$300 million airport security system didn’t spot cross-dressing dude wandering across the runways!


Guess you never could tell if the Invisible Man was cross-dressing or not

A cross-dressing man was found wandering the runways at the Newark, N.J., Airport, raising questions about how effective the airport’s new security system is.

Siyah Bryant, 24, of Jersey City, allegedly climbed a fence onto the airport’s tarmac at about 4:20 a.m. Wednesday…He was eventually caught, taken into custody and charged with trespassing.

During questioning, Bryant, who was wearing a pair of women’s pants and a sweater, told police that he had been on a date with another man when their car broke down. Bryant’s date called another friend, at which point Bryant said he “felt uncomfortable” and left on foot, the report said.

He then scaled the security fence at the airport, walked across two runways and into a terminal, where he was confronted by a United Airlines worker, who called the police, officials said.

The most concerning part of the case is that Newark’s new Perimeter Intrusion Detection System, which employs cameras and a sensor-lined fence, did not detect Bryant’s presence at the airport, the report said. The system, which is also being used at New York City’s JFK and LaGuardia airports and in Teterboro, cost more than $300 million to install.

Your tax dollars at work.

Gay teacher fired from Catholic school — Did you think the new pope changed old bigots?


Vincent Giannetto and his partner Michael Griffin

A gay teacher says he was fired from his job at a suburban Philadelphia Catholic school after applying for a marriage license with his partner.

Officials at Holy Ghost Preparatory School in Bensalem said Michael Griffin, who taught Spanish and French at the private all-boys school until he was fired Friday, had violated his contract when he applied for a marriage license with his same-sex partner in New Jersey.

Today I applied for a marriage license since NJ now has marriage equality,” Griffin posted on his Facebook page. “After 12 years together I was excited to finally be able to marry my partner. Because of that, I was fired from Holy Ghost Preparatory School today. I am an alumnus of the school and have taught there for 12 years. I feel hurt, saddened, betrayed and except for this post, am at a loss for words.”

Griffin said he had sent an email to school administrators informing them of his intentions, not expecting to be terminated given that his relationship had not been a secret among school faculty and staff, WCAU-TV, Philadelphia, reported.

“I’ve been with my partner for more than 12 years, the entire time I’ve been teaching at the school,” Griffin told the TV station. “He’s been to numerous school functions with me…”

The Rev.James McCloskey, the school’s headmaster, confirmed in a statement that Griffin was fired over his application for a same-sex marriage license…”…this decision contradicts the terms of his teaching contract at our school, which requires all faculty and staff to follow the teachings of the church as a condition of their employment.

Of course, if state and federal courts, including the Supreme Court, had the courage to follow our Constitution, they would support the rule that contracts that violate state and federal law aren’t legal and binding.

The crap “tradition” defense is as useless as any other line of bull from bigots. Cripes, I recall passage of the Civil Rights Law freeing up the trade union I belonged to at the time. The national union constitution only allowed the president to be white and male.

Republicans on the Supreme Court are as beholden to the “higher power” of bigotry as today’s Roman Catholic church. Mail me a penny postcard when justice unexpectedly breaks out.

Gay marriage a reality in New Jersey – Republican governor surrenders as state Supreme Court backs civil rights


Beth Asaro and Joanne Schailey celebrate, first same-sex couple married in NJ

Gov. Chris Christie dropped his legal challenge to same-sex marriages on Monday, removing the possibility that the vows of couples who began getting married hours earlier could be undone by a court.

New Jersey became the 14th state to allow gay marriages Monday, three days after the state Supreme Court unanimously rejected Christie’s request to delay the start of the nuptials…

…The announcement came from a Republican governor who is a possible 2016 presidential candidate and has for years opposed gay marriage while supporting the state’s previous civil union law.

It was met with jubilation from gay rights advocates including Steven Goldstein, the founder and former leader of Garden State Equality, who asked “How much happiness can I stand..?”

The decision caught some by surprise, but not Larry Lustberg, one of the lawyers on the case on behalf of gay couples and Garden State Equality. “The handwriting was on the wall as clearly as it could possibly be. The governor had always said he would fight this all the way up to the Supreme Court, but he didn’t say he was going to fight it in the Supreme Court twice,” he said in a conference call. “This was inevitable.”

The letter detailing Christie’s decision, from the Acting New Jersey Attorney General John Hoffman to the Supreme Court, was just two sentences and didn’t get into detail…

Last year, the state Legislature passed a law to allow gay marriage and deal with those issues, but Christie vetoed it.

And at 12:01 a.m., couples in a handful of communities wed.

In Newark, Mayor Cory Booker, in one of his last acts before joining the U.S. Senate in coming weeks, led a ceremony for seven gay couples and two heterosexual couples.

“Tonight we have crossed a barrier, and now, while you all have fallen into love, I want to say that the truth is, that the state of New Jersey has risen to love,” he said. “This state now is resonant now with the core values of our county, with the idea that there is no second class citizenship in America, that we’re all equal under the law.”

Like pretty much every case involving civil rights in America – long overdue.

Christie deserves little credit for recognizing the foolishness of continuing the suppression of equal opportunity for folks in the LGBT community. He recognizes the need to behave like a moderate if he ever intends to attract independent votes in a national campaign – like for president. He recognizes that living in one of the literate, educated, modern enclaves within the United States – instead of neo-Confederate backwardness – he needed to act like someone with a reasonable understanding of constitutional law.

Even though he stands damned near alone among potential candidates on the national stage of Republican office-holders.

Dumb crook of the day

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Police in New Jersey said they arrested a man accused of mistakenly sending a text message to a police officer seeking a buyer for marijuana…Andover Township Police said Lt. Eric Danielson, who had recently purchased a new cellphone with a new number, received a text message around 7:45 p.m. on a Friday from a person who offered a quarter pound of marijuana for sale…

Sgt. John-Paul Beebe said Danielson arranged to meet with the sender of the message, later identified as Nicholas Delear Jr., 33, and an undercover police officer met with Delear in the parking lot of a pizzeria in Sparta at 8:15 p.m.

Delear became suspicious and attempted the leave the area before completing the deal, but he was stopped by a Sparta Police vehicle a short time later.

Beebe said the suspect denied any knowledge of the texts and refused consent for officers to search his car, so a K-9 unit was dispatched. Danielson arrived on the scene and was able to confirm the text messages he received came from Delear’s number.

The K-9 unit indicated the presence of drugs in the vehicle and a Superior Court judge granted a telephonic search warrant.

Police said they found more than an ounce of marijuana in the car along with a scale and $620 in cash.

Delear was arrested on charges of possession with intent to distribute marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of a controlled dangerous substance in a motor vehicle and several motor vehicle infractions.

There is no criminal charge for dumb.

Judge rules New Jersey must allow same-sex marriage

A New Jersey judge ruled on Friday that the state must allow same-sex couples to marry, finding that failing to do so deprives them of rights that are now guaranteed by the federal government following a ruling by the Supreme Court in June.

It is the first time a court has struck down a state ban on same-sex marriage as a direct result of the Supreme Court’s ruling, and it comes as Gov. Chris Christie continues to oppose allowing gay marriage in the state. His administration may appeal.

“The ineligibility of same-sex couples for federal benefits is currently harming same-sex couples in New Jersey in a wide range of contexts,” wrote the judge, Mary C. Jacobson of State Superior Court in Mercer County. “Same-sex couples must be allowed to marry in order to obtain equal protection of the law under the New Jersey Constitution.”

For instance, Judge Jacobson wrote, civil union partners who are federal employees living in the state are not eligible for benefits stipulated in the federal pension system.

Couples in civil unions also may not enjoy the same federal tax benefits as married couples or the protections of the Family Medical Leave Act, she wrote…

Continue reading

Judge orders stripper’s life savings returned with interest…one year after state trooper confiscated it as drug money

A Californian stripper will have her life savings of over $1 million returned to her almost a year after it was confiscated by a Nebraska State Trooper who thought it was drugs money.

Exotic dancer, Tasha Mishra, 33, of Rancho Cucamonga, will be reunited with $1,074,900 plus interest, after Judge Joseph F. Batailon today found no evidence that the money was to be used in a drug dealing operation.

The million dollar fortune had been amassed by Mishra over the course of 15 years and was intended by her to be used to buy a nightclub in New Jersey and get her out of the stripping business…

Nebraska State troopers confiscated the cash on March 3rd 2012 when they pulled over Rajesh and Marina Dheri, of Montville, New Jersey, for speeding…

The Dheri’s are friends of Mishra and had been handed the cash by Mishra two days earlier and they were transporting the money across the country after flying into Los Angeles to meet the millionaire dancer.

Nebraska State Patrol Trooper Ryan Hayes issued Rajesh Dheri with a speeding ticket and then asked the couple if they were carrying anything illegal in the car such as drugs.

The Dheri’s said no and gave Hayes permission to search the Mercedes SUV they had rented two days prior.

The troopers discovered two drawstring bags containing rubber-banded bundles of cash in $100s and then seized it, believing it was related to narcotics.

The Dheri’s told the troopers that the money was for a nightclub that they and a friend were to buy in New Jersey but a drug sniffing dog found traces of narcotics on the money.

Presumably coppers know – as well as you and I know – that all American money bears traces of drugs.

Objecting, the Dheri’s told the troopers to phone Mishra who informed them the money was hers. Regardless, the U.S. Attorney’s office proceeded with confiscating the cash – telling Mishra she had no legal right to object because she was not in the car…

‘In any event, that claimant Tara Mishra earned her money by lap dancing and nude dancing does not mean that a Nebraska State Trooper can take her life savings,’ Mishra’s attorney Roger Diamond told the Journal Star…

joseph_f-_bataillon_district_judge

U.S. attorney Nancy Svoboda said blah, blah, blah.’

Judge Bataillon ruled otherwise after Mishra provided evidence of earnings on tax returns and paper details of the agreement to buy the bar in new Jersey…

In general, Bataillon said, the government ‘left too many unanswered questions and had a general failure of proof in this case.’ – according to the Journal Star.

He directed the government to return the money, plus interest since the day it was taken.

Always nice to see the little guy win one against ignorant coppers, blindered bureaucrats and the government. I wish Tasha Mishra and her associates well in their new business.

I suppose I should say I hope officials in the Nebraska State Police learned something from this disaster – but, frankly, I think that’s unlikely. Change is too difficult for people who run their lives like a mass-produced comic book.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Jersey City coppers told to remove anti-government patch

Police officers believed to be members of an anti-government extremist movement have been disciplined, an official with the Jersey City Police Department said.

The group of men from the Emergency Services Unit were “Three Percenters,” a movement that believes the federal government must be resisted because it is taking away Americans’ rights, the Jersey Journal reported…

Followers “engage in groundless conspiracy theorizing,” including the notion that the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States were carried out by the federal government, said the non-profit Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups.

The “Three Percenters” take their name from the idea that only 3 percent of American colonists took up arms against the British during the Revolutionary War, a Facebook page says.

Deputy Police Chief Peter Nalbach did not identify the officers who were disciplined.

The department took action after a letter sent to the Jersey Journal said some ESU officers wore a patch saying “One of the 3 percent.” A photo of a patch accompanied the letter.

Nalbach confirmed the officers were wearing a patch and that it was removed “because we don’t allow unofficial patches.”

Fitting for clowns using 3% of their brains.

Attempts to establish fascist cells inside police departments are nothing new in the United States or abroad. Whether recruiting is done from “natural talent” in the forces or cadres entering departments with the goal of building a presence – is unimportant.

Their goals are the same, individually and collectively. The task of civilians, the appropriate response from the body politic, is to root out racists, the stormtrooper mentality that always accompanies cowards and fear-mongers trying to redirect the armed branch of civil service into vicious, reactionary policies.

The secret to fixing bad schools


City Hall ain’t so snazzy on the outside either

…Union City makes an unlikely poster child for education reform. It’s a poor community with an unemployment rate 60 percent higher than the national average. Three-quarters of the students live in homes where only Spanish is spoken. A quarter are thought to be undocumented, living in fear of deportation.

Public schools in such communities have often operated as factories for failure. This used to be true in Union City, where the schools were once so wretched that state officials almost seized control of them. How things have changed. From third grade through high school, students’ achievement scores now approximate the statewide average. What’s more, in 2011, Union City boasted a high school graduation rate of 89.5 percent — roughly 10 percentage points higher than the national average. Last year, 75 percent of Union City graduates enrolled in college, with top students winning scholarships to the Ivies.

As someone who has worked on education policy for four decades, I’ve never seen the likes of this. After spending a year in Union City working on a book, I believe its transformation offers a nationwide strategy.

Ask school officials to explain Union City’s success and they start with prekindergarten, which enrolls almost every 3- and 4-year-old. There’s abundant research showing the lifetime benefits of early education. Here, seeing is believing…

Cognitive and noncognitive, thinking and feeling; here, this line vanishes. The good teacher is always on the lookout for both kinds of lessons, always aiming to reach both head and heart. “My goal is to do for these kids what I do with my own children,” the teacher, Susana Rojas, tells me. “It’s all about exposure to concepts — wide, narrow, long, short. I bring in breads from different countries. ‘Let’s do a pie chart showing which one you liked the best.’ I don’t ask them to memorize 1, 2, 3 — I could teach a monkey to count.”

From pre-K to high school, the make-or-break factor is what the Harvard education professor Richard Elmore calls the “instructional core” — the skills of the teacher, the engagement of the students and the rigor of the curriculum. To succeed, students must become thinkers, not just test-takers…

What makes Union City remarkable is, paradoxically, the absence of pizazz. It hasn’t followed the herd by closing “underperforming” schools or giving the boot to hordes of teachers. No Teach for America recruits toil in its classrooms, and there are no charter schools.

RTFA. I’m going to track down David Kirp’s “Improbable Scholars” as soon as it’s published. There are few topics that grip my attention more than the destruction of public education in America – and how to repair it. Restoration has become one of my highest political priorities.

David Kirp offers a playbook–not a prayer book–for reviving public education.

First same-sex wedding held at West Point Cadet Chapel

Cadet Chapel, the landmark Gothic church that is a center for spiritual life at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, hosted its first same-sex wedding Saturday.

Penelope Gnesin and Brenda Sue Fulton, a West Point graduate, exchanged vows in the regal church in an afternoon ceremony, attended by about 250 guests and conducted by a senior Army chaplain.

The two have been together for 17 years. They had a civil commitment ceremony that didn’t carry any legal force in 1999 and had long hoped to formally tie the knot. The way was cleared last year, when New York legalized same-sex marriage and President Barack Obama lifted the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy prohibiting openly gay people from serving in the military.

The brides both live in New Jersey and would have preferred to have the wedding there, but the state doesn’t allow gay marriage…

The NJ legislature passed a law allowing same-sex marriage. Republican Governor Christie vetoed it.

“It has a tremendous history, and it is beautiful. That’s where I first heard and said the cadet prayer,” Fulton said, referring to the invocation that says, “Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong, and never to be content with a half-truth when the whole can be won.”

The ceremony was the second same-sex wedding at West Point. Last weekend, two of Fulton’s friends, a young lieutenant and her partner, were married in another campus landmark, the small Old Cadet Chapel in West Point’s cemetery.

Fulton has campaigned against the ban on gays in the military as a member of two groups representing gay and lesbian servicemen and servicewomen. She graduated from West Point in 1980, a member of the first class to include women.

She served with the Army Signal Corps in Germany and rose to the rank of captain, but left the service in 1986 partly because she wanted to be open about her sexual orientation. President Obama appointed her last year to the U.S. Military Academy’s Board of Visitors.

Nice to see the US Military continue to march into the 21st Century at a faster pace than some political chickenhawks. For those of us who lived through the end of Jim Crow in our military, the result isn’t a complete surprise. Unlike some politicians, the Pentagon accepts the law of the land – instead of trying to slink back into the past.

A surge of support for New Jersey’s Christie acting like a grownup

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s approval rating has leaped 19 percentage points since superstorm Sandy slammed the state, as voters by a wide margin applaud his response to the crisis…

The Republican governor, who will face re-election in 2013 and is considered a contender for the U.S. presidency in 2016, has a 67 percent favorability rating among registered voters in the state, up from 48 percent in October.

The boost is notable because Christie’s ratings have stayed steady between 44 and 50 percent for his nearly three years in office, according to David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll…

Christie, a Republican star, angered some within his party by offering strong praise for Democratic President Barack Obama’s storm response in the days after Sandy and just before Election Day. Critics say Christie’s praise may have helped Obama’s re-election…

A Quinnipiac University poll on Tuesday found almost nine in 10 New Yorkers gave Christie top ratings for his performance.

Among New Jerseyans, 81 percent said Christie and Obama showed “needed cooperation and bipartisanship,” while 12 percent said Christie went too far, the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll found.

I sincerely hope the Party-formerly-known-as-Republican keeps up the current sophomoronic level of finger-pointing. It’s important that the Republicans who survived Tea Party self-immolation actually work to achieve bi-partisan resolution of economic issues. In many cases only doing so by taking advantage of districts gerrymandered by Republicans in the last Congress.

Still, it’s with a mixture of glee and a sense of historic justice that we can watch the religious nutballs and 19th Century purists march forward on their task of marginalizing the Republican Party that welcomed them in the door so many times in the name of opportunism.