Author Archive: deciminyan

WTF!

The lead paragraph in today’s NYT article about the Christie budget says there are “major cuts to schools, municipalities, mass transit and other areas – a milestone in his drive to tame what he calls an out-of-control government.”

How the hell did basic services like schools, municipalities, and mass transit become “out of control”?  What is government for, if not to improve our collective lives?

While Christie is the instigator of the destruction of essential state services, the Democrats share the blame for allowing this to happen.  Checks and balances?  Have they become obsolete?

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blog: www.deciminyan.org

The Bully vs. The Wimp

It looks like the 2012 Presidential election may be the tale of the bully vs. the wimp.  While we are all generally happy that Barack Obama is in the White House, we are also disappointed with his reticence to enact a progressive agenda.  In prior posts, the president has been characterized as a moderate Republican and even as Wimp-in-Chief.

Now there’s talk about Chris Christie running for president.  If he can convince the electorate that he balanced the state budget, he will be held in high esteem by some – even though balancing the state budget is totally different than balancing a federal budget.

This would set up the bully vs. wimp battle for the presidency. Unlike many of the other Republican contenders, Christie does not seem to be a lunatic, and if he kowtows to the Tea Party leadership of the GOP, he has a decent chance for the nomination.  So look for the governor to go on a strict diet and start a series of overseas trips to establish his foreign policy creds.  If those happen, it should be an interesting race in 2012, especially here in New Jersey.

John Adler and Israel

(Cross-posted from deciminyan.org)

Last night, I attended a rally meeting at a large synagogue in Voorhees where John Adler spoke and answered questions about Israel and the situation in the Middle East.  The meeting appears to have been sponsored by AIPAC and there were about 100 people in attendance.  While American Jews have as much diversity of viewpoint on Israel’s policies as do the Israelis themselves, this audience was clearly aligned with the right wing, as is the current government in Jerusalem.

Adler gave a short talk followed by questions and answers, although many of the “questions” were more like speeches from the audience.  Adler’s talk started off with a discussion on two meetings he had with President Obama (including one on Air Force One) on our policy toward Israel.  The congressman asserted that he and several of his colleagues impressed upon the president that some of Obama’s early rhetoric was encouraging Israel’s enemies, and that while the United States was putting pressure on the Jewish State to change its policies, no similar pressure was being imposed on other players in the region.  While Adler feels that some progress has been made in moving the president toward a stance that is both pro-Israel and in the best interests of the United States, he called these advancements “baby steps”.  He cited the president’s tempered response to the recent flotilla incident as evidence that the message is getting across.

In response to a question from the audience, Adler agreed with those present that the mainstream press often portrays Israel’s actions in a negative light.  He said that the United States should take some sort of action with regard to some of our allies’ actions to withdraw their ambassadors from Israel, but felt this should be done privately and diplomatically.

Clearly, the audience’s biggest concern was the Iranian nuclear capability.  Adler understands the technical and political difficulties in a military solution, and would like to see more pressure put on Iran through sanctions, diplomatic means, and covert actions.

Adler is staunchly pro-Israel, and he indicated that most other members of Congress are also.  I came away with the impression that Adler’s approach is not a “knee-jerk” one, but that he clearly understands the subtleties and potential traps in approaching the necessary support of Israel with blinders on.  No doubt, Jon Runyan will espouse a similar pro-Israel position.  But the question is whether or not Runyan understands the nuances enough to effectively promote the interests of the United States and of Israel.  Perhaps one day, Runyan will face tough questions at a news conference.  I’m not holding my breath.


A Progressive’s Dilemma

I feel your pain. – Promoted by Rosi Efthim

Cross-Posted from deciminyan.org

Now that the primary is over and the insurgent candidates were beaten back by their respective party’s establishments, what choice does a Progressive Democrat have in New Jersey’s Third Congressional District?

Two years ago, we rejoiced at John Adler’s victory on the coattails of Barack Obama.  Adler is the first Democrat to represent this area in over a century.  His reputation as a “liberal” in the State Senate brought hope that he would pursue an agenda that would be for the people and not the corporate interests.  But it all came crashing down when Adler bucked his party by voting for the insurance companies and denying health insurance coverage for 40 million Americans for another generation.

So now it’s Adler vs. Runyan.  The Harvard-educated lawyer with tons of legislative experience vs. an ex-footballer who shuns public scrutiny.  The Democrat who abandoned the people who got him elected vs. the anti-tax Republican who harbors donkeys on his Moorestown estate to escape taxes.  A Morton’s Fork creating a dilemma for Progressives this fall.

The Case For John Adler

While Adler brags about his middle-of-the-road voting record, we can assume that in a second term, his approach would be better than that of Jon Runyan.  As a Republican, Runyan would vote in lock step with the GOP leadership, just like his potential colleagues have done over the past two years.  Say what you want about Adler, at least he shows some independence.  But the overriding rationale to vote for Adler has nothing to do with votes on particular issues.  The House races this Fall will be very close, and with the current anti-incumbency fervor, the race for control of the House of Representatives is at stake.  It is critical for the Democrats to keep control, with Nancy Pelosi as Speaker.  Despite being demonized by the right, Pelosi has been the star of the 111th Congress – building consensus among the diverse views within her party and shepherding Health Insurance Reform through the process while the President stood at the sidelines until the very last minute.  If the Republicans take control of the House, John “Hell No We Can’t” Boehner will be Speaker, second in line for the Presidency, and would make today’s obstructionist Senate pale by comparison.  If the race for Speaker gets down to a single vote, I’d want John Adler to be there representing NJ-3.

The Case Against John Adler

An Adler defeat would send a clear message that there’s not a large gap between his Blue Dog version of being a Democrat and a less-than-extreme Republican such as Runyan.  This would open the door for a real Progressive Democrat to ride Barack Obama’s coattails into the House in the 2012 election.  While he spouts much of the Tea Party rhetoric, Jon Runyan purports to be pro-choice and is not as homophobic as his party’s leadership.  If he can hold his own against their powerful grip, it might be a good thing to have someone like that in the Republic Party.

So as someone who almost always has voted Democratic, I have not yet made up my mind.  Right now, I can’t see myself voting for either candidate and regardless of what happens in the next five months, I can’t ever contemplate a scenario where I would vote for Jon Runyan.  Whether I vote for Adler or sit this one out remains my dilemma.

The Power of Blogs

Wow!

On Saturday, I posted an article complaining that BP is not being held criminally liable for their actions.  Today, Attorney General Holder announced that he is opening up a criminal investigation.

Coincidence?  I think not!

🙂

Override the Veto

Promoted by Rosi Efthim

The following is the text of a letter I sent to my (Republican) State Senator and Assemblypersons.  Feel free to re-use any or all of this.

I am writing to urge you to override the Governor’s veto of the Millionaire’s Tax.

His veto is based on two false premises:

1) Raising taxes on the wealthy will cause them to move out of New Jersey

2) His pledge during the campaign not to raise taxes.

Since this tax was already in existence under the previous administration, one can assume that those wealthy people who felt that their tax rate overrode the benefits of living in New Jersey have already moved out of state.

The pledge made during his campaign has already been broken by his passing down more expenses to the non-wealthy.  For example, the increase in NJ Transit fares is no different to a wage earner than a new tax.

Sometimes, elected officials are called upon to do what’s right instead of what’s politically expedient.  Making the solution to New Jersey’s fiscal woes falls into that category, and retaining the previous tax rates for the wealthiest citizens is essential for the Governor’s “shared sacrifice” to have any meaning.

Support the Troops

Promoted from the diaries by Rosi Efthim

Cross posted at deciminyan

Every day of the year, our uniformed military sacrifices life and limb to fulfill the missions that we assign to them. Yet on only one day per year, Memorial Day, do we formally recognize these sacrifices. We do so with parades, flags, speeches, and barbecues. During the rest of the year, we may send care packages and drive around with magnetic yellow ersatz ribbons on our cars, but for the most part unless we have a loved one serving in the war zones, we go about our business and the soldiers are largely forgotten. Despite the fact that we are in the longest war in American history, news from the front is relegated to the back pages – after the headlines about Dancing with the Stars or the sexual proclivities of a politician.

While we say we “support the troops”, do we really? We send them to an ill-conceived war without adequate body armor. We put them unnecessarily in harm’s way by spending millions of dollars on corrupt or incompetent contractors who provide unsafe facilities that electrocute our servicemen and women. We go through eight years of Bush Reaganomics which wrecks the economy, making service in the military not “voluntary” but rather the “employer of last resort” for some. We stretch our troops so thin that they are cruelly redeployed for three, four, and five tours after they have bravely served our nation. We kick out motivated, well-trained, and well-qualified troops simply because of their sexual orientation.

So how can we support the troops this Memorial Day? Certainly we should continue sending care packages and displaying ribbons on our automobiles, whether or not these activities are symbolic or meaningful. More importantly, we need to realize that the nation is at war, and the justification for that war is subject to debate. If it weren’t for vigorous debate and endless protest, the war in Vietnam might have stretched out several more years, killed more Americans, and had the same outcome. It would be a fitting tribute to our troops if, by next Memorial Day, they were all home and the billions of dollars that we are throwing into overseas wars were spent here in America on deficit reduction, jobs, health care, and education for our veterans and for all Americans.

Debating the Void

Tonight, I attended the “debate” in Willingboro among the candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives in New Jersey’s Third Congressional District.  I put the word “debate” in quotes because the sanctioned candidates from each party (Jon Runyan for the GOP and John Adler for the Democrats) were conspicuously absent1.

The challengers to the establishment candidates were Barry Bendar for the Democrats and Justin Murphy for the Republicans.  There were about 100 people in attendance, and the program was moderated by Ersula Cosby, an attorney from Bucks County who did an excellent job of running the debate.  The atmosphere was collegial with a cooperative audience and no fireworks.  Questions had to be submitted in advance, and no follow-up questions from the audience were permitted.

Both candidates presented themselves as the anti-establishment choice, decrying the political bosses of their respective parties.  Murphy proudly proclaimed himself a “right-wing Republican” and Bendar explained his disappointment with Adler, for whom he campaigned in 2008.

I won’t repeat their stance on many of the issues – the reader can learn about these at the candidates’ web site, or from the “mainstream media” (Burlington County Times, Courier Post, and Asbury Park Press were there) or they can pretty much figure out where a “Progressive Democrat” and a “Right Wing Republican” stand on the major concerns of the day.  Rather, I’ll give my take on where the two agree (sometimes surprisingly), provide some highlights, and mention where they may differ from their party’s dogma.

On Health Care, both candidates agreed that everyone should have health insurance and that preventative care should be a priority.  Bendar asserts that health care is a right, and supports “single payer.”  Murphy contends that health care is not a right, and was not clear on how everyone could be insured without a government-run single payer system.  Both agreed that “bureaucrats” should not get between a doctor and a patient, but Bendar’s assumption was that the bureaucrats were insurance company personnel and Murphy’s was that the bureaucrats were government workers.  Bendar said, “You shouldn’t have to make a [medical] decision based on money.”  Interestingly, Murphy asserted that (despite being an attorney and successful small businessman) he has spent most of his adult life without health insurance.  He pledged to forfeit any Federal health insurance benefit if elected.

On the lightning rod issue of abortion, Murphy is fiercely anti-choice, stating that he firmly believes that life begins at conception.  Bendar follows the Progressive line of contending that the Federal government should not intervene in what is a personal decision, although to me he seemed uncomfortable discussing this issue.

On Energy, both candidates agreed that nuclear energy needs to be part of the solution.  Murphy wants to double the number of nuclear reactors in the next 10 years.  I was disappointed in Bendar’s response that nuclear energy in the short term is acceptable, especially given the proximity of the Oyster Creek facility in his home town.  Neither candidate addressed the problem of disposal of nuclear waste.  Unsurprisingly, both agreed that we need more wind and solar power, but Murphy downplayed the effectiveness of renewable energy in reducing our dependence on foreign oil.  He also favors offshore drilling, stating “we have to be tougher than one oil spill.”  He would like to drill off New Jersey and have the royalties go directly to fund education.  (Like most Tea Partiers, he favors abolishing the Department of Education.)  Disappointingly, neither candidate mentioned conservation or CAFE standards as a part of the energy solution.

When asked what their top priority would be if elected, unsurprisingly both mentioned jobs.  Bendar wants to penalize companies for sending jobs overseas, and Murphy believes that corporate regulation and taxes are impeding the economy and job creation.  He wants the IRS abolished and capital gains taxes eliminated.

On gun control, Murphy would not support the bill currently before the House that would require background checks before a private gun sale could be consummated.  He argues that criminals will have guns, anyway.  Bendar supports the Second Amendment but finds no reason for private citizens to own assault weapons.

Oddly, there was a question about the Separatist movement.  I was relieved to hear that both candidates agreed that this issue was settled in 1865.

On immigration, Murphy contends that the Federal government has failed miserably, and that profiling in some cases is acceptable because “we are a nation at war with radical Islamic terrorists.”  Again, Bendar seemed uncomfortable or unprepared on this topic with a response that was wishy-washy at best.

On “too big to fail“, both agreed that companies should be allowed to fail, if necessary, but Bendar supports a plan for a “soft landing” for the affected workforce.

Besides Adler and Runyan, something else was conspicuous by its absence.  There was absolutely no mention of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and their toll on the lives of our soldiers and our national budget.  Apparently, these wars have faded into the background and neither party is willing to bring them to a close.



1After the debate was over, the organizers said that although Adler and Runyan were invited, Adler had to be in Washington for a vote and that Runyan never responded to their invitation.  I asked the moderator whether or not the candidates were permitted to send a proxy, but she was unable to answer that question.  




Where To From Here?

What do you think the next step is, Blue Jersey? – promoted by Rosi Efthim

OK.  So we had a rally in Trenton with record turnout.  It makes us feel good.  And it will be ignored by Christie and his Tea Bagger friends.

There’s recall.  That’s a bad idea – not only because it will be unsuccessful, but will invigorate the Tea Baggers and cause Christie to dig in his heels even further.  The most promising approach is to keep the pressure on the Legislature – both Republicans and Democrats.  A well-crafted campaign to override Christie’s veto of the millionaire’s tax could take the wind out of his sails.

We also need to revector the message from supporting teachers and kids to a more general audience.  There’s a large unenlightened constituency out there who simply look at school costs as a burden on their overstreteched income.  We need to show them the severity of the other harm Christie’s policies are causing.  And we need the teachers’ union to realize that by matching Christie’s intransigence, they are only hurting themselves.

Christie basks in publicity, so it is counterproductive to attack him personally.  The right thing to do is to mount a PR campaign to alert the voters on the short-term and long-term harm he is bringing to New Jersey, and concurrently suggest realistic progressive alternatives.  And we gotta find a credible loyal opposition focal point.

Ramblings on the Assembly Debate on the Millionaire’s Tax

I’m not as up to speed on New Jersey politics as I should be.  So I had some free time today and spent over an hour listening to the Assembly debate on the Millionaire’s tax.  As far as I can tell, the Republicans are putting forward two arguments:

1. Taxes destroy jobs

2. The rich will move away

These are well-established unproven Republican talking points.  As far as the first point is concerned, we have seen that under the Bush tax cuts, jobs have disappeared.  On the second point, I suspect that the uber-rich already declare their homes to be in places like the Cayman Islands or Wyoming.  No one has presented any solid evidence that this would have a significant impact.

It seems like the Republicans’ mantra of no taxes is more of a religion than anything else.

Anyway, it just passed.  Will watch the next steps with great interest.