Author Archive: Jersey Jazzman

What We DON’T Know About the PARCC

Cross-posted with Jersey Jazzman.

One of the more annoying aspects of the current debate about PARCC — the new statewide, standardized tests coming to New Jersey and a dozen other states — is how the test’s advocates project such certainty in their claim that the PARCC is a superior test.

They will tell you the PARCC will help ensure that students are “college-ready.” They will tell you the PARCC will “provide parents with important information.” They will tell you the PARCC is “generations better” than previous standardized tests.

People are certainly entitled to their opinions, but let’s be clear: at this point, there is very little evidence to back up any assertions of the PARCC’s superiority. In truth, there is a great deal we don’t know about the PARCC:

Andrew Sullivan Misses The Point About Chris Christie

Andrew Sullivan asks a question we here at Blue Jersey have been answering since 2008. But in doing so, he completely misses the central point about our governor:

How Big An Asshole Is Chris Christie?

“The question is a truly difficult one. I used to find Christie’s bluntness and boldness refreshing. I don’t mind his aggressive manner – it’s entertaining at least, and we can all use some personality in our politics at times. I’m in favor of standing up to public sector union mediocrity. I like his relative social liberalism, especially in the madrassa-like swamps of the GOP base. He may even be exonerated in the Bridgegate scandale.

But then you just read about him. It’s clear to anyone with eyes and ears by now that he is an almost pathologically ambitious figure, who has no qualms about persecuting his enemies, pettily seeking payback when necessary, and using public office to pursue political vendettas. What you really see in the Bridgegate mess is his desire to get Democratic party officials to endorse him to burnish his bipartisan credentials for a national race. If they didn’t, they had something to fear in New Jersey. He’s a big guy, in other words, with a tendency to punch down and suck up.”

Look, Andrew, I know your New Republic, neo-lib slant on politics means you have to give the benefit of the doubt to “moderate” Republicans like Christie. And you’re right about this: the man’s small, mean, vindictive, and prone to scandal.

But anyone who knows anything about Chris Christie’s record knows his biggest problem is that he is a terrible leader and policy maker.

Christie cut a deal on public employee pensions, then reneged on it, causing the state credit rating to tumble. He sat by and watched Atlantic City implode. He let Camden’s police force wither until it hit the point it had to be taken over by the county, needlessly endangering the lives of the city’s residents. The people who were hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy overwhelmingly say he’s bungled distributing aid to them.

Christie trashed New Jersey’s historic commitment to school funding equity. He slashed property tax rebates and brazenly declared he put the brakes on those same taxes. He took hundreds of millions from clean energy funds and used them to plug his budget holes. He pulled out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and had no alternative plan to cut emmissions..

Christie killed the ARC tunnel, setting up an almost certain transportation disaster in the near future. He risked starting a needless panic over ebola to score a few cheap political points. He oversaw the most anemic job growth in the region, even as he gave billions in tax breaks to corporations. He cut women’s health care.

Burden of Reformy Proof

Cross-posted with Jersey Jazzman.

I’ll keep this short, as I can’t believe I actually have to write this down:

I see a lot of arguments in social media and blogs and editorial pages and elsewhere along these lines:

“American education is a disaster! We must do something! And you can’t prove that my proposed reforms won’t work!”

This argument makes no sense for at least three reasons:

Was Christie’s ARC Tunnel Cancelation Worse Than Bridgegate?

Rachel M. Cohen at The American Prospect makes the case:

Today, few outside the New York metropolitan area know much about Governor Christie’s decision to veto the Access to the Region’s Core plan (ARC), a $9.8 billion project in the works for nearly 20 years that would have doubled cross-Hudson rail capacity, with a projected 2018 completion date. Christie gained notoriety for one Hudson River tie-up in September 2013, when his aides and allies closed traffic lanes at the George Washington Bridge as political retribution against a local Democratic official. But compared to “Bridgegate,” as that twisted tale came to be known, Christie’s veto of the new rail tunnel is a far more serious scandal. For the sake of short-term political gain, Christie sacrificed the long-term interests of his state and the nation. The story of the blocked tunnel is also evidence of a wider problem: Republican leaders’ refusal to deal with failing infrastructure for fear of raising taxes and antagonizing anti-tax groups on the right.

This one’s well worth your time, folks. Cohen asks the question ARC-haters like Paul Mulshine never seem to get around to: if the ARC wasn’t a good plan to expand capacity across the Hudson, why didn’t Christie have an alternative?

Add ARC to the pile of Christie’s failures: pensions, Atlantic City, property tax relief, employment, credit ratings, Sandy aid, school funding, and so on. Not all were created on his watch, but none got solved, most got worse, and all will have to be dealt with long after Chris Christie leaves office.

How The Teachers Union in Jersey City May Have Started To Win

Cross-posted with Jersey Jazzman

Every once in a while, a group of teachers comes together and says: “Enough.”

It happened a few couple of years ago in Chicago, when Karen Lewis rallied her fellow teachers and took on Rahm Emanuel and his rubber-stamping board of education. And now it appears to be happening again…

In, of all places, Jersey City — thanks, in part, to the leadership of Ronnie Greco.

Greco is the president of the Jersey City Education Association, the local teachers union and the largest local affiliate of the New Jersey Education Association. I reached out to Greco earlier this month; we eventually had a lengthy conversation, followed by email exchanges, about what is happening in his city’s schools.

The size of the JCEA alone is reason enough to pay attention what is happening in the district. But I believe teachers and union leaders all over the country can learn lessons by studying how Greco and his fellow Jersey City teachers are fighting back against the political forces that have sought to undermine their association.

@GovChristie’s Casual Relationship With The Truth

Cross-posted with Jersey Jazzman.

Here at Blue Jersey, “interested observer” finds proof that Chris Christie wasn’t telling the truth when he said he only met Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in 2013. It turns out this past December Christie claimed he had been friends with Jones for far longer:

And that would also seem to back up what he said with Steve Adubato this past December:

However, in an interview with Steve Adubato on PBS in late December,

Christie was far less specific, telling his interviewer, “I’ve become friends with Jerry over the last five years.” Adubato, looking a bit surprised, took note that the two men were apparently on a first-name basis, interjecting, “‘Jerry’?” To which Christie said, ” “Yeah. Jerry.’ He allows me to call him ‘Jerry’. I don’t call him, ‘Mr. Jones.’ I call him ‘Jerry.’ And I’ve become friends with Jerry over the last five years.”

So if “Jerry” didn’t meet Chris until 2013, why have they been friends for 5 years with Christie saying he got his first call way back in 2009?

We’ll have to see how all this impacts the investigation into whether Christie influenced the awarding of a contract to Jones’s firm by the Port Authority. But we don’t have to wait to put this incident into a larger context that explains the character of New Jersey’ governor.

Because for a long, long time, Chris Christie has had a casual relationship with the truth:

How The Media Spreads “Truthiness”: Star-Ledger Edition

Perhaps my favorite media critic is Bob Somerby, who, for years, has run his Daily Howler blog completely independently.

Somerby’s primary thesis is that the media loves to write “scripts” about politicians. Once a script is established, facts are then distorted, twisted, and sometimes straight-out made up to support the preferred conventional wisdom that has been accepted and endorsed by those who occupy influential positions in the press.

These scripts have a standard form: a trivial, useless “fact” tells us something allegedly important about some prominent person. Perhaps the most famous example is Al Gore is a liar: he said he invented the internet! It doesn’t matter that Gore never actually said it; what matters is that it has been repeated so many times that it has become “truthy.” And it can be thrown into a column or a TV appearance casually, the declaimer knowing full well that, even if they are challenged, they can simply shrug off any criticism.

I’m reminded of Somerby today after reading what is an otherwise serviceable column from the Star-Ledger’s op-ed page editor, Tom Moran. Moran, writing on the fallout from Chris Christie’s Cowboy-gate scandal, says this:

The Week “Reformy” Died In New Jersey

Efforts to suppress freedom of opinion … they don’t just happen in Paris. Among the issues Jazzman deconstructs in the reformy-clan’s disastrous week is this: the desperate attempt by the charter forces to intimidate and silence an academic researcher and critic, Julia Sass Rubin, because as usual they’re failing at making relevant data go away. – Rosi

Cross-posted with Jersey Jazzman.

re•form•y /

rә•fôrm•ē/

adjective

1. of, denoting, or pertaining to education policies that have little to no supporting evidence, yet allow supporters of those policies to feel like they care about children more than you do.

2. (of a public education policy) used to justify inequitable and/or inadequate education funding.

3. (of a public education policy) infuriatingly smug while concurrently so freakin’ ignorant that you just want to bash your head on your keyboard over and over and over…

Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 1.12.32 PM


“Jersey Jazzman just read the latest reformy argument on his computer.”

This was a bad week for “reformy” here in Jersey; dare I say it, we may have just witnessed the beginning of the end of the “reformy” movement in the Garden State. Let’s review:  

Weekend News Roundup & Open Thread for Jan. 3-4, 2015

Shout-out to H-Net New Jersey, a Humanities listserv for historians, scholars and NJ history fans, for picking up my post ‘The Last of the Radium Girls – And Grace Fryer and the New Jersey Women who Took on a Company’ to their members.

Stile: If Christie runs for president, NJ issues could go national

  • Stile looks at 4 key NJ issues and how a Christie 2016 could affect them  bite him in the ass  bite us in the ass. (my word choice, not Stile’s).

    Star-Ledger sure likes to charge people of being conspiracy theorists

  • Wisniewski gets the “conspiracy theory” treatment this time.

    APP investigation: Money taken from NJ child protection fund

  • The New Jersey government left countless children exposed to lead poisoning in the last decade by diverting more than $50 million away from a health fund so routine state bills and salaries could be paid. Diversions approved by Govs of both parties (including Christie) and legislature.
  • Lead levels & Hurricane Sandy: 1 in 16 people tested has elevated lead levels – 6% of more than 1,200 kids and adults are above the federal threshold.

    Newark

  • Rev. Jesse Jackson to speak at Martin Luther King Jr. observance in Newark“Sing in Praise of King” Jan. 8, 2015 at 6 pm, Newark Symphony Hall.
  • The city will participate in Pres. Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative which addresses the social-economic barriers facing minority boys.
  • Bob Braun: Questions Newark’s Cami Anderson won’t answer-and probably won’t even be asked Tuesday at the Legislature’s Joint Committee on the Public Schools.

    “Presidential”

  • Tom Moran says Christie & Cuomo give bipartisanship a bad name.
  • C-minus & D’s: Gannett takes stock of Gov. Christie and he’s not making the grade.
  • Christie gets grammar-slammed for condolence tweet on Mario Cuomo.
  • Opinion: Presto, Gov. Christie shifts blame for pension hole.
  • Chuck Todd says the grassroots GOP doesn’t want Christie.
  • Christie’s outta-state schedule includes victory laps for some detestable new Guvs, and a mighty-righty Iowa Freedom Summit.
  • Christie scandals score in TPM’s 2014 Golden Duke Awards.

    The Record: ‘Realigning’ police in Bergen County

  • James Tedesco campaigned on combining the Bergen County Police with the county Sheriff’s Office.True to his word, he began that process on Day One of his administration.

    Trentonia

  • Bistate bill to overhaul DRPA languishing in NJ.

    Jerseynomics

  • After “investment,” Camden neighborhoods struggle to get their share of resources.
  • With casinos closing, food pantries are tested.

    The Record: Protecting Liberty

  • Last-minute language threatening Liberty State Park into a bill that should have nothing to do with it “stinks to high heaven”.

    12 key dates involving Chris Christie & NJ politics

  • Have fun, cats ‘n kittens!