U.S. Supreme Court says that corporations are people too

Coda • GREG BEAN

This is a dark day in America. Two weeks ago, I wrote that the U.S. Supreme Court was expected to do away with most of the laws that limit campaign contributions to candidates and much political advertising by corporations and special interest groups. And late last week, the court did just that — and in the process threw us back into what many political observers have called the age of the robber barons.

Most observers on both sides of the aisle noted that the court’s decision will have more impact on our political structure than any in our lifetimes. Some of them are happy about that. Some shortsighted Republicans, for example, see the decision as an opportunity to infuse more money into the upcoming midterm elections. You wonder how they’ll feel about things at some point in the future when the shoe is on the other foot. Others are scared to death right now. One of those isRep.AlanGrayson of Florida, who said, “This is the worst Supreme Court decision since the Dred Scott case. It will lead us all down the road to serfdom.”

He said, “If we do nothing, then before long, there will be senators from Citibank and Wal-Mart,” instead of representatives from Ohio, or Kentucky, or New Jersey.

In essence the court, in a 5-4 ruling, said that corporations and special interest groups have the same First Amendment guarantees as every other citizen, and shouldn’t be limited in spending directly on political campaigns. There have been limits on that spending for more than a century, and the McCain-Feingold law of 2002 tamped down the ability of special interest to influence elections even more.

Now, all that is out the window, and unless Congress acts nearly immediately to fix this legislatively, which is problematic, we can look forward to an unprecedented barrage of special interest advertising and spending in the coming elections. Forget politicians whose duty is to the constituents who voted them into office. We’ll have politicians at every level of government — from the Oval Office to the local zoning board — whose duty is to pacify the lobbyists, special interests and foreigners whose donations and checkbooks put them into office.

In his Saturday radio address last week, President Obama said the ruling was “devastating to the public interest,” and said his office is working on a package of legislation to repair the damage. But none of them are talking about bringing things back to where they were last week; they’re talking about tinkering around the edges.

And even that won’t be a slam-dunk. Right now, most Republicans are toeing the party line. While Russ Feingold, whose 2002 reform was eviscerated by the court, was outraged, John McCain merely said he was “disappointed.”

Here’s what I don’t understand. The court’s ruling came down to the majority’s opinion that corporations and special interests should have the same First Amendment rights to free speech as average citizens.

But corporations aren’t citizens, the government creates them and their express purpose is to make money. They get special benefits that ordinary citizens don’t, like legal and tax benefits and bankruptcy benefits.

Surely the Founding Fathers who wrote the Constitution and its amendments didn’t envision, or didn’t imagine the day when Microsoft would have the same “inalienable” rights as a farmer from Connecticut.

But if corporations and special interests want the free speech protections of ordinary citizens, shouldn’t they also give up their special protections? Shouldn’t the ones that are convicted of felonies, or gross mismanagement that harms thousands or millions, be required to shut down as a penalty? You can’t put a corporation in jail, but if corporations are considered people, shouldn’t The People have the right to impose an appropriate punishment for violations of the law ? Fewpeople seemto be asking that question yet, but it’s only a matter of time. Will the current Supreme Court crack down on the special benefits because doing so is a logical extension of their ruling on political contributions?

Don’t hold your breath.

• • •

I got a lot of response to my recent column about thinking outside the box when it comes to projects for helping others in this dismal economy. A note from Suzy Coulter of Freehold was representative. Speaking of the Ramos family of Freehold, who lost their home in a February 2009 fire that killed 12-year-old Kaylee, she asked:

“Can we get the local Habitat for Humanity to help rebuild their home? Is there another community service group that can do that? How about the Colts Neck High School kids that work with Habitat? It starts with the kids, you know. Teach them community service when they’re little and it will stay with them.

“Last summer, my 6-year-old grandson spent a month with us. His Papa and he built a lemonade stand. He had a great time selling lemonade, knowing from the very first that half his earnings were going to Open Door (a local food pantry). No one was prouder than he was when he delivered his $20 and change to the good folks there.”

Good for you, Grandma Coulter, and good for your grandson.

• • •

A friend and regular reader caught my recent column about watching football, and had this suggestion for making the televised games more interesting. He has a special gripe against field goal kickers, who he says are overpaid, underworked, and still manage to shank easy kicks. His idea?

Why not put little lottery tickets under the seats of paying fans, and let the winners come down onto the field and do the kicking? It was his opinion that would make the game a whole lot more interesting and probably wouldn’t affect the outcomes that much, since the average fan can shank an easy kick just as easily as a overpaid and underworked professional punter.

I told him I didn’t know, but my suggestions for making sports more interesting — like giving sidearms to the line judges at professional tennis matches — don’t often get much traction.

I told him I’d put it out to the readers. So what do you think? And do you have any ideas of your own to contribute?

Gregory Bean is the former executive editor of Greater Media Newspapers. You can reach him at gbean@gmnews.com.

A good run comes to an end

PATRICIA A. MILLER Ocean View

Ididn’t think much of Brick Township before I covered it for Greater Media Newspapers.

I can remember making a few disparaging remarks to Colleen Lutolf, the previous managing editor, when she had the Brick Bulletin.

“Brick,” I would snort. “It’s so boring. It’s nothing but strip malls and scrub pines.”

I was wrong. Very wrong.

Close to 90,000 people call Brick Township home. They live in sections of the township that at times are almost polar opposites, all in 26.3 square miles.

For starters, there’s the waterfront, miles of it. Brick Township has the most miles of waterfront in the state of New Jersey. Three public oceanfront beaches, all meticulously maintained. Then there’s Barnegat Bay and the shores of the Metedeconk and Manasquan rivers.

Drive along Route 35 on any summer day and you’ll see sailboats and windsurfers slipping along the cobalt water.

Travel in the opposite direction and you’ll find the gentle hills and woods of historic Herbertsville. If you didn’t know better, you’d think you were up in the northwestern portion of the state. The Havens homestead has stood like a sentinel for more than 180 years, through the winter snows and humid summers, a witness to Brick’s history.

The sections of town read like a railroad conductor’s roll call.

Breton Woods. Cape Breton. Lake Riviera. Riviera Beach. Osbornville. Laurelton. Adamston. Forge Pond. Vanada Woods. Normandy Beach. Cedarwood Park. Shore Acres.

But the most important asset of Brick Township is the people who live there. All of them have a story to tell.

I was privileged enough to be able to write about some of them.

I wrote about scoundrels and heroes. Brick has had its share of both.

Former longtime Democratic Mayor Joseph C. Scarpelli could have left a memorable legacy if he had finished his fourth term honorably. Instead, he chose to take the path traveled by way too many politicians in New Jersey. He chose corruption.

My very first Township Council meeting in November 2006 turned out to be Scarpelli’s last. He looked uneasy at that caucus meeting. The loquacious mayor barely spoke.

I dropped by Town Hall several times in the weeks after, to introduce myself and meet the mayor. He was never there.

“Uh, the mayor usually comes in early in the morning or late in the afternoon,” I was told.

Several weeks later he resigned. One month later he pleaded guilty to accepting bribes from an unnamed developer. Scarpelli was 70 years old when he was released from federal prison last May.

No less disturbing was former public works director Jack Nydam, who escaped prison by singing like a canary to the FBI about Scarpelli, his former boss.

But I’d prefer not to focus on the bad guys. I’d like to remember Brick’s good guys.

People like Warren Wolf, who coached Brick Township High School football for an unprecedented 51 seasons. The gentle Wolf demanded excellence from his players. He taught them how to act like gentlemen. He taught them that football was a metaphor for life. He didn’t swear and he didn’t allow his players to swear. He served as the mayor, councilman, Board of Education member, state assemblyman and Ocean County freeholder during his years of public service. Brick was and is lucky to have him.

I will remember the steadfast courage of Michelle and Michael Fox, the young couple who lost not one but two of their beloved children to Batten disease. They tried to give Tyler and Kalianne a good life in the very short time they had on this earth.

And I won’t forget my recent meeting with Dr. Eric Hudson and his wife, Christina. The muchloved veterinarian is battling his way back from brain cancer. In spite of his illness, there is a lot of laughter in the Hudson home. More than 1,500 people showed up at a fundraiser at Windward Beach in September to thank him for all he has done. If anybody can make it, Eric Hudson can.

I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to get to know many of Brick’s people had it not been for the Bulletin.

The demise of the Bulletin is a window into what’s been happening to the print journalism newspaper industry for more than 15 years.

Declining ad revenue is the major culprit, but not the only one.

Many people no longer make the time to read in-depth news stories. This is the age of slam-dunk television news, with its gaudy graphics, too-loud broadcasters and 30-second “news” stories. There’s too much going on all over the screen. It’s as if the producers think that every member of their audience has attention deficit disorder and needs a change every 10 seconds.

It’s the age of the Internet, where people get their news in quick gulps. News stories on many sites are bare-boned and dumbeddown. People these days seem to have little time for more than a headline.

And many Internet stories, especially blogs, are written by people with no journalism training or ethics. It’s a disturbing trend, especially for those who have spent their working lives in print journalism.

People like to bash the “media.” But if the present trend continues, there will be no authentic media to bash. And that’s a loss for everyone.

There will be no one to cover Township Council, Board of Education, Planning Board or Board of Adjustment meetings. Newspapers in general, especially the dailies, have cut their staff so severely that reporters have neither the time nor resources to cover a town adequately.

The loss of coverage will be bad news to good politicians and good news to bad ones. The watchdogs are disappearing.

I was fortunate enough to be able to immerse myself in Brick as both a reporter and the managing editor.

Brick was a great town to cover. God knows, it was never boring.

I will miss it.

Be cautious with house pets during winter time

Winter has descended, with plummeting temperatures and chill winds that will require special attention to your pet’s well-being. Dogs and cats are subject to many of the same effects that humans feel during winter, including frostbite and dry, itchy skin. Consider the many simple steps you can take to keep your pet healthy and comfortable.

The basic rule is an easy one: If it’s too cold outside for you, it’s too cold for your pets. Bring them inside! If your pet must spend time outside, make sure it has a weatherproof, insulated house to shelter in. A good shelter will be elevated off the ground, just big enough for your pet to move around in, and well-equipped with warm bedding — straw is best — and a flap over the door. Place it is a sheltered spot with the door facing south, away from winter winds.

Inside or out, your pet needs a constant source of fresh water. Check the water dish frequently in freezing temperatures to make sure it hasn’t iced over, or use a heated dish that will keep water from freezing.

Cold weather places extra stress on older and very young animals. Ask your veterinarian for a check-up that can reveal underlying conditions that may prove problematic in cold weather. Cold can aggravate arthritis and other joint problems, possibly calling for changes in your pet’s pain or anti-inflammatory medications.

Your veterinarian can also recommend a good quality pet food that will nourish the skin and coat, preventing itching and flaking. Creams and lotions are great for human skin, but not for your pet. They will just mat down the hair and rob it of its insulating value. Avoid bathing if possible, but if you must, use shampoos that will moisturize the skin.

Remember that animals are also subject to hypothermia and frostbite. These are potentially serious conditions that call for immediate attention by your veterinarian. If you suspect frostbite, you can gently soak the area in warm — not hot — water, but do not rub! If your animal becomes weak and lethargic, suspect hypothermia and call your veterinarian immediately!

Here are some special hazards to keep in mind:

• Cats love to crawl under the hood of your car to sleep against the warm engine. Be sure to check under the hood or give it a loud bang before starting your engine

• Even a drop or two of antifreeze is deadly to pets, and has a sweetness that makes it attractive. If there is even a chance that your pet has licked antifreeze, seek immediate veterinary care

• Use pet-safe ice melt. Salt can freeze to paws where your pet will lick it.

Winter can be a fun time for you and your pet. What dog doesn’t love a romp in the snow? Using some common sense and a little care will ensure that you both get the most out of winter fun while avoiding its hazards.
Dr. Lawrence Wolf
President
The New Jersey Veterinary
Medical Association
Hillsborough

Poison information, education system needs protection

“Never look a gift horse in the mouth,” but that is exactly what the state of New Jersey has recently done by cutting funds to the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System (NJPIES), and potentially foregoing federal funds of over $150,000.

The federal funds come with strings attached and cannot be accessed without the state commitment of dollars.

New Jersey receives federal grant funds contingent on the state maintaining its own financial commitment to the center’s operation. In decreasing the state commitment by 32 percent over the last four years, state residents take a much bigger hit of decreased federal funding.

The math doesn’t add up, and we strongly urge our newly elected executive and legislative officials to take a more informed look at the state emergency services system and the part the NJPIES plays within it. Studies in New Jersey and other states continue to show that millions of dollars are saved annually by poison control center interventions that handle problems at the scene and prevent unnecessary and expensive hospital visits.

Sadly, the NJPIES budget has been cut consistently for the past four years, just recently with a 22 percent budget cut for the fiscal year 2010. The system is currently running on bare bones, but still providing 24/7 free telephone support to all New Jersey residents, Emergency Medical Services professionals and doctors in New Jerseybased hospitals. The expertise and service is unparalleled and needs to be protected not impinged.

We urge our new governor and legislators to learn more about our services and support NJPIES as a progressive budgetsaving and health-reform measure.
Dr. Steven Marcus
Executive Medical Director
New Jersey Poison
Information and Education System
Newark

To turn alarm off, throw entire clock against wall

Coda • GREG BEAN

If there’s anything more frustrating than trying to follow a procedure manual for a product that was built in a non-Englishspeaking country and then translated into the King’s Own by someone with a limited grasp of our language, I don’t know what it is.

Back in the day when I didn’t have a garage, I decided to rebuild the carburetor on my Japanese motorcycle in my driveway. I carefully disassembled the crucial parts of the bike and laid them out on a tarp in the order they had been removed. Then, I followed the instructions on the rebuild kit that had been provided by the manufacturer.

I thought I was doing pretty well until the last step, when the instructions told me, in all caps, to MAKE SURE TO REPLACE THE STEEL ROUND!

Say what?

I had replaced all the parts I had taken off, except for one small spring I somehow overlooked. But there wasn’t a steel round anywhere.

The motorcycle ran decently after I finally figured out where that spring went, but I never trusted it again because I knew that it was missing a critical steel round. I sold it as soon as possible and bought an American motorcycle because I could understand the maintenance and repair manuals.

You’d think that in all the years since, the problems would have been resolved. Maybe the manufacturers could have hired native English speakers to translate the manuals. But as products have become more technologically complex, the situation has gotten worse.

I give you my recent quest to find a bedside alarm clock to replace my old model, one of those where the numbers flap down as time progresses. The old clock kept good time, but it finally wore out.

The first replacement I bought was a combination AM/FM radio, alarm clock and CD player. I bought it because it was designed to look like the dashboard of a vintage Studebaker, but that’s where the similarities ended. I once owned a 1956 pink and white Studebaker President, and there wasn’t much you couldn’t fix on that car with a couple of screwdrivers and a ball-peen hammer.

The instruction manual for my new alarm clock was 36 pages long, apparently translated from Chinese, where the thing was built. It had two alarm clock functions, and you had to make a choice whether you wanted to be awakened by a buzzer, the radio or a CD. After that, there were 58 steps to program the monster to work the way you wanted.

Those instructions began with “In the POWER OFF mode, press and hold the DISPLAY/ MODE Button (#15) until MUTI (sic) FUNCTION INDICATOR 1 (#9) and HOUR digit flash . . .

Then it told you to push button 17 or 20 until the correct hour is displayed.

And that’s only part of step one. When I finally finished, the digital clock ran about three minutes fast every day and the numbers were too small to read without my glasses.

Enter alarm clock replacement Number 2.

This clock — also made in China — looked fairly straightforward in the package, but it was even more useless than the Studebaker. To make it work to its maximum potential, you had to follow the incomprehensibly translated owner’s manual to set the time, the alarm, the event reminder, the countdown timer, the temperature, the date, the year and the month.

There were five or six tiny buttons on the back of the clock to accomplish this, but they were so small I had to wear magnifying cheaters to read them. To set the time, you pressed the mode button once, then pressed the set button once to set the hour, twice to set the minute, three times to set the year, four times to set the month, five times to set the date, six times to confirm the setting, and four more times to go back to the normal mode.

If you figured out how to make the alarm work, you had to push the mode button twice and the set button five times to turn it off.

And you were supposed to do all this when you just wake up, without your glasses, and likely in the dark.

I never could turn the thing off, but I discovered that throwing the entire clock forcefully against a wall is reasonably effective.

Which brings us to clock replacement Number 3.

This time, I went to a half-dozen stores to find the simplest, cheapest alarm clock in the world. I finally found a plastic thing that looks like the old Big Ben wind-up clock I had as a kid. There are only two setting knobs on the back, one for the time and one for the alarm. The alarm is turned off and on by a simple switch on the side.

The clock cost a whopping $6.95.

Perfect, I thought — until I got it home and discovered that it takes an unusual-sized battery (not included) and I had to drive to three stores to find one that worked.

The package of two batteries cost $7.95 with tax, a dollar more than the clock cost, and that didn’t count the cost of gasoline.

But at least it’s working, and I didn’t even read the manual. The face is big enough that I can see it without my glasses, even in the dark. And this morning, I turned the alarm off without opening my eyes.

And if you factor the cost of this clock in with the cost of the two clocks it replaced, the whole experience only set me back about $200.

Call me slow to learn, but I recognize what President Obama calls a “teachable moment” when one whomps me in the cranium, and the clock saga was one of those. Simpler, I now realize, is always better.

Tomorrow, I’m gonna go out and find a $3 crystal radio set so I can listen to the BBC morning news on NPR.

The expensive Studebaker radio I mentioned earlier is no longer with us — the victim of a ball-peen hammer.

Gregory Bean is the former executive editor of Greater Media Newspapers. You can reach him at gbean@gmnews.com.

Charles F. Musillo

Mr. Musillo, 83, of Oceanport, died Dec. 27, 2009, at Bayshore Healthcare Center, Holmdel. He had resided in Oceanport for 10 years before relocating to Bayshore Healthcare three years ago. He was predeceased by his wife, Eileen Murphy Musillo; and a son, James Musillo, in 1995. He is survived by two sons and daughtersin law, Michael and Arlene of Holmdel, and Emanuel and Rose of Brick; and eight grandchildren. Entombment was at Woodbridge Memorial Gardens, Woodbridge. Arrangements were by the John E. Day Funeral Home, Red Bank. Memorial donations may be made to American Cancer Society, 801 Broad St., Shrewsbury, NJ 07702.

Cordellia Duff

Mrs. Duff, 66, of Old Bridge, died Dec. 28, 2009, at home. Her husband, Lester Duff Sr., died in 2007, and a sister, Joan Zamparie, died in 2006. Surviving are a son and daughter-in-law, Lester Jr. and Sheila Duff of Old Bridge; three sisters, Bernice Scott and Barbara Muraszewski, and her husband, Mike, all of Tampa, Fla., and Jackie Menna of Brick; a brother, Vincent Boruta Jr. of Palm Harbor, Fla.; two grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews. A graveside service was held at Brig. Gen. William C. Doyle Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Arnytown section of North Hanover. Arrangements were under the direction of Michael Hegarty Funeral Home, Old Bridge.

Angel Collazo Ruiz

Mr. Ruiz, 74, of Keyport, died Jan. 6, 2010, at Bayshore Community Hospital, Holmdel. He had resided in Port Monmouth before relocating to Keyport 28 years ago. Mr. Ruiz was employed at Lily Tulip, Holmdel. He was also a chef at the Buttonwood Manor, Matawan, and a construction worker and carpenter for various local companies. He was predeceased by his first wife, Celinda Ramos; two sons, Rolando and Edwin Medina; and a sister, Malta Morales. Mr. Ruiz is survived by his wife, Amal Kamal; five daughters and two sons-in-law, Irma Medina of Keyport, Juana “Sandra” and Ozcan Ozkan of Keyport, Yolanda Medina of Keansburg, Maria Cartagena of Point Pleasant Beach, and Iris and Carlos Roda of the Iselin section of Woodbridge; two sons and one daughter-in-law, Aurelio and Nora Medina of Brick, and Angel Collazo of Keyport; 21 grandchildren; and 20 great-grandchildren. Interment was at Jersey State Memorial Park, Englishtown. Arrangements were by Bedle Funeral Home, Keyport. Memorial donations may be made to American Diabetes Association, P.O. Box 11454, Alexandria, VA 22312.

Samuel Rosen

Mr. Rosen, 103, of Holmdel, died Jan. 10, 2010, at Arnold Walter Nursing Home, Holmdel. He was the former owner of a produce company based in Union County. He was predeceased by his wife, Goldie, in 1977. Mr. Rosen is survived by a son, Dr. Neil Rosen of Holmdel; a daughter, Helene Schwartz of Brick; five grandsons; and one great-grandson. Arrangements were by Bloomfield-Cooper Jewish Chapels, Ocean Township.

Publisher announces discontinuation of the Brick Township Bulletin

As of the last week of January, Greater Media Newspapers will discontinue publication of the Brick Township Bulletin. Greater Media Newspapers will also cease publication of the Woodbridge Sentinel in Middlesex County.

As most of our readers know, the last two years have seen our nation’s economy challenged in a way it hasn’t been in decades. Newspapers have certainly been affected by this downturn, and while we believe that community newspapers are the future of our industry, our group of weekly newspapers has not been immune to the economic reality those challenges have brought.

Like many newspaper companies, we are facing tough decisions that we believe are necessary to keep our core business strong and see us into a prosperous future. And after careful consideration, we made the difficult decision to close those publications.

Greater Media Newspapers remains committed to providing the award-winning journalism that our readers and advertisers have come to rely on.

We will continue to provide upto date news and features through our publications the News Transcript, Tri-Town News, Examiner, Independent, Hub and Atlanticville, covering parts of Monmouth and Ocean counties, and the Suburban, East Brunswick Sentinel, Edison/ Metuchen Sentinel and North/South Brunswick Sentinel, covering sections of Middlesex County, as well as on our website, www.gmnews.com.

We thank you for your support and readership over the years.
Ben Cannizzaro
General Manager
& Publisher
Greater Media Newspapers