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Category: Opinion

Thoughts & Views: Before you take that overseas trip, read this


With the summer vacation season upon us, those of us fortunate enough to be able to afford it will be booking flights to destinations around the globe.

So a reminder: Make sure your passport is up to date.

Should be pretty simple to check, you would think: If your passport hasn’t expired, stands to reason you should be good to go, right?


Don’t get caught like a fool holding your luggage at the airline terminal and being told in no uncertain terms that even though your passport is in good standing, you can’t get on the plane because your passport must be valid for at least three months beyond your intended date of departure.

That’s right, folks. So says the U.S. Department of State. Read more »



A story in last week’s issue of The Observer incorrectly reported that Ponte Romana Restaurant in Kearny was charged with having low-proof bottles. The actual ABC violation to which the licensee pleaded guilty was contaminated bottles.

Thoughts & Views: In Normandy, ‘Longest Day’ lives on



That’s not a real paratrooper hanging from a church steeple. It’s a representation of one — and it’s a memorial to all the American paratroopers who liberated the French town of Sainte-Mere-Eglise on June 6, 1944.

Our p. 1 story this week acknowledges the 70th anniversary of D-Day, but there is so much, much more to tell — literally entire libraries are devoted to the Allied invasion. So we thought we’d focus on just one incident, which most Americans likely were unaware of until it was portrayed in the 1962 movie “The Longest Day.” Many still may not know about the memorial. Read more »



Last week’s issue of The Observer contained a photo display of the new Portuguese monument slated for dedication in Riverbank Park, Kearny, on June 1. The text accompanying the photos should have mentioned that Thomas Meloro & Son Monuments of North Arlington was the designer of the structure.



To the Editor: 

Several friends e-mailed, called and sent the link to a story (“Searing Memories of a Long-Ago Fire,” May 21) containing a photo of my father, the late Kearny Mayor Joseph M. Healey, taken in 1963 at the Thompson Fish and Chip fire at 5 Kearny Ave.

Fittingly enough, the story appeared just as I’m about to mark my 25th year as a firefighter in Plainsboro Township, N.J., and I have been reflecting on the important role my father and then-Chief John Sherlock played in creating a strong interest in firefighting and the fire service.

It was a different time in government and politics and, after leaving office, my brother and I spent the better part of a day engaging my father in a dialogue about his career. Police dispatchers were instructed to notify him about any working fire or significant police incident on a 24/7 basis. I asked him why he responded, even though I had loved going with him, and he said that he felt responsible as mayor for the firefighters and police officers and he wanted to make sure anyone burned out of their home would be taken care of. In this age, that’s a refreshing approach.

The picture and the story also give me the opportunity to express my thanks to the members of the Kearny Fire Department, then and now. It has always been a great fire department and, in a younger day, I envisioned myself as a member. That didn’t happen, but I took what I learned from you and put it into work down here in Central Jersey.

Thomas C. Healey 


Plainsboro Fire Company 

Thoughts & Views: The world according to Hagel

In an interview with Charlie Rose aired last week on PBS, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was explaining the facts of global life, as filtered through the eyes of a Vietnam combat veteran.

Hagel, who claimed he was representing the views of the Commander in Chief, President Obama, said that Congress needed to ante up defense spending if it wanted to keep the American military capability in cyber warfare technology up to par with the world’s other superpowers and to beat down the forces of terrorism.

He reminded Rose that the U.S. has a military “presence” in 100 countries where, he said, we are helpmates to allies who want our help.

Hagel didn’t use the word “treason” but he came pretty close when he warned that Congress better do its utmost to avoid succumbing to the pitfalls of sequestration and accompanying budget cuts. (And it appears that Congress – facing mid-term elections – is listening, given the House’s willingness to hand the Pentagon $600 billion – more than it asked for – despite the brass’s offer to close some bases, shed the U-2 spy plane and other weapons. (Obama is seeking Congressional approval for a $3.7 trillion total national budget for 2014.) Read more »



To the Editor: As was recently reported in The Observer, a pedestrian was struck and killed at the intersection of Passaic Ave. and Belleville Turnpike in North Arlington. Earlier this morning (Saturday, May 16), I witnessed a second near-miss accident involving a pedestrian at this same location.

A group representing a North Arlington sports league was panhandling at the intersection. The intersection was extremely congested, and a young girl darted between traffic to donate to one of the individuals collecting. This girl was nearly hit by a car. Traffic at this intersection is bad enough on weekends; I am not sure why the municipality allows these panhandlers during these weekend periods, which only exacerbate the traffic conditions and in consideration of the recent fatality.

I call on the Borough of North Arlington to prohibit the practice of street collections at this location.

Dan McNamara 



Read more »

Thoughts & Views: A poet for Memorial Day




Joyce Kilmer, New Jersey native and long-time Garden State resident, is most famous for his poem “Trees,” memorized by numberless schoolchildren and, unfortunately, mocked by latter-day writers who find it too precious.

Columbia University, his alma mater, had (maybe still does have) an annual Joyce Kilmer Memorial Bad Poetry Contest.

For shame, Columbia. How about an Allen Ginsberg Memorial Bad Poetry Contest? Oh, I forgot. Ginsberg personified liberalism. Liberals can’t write bad poetry.

Despite his misguided literary critics, this week’s column is dedicated to Kilmer.

His poem “The House With Nobody In It” still makes me a bit weepy. I always wanted to see that house, located somewhere between Mahwah, where Kilmer lived, and Suffern, “along the Erie track.” Supposedly it was at 150 Franklin Turnpike, for years the site of a tavern cleverly named “Nobody’s Inn,” however there are conflicting reports that it was elsewhere on the road.

But I digress. Read more »

Thoughts & Views: Sealing up the borders of our minds

There’s been a lot of talk among our lawmakers these days about how the U.S.A. should restrict the flow of illegal immigration into the country.

They gripe about how these “intruders” steal our jobs, force down wages by agreeing to work on the cheap, drive up health care costs by getting free emergency care and, of course, don’t pay taxes. Or so goes the litany of the anti-illegal immigrant crowd.

So we build miles of barrier walls along our southern border, double the number of border patrol agents, demand that voters in certain border states produce special ID cards. And those caught in our protective net, we deport as fast as we can.

And still they come, sacrificing everything, willing to take extraordinary risks – including exploitation by the “coyotes” – to pass through our “Golden Door” – even when its welcome lamp isn’t lit.

For those immigrants who play by the rules and formally apply for entry to this country, each year the U.S. – with a population of more than 300 million – admits up to 480,000 immigrants on “family-based visas,” an additional 140,000 on “permanent employment-based preference” visas, another 70,000 on “refugee” visas and 55,000 more on “diversity lottery” visas, according to the U.S. Immigration Policy Center (IPC).

“Currently, no group of permanent immigrants (family-based and employment-based) from a single country can exceed 7% of the total amount of people immigrating to the United States in a single year,” the IPC notes.

Those who seek to become naturalized citizens are asked to take a Civics Test to see if they have a basic understanding of how the U.S. government operates so that they can “fully participate in the American political process,” as explained by the government in an introduction to a practice test booklet.

Having secured a copy of such a booklet and perused its sample questions, I wonder how many of us who were born here with citizenship rights already conferred on us could provide satisfactory answers to the questions the Civics Test poses.

Here are some samples to test our own civics knowledge: (Answers are provided below. Don’t cheat.)

1. How many amendments does the Constitution have? And what are the first 10 collectively known as?

2. The House of Representatives has how many voting members?

3. Who is one of your state’s U.S. Senators now?

4. Name your U.S. Representative.

5. Who is the Chief Justice of the United States now?

6. Name three of the original 13 states.

7. The Federalist Paper supported the passage of the U.S. Constitution. Name one of the writers.

8. Name one American Indian tribe in the U.S.

9. Name one U.S. territory.

10. How old do citizens have to be to vote for President?

Well, how’d we do? Well enough to teach new arrivals to the U.S. a thing or two? Or maybe we need to remind ourselves – as the government tells us in its mini civics lesson – that, “The Founders of this country decided that the United States should be a representative democracy. They wanted a nation ruled by laws, not by men.”

The ultimate irony 

It makes me think of the scene in the Reginald Rose play “12 Angry Men” where a foreign-born juror extolls the virtues of the American judicial system and scolds a fellow juror for failing to take his responsibility seriously.

Incidentally, we are reminded by the government’s Civics Test that serving on a jury is one of two responsibilities that are required of U.S. citizens; the other is voting in a federal election.

Many of us try to get out of doing jury duty and many more can’t be bothered voting, even for President. That’s why the power elite can sit back and do as they please in a country that the Founders liked to think would be a “representative democracy.”

Immigration reform, anyone?

 (Answers to test: 1. 27; Bill of Rights. 2. 435. 3. Cory Booker/ Robert Menendez. 4. Albio Sires/Donald Payne. 5. John Roberts. 6. New Hampshire/ Massachusetts/Rhode Island/ Connecticut/New York/ New Jersey/Pennsylvania/ Delaware/Maryland/Virginia/ North Carolina/South Carolina/Georgia were the original 13. 7. James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay were the writers. 8. Here’s a complete list: Cherokee, Navajo, Sioux, Chippewa, Choctaw, Pueblo, Apache, Iroquois, Creek, Blackfeet, Seminole, Cheyenne, Arawak, Shawnee, Mohegan, Huron, Oneida, Lakota, Crow, Teton, Hopi and Inuit. 9. Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands and Guam are all U.S. territories. 10. 18.) 

– Ron Leir 



To the Editor: 

As a cofounder of Belleville United Coalition, a growing grassroots organization comprised of concerned citizens, employees and business owners of Belleville, I am insulted and ashamed of the deceptive actions of some of our local political figures.

These actions have occured despite our multiple requests that the Burke/ Longo/Freda campaign cease and desist from using our untainted, trademarked name to deceive the community into thinking that we support their campaign—and by extension, their purported values.

Belleville United has a focused mission to evolve the district’s educational standards and create a stable, positive school climate in pursuit of social and academic excellence for all children within Belleville. It is ironic then that this coalition was founded because of the alleged role some of these candidates play in degrading our once forward-moving educational system.

These candidates chose to waste taxpayer money on a $2 million surveillance system that does not make our students and faculty any safer while at the same time diverting the necessary funds for the tools our students need to succeed and measure up to their surrounding districts. Our school funds are depleted, and our teachers are financing basic school supplies so that their students can continue their education.

Additionally, our schools’ technology is outdated, insufficient, and flat-out broken with no immediate relief in sight—even though these candidates pushed for and… approved a five-year, million-dollar technology support contract with the same company who installed the security system.

At a time when the educational staff reports being bullied, intimidated and harassed by this current board of education and administration, it is astonishing to find these candidates using our name to further their political careers. Even more disconcerting is the accusation of this same alleged behavior being displayed at the township level by their running mate to gain political support of municipal workers.

So I’d like to set the record straight: the real Belleville United will never support any political figure that chooses to use harassment, intimidation and bullying methods to govern. The real Belleville United will never support anyone who considers themselves before our children. The real Belleville United has not and will not endorse the Burke/Longo/ Freda campaign and publicly asks them to refrain from associating themselves with us.

Michael Mignone

President, Belleville Education Association