Archive for July, 2010

The Well-Being of New Jersey’s Children

Among all the states, New Jersey now ranks 7th in providing its children with measures of safety and health, this according to the 2010 Kids Count Data Book, a veritable compendium of useful information. The nation and each state has its own profile sheet which highlights trends from 2000 to 2007; each state also has a data center with access to over 100 measures of child well-being. In addition, narrative monographs are available for the individual states as well; here is New Jersey and its counties.

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NJCU’s 2010 Bond Offerings Given Positive Ratings

Both Moody’s and Fitch Ratings have assigned ratings for NJCU’s August bond offerings: Moody’s an A2 and Fitch an A. Fitch has stated that ” The ‘A’ rating reflects NJCU’s generally breakeven to positive operating margin, and uptrending enrollment” while Moody’s comments that “The stable outlook reflects Moody’s belief that the University’s market position will remain strong and operating performance will remain balanced, although the state funding environment and thin coverage of debt by resources remain challenges.”

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Tens of Thousands of Classified Afghan War Documents Released

Over 91,000 classified documents have been released by Wikileaks and entitled the “Afghan War Diary.” These documents paint a picture of the ongoing war in less than a flattering light: countless civilian casualties, an overwhelmed intelligence infrastructure, compromised agencies,  and an unwinnable war. Wikileaks allowed The New York Times, the Guardian, and Der Spiegel prior access to these reports so that they might vet them; the papers had to agree to a release embargo until Wikileaks published them via the Internet. Each paper investigated the reports and has selected hundreds for display on their respective websites. To say that there has been blowback is an understatement: the White House condemns the leaks for jeopardizing lives; Steven Aftergood, an expert in classified information has previously decried WikiLeaks; here is an NPR program that discusses the pros and the cons of the leak; C-SPAN has extensive coverage; and the Council on Foreign Relations has a “Featured Briefing“. News stories are too numerous to list. Additional information can be found by consulting the following CRS reports:  Department of Defense Contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan: Background and Analysis; Afghanistan: U.S. Foreign Assistance; Afghanistan Casualties: Military Forces and Civilians; The Department of Defense™s Use of Private Security Contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan: Background, Analysis, and Options for CongressWar in Afghanistan: Strategy, Military Operations, and Issues for Congress;  Afghanistan: Post-Taliban Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy; and Afghanistan: Politics, Elections, and Government Performance. Other sources to consult include the Library of Congress’ Portals to the World: Afghanistan; Country Study – Afghanistan (with updated profile); Background Note: Afghanistan; and various volumes of Foreign Relations of the United States. In addition, these sites will prove beneficial: Rand Corporation – Afghanistan; Center for Strategic and International Studies- Afghanistan; and Strategic Stuides Institute – Afghanistan; and CFR – Afghanistan. Those who know their Xenophon (Anabasis) will know the perils of fighting in this area.

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Governor Christie’s Interview on ABC News This Week

Some bon mots from the Governor “…this fall we’re going to go after current employees and pension reform and health benefit reform because we’re going broke” and  “Well, I do respect the teaching profession. I’m a product of the public schools in the state of New Jersey, and I care deeply about our public education.”  You can see the whole interview as well as read the complete transcript. As Sun Tzu stated: “Know your enemy” (found at the end of chapter 3 of The Art of War.)

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Top Secret America

Did you know that more than 8000,000 Americans have top security clearance? That there are thousands of companies subcontracted to perform security operations? That the security infrastructure essentially is a shadow government? These are some of the findings from the Washington Post’s extensive two-year investigation labeled Top Secret America. Read the articles and find out that 265,000 individuals with top security clearance are not employed by any of the government intelligence agencies but are private contractors; find out where government agencies and subcontractors are located (we have some in New Jersey); and trace the networks that connect the government with industry. Two reliable sources of updated information include Secrecy News and GlobalSecurity.org. Other reliable sources include Strategic Studies Institute (especially its U.S. Army War Guide to National Security Issues), the Rand Corporation (and its section on National Security),  the Congressional Research Service’s numerous reports on security/secrecy/intelligence , recent Congressional hearings, and the Library’s Online Resources-Subject Guide-Security Studies. As the security community grows larger and larger, keep in mind President Obama’s statement of January 21, 2009:  

To be sure, issues like personal privacy and national security must be treated with the care they demand. But the mere fact that you have the legal power to keep something secret does not mean you should always use it. The Freedom of Information Act is perhaps the most powerful instrument we have for making our government honest and transparent, and of holding it accountable. And I expect members of my administration not simply to live up to the letter but also the spirit of this law.

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New Jersey Senate Budget Committee Begins Review of “33 Bill” Legislation

Two bills are under consideration today: S2100 that “Prohibits employees of certain organizations from enrolling in State-administered retirement system or health care plan of public employer”; and S2173 that “Limits unused sick leave pay and vacation leave carry-forward for school and local employees; permits local unit to pay certain benefits over 10 years; limits sick leave use by public employee before retirement.”

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Governor Christie Talks with Four NJ College Presidents

NJN, itself  a target of privatization efforts, presents a half-hour talk with the Governor and the presidents of BCCC, FDU, St. Peter’s, and TCNJ. It is worth a listen/viewing.

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Privatization in New Jersey

The New Jersey Privatization Task Force has just had its report made public by Governor Christie. Contained in this document along with its recommendations for privatizing, among other services,  prison, motor vehicle, preschool, state park, and toll collections is this ominous statement: “The Task Force applauds Governor Christie’s recent recommendation to allow public colleges and universities to opt out of Civil Service….”(33) This is in reference to the 33-bill toolkit that will be addressed this upcoming legislative session.  Analysis of the report can be found at: The Star-Ledger, BusinessWeek, Asbury Park Press, and the Reason Foundation. It needs to be repeated that no union or employee representatives were members of this task force.

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New Jersey Has Four “Best Small Cities”

The annual Money list of the “America’s Best Small Cities” has just come out and New Jersey has secured four places on it. You can search via state, by Top 100, by quality of life, by housing, and many more criteria.

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Two Percent Property Tax Cap to Become Law

The New Jersey Assembly has just passed the local property tax cap bill limiting increases to two percent with some exceptions. As the Senate had already passed this legislation and it has Governor Christie’s approval,  it will be signed into law as early as tomorrow. Needless to say, this will have a significant impact on school districts. News can be perused at: Bloomberg Business Week, Education Week, and The Star-Ledger. This informative article: Will You Save Money Under the Proposed N.J. Property Tax Cap should also be read.

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NJCU Carries Least Debt of Any Public University in NJ

According to this article from the Chronicle of Higher Education, public higher education institutions in the Garden State are being pounded by continued lack of state support and the imposition of tuition caps. Moody’s Investor Services issued a report this past Tuesday outlining the state of finances in New Jersey’s public higher ed schools.  Rutgers alone owes over $800 million, while NJCU owes “only” $118 million, the least amount. Additional reportage can be found at insidehighered, The Philadelphia Inquirer (which discusses the out-migration of NJ seniors to neighboring states, the subject of a previous blog entry),  and the Press of Atlantic City. However, despite this news, Moody’s still rates all the institutions as “A.” The entire report, along with the financial picture of all the state schools, is now available (it begins on p.25).

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Text/Video of President Obama’s Speech on Immigration

Here is the full text of  his speech and the video is here.

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2010 July 4th Celebrations in New Jersey

Days, dates, times and brief descriptions of various celebrations throughout the state are here and here. The largest shows are the Macy’s and the Kaboom festivities. Unfortunately, since Jersey City and other municipalities cannot afford the cost of putting on their own displays this year, it is advisable to consult the above sites for displays near you.

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Economic Crisis – July 2010 Update

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