Saturday, June 30, 2007

Immigration: So Now What?

With the death of the immigration bill, most people are left with a simple question: So now what? The plight of the 12 million or so illegal aliens in our nation is a very real situation, and this bill tried to do too much at one time and everybody on the fringes got so mad it really isn't a surprise it failed. Now that the Bill is dead, pundits say nothing significant is going to be done until 2009. Unfortunately, we now have 4% of our nation's real population left in limbo. Their status may not be legal, but it doesn't change the fact that they're here.

There was a tremendous amount of disappointment from our Senator Bob Menendez, a champion of the reform. Our Representative Scott Garrett loved this outcome, and seems to believe any reform must punish the undocumented. The Economist had an accurate take on the stance taken by him and many other Republicans.
That most Republicans would be against reform was a given: although a handful of them helped to craft the bill, most Republican legislators, and the bulk of Republican voters, saw it as an “amnesty” for those who broke the law by sneaking into the country. They were not persuaded by yet more promises to fix the border. Nor, however, did they propose any alternative measures for dealing with the people already working in America.
For many Republicans, it seems, this is a good issue for them to rally the base and raise money; a solution is not as beneficial to them as the problem existing. It's estimated that in the 1990's, the number of illegal immigrants increased a net amount of 500,000 a year (incoming; less deaths, returns, legalization, etc.). With the INS's estimate of 7 million illegals here in 2000, and an estimate of 12 million illegals being reported last year, the net increased to over 800,000 a year while the Republicans held a grip on Washington.

By the end of 2009, that means we're looking at roughly 14.5 million people. We were already talking about a population larger than that of New Jersey and Connecticut combined; we might as well throw on New Hampshire while the politicians in Washington twiddle their thumbs and raise campaign cash.

So what do we do?

With an estimated price tag of $41 billion a year, a mass deportation program (finding, jailing, deporting) is off of nearly everyone's table, except for people like Garrett (how else do you punish an illegal alien?).

Relying on the Feds to come up with some sort of meaningful ID system seems dicey. There's already a 3 million passport backlog they're dealing with; coming up with 12 million more IDs seems unlikely.

Building the "fence" is a giant waste of taxpayer money, that does little more than let Congress say "Look, we built a fence. We're doing something." Meanwhile, people will go around and under the boondoggle.

Going after the employer seems to make sense, but with so many people working for so many different places, it seems unlikely enforcement will be effective.

So what do we do?

The 14th Amendment might have a clue:
Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
States already must provide equal protection of the law to anyone within their borders; would the States be within their rights to grant residency to illegals if they choose?

Granted, Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution vests the power to come up with a uniform law of naturalization to Congress. However, I'm not talking about citizenship or a path to citizenship, I'm talking about non-transferable residency. There isn't anything in the Constitution that says States couldn't determine residency, at which point the Tenth Amendment defers to the State. After all, the States seem to be the ones who benefit and suffer the most from the presence of the undocumented.

On the positive side, States receive sales tax from the individual (if it applies), income tax from those they buy things from, and taxes from those who employ them. On the negative, States pick up the tab to fund schools, medical care and social services for the undocumented. So wouldn't it make sense to let places like Texas, California, and New Jersey craft a workable solution for ourselves? It could go either way, throw them out or let them stay, but at least there would be something.

There are more questions than answers with this issue, but while Washington is in a state of self-inflicted paralysis over immigration, why not give the States a shot? Communities have started taking their own steps anyway, ranging from housing crackdowns to creating worker centers, what would the States do? On many policy issues States have been the experiment lab, where a Federal policy is then crafted on their best practices, so why not now?

At the very least, it would make for one heck of a Supreme Court case.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Garrett: Earmark Blogging with Murder Fantasies

I was intrigued today to read the blog by Representative Scott Garrett about the earmark debate over at Not once did he say how pleased he was about the reforms he voted against being passed earlier in the year. I suppose he only saves that kind of misleading language for his constituents.

One thing that is a point of concern with Garrett's piece is where he chose to post it. I realize my cross-posting on other sites can put me in with some folks that say some outlandish stuff in the comments section, but I appreciate the dialogue and passion for beliefs. That being said, each site has a certain standard when it comes to their primary content and comments, and I've seen it enforced more than once.

In contrast, is currently playing host to an ongoing story about a group of "Patriots" running around the country hunting "socialists." This group roams around the country and kill US Attorney Johnny Sutton, torture Keith Obermann and Chris Matthews, kill Senator Arlen Specter and other current members of Congress, and mock the Constitution.

Several Republican bloggers have called to have the storyline removed, as well as others in the comments section of the fantasy's posts questioning the legality of it. As of this writing, Townhall has yet to remove the piece. Here's how the Sutton segment ends (remember, this is a current US Attorney):
As a group, we entered the room at approximately 2215. Sutton was hunched over a table studying a map of the region. When he looked up and saw us, his eyes widened into saucers and he blanched, sweat popping out on his forehead. He threw up his hands and started babbling unintelligibly – a huge disappointment coming from a “great” attorney – and at my signal we all fired simultaneously. His head exploded like a ripe melon, thankfully shutting him up for good.
The comment sections on all of the installments I looked at were rather, um, interesting. The Sutton piece includes such things as bonfires fueled by the bodies of liberals convicted by Chief Justice Ann Coulter (who later takes a recurring role) and what caliber bullet you need to effectively kill liberals so they don't live and charge at you like a "RINO".

Whether or not Garrett knew about this is kind of irrelevant. Townhall is very popular with a certain segment of the population, and obviously Garrett's reaching out to them. There are many notable conservatives who contribute to the site, driving traffic and helping them sell advertising. Aparantly, all of that comes without any sort of moral compass or ethical standard. There is a moral and ethical line, and Townhall has crossed it. Until Townhall either removes that story line or Garrett pulls his content from the site, Garrett's sitting right there with them.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

My TiVo's Name Will Be SCOTUS

For those that missed it, the Supreme Court dealt a blow yesterday to those of us who want to remove money from politics. At issue was whether or not a special interest group was allowed to run an "issue ad" within 60 days of an election without complying with federal election law reporting requirements. Finding that the election law was a hindrance of speech, special interest groups (corporations, unions, advocacy groups) joined hands with shareholders of DVR manufacturers in rejoicing the SCOTUS.

This decision has a number of negative consequences for the vast majority of Americans. First and foremost is that a lobbyist will once again be able to walk in to a legislator's office with the unregulated expense report regarding how much their client spent to get the legislator in office. I work for one of the best television commercial production houses in the world, and people don't hire us because we're nice people (we're very nice). They hire us because we're damn good at what we do and they're expecting a return on their investment (a great ad to help them sell product). When it comes to election expenditures, special interests expect the same: votes for dollars spent. A few hundred thousand in exchange for a multi-million dollar earmark is a pretty good return on investment. A few hundred million for a multi-billion dollar no bid contract is even better.

Another issue is accountability for the ads. By declaring the 60 day rule unconstitutional, special interests won't have to identify who is paying for the ad. While many groups will want to have their name put on an ad (because it helps fundraising); those putting out false attack ads can come up with fluffy names for their vitriol, and if the truth ever comes out as to who did the ad the election will likely be over. It now rests on the Quality Assurance departments of the networks to determine if an ad is true or not, as they will be liable for running false advertising and also liable for bias for not running an ad even if it's patently false. I have a friend that handles that for a network, and they just "loved" it when I pointed that out last night.

This decision also bolsters the power of incumbency and aspirations of corrupt challengers. On one hand, an incumbent will no longer have to raise gobs of cash to compete, as they'll be able to place a call to a special interest group that loves them and say they need some ads. That's illegal; as it is coordinated communication, however don't think it doesn't happen. On the flip side, a challenger who has already sold their soul will be able to do the same in the event the incumbent doesn't play ball with the special interests.

Probably the most frustrating aspect of the decision, for me personally, is this virtually eliminates the ability of Independents to compete. Before my fundraising collapsed last year, we had a workable fundraising target to get a run or two of ads on basic cable. I have most of the equipment needed to shoot and edit ads, and had volunteers to direct and crew them. Renting a sound package and the media buy would have been the only expenses, and the media buy was surprisingly affordable. I would have been able to place a hold on advertising time, and then paid for the ads before they ran. All of this would have cost less than $40,000.

I fear that if I did decide to run again next year, and can raise money this time, with every imaginable special interest group now being able to bid on the same time, it will drive prices beyond what a modest Independent campaign can raise. What happens to my speech and that of my potential donors and supporters? How are we protected? The only Independent who may benefit from this ruling is Bloomberg, as now he can spend his personal fortune on organization and his corporation's money on ads.

If you think I'm overstating the consequences, remember that these were all the things that were going on in the 90's that prompted Washington to include the 60 day rule in the McCain-Feingold bill to begin with. The good news is, Congress can now revisit the issue and attempt to make it Constitutional within the SCOTUS ruling. My hope is they have the moral fortitude to get to work on this and they'll take care of it before the end of the year. However, I'm not going to hold my breath, and in the meantime I'm going to find out more about DVRs.

Most political ads are junk, both in production value and content; Elliot Spitzer & Michael Steele are recent exceptions. As much as I love watching a good commercial, is as fast as I change the channel when the average political ad comes on. The idea of the airwaves being over saturated with this pollution is nauseating.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Garrett's Earmark Deception Widespread

As noted yesterday, Representative Scott Garrett has continued making it sound like he voted for the earmark reforms he voted against. In catching up on the week's news, I've discovered just how far Garrett's going to misrepresent the truth.

It's safe to say that the readership of this blog, and Garrett's Garrett Gazette, are probably no where near the combined readership of the Express Times and the Herald News. Both papers reprinted Garrett's statement on earmarks earlier this week as an opinion piece with the following phrase:
Earlier this year, I was pleased that the House adopted many of the earmark reforms that I had pressed for in the previous year. The entire process of spending should be open and transparent — all spending should be subject to full public scrutiny and debate.

Garrett could be pleased as punch the reforms passed, however, the way that statement is wordsmithed it explicitly implies that he voted for the earmark reforms he voted against. I wouldn't be surprised if this misrepresentation goes into a mailer in the near future, if it hasn't already shipped.

For those who have criticized my going after Garrett, because you see him as "honest", by all means explain this one to me.

BCRO Looking for a Leader

The Record reported on the race to replace inept Guy Talarico as Chairman of the Bergen County Republican Organization. Here's how they summed up each candidate's reason to pick them.
More than 100 county committee members assembled at party headquarters in Hackensack to hear briefly from the early favorite, 35-year-old Ridgewood lawyer Rob Ortiz, as well as two party veterans, 57-year-old political consultant Bill Thomson of Washington Township and 64-year-old Ben Focarino of Garfield, who owns a leather-coat business.


All three candidates for county chairman pledged to jump-start the party's anemic fund raising and to reunite its factions.

Focarino said he would do that by getting back to the basics, making better use of technology and fielding candidates who can run in every community.

Thomson cited his grass-roots experience and his track record for raising money and mobilizing the votes of such groups as the Christian Coalition.

Ortiz said he had raised a lot of money for both national and state Republican candidates and would do the same in Bergen.

As the early front runner, Rob Ortiz is racking up the endorsements. He has all of the candidates for the legislature in the 40th, current County Clerk Kathe Donovan (the only county wide Republican), former Freeholder Lisa Randall (who Talarico primaried out of office), and former County Executive Pat Schuber (on par with Roukema in terms of wide respect) just to name a few.

It should be very interesting to see how this plays out, and what impact it has in the fall.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Garrett Misrepresents Again

In Monday's post, Lest We Forget, I brought up the fact that Representative Scott Garrett is still making it sound like he voted for the earmark reforms he voted against. On Friday, as part of a House floor speech given after the conclusion of regular business, Garrett did it again.
Just an aside on the whole issue of earmarks. The debate on that topic goes to whether or not the Congress has the authority, and no one really questions this, but the authority to make, the issues of spending money on particular projects, and I don't think anybody debates that too much. The debate we have had on that topic is the transparency issue and whether or not Members of Congress and the American public are able to see exactly what individual Members are requesting that the American tax dollars go to. That is an appropriate debate and one which I supported, and I supported openness and transparency and to shine the light of day on what we do here.

Unless Garrett forgot he voted against the earmark reforms, Garrett continuing to make it sound like he voted yes is nothing less than an intentional misrepresentation of the truth.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Now This is Just Cool

An article in today's New Jersey Herald has pointed out the power public education can have on the lives of students, and how fun it can be.
Being submerged in 20 feet of water in order to pilot a submarine with a propulsion system modeled after an exercise machine may seem like a daunting task. However, for instructor Chris Land and his Engineering Technology class from the Sussex Technical School, it is the culmination of a year-long project in which the students designed and constructed their own underwater vehicle.

"We're the only high school in the world to design, build, and operate a human-powered submarine," Land said. "We've been working since the absolute beginning of school."

On Sunday, Land and his class will set out for Bethesda, Maryland, where they will compete in the 9th International Submarine Races; Sussex Tech is the only high school entered, and will face competition from universities and independent builders. This is the third time that Land will bring a submarine to the biennial competition, which will take place at Maryland's Naval Surface Warfare Center from June 24-29.

I had the privilege of speaking at Sussex Tech last year as part of the campaign, and it is an amazing institution with amazing students. I wrote about the experience here, and it still ranks as one of my favorite stops last year. Congratulations to the kids in the program and good luck.

Garrett and Gas Gouging

For those who forgot, last year Representative Scott Garrett voted against protecting consumers from price gouging at the pump. He followed that vote up with another vote against protecting consumers from gouging this year, and then attacked Republicans who voted for such protections. Two price gouging protection bills, two no votes.

I bring this up after reading this article and waiting to see Garrett's vote about the energy bill on the House floor. It would seem, due to simple physics, we're getting ripped off at the pump during the summer. Here's part of the article:
As the temperature rises, gasoline expands, and the amount of energy in each gallon drops. Because gas is priced at a 60-degree standard and gas pumps do not adjust for temperature changes, motorists often get less bang for their buck in warmer weather.

Consumer watchdog groups warn that temperature increases could end up costing U.S. consumers between 3 and 9 cents a gallon at the pump.


Almost a century ago, the industry and regulators agreed to define a gallon of gasoline as 231 cubic inches at 60 degrees. But as the mercury rises and gasoline expands, it takes more than a gallon of gas to produce the same amount of energy. The opposite is true when gasoline contracts in colder weather.

Now, one might say that we make up for it when it's colder, and in theory that would be true. However, take Ramsey for example, where the average temperature for the year is 61, with 6 months of the year over 60 and 5 months below it (April is 60). So on average, the people of Ramsey and the surrounding towns are not getting the gallon of gas they're paying for.

The whole situation needs to be looked at, reviewed and reformed. Gas prices are killing small businesses and families, and playing a significant role in holding our economy back. The fact our Garrett would consistently vote against even allowing an investigation into these issues, when it seems we already know the answers, is a little disconcerting.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Garrett & Small Business

Representative Scott Garrett is now batting .250 on Bills specifically aimed at helping small business. After voting against 10 years of small business tax cuts and greater access to capital, I wasn't expecting him to vote for anything that would help the Small Business Administration help those who account for 50% of the GDP. However, today he voted for the SBA Entrepreneurial Development Programs Act.

This meant, for exactly 8 minutes, Garrett went to .333 for the year. However, Garrett then voted against passing HR 2284, which expanded SBA Development centers serving our indigenous populations. The main argument for the program, in my opinion, is the return on investment of the taxpayer's dollar. From the Bill:
The Small Business Development Center program is cost effective. Clients receiving long-term counseling under the program in 2005 generated additional tax revenues of $248,000,000, nearly 2.8 times the cost of the program to the Federal Government.

Folks, that's a 280% return on our investment. That doesn't even include the savings from not having more unemployed people, or the influx of cash into other businesses serving those that work with and for the companies helped by the centers. These are the sorts of programs I'd like to see more of, not less.

Garrett was the only Representative from New Jersey to vote against this measure. It's another example of where Garrett talks a good game about looking out for the family budget and small businesses, but for those families employed by these businesses and all those they spend their money with; as well as those who want a solid return on the tax dollar, Garrett can't seem to put our vote where his mouth is.

Abate makes it Official

Camille Abate did in fact announce that she had filed a statement of candidacy at her event last evening. From her press release:
With her candidacy, Ms. Abate will try to become the first woman representative in New Jersey since Marge Roukema held the 5th Congressional District seat ten years ago. Women in New Jersey are vastly underrepresented in both the United States Congress and in the New Jersey State Legislature. New Jersey ranks 35th among the 50 states for women’s representation at the state legislative level, with 19.2 percent. There are no female representatives from New Jersey on the federal level.

As pointed out earlier, she and 2006 Democratic challenger Paul Aronsohn are virtually tied with cash on hand. Ms. Abate was joined at her event by Ed Selby, who is taking on Steve Oroho for the State Senate seek being vacated by Robert Littell in the 24th District.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Abate likely to Announce Tonight

As reported last month by PoliticsNJ, and commented on by yours truly, tonight's the night for Camille Abate to announce she's throwing her hat in the ring for the Democratic nomination to challenge Representative Scott Garrett. She is hosting an event through her CAJA Institute, at the Ridgewood Public Library, promising a special announcement.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Aronsohn fundraising for Richardson

Having worked for the Clinton administration, I wasn't sure if 2006 Democratic challenger Paul Aronsohn would go with Senator Clinton; or if he would go with his old boss in the administration, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. Turns out, Aronsohn hosted a fundraiser for Richardson this evening. I'll post any coverage of the event tomorrow.

Lest We Forget

Following the House debate over how to handle the 30,000 earmark requests for the Homeland Security appropriations Bill, Representative Scott Garrett has been getting a lot of praise from his fellow Republicans. Whether for leadership or bringing candy to those on the floor, people have singled him out as one of the leaders on the Republican side.

However, old habits die hard and I suppose Garrett couldn't avoid misrepresenting the truth. This from today's Garrett Gazette:
Earlier this year, I was pleased that the House adopted many of the earmark reforms that I had pressed for in the previous year. The entire process of spending should be open and transparent - all spending should be subject to full public scrutiny and debate, but that is especially true of earmarks, which have far too often been used by Members to curry favor with special interests or voters.
Sounds good, yet once again Garrett makes it sound like he voted for the earmark reforms he actually voted against. Votes speak louder than words, they always have. Garrett says in his Gazette that the Democrats talked a good game, which should be seen as nothing less than a compliment from someone who is an expert at it.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

30,000 Strips of Bacon, Please.

When reading about the debate raging on the House floor this week about the Department of Homeland Security authorization bill, a few thoughts popped into my head. The foremost is that it served as an example of why the average taxpayer has given up on Washington. Here we have the new Congress getting ready to pass their first appropriations bill, containing many programs people support (border agents, air cargo screening, etc.), and a brawl broke out between the Republicans and Democrats over earmarks.

The fight between the parties erupted when Rep. David Obey, Chair of the Appropriations Committee, said there were too many requests for earmarks to process and they'd deal with them later. The mind numbing number of requests: 30,000. That works out to roughly 69 earmark requests per member of Congress. If that were to be what we can expect going forward, that would translate to 360,000 requests for pet projects over this year.

Whether the 30,000 requests represent Democrats trying to make up for years in the minority (the majority gets 60% of requests) or Republicans trying to sabotage the process, or some combination of the two, is unclear. Both sides are blaming the other. Whatever the cause, 30,000 is simply a ridiculous number. After reading some of what was causing the fight, part of me wishes Rep. Obey had made good on his threat to completely strip the bill of earmarks. This from the Washington Post:
Debate on the $36 billion homeland security bill, which would fund the Federal Emergency Management Agency, border security and counterterrorism measures, bogged down last night as Republicans pushed scores of amendments aimed at banning the use of counterterrorism money for designer handbags, puppet shows and other programs included in the legislation.
PUPPET SHOWS??????????????

I've talked before about funding to combat the spread of crystal meth being carved up like a Thanksgiving turkey by the folks on Capitol Hill. It's a perfect example of why earmarking is detrimental to the health of our nation, even though members of Congress see it as healthy for their careers. While the Republican Congress earmarked 84% of the funding to combat the issue, meth use among young people rose much faster and across a larger geographic area than estimated. Had the funds gone toward prevention education and actual law enforcement, instead of the couches and ping pong tables an audit found, maybe twice as many young people as originally thought wouldn't be using the stuff.

There are very real consequences to using Federal dollars for ridiculous pork projects. Spending money for a Coach purse instead of working walkie-talkies for a first responders could cost lives. Puppet shows instead of respirators? These types of actions tend to bring out the cynic in me and the majority of the voting public. Even though most of the earmarks were stripped, the fact Representatives would put that garbage in a bill to begin with is an example of just how far out of touch some in Washington really are.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Garrett the Candyman

This from The Politico:
The night before: “With the Republican Study Committee leading the charge on the endless appropriations debate, Members down on the house floor for hours from 4 PM to 2AM can get tired and cranky. But, leave it to Rep. Scott Garrett (N.J.) to save the day, by bringing everyone a little sweetness. Word is Garrett brought loads of M&M's to his fellow RSC members on the floor, making him the hero of the night,” says a Shenanigans tipster.
For those that don't know, every M&M you've ever eaten is made here in the Fifth District by Masterfoods USA in Hackettstown.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

I'm Back

So, now I'm home again. Here's what I missed:

Representative Scott Garrett took the opportunity to follow the news that the GDP grew at the slowest pace in five years to send out a Garrett Gazette saying how great things are with the economy thanks to the tax cuts. Not mentioned in the Gazette were the facts of the unfair competitive advantage the cuts provide foreign companies, or the fact that there is growing concern within economist circles that phantom GDP may be artificially inflating the strength of the economy. Also, Garrett neglected to mention his vote against 10 years of tax cuts for small business owners.

On a positive, it seems the hotly debated Homeland Security funding bill will have an amendment to allocate funds based on risk, a primary recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, and Garrett sponsored the amendment to get it in there.

Both Kevin O'Toole and Steve Oroho won their primaries. O'Toole's victory was the straw that broke the camel's back as far as Guy Talarico's time as Chairman of the Bergen County Republican Organization. Oroho notched his second victory against Garrett's preferred candidate, and has built a strong coalition of moderates and classic conservatives that is reshaping the power balance in Sussex. Assuming O'Toole and Oroho both win, they have very big shoes to fill in the State Senate for their respective parties and constituents.

And on a final note, Garrett's press secretary Will Holley has been hired to handle media for Mitt Romney in South Carolina. One of the biggest gripes since I first started following Garrett was that you could almost never find quotes or statements or anything regarding his thinking when voting on our behalf. Basically, before Holley came on board Garrett's website was about as useless to constituents as ice cubes are to Eskimos. I'm not sure when Holley will be leaving Garrett's office, but Holley's work was light years beyond what we had before (even when he was spinning) and he will be missed.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Offline for a While

I'm going to have limited internet access for the next week and a half. Look for an in case you missed it piece Wednesday, June 13.