Author Archive: Juan Melli

Thanksgiving News Roundup & Open Thread

A combination of potential swine flu, lots of driving, tryptophan, family obligations, beer, and football means the Blue Jersey crew isn’t able to do the news roundup today. So I’m pinch-hitting. Here we go.

Quote of the Day

“You know, there are certain days that remind me of why I ran for this office. And then there are moments like this — where I pardon a turkey and send it to Disneyland.” – President Obama (video)

Let them eat turkey

  • It’s yesterday’s news, but it’s particularly relevant today. Chris Christie suggests that finding money in the state budget to feed starving families is a “bad habit.”

    $1 billion

  • The state’s projected budget deficit continues to grow.

    APP front page lieAsbury Park Press just makes stuff up

    Headline: “N.J. budget deficit could reach $1.5 billion”

    Story text: “Odds are it won’t”

    Really? Someone approved this?

    In other APP news, Juan might feed a baby unicorn to the Liger colony living in his basement as a Thanksgiving treat. And the Asbury Park Press might begin to distinguish their reporting from their editorial content (Though as they say, “Odds are it won’t”).

    Equality

  • The latest Quinnipiac poll shows that Democrats, independents, liberals and moderates support marriage equality. Only Republicans and conservatives are opposed to this most fundamental of American values. Whose side will the legislature take?
  • Also, Garden State Equality is up with two new radio ads, and Assemblywoman Huttle has a good post on Marriage Equality and Children.

    “Jobs, not Dobbs”

  • Lou Dobbs is considering a run for the U.S. Senate against Senator Menendez in 2012, but Menendez says he’s “concentrated on jobs, not Dobbs.”

    Testing, one, two…

  • Is this thing on? Yes, yes it was.

    What billionaires do on Black Friday

  • Discount casino shopping.

    Something to be thankful for

  • New claims for unemployment insurance dropped to their lowest levels since September, 2008. New home sales are also up.

    Christmas is canceled in Maplewood/South Orange

  • BOOM! Escalating the War On Christmas. “The South Orange Maplewood School District’s policy prohibiting religious music from holiday performances was upheld Tuesday by a federal appeals court.” The judges cited the “Constitution.”

    No Crazies Left Behind

  • Would Scott Garrett fail the GOP purity test? Fretz thinks so.

    More light, less energy, less $$

  • New street lights from PSE&G are a win-win for municipalities.

    If I missed stuff, please post in the comments. This is an open thread. Haiku are permitted.

    Update: (h/t SmartyJones) The NYT says this is “New Jersey’s Marriage Moment”.

    There can come a moment in a politician’s career when doing the right thing requires summoning the courage to buck strong voter sentiment. The drama over same-sex marriage in a lame-duck session of the New Jersey State Legislature is not that kind of moment.

    Doing the right thing – promptly enacting legislation discarding inadequate civil unions in favor of full marriage equality for same-sex couples – requires no gargantuan amount of courage or risk-taking on the part of rank-and-file New Jersey legislators or their leaders. […]

    Inaction is not an acceptable option. Delaying past Mr. Corzine’s departure means delaying justice for gay and lesbian couples and their families for four or even eight years.

    Another Update: (h/t Winston Smith) Contrary to popular belief, our highways are heavily subsidized and only half funded by user fees like the gas tax. Federal lawmakers are proposing to increase the gas tax to help pay for transportation infrastructure. It’s a good idea.

  • Higher fuel efficiency standards coming soon to NJ

    Good news for the environment (via TPM):

    President Obama on Monday will direct federal regulators to move swiftly to grant California and 13 other states the right to set strict automobile emissions and fuel efficiency standards, two administration officials said Sunday evening.

    New Jersey is one of those states that wants to follow California’s lead and demand higher efficiency. About half of the U.S. population lives in states that want to adopt the standard, but the impact goes beyond our own borders. Several Canadian provinces, including Quebec, already follow or plan to adopt the “California standard.”

    California must request an EPA waiver every time they want to raise the fuel efficiency standards above federal levels. During confirmation hearings, EPA chief Lisa Jackson said she would quickly review the request, which was denied by the Bush administration.

    Update: U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg responds:

    “Global warming is the most serious environmental threat we face and, finally, we are giving our states — including New Jersey and California — the tools to confront it.  For much of the past eight years, the Bush Administration ignored clear science and blocked bold action to address global warming on the state and local level.  The days of denial are over and I look forward to working with the Obama Administration as they change course toward smarter, greener environmental policies.”

    Wait!

    Rep. Rush Holt sends out a weekly email newsletter, and this week it includes a highlight from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail.

    The letter was penned while in jail, four days after he was arrested for leading a massive protest in Birmingham, Alabama, but the message and lessons are still relevant to civil rights battles being waged today in New Jersey and nationally.

    King’s letter was a response to a “Call for Unity,” a statement issued by eight local white clergymen on the day of the protest:

    …we are now confronted by a series of demonstrations by some of our Negro citizens, directed and led in part by outsiders. We recognize the natural impatience of people who feel that their hopes are slow in being realized. But we are convinced that these demonstrations are unwise and untimely.

    The Letter from Birmingham Jail is quite lengthy. “Never before have I written so long a letter,” wrote King “but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell…” Holt highlighted this noteworthy passage:

    For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

    That was the nicer version of King’s more harsh response, which sadly still has uncomfortable parallels to today’s social and political environment:

    I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection. […]

    I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: “All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth.” Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will.

    Newark slumlords on blast

    A creative idea from Newark West Ward Councilman Ron Rice Jr from his State of the Ward address:

    “…there was one matter that really got the crowd at West Side High School intrigued, and that was his stance on landlords. He is looking to start a bad landlord list, to be presented to media outlets for penalizing such owners.

    “We’re going to put slumlords and absentee landlords, like the young people say, ‘On Blast'”, said Rice on this initiative. “If you do not do what you are supposed to do, don’t try to buy another piece of property in Newark.”

    Garden State politics once again fit to print

    With the exception of their editorial board, the New York Times almost completely ignored the recent U.S. Senate general election contest between Frank Lautenberg and the other guy. Luckily, it appears they’ll be paying more attention to the upcoming gubernatorial election.

    On Jan. 9, the Times published two stories on the race: One on Gov. Jon Corzine (though it was largely a profile piece), and the other on former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie:

  • Challenges Ahead in 2009 by Dustan McNichol

  • Christie, Former U.S. Attorney, Enters Governor’s Race in New Jersey by David Kocieniewski

    This weekend, they are again running a pair of articles on Corzine and Christie:

  • Corzine Offers Himself as Remedy for Fiscal Health by Dustan McNichol

  • Christie Lays Out Theme for Fellow Republicans by Iver Peterson

    Maybe they think it will be a more interesting or competitive race. Perhaps they see an opening now that so many New Jersey media outlets are cutting back. Or maybe they just don’t want to lose subscribers from New Jersey.

    Wally Edge observed a few days ago that they’re paying a bit more attention to state matters again. And it’s not just electoral politics…

    David Chen covered the State of the State address. Dustan McNichol wrote about the pension fund deferral proposal. This weekend, Jacqueline Mroz writes about state Sen. Loretta Weinberg losing her life savings in the Madoff ponzi scheme, and they also recently covered the fight for marriage equality.

    Whatever the reason for this apparent shift in emphasis, it’s a very welcome development for the state and for democracy in general.  

  • Monday morning quarterbacking the pension fund

    There was plenty of wailing and gnashing of teeth when the state pension fund lost many billions of dollars in the wake of the economic collapse. The decision to purchase millions in Lehman stock in June was public information, but few publicly questioned the decision until after the company entered penny stock territory.

    Needless to say, it’s hardly courageous to question investment decisions with the benefit of hindsight.

    All investments carry risk, and what has not been properly acknowledged is that New Jersey’s pension fund has outperformed (meaning fewer losses) most other states’ pension funds because it’s become more diversified and risk averse in recent years. It could have been much worse.

    In December 2008, the S&P 500 was up 0.78 percent while the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.6 percent. During the same time, the state’s pension fund continued to outperform the major indexes, growing by 6.3 percent ($3.3 billion). Most investors would be thrilled with that kind of performance, but I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for the critics to praise the recent results.

    Joe Ferrierevich

    One last parting shot.

    As he departs office in advance of a Jan. 22nd convention – a date he selected -sources also say he fired Paul Kaufman, new general counsel for the BCDO and the replacement for Ferriero ally Dennis Oury, who also faces corruption charges.

    Kaufman wrote the legal opinion used to oust the chairman when Ferriero tried to cling to his post. Sources said his firing, coming days before Ferriero’s departure, was last shot payback from the boss.

    Additional reading: The Wizard is Back by Sen. Loretta Weinberg.



    Joe Ferrierevich

    Credits: Original photo, Star Ledger.
    Hair courtesy of Rod Blagojevich.

    Not cool!

    Jeez, we really can’t catch a break, can we? Even while Illinois steals the mantle of corruption away from us for a few days, SNL still picks on innocent little New Jersey. Credit where it’s due, Fred Armisen does a pretty great impression of N.Y. Gov. David Paterson.

    Seth Meyers: What do you have against New Jersey?

    Fred Armisen [Paterson]: Unfortunately, a southern border.