Author Archive: City Belt

Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop?

Cross-posted from City Belt


The headlines screamed out, like manna from heaven for gas-guzzlers, McMansioners, and Bush administration "scientists" alike:

"Scientists: Global Warming Can’t Be Stopped."

"Scientists Say There’s No Way To Stop Climate Change."

This morning, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released their widely-anticipated report on global climate change. The report (available here as PDF) found, among other things, that, "Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global mean sea level." The group of experts also said, with over 90 percent confidence, that human activity has been the main driver of said warming.

So what’s New Jersey’s largest news portal, home of the award-winning Star-Ledger, to do with such a drastic report?

If you guessed, "Misrepresent its findings," you’re the big winner — we’ve got a Hummer in the mail to you.

The Star-Ledger/ report, authored by Kitta MacPherson, leads by calling global warming "a runaway train that can’t be stopped," before half-heartedly adding, "at least for a while." What the IPCC did in fact say was that we’ve fucked ourselves over for at least 30 more years of global warming as a result of our selfish actions, but, as the New York Times put it:

"The warming can be substantially blunted by prompt action."

So, it turns out there actually is a way — many ways, actually — to stop climate change. While my fellow City Belter Elizabeth recently took An Inconvient Truth to task for saying as much, there are personal actions that, if replicated on a grand scale (perhaps incentivized by government), can help stem the tide of global warming. But she was right to say that our ever-business-friendly federal government deserves most of the blame, and it is indeed killing us.

Rather than giving up, and encouraging everyone else to do so, perhaps should help us understand how we can create change. Perhaps with an afternoon to put it all together, the report in tomorrow’s paper will be a little less cynical — and a little more correct.

Sex Offenders? Not In My Backyard!

Given these two important facts:

1. The majority of sex offenders’ victims know their attackers
2. Recidivism for sex offenders is lower than for other “major” crimes, and lower in New Jersey than across the country

Why do municipalities in the state keep passing unnessarily punitive residency restrictions for sex offenders?

Jersey City Councilwoman Mary Spinello sums it up for us: “If you watch the news, all the children who are abducted and/or molested and killed are victims of previous offenders.”

When asked if the Council heard any testimony that these ordinances have cut down on sex abuse in other jurisdictions she answered, “Honestly, no.”

Who needs experts when you’ve got the local news at 11?

As we move further away from evidence-based approaches to crime & justice, it’s worth looking at the flaws in the residency restrictions approach.

We speak with experts, victims’ advocates, and others who make the case that this is indeed not “protecting the most vulnerable.”

Click here for the full story (at almost 2,000 words, we didn’t want to post it all here).

How They Voted on HR 5

Cross-posted from City Belt:

The Bill: H.R. 5
Date Passed: Jan. 17, 2007; 5:35 pm
About: This bill would drop the interest rate on federally-subsidized student loans from 6.8 to 3.4 percent over five years. At a time when tuition costs continue to rise, and student reliance on loans grows, this is a welcome piece of legislation, and, like many of the bill’s supporters, we hope that it is one piece of a larger body of legislation to help Americans afford undergraduate education, at the very least.

Talking Torture

Journalist A.C. Thompson has written an amazing book that some of you may be aware of, in which he investigates the planes that were used by the CIA in extraordinary renditions. The book is called Torture Taxi, and today, City Belt’s interview with Thompson is online here.

He talks about the Military Commissions Act (which both of our Senators voted for), how he tracked down the planes used, and what the Democrats can — and might not — do to stop the U.S. policy of torture.

“This torture thing, this CIA program, is not something that happens abroad — it’s not distanced from your daily life. The people who make it happen are your neighbors. They are unassuming people who are not necessarily government employees. They provide the cover and provide the infrastructure for the CIA to cruise around the world, kidnap people, throw them in dungeons and torment them.”

Toxic New Jersey

“We are living in a toxic soup.” – Peter Montague

This summer’s fiasco at Kiddie Kollege was just the tip of the environmental iceberg – New Jersey is filled with toxic sites that haven’t been properly cleaned up.

“The people suffering the most impact aren’t getting the most action.” – Ana Baptista

Read Leigh Davis’ full story here at City Belt.

Of Raised Profiles and Trickle-Down Theory

So, according to this story in the Star-Ledger today, “Rutgers’ success on the gridiron has generated awareness of New Jersey’s state university across the country.” Beyond the initial “Duh” after reading the sentence, you most likely say to yourself, as a proud New Jerseyan, “…and that can’t be bad,” or something to that effect. Indeed, that’s the way the two newspapers that ran stories on the new survey by Opinion Research Corporation frame it. The S-L headline: “A game raises Rutgers’ national profile.” And in the Asbury Park Press: “A lot more people know Rutgers’ name.” The headlines are so banal, it’s hard to think about what’s really going on here. I mean, who could disagree with new puppies?

But the most interesting part of the survey findings seems to work against the hypothesis presented by Athletic Director Robert Mulcahy and other Rutgers officials. They argue that the success of the football team, and the subsequent national recognition, will bring not only cash to the university, but a higher standard of academic learning. It is a hallucinatory pipe dream Mulcahy seems to be having quite a lot lately, in which the main actor, Jane Six-Pack in Anytown, America watches Rutgers on TV, maybe in a bowl game, and maybe she sees one of those ridiculous ads some schools run whilst their football team is playing, and she thinks, “I bet that Rutgers has some kick-ass philosophers/scientists/etc. — maybe my gifted son/daughter should think about applying!”

So what does the survey say? Find out after the jump.

Cross-posted from City Belt.

Lives (and Votes) Lost

With election day almost here, City Belt looks at the voting rights of New Jerseyans who are in or have been released from prison. As Larry Peterson’s case shows, even if you’re innocent, voting just might not be the first thing on your mind.

“I never even tried to register to vote. I’ve just been trying to put my life in order. It’s a struggle every day.”

Read about Peterson’s ordeal, and learn where New Jersey stands in relation to the rest of the country and the world in terms of prisoners’ voting rights here.

Electronic Voting in NJ — Is It Safe?

Our elections-focused November issue hits the streets tomorrow, and today we’re featuring one of the main stories — the state of electronic voting in New Jersey.

From Rush Holt’s legislation to Edward Felten’s team of computer scientists to citizen activists — we cover all the bases.

“The election records are in a sealed bag. What are you going to do? Shoot the guy to get them? People don’t understand we really take excruciating pains with security.”
– Mary Meyers, who’s in charge of elections for Warren County.

Read the full story here.

And while you’re over at City Belt, consider a subscription — it’s a very affordable way ($15 for 12 issues) to support independent media in New Jersey. 

City Belt: Tom Wyka Profile & Our Endorsements Begin

This week at City Belt, we feature Tom Wyka’s thoughtful responses to our candidate questionnaire — we appreciate him taking the time to respond, unlike so many other campaigns running for Congress this fall that have refused to answer our questions (you guys know who you are).

On the War:
“I would have voted for the war because I was doing what every American ought to be able to do — I trusted my President. Now it’s time for everyone who shared in this trust to hold him to account…I support a timed withdrawal of our troops from Iraq to neighboring nations close enough by so we respond if needed. I support our presence in Afghanistan – it’s where we should have been concentrating since 9/11. We might have caught or killed bin Laden by now.”

On the Bush tax cuts:
“I couldn’t vote to make the Bush tax cuts permanent. Middle class Americans need tax breaks a lot more than Paris Hilton.”

On the death penalty:
“Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

You can read the rest of the Q&A here.

And while you’re at City Belt, be sure to check out our endorsements on the three Public Questions on the ballot this fall.

Development Deja Vu in HudCo

This weekend in Jersey City, a community group is presenting a special screening of a 14-year-old documentary that has an eerie relevance to today’s Hudson County. The film, Nora Jacobson’s Delivered Vacant, chronicles the gentrification and displacement that was rampant in 1980s Hoboken. The parallels between the film and the luxury development “boom” in Jersey City today are astonishing.

As one housing activist told City Belt, “I don’t even use low-income’ anymore, because it’s just as bad as saying ‘terrorist’ to someone. I say mixed-income. Once you say low-income, that shuts down the meetings.”

If you’re in the area, you should come check out the screening, Saturday night at 6 pm. It is a fundraiser for two great community groups, and features an excellent panel for discussion.

You can find more details, read more about the state of affordable housing in Jersey City today, and check out an accompanying photo essay at City Belt.