Now, Georgia teenager Danielle Ansley has created the answer with an updated list of our nation’s heroes. Her response to Luckovich shown below, appears in today's Atlanta Journal Constitution: (Via Michelle Malkin)
Not the least of the ironies in the current debate on homeland security is that many of the same people who oppose the war in Iraq also oppose renewal of the Patriot Act and other domestic counterterrorist tools. That is, they are as opposed to going on offense in the war on terror as they are against playing defense. But the war on terror is not a game the U.S. can opt out of. There is a great deal that can be done to improve homeland security--and to improve the department that bears that name. But it won't count for much if we aren't clear about the choices we face.We have noticed that many on the left oppose a vigorous offense and defense because they don’t believe a major Islamic terrorist threat actually exists. While they concede some terrorist attacks have occurred, they believe President Bush has used these attacks as an excuse to use military force and counterterrorism programs for personal gain. The logic and proof for this line of reasoning is never presented, although unsubstantiated conspiracy theories abound.
Many in this camp also believe the Bush administration’s budgets have resulted in actual spending reductions for social welfare programs - from health care to education. The fact that every year the federal government has spent more and plans to spend more than the previous year on every social welfare category is not acknowledged by these folks. Spending less than theoretically possible is considered proof a spending cut has occurred.
Without consensus on basic facts is it really even possible to have intelligent debate about foreign or domestic policies with the left?
The Nearly Twelve
The big story here isn’t the interception of terrorists’ communications from overseas to people within the United States or the government’s monitoring radiation levels of private buildings.
The big story this past week is that someone or ones are willing to break the law by leaking classified information and some major media outlets are willing to aid and abet the crime. The real question isn’t why the Bush administration took the actions it did, but rather why the leakers are leaking and why some in the media are more than happy to help.
Well, it looks like we were right and we just may find out. The Justice Department has been asked by the NSA to investigate leaks to the New York Times concerning the agency’s terrorist communication intercept program. “White House spokesman Trent Duffy said Justice undertook the action on its own, and Bush was informed of it Friday.”
From the New York Times:
"The leaking of classified information is a serious issue," Mr. Duffy said. "The fact is that Al Qaeda's playbook is not printed on Page One, and when America's is, it has serious ramifications."The American Civil Liberties Union disagrees:
The president last week denounced the leak of information about the program in strong language, saying: "My personal opinion is it was a shameful act for someone to disclose this very important program in a time of war. The fact that we're discussing this program is helping the enemy."
Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union: "Our nation is strengthened, not weakened, by those whistle-blowers who are courageous enough to speak out on violations of the law."
But apparently not courageous enough to let the Times use their names.
“Nearly a dozen current and former officials, who were granted anonymity because of the classified nature of the program, discussed it with reporters for The New York Times because of their concerns about the operation’s legality and oversight.”
The “concerns” of “nearly a dozen current and former officials” (what number is nearly 12?) apparently reached a fevered pitch right before the presidential election last year. When the Times didn’t print the story at that critical monument, the “whistle-blowers'” campaign to uncover the administration’s “abuse of power” seems to have lost urgency. Now the NSA program again becomes a “concern to American civil liberties” a few weeks before James Risen’s book launch. What coincidences!
The “nearly twelve” probably thought no one would ever discover or disclose their identity. Presumably if their well-timed leaks worked as intended, George Bush would not be president and a Kerry Justice Department would not vigorously investigate the leaks. Besides, the New York Times wouldn’t burn their sources, right? What a difference a year makes. Just ask Judy Miller.
James Taranto quips: “If we were James Risen or Erich Lichtblau, who broke the NSA story for the Times, we'd be nervous.” Michelle Malkin asks: "Any bets on how long it will take for Eric Lichtblau and James Risen to roll over? I'd guess a few weeks after Risen's book launch."
We don’t know how nervous the reporters will be or how long it will take for Risen or Lichtblau to squeal, but if we were members of the "nearly twelve” we’d be worried about one of our fellow big mouths spilling their guts to the FBI. After all, they’ve each proven they can’t be trusted with secrets.
Jersey Slogan Shirts
George says: “With the ongoing New Jersey slogan picking going on, here are some classic Jersey slogans that probably will not make the final cut!” Get your Jersey Slogans shirts here.
This Day In History
This painting depicts one of the most important American victories in the Revolutionary War and in all of American History. And it happened right here in New Jersey. A Large Regular helps keep the memory alive.
The Four Memes
Four jobs you've had in your life: Retail Clerk, Factory Worker, Physical Therapy Department Manager, Vice President Human Resources
Four movies you could watch over and over: Gone With The Wind, It’s A Wonderful Life. Pocket Full of Miracles, Imitation of Life
Four places you've lived: Virginia, California, Illinois, Florida
Four TV shows you love to watch: Booknotes, Connections, As Time Goes By, The Sopranos
Four places you've been on vacation: Hawaii, France, New Zealand, Morocco
Four websites you visit daily: Opinion Journal, NJ.com, National Review, My Google
Four of your favorite foods: Roast Beef, Turkey, Cheese, Alaskan King Crab
Four places you'd rather be: Maui, Hawaii, Kauai, Oahu
Four jobs you've had in your life: Financial Analyst, Consultant, Vice President Finance, Business Owner
Four movies you could watch over and over: The Natural, Gallipoli, Patton, The Sound of Music
Four places you've lived: Washington D.C., Missouri, West Virginia, California
Four TV shows you love to watch: Seinfeld, King of Queens, Two and a Half Men, Yankee Baseball
Four places you've been on vacation: Pipe Stem, Ireland, Mexico, Switzerland
Four websites you visit daily: ETeamZ.com, NJ.com, ESPN.com, My Google
Four of your favorite foods: Any Italian, Any Mexican, Ice cream, Popcorn
Four places you'd rather be: Yankee Stadium, Super Bowl, Hawaii, Disney World
Four jobs you've had in your life: Hotel Maid, Factory Worker, General Manager Non-Profit, Vice President Marketing
Four movies you could watch over and over: Same Time Next Year, Fried Green Tomatoes, It’s a Wonderful Life, Fantasia
Four places you've lived: Michigan, California, Texas, New Jersey
Four TV shows you love to watch: Law and Order, Cold Case, Without a Trace, As Time Goes By
Four places you've been on vacation: Venezuela, Japan, The Netherlands, South Africa
Four websites you visit daily: jsrc.org, Gmap-pedometer.com, Pogo.com, My Yahoo
Four of your favorite foods: Raspberries, Filet Mignon, Tortellini Alfredo, Chicken Caesar Salad
Four places you'd rather be: Hawaii, Michigan, Texas, Florida
Four jobs you've had in your life: Sailor, Butcher Shop Worker, Deliveryman, Chairman of the Board
Four movies you could watch over and over: The Shoes of the Fisherman, The Sting, Patton, A Man For All Seasons
Four places you've lived: Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, Great Britain
Four TV shows you love to watch: Baseball, Football, PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Everybody Loves Raymond
Four places you've been on vacation: Atlantic City, Italy, Greece, Disneyland
Four websites you visit daily: Wall Street Journal, National Review, NJ.com, My Google
Four of your favorite foods: Filet Mignon, Turkey, Roast Beef, Veal Parmesan
Four places you'd rather be: Hawaii, California, North Carolina, Florida
Let there be
Goodness in all Things,
Health and Happiness,
Ties that Bind
Carnival of The New Jersey Bloggers # 32
Media in Trouble presents the Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers #32.
The Spirit Of Christmas
May your mind and heart be filled with the true spirit of Christmas!
NORAD Tracks Santa
This is the 50th Anniversary of NORAD and its predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) tracking Santa. NORAD uses four high-tech tracking systems - radar, satellites, Santa Cams and jet fighter aircraft to track Santa as he makes his way around the world. See where Santa is now!
Senator Kennedy Spreads Hoax
I'm disturbed tremendously that such a suspicious story was accepted so uncritically by alleged critical thinkers -- and I'm a bit surprised that the student's identity is still being protected. Why shouldn't we know who's behind this?Perhaps Senator Ted Kennedy knows, as he helped to spread the hoax with his op-ed piece in the Boston Globe:
Just this past week there were public reports that a college student in Massachusetts had two government agents show up at his house because he had gone to the library and asked for the official Chinese version of Mao Tse-tung's Communist Manifesto. Following his professor's instructions to use original source material, this young man discovered that he, too, was on the government's watch list.
Think of the chilling effect on free speech and academic freedom when a government agent shows up at your home -- after you request a book from the library. Incredibly, we are now in an era where reading a controversial book may be evidence of a link to terrorists.
Something is amiss here. Something doesn't make sense. We need a thorough and independent investigation of these activities.
Public reports with damaging leaks about classified national security programs don't phase the Senator. So don't hold your breath waiting for Kennedy to call for a thorough and independent investigation of these activities, there's no political advantage in it.
What Are The Motives Of The Leakers and Their Media Enablers?
The big story this past week is that someone or ones are willing to break the law by leaking classified information and some major media outlets are willing to aid and abet the crime. The real question isn’t why the Bush administration took the actions it did, but rather why the leakers are leaking and why some in the media are more than happy to help.
The blogger on Philomathean writes:
Freedom of the press is cornerstone of democracy in the United States. … But freedom exercised without responsibility or common sense is a prescription for disaster. Recent revelations by The New York Times and other members of the press … have severely harmed national security.You, my friend are not alone. Bulldog Pundit writes - Fifth Column Again Aids Terrorists By Exposing US Tactics.
The press has always had broad discretion in what gets reported. But now they've gone too far. David Kaplan of U.S. News & World Report has just blown the cover on "a far-reaching, top secret program to monitor radiation levels at over a hundred Muslim sites in the Washington, D.C., area, including mosques, homes, businesses, and warehouses, plus similar sites in at least five other cities."
The cities being monitored by the FBI provide some idea of where al Qaeda would like to strike. If you live in or around Washington, D.C., Chicago, Detroit, Las Vegas, New York, and Seattle, your chances of dying an unnatural and painful death have just gone up, courtesy of the mainstream media.
This has got to stop. … I'm furious about this.
This is getting ridiculous. . .and extremely dangerous. Once again unnamed Fifth Columnists are doing everything in their power to ensure that classified tactics used by America to fight terrorism are exposed for all to see.For more on the question of warrantless radiation surveillance, read ORIN KERR AND EUGENE VOLOKH. And read this, too. Via Instapundit.
Is there anything the traitors revealing these secrets won't do to hurt America?
You will also hear much about the Supreme Court in the case of Kyllo v. U.S. in which the Court held that warrants were required to direct heat sensors at houses in order to detect marijuana growing devices. If you can't see the difference between detecting drugs and detecting nuclear bombs then there's really no hope for you, as you are stuck in the September 10th world of fighting terrorism by using law enforcement techniques. And we all know how that worked.
It’s pretty clear the Bush administration was motivated to take the actions it did to protect the safety and security of the American people. What’s motivating the leakers and their media enablers? These are the questions we’d like to see debated. Pundits, bloggers and talking heads can debate forever whether or not these programs are legal and constitutional. There’s no doubt the leakers broke the law. Let the media dig and expose the motives of the perpetrators of a known crime, one with potentially disastrous consequences for everyone.
And let’s get serious. Would anyone other than terrorists object to having their home, place of work or worship monitored for radiation levels? We’d consider the monitoring of a building we frequented to be a public service and a benefit. Who in the heck wants to live, work or worship someplace with high levels of radiation? Unreasonable search under the fourth amendment you say – give us a break. Unreasonable to whom?
It’s For The Children
Enough is enough. Throw Toussaint in jail, fire the striking workers, and get the transport running again.When we read her post yesterday we thought Fausta was spot on. New York's "Taylor Law" forbids transit workers from striking and Judge Theodore Jones ruled the Transport Workers Union was in contempt of two court injunctions ordering it not to strike. So clearly the strike is illegal.
The Transport Workers Union's international arm did not approve of the local's decision to strike and considers the strike unauthorized:
The International TWU, the union's parent, had urged the local not to go on strike. Its president, Michael O'Brien, reiterated Tuesday that the striking workers were legally obligated to resume working. The only way to a contract, he said, is "not by strike but continued negotiation."In announcing the work stoppage, Roger Toussaint, president of Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union, said, "Transit workers are tired of being underappreciated and disrespected." Well, so are taxpayers and New York City transit riders Mr. Toussaint. It seems Fausta is not alone with her suggestion:
"I think they all should get fired," Eddie Goncalves, a doorman trying to get home after his overnight shift, told the AP. He said he'll likely spend an extra $30 per day in cab and train fares, according to the AP.Now along comes James Walcott pointing to Fausta’s post as a "predictable" example of “rightwing bloggers bouncing off their padded walls angrily demanding that the union be crushed and its leaders jailed”.
Watching Roger Toussaint's impassioned, eloquent press conference on NY1--where he laced into the mayor for calling the TWU "thuggish" and "selfish"--reminded me that Steve Gilliard has been unleashing thunder and lightning in his blog on the strike and the racist, anti-union slant of most media coverage.Right-wing bloggers and doormen are insane because they believe the illegal strikers should be fired if they refuse to return to work? Apparently, Walcott’s definition of insane is anyone who disagrees with his opinion. Perhaps it is Walcott in need of treatment.
As the illegal strike by TWU is causing hardship to millions and costing citizens an estimated $400 million a day, does Walcott really expect to read tributes to the union in the media? And a racist slant in media coverage of this story – give us a break. No better yet, Mr. Walcott give us an example.
Fausta has more here. The Lawhawk here.
Best Blog Posts 2005
Mister Snitch is holding a best blog posts of the year contest:
We're looking for you to tell us about the great posts you've seen this year. At year's end, we'll post links to the best posts we come across. (We'll also post ALL link submissions, but our links will appear at the top of the post.)We’ve read thousands and thousands of blog posts this past year – well written, original, informative, insightful, thought provoking, hysterically funny, motivating, touching… Well, you get the idea.
All submissions must be original material, although a post that is basically a link to another post will get a hat-tip acknowledgement.
The problem? We didn’t keep a list of our favorites and if we had, it would probably take us weeks to reread them all to select nominees for the contest. Even if we narrowed our pool to New Jersey blogger posts, there would still be too much to read with too little time.
We would though, like to take this opportunity to thank all of the bloggers out there for all of the great posts we’ve read over the course of 2005. Your work is very much appreciated by the folks at Enlighten-NewJersey.
Now, if you have any recommendations for Mister Snitch, send them over there right away. Don’t make the poor guy read zillions of posts right at the deadline of December 30th.
Vote for New Jersey’s Slogan
Governor Dick Codey unveiled the finalists for New Jersey's slogan today:
New Jersey, Expect the Unexpected
New Jersey, Love at First Sight
New Jersey, Come See For Yourself
New Jersey, The Real Deal
New Jersey, The Best Kept Secret
You can vote for your favorite at the official website or by calling (609) 984-9893.
Does changing the label from “liberal” to “progressive” really change anything? Well, at least Corzine understands it is the private sector that produces wealth and not the government. Now if we can just get him to understand it is not possible to tax the state into prosperity and that to make life in New Jersey more affordable taxes need to be cut and not raised.
New Jersey Democrats Lack Commitment To Victory In Iraq
On Friday, December 16, 2005 the Congress voted on expressing commitment to achieving victory in Iraq. The vote was 279-109 in favor of the resolution.
All seven of New Jersey’s Republican congressman voted in favor of achieving victory in Iraq. Four Democrats - Rush Holt, Bob Menendez, Frank Pallone and Bill Pascrell voted against a commitment to victory in Iraq. The other two Democrats - Robert Andrews, voted “present” and Donald Payne did not vote.
Less than a month ago Holt, Menendez, Pallone and Pascrell were voting against pulling our troops out of Iraq ASAP and now they go on record as being against achieving victory in Iraq – truly breathtaking. The country is in the middle of a war and we have congressmen that are not committed to victory. Unbelievable.
In between these two congressional votes, Iraq has held a free and successful election, with Millions of Iraqis voting to choose a parliament, a first in the Arab world. So many Sunni Arabs voted that ballots ran out in some places. Immediately prior to the election, a major poll found that 70 percent of Iraqis say their own lives are going well, and nearly two-thirds expect things to improve in the year ahead.
A successful democratic election and optimistic Iraqis people should be cause for growing confidence and pride that our mission in Iraq is succeeding. Instead as success builds in Iraq Holt, Menendez, Pallone and Pascrell have decided to send a message of weakness and defeatism to the citizens of the United States, to our troops on the field of battle, to the Iraqis people and to our enemies. Pathetic, and to think Bob Menendez is about to become the next senator from New Jersey.
The Democratic Party once had a standard barer that spoke these words:
In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility -- I welcome it.The difference between Democrats then and now is enough to make you weep.
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers # 31
Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers #31.
Approval Rating of U.S. Senators - Corzine # 80 - Lautenberg #100
A compilation of approval ratings of all 100 United States Senators in their home states completed by SurveyUSA shows New Jersey's Frank Lautenberg at #100 with a 42%-43% rating in a December 12 poll. Jon Corzine, who leaves office next month to become Governor, was #80 at 50%-40%. The most popular Senators, in the eyes of their constituents: Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both Maine Republicans who have approval ratings of 75% and 74%, respectively.Of course as everyone knows Wally Edge is a tool of the Republican Noise Machine - so take this story with a grain of salt. (If you haven’t read this conspiracy theory about Politics NJ and Wally Edge before, you might enjoy the post and comments for the entertainment value.)
So Corzine Wants To Raise The Gas Tax - We Agree
But, it was an election year and the folks in Trenton weren’t about to put themselves in jeopardy with a vote to raise the tax and so nothing was done about the depleted Transportation Trust Fund.
The gas tax issue came up during the Governor’s race with Jon Corzine being for and against raising the tax depending upon the group he was addressing at the time. New Jersey Conservative remembers Corzine’s pandering well. In October our Governor-elect came out with his final pre-election position.
Corzine said flatly: "There will be no gas tax hike in a Corzine administration, particularly after we've seen a $1.50 rise in the price of gasoline. I'm proposing we have a tax holiday."So much for a holiday without any gas tax - Corzine is now considering raising the tax to replenish the state’s depleted Transportation Trust Fund. Roberto says Corzine is re-writing history and Lawhawk has the negative reaction from around the blogosphere to - Corzine ends his vow to leave gas tax alone.
In September we wrote that our representatives would rediscover the need to raise the tax once safely elected:
However, our representatives in Trenton punted and now legislators aim to take up the matter during a "lame duck” session in November or December. Once safely elected, the State Assembly will be back to business as usual, spending with abandon and raising taxes.Okay, we were off by a month on the introduction of legislation to increase the gas tax but, we had the spending with abandon part nailed.
Senate Majority Leader Bernard Kenny (D-Hudson) said yesterday he will introduce a bill to do that [raise the gas tax] in the new legislative session that begins next month.Staring down the barrel of a $6 billion budget deficit next year does not give the big spenders in Trenton pause. And why should it? They were re-elected with a record of spending the state right into the ground. While nearly every state is experiencing record budget surpluses, in large part due to the Bush tax cuts and the resulting booming economy, New Jersey’s broke.
Lawmakers, meanwhile, continue to add new spending to the current year's budget, which itself is beset by revenue shortfalls and spending overruns. Recent projections indicate most of the $600 million surplus that was included in the current budget will be used up.
But we digress, back to the depleted Transportation Trust Fund and the gas tax. While we agree Jon Corzine should have been honest about his inevitable plans to raise the gas tax, it was always a done deal and we are not the least bit surprised. Back on September 6 we wrote:
So rather than debate a raise in the state’s gas tax, a done deal before either candidate can become governor, Forrester and Corzine should debate plans for limiting the use of gas tax revenue to roads, brides and mass transit.That's the real issue - using tax revenue for which it was intended and not blowing funds on nice to have's or do's the state can't afford and that shouldn't be funded in the first place.
The fact the lame-duck legislature is not planning to pass a gas tax increase now, giving the Governor-elect cover, is worrisome. We can only conclude a significant increase in the gas tax will be coupled with a significant increase in other taxes targeted at the so called wealthy. Since the gas tax impacts everyone, Democrats typically think it goes down better if they can show they are really sticking it to the rich, no matter the disastrous effect the tactic would have on the state’s economy.
As for us, we’ve been consistent from the beginning when we wrote last February, The Gas Tax Is A Fair Tax – Raise It If You Must:
Building and maintaining public infrastructure such as highways, bridges and transit we believe to be a legitimate role of government. We also believe taxing people in a manner that maintains a direct relationship between the amount of public services used by the individual and the taxes they pay, is a fair system. The more gas used and miles driven the more a person will pay. What system could be more fair?
It's Called Rude
Fausta had a post the other day on Welcome to the culture of rudeness.
Good manners have never been enforceable, but were once accepted because they underpin notions of right and wrong.
[T}he collapse of manners stands for a vast and under-acknowledged problem of social immorality. Manners are based on an ideal of empathy, of imagining the impact of one's own actions on others."
The picture above is from today’s New York Post - "This 'tis-the-season-to be-creepy display - which has drawn no small amount of community ire - can be found in the front yard of Joel Krupnik, 58, and his wife, Mildred Castellanos, 43, who said they are protesting the commercialization of the Yule season. "
"Christmas has religious origins. It's in the Bible. Santa is not in the Bible. He's not a religious symbol. Santa Claus has become a piece of Americana," Krupnik explained yesterday. Krupnik, who dabbles in real estate, said if anyone was offended, they could simply cross the street. Some children have done just that. "
Some call things like this a “war on Christmas”, some a “war on American culture” others will declare this the right of free speech. Let’s just call it what it is – rude.
Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers # 30
Conservative Blogs Rock!
'NY Times' Sunday Preview: Conservative Blogs Rock!
[A] story in The New York Times magazine coming up this Sunday declares that conservative blogs continue to best liberal blogs in political and electoral influence.
The title of the piece by Michael Crowley in the magazine’s 5th Annual Year in Ideas cover package says it all: “Conservative Blogs Are More Effective.”
Crowley, a New Republic writer, claims that with the 2006 elections approaching, Democrats are now “trying to use blogs more strategically.” But he concludes by embracing the view of Matt Stoller, an activist who ran a blog for Sen. Jon Corzine during his 2005 race for governor of New Jersey, who believes that next year conservative bloggers “will certain have an upper hand.” Crowley adds: “Again.”
He had opened his piece citing a recent example in New Jersey where talk-radio picked up on personal charges against Corzine airing on conservative blogs, which then caused “damage” to the campaign. “To Stoller, it was proof of how conservatives have mastered the art of using blogs as a deadly campaign weapon,” Crowley writes. Yet Corzine won the election easily anyway.
Jon Corzine - Mr. Business As usual
You don’t spend $100 million wooing party bosses, power brokers and tax receivers, as did Mr. Corzine, and then once elected risk alienating those you owe for your much coveted office. The payoffs will continue, only now it will be with appointments and taxpayer dollars. Apparently, the New York Times is disappointed to discover Corzine has not changed his business as usual approach to politics in New Jersey.
As a candidate, New Jersey's governor-elect, Jon Corzine, talked a lot about setting a higher standard for ethics in government. But off the stump, he has cozied up to the Democratic political bosses who are very much part of the problem. In his choice of someone to replace him in the Senate, Mr. Corzine had an opportunity to demonstrate which side of his campaign was real. The answer came yesterday, and it was disappointing.Based upon last month’s election results, a sufficient number of the voting public were not yearning for a break from the past. It was clear to us Jon Corzine was campaigning for governor on a more of the same platform – slavish obedience to special interests, billions more in taxpayer financed programs and tax increases to pay for them.
Mr. Corzine's pick, Representative Robert Menendez, has the experience for the job. The son of Cuban immigrants, he has steadily risen through the political ranks, becoming the third-ranking Democrat in the House. But since entering politics as a corruption-fighting mayor of Union City, N.J., Mr. Menendez has become a proponent of business as usual. He has long been an entrenched de facto leader of the Hudson County Democratic machine.
Most recently, Mr. Menendez has failed to answer questions about his relationship with Kay LiCausi, a young former aide of his. He has helped her get hundreds of thousands of dollars in lobbying contracts and political consulting work. Mr. Menendez says there is a line between his personal and public lives. But New Jersey voters have a right to wonder why that line seems to exist only to protect politicians from questioning, and never deters them from mixing their private relationships with their official duties.
The last elected governor, James McGreevey, had to resign over such a situation. And Mr. Corzine got involved with the head of a union representing state workers, then forgave her a loan of more than $400,000 when the relationship ended. Besides all this, there have been 75 corruption indictments in New Jersey over the last four years. The public has a right to yearn for a break from the past, and Mr. Menendez does not represent a clean slate.
It’s not just the Menendez pick, read Corzine's picks seem like business as usual in Trenton by Fred Snowflack:
Sad to say, Gov.-elect Jon Corzine is going down a path many have gone down before, which in itself should make it something to be avoided.Is any of this the slightest bit surprising?
Corzine on Monday announced the creation of six committees or policy groups to advise him on various state problems. Here are the topics: budget and reengineering government, property tax reform, economic development, labor and workforce development, child welfare and public education.
And on Tuesday, he announced three more in the areas of healthcare and senior issues, environment and revitalizing and investing in communities.
So much for new ideas. This is no way to get out-of-the-box thinking or the type of reform New Jersey needs.
Let's start with the policy group on property taxes, the most important issue in the state.
Two of its three members are the Rev. Reginald Jackson, executive director of the Black Ministers’ Council of New Jersey, and Peter Cantu, the mayor of Plainsboro and outgoing president of the state League of Municipalities.
Does anyone find it a bit strange that a minister is on a property tax panel? Ministers oversee churches, which do not pay property taxes.
Next, we have a mayor and outgoing official of the League of Municipalities. One way to reduce property taxes is to explore consolidating town services, or even towns themselves. That suggestion is unlikely to come from a man representing what is the lobbying group for towns.
If the governor wants legitimate reform ideas, how about finding people not associated with any lobbying group? These would be people who are not worried about protecting their organizations. In other words, people who just happen to pay property taxes.
There are millions of them in New Jersey. It stretches credibility to suggest that the governor's transition team couldn't find an intelligent homeowner to give some ideas on property taxes.
Let's move to education. One of those on that panel is the president of the New Jersey Education Association. This is a group that so cherishes the status quo in New Jersey education that it routinely supports just about all incumbent lawmakers, regardless of party or ideology. Corzine is sure going to hear new ideas from the NJEA president.
Naming committees, or task forces, or advisory panels, or whatever you want to call them, is a time-honored political tradition. The official line is that these experts will help the person in charge -- Corzine in this case -- make decisions and shape his administration.
In reality, many of these groups will do little more than protect the individual turf of their members. That's no matter: announcing these task forces gives the impression that the governor-elect is serious about tackling problems and giving the state a new look.
Yellow Ribbon Group
People wishing to participate in the project may contact Leslie Drummond - firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Environmental Republican has more on this worthy cause and the list of items needed for the care packages.
Corzine Taps Menendez
Corzine will appear with Menendez Friday at 2 p.m. at Liberty State Park in Jersey City, N.J., to formally announce his choice, the sources said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the official announcement had not yet been made.
Remembering Pearl Harbor
Today we remember the 2,395 killed and 1,178 wounded at Pearl Harbor sixty-four years ago today. National Geographic has an excellent multimedia presentation “Remembering Pearl Harbor”.
Have fun creating your own unique snowflake and adding it to the snow scene over at Snow Days by Popular Front. See what others have created by clicking on one of the snowflakes floating through the sky (ours is the one with the arrow pointing to it in the picture above).
After you have a created a snow flake you can add a message for others to view, print out your flake and send the location of your special creation to friends via email. Catch our snowflake and message here.
Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers # 29
Report of the Benefits Task Force – Part 1
"Tax increases of sufficient dimension to deal with our looming fiscal problems arguably pose significant risks to economic growth and the revenue base," he said, reiterating his conviction that the government should seek to "close the fiscal gap primarily, if not wholly, from the outlay side."Acting Governor Codey confronted similar issues in the preparation of New Jersey’s budget last winter. “Each year the state's fixed costs grow larger and larger and consume more and more of the budget. This is an issue we can no longer ignore.”
Faced with the unsustainable growth in the cost of healthcare and pension benefits for state and local government workers, Codey established a Benefits Review Task Force to recommend ways to reverse this trend.
Yesterday the New Jersey Report of the Benefits Review Task Force was released. The task force concluded:
The current process for reviewing benefits is haphazard at best and excessively influenced by political instead of fiscal motivations. The non-stop requests (and too often action) for legislative action have eroded the state’s fiscal health and created a benefit structure that the State cannot currently afford.Unfortunately, the record remains unbroken as the interests of taxpayers are virtually absent from task force recommendations. The task force apparently was prevented by certain members from using the private sector for comparison purposes and from recommending major changes to benefit structures. Further, the task force did not study other “fringe benefits totaling approximately $5.2 billion annually” as it was not within the scope of their charge.
The benefit enhancement process far too frequently happens in the complete absence of an informed debate on the actual costs of the change, yet alone how it will be paid for over the long term. And far too often, the taxpayer’s interests are absent.
There are differences between the public and private sectors that complicate a pure comparison between the two. The Task Force spent a great deal of time comparing and debating public versus private sector compensation structures. At the end, we agreed to disagree.While the task force specifically concludes New Jersey has “a benefit structure that the State cannot currently afford”, the group ultimately recommends this structure be maintained. The task force recommends changes around the margins and avoids those that would result in major long–term savings to taxpayers:
The Task Force attempted to ensure that every stakeholder contributed toward solving the problem, without unduly burdening any particular group. For reasons explained below, we rejected a massive structural change such as a move to a defined contribution plan. Instead, we made more targeted strategic reforms designed to maintain the current systems with modifications.
Increase the retirement age from 55 to 60To sure up the pension funds the task force recommends:
Base pensions on the highest five years of salaries rather than the highest three years and in cases where pensions are based on highest single year use highest 3 years
Increase the minimum annual salary for inclusion in the pension system from $1,500 to $5,000
Put an end to pension tacking, padding and boosting and end early retirement incentives
Employees should no longer be permitted to take loans against their pension fund contributions as employees have been charged less than half of the state required rate of return
Revisit legislation that provided parameters for simultaneously receiving a public pension and a full public salary
Implement the state’s cap on sick day payouts of $15,000 to local government levels
End pensions for non-government employees and public officials convicted of crimes
Offer elected and appointed individuals a defined contribution (401k style) plan rather than the currently offered defined benefit plan
Retirees and current employees should contribute toward the cost of health insurance – at least 5%
Reduce prescription drug costs by: contracting directly with a Pharmacy Benefit Manager (PBM)*; encourage greater generic drug utilization; require mandatory mail-order for maintenance prescriptions
Immediately apply health care benefits changes negotiated by the State in the last contract to local employers and employees, consistent with historical practice
Provide greater health insurance options for local negotiations
Revamp governance process for benefit enhancements
Use consistent and generally accepted actuarial standards to determine pension fund asset values, obligations and annual contributions
Immediately reduce the Defined Benefits Plans’ [pension funds] $12.1 Billion deficiency by selling state assetsUnbelievably, a task force charged with reducing the escalating costs of government employee benefits couldn’t resist recommending benefit enhancements themselves:
In the future make annual full, actuarially sound pension payments
Change vesting from 10 years to five (5) years. Lower the vesting requirements from 10 years to five (5) years. The vesting requirement reflects the years of service credit in the retirement system necessary for the employee to be entitled to future retirement benefits.While the Task Force acknowledges “early retirement incentives have provided limited, short-term savings in exchange for large, long-term retirement system liabilities”, they now suggest the introduction of severance packages.
While the Task Force considered that if vesting were to remain at 10 years it would prevent more pension liabilities, it considers the cost of lowering the requirement to five (5) years to be minimal.
To avoid a “brain drain” the task force foresees “programs to encourage older employees to continue to work may be necessary.” And finally the group recommends the state “offer a life-long survivors benefit.”
* We had to laugh when we read this recommendation – this is the service Doug Forrester’s BeneCard business provides. It was constantly denigrated by Democrats, especially Jon Corzine in the governor’s race last month.