Wednesday, November 28, 2007

NJ Blogger's "Truth Squad" Rights Defended

Although we're hardly anonymous here, we can understand why some need the protection of a pseudonym to be effective as whistleblowers or gadflys. One such Jersey Blogger who calls himself daTruthSquad has spent months skewering Manalapan area officials on his Web site.

From The Star Ledger:
Township leaders suspect the venomous blogger, who appears to have inside information about local politics, is Stuart Moskovitz, the former mayor and township attorney. Moskovitz has motive: He is being sued by Manalapan over a land deal gone bad.

But Moskovitz insists he has never blogged and doesn't know the identity of daTruthSquad. So lawyers for the Monmouth County township subpoenaed Google earlier this fall, insisting that the Internet giant reveal the name and computer behind daTruthSquad's blogging account.

Lawyers for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a California-based Internet rights group, are making the legal claim that daTruthSquad -- like all bloggers -- has the right to anonymity.

The foundation hopes to quash the Google subpoena and use the case to bring attention to the growing number of public officials using the courts to pry the names of their online critics from Internet providers.

"This is the government trying to silence or intimidate someone who says something they don't like," said Matt Zimmerman, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "It's important things like this don't get swept under the rug."

The blogger, writing as "daTruthSquad" on a site hosted on Google's Blogspot service, has criticized a controversial lawsuit filed by the township of Manalapan, as well as the officials who decided to pursue the case. The township subpoenaed Google for "daTruthSquad's" identity -- as well as for any emails, blog drafts, and other information Google has about the blogger -- claiming that the defendant in the case is actually writing the posts. The defendant, however, has already sworn under penalty of perjury that he is not "daTruthSquad."

"Bloggers, as well as everyone else, have a First Amendment right to speak anonymously," said EFF Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "Litigants don't get a blank check to pry into the private lives of critics when they say things the litigants don't like. The fact that it is the government trying to abuse the discovery process makes this attempted invasion of privacy all the more repugnant."

daTruthSquad summed up his case in a recent post:
If this whole case is about a land deal, where are the many exhibits regarding da land deal? Why are page after page of these briefs discussing da internet blogger known as daTruthSquad?

Is this a legal case about a land deal gone bad? Or, is this a legal case where a governmental body has taken it upon themselves to use taxpayer dollars to divulge information about a blogger who lets da readers know what is really happening in one particular town?

While the fur is flying ON NJO's hyper-active Manalapan forum, some high profile local bloggers are weighing in.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

MSU Students: We've Got Your Number

MSU students are all talking about a new requirement that students all purchase administration approved cell phones.

The first such program in the country, 'School Phone' -- as in a Sprint-operated cell -- is now mandatory for all students.

from wcbsnews:

The cost: $420 a year for a base plan which is bundled into the tuition bill.
It includes just 50 peak voice minutes a month, but unlimited text messaging to any carrier, unlimited campus-based data usage, and student activated emergency GPS tracking.

"What it does is allow students to have an extra pair or group of people watching over them when they're going from one location to another," Montclair Police Department Chief Paul Cell said.

There are various phone and call plan options, but the bottom line is you have to pick one. That could be a problem for someone with their own cell phone and their own monthly bill.

The program has another benefit -- students now have another way to call home and ask for money.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Over Priced or Under Valued?

According to Market Analyst, Barry Ritholtz, housing prices have to fall 25% or stay flat for 5 years for homes to be fairly valued. That is assuming, of course, incomes continue to grow at the current pace, no sure thing given a possible recession lurking in the near future.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Garrison Kieler on Bottled Water


I am sorry, Evian and San Pellegrino and Dasani and all the other bottled waters out there—Aqua Velva, Wells Fargo, Muddy Waters, Joan Rivers, Jerry Springer, whatever—but the current campaign against paying good money for bottled water when tap water is perfectly good (and very likely purer) is so sensible on the face of it that I am now done with you.

Fini. Kaput. Ausgeschlossen. No more designer water. Water is water. If you want lemon flavoring, add a slice of lemon. You want bubbles, stick a straw in it and blow.

In case your tap water flunks the tast e test, try the iStraw -- a lightweight polycarbonate straw fitted with a special membrane, which uses micro-filtration technology to clean your water. If you've tried chlorine tablets, you know how icky the taste can be, and with the iStraw there's no aftertaste.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Realtors Say 2007 will be the Fifth Best Year on Record

It's not all gloom and doom in our business.
From National Realty News:

“In some ways, the extended real estate boom from 2001 to 2005 created unrealistic expectations that housing is a short-term high-yield investment,” said National Association of Realtors Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. “2007 will be the fifth best year for housing on record. Places like Houston, the Kansas City area, Indianapolis, and the vast middle section of the United States offer affordable prices and continued job growth. On either coast, Seattle and Raleigh, N.C., remain solid. And markets that experienced recent growth declines – like Boston, Denver, and Washington, D.C. – have already shown signs of recovery. In short, all real estate is local – conditions vary greatly from one city to the next.”

Yun explained that while the recent rise in foreclosures and delinquencies has dampened consumer confidence in real estate, these problems have been concentrated in the subprime market. “For buyers who qualify for conventional financing, mortgages are available at favorable rates,” said Yun. “Major FHA reform will also help first-time home buyers enter the market and will provide safer alternatives for many subprime buyers. FHA market share for home purchases is expected to triple over the next three years, from an estimated 4 percent in 2007 to an estimated 12 percent in 2009.”

Responding to recent questions about the current value of homeownership, Yun said, “Buying a home is not a quick-in, quick-out investment, like buying a stock. Homeownership builds wealth over the long-term.”

To illustrate his point, Yun explained that over 10 years, a $10,000 investment in the stock market at a normal 10 percent market rate of return would yield $23,600. The same investment as a down payment on a $200,000 home at a normal appreciation rate of 5 percent would return nearly 5 times the stock market return, at $110,300.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Meetup in the Park With Two Pro-Bush Environmentalists

Montclair's Pat Kenschaft and Bloomfield's Jane Califf have found a new cause.
They have serious issues with recent landscaping changes in Brookdale Park. We're talking about the leafy variety of bush here,among other things--like the new dog run. With a flurry of letter writing and phone calls, they've arranged a meeting with Park officials Friday at 3:30 near the tennis courts.

Califf makes her case:

Bruce Divita is the manager of special projects in Essex County parks. I did not mention in the letter that when I asked him what invasive species of plants he said were being cut down that he told me, "I don't know, and I am not going there in person to check because I have had Lyme Disease twice.. ."
Then he said they had to be cut because some people said there were individuals lurking in the bushes. My friends and I have been walking past this area for 9 years. We have never had any problem or seen anything suspicious....
How can we be sure that this is accomplished? A group of us are talking about why the community is not asked what they want in Brookdale Park. Things are done without any input from citizens.

In a lengthy open letter to County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, Daniel Salvante, and Bruce DeVita, Park planners, Kenschaft writes:

There are powerful forces wanting to "develop" ever more land and make lawns where nature now has its way. Last week a man with apparent knowledge of the county's imminent plans spoke scornfully of the "weeds" in Brookdale Park, whose removal he obviously expected me to approve of.... The cutting of innocent bushes pains my own emotions, my concern for preventing climate change, and my desire that young children have a wild place to play....
I worry about the amount of petroleum
used in recent park "improvements." The United States uses twice as much
energy per person as Germany and Japan, and neither our quality of life
nor our health statistics are better because of it... But there are many of us that want the absolute minimum of deviation from nature for both environmental and fiscal reasons. Can we become involved in the discussion before final decisions are made? How?
....think more deeply about the environmental and fiscal implications of your decisions. There are powerful forces pushing you -- and all of us -- toward extravagance.
However, if you want some friendly faces to push you in a more
life-preserving direction, please let me know.....

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Open House

Driving down Ridgewood Ave, in Glen Ridge, enjoying the fall scene we heard a shrieking alarm that sounded like an ambulance or police car and promptly pulled over. Seeing nothing in the rearviews, we heard a voice repeatedly barking over a loud speaker: BURGLARY! BURGLARY! LEAVE THIS LOCATION RIGHT NOW! The funny thing was that the house had a for sale sign. A minute later, one of Glen Ridge's finest pulled up and cautiously walked up to the front door. Didn't hang around for the outcome but the alarm could still be heard 10 minutes later and five blocks away in Bloomfield. We've heard that talking houses can be a good marketing tool(it's a 6 BR just reduced to 899k) but this takes it to a new level! (click on picture for animation)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Ice Queen

Think it's getting cold here? If you caught NBC's Ann Curry's live broadcast from Antarctica ,a few days ago, you might have heard her reference the climatological research the current US research team including Sandra Passchier, PhD. Geo scientist and assistant professor at Montclair State University, Along with drilling 500 meter core samples thruough the ice pack, Dr. Passchier takes time out to add daily progress reports to her blog:

Snow is plastered on the walls of the buildings and the windows. There is a large cloud on Minna Bluff in the distance, which is a bad sign. Luckily a helicopter was able to make a trip to the drill site before the storm to get us some core, so we can work. Another perhaps comical fact is that Ann Curry of the Today Show is now stuck here with us. Her Live broadcast was yesterday in front of the Chalet with the flags. Last night at Midrats she was in the lobby and was talking very loudly and came obviously out of one of the bars. She seems to have a good time here. We have not seen the show, so we can only hope that the science we do here was featured to some extent. She called off a trip to our drill site...
So, yes what about the science? It is becoming increasingly more interesting. We are finding fossils every day now: yesterday a possible plant fossil, today a couple of shell beds with what look like large clam shells. There is still the intermittent presence of glaciers, so it looks like ice ages came and went, but there were some intervals of time with balmier climate conditions than today.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Caching In

Whether you're looking for a fun family activity, or a new outdoor singles scene, you might check out Geocaching. Geocaching is a trendy new adventure game for GPS users. Participating in a cache hunt is a good way to take advantage of the full capability of a GPS unit(if you don't have GPS, stay tuned). The basic idea is to have individuals and organizations set up caches all over the world and share the locations of these caches on the internet. GPS users can then use the location coordinates to find the caches. Once found, a cache may provide the visitor with a wide variety of rewards. If you take something out, you should try to leave something for the cache. What is usually in a cache? A cache can come in many forms but the key item will invariably be the logbook. The logbook contains information from the founder of the cache and notes from the cache's visitors. A logbook might contain information about nearby attractions, coordinates to other unpublished caches, and even jokes written by visitors. If you get some information from a logbook you should give some back. At the very least you can leave the date and time you visited the cache. Larger caches may consist of a waterproof plastic bucket placed tastefully within the local terrain. The bucket might contain any number of more or less valuable items. These items turn the cache into a true treasure hunt. Geocaching is really just the next evolution of the centuries old tradition of letterboxing with trails that can be found all over New Jersey -- even as close as Bloomfield & Montclair.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

'Tis The Season ...

This has been a period of challenging changes and transitions -- particularly in the past 10 days. From political campaigning to car breakdowns, cold bugs and sewer backups. The last straw was the death of my poor little Mac Mini. A replacement is on the way along with the completion of a variety of new blog items.