Tag Archive: democracy

The GOPs Fake Vision of Legislative Oversight

promoted by Rosi

Over the last week, deciminyan drafted thought exercises on how New Jersey might be different the Governor and the GOP had taken different steps during and after the closure of the GWB occurred. They're good pieces I recommend reading and want to add to these exercises.

 What would have happened if we listened to the GOPs criticisms throughout this process and took their advice?

Yesterday's committee hearing may have been the most downright disappointing one thus far. It seems that decorum has mostly vanished from within the Statehouse walls all in the name of showmanship. The minority is desparately attempting to transform the Bridgegate narrative into one of blind partisanship. By throwing insulting stones directed personally at the majority members, their hope is that the majority members will return the jabs and demonstrate the GOPs point.

So far, this has been largely unsuccessful. Despite one Senator's tirade decrying his First Amendment rights and another claiming a Kangaroo Court comprised not of legislators, but…Democrats (the horror!), the investigation has rightfully political, not partisan; objective, not subjective; and transparent, not opaque.

As the Republican members introduced their minority report and voted against releasing the Interim Committee Report, they gave a variety of reasons why they could not support the report. Let's explore how things would be different if the GOP got their wishes.

(Follow me below the fold for the illogic and irony.)

Vote By Mail Is Here! Don’t Delay!

Over the past year the state government has spent a lot of money on a lot of really, really dumb ideas while citizens in need go wanting for things that, if ever implemented, would make our state a better place. Christie is spending millions of our tax dollars on state-funded lawyers to issue bogus reports exonerating him from his administration’s well-documented wrongdoings. His appointed bulldog/tyrant Cami Anderson is obliterating public education in Newark. Public sector industries continue to be purposefully strangled by an administration that values the lives and futures of wealthy supporters over the needs of the people. Our cities continue to deteriorate, drowning under waves of poverty, unemployment and crime. This problem in particular has gotten so bad that the mayors of most of the state’s cities have now created their own sort of de facto regional government to tackle it.

To add insult to injury, the Republican-led House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. continues to thwart all progressive ideas while purposefully bogging down the Obama Administration in ridiculous investigations like Benghazi and the like. Over the past two years House Republicans have continued their war on the Middle and Working Classes, declining to pass a minimum wage hike, refusing to extend unemployment benefits, and repeatedly attempting to destroy Obamacare. And Obamacare isn’t even that good anyway!

So my fellow progressives, it’s the Fall. It’s almost election time. It’s time to step up and vote. Yes, it’s a cliché, but this year you might not know that something is different. It’s been around for a few years now, but it’s not being advertised or promoted by our state government, as it should. In New Jersey, voters no longer need to bother with the logistical inconvenience of going to the polls. Every voter is entitled to vote by mail.

Gone are the days when voters who sought to attain an absentee ballot had to fill out an onerous form, justify their absence and send it in. A few years ago the Legislature overhauled this system by approving a streamlined application, easily available online, that takes three minutes to fill out and send in.

My wife and I have already done this in the past few elections, and it was easy-peasy. The ballots arrived weeks before the election; we filled them out and dropped them into the mail. We voted. For some reason, some ballots came with postage while others did not. I guess it depends on county funding for that, but no matter. We’ve all got stamps.

To do this for every election, one only needs to fill out an application once for all upcoming November polls.

All instructions, and a downloadable form, are available online from the NJ Department of State. Here is the link:


Do it. It’s so damn easy. No more going to the polls. No more waiting in line, or looking for parking, to trying to find a ride, or worrying about a cold November downpour. You get the ballot mailed to you, you fill it out and seal it, you put in any mailbox, and it’s done. Do it. It matters.  

Brat, A Self-Made Phony Yet An Honest Representative of the Right

Hypocrisy, exaggeration and deception are part and parcel of democratic politics, but all lies, I have learned, are not equal, nor should they be received that way. Some lies are much more deceptive, cunning and misleading than others, as are the liars that tell them. A good example is currently winding its way through the web and blogosphere, and it concerns the current darling of the Tea Party, David Brat.

Brat’s unexpected primary victory against Republican Party Bigwig/Congressman Eric Cantor is huge news, and rightfully so. As a Tea Party favorite, Brat’s victory serves as a warning to more moderate Republicans that so-called free market, laissez-faire Tea Party values still hold credence with Republican voters.

The Tea Party and its Republican supporters live in a sort of “way we never were” cloud where America is (or should be) rightfully a white, Christian country comprised of English-speaking hard workers who, in their noble, honest self-sufficiency are not in need, nor desire, any welfare-state handouts like Medicare, Social Security or almost anything else state-sponsored or supported. They see themselves as the once marginalized but now awakened  “Silent Majority” whose time to stand up – unapologetically so – for American values and identity has arrived. According to Tea Partiers and many Republicans, people who get a “boost” from government programs are cheating an otherwise fair and square system which rewards hard work and honesty with The Good Life.

So wasn’t I surprised when I read that in his official campaign biography, Brat makes an astounding claim:

“[Brat] tested his rural values against the intellectual elite while at Princeton and against the powerful elite at American University.”

Okay, so from a reasonable reader’s perspective, the assertion here is immediately understood. Brat attended college as a sort of noble underdog undergraduate at Princeton University. The image is quite clear of a young conservative man standing up for good American Christian values in the profane, ivy covered halls of Princeton University…perhaps passionately defending the rights of the unborn against the Abortionist professors of that esteemed institution. Perhaps he made an entire U.S. government class gasp when he publicly proclaimed his stance against affirmative action or immigration or on some other hot button issue. So here’s the kicker:

It never happened.

Brat never gained admission to or graduated from Princeton University. He lied. He misrepresented himself and tried to convince his readers, supporters and others that he earned something that he did not.  

In reality, Brat apparently – though I still think this needs to be confirmed – attended Princeton Theological Seminary. Is the seminary geographically located in the town of Princeton? Why yes, it is. Is it known by anyone, past or present, as being part of Princeton University? No, not by a long shot. In fact, its students and graduates either call it by name or refer to it as “PTS.”

This is no small omission, and he shouldn’t get a break on it. America is indeed the land of fudged resumes, and of people reinventing themselves – sometimes twice over. But what we have here is a candidate who represents a movement that, like I mentioned earlier, is obsessed with merit and straightforwardness, and Brat, in his claims, honors neither. He’s a fraud and wannabe. His claims are an insult not just to Princeton alumni, but rather, to any and all of us who ever worked and earned a four-year college degree anywhere. Its especially stinging for those of us burdened with tens of thousands of dollars in college loans that the Tea Party demands we repay regardless of the cost to our families and the national economy. He’s a fake, a phony. He’s pathetic.

But curiously enough, I will concede that Brat is a fine representative of the entire Tea Party movement, and that of the Republican Party as well. Because if you do really believe that you’ve earned everything in your life, and that you owe nothing to your society or nation or community, then you’re about as much as a hypocrite as he is. The truth is that most if not all Americans have received immense benefits, both directly and indirectly, from the various levels of government over the course of their lifetimes. Whether it was attending public school, driving on an interstate highway, breathing in relatively clean air, gaining a benefit from an unadulterated medication, cashing a Social Security/Medicare check or sending an email – we have all proven to be welfare kings and queens. We have all advanced at some point in our lives from the imperfect largesse of the Federal and State governments.

And you don’t need a Princeton degree to figure that one out.  

Christie’s “Democratic Entrapment”

A particularly disturbing development is underway at the Governor’s latest so-called “Town Hall Meetings.” Originally, these meetings were purportedly designed and operated by the Governor’s office to solicit citizen feedback as well as provide a genuine democratic venue for citizens. The problem is, and I’m not exaggerating here, the presence of the Secret Police.

Citizens have reported that plainclothes members of law enforcement have been photographing participants, demonstrators, etc. According to published reports, many of these ‘photographers’ have admitted to being members of law enforcement who were on the job.

Commentators have reported that this is “Nixonian” in scope, but to be honest, it’s much, much worse. What the governor is doing is basically entrapping citizens and engaging in a “bait and switch.” He’s marketing himself and his events as a democratic exercise, but instead they’re obviously being utilized to secretly gather information on citizens in the midst of exercising the very First Amendment rights they’ve been invited to express.

I’m not going to fault the governor for preferring some questions from participants over others; that’s only natural. But I must say that it’s rather bizarre that, aside from audience outbursts, none of the meetings have directly addressed the fact that the governor’s office is now at the center of state and federal probes for abuse of power and improper use of taxpayer funds. And more disturbing, of course, is that with the abuse of power allegations, we’ve moved beyond accusations as there is clear proof in the form of the documentation uncovered from Bridget Kelly and others.

But there is something deeper going on here, and it has to do with a clear contempt for the Constitution and the concept of citizenship itself. The idea to order state law enforcement – or whoever they are – to send such a chilling, autocratic message to citizens who are simply expressing ownership in the democratic system is antithetical to everything we believe in as a free people. Democracy by nature is messy and noisy; it’s not the equivalent to a high school assembly. These people are taxpaying adults and voters; they are not children or subjects to be ‘managed’ or ‘intimidated.’ Apparently we now have a Chief Executive who is so disdainful of the Bill of Rights, of the Right to Assemble and Petition, that he is transforming these meetings into a venue for the justifiably paranoid.

There is something that can be done about this immediately. The Legislature should quickly summon State Police executives and members of the Governor’s office to find out exactly why pictures are being taken and what criteria exist that determine who or what will be recorded. In fact, I would ask our elected representatives to immediately exercise this executive oversight to send a strong message to the governor that our rights and liberties are to be taken seriously.  

Outrage must lead to Action: State Control of Newark Schools Must End

This excellent post got torpedoed by the Hoboken developments of this weekend. What's going on in Newark is incredible. Thanks, Momotombo, for this post. Bob Braun is posting here later on Newark, too. – Promoted by Rosi

The outcry since the announcement of the One Newark Plan has been steadily building with community meetingsprotests, and press. Cami Anderson's pronouncement yesterday that five principals would be suspended ratcheted up outrage to a new level.  For good reason.  

But outrage is not enough.  It is time we put our outrage into action.  

Many people around New Jersey, and thanks to social media around the country, are just getting wind of what has been a long term pattern of dictatorial leadership by Superintenedent Cami Anderson.  She was annointed by Commissioner Cerf to run the public schools of Newark, but instead is on a path of privatizing them.

But please realize this is not new for Newark. State control has been the norm for 18 years and all the state has demonstrated is a commitment to ignoring the voices of the people of Newark and running the schools into the ground. The state has failed to improve the educational condition of Newark Public Schools.  They have failed to earn, or for that matter even try to earn, the respect of the people of Newark. So what is happening now is outrageous and unacceptable but far from new, unexpected, or surprising.  

So what are we going to do about it?  

Let's talk about it. Jump below the fold with me. 

Counting Votes is Cool

I don’t know, maybe it was the 2000 Presidential race. But, I LOVE when we actually count the votes cast in an election before declaring a winner. Now, we are the party of arithmetic after all, so I’m not saying we couldn’t declare Senator Menendez or others who won by landslides (or at least handily) the winners on election night, even though technically all the votes can’t have been counted. But, in races all over the country that were too close to call, there were premature declarations of victory which are now coming under closer scrutiny. Which is to say, they’re actually counting the votes – like all the cool kids do.

A great example is the U.S. Senate candidate from Arizona, Richard Carmona, who conceded his race on Election night, and now is learning how cool it is to count votes. He may not win in the end, but he might! So, what was he doing conceding?

Similarly, here in NJ, early reports of the end of the LD-16 race were greatly exaggerated, with multiple media outlets declaring Donna Simon the winner on election night. (Simon even gave a victory speech, before thousands of Sandy-displaced voters even had their votes counted.) But, significantly, Marie Corfield did not concede. And good for her! She’s currently behind by just 700 votes out of almost 10,000 still to be counted. That’s way too close to call.

It’s always true – especially this year, with the special arrangements for voting made in light of hurricane Sandy – that the outcome of a close race on election night could change when mail-in ballots and provisional ballots are counted. And my fingers are crossed that’s true this year for Marie. But, win or lose – and sure, she may still come up short in the end – I applaud her for respecting LD-16 voters enough to be guided by their choice, and waiting until the votes are counted to know what that is. To me, that’s cool.

Tired of partisan politics? Bring it to the Table

Somewhere along the line, politics replaced sex as the one thing in America we don’t discuss in mixed company – even amongst friends and family.  Democracy is founded on robust dialogue, but if we can’t have conversations across party lines, democracy doesn’t work.

Bring it to the Table is a national grassroots movement. It is participatory online platform, community engagement campaign, and a series of webisodes aimed at bridging political divides and elevating the national conversation. The project is for those who are tired of hyper-partisanship and want to steer political discourse back into the hands of the American people.

This is your dialogue. These are your beliefs and your solutions. We’ve heard enough from media moguls and politicians. We want to hear from you. Please join us at The Table and be among the first to build a creative community of Americans speaking productively about our future.  No matter your background, your hometown, your livelihood, your tax base, your political party, we want you to Bring It.

Learn more at: