the system, compared to more than 70 times that amount in Finland and nearly 80 times that amount in Denmark. If the United States spent as much on public media as those countries, it would total $30 billion annually.”

I found Silver’s idea intriguing, but wondered about Continue reading

Can Christie Learn A Lesson from the Weiner Debacle?

Chris Christie will never be confused for Anthony Weiner, but there’s an important lesson that New Jersey’s outspoken governor can learn from the New York congressman’s embarrassing Twitter debacle.

No, the lesson is not to refrain from posting inappropriate photos on the Internet. That one is obvious. It has more to do with personality and style.

Like Christie, Weiner is known for being brash and evoking strong, sometimes vitriolic, responses from his opponents. So when he got himself into trouble, few colleagues came to his defense. He became a punching bag for pundits and a punch line for talk show hosts, and now his political future is in jeopardy.

Chris Christie is smart enough to avoid the many pratfalls that Weiner encountered. However, if the Governor has larger political ambitions beyond New Jersey, it would behoove him to keep in mind that when you make enemies, they will be quick to pile on and do their best to bury you — if and when an opportunity arises to do so.

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A Serious Look at ‘Jersey Shore’

New Jersey politicians are quick to diss MTV’s Jersey Shore reality series, but the program and its cast of characters will get a more serious look at an academic conference at the University of Chicago this fall.

The UChicago Conference on Jersey Shore Studies, scheduled for Friday, October 28, will feature graduate and undergraduate students, scholars, and cultural critics who research and write about Jersey Shore. The event is free and open to the public.

If you’re interested in submitting a proposal, send an abstract of 500 to 600 words to David Showalter at Include an email address with your submission. The deadline is 5 pm (CST) August 1, and all presenters will be notified by August 12.

For more information, email Showalter or visit the conference Facebook Page.

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A Proposal to End NJ’s Helicopter Controversies

Chris Christie was a little late in coming to the table, but this week he joined the ranks of Jim McGreevey, Christie Whitman and other New Jersey governors whose use of state helicopters have generated controversy. In just a few days, the circumstances surrounding the current controversy have become topics for state and national news stories and fodder for the Governor’s political opponents.

As has been reported in multiple news outlets, Governor Christie used a state helicopter to travel to his son’s high school baseball game in Montvale. The trip touched off controversy for several reasons. It was an expensive way to travel — at taxpayer expense — to a non-governmental event, especially for a Governor who has been vocal about the need for New Jersey to control spending. In addition, the primary functions of the state’s helicopter fleet are homeland security and emergency medical transportation. A trip to a high school baseball game fits into neither category.

In the span of a few days, we’ve had Continue reading