Thursday, April 26, 2007

Garrett Against Small Business...Again

Completely overshadowed by yesterday's vote on Iraq has been a huge victory for small business owners on the House floor. By a vote of 380-45, the House approved HR 1332, which strengthens the Small Business Administration's loan programs and targets outreach toward veterans and rural areas. In another 12 to Garrett vote, Representative Scott Garrett was the only Representative from New Jersey to vote against the Bill.

This is the second time Garrett has voted directly against small business owners in the last three months. The first time was Garrett standing with largely the same 45 Representatives who opposed 1332 to oppose HR 976, the "Small Business Tax Relief Act of 2007". Garrett believed it better to provide no relief over 10 years because, according to Garrett's floor speech, the relief wasn't permanent. I'm sure the US Chamber of Commerce weighed that thought for a nanosecond before urging Congress to support the measure, and deciding to include it in their scorecard.

Unfortunately, at this point any speech Garrett may have given to explain his reasons for not supporting increased access to funding for those who provide 50% of the GDP, as well as 60-80% of the new jobs annually for the last decade, hasn't found it's way into the Congressional Record. My guess is Garrett's philosophy on this Bill falls into this category, as restated in a lengthy and must read article published in Inc. Magazine this month about the SBA.
Veronique de Rugy of the American Enterprise Institute wrote in a paper last year. "Bank loans represent only one of many ways to acquire credit."
The article went on to explain the real world implications of this sentiment.

At nearly 12 percent interest, the Castillos' loan struck me as expensive. But it turned out they had financed two other used trucks from local dealers at far more onerous terms: 19 percent interest. Blanca also has a personal loan to repair the trucks--at 29 percent interest. She marvels at the difference the SBA has made. "For $30,000, we're paying $260 interest a month," she said, "and we have a personal loan for only $7,000, and I am paying $190 interest a month!"

The Castillos' panoply of loans and interest rates certainly brings De Rugy's "many ways to acquire credit" into focus. Her credit market is an abstraction, a upernormal (sic) force that is always fair, always rational. In Virginia, at least, the credit market is atomized; its decisions are subject to the biases and whims that rule the lives of real men and women, to ambitions and institutional prerogatives that set the agenda at the office.

That's as real world vs. rhetoric as I've seen in this debate. The article also pointed out how the Federal Reserve in Cleveland found SBA loans to be a good investment of tax dollars.

For instance, assuming the SBA meets its goal of creating one job with every $50,000 of 504 lending--and the SBA says many Certified Development Companies exceed it--the cost per job in 2006 was a mere $188; the Treasury would earn that back many times in a single year's tax bill.
The return on investment for taxpayers probably accounts for why 77% of Republicans supported this measure. It points to the difference between fiscal conservatives, seeking the most bang for the taxpayer's buck, and the anti-government folks like Representative Garrett. At the end of the day small business owners, and those who one day dream of working for yourself, need to realize that when Garrett's in Washington he will vote his personal philosophy over your checkbook every time.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Garrett vs. Education & Economic Competitiveness

Update: Garrett did utter a peep, he actually gave a speech citing cost as the reason he voted against it. It starts here. They didn't print it until this morning.

In a whopping combined vote total of 786-44, the House passed two appropriations bills yesterday to strengthen our nation's economic future by providing funding for science and education. Representative Scott Garrett voted against both measures, without a peep uttered on the House floor to explain his objections on our District's behalf.

The first vote was on HR 362 (passed 389-22), which authorized scholarships in science and mathematics. The bill also approved grants for the purchase of equipment and partnership between high schools and colleges to ensure college freshman interested in the sciences are up to par with the demands of college level research.

The second vote was on HR 363 (passed 397-20), which authorized grants for scientists and engineers in the early part of their career, doing either graduate study or working at non-profit research labs. This is crucial for providing the kind of skilled workforce our corporations seek.

Now, as early as 2005 the catchphrase "engineer shortage" was being shown to be a misnomer, however what needs to be addressed is a shortage of engineers with the skill sets employers need. As technology takes development into warp speed, employers are having a tougher time finding engineers and research scientists that meet their needs. That's where the bill's listed above are crucial for the future economic competitiveness of our nation.

Here's part of the conclusion from a Duke University study on Engineers and outsourcing released earlier this month in Issues in Science and Technology:
Improving education is critical. As we have seen from the success of skilled immigrants, more education in math and science leads to greater innovation and economic growth. There is little doubt that there are problems with K-12 education and that U.S. schools do not teach children enough math and science. However, the degradation in math and science education happened over a generation. Even if the nation did everything that is needed, it will probably take 10 to 15 years before major benefits become apparent. Given the pace at which globalization is happening, by that time the United States would have lost its global competitive edge. The nation cannot wait for education to set matters right.


A key problem is that the United States lacks enough native students completing master’s and PhD degrees. The nation cannot continue to depend on India and China to supply such graduates. As their economies improve, it will be increasingly lucrative for students to return home. Perhaps the United States needs to learn from India and China, which offer deep subsidies for their master’s and PhD programs. It is not clear whether such higher education is cost-justified for U.S. students. Given the exorbitant fees they must pay to complete a master’s and the long period it takes to complete a PhD, the economics may not always make sense.
There were other suggestions, however these two findings are directly addressed by the legislation Garrett just voted against. Without a floor speech to figure it out, one can only guess why Garrett was with 5% of the House in opposing strengthening America's competitiveness. I guess those of us in the Fifth just have to be happy the other 95% of the House have an interest in moving America forward.

Garrett and the Ghost of Nor'Easter Future

With Representative Scott Garrett's tour of some of the flood damaged towns in the Fifth, he reports he's seen first hand how hard hit the area is and how extensive the damage has been. I have little doubt his staff is going to do everything they can to help residents get FEMA aid if the disaster area declaration comes down. His staff always receives high marks for fulfilling this aspect of their duty, it's a shame Garrett cannot have the same said about him.

At issue is not this particular flood, there's really nothing that could have changed the outcome of this particular storm. However, over a month ago Garrett voted against providing funding for projects to prevent the overwhelming damage suffered in our District, state and region. While a storm like we just had will cause flooding, the extent of the damage would be lessened with a modern sewer system. With his vote against Representative Bill Pascrell's bill to provide funding to upgrade combined sewer systems, Garrett in essence was voting in favor of more extensive than necessary flood damage.

Garrett visited New Milford, River Edge and Rochelle Park; all of which are served by the Bergen County Utilities Authority. Here's how the State described the need to upgrade the BCUA's pipes.
Due to system capacity limitations, combined sewage surcharges and overflows into SE2 and FW2-NT waters. This results in excessive solids and bacteria levels, and floating sewage during wet and dry weather conditions.
Or in English, here's how the Record described a situation that Rep. Pascrell's Bill seeks to eliminate:

In Hackensack, the city's combined storm water and sanitary sewer system is overwhelmed by heavy rains 30 to 40 times a year, flooding streets and sending untreated waste into the Hackensack River.
Because the pipes from the northern part of Bergen flow south toward the treatment center in Little Ferry by a combination of gravity and pumping stations, when parts of the system get backed up you get what the Record reported happened in New Milford last week:

"It's disgusting," said Jane Sarnicki, whose house on Eagle Avenue in New Milford flooded with both rainwater and sewage during the storm when town sewers were overwhelmed by the volume of water.
There is also this from the Star Ledger:

In Paramus, officials declared a local state of emergency and then a health emergency when water overflowed the town's largest pumping station, disabling it and allowing sewage to back up into stores and a few homes. Many businesses were forced to close.

"It forced us to shut down all the businesses along Route 17, and along Route 4 west of Route 17," Paramus Mayor Jim Tedesco said. "You're talking about literally thousands of businesses. That presented a real problem for us today."

The town borrowed pumps and received permission from the state Department of Environmental Protection to pump sewage into the Saddle River, Tedesco said. The Garden State Plaza mall was closed for most of the day but reopened last night. Paramus Park Mall remained closed because of a power failure, officials said.
So the impact of the storm was beyond just the $180 million in property damage, it was also the shut down of the retail capitol of the North East and probably thousands of other businesses in other towns. Pascrell's bill allowed for roughly $340 million a year for sewer upgrades over five years; which the property damage from this one storm in our state alone equals 53% of that total without adding the economic impact or preventable healthcare costs from exposure to raw sewage.

Fortunately, 367 Representatives disagreed with Garrett, voting to support the fiscally responsible thing to do and invest the money now to prevent unnecessary damage from future flooding, large and small. There would have been flooding with this storm no matter what sewers were in the ground, but the particular problems mentioned above are a direct result of the pipes we have, and the pipes Garrett voted against fixing.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Voting Rights vs. Garrett & Bush

On Saturday I had a chance to watch Democracy Works on PBS, hosted by Steve Adubato. The show was regarding returning ethics to Trenton, and I appreciated the insights Assemblyman Kevin O'Toole and others shared. One of the points by the panel was that we as citizens need to work harder to stay informed and participate so that we get the kind of Representation we want. Truth be told, only 34% of New Jersey voters showed up on election day in 2003, the last election comparable to this year's contest. With property taxes and corruption being the number 1 & 2 things people talk about in New Jersey politics, only 34% of folks voted. Put another way, only 18% of New Jersey's voters are deciding for the rest of us.

Voter turnout, for most politicians is a frustration. When I spoke at the Meet the Candidates forum at Sussex County Technical School, "participate" was a common refrain. One candidate used the example that of all people in the room, the number of people turning out would mean the three folks sitting in the front row were making all of the decisions. True public servants want the feedback because they want to do a good job. However, not all public servants fall into this category.

I've covered Representative Scott Garrett's disdain for upholding the voting rights of naturalized citizens; last year Garrett also voted for a voter ID bill based on several State laws that court ruling after court ruling after court ruling finds disenfranchises voters in the poll tax tradition, and is therefore unconstitutional. Garrett's votes are, at best, deplorable in that he does not passionately believe in the right so many have died and fought to protect.

Garrett's votes to institutionalize disenfranchisement go hand in hand with the efforts of the Bush administration's use of the Justice Department to meet the same end. This was buried in the Record on Friday, but it deserves a read.
Former department lawyers, public records and other documents show that since Bush took office, political appointees in the Civil Rights Division have:

-Approved Georgia and Arizona laws that tightened voter ID requirements. A Federal judge tossed out the Georgia law as an unconstitutional infringement on
the rights of poor voters, and a federal appeals court signaled its objections to the Arizona law on similar grounds last fall, but that litigation was delayed by the U.S. Supreme Court until after the election.

-Issued advisory opinions that overstated a 2002 federal election law by asserting that it required states to disqualify new voting registrants if their identification didn't match that in computer databases, prompting at least three states to reject tens of thousands of applicants mistakenly.

-Done little to enforce a provision of the 1993 National Voter Registration Act that requires state public assistance agencies to register voters. The inaction has contributed to a 50 percent decline in annual registrations at those agencies, to 1 million from 2 million.

-Sued at least six states on grounds that they had too many people on their voter rolls. Some eligible voters were removed in the resulting purges.

In late 2001, Ashcroft also hired three Republican political operatives to work in a secretive new unit in the division's Voting Rights Section. Rich said the unit, headed by unsuccessful Republican congressional candidate Mark Metcalf of Kentucky, bird-dogged the progress of the administration's Help America Vote Act and reviewed voting legislation in the states.
So when Garrett ran for Congress, saying he was a friend of Bush, he wasn't kidding. Folks who don't believe in and actively seek to undermine the fundamental principal of voting have no place at any level of government, let alone in the White House or Congress. If more of us take an active role as citizens, we'd be able to prevent this sort of thing from happening in the first place.

Happy Earth Day

It's a beautiful day outside, and if you have a minute sit outside and take it in. You can read a quick history of Earth Day here on Wikipedia.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Garrett Doesn't Hate Water This Week

I've hammered Representative Scott Garrett about his past votes against clean water, but this week in a positive flip-flop, he's voted twice in favor of water. First, he voted for Supporting the goals and ideals of World Water Day (HR 196), which is basically the same bill he voted against last year. Second, he voted for the Water Resources Development Act of 2007 (HR 1495), which provides nearly $300,000 for Greenwood Lake. Not too shabby.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Garrett Challenged by a Moderate Republican?

With $238,144 sitting in his war chest, Representative Scott Garrett has slightly more than twice as much cash on hand as he did this time last election cycle. My guess is, he's raising money now because he smells a primary challenge. In a post dealing with our Congressional Delegation's Cash on Hand on PoliticsNJ, there was this little nugget of wisdom by PulaskiSkywayConservative:

Garrett could very well be primaried by David Russo or another Bergen Republican if Talarico is gone. He could also lose the general if the top of the ticket isn't Giuliani and the Democrats recruit a good officeholder from Bergen or Passaic.
I have written before about how Garrett and/or Talarico need to be gone in order to save the property taxpayers of Bergen, and I've heard rumblings like this before. The rift between the David Russo and Guy Talarico camps of the BCRO goes back to 2003 when Steve Lonegan led the "Republicans for Conservative Leadership" insurrection via primary against moderate Republicans. Herb Jackson of the Record reported this at the time:

Lonegan believes it's still worth pushing the Republican leadership closer "to President Bush's agenda instead of the opposite direction."
While Russo and fellow Assemblyman Kevin O'Toole absolutely clobbered the opposition, eventually Lonegan backed Guy Talarico's rise to ineptitude and the subsequent near destruction of the BCRO ensued. With Lonegan showing up at O'Toole's fundraiser for State Senate, one has to wonder if Lonegan has realized the error of his ways. We don't even have to speculate about Garrett.

By voting against the 9/11 Commission recommendations, against accountability for the President, and against making student loans more affordable for working families, among other bills, Garrett has continued to attack beliefs held by many voters. Add to that Garrett's unyielding support of President Bush's Iraq policy, including through his silence the mismanagement of reconstruction aid, and you have a bigger issue with unaffiliated voters.

Sprinkle in Garrett's constant co-sponsoring of legislation to completely defund the Department of Education instead of reform it; his efforts last year to do the same with the Department of Transportation (think of life before the new Rt. 4 & 17 interchange); and top it off with a stated desire to do the same to the Department of Energy during our current energy crisis and their being the lead agency against nuclear smuggling. Mix this all up and you've got one train wreck of a voting record and ideological philosophy to defend.

It's only a matter of time before the moderate Republican leaning unaffiliated voters of our District decide Garrett's worn out his welcome. If Garrett keeps voting the way he does, and relegating our District to irrelevance on Capitol Hill, sooner or later he'll face a genuine Democratic challenger of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrat variety and lose.

I've been told several times Republicans don't want to give up the seat, so they back Garrett without a strong Republican alternative. Russo finished second to Garrett in the Primary to replace Marge Roukema in 2002, and with several years to review Garrett's record, I'd be very curious to see how Republicans react to a rematch.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Today, we are all Hokies

With the shootings at Virginia Tech, we have been given a painful reminder of how precious life is and how quickly evil can take it from us. Thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families and friends.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Prayers for the Governor

If you have a moment and pray, say a little prayer for a quick recovery for our Governor Jon Corzine. For the best updates, I'd check the Star Ledger. He's in pretty rough shape.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Menendez Blocks Earmark Reform

This happened back on March 26th, but I just saw the video yesterday (h/t Nightfly). When I first watched the video, due to the sound not being synced properly, I thought maybe somebody was doing a dub job. Senator Bob Menendez was attacked about corruption during the campaign, so I thought it might be something like "The Junior Senator from the most corrupt state in the nation blocks Congressional corruption reform, hardy har har."

Then I looked it up in the Congressional Record, and the text matches. This is no joke, and nobody should think it's a good thing or back Senator Menendez on this. I even went to Menendez's website to see if he explained the action, which he did not (his website is a lot better than Garrett's).

Read the bill yourself, it's short and straight forward. If you want an earmark, you have to put your name on it. Seems simple enough, and it's what voters wanted when they voted out the Republicans. Here's the video, and while you're waiting for Menendez at the end, ask yourself, why would he object to this?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Seriously, You're Going To Have To Call

I've spoken with a few folks about the town hall meeting Representative Scott Garrett is hosting on No Child Left Behind. In this week's Garrett Gazette he gives a reminder, and recommends you call if you have any questions. You just might.

WHAT: Town Hall Meeting on No Child Left Behind

WHERE: Ramapo College of New Jersey Alumni Lounges
Ramapo Valley Road
Mahwah, New Jersey 07430
WHEN: Saturday, April
21, 2007
4:00 pm to 6:00 pm

To make the most of our time together at this town hall
meeting, I'm asking teachers and administrators to come share their thoughts and
experiences from 6 to 7 pm, and parents and students to
participate from 7 to 8 pm.

I hope you will be able to join me and share your thoughts
on this important issue. If you have any questions, please contact my Paramus
district staff at 201-712-0330.
This isn't a dig on Garrett, this sort of thing happens. It is kind of funny, though. Besides, this isn't nearly as bad as when he put out the statement slamming the wrong country for the Dubai Ports World deal. I think he went after Saudi Arabia, but I'll have to dig up the print out. If you are planning to go, I strongly suggest you call.

Better Know an Authoritarian

After reading John Dean's book, Conservatives Without Conscience, I gained a better understanding of what's been going on in Washington. It explained the authoritarian psychology of those in power, and how many of the Republicans under them could be capable of such abdication of duty. Last week, Dean's column covered an interview he did with Dr. Bob Altemeyer, a leading expert on the psychology of authoritarianism, regarding Tom DeLay's autobiography. Here's a sample quote:
Q: Is this characteristic of authoritarians, to open themselves up to being easily discredited by what they say? Or something pathological about DeLay?

A: I try hard not to call people pathological. Why has he let himself be so easily discredited in this and the other cases? I think it's because he knows his audience, which will be mainly authoritarian followers, who would never doubt what he says, nor check his stories against other accounts. Studies show that authoritarian leaders can say almost anything, and their followers will believe them.

It's a really good read if you have an interest in what's been going on, who was calling the shots, and why folks like Representative Scott Garrett following this guy got us where we are today.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Collins Fights Back

A few days ago I saw an attack ad, produced by Americans United for Change, against Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine. The attack ad has been viewed over 21,000 times, the comments under it are passionate on both sides of the war, but the most important thing about this ad is that it is a classic example of smear. Collins is one of the most vocal critics of the President's surge plan, and she's decided to hit back with her own ad pointing that out. It has only been viewed a little over 3,600 times, so I'm re-posting it here hoping a few folks will watch it:

Here is the part of Senator Collins speech that they clipped (italics), and what they left out (bolded):
Just this last weekend, the State of Maine lost another soldier in combat in Iraq. The American people deserve to know where each and every one of us stands on the President’s strategy, on whether to cut off funding, on the important issues related to this very pressing issue. There are legitimate arguments on both sides. There are those who agree with my position that a surge of 21,500 troops would be a mistake. There are those who believe that the surge is the right course to follow. I respect the views of Senators on both sides of the aisle and, indeed, this is not a partisan issue. But surely—surely this is an issue that deserves our full debate in the best traditions of this historic body. Surely—surely our constituents deserve to know where we stand.

The vote that they cite in the ad was the pork stuffed emergency appropriations bill. Most of the Republican Senators and Representatives who are opposed to the President's management of the war and our indefinite involvement voted against the bill, including all three Republicans whose speeches I highlighted earlier. Instead of working with these Republican allies to craft a bi-partisan bill, the Democratic leadership in both the House and the Senate bribed some of their own caucus with pork to get them to vote for the resolution, which then lost most of the Republicans.

It's selfish of the Democrats who demanded the pork. I can hear them saying "Well, of course I support the troops in the field. But my District supports them more with a sugar beet subsidy." How ridiculous is that? It is also very weak of the Democratic leadership to cave to it. I had hoped the Democrats were going to act differently than the Republicans over the last few years, especially when it came to stuffing pork and earmarks into spending bills, but obviously it's more politics as usual.

Sen. Collins's very vocal criticism of the management of the war has been paired with her attempt to get a bi-partisan approach to bringing the President in line. She also stood up to the President when it came to enacting the 9/11 Commission recommendations, acting as an original co-sponsor of the Senate bill and voting for it, something our own Representative Scott Garrett didn't do. Collins was also part of the Gang of 14 that prevented the authoritarian Republican leadership from eliminating the filibuster in the last Senate.

I haven't studied her record completely, but what I do know about Collins I tend to like. She's hardly as partisan as Representative Garrett, has refused to cower in the face of the President, and tries to find the middle ground more often than not. As partisan as Washington continues to be, often Sen. Collins seems like the voice of sanity. She should be praised instead of being attacked with misleading information.

Unfortunately, this is where single issue and overtly partisan politics have taken us. I'm glad to see Collins fight back (they do need to make the ad shorter), just as I would be to see a Democrat fight back when they're being smeared. If we're really going to start moving forward as a nation again, we as voters need to demand more than the 30 second attack ad.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Garrett Joins Blogosphere; Sort Of

Representative Scott Garrett is not without re-posting press releases on a blog experience, he posts on The Hill Blog every few months. However, now he has in fact popped up on a local blog of sorts. He's posting over at Shaptalk, or at least the Blogger version of Shaptalk. is run by Michael Shapiro, whose bio you can read here, and the Blogger version of Shaptalk includes him, Representative Garrett and a couple other folks. I've enjoyed a few of Mike's columns, which he will also post over at Blue Jersey from time to time.

I guess, after the welcome message, I was hopefully we'd be getting some kind of insight on things from Representative Garrett. However, the first post was just a regurgitation of the budget spin Herb Jackson and I separately shot down several days earlier. However, he did reiterate the claim about my favorite New York Times study. Unfortunately, Garrett still has yet to identify when this study was published. This is the third time he's brought up this study, and nobody else but him seems to be able to find it. I've contacted the NYT directly to try and figure out what he's talking about, so we'll see how that turns out.

On a positive note, the Blogger Shaptalk allows folks to leave comments to Garrett. If he or his office actually do engage in a dialogue with constituents, it would be a huge plus. I've said before that while I probably wouldn't agree with the rigidity of his politics, I wouldn't feel as critical of him as a Representative if I believed folks actually knew who they were voting for and how his actions have affected our District. Right now they don't, but we'll have to see what happens.

Good News for Oakland

On Thursday, Representative Bill Pascrell and Representative Scott Garrett attended the ribbon cutting ceremony of the completed flood gates at the Pompton Lakes Dam. Here's The Record's summary of the project:
Exactly 23 years ago to the day, the rampaging Ramapo River was forcing Oakland residents from their homes and sweeping away their belongings. But on Thursday, the river was as well-behaved as human tinkering could make it.

That's because a three-phase $21.6 million project on the waterway dividing Wayne and Pompton Lakes was finally complete. Two steel floodgates at the Pompton Lakes Dam, valued at a total of $1 million, now allow much more water to gush from the waterway's stretch in Oakland into lower-lying Passaic County communities.
This is a good thing for the residents along the Ramapo, and a good example of the positive impact federal dollars can have on a local community.
The Army Corps project was funded with $19.6 million in federal money and $2 million from the state.
It also is, as Garrett acknowledged, what bi-partisanship should look like.
Garrett agreed that "this project is the product of bipartisan cooperation, and it goes to show you what good work can be done when we focus on solving problems."
Now if we can get him to take that attitude from the dam on the banks of the Ramapo back to Congress by the Potomac, we might be in business. Garrett is one of the most partisan members of the House, so I won't hold out hope. It serves our nation and our communities best when we have influence, as opposed to what we have now, and being able to work with the other side helps build the ability to get things done. On this day, Garrett has seen the benefits of cooperation and maybe, just maybe, he can figure out that we move forward as a nation when the parties work together.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Not Another Dime for Reconstruction

Regardless of which side of the Iraq War debate you fall on, one thing should be universally agreed upon: The American taxpayer should not be footing the bill for institutionalized corruption. However, as was pointed out in an AP article yesterday that is exactly what we are doing. Radi al-Radhi, who runs the Public Integrity Commission for the Iraqi government, reported over the last 3 years over $8 billion has been stolen. Here's part of the reason:

Corruption in the country, while traditionally rampant, is encouraged by constitutional clause 136 B, al-Radhi said. It gives Cabinet ministers the power to block his investigations.

So far, he said, ministers have blocked probes into the theft or misspending of an estimated additional $55 million in public funds.
That's right, we are pouring our taxpayer dollars into rebuilding a country that feels it is a Constitutional Right to be corrupt. In January, Stuart Bowen Jr., the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction handed Congress a report detailing some of the issues in Iraq, which included:

Corruption continues to limit the ability of the GOI to manage reconstruction efforts and key areas of economic policy. The Iraqi Ministry of Oil estimates that Iraq loses $700 million of revenue each month because of oil smuggling.
With oil closing at $64.28 a barrel yesterday, that works out to almost 11 million barrels a month that just disappear, or 130.7 million barrels a year. Put another way, that 11 million barrels would be enough crude oil imported to cover all of the needs for the US (gas, plastic, home heating oil, etc.) for more than a day each and every month. That would be impossible to pull off without some kind of consent, and taxpayers are putting up the cash that allows it to continue.

I've written before about the absence of criticism when it comes to Iraq from those who pound their chests about being fiscal conservatives. The extreme anti-government crowd that masquerades as fiscal conservatives, like our own Representative Scott Garrett, rail against providing reconstruction aid to the Americans victimized by hurricanes Katrina and Rita, citing corruption as their reasoning. However, you will be hard pressed to find a single quote about the abuses in Iraq (I know, I've looked). The abuses in Iraq are at least 800% worse than those of the still devastated Gulf Coast region, and apparently are constitutionally protected to continue into eternity.

This sort of abuse isn't a slap in the face to the American taxpayer; it's a kick in the crotch. It needs to come to an end, and come to an end now. Our Congress either needs to demand more accountability, cut off the reconstruction funding until the Iraqis can get their stuff together, or get voted out of office in 2008. The unborn children of my unborn children are going to be paying for this war, with interest, and it is a complete dereliction of duty that Congress continues to allow this garbage to go on.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Talarico vs. Commonsense

A few weeks ago, when I talked about the BCRO getting Rudy Giuliani to come speak, I said if the Republicans were smart they could pick up some Freeholder seats in Bergen County this year. Never in my wildest imagination would I think that Guy Talarico would start another inter-party fight. However, as first reported by PoliticsNJ, Talarico unilaterally kicked two sitting state officeholders (David Russo and Kevin O'Toole) off the Bergen County Republican Organization's line for the June Primary. Here's his reasoning:
If Bergen County surrenders this Senate seat to Essex County, the largest county in the state would be reduced to ONE Senator. In addition, this situation may potentially jeopardize Bergen’s only remaining Senator, Gerry Cardinale. Democratic Chair Joe Ferriero has promised to spend millions of dollars to defeat State Senator Cardinale. Such a defeat will mean the Democrats possess total control of senatorial courtesy in Bergen County. This will mean no Republican appointments in Bergen County and greater future difficulties for Bergen County Republicans to reclaim municipal, county and state offices in the future.

So basically, he's given up on my State Senator, Gerry Cardinale, and has decided to divide the party on his own. The result has been guys from the Red Faction splitting with Talarico, and two of the three Freeholder candidates splitting with Talarico.

The BCRO has been in a tailspin since former BCRO Chairman Berek Don pled guilty to laundering money to former Democratic Senator Robert Torricelli's campaign. That betrayal probably explains why Talarico detractors feel he's conspiring with Papa Joe. The descent hit warp speed with the retirement of Marge Roukema. What Sussex sees as its gain is definitely Bergen's loss.

On that note, it was also pointed out to me that it's a little ironic that Talarico's waving the off-white flag about Cardinale and he kicked David Russo off the the county line. Both were challengers to Representative Scott Garrett back in 2002. Without a strong BCRO, there's less of a chance a moderate Republican in the Marge Roukema mold would be able to build a base to take on Talarico's fellow Mountain Man.

Conspiracy theories aside, the fact remains that because of Talarico's ineptitude as a leader, the BCRO gets slaughtered every Election Day. The immediate result is that Bergen County property taxpayers are getting soaked for more than they need to be because of the BCDO's institutionalization of pay-to-play at all levels of government.

It's a vicious cycle, and in all likelihood won't be remedied until Talarico and/or Garrett are gone. By Talarico's own logic, it's harder to build the party without the Congressman being from Bergen. How many no-bid contracts to donors and patronage jobs will be handed out by the BCDO in the meantime is anybody's guess. The Record pointed out after Election Day the need to rebuild the Republican Party for all of us, not just Republicans, yet Talarico keeps ripping it apart.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Garrett vs. Legal Immigrants in a Nutshell

As reported by the Express-Times, Representative Scott Garrett took questions from high school students yesterday. In defending his vote against The Voting Rights Act, Garrett had this to say.
"I'm looking out for the American citizens who were born here legally," Garrett said.
I guess naturalized citizens don't count in Garrett's world.

I made a point during the campaign to try and dispel the myth that all immigrants must pass an English test in order to become citizens. If you look at page 99 of "Welcome to the United States: A Guide for New Immigrants" it details the exemptions to taking the language and civics tests. When you read comments like Garrett's or this little gem from Newt Gingrich over the weekend, you have to realize they don't know the facts:

"Citizenship requires passing a test on American history in English. If that's true, then we do not have to create ballots in any language except English," he said.

Since that's not true, Mr. Gingrich must agree that ballots should be printed in multiple languages. With citizenship, whether by birth or naturalization, comes the right to vote and the government is compelled to prevent discrimination and exclusion. I still think Garrett's vote against the Voting Rights Act is one of the most deplorable actions he's ever taken on our behalf, and I'm glad the students at Warren Hills Regional High School took him to task over it.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Mark Your Calendars - Garrett on NCLB

In a rare public appearance, Representative Scott Garrett is hosting a town hall meeting on No Child Left Behind. Garrett's not a fan of federal involvement in education, and intends to introduce a bill that would allow states to opt out of Department of Education requirements for children. While it wasn't posted on his website, an e-mail Garrett sent out was forwarded to me with a change in date, I'd call his office to confirm.

Unfortunately, as of now, I'll be out of the State this weekend. Here's the e-mail update:




Dear Friends:

Earlier this week in your weekly Garrett Gazette, I invited you to join me at a special town hall meeting on No Child Left Behind. I wanted to alert you to a change in the date and time for this event:

WHERE: Ramapo College of New Jersey

Alumni Lounges

505 Ramapo Valley Road

Mahwah , New Jersey 07430

WHEN: Saturday, April 21, 2007

4:00 pm to 6:00 pm

As I noted in my earlier invitation, five years ago, Congress instituted some of the most dramatic and sweeping changes to federal education law, called No Child Left Behind. This year, my colleagues and I will be reviewing that law and determining what changes need to be made to ensure that parents and teachers can make the best education possible available to all children.

I want to hear what you think about No Child Left Behind. What have your experiences been as teachers, parents, and also students? How can we make sure that students have the best educational opportunities available to them?

To make the most of our time together at this town hall meeting, I'm asking teachers and administrators to come share their thoughts and experiences from 4 to 5 pm, and parents and students to participate from 5 to 6 pm.

I hope you will be able to join me and share your thoughts on this important issue. If you have any questions, please contact my Paramus district staff at 201-712-0330.


Scott Garrett

Member of Congress

Sunday, April 1, 2007

The Record Covers the Budget Spin

Herb Jackson of The Record wrote a good article about the threat of taxes going up. Here's my favorite quote:
A review of the facts and interviews with budget experts shows that Garrett, whose district includes parts of Bergen and Passaic counties, is exaggerating, while Pascrell is telling only part of the story.

That's a polite way of saying both sides are using spin. I covered a bit of the spin being used by Representative Scott Garrett, and the realities of the budget just passed, the other day. One point that I don't think I stressed enough was made in the article by Stanley E. Collender, a former aide to both the Senate and House Budget Committees.
"It's a little disingenuous for Republicans to blame Democrats for not extending the tax cuts when they didn't extend them themselves," Collender said. "All this budget does is reflect current law, which shows those things expiring."

So, in theory, if someone wants to shoot Garrett's spin down they could say "Representative Garrett, since you and your fellow Republicans didn't extend the tax cuts, didn't you vote to raise taxes $392.5 billion three years in a row?"