Saturday, July 23, 2005

Menendez Calls For Transit Security

At NJPolitics, Rep. Robert Menendez is quoted demanding more funds for urban transit security, an area in which many Democrats believe the Republican approved homeland security legislation of the past neglects.

Menendez went as far as to say that in response to the attacks in London and Madrid, "this Congress has hit snooze". Interestingly, despite Congress's nonchalance, the metro area has responded with significant security measures, with both New Jersey and New York City implementing random bag checks on the transit systems. For more, go to Glowie's Vista.

It is curious that the GOP leadership seems so uninterested with the idea of putting mass transit security ahead of their priorities, such as securing the Mexican border and doling out pork to heartland states that are under little risk of attack. In fact, the one attack that did occur in such a suprising location, the Oklahoma City bombing, exemplified the naive notions of many who believe that securing the U.S from Arabs is the most effective defense against terrorism. Timothy Mc Veigh was not Arab, in fact, he was an American citizen.

Nevertheless, what would increased transit security mean? Do random bag checks really protect people from suicide bombers? What do you think?

Many believe that Robert Menendez is an expert Pork dispenser, go to Tammany on the Hudson for more.

Forrester Forced to Do Something He Probably Didn't Want to Do

Last night's Forrester for Governor event in Plainsboro, featuring Vice President Dick Cheney, was the culmination of a week-long frenzy in the Garden State, with Corzine surrogates launching daily assaults on Forrester, calling him "too extreme" for New Jersey voters. The truth is that Forrester himself isn't necessarily too extreme. He's the moderate Republican candidate whom voters preferred over the true hard-line extremists like Bret Schundler and Steve Lonegan in the June primary.

Dick Cheney and George Bush, however, are too far out of the mainstream for the state of New Jersey. Enlighten-NJ uses the Presidential election results from last November to counter this reality, arguing that because Bush received 46% of the vote in New Jersey, he is not viewed as an extremist here. But taking this state's political temperature last November, when a weak Democratic candidate escaped rather narrowly with New Jersey's electoral votes, would be faulty. Newsday reported this week on a statewide poll that shows President Bush's approval rating in New Jersey at 38%. Just 33% of New Jerseyans stand behind his economic policies. Says Newsday, "Fifty-four percent said the U.S. military effort in Iraq was not doing well, and 56 percent said going to war in Iraq was a mistake." New Jersey was the second state nationwide to legalize stem cell research and Quinnipiac polls show that over 80% of residents support abortion rights in some form.

But don't expect Corzine's attacks of "guilt by association" to hurt Forrester. In reality, why should they? Corzine himself campaigned for and was a supporter of former Governor Jim McGreevey, a politician whom more New Jerseyans likely resent. If the candidates are going to judge each other by who they've shaken hands with in the past, they're both likely to lose. Also, as out of touch as Cheney-Rove-Mehlman may be here, Forrester was essentially forced into bringing in the line of national Republicans for financial reasons. With the campaign already in full swing and the election more than three months away, deep pockets will be a must for both candidates. This means that if Dick Cheney will bring in $300,000 as he did last night, Doug Forrester, the less rich of two multi-millionaires, has to bring him here, whether he really, truly wants to or not.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Ferrer's Flexibility With Social Issues

The title does not suggest that Fernando Ferrer is a waffler. However, as the leading Democrat in the New York mayoral race, he has curiously been the author of rather devisive quotes on the issue of abortion. Reports Exegenis: "I have problems with unlimited abortions. You know? Everytime a mother hiccups, it's not a reason to abort a child." Ferrer said this in 1996, when, according to Exegenis, he was running as the pro-life and pro-death penalty Democrat in New York.

This decade old statement has been subject to speculation in light of recent accusations against the mayor for his contributions to NARAL, the leading pro-abortion lobby, who announced their support for Bloomberg yesterday. Interestingly enough, Ferrer decided to use NARAL's endorsement of his opponent to his advantage,sending out lists of anti-abortion Republicans that Bloomberg had given campaign contributions to, such as Alabama senator Richard Shelby (formerly a Democrat), and Vito Fossella, the chairman of the mayor's re-election committee.

It's tough for Ferrer to come out looking good in this one. What he's doing isn't scandalous, it just happens to be transparent. It's hard to convince the voters of New York, who understand the radical significance of a NARAL endorsement, that the mayor isn't true to his pro-choice stance. It's also difficult to portray Bloomberg as a flip-flopper when he, unlike Ferrer, has never gone on the record as anything but staunchly pro-choice. In exchange for NARAL's support, Bloomberg, who has also given donations to President Bush, promised to only support the confirmation of John Roberts if the judge established himself in favor of Roe v Wade.

These candidates seem to be bogged down in allegiances. The question is, are they the right ones?

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Dick Codey Takes On Outsourcing

Acting Governor Dick Codey recently signed an anti-outsourcing bill into law after it passed the legislature. Go here, to find the official press release that was given by the Governor's office.

It's suprising that Codey would take such a strong stance on trade, but it often seems that former local officials tend to be rather radical on labor-related issues. However, the language that was used to describe the bill was loaded with anti-immigration populism that hardly represents the opinions of most democrats in the state legislature.

While the bill obviously doesn't stop companies from outsourcing, it outlaws rewarding government contracts to companies that will be distributing the funds overseas, or will be employing non-Americans on the contract. Senator Shirley Turner (D-Mercer) announced that sending jobs overseas not only takes tax dollars away from New Jersey, but prevents tax revenue in the future.

This is simply not true. If a company can yield a larger profit by outsourcing a government contract, they will provide more tax revenue, not less. Although there is something dubious about spending New Jersey tax dollars on jobs done overseas, it's not different from using U.S taxes to give foreign aid, or more specifically, purchase foreign weapons.

Conservatives, liberals, what do you think about this bill?

Bush Administration Buys CAFTA

According to an article in Businessweek, the 54-45 vote in favor of CAFTA was pushed largely by grand promises of pork barrel projects in the states of "swing senators". The article opens by describing $2.5 billion worth of dams and locks a long the Mississippi River that bought the vote of Kit Bond, the senior Republican from Missouri. For more info, go to Media Mouse.

Interestingly, as the House vote comes up, many more representatives are voicing disapproval than expected. This shows that the word has gotten around Capitol Hill that the administration is willing to pay the price if you're having second thoughts about the free trade agreement. From a congressman's perspective, he shows some signs of skepticism, gets the administration to pay attention to his concerns, and receives millions--or billions of dollars worth of pork to tout come election time. CAFTA was thought to be a hopeless initiative, from the rhetoric of congress, it currently sounds even more hopeless, but with the promises coming from the Bush administration, will ultimately succeed.

This California resident expresses disgust with Diane Feinstein (D-CA) for voting Yea on CAFTA.

Apparently Richard Codey, the governor of the garden state, signs an "anti-outsourcing bill" into law. American Jobs Blog gives analysis and support.

New Jersey Dems Under Fire

The New Jersey Press, as well as the Jersey Blogosphere, has been critical of recent homeland security legislation that passed in the legislature. According to the Star Ledger, 93% of the anti-terroist funding in the bill went to Democratically controlled districts. The concerns are legitimate, and EnlightenNJ elaborates on the issue.

However, no objective observer can ignore the fact that Democratic districts are more populated and more vulnerable to terrorism. The worst part of the federal homeland security funding is that much of the pork is distributed to rural states with few risks. Although New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the nation, there are certainly rural areas that don't need the kind of funding that Camden, Newark, and Trenton do. Although it's unrealistic for us to pretend to know what percentage a particular district requires, the New Jersey Legislature has the right idea, compared to the federal one, which has, at times, shown proportionate support for Kansas as New York.

Go to NJConservative for a different perspective.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Who Will the Opponents Be? Probably the Same Old Gang

Don't expect any real surprises when John Roberts comes up for a full vote in the Senate some time late this summer. It hasn't been 24 hours since President Bush raised the curtain on his young, fresh-looking, and quick-on-his-feet SCOTUS nominee who delivered a brief but heartfelt speech to the White House Press Corps without using notes or a teleprompter. ABC News' The Note called the Roberts roll-out which culminated last night "THE best handled and well-researched process ever" for a Supreme Court nominee. It's been less than a full day, but already, the well-spoken Roberts seems - though it is early - to be on the path towards confirmation.

As of the work day's end, there were no on-the-record statements of opposition to Roberts. There were plenty of voices of support. There were no vocal suggestions that the filibuster was an option currently being seriously considered. There were plenty of threatening words used to dissade potential filibusters, though. Anyone expecting Democrats to prevail in the fight against Roberts will almost surely be disappointed, largely because the soldiers on their side will be few in number and most likely low on energy. They're going to be the regular old gang - Boxer, Kerry, and Kennedy, among others - who seem to stand in the way of every piece of legislation that comes out of the White House or the Republican leadership.

Don't get me wrong - 98% of the time, they're more on the money than anyone else and they are to be applauded for speaking out and not giving into the majority. But this time, I fear, they're going to be on the wrong side of the aisle. A "good judge" is not someone who's necessarily going to commit to overturning Roe vs. Wade or to upholding it. It's not someone who says he interprets the Second Amendment as allowing individuals to own semi-automatic guns or not. As much as I, and, I presume, many of our readers, would like to see the Supreme Court not restrict the right to an abortion or loosen gun control laws, a "good judge" is someone who decides on the merits of each case and interprets the law with an impartial, open mind. That's a judge. Someone who commits to doing this and doing that and having this viewpoint and having that one is a politician. There is a great difference between the two.

The Scent of Pork in Montclair

According to Baristanet, my hometown of Montclair New Jersey, has scheduled to build a new elementary school for an estimated $35 million. The school will hold less than 700 students and is also expected to champion new environmental innovations, such as solar panels, which will apparently be pricey to install, but will hopefully save money in the future.

However, Montclair residents, such as myself, are skeptical. Montclair leadership has a long history of pandering on the issue of wasteful spending for useless initiatives. Up until last year, the township spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay men to pick up empty garbage cans and place them back in the driveways of residents. The purpose behind this, according to former mayoral candidate Margaret Mukherjee, was to prevent "the atmosphere of abandonment" on streets where people weren't home to tend to their own garbage cans. Nevertheless, the same lower income families that that project was supposed to protect (poorer residents tend to be away from home more often and hence are not able to pick up the cans) are ultimately driven out of town because of the rising property taxes, which are exarcerbated by pork barrel projects such as useless garbage can pickups.

Go to NJConservative, for more insight on pork barrel spending on the state level.

At EnlightenNJ, the writer, in an article titled "Demonstrating the Reason for High Taxes", describes a high school that will cost $136 million in Union City.

Who Will The Opponents Be?

There is a lot of speculation about how the kind of support John Roberts will receive from the senate, come vote times, as well as the preceding debate on the confirmation. Nevertheless, any decent analyst should know that the Democrats will not be united in opposition to his confirmation, even if the majority decide to symbolically vote Nay.

First of all, Roberts has already been recognized as a "decent man" who is not a tool of political ideologues, unlike Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas, who have been widely classified as hacks. Secondly, many democrats, especially ones from swing states, have shown no desire to challenge the president on any previous judicial nominees, such as Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska, probably the most conservative Democrat in the senate. Mark Pryor (D-AR), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), and Mary Landrieu (D-LA), can be expected to vote with the GOP as well.

The mavericks, such as Joe Lieberman (D-CT), can be anticipated to vote in favor, especially someone like Lieberman, who, despite his relatively liberal voting record, has gained the reputation of being a centrist through conservative rhetoric and conservative stances on highly publicized votes. Bill Nelson of Florida will probably vote Yea as well as California moderate Diane Feinstein.

With those senators added to the 55 Republicans, and a few other suprise democrats, Roberts should get about 65-70 votes in favor of sending him to the court.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Idaho Greets Chairman Dean

According to Adam's Blog, a new conservative political outlet, Howard Dean toured several Western states and made some statements that have provided for interesting commentary from liberal and conservative bloggers alike.

The best quote was an earnest declaration from the Democratic chairman in Idaho, a state which favored Bush over Kerry by 38% : "People say, 'Why'd you come here? This is a Republican state,' but they're wrong." Maybe Mr. Dean should examine the 2004 elections in Idaho more closely, where not only Massachussets liberals lose handily, but so do conservative democrats. In the congressional races, Republican Representative Mike Smith must have felt like a chump when he won only 70% of the vote, compared to his fellow Republican Senator Michael Crapo, who won 99.2% of the electorate. The Democrat was a write-in candidate.

Those types of majorities are reminiscent of Sadam Hussein's "elections" in Iraq, where he won 100% of the vote. Idaho is similar to the former Iraq in that it is a one party system that can only be penetrated by a bloody war.

At Mydd, there is a list of comments made by Dean in different states, including Montana and Utah.

At MasteroftheComputer, there is an extremely insightful description of the Abortion issue that faces the Democratic Party in states such as the above.

Scam!

The Bennelli Brothers report on an ABC News poll out yesterday showing that just one-quarter of Americans are satisfied with the Bush Administration's cooperation with the Plame investigation. What I really wonder is: where are those people who believe this is all going swimmingly and what are they thinking?

Whether or not Karl Rove broke the law certainly is an issue and the investigation into who revealed the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame will and should go on. But, as Chuck Schumer said yesterday, "The standard for holding a high position in the White House should not simply be that you didn't break the law." Karl Rove, whether he said Plame's name, or just her husband's name, or he simply nodded his head yes when asked to confirm her identity, has done wrong and needs to be punished.

National security is supposedly the Republican Party's stronghold issue. Since when it is in the best interest of national security to have the President's right-hand man whispering into reporters' ears the names of CIA agents who make their living in secrecy? How has the Administration been able to mince words and not face an onslaught of criticism for putting the country in danger?

Just imagine the furor that would result if someone had leaked the location of a unit of troops in Iraq. Why is this being treated any differently?

Monday, July 18, 2005

New Jersey College GOP Leader Resigns

According to Sloppy Dawg, a New Jersey based blog, the head of the New Jersey College Republicans recently resigned, due to allegations that he attempted to extort the Forrester for Governor campaign out of $3000.

The actions taken by Damion are curious. Why would the head of a political organization, no matter how corrupt, try to take from the trough that will ultimately bring his friends to power and advance his cause? Is Damion simply a pramatist who believed that his chances of getting $3000 through a Forrester victory and a Forrester tax cut were smaller than his chance of getting a "pre-election rebate"?

Is this man really such a scumbag? Politics does, of course, stem from self interest. Constituents traditionally vote for the candidate that promises to represent their interests through tax cuts or entitlement programs. Even libertarians, who rail against pork barrel spending, don't mind seeing bacon distributed, as long as it's in their districts or in their pockets. Damion was trying to receive some party pork, with the losers being Republican contributors instead of the common American tax payer. Well...he probably would have benefitted from a few ethics courses in college.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Right Wing Rhetoric vs. Democratic Demogoguery

An interesting blog that anybody who is interested in old fashioned politics should check out is Modern America, an account of political events from the perspective of an individual from McDowell County, West Virginia. The man's name is Brandon Brewster. He's a good writer.

In one of his posts, Brewster rebukes a claim by Rush Limbaugh that Democrats "try to forget 9/11 and cut homeland security spending". His response is a typical one in politics : "WE SPEND MORE THAN YOU DO!." While this claim is true, and in the weeks after the London bombing the Democrats joined with moderate Republicans to pass homeland security funding that was largely opposed by the GOP, it illustrates the absurdity of campaign rhetoric. No constituent, and most members of congress, knows exactly how much money needs to be allocated for a specific program or security measure. They follow their party's advice and either announce that more funding is needed, or that their opponents are spending tax dollars on pork barrel projects.

However, often times, it's simply both sides taking credit for spending more money. John Kerry was pounded for voting against the $87 billion for Iraq military operations and likewise, Republicans have recently taken heat for voting against mass transit funding. Nevertheless, it's impossible for ordinary citizens to know how many billions are needed to protect New York subways. Although it's fair to make estimations and try to educate oneself, it's foolish to simply assume that one politician's claim about his opponent's cuts in funding hold water.

Politics in Baseball, With a Twist

My pal Jack has reported on the meeting of baseball and politics as seen in Washington D.C. with the Nationals ballclub and the groups competing for its ownership. But the New York Yankees' acquisition of veteran pitcher Al Leiter this weekend reminded us of a different sort of influence that politics has had on baseball in recent years.

The New York Post reported this morning that the Leiter acquisition was pushed along by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican, who made numerous phone calls to both the pitcher and the New York team since Leiter was released by his former team just a few days ago. Bloomberg may be an Al Leiter fan, but the phone calls were nothing more than payback of a political favor. It turns out that Leiter campaigned for Bloomberg in 2001 and emceed his inauguration. He also made a scheduled appearance at a major party held for members of the media at the Republican National Convention in New York City last summer.

Leiter is an outspoken Republican who has often suggested that he may run for public office in New Jersey, his home state, after his playing career comes to an end. Leiter isn't alone in bringing political beliefs into the clubhouse, though. Curt Schilling used his facetime on ABC's Good Morning America last October after his Red Sox' World Series win not to speak about the team's victory, but to announce his endorsement of President Bush in the next week's election. Within a few days, Schilling was out campaigning at official Bush-Cheney events in the Northeast.

Leiter can hold his own beliefs and is of course free to profess them, as is Schilling. But what do either of them stand to gain by making their politics such major aspects of their identities as ballplayers? Does anyone root for them harder because they are Republicans? Doubtful - in fact, given the political leaning of the cities the two play in (New York for Leiter, and Boston for Schilling), fans might be less inclined to cheer for the two pitchers.

Basketball players dropping rap albums is one thing, but doesn't anyone else see baseball stars digging into the box for their political candidates of choice as being just slightly outside the foul pole?

Is Al Leiter going to be a future senator from New Jersey? He'd be the second pitcher, as well as the second republican, to join the exclusive club. Jim Bunning (R-KY), is a hall of famer who once pitched a perfect game for the Phillies on June 21, 1964. Would Al Leiter be a Bloomberg Republican or a Real Republican?

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