Author Archive: deciminyan

Shooting for the Moon – And Hitting Your Foot

Fantasize, if you will, that it is January, 1967 and Chris Christie is President of the United States.  He inherited the charge, eloquently stated six years earlier by his predecessor John F. Kennedy, that “this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”  But the space program just had a shocking and tragic setback – the Apollo One fire on the launch pad which killed three astronauts.

JFK’s goal looked out of reach.  There were only three years left in the decade and fundamental design flaws in the Apollo capsule had to be corrected. Costs were rising dramatically.  Risks were high, and the Soviet Union was pursuing its own manned lunar program in a race to the top for scientific accomplishment and national prestige.

President Christie addressed the nation on national television:  (more after the fold…)

Christie Running in 2012

promoted by Rosi

Cross-posted from deciminyan

All signs are pointing to a Chris Christie campaign to be on the 2012 presidential ticket.  He has started this campaign already by crisscrossing the country to promote Republican candidates in state-wide races.  But up until recently, he has not proactively promoted the conservative social agenda.  Yes, he is anti-choice and against marriage equality, but he has not yet pursued these measures with the same “in-your-face” approach as he has with his vendetta against public education and teachers.  He is aware of the large number of his New Jersey constituents who still want social justice, and is more circumspect with regard to promoting the conservative line on women’s issues and gay rights.  His relatively low-key approach is most likely designed to avoid firing up the opposition and maintaining as low a profile as he can here.  But to become a national figure, Christie needs to demonstrate his embrace of the right-wing social agenda.

Christie’s approach to implementing the conservative platform is not subtle, but more incremental.  He pleased his base by vetoing a $7.5 million bill for women’s health services even as he approved a gigantic tax cut for millionaires.  Now, he is embracing another Palinesque initiative – abstinence education.  Despite the fact that our schools are in dire financial straits and that it has been shown that such initiatives do nothing to stem the rates of teenage pregnancy, the Governor is promoting a $1 million program to tell teenagers to “just say no”.  

Ratcheting up the right wing agenda is not the only sign that Christie has national ambitions.  If you think his gallivanting around the country is limited to the upcoming elections, you are mistaken.  He is already on the post-election tea party lecture circuit.

It has often been said that every state governor has presidential ambitions, and it’s difficult to find a politician more ambitious than Chris Christie.  And there are lots of reasons for him to make his move in 2012.

Given the secret funding of Republican candidates by shadow groups, the fact that the GOP has a propaganda arm in Fox News that is second to none, including Pravda, and the fact that the 2012 election will be the first under the census redistricting controlled mostly by Republican governors, there’s a good chance that Barack Obama will be a one-term president.  If Christie is not on the 2012 ticket, his next chance to run for national office could potentially be 2020 – a lifetime in presidential politics.  Sure, he’ll be only 58 years old then, but he will have had a much longer track record of mistakes and miscues than he has today.  And the demographics of the electorate will be different, with a larger percentage of the non-white population included in the mix.

So is Christie aiming for the top slot, or looking to become Joe Biden’s successor?  The way the stars are aligned today, it seems unlikely that he would be successful in challenging Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, or Mike Huckabee.  But why would someone as ambitious as Christie settle for the number two spot?  This question can be answered in two words:  Dick Cheney.  Cheney was the second in command to a weak, clueless, and gaffe-prone George W Bush.  Christie may view himself in the same powerful role under a President Palin.  And without any debilitating health problems like those that plagued Mr. Cheney, Christie would then be viable as a 2020 candidate at the top of the ticket.  Of course, there’s plenty of time for the top contenders to stumble, leaving room for the Meshuggineh from Mendham to step in.

The only significant impediment to a Christie run is his lack of foreign policy experience.  To the xenophobic Tea Party, this is not a significant issue because diplomacy requires nuance, and the GOP does not do nuance.  But it might be an important issue to the rest of the electorate, especially given that we will still be in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, and possibly Pakistan, when the election comes around.  So watch for Christie to ramp up his foreign policy creds – perhaps by participating in missions abroad to promote New Jersey business, or perhaps by participating on foreign junkets with some of his congressional friends.  Such actions would confirm his desire to be on the 2012 ticket.

Christie is smart to lay back and let the big guns fight it out right now.  But don’t be surprised to see our absentee governor vacationing in Iowa or New Hampshire next year.

Republicans Cry Out for More Taxes

promoted by Rosi

No, this is not an Onion headline.   It’s true.

Medford is a town in Burlington County, and it’s as Republican as you can get.  Assemblyman Scott Rudder hails from there, and Chris Myers (John Adler’s opponent in 2008) is its Deputy Mayor.  Last year, Chris Christie carried the township with 60% of the vote in a three-way race.

So why at a public meeting this week were township residents clamoring for a tax increase?

find out below the fold

Adler’s (Other) Tea Party Problem

promoted by Rosi

Monday night’s debate between John Adler and Jon Runyan had its share of Tea Party folks posing their wedge issues during the question and answer session.  One person asked each candidate if he would vote for their current House leader (Nancy Pelosi for Adler, John Boehner for Runyan) as Speaker if their party were in the majority.  Luckily for Runyan, the answer was a no-brainer.  But I was surprised at John Adler’s response.

Adler is a skilled attorney and politician, and did not give a direct “yes” or “no” answer.  Playing into the propaganda propagated by the Tea Party and Fox News, he stated that he felt that Speaker Pelosi was “divisive”, and that troubled him.  Where has he been?

The capstone legislation of the 111th Congress is, of course, the Affordable Care Act.  The House Republicans were just a dead weight in its passage through the labyrinth of legislation.  All GOP members abided by their loyalty oath and publicly stated that they would vote “no” on every one of the president’s initiatives and obstruct this important bill, even though it is essentially the same bill that the Republicans promoted as an alternative to Hillary Clinton’s health care initiative in the ’90s.  So, as leader, Speaker Pelosi needed to corral all of the Democrats – Liberals, Centrists, and Blue Dogs – to cobble together a bill that they could collectively support.  Pelosi is a masterful politician and got the compromises necessary to pass the bill, despite 34 Democrats (including Adler) voting against it.  Her ability to bring this diverse group of Democrats under the “big tent” is by no means divisive – on the contrary it is close to miraculous.

Adler’s pandering to the right wing’s anti-Pelosi (possibly anti-powerful woman) mantra indicates his willingness to swing toward what is required to be re-elected rather than toward what is right and decent.  His remarks will encourage other conservative Democrats to mount a challenge to the leadership of one of the most effective Speakers in my lifetime.

The Adler/Runyan Debate

Posted late last night, after the tense matchup. – promoted by Rosi

Tonight was the big showdown.  The first (and probably only) public debate between the diminutive incumbent, Congressman John Adler, and the leviathan ex-footballer Jon Runyan.

more below the fold

Nothing is Ever a Total Loss. It Can Always Be Used As A Bad Example

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There’s a lot of talk about consolidation and shared services as a way to address New Jersey’s budget crisis.  Some baby steps have been taken in areas such as public safety, county-wide purchasing, and library services.

While consolidation and sharing of services is a noble goal in the abstract, sometimes it just doesn’t work out.  Case in point:  the Woodlynne Police Department.

Woodlynne is a tiny one-quarter square mile borough tucked between Camden and Collingswood.  Four years ago, in an effort to save money, the borough disbanded its police force, sold off its squad cars and other assets, and outsourced police protection to Collingswood.  Like almost all public service agencies, the Collingswood Police Department had severe fiscal challenges, and in 2009 started to cut back on police patrols in the Woodlynne borough.  This soured the relationship between the two municipalities, and eventually they agreed on an amicable divorce – Woodlynne would resurrect its independent police department.

The borough of 3,000 residents hired about a dozen officers who were laid off from their police jobs in surrounding municipalities, and hired a former Camden police chief as their Director of Public Safety at a $60,000 annual salary.  The new Woodlynne Police Department started operation this past Sunday.  Much of the equipment such as bulletproof vests, guns, and forensic devices was recycled or donated from other departments or the state, although the borough did invest in two brand new squad cars.

I’m not qualified to comment on whether this insourcing initiative is good or bad for the citizens of Woodlynne.  It’s possible that the lure of home rule, clash of personalities, or insufficient service from Collingswood all contributed to this reversal.  What’s important here, though, for the rest of the state is to capitalize on Woodlynne’s and Collingswood’s experiences and apply those lessons learned to future cost-cutting efforts.  The New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety should interview the principal parties and document what worked, and what didn’t.  The Department should establish a repository of lessons learned from this and similar efforts – those that succeed as well as those that fail.  And those lessons need to be part of the planning process for future consolidation efforts and sharing of services.  By systematically exploiting mistakes of the past, we have an improved chance of ensuring a better future.

New Jersey’s Blockhead

Cross-posted from deciminyan.

Becky and Charlie are ten year old twins.  They sometimes play well together, but there’s also an element of sibling rivalry.  Both enjoy playing with wooden blocks, and (pardon the stereotyping, but I’m using it to make my point) Becky likes pink blocks while Charlie likes blue ones.  Their family is about to go on a long vacation, and the twins and their parents are scurrying to pack the minivan in order to get on the road.

Becky is busy helping Dad prepare lunches, and Mom calls out to Charlie for assistance.  “The minivan is getting full”, she said, “but here’s a box to take for you to fill with blocks for you and your sister.”  Charlie takes the box up to the bedroom and realizes that not all the blocks will fit in the box – so he has to choose which ones to take.   He knows he likes the blue ones while Becky plays with the pink ones.  What does he do?

If he’s a spoiled selfish kid, and doesn’t care about his sister, he will fill the box with blue blocks which would give him lots to play with on vacation.  Maybe he’d throw in a couple of pink blocks to placate his sister and his parents.  He’s looking forward to being able to brag to his friends how he got all the blue blocks he wanted.  A more mature ten year old would realize that by sacrificing half of his blue blocks, and filling the box half blue/half pink, both he and his sister would have enough to play with, even though neither gets as many blocks as they would like.

Now fast forward, and suppose Charlie is Chris Christie.  Clearly, he would fill the box with blue blocks – things that promote his own political self-agenda, curry favor with his cronies and millionaires, and say to hell with his sister and brother citizens of New Jersey.

When there are choices to be made with limited resources, no doubt tough decisions need to be made, and sacrifices need to be shared.  A mature ten year old would realize this.  A self-centered, bratty ten year old would not.  Balancing budgets is more complex than apportioning blue and pink blocks, but the general approach is similar.  I wish our governor would recognize that fact, and not act like a bratty ten year old.

The Landrum Cell

promoted by Rosi

Cross-posted from deciminyan

The year is 2015.  Bob Landrum of Connellsville is one of the wealthiest men in southwestern Pennsylvania.  A high school chemistry teacher by profession, Bob was an amateur inventor and had discovered a breakthrough in solar cell technology back in 2013.  His new solar cell, using a technology that he patented, was nine times more efficient at generating electricity than the best state-of-the art cells were previously.  Despite his wealth, Bob and his wife Carol sent their two children to public schools.  “We want Timmy and Sarah to experience the diversity of America and they need to interact with other children from all walks of life and from all kinds of families” explained Carol.

more below the fold

Forgetting Who We Work For – Part Deux

promoted by Rosi

Cross-posted to deciminyan

Last week, I blogged about the debacle regarding road and rail projects and the Transportation Trust Fund.  I reminded politicians on both sides that they work for us, and their lack of urgency in coming to terms with a multi-billion dollar issue is a failure their part to do the governing we pay them to do.  They ended up kicking the can down the road – postponing a real solution until the end of the year, but at least the road crews are back at work.

Now, there’s an even more egregious instance where one of our elected officials seems to have forgotten who he is working for.

I don’t begrudge Governor Christie for hitting the campaign trail.  Elected officials of both parties do this, and with today’s telecommunications infrastructure, a leader can be almost as effective (or ineffective) from Des Moines as he can be from Trenton.  But I am very angry at the way our leader uses sarcasm to belittle New Jersey’s citizens.    While campaigning in Iowa, Governor Christie mocked students and teachers by using a whiny voice saying “Mom, Dad, I can’t study.  I can’t work.  My grades are suffering because Mrs. Smith, she’s not getting her pay raise this year.”  Perhaps the governor thinks that our students are too dumb to read newspapers, but how is a student supposed to respect his or her hard-working teacher when the governor doesn’t?  The governor went on to categorize disagreements with his approach as “garbage.”  Since when is legitimate disagreement “garbage?”

Following that comment, the governor added, “…and you wonder why I’m in Iowa?”  Yes, governor – I wonder how your denigration of the Garden State will help attract business and tourists.  You are the ambassador from New Jersey to the rest of the world.  Keep your disagreements in Trenton – after all, you already have the legislature wrapped around your pinky.  But when on the road, you should be promoting New Jersey, not smearing it.  That’s what we pay you to do.

“…with liberty and justice for some.”

promoted by Rosi

Cross-posted from deciminyan

I am not a lawyer, and am presenting my opinion based on what I can discern from on-line articles.  Input and clarifications from any attorneys reading this blog are encouraged.

While our nation was founded on the idealistic principal of “justice for all”, and we continually strive toward that goal, it has never been truly attained.  The wealthy can take advantage of high-powered attorneys to help them skirt the law, while the poor obtain their “equal justice” by working with taxpayer-supported public defenders.  Often this works well, with defendants receiving a fair trial, but clearly there are limits.  A rich defendant has almost unlimited resources to spend on obtaining exculpatory evidence and judicial theatrics (remember the OJ trial?).  An indigent defendant’s resources are limited, even with free counsel.  Now, a new thumb on the scale of justice is making it even more difficult for the poor.

An article in USA Today reports that some states are now restricting public defender services.  In the landmark Gideon vs Wainright case, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional right to an attorney for felony cases.  The participating justices in a New Jersey Supreme Court case on a related issue have ruled unanimously that legal representation for the poor must be provided in any case that might result in incarceration.

The USA Today article goes on, stating that some states are imposing fees for public defender services.  Defendants are either coerced to waive their right to an attorney or forced to amass huge debts.  Clearly, in a country where almost one person in one hundred is incarcerated, the “rehabilitation” aspect of prison life has been subsumed by a “lock ’em up and throw away the key” attitude.  Elimination of adequate defense for all, combined with the Tea Party’s drive to eviscerate defendants’ Miranda rights, and the growing initiative to privatize prisons under for-profit companies, simply increases the burden on the taxpayer, adds to corporate coffers, and does not address the root cause of the problem.