Author Archive: jeffpickens

The JFK Oral History Project

(Yeah, I know, this has nothing to do with New Jersey, other than the fact that the protagonists were born in Jersey City and grew up in Bergen County. But I'm posting it anyway, because it's a cool story, and it's the reason I can't be in Trenton today)

Here's the story – two boyhood pals in suburban New Jersey: While other kids were playing sports, Andy and Jeff were consumed with the JFK assassination. We both vividly remembered where we were on November 22, 1963, and from the time we met in 1967 at age ten through our teenage years and early twenties, we delved into the Crime of the Century – reading books, engaging in deep discussions of conspiracy theories, examining the Zapruder film frame by frame. We vowed to one day visit Dealey Plaza in Dallas. Over the years, we lost touch, but reconnected in 2002. We remembered The Vow, and that neither of us had let go of it.

Then, in 2005, I learned I had to go to Fort Worth for business. By that time, Andy had relocated to Houston. I contacted Andy and the plans were underway. On November 16th, 2005, 11:45 CST, we both arrived at the parking lot of the Sixth Floor Museum – formerly known as the Texas School Book Depository – each clutching our copies of Best Evidence.

We spent the day at Dealey Plaza, covering every inch of the Grassy Knoll, visiting the Sixth Floor Museum, re-enacting the frantic drive from Elm Street to Parkland Hospital, even visiting the grave of unsung 11/22 hero J.D. Tippit.

A while back, I heard about the JFK Oral History Project, which:

explores the history and culture of Dallas and the 1960s, and preserves personal recollections regarding the life and death of President John F. Kennedy. These candid, informal interviews offer insight into the Kennedy legacy and the local—and global—impact of his assassination.

I contacted Andy and we knew we HAD to do this. So, on November 22, 2011, we simultaneously contacted the curator of the Sixth Floor Museum, who found our story compelling enough to invite us to Dallas to be interviewed on video for the Project.

Our interview is scheduled for Friday, February 17th, 2012, at 2:00pm CST. I will fly to Houston the day before, Andy and I will head to Dallas Friday morning, on the ultimate road trip. The journey will be documented in photos, video and writing.


The video of our interview will be archived for viewing on the website or at the Museum itself. We will not only talk about history. We will be part of history.

I love a parade, but…

promoted by Rosi

So, the Giants won the Super Bowl, and I hope my friends who are Giants fans enjoyed their parade. I sure enjoyed the parade when the Phillies won the World Series in 2008.

Governor Christie wanted the parade in New Jersey, since that is where the Giants play their home games, but I say lets let New Jersey reap the tax revenues and let New York City pay for the parade, which we cannot afford.

Now, some are calling for a parade to honor the returning veterans of the war in Iraq. I respectfully disagree. While I certainly appreciate the desire to honor the sacrifices of  those who gave so much, a day of jingoistic flag-waving is not the way to do it.

These veterans are coming home physically, mentally, and emotionally injured. They are coming back to a place where job prospects are weak. What they need is access to health care and job opportunities, not a parade.

As long as the war in Afghanistan continues, as long as drone attacks continue to kill innocent civilians and conduct targeted assassinations, including American citizens, as long as saber rattling replaces diplomacy with Iran, Syria and elsewhere, how about we hold off on the parades.

Let's end this state of perpetual war, and then we'll have something to celebrate.

“Town Hall” in Irvington – ALL are welcome

For those of you lucky enough to be unemployed, or have the day off Thursday, Governor Chris Christie will be holding another one of his taxpayer funded partisan pep rallies “Town Hall” meetings, at the Christian Love Baptist Church in Irvington, Essex County.

If you go:
WHERE: Christian Love Baptist Church
                830 Lyons Ave.
                Irvington NJ 07111
WHEN: Thursday, January 19, Doors open at 9:30AM. Event begins at 10:30AM
RSVP by clicking here:

Below is a screen shot from the Christian Love Baptist Church website. No Comment:

Pitman Punts

promoted by Rosi

“Even though the prospect sickens, brother here we go again”
 – Tom Lehrer, “A Christmas Carol

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year again folks, and it wouldn't be the “Holiday” season without the War on Christmas, and all its battles, real and imagined, from the annual rumors that our secret Muslim President is changing the name of the White House Christmas Tree to the Holiday Tree, to the real story of the Governor of Rhode Island and the State Holiday Tree, to the various whining talking heads on Fox “News”, and the usual skirmishes over Nativity scenes on public property, which can easily be fixed by placing a Menorah beside them.

But there is a real war on Christmas right in my own backyard, in Pitman, NJ, where someone has hung a sign above Broadway (Pitman's main drag), that reads, “Keep Christ in Christmas”. Now, you don't need to be a constitutional scholar to understand that this sign breaches the wall of separation of church and state, and one First Amendment advocacy group, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, has complained.

Now, this sort of thing is not unusual, but the response of the Pitman Borough Attorney, Brian Duffield, is quite interesting:

“We found out that the banner is attached on one end to the old bank — which is privately owned — and on the other end it’s connected to an Atlantic City Electric or Verizon pole which the borough does not own. Also, Broadway is a county — not a borough — road. Everything related to the sign is not on Pitman public property.”

Huh? According to my map, the location of this banner lies withing Pitman's borders, hangs in Pitman's airspace, yet the Borough of Pitman has no legal jurisdiction to take it down? The banner, according to the Borough, hangs in some generic part of Gloucester County, not in Pitman. The banner just appeared by magic. Using this logic, I suppose I can park my car at one of the metered spots on Broadway without putting money into the meter, and no cop would give me a ticket because Broadway is out of Pitman's jurisdiction.

Pitman takes pride in its origins as a Methodist encampment and its many churches, but there is no religious test to live in Pitman, nor is there a religious test to travel to or through it, to park on its streets, or to shop at its Mom and Pop stores on Broadway. A banner with a religious proclamation, hanging in a public street, whether it's a municipal road or a county road, is inappropriate and should come down.

Duffield's punt on jurisdiction here pretty much ensures that the banner will remain in place, at least for the near future, but with Christmas just over a week away, it will be down in a few weeks anyway.

So, what can church/state separation advocates do? A legal battle would not be resolved between now and December 25th.

How about some civil disobedience, climb up there and take the sign down ourselves? After all, since the banner is out of Pitman's jurisdiction, we can expect the police to stand idly by and wait for the Gloucester County Sheriff to arrive, by which time the sign and the removers will be long gone, right?

It Was a Dark and Stormy Bowling Match

Who is this guy Max Pizarro and who thinks his “writing” is fit to publish?

This stinker was dropped in my Google Alerts this afternoon. It is a PolitickerNJ account of a GOTV rally at a bowling alley in Manville, in support of 16th District Democrats, with an appearance by Newark Mayor Cory Booker, including the story of a friendly $1,000 bowling wager between Booker and SCDC Chairwoman Peg Schaffer.

The article clunks through a description of Booker's motivational remarks, peppered with journalistic slop like:

The Tony Robbins headset messages included team work and never giving up, and these were massage points (did he mean “message points”?) for a county organization long used to getting carried off the field on Election Day – on stretchers, not shoulders.

Then this:

Redistricting put a crack in the drawbridge of longtime GOP stronghold LD 16 – rerouting the Princetons and South Brunswick into the laps of veteran state Sen. Kip Bateman (R-16) and Assemblyman Pete Biondi (R-16) and giving Dems enough juice to play for an assembly win.

Note that he does not name a single Democratic LD-16 candidate by name, candidates that he described as “ginned up” in an October 12 PolitickerNJ piece.

Let me help you out, Max. Their names are:
Maureen Vella, candidate for NJ State Senate
Marie Corfield, candidate for NJ State Assembly
Joe Camarota, candidate for NJ State Assembly

(Disclosure: I am campaign treasurer for the Corfield Campaign)

Then, he went full Bulwer-Lyton with the account of the Booker/Schaffer bowling match, which I'm sure would have Hemingway rolling in his grave. Not exactly “Death in the Afternoon”, folks.

Then the money shot:

The mayor went first, powering in shot that left him with a single spare. On his second roll he pounded the lone sentinel down with ease.

“Lone sentinel”?

The story at least had a happy ending. They tied, and Peg got her $1,000 from the Mayor.

Washington Twp (Gloucester County) Mayoral Debate

Promoted by Rosi

In addition to the very important NJ State Legislature and County Freeholder elections on Tuesday, Washington Township, Gloucester County, will be holding a Mayoral election.

(Disclosure: I have the unique distinction of having lived in two of the five(?) Washington Townships in New Jersey)

Notwithstanding the unfortunate headline juxtaposition on the front page of the Washington Township Times: For the benefit of Washington Twp residents, there will be a debate between Mayoral hopefuls Kevin Murphy (R) and Barbara Wallace (D), in the Washington Twp Municipal Building on Egg Harbor Road, Tuesday, November 1, at 7:00pm.

The one-hour debate will be held in the main council meeting room of the municipal building on Egg Harbor Road. The candidates will each respond to 10 questions – eight of which will come from the public, but not the audience. Murphy said they’ve established an email address – – where they’re asking the residents to submit questions. The questions must include the resident’s name, address and phone number in order to be considered.


See you there, and don't forget to VOTE on Tuesday, November 8.

Election? What Election?

Important Stuff Happens Here This is the question I get all too often when I talk about the upcoming NJ State Legislature elections on November 8, 2011.

It's not surprising. Most people who bother to vote pay attention to even-numbered years, when we vote for US House, US Senate, and, every four years, US President. It's different here in New Jersey, where state elections are held in odd-numbered years. Our gubernatorial election is the year after the presidential election, which draws some attention.

Unfortunately, the non-gubernatorial odd-numbered year is a black hole of voter awareness in New Jersey.

The NJ State Senate and Assembly candidates who are “walking”, knocking on doors, have a two-fold task: They are asking for votes, and more often than not, they must explain what office they are running for, and that the election is this year, not next year.

There are approximately 1.7 million(*) registered Democrats in the state of New Jersey. I wonder how many of them know there is an election here in less than three weeks? How many of them drive past yard signs without notice?

Of course, those of us in the Blue Jersey community, all 841 of us (do the math: 841 / 1,700,000) are well aware of the upcoming elections. But what about everyone else?

Forgive me for stating the obvious. No one reading this post needs to be schooled on the NJ electoral calendar. But there are many outside the Blue Jersey world who need to be reminded. 

So, mark your calendar, November 8, 2011, and remind your friends that, however entertaining the 2012 Republican freak show my be, 2011 is not an off year in New Jersey. We have an election this year, and we need to vote.

(*) If anyone has a more accurate number, please advise.

I’m Not Sure I Can Hold My Nose This Time

Multiple attempts to reach out to state representatives without ever a response? What could possibly be your reasons, Senator Madden? Assemblyman Moriarty? Assemblywoman Mosquera seems to have a chance here to do better with this constituent than her colleagues. – promoted by Rosi

It seemed like a simple question to me. A question I posted on the Facebook page of the Democratic NJ State Legislature candidates for the 4th Legislative District.

Senator Fred Madden and Assemblyman Paul Moriarty are incumbents. Gabriela Mosquera is a newcomer, running for the seat formerly held by Republican Domenic DiCicco, who was redistricted out of LD-4 in April.

I have written to my state representatives numerous times on a variety of issues, both state and local. Never once have I ever received a response, not even a form letter or a robo-email, from Madden or Moriarty. Mr. DiCicco, the Republican, has personally responded to me, as has Governor Christie. I even got a phone call from a Christie staffer responding to one of my letters.

Madden and Moriarty are also among the “Christiecrats” who sold out the public unions on pension and benefit “reform” (why does that now sound like such a dirty word?).

Carl Lewis: Where was the due diligence?

promoted by Rosi

(cross-posted from Pick's Place)

So, it looks like this is the end of the road for the on again, off again, on again, off again, doomed-to-fail campaign of former Olympic gold medalist and Willingboro, NJ hometown hero Carl Lewis. On Thursday, 9/22, a three member panel of the the Third Circuit Court of Appeals denied Lewis' eligibility to serve in the State Senate because he does not meet the residency requirements.

I am not a political professional. I am an accountant by trade, and I specialize in auditing. In the course of my work, when about to embark on a audit, the first thing we do is a risk assessment on the area being reviewed. We start by asking, “What can go wrong?”. Brainstorm the scenarios from worst case to least bad. From there, we construct our plan.

I would think that a person considering running for political office, or encouraging another to run for office, would do a similar due diligence. I would be wrong.

Apparently, the geniuses in the Democratic party of New Jersey did not bother to do this due diligence when they drafted Mr. Lewis to run for Senate. I was excited about his candidacy and hopeful to see a Democrat take a seat that had historically been Republican. However, when I learned that Lewis, although he has owned homes in Burlington County, New Jersey since 2006, had for the most part lived in California, and voted in California in 2009, my hopes sunk.