Featured Post

Planning to rent a car at Miami's airport? First, you'll have to walk, walk and walk

WALK, THEY SAID: After my flight from Newark to Miami, I picked up my luggage and set off for the rental-car center, using elevators, ...

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Where you can find fair, non-partisan info on next week's elections in N.J., the nation

In Bergen County, N.J., where I live, the Nov. 6 ballot lists candidates for county executive, freeholder, sheriff, U.S. House of Representatives from the 5th District and U.S. Senate. The ballot also has two public questions.


HACKENSACK, N.J. -- Given the news media's relentless focus on politics, you might have given up hope of finding resources you can trust in the week before the crucial midterm elections.

I'm passing along four listed in the October 2018 issue of AARP Bulletin, but you'll find the sites discuss issues of concern for all Americans, not just the older ones.

Project Vote Smart at Votesmart.org surveys candidates for their positions on issues of importance to voters.

The site relies on financial support from citizens and foundations, AARP Bulletin reports, and doesn't accept donations from business, unions or political parties.

At RealClearPolitics.com, go to the Election 2018 tab to find a wealth of information on specific races in your state or across the country.

Co-owned by its two founders and Crest Media, it relies on advertising for funding.

Ballotpedia.org features 275,000 "neutral, reliable"
articles written and curated by its staff about politics at all levels of government.

Ballotpedia is sponsored by the nonprofit Lucy Burn Institute, based in Wisconsin.

PolitiFact.com, winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for journalism, checks statements made by members of Congress, the White House, lobbyists and interest groups.

"Politifact's mission is ... to provide voters with accurate, independently vetted information so they can govern themselves in a democracy," said Editor Angie Drobic Holan.

The nonprofit Poynter Institute is the owner, and revenue comes from online advertising  and grants.

"The most consequential elections of our lifetime," is how one political scholar describes the Nov. 6 balloting in AARP Bulletin's cover story.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Automakers bribe writers with yet another play date at a private race track in Catskills

ONLY EV AT TEST DAYS: GM improved the Chevy Bolt EV for the 2019 model year, but sent a 2018 model to Test Days, the year's premier event for auto writers and publicists who belong to the International Motor Press Association. 

EDITOR'S NOTE: Scotty Reiss, president emeritus of the International Motor Press Association, reacted strongly to this post, claiming "your story was negative, biased and factually incorrect." Her complete email appears in the comments section at the end of the post.


MONTICELLO, N.Y. -- If you doubt traditional carmakers like Nissan are trying to slow the transition to electric cars, consider the vehicles the Japanese company brought to the year's premier event for the automotive press.

Most prominent was a monstrous, gas-guzzling SUV from Nissan's luxury division, Infiniti, with a sticker price north of $91,000.

The owner of this ungainly Infiniti QX80 Limited would spend $8,000 more on gasoline over 5 years than someone who drives the average new vehicle, according to the government-mandated sticker.

Not to mention all of the extra tailpipe emissions, said to cause a total of 53,000 premature deaths in the United States every year.

QX80 Limited

The word "Limited" in the model number is undoubtedly a reference to the intelligence of anyone who would spend so much on such a wasteful vehicle, which appears to seat only 6.

If that vehicle wasn't bad enough -- representing as it does Nissan's royal F.U. to the environment -- the company's Northeast Region public relations chief didn't bother to provide the vastly improved second-generation Nissan Leaf or the longer-range version of the EV with active battery cooling.

"Just didn't bring it," shrugged Steven Oldham, when asked why he wasn't providing an all-electric Leaf for members of the International Motor Press Association to drive silently over beautiful two-lane country roads around the Monticello Motor Club, the private race track for the wealthy that was one of the sponsors.

TRICK OR TREAT: Total MSRP for the Infiniti QX80 Limited is $91,450, including an all-season package for $355 and destination charges of $1,295.

Sponsors cut back

In response to an email, Dan Bedore, director of Nissan Division Communications in Franklin, Tenn., said:

"We generally bring our newest in-launch products to these events as well as crowd pleasers like GT-R [a high-performance sports car with 565 horsepower to 600 horsepower that starts at $99,990].
"Placing vehicles [at events like IMPA's Test Days] includes a per-vehicle cost from the organizers and a shipping cost and we have budgets to operate within."

If Nissan withheld the Leaf for budgetary reasons, that was only one of the cutbacks evident this week to IMPA members like me who have attended Test Days stretching back decades, when they were held at two other tracks, Pocono Raceway and Lime Rock Park in Connecticut.

Fewer food choices

At lunch on Tuesday at the Monticello Motor Club, I asked a server if there were veggie burgers available like the ones I enjoyed last year.

"Not today," he said, so as a non-meat eater I had a choice of three salads -- tuna, edamame and couscous.

The main items on the buffet were hamburgers and chicken with pesto.

Pastas and salads -- but no fish -- were available to non-meat eaters at Tuesday night's banquet in the Resorts World Casino.

Test Days coordinator Paul Licata said in response to an email that cost doesn't allow "us to have every option for everyone."

Track time

This year, in another cost-cutting move, the Monticello Motor Club also declined to provide the race instructors who were available on the first morning of the two-day event.

An instructor would sit in the front passenger seat, and give IMPA members like me tips as they drove the 469-horsepower Mercedes-Benz AMG C 63 and other performance cars around the challenging 3.5-mile track.

On Wednesday, IMPA members had a wide choice of vehicles from among the 70-plus in the paddock to drive unaccompanied on the track, and pretend they are Lewis Hamilton, who is on the cusp of his 5th Formula 1 World Championship.  

Test Days sponsors included Fiat Chrysler, Ford, Mazda, Nissan, Toyota/Lexus, Acura, BMW, Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz and Subaru, among other automakers; American Ethanol, a tire company and a public relations firm.

No ethics policy

IMPA is the nation's oldest organization of automotive journalists and public relations professionals, but the group is only now starting to discuss adopting an ethics policy to govern members' relationship with automakers and dealers.

That has allowed carmakers to essentially bribe members with all-expenses-paid travel to see the unveiling of new models; free loans of new vehicles for up to a week to write road-test reports or just to provide them with a ride during their vacations; and free trips to the big auto shows in New York, Detroit, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere.

Revenue from dealer advertising, meanwhile, keeps many of the writers' publications, websites, blogs and YouTube channels afloat. 

Thank sponsors

In an email, IMPA President Bill Howard reminded members:

"Sponsors make the event affordable: $100 for the ticket, not $400. Say thank you as you relieve them of their coffee, bottled water, doughnuts and candy in the paddock."

Tesla doesn't advertise or provide cars for IMPA events, and that may be one factor behind all of the negative stories about the world's premier maker of all-electric cars.

And in recent years, traditional automakers like the ones that sponsor IMPA events have restricted loans of new vehicles to writers whose reports have such a large exposure that there is a good likelihood they will translate into sales.

That prompted one long-time IMPA member to say he'd like to see a return to "equal opportunity bribery." 

MSRP of $166,795: The 2019 BMW i8 Roadster is a plug-in hybrid with a total of 369 horsepower from a turbo 3-cylinder gasoline engine and an electric motor. The easiest way to get into the low-slung sports car is to plant your tush on the wide sill and swing your legs in, below.

EVs, hybrids

As the owner of a Tesla Model S, I tried to drive only EVs and hybrids on Tuesday.

I had a lot of fun in a 2018 Chevy Bolt EV, which is everything you'd want in a small car and more. 

By shifting the transmission into "L," you can operate the all-electric hatchback with one pedal: 

When you take your foot off of the accelerator, the Bolt EV will come to a stop at a light or stop sign, and lifting off partially slows the car for corners.

That same one-pedal operation is available in another all-electric car, the BMW i3, which wasn't brought to the event.

Instead, BMW provided a 2019 i8 Roadster, a low-slung gas-electric hybrid that is the open-top version of the 2018 BMW i8.

The sports car was fast and fun to drive, but noisy and impractical. Total suggested retail price is $166,795.

Toyota and Lexus brought no gas-electric hybrids to the event, and Jaguar's first all-electric car, the 2019 I-Pace, also was missing.

ONE OF FORD'S LAST SEDANS: The 2018 Fusion Platinum Energi is a 5-passenger gas-electric hybrid, one of only 3 sedans the company still sells.
DESTINATION CHARGER: I was able to plug in my Model S at a Tesla Destination Charger in front of the clubhouse at the Monticello Motor Club in Monticello, N.Y.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Seniors get a discount at Russian-themed Gourmanoff, but market isn't for everyone

HEAVY FOOD: Headcheese, above, and Pork Tongue, on a steam table below, are just two of the specialty foods available at Gourmanoff, an ethnic supermarket in Paramus, but there is no indication the meat and poultry dishes sold there are free of harmful antibiotics.
CHOPPED LIVER WITH WHITE WINE: Ingredients for the Chopped Chicken Liver are listed as chicken liver, white wine, pepper and fried onion. Shoppers are left to guess whether the livers are from chickens raised without antibiotics.

EDITOR'S NOTE: After Gourmanoff opened last November, another Korean supermarket from the H Mart chain opened in Paramus, and a Chinese supermarket finally opened in Hackensack. I've included links to those openings in this post. 


HACKENSACK, N.J. -- Do you love heavy Eastern European food and small jars of salt-cured Russian caviar selling for $64.99 (that's for only 50 grams or 1.76 ounces)?

Then, Gourmanoff, an upscale ethnic supermarket in Paramus, is perfect for you.

But even if you ignore all of that, the 30,000-square-foot market just off of Route 4 west at Forest Avenue has a large, well-stocked produce section, and a salad, mushroom and carrot bar ($5.99 a pound).

I picked up a 1-pound package of Sunset-brand Kumato Tomatoes for $1.49 and a single Lemonade Apple from New Zealand (99 cents a pound), and used a store card to get a 10% senior discount (Tuesdays and Wednesdays only). 

Fresh seafood on ice

Pescetarians like me will be drawn to the small section of fresh seafood on ice. 

The wild-caught Jumbo Shrimp from Canada selling for only $9.99 a pound were a great deal on Wednesday afternoon, but the man behind the counter said he wouldn't devein them for me, so I passed.

If you're watching your carbs and sugar intake, steer clear of the bakery, pastries and packages of chocolate from Ukraine, Moldova and other former Soviet republics.

Russian Jewish immigrants

"Gourmanoff was created by the company behind another Brooklyn-born chain, NetCost Market," which is described as a "'Costco of European-style foods,'" The Record of Woodland Park reported in 2017.

Russian Jewish immigrant Sam Shnayder and his son opened the first NetCost Market in 2000. 

And in 2014, they opened the first Gourmanoff in the Russian enclave of Brighton Beach, a section of Brooklyn, as an "upscale, luxury purveyor of Eastern European and European specialties."

The New York Times once described that store as "Vegas-meets-Volga."

Ronzoni and Garofalo

But if you shop at the Gourmanoff in Paramus, you'll see familiar brands like Ronzoni on the same shelf as Garofalo, an upscale pasta imported from Italy.

However, only one of the packages of Garofalo whole wheat and conventional pasta I saw was marked "organic."

Gourmanoff is one of three ethnic supermarkets to open in Bergen County in the past year:

LOTS OF PRODUCE: As someone who doesn't eat meat or poultry, I gravitated to the produce section, above and below, and its limited selection of organics.
GOOD BUYS: A 2-pound package of Sunset-brand Campari Tomatoes, above, was selling for $3.99 or a dollar less than at Costco Wholesale in Teterboro. A 2-pound package from another grower of hothouse tomatoes was only $1.49, below.

$11 A POUND FOR ORGANIC SPRING MIX: Three 5-ounce packages of this Farmers' Direct Organic Spring Mix would cost $10.77, but you'd still be 1 ounce shy of the 16 ounces of Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix selling for $4.99 at Costco Wholesale.
DO-IT-YOURSELF JUMBO SHRIMP: I've never been turned down at the nearby Whole Foods Market in Paramus when I've asked to have wild shrimp deveined, but the employee at Gourmanoff on Wednesday afternoon shook his head no.
WILD AND FARMED FISH: The fresh seafood display is relatively small, but appeals to pescetarians and other fish lovers.
HIGHS AND LOWS: Gourmanoff sells Basa Fillets, a low-quality farmed catfish from Vietnam, center, next to high-quality Wild Salmon from Alaska, right.
OPEN 7 DAYS: Gourmanoff is at 221 Route 4 west in Paramus; 1-201-308-6888. Open 7 days from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. At the register, you can sign up for a NetCost Market Club card that gives you special discounts on many items in the store. The card also gives senior citizens a 10% discount on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The supermarket is opposite iFly, the indoor skydiving center that replaced the long-shuttered Forum Diner, below.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Older Americans have a great deal at stake in the Nov. 6 congressional, local elections

The cover story in the AARP Bulletin this month lists 10 ways the Nov. 6 midterm elections will affect older Americans.


HACKENSACK, N.J. -- "This year's midterm elections will impact older Americans for decades," AARP Bulletin reports.

AARP, whose stated mission is "empowering people to choose how they live as they age," lists the issues elected officials will be grappling with in the coming term:
Shoring up Social Security, rising drug prices, Medicare funding, growing or slowing Medicaid, the future of health insurance, bolstering retirement savings, lower retirement taxes, fixing pension shortfalls, more help for caregivers, and fraud against and abuse of people who are 65-plus.
100 percent nonpartisan

"This is one of the most consequential elections of our lifetime," political scholar Norman Ornstein recently told AARP editors about the 2018 midterm elections [on Nov. 6], "and we wholeheartedly agree."

"We are at a moment in which important decisions need to be made on many matters key to the lives of older Americans," AARP Bulletin reports.

"Some are obvious, like the future funding and structure of Medicare and our health-care system. 

"At the same time, many states are grappling with issues related to worker discrimination, retirement savings, underfunded pensions [New Jersey], Medicaid, caregiving and more.

"Those we put in office could shape the resolutions of these issues for decades to come," says AARP, adding the group is "100 percent nonpartisan."

"But we do want you to know about the issues facing older Americans, the ways each issue can be addressed, and the policies that our organization believes will best serve all older Americans.

"So vote. For you, your loved ones and America."

Shoring up Social Security

"Social Security's trust fund will fall short by 2034; if that happens, benefits would drop by about 20 percent, a 2018 government report says.

"Some elected officials have proposed cutting Social Security as part of deficit reduction.... And if Republicans still control Congress next year, Social Security's cost-of-living adjustment could face a major change."

Rising drug prices

"Prescription drug costs are increasing at a rate 10 times faster than inflation, and state legislatures, Congress and the federal government are starting to take on pharmaceutical companies.

"AARP supports allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, permitting the importation of safe lower-cost drugs, and speeding generic drugs to market."

Medicare funding

"Medicare's trust fund will fall short by 2026, according to a report by the program's trustees in June.

"House Republicans have proposed a budget that would give seniors a voucher-type option to enroll in private health plans, and have proposed other changes that would squeeze $537 billion out of Medicare.

"Whether that proposal moves ahead could depend on who controls Congress after November."

To read the rest of the AARP report, see:

New Jersey ballot

On Nov. 6, New Jersey residents will be voting for a U.S. senator and a member of the House of Representatives.

In Bergen County, the county executive is seeking another term, as are two members of the Board of Freeholders.

The ballot also includes two public questions seeking funding for programs in New Jersey and Hackensack.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

GOP controls all branches of government, answers to an unhinged President Trump

Jimmy Margulies, former editorial cartoonist at The Record of Woodland Park, suggesting the wild week on Wall Street and Kanye West's visit to the White House weren't unrelated (Margulies calls it "the Trump-Kanye West merger"). You can find more Margulies and other cartoons at The Cagle Post.



HACKENSACK, N.J. -- The only time President Trump seems sane is when he invites a wacko like Kanye West to the Oval Office.

Last week, West's rant silenced Trump in a way we haven't ever seen.

One pop music critic claimed West was "sucking up" to the president. 

And did you see how uncomfortable Trump looked when West, in his red MAGA baseball cap, stood up, walked behind the president's desk and bent down to hug him as he remained seated?

GOP and 1%

Still, the Republican Party continues to allow Trump to destroy our democracy and dismantle the legacy of former President Barack Obama -- while so-called tax reform lines the pockets of the 1%.

The GOP controls all three branches of government.

Meanwhile, with the Nov. 6 mid-term congressional elections fast approaching, "many ... Republicans -- including those on the Supreme Court -- have engaged in a deliberate campaign to make voting harder," says Op-Ed Columnist David Leonhardt at The New York Times.

"They've reduced voting hours and added cumbersome identification requirements, among other things," Leonhardt wrote last week.

Obama weighs in 

Also last week, Leonhardt quoted Barack Obama saying:

"My message in this upcoming election is very simple: It's vote.

"This isn't really a 50-50 country. It's like a 60-40 country," Obama said, adding:

"Democrats could and will do even better, if everyone ... not only votes but makes sure that all your wishy-washy, excuse-making, Internet-surfing, TV watching, grumbling-but-not-doing-nothing friends and family members get to the poles. Vote."

Your vote to shift control of Congress to the Democrats could restore the checks and balances laid out in the U.S. Constitution.

Cartoonist Joe Heller of the Green Bay Press-Gazette in Wisconsin refers to an alarming report on climate change from a United Nations panel of scientists. "Do you smell something burning?"

Sunday, October 7, 2018

If you're feeling angry, apathetic or lazy as Election Day approaches, just vote by mail

Donald J. Trump has claimed to be a self-made billionaire, but that's total fiction, according to a New York Times investigation, and cartoonist Joe Heller of the Green Bay Press Gazette in Wisconsin illustrates the fraud. 



HACKENSACK, N.J. -- If you are one of the Democrats angered by the bitter partisan battle that ended with Brett Kavanaugh getting a lifetime seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, the solution is as close as your mailbox.

All you have to do to vote on Nov. 6 -- in a bid to move Congress to the left -- is apply for a mail-in ballot, fill it out in the comfort of your home and send it in.

The Bergen County clerk sent out forms to register to vote, as well as applications for a mail-in ballot, so you no longer have an excuse to remain on the sidelines, as millions of apathetic or lazy Democrats did in the 2016 presidential election.

If Democrats take control of Congress, there is a real possibility we could see the impeachments of both President Trump and Associate Justice Kavanaugh in 2019.

With a mail-in ballot, you can really procrastinate: 

"Mail-in ballots that bear a postmark date of November 6, 2018, which are received by the County Board of Elections by 8:00 p.m. on November 8, 2018, shall be considered timely submitted," according to an insert in my mail-in ballot.

By the way, you'll need two stamps to mail back the ballot, but you also can hand carry it to the Bergen County Administration Building in Hackensack. 

$165M referendum

Meanwhile, Hackensack's notoriously apathetic residents also can use a mail-in ballot to reject a Board of Education referendum to spend a total of $165.1 million on a new junior high school and existing schools.

If approved, local property taxes surely will go up; about 45% of your taxes already go to support the schools.

School board President Lara L. Rodriguez has mentioned Jan. 22, 2019, as a possible date for Hackensack residents to vote on the proposal -- clearly a strategy to use winter weather keep the vote down.

Well, don't let the school board get away with it: Vote against the plan by mail-in ballot.

Ballot deadlines

The deadline to apply for a mail-in ballot by mail is "not less than 7 days prior to an election."

In person, you can apply "up to 3 p.m. on the day before the election."

The voter-registration deadline is 21 days before the Nov. 6 election; this year that's Oct. 16.

And if you received a mail-in ballot in the 2016 presidential election, county election officials were obligated to send you a mail-in ballot for the 2018 General Election on Nov. 6.

And you'll get a mail-in ballot for all future elections, unless your notify the officials in writing you do not want to receive them.

The mail-in ballot, instructions and inserts for the mid-term elections for Congress -- less than a month away -- are in three languages, English, Spanish and Korean. Plus, the Nov. 6 ballot has statewide and Hackensack public questions.
Democrats must vote a straight party line, if they hope to gain control of Congress.
If approved, the first public question would authorize the state to issue $500 million in bonds to provide grants to schools, school districts and county colleges for technical education, school security and water infrastructure improvements. The second public question would set up a Municipal Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund in Hackensack.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

A difficult wild salmon season has ended, but I can still taste that incredible Sockeye

In early July, I bought a beautiful fillet of fresh, wild Sockeye Salmon from Whole Foods Market in Paramus for the Prime Member price of $13.99 a pound, grilled serving portions on the stovetop and made breakfast sandwiches with leftovers straight from the fridge, below.
My wild Sockeye Salmon sandwich used ends from Dave's Killer Bread, an organic loaf from Costco Wholesale in Teterboro, usually with Dijon mustard, organic spring mix and tomato, but I also used pesto, reduced-fat Swiss cheese and silken slices of smoked, wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon, also from Costco.


HACKENSACK, N.J. -- There is nothing in the wide world of fish that looks or tastes as good as fresh, wild-caught Sockeye Salmon.

This past summer, I enjoyed this wonderful, heart-healthy fish -- called Red Salmon in Alaska -- grilled on my stovetop or baked in the oven, and for the first time, sliced raw in a sushi restaurant.

But the 2018 salmon harvest in Alaska fell short of the preseason forecast of 147 million fish by about 31%, state officials said in late August.

I don't know for sure, but is that why I never saw any skin-on sockeye from the famed Copper River, usually the first fillets to go on sale at Costco Wholesale in Teterboro in early June?

All of the wild Sockeye and Coho Salmon I saw at Costco through last week was labeled "Wild Caught Product of USA" and none specified "Alaska."

I did find Sockeye Salmon from Alaska at Whole Foods Market, but the Paramus supermarket sold Copper River fillets for as much as $39.99 a pound.

"The three largest Alaska commercial salmon harvest on record occurred between 2013 and 2017; looking back to the mid-1970s, harvests between 100 [million] and 150 million fish, like 2018, are far more common...," the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said on Aug. 23.

In Western Alaska, state officials said, Bristol Bay "experienced the second-largest Sockeye Salmon harvest on record (nearly 42 million fish), and the fourth consecutive season with a harvest exceeding 35 million Sockeye Salmon."

I've grilled serving portions of fresh, wild Sockeye Salmon on the stovetop, and served them with grilled Romaine lettuce and grilled ripe peaches. I've also spooned on warm red salsa from Costco Wholesale, adding fresh lemon juice and fresh mint leaves from my garden, above and below.

In July, August and September, Costco's Teterboro warehouse was selling fillets of fresh, wild Sockeye Salmon for $9.99 a pound -- only a dollar more per pound than artificially colored but antibiotic-free farmed Atlantic Salmon from Norway.
My stovetop grill straddles two burners, and I grilled Sockeye Salmon on both sides for a total of 7 minutes to 8 minutes.
During our August vacation in Alaska, I ordered fresh Sockeye Salmon served over pesto at Simon & Seafort's, a fine-dining restaurant and my pick for the best seafood in Anchorage.
In Whittier, Alaska, we ordered takeout from the Wild Catch Cafe, and I ate this juicy Wild Salmon Sandwich and a baby spinach salad on the Glacier Discovery Train back to Anchorage. 
The first time I enjoyed melt-in-the mouth raw Sockeye Salmon was on the last day of our vacation in Alaska at Arctic Sushi, a restaurant in downtown Anchorage, above and below.
Wild Sockeye Salmon has it all: Color and flavor.