Monday, July 30, 2007

GOP Hopefuls Disrespecting Voters

I'm pretty much a huge fan of anything that gets more people involved in the political process, especially young people. Voter turnout in our country is abysmal, and politics as usual bred apathy is a huge part of the reason. So when an event like the YouTube Debate on CNN averages 2.6 million viewers, and is very successful in attracting youth, it is a good thing in my mind. Here's how they did:
Included in the latest viewership numbers were 407,000 viewers in the coveted adults 18-34 demographic, which topped the previous record of 368,000 for the New Hampshire debate. Both are higher than the previous record holders, CNN's February 15, 2000, GOP debate (357,000), Fox News Channel's January 22, 2004, Democratic candidates debate (340,000) and MSNBC's South Carolina debate on April 26, 2007 (327,000).

When you add together that people can watch the debate at their leisure (it'd be nice if YouTube would post how many folks have), and the fact that almost 3,000 people submitted questions, few can argue that the event wasn't a huge success in engaging the public.

As great as I think the YouTube Democratic Debate was is how pathetic I think it is that the Republican front runners are bailing on their YouTube debate. Mitt Romney has formally declined, and Rudy Giuliani has something better to do than take questions from voters.

Speaking in his own defense, Mitt Romney has been quoted in a number of stories saying that getting asked about global warming by an animated snowman was demeaning to the candidates. Does Mitt Romney have any idea what kind of time it took to animate that sequence? It's not like it's not a question on a lot of people's minds and one that you will be asked, what's wrong with it being asked creatively? What part of people going out of their way to be involved in the process is demeaning to Romney's apparently overly delicate ego?

None of the questions were something a candidate for President in either party shouldn't already know their answer to. It's not like the Republican field has to take the "are you black" or "are you woman" enough questions. They've already covered their view on evolution in a previous debate, and lightning seemed to strike the building when Giuliani was talking about his social views. What, they don't want to have to say something nice about the person standing to their right?

Even though I can understand the reason, I don't respect our Representative Scott Garrett for his lack of willingness to debate. With this being one of the biggest Presidential elections in 100 years, I certainly won't vote for a coward for President. I tend to pick one or two candidates from each party to follow with the idea I'll eventually volunteer in the get out the vote operations (yes, I've done both parties in the same year). One of my picks is one of those disrespecting voters, and there are no words for how utterly disappointed I am in this position.

If the Republican Party wants people to take them seriously again, they need to meet people where they are at, and embrace the opportunity to engage young voters. You're going to get questions about Iraq, health care, gas prices, immigration, Bush, corruption, the economy, education and probably a question about faith in politics. If you have answers people may not like, but they're how you really feel, people will respect that. If you don't have answers, get out of the race.

I'm looking forward to seeing Senator John McCain and Representative Ron Paul on September 17th, and would hope CNN wouldn't reschedule for Giuliani and Romney if they don't want to embrace people they hope will vote for them. Forget them. The forum is there, if Giuliani and Romney are too disrespectful or afraid of voters to attend that's their own problem that voters will remember. Debate on, with or without the frightened ones.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Garrett's Positive Flip Flop

After voting against implementing the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission back in January, yesterday Representative Scott Garrett voted for the bill agreeing to the version worked out between the House and the Senate. He didn't offer any reason for his change of heart, so whether he no longer feels it's too expensive as he did then; or this is just a move of political survival; or he just came to his senses we may never know. Whatever his reasons, the bottom line is he voted for the final bill.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Oh Come On, Garrett

This from the press office of Representative Scott Garrett yesterday:

Today, U.S. Representative Scott Garrett introduced an amendment with the support of Representatives Frelinghuysen (NJ) and Shays (CT), to prevent the FAA from implementing their inconsiderate and ill-advised Preferred Alternative for the New York/New Jersey/Philadelphia Airspace Redesign.
Definitely makes it sound like Garrett introduced the amendment, yet he didn't. This from the Congressional Record.
The Chair recognizes the gentleman from New Jersey.

Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to offer this amendment on my own behalf as well as Congressman Garrett from New Jersey, my colleague; and Congressman CHRISTOPHER SHAYS from Connecticut.
As a matter of fact, the amendment that was heavily voted down was titled the Frelinghuysen of New Jersy Amendment. Had Garrett introduced it, it would have been called the Garrett Amendment.

It's unfortunate that this amendment went down. As anyone who has been outside during a storm when the planes are being rerouted due to weather down the Saddle River Valley or Pascack Valley knows, it gets really loud. The other night I thought a plane was landing in my house, and the idea of it being a permanent thing is not something I'm looking forward to.

On a sidenote, the number of people that attended seems to go up with each Garrett release talking about the event. That being said, with hundreds showing up at the last public meeting to protest the change, it's a hot button issue for a lot of people.

Regardless of the final headcount, it's truly disingenuous for Garrett to take credit for the work of others on this issue; making it seem like he was the lead dog on this when it's so easy to figure out he wasn't. It's another example of how he misrepresents the truth when addressing his constituents.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

YouTube Debate Link

They've put up the entire debate and you can see it here. I'm looking forward to catching up on it tonight.

The What Squad?

In making his argument against the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) with his fellow Republican Study Caucus members, Representative Scott Garrett said something that was rather jarring.
But you know, you don't have to listen to The Official Truth Squad here on the floor each week to know that things are oftentimes amiss when it comes to the efficiency and the accountability of the Federal Government.
The Official What Squad?

Just look at what Garrett's done so far this year and you see how this effort in self-branding is akin to using spit for shoeshine. This said by the man who would have voters believe he voted for earmark reform he voted against. This from the man that says he's looking out for the family budget, but should add "except when your family budget involves a college student, driving a car, becoming a new homeowner, or owning a small business." And don't forget the family budgets of the working poor he constantly votes against. This from the man who made up a study by the New York Times to try and make a point. This from the man who has been caught exaggerating the facts regarding the budget.

The Official What Squad? Are you kidding?

If Garrett was honest with voters and they elected him with his voting record that would be one thing; but he isn't and I really don't believe they do. This sort of, oh what was I told to call it, lying is a major part of the problem with Garrett.

Ariyan On the State Senate

Well, new Record columnist Charles Stile wrote an interesting column about Senator Gerry Cardinale's re-election bid. However, the thing I found most interesting was Joe Ariyan's view of what a State Senator is to do.
"There will always be avenues, legal and ethically, for your state senator, to... bring home the bacon," he says. "That's what representatives do. ... That's their job."

Well, that's a pretty free standing statement on his governance philosophy, now isn't it.

The YouTube Debate

I was listening to as much of it as I could at work, and it was great. I loved hearing the candidates having to answer questions from real people and seeing how they did responding to those questions. As soon as I find out where they have the answers I'll throw a link to that up here as well.

You can still submit questions for the Republicans who will be debating in September. Hopefully, I won't be working that night and can watch the whole thing.

This kind of format should be repeated before the general election for both party's nominees.

Subsidizing the Dead

For those that hadn't heard about this, over the last 7 years the USDA has handed out $1.1 billion to more than 170,000 dead farmers. That works out to roughly $64,000 per farmer who at most was pushing up daisies while collecting a check from the government. This from the AP:
Of the identified payments to deceased farmers' estates or businesses, 40 percent went to those who had been dead more than three years, and 19 percent went to those who had been dead for seven or more years.

What could that billion dollars have gone toward? How do we the taxpayers get it back? It's pretty awful that we hand out subsidies to dead people, yet we we can't get our government to take care of our living soldiers who were disabled in combat. Something needs to be done to protect the taxpayers, where the GAO audits programs more regularly to prevent this kind of negligence.

Monday, July 23, 2007

BCRO elects Ortiz

PoliticsNJ has a good article about the new head of the Bergen County Republican Organization, Rob Ortiz. This was a good move, not only for the Republicans but for Bergen County as a whole. The decline of the BCRO has led to one party rule, which is never a good thing.

While there are only a few short months before the election, the idea of having new leadership to take on Papa Joe's pay-to-play happy Freeholders is a good thing I commented on months ago. If nothing else, the ability of Republicans to mount a credible campaign may lead Democrats to better governance. For our system of government to be effective, there has to be alternatives. Hopefully, Ortiz can restore the BCRO to being a contender for the sake of all taxpayers in Bergen.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Clean Elections, Federal Style

After reading the NJ Herald's account of how the clean elections program is going in the 24th Legislative District (Steve Oroho, Alison Littell McHose and Gary Chiusano vs. Edwin Selby, Pat Walsh and Toni Zimmer), one has to wonder if anything like it could ever work on the Federal level. Here's how the program works, from the NJ Herald:
To qualify for public financing under the state program, candidates must receive at least 400 contributions of $10 each, or $4,000, in order to get $46,000 in public dollars for a total campaign fund of $50,000. By receiving the maximum 800 $10 contributions, or $8,000, the matching public funds will bring each candidate to $100,000. Contributions must be from registered voters in the legislative district, and candidates must submit weekly reports to the state.

Candidates also are entitled to up to $10,000 in "seed money," which is comprised of donations of $500 or less from individual registered voters in the state, not any organizations.
While proponents of pay-to-play probably cringe at that last part, for the rest of us tired of corruption and the undue influence of special interest dollars in politics it's a breath of fresh air.

It would not be impossible to implement this at the Federal level, and I've outlined the cost, barriers and impact such a program may have on Washington below.

The Numbers

With the Census Bureau estimating New Jersey has 8,724,560 people, each of our 40 legislative districts represents roughly 218,114 people. Assuming each candidate achieves the maximum number of donations, that means each legislative district is paying $552,000, or $2.50 per person.

With each Congressional District representing roughly 703,500 people, if the percentage of required donors relative to population served remained the same (0.366%), each candidate would need to collect roughly 2,600 qualifying donations.

When you compare that to the 837 individual donations (0.119%) received by Representative Scott Garrett and the 811 received (0.115%) by Paul Aronsohn last year, you can see just how few individuals are actually participating in the process. Eliminate out of district donations, and it's even fewer.

The total pot of money using the same sort of formula would need to be $1.78 million, or $890,000 per candidate. That's more than either Garrett or Aronsohn raised from individuals, but less than Garrett had when adding special interest dollars. Realistically, this could and probably would be reduced as that amount exceeds what most campaigns raised and spent on the general election.

In the event it wasn't reduced, the total program cost for clean elections in the House: $775 million, assuming no Independents qualify for the maximum and each main party candidate qualifies for and spends the maximum (unused funds are returned to the Treasury).

In order to do this in the Senate, some minor tweaks would have to be made. The number of qualifying donations could be adjusted to meet each state's individual population so that each candidate would receive the same amount per person represented. For example, last year's campaign for Senate in New Jersey would have given each candidate $11 million, while in Pennsylvania they would have received $15.7 million each.

Due to the fact 1/3 of the Senate is up for reelection every two years, you could tack on another $258 million for those and bring the grand total for the program to slightly over $1 billion dollars per election cycle.

The Barriers

First off, getting politicians and their campaign staff to want to, at a minimum in most cases, triple or quadruple the number of donations from individuals they need to receive is unlikely. For example, Senator Bob Menendez brought in 8,701 individual donations (0.099%) last year; if the funding formula remained the same it would have to go to 32,000. However, with over 1.1 million registered Democrats within the state, a main party campaign should be able to pull it off.

Second, you'll have every special interest group saying their free speech is being limited if they don't get to donate to campaigns during the general election. There are 4,138 PACs who would want to be able to donate, as with NJ's program, they would still be able to donate during the primary and could send out an e-mail to their members living within a political district to send a check to their choice of candidate in the general. Those who want campaign cash to be the greatest influence in politics are unlikely to be happy with this idea. This would likely lead to one heck of a Supreme Court fight.

Third, you'll have the politics as usual power brokers serving within the House and Senate that would fight this plan. They'd come up with any number of reasons, but eliminating their ability to affect a general with that last second $5,000 donation from either their campaign or Leadership PAC, and therefore having a chip once a winning Representative comes to Washington, is a huge strike against this for them. Once again, they could donate toward the primary and see where things fall.

The Impact

While one might scoff at the $1 billion price tag, think about the reduction in the corruption tax each of us pays. The $90 billion of corporate welfare Garrett voted against removing a little while ago is just one example of where special interest crafted legislation costs taxpayers. Eliminate all of that and how much could we save? How much lower could our taxes go?

Also, clean elections would involve more people in the process. If a candidate had to come up with 2,600 donations from individuals living within the District, they would have to spend less time trying to woo the special interests and out of state mega donors, and more time with the actual people they represent. Imagine what might happen if candidates actually had to meet with the people they serve in order to get the money they need to get elected.

Sure, the special interests would still be players in the primary, but how difficult would it be to justify to the masses not participating in the program for the general because a candidate is a slave to the PACs? In many cases, the amount of money that would be provided is more than many candidates raise from individual and PAC contributions combined in an election cycle. The program eliminates the undo pressure so many feel to kowtow to the special interests as opposed to legislating according to their constituents' interests and beliefs.

I realize this may be a 1,200 word idealistic pipe dream, that would need a lot of work, but as a government intended to be of the people, by the people and for the people: if we wanted this there should be no reason we can't have it.

Faith in our elected officials continues to spiral downward, and corruption and campaign donation motivated partisanship are the primary reasons. While someone like Barak Obama will forgo PAC money, many politicians can't seem to get their hands out of the cookie jar. Having clean elections would force the candidates to change and has the potential of restoring faith in government in a way the super majority of our current officials can't seem to figure out how to do on their own.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Mass Politicization Rundown

As mentioned earlier this week, it seems our Representative Scott Garrett was the beneficiary of a taxpayer funded trip from the ONDCP based on White House political election strategy; rather than Garrett's genuine desire to update our District on what was going on with regard to drug policy. The folks over at Think Progress have compiled a list, with sources, of how widespread the mass politicization has been. (h/t pastordan at Street Prophets).

It is truly an astonishing and nauseating list. If we as a people ever have the misfortune of electing another administration with such contempt for their duty, whether Republican or Democratic, we need to demand this sort of abuse of power will not go as unchecked by Congress as it did for the last six years.

The adminsitration and their supporters whine about the oversight investigations being conducted by Rep. Henry Waxman and others as partisan theater. However, I firmly believe that if the great leaders of the Republican Party's heritage were alive today they probably would have ridden Bush and his cronies out of town on a rail by now.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Garrett, the Big Spender

OK, that's a joke.

Actually, our Representative Scott Garrett got a pretty good amendment through yesterday. He secured an extra $20 million for cancer and autism research ($10 million each), while eliminating $49 million from a program being phased out that for some reason was still in the budget. Garrett's been criticized in the past for his lack of effort when it came to the autism community, so this is a nice olive branch.

One thing that seemed a little odd was how flippantly the amendment was accepted. I have a lot of respect for Representative Dave Obey, Chair of the Appropriations Committee, largely because he'll put his foot down and yank earmarks from bills if people are being less than productive in their discussion. However, here's what he said regarding the amendment offered before Garrett's and of Garrett's:
Mr. Chairman, because we are trying to get Members out of here for their planes, I would be happy to accept the gentleman’s amendment.


Again, the same deal, if we accept the amendment. We are trying to help get Members out of here.

Good for Garrett on the amendment and hopefully everybody had a nice flight home.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Garrett vs. Young - Observations

So Representative Don Young exploded on our Representative Scott Garrett. Young has a reputation as a brawler, and also the King of House Pork. His "my money" thing is how he operates, and the threats are normal for him.

Rolling Stone ranked Young third on their list of 10 Worst Congressmen. From that article:

Such coarseness is a Young hallmark. He once called environmentalists a "self-centered bunch of waffle-stomping, Harvard-graduating, intellectual idiots" who "are not Americans, never have been Americans, never will be Americans." And during a debate on the right of native Alaskans to sell the sex organs of endangered animals as aphrodisiacs, Young whipped out the eighteen-inch penis bone of a walrus and brandished it like a sword on the House floor.

If, in fact, Garrett introduced this amendment without talking with Young about it, a Republican known for this sort of stuff, how could anybody be surprised by his explosion?

What agitates me the most about this isn't Garrett's act to pull the funds; Garrett doesn't want the Federal government involved in education and he hates earmarks, so this action was his standard operating procedure (SOP).

However, this event highlights other SOPs of Garrett that should worry the rest of us:

First, you have the fact he would target a fellow member on the House floor, of his own caucus no less, without giving the courtesy of a heads up. Garrett should have talked to the Representatives of Alaska and Hawaii first, or introduced an amendment to strip all the earmarks.

Second, you have his initial weak, confused and self-centered response. Try as they might, his aides could not take the deer caught in the headlights look off his face. A member of the House slams the reputation of our State and our Congressmen and the first thing Garrett tries to do is defend himself. Give me a break. I appreciated the response that came later, and I'm hoping it had some passion with it as opposed to Garrett's usually flat delivery.

Third, and this is a big one: institutional ignorance. When Young talks about "killing" other Congressmen, he's not kidding. Young is a prolific fundraiser, and he spreads a lot of cash around to other members running for office and the national party. Last election cycle, his campaign committee doled out $231,000, with his Leadership PAC handing out another $159,328; compared to Garrett's $0 from his campaign and not having a Leadership PAC. Also, Young's total does not include the lobbyist directed funds from those lobbyists he has relationships with, such as big oil.

As wrong as it is, and symbolic of how sick Washington has become, this is where Young derives his power from on the Hill and how he's been able to get all those pork projects at the expense of New Jersey's taxpayers. With Republicans only getting 40% of earmarked funds at this point, now the projects our District needs federal funds for (like the 287 and Rt. 17 exchange renovation) have a bulls eye on them.

Garrett needs to fight for reform, but he has to be smart about it: you don't do it by surprise and you sure don't pick your first fight over funding for poor kids. The manner in which Garrett did this was a first week Freshman Representative's error that our third term Congressman should have had the foresight to realize his actions have the distinct possibility of further hurting our District. Garrett's amendment went down in flames, with even the rest of the New Jersey delegation voting against it. However, the damage this effort could do to our District may last much longer than a ten minute spitting match on the floor of the House.

Thanks, Scott.

Garrett vs. Young - Video and Text

Over at Blue Jersey, Talking Points Memo, The Hill, and a number of other sites, everybody is talking about how Republican Representative Don Young of Alaska verbally smacked Representative Scott Garrett around like a thirdhand ragdoll.

I don't have video of Garrett's response, but his tepid parliamentary inquiry made him look scared (more on that later). Here's the text though, which could be read as being forceful, however that can't be confirmed. It was split due to his allotted time.

As the Representative from the Fifth District of the State of New Jersey, I remind the gentleman from Alaska that the State of New Jersey has 13 congressional Representatives from both sides of the aisle. And so when the gentleman from Alaska makes reference to our Representatives from the State of New Jersey not doing their job and not appropriately representing the people of the State, I remind him that it is an accusation not against simply this one gentleman who is standing at the microphone right now proposing this one amendment, but it is an entire body of 13 gentlemen from both sides of the aisle who I say, and I commend both Representatives from the Democrat and the Republican side of the aisle, for appropriately and admirably representing the good citizens from the State of New Jersey.

My colleagues from the other 12 districts do not need to be defended against these rash accusations by the gentleman from Alaska. But I do come to the floor now to appropriately defend them, nonetheless.


I also take up the comment that the gentleman from Texas was just making reference to which the gentleman from Alaska stated in his statement what was ``my money'' or it is Alaska's money. Well, maybe that is the problem we have had in this Congress for too long, even when Republicans were in the majority and now that the Democrats are the majority, too. Too many Members of Congress see the dollars that we appropriate here not as the taxpayers' dollar, but see it as their very own personal checking account. Maybe that is the fundamental problem that we have with why we spend more and more each year.

I remember when the Democrats were running for office this past election. They were railing against the Republican Party, that we were the party out of control, spending more and more and more. If they were elected to office, they would come here and rein things in when it came to spending. And I served on the Budget Committee when the Democrats were in the minority, and how they railed against us from the other side of the aisle. And at times I even agreed with them on some of the charges that they made, that we were spending too much money.

And now when the Democrats take control, what do they do? Give us the largest tax increase in U.S. history, and we see spending continue to go through the roof. Where do those dollars come from? They come from American taxpayers, from the family budgets, from men and women in Alaska and New Jersey and across this country, working hard just to get by, and yet they are being forced by the Democrats' tax increases to send more dollars here to Washington.

When the gentleman from Alaska comes forth and says it is "my money,'' maybe that is why in some respects when there are projects that are appropriated such as bridges to nowhere and the like, the American public says that is our dollars going to Washington, and it shouldn't be looked at for just such frivolous things as this.

The amendment that's before us right now is an appropriate amendment to say that the hard-earned tax dollars should go to programs that are necessary but be spent in an effective manner.

Members from all 50 States see the need to educate our children. Members from all 50 States, including the State of New Jersey, see the need to deal with the issue of Alaska native students, and that is why this administration has already requested appropriations of $1 billion for that, $118 million in other categorical aids such as that. So all we are doing is saying make sure that those dollars that come from New Jersey and elsewhere are spent effectively.

Finally, to close on this point of ``my money,'' maybe the gentleman from Alaska was not listening at the opening of my comments when I said that New Jersey taxpayers send a dollar to Washington and only get 63 cents back on the dollar, whereas his constituents, yes, they do much better. They send a dollar to Washington and then they get $1.80 back.

I would ask the gentleman from Alaska and other Members from the Democrat side of the aisle, where do they think that other 80 cents on the dollar is coming from? I will tell you it's coming from the good, hardworking taxpayers from the State of New Jersey and Connecticut and New York that are donor States to States like Alaska, that we are subsidizing their programs.

I would ask the gentleman from Alaska to refrain from, therefore, referring to it as his money. It is the taxpayers in the Fifth Congressional District and the rest of New Jersey, whether you're in a Democrat district or Republican district, who are helping fund these programs.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Garrett, Rove/Taylor & the ONDCP

Well, it looks like the White House was worried about our Representative Scott Garrett last year after all. In the on-going investigation into the politicization of every Executive Branch department, Rep. Henry Waxman and his committee uncovered a memo where former White House political director Sara Taylor reported on the progress of events the Directory of the Office of National Drug Control Policy and his deputies were "suggested" to attend.

Right there, listed on July 22, 2006 were the events Garrett held in Paramus and Augusta, that Garrett invited people to through a Garrett Gazette, was touted by the Bergen County Republicans, and if memory serves, received coverage in the NJ Herald for the Sussex part of the trip.***

At the behest of the White House's political director, taxpayers footed the bill for Garrett to have a meet and greet with the Deputy Director of the ONDCP. The overall program was so successful, an e-mail was sent out to everybody who participated. Here's a taste:

I just wanted to give you all a summary of a post November 7th update I received the other night. Presidential Personnel pulled together a meeting of all of the Administration's White House Liaison's and the WH Political Affairs office. Karl Rove opened the meeting with a thank you for all of the work that went into the surrogate appearances by Cabinet members and for the 72 Hour deployment. He specifically thanked, for going above and beyond the call of duty, the Dept. of Commerce, Transportation, Agriculture, AND the WH Drug Policy Office.

The WH Drug Policy office is the ONDCP. Now, while one might think that this is a coincidence, the e-mail that probably best explains how the system works was one sent from the USDA (Agriculture):
We would like to hold a briefing for our political appointees on the strategy we should focus on over the next several months. Everyone knows the general strategy, but I think people need a pick-me-up reminder.


Specifically, I feel like people need to hear the message about resisting the urge to travel to the districts of key committee chairmen and members for the sake of building relationships...that the White House determines which members need visits and where we need to be strategically placing our assets.

Wow. Taxpayer funded "asset placing", to White House determined members needing visits. Sounds an awful lot like Garrett got some taxpayer funded campaign help from the ONDCP. We'll see what, if anything, comes of this; however it's fishy as hell and our Garrett is caught in the stink.

***I can't get their archive search to work, but as soon as I have a link I'll put it up

Garrett vs. Housing & Fiscal Responsibility

Today, Representative Scott Garrett joined 49 other Representatives in opposing two Federal programs that enable rural working families to obtain a piece of the American Dream: home ownership. He was the only Representative from New Jersey to vote against the Housing Assistance Council authorization and against the Rural Housing and Economic Development Act.

In joining only 12% of voting members opposed to these programs, Garrett stood against working families and rural communities that need a hand up. During my non-profit experience I came in contact with both of these programs; the expertise they offer and seed money they provide enables a great return on the taxpayer's dollar through stronger communities and families.

The fact Garrett would vote to uphold $19 billion in corporate welfare, yet he would vote against a combined $45 million going toward strengthening communities so that they will be less dependent on federal aid is ridiculous. Garrett may claim to be a fiscal conservative, and win the awards from the anti-tax crowd; but when he votes against programs that lead to self-sufficiency, stronger communities, and less reliance on the federal government you have to wonder if he has any foresight whatsoever.

Let's be realistic; there will always be Americans who need help. However, in many cases they simply need a hand-up instead of a hand out. By opposing these hand-up programs, Garrett is supporting the perpetual taxpayer funded hand-out by default. How is that being fiscally responsible?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Garrett Cash Update

The report was finally updated.

Representative Scott Garrett raised $280,155 last quarter, and has $300,555 cash on hand. This is a pretty large sum, which gives him roughly $110,000 more than he had this time last election cycle.

One question though, his last report ended with him having $238,144 cash on hand and this one says he started with $191,044. What happened to the $47,100?

2nd Quarter Cash: Abate, Aronsohn, Garrett

While the Presidential candidates get all the press, here in our 5th District the dash for cash also had reports published on the web today.

Last quarter, announced candidate Camille Abate brought in $34,859 and has $18,872 cash on hand. Paul Aronsohn took in $1,823, leaving him $14,777 after spending $8,765. Aronsohn had promised an announcement of his intentions in late spring, which still hasn't happened. Whether or not Aronsohn's running at this point, when re-match seekers like Linda Stender and Tom Wyka have already announced their intentions, may make people (like me and others I've spoken with) wonder.

The numbers for Representative Scott Garrett are unclear. Herb Jackson, of The Record, reports Garrett's contributions for last quarter at $127,438 and cash on hand of $ 476,515. However, the link he gave is to Garrett's old report citing the $238,144, I wrote about earlier this year. I searched the site for the current report, and it wasn't there.

If Garrett's campaign spent nothing, the difference between the $365,582 he could have and the $476,515 is a good chunk of change. However, campaign accounts often invest their funds to gain interest, and if the return was that large over three months, everyone should ask Garrett's people where they put their money.

As soon as the link is updated I'll update the figures in this post.

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Iraq Vote

It's not a surprise that the vote on the resolution to begin redeploying troops went pretty much along party lines. Our Representative Scott Garrett joined most of the Republicans in Congress opposing the resolution. The partisan talking points are expected, and if Garrett said anything in the four plus hours of debate I'll post it here tomorrow in its entirety.

We already know that the Administration underequiped the troops, has not been able to stop corruption in Iraq, and has wasted taxpayer dollars paying billions to contractors for jobs Iraqis can do themselves. What evidence are the Republicans waiting for to change their minds?

At this point this vote is primarily about supporting the troops, and acknowledging this may be the worst managed war in American history. It's not the soldiers' fault, it's the very bureaucrats and politicians saying the war shouldn't be run by politicians and polls. Our troops have been willing to answer the call while the politicians and political appointees on the other end of the line don't respect their lives enough to protect them.

Just yesterday, the AP detailed the Inspector General of the Pentagon's report detailing just one of many areas where the Administration failed to protect our men and women in harm's way and Congress's abdication of their oversight responsibility over the last few years cost lives:
The Defense Department put U.S. troops in Iraq at risk by awarding contracts for badly needed armored vehicles to companies that failed to deliver them on time, according to a review by the Pentagon's inspector general.


Force Protection failed to meet all delivery schedules, according to the report, and acquisition officials knew there were other manufacturers that might have supplied some of the vehicles in a more timely fashion.


The report, not yet publicly released, also criticizes the Army's award of a $266-million contract for crew protection kits to Simula Aerospace and Defense Group, a subsidiary of Armor Holdings of Jacksonville, Fla. Simula lacked the internal controls necessary to ensure delivery of the kits, which were needed to make military vehicles less vulnerable to roadside bombs and small-arms fire, according to the report. The Army received kits "with missing and unusable components, which increased installation time and required additional reinspection of kits," according to the report.

There is next to nothing that inspires rage in me like reading about stuff like this. I've listened to my friends talking about their time over there, either participating in or knowing those who had to scavenge scrap metal. Instead of being provided with the equipment they needed, our soldiers made do by welding hunks of metal and lining the floors of their Humvees with sandbags to try and stay alive. For the majority of our 3,160 deaths in Iraq having to make do was fatal, for the tens of thousands injured it didn't work out so well either.

Compare the reality of the situation with the "support the troops" campaign rhetoric espoused by Garrett, as reported by The Record last year:
He became impassioned when he was asked about voting in favor of defense appropriations. "I wish they were home right now," he said. "I wish this whole war was over. I wish we were successful, but as long as our sons and daughters are in harm's way ... by golly, I'm going to make sure they have every darn thing they need."

By golly, they haven't had every darn thing they've needed since the beginning, and Garrett knew it when he said this and he knew it today. How is voting to continue the current mismanagement of the war anything less than letting the troops down?

Adding insult to national injury, you have the report released today dealing with the benchmarks. The Iraqis have failed to make satisfactory progress on the more than half of the benchmarks set forth, and they're complaining about our focus on results. We're spending $10 billion a month, and the Administration wants us to be heartened by the fact they've spent a total of $7.6 billion on reconstruction.

If that's the case, then that means the $8 billion reported to be missing earlier this year was almost all our money. As I noted at the time, that's not even the whole amount stolen from US taxpayers because the Iraqis have it in their Constitution that Cabinet ministers can block corruption investigations. So, in essence, continuing to vote to support the Administration's methods is a vote to continue giving taxpayer money to those who feel they have a Constitutional right to be corrupt.

Then of course you have the cost of the war being inflated by no-bid contracting of civilian contractors, and the implication that plays in making employment in a militia appealing to Iraqis. KBR, the largest private contractor in Iraq, had over 1,000 jobs available in Iraq on their website this evening. Not only are taxpayers paying a salary premium for the danger involved, we're paying an administrative fee to KBR for finding the individual. How many of those jobs could be filled by Iraqis at much less of a cost to taxpayers?

With all of this information available to Congress before it's available to us, it's mindblowing that Garrett and others continue to vote to keep doing the same thing. What is it going to take for those like Garrett to vote to support the troops and protect taxpayers?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Harriet Miers, Going to Jail?

As she said she would, Harriet Miers skipped the House hearing she was supposed to attend regarding the firing of US District Attorneys. Now, the committee has cleared the way for Contempt of Congress charges to be filed. An earlier AP report I read cited the fact that the US District Attorney in DC would have to prosecute such charges, and it would be unlikely Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez would authorize such a prosecution as he is the one being investigated.

However, in an article written by John W. Dean two months ago about the contempt that Gonzalez and the Administration have for Congress, he pointed out another avenue they could take:
Congress has two routes to travel, once it holds any person in contempt. It can proceed by the statutory route, which requires the Department of Justice to handle the prosecution. But since the Attorney General could block that route, the Congress would have good reason to use its inherent powers and procedures, instead.

Thus, Congress could --taking a page from Gonzales's playbook -- send fifteen plainclothes Capitol Hill police officers to arrest the Attorney General and take him into custody. Either the House or Senate, alone, would have the power to hold him until the end of the 110th Congress. In truth, a majority of either chamber of Congress has more power than a president, the Department of Justice, and federal courts to take summary actions against those who refuse to honor its processes.

Of course, this is not likely to happen. Congress has the power to do so if it so chooses. But because most of those in Washington with experience do not think like Gonzales, they will exhibit respect for interbranch customs instead of simply jailing the Attorney General.

Will this latest play by the President push those holding restraint and maintaining institutional respect past the tipping point? It should be interesting to see how this all plays out; but considering they've already taken the first steps to start the contempt proceedings it seems Congress's patience with the President has worn out.

Garrett vs. Education, Again

So, I'll be curious to see what if anything Representative Scott Garrett had to say before voting against HR 2669, the College Cost Reduction Act of 2007. The primary victory for working parents and their college bound children is an interest rate cut of 50% (6.8 to 3.4%) and an increase in Pell Grant amounts. Here's a summary of some of the other perks, from the AP:

- Provides scholarships worth $4,000 a year to college students who agree to teach hard-to staff subjects, like math, in low-income schools.

- Offers $5,000 in loan forgiveness for college graduates who go into public-service

- Caps annual loan repayments at a percentage of a student's income, which is aimed at preventing people from having to pay back more than they can afford.

In the finest traditions of PAYGO, which Garrett also voted against reinstituting, this Bill achieves these tangible benefits for working families by eliminating something: $19 billion dollars in corporate welfare.

This is actually the second time Garrett has voted against decreasing the interest rates he voted to increase back in 2006. So the next time you hear him talking about looking out for the family budget; it's important to remember Garrett has directly voted against working families, who have dreams of a college education for their children, 3 times in the last year and a half.

I'll post anything Garrett said tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

No-Bidding Bergen: $125,000 Grapevine

Today, The Record ran a story about the new lobbying firm started by former NJ Transit Chief George Warrington, along with former McGreevey Cheifs of Staff Jamie Fox and Eric Shuffler. Turns out, the Democrats running Hackensack awarded these three a $120,000 no-bid contract to act as our county's lobbyists. Their firm was the only one to apply for the job:
Shuffler said his firm heard about the advertisement "through the grapevine," and later checked the county's Web site for details. Its principals had no contact with county officials before the contract was advertised, Shuffler said.

The corruption of the Papa Joe Ferriero run Bergen County Democratic Organization makes the first instinct when you hear something like this to think they must have given a campaign donation. When the grapevine thing came through, then you almost have to think that Papa Joe pulled some strings. After checking the ELEC website, as of right now it doesn't appear the donation theory holds.

Instead, this appears to be a case of the Democratic party paying back Democratic operatives (Fox & Shuffler) for years of service, and using taxpayer dollars to do it. We already pay over $1.4 million in salaries for state legislators to handle Trenton, and $330,000 for Representatives Scott Garrett and Steve Rothman down in Washington. Are they not advocating for us?

What about the Freeholders themselves, or our County Executive? They can't get their behinds down to Trenton or Washington to advocate on our behalf? It was noted in the article that the county has been disappointed with their ability to get funds in the past; there are a lot of ways to improve upon that, but using taxpayer dollars for lobbyists is politics as usual garbage.

There is simply something perverse about politicians hiring lobbyists to lobby politicians.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Happy 49th!

Just a quick note to say Happy Birthday to our Representative Scott Garrett.

Hope it's a great day for you, and your staff remembered to get you a cake.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Live Earth - Now What?

So the show is over, the bands and fans have gone home, and there were some 1,800 articles listed on Google News about the whole thing. So what does it really mean? What happens next? Will it make a difference?

Probably the most blistering speech given was by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr at the New Jersey show. His point was basically that all of us can and should do all of the little things they recommend to reduce our individual impact; however national public policy can only change when the politicians in Washington do it.

For those of us here in the Fifth, we already know Representative Scott Garrett is against Congress taking action on climate change. Garrett recently was the only Representative from New Jersey to vote to strip the following language from an appropriations bill (h/t Scott in NJ):
SEC. 501. (a) The Congress finds that--

(1) greenhouse gases accumulating in the atmosphere are causing average temperatures to rise at a rate outside the range of natural variability and are posing a substantial risk of rising sea-levels, altered patterns of atmospheric and oceanic circulation, and increased frequency and severity of floods, droughts, and wildfires;

(2) there is a growing scientific consensus that human activity is a substantial cause of greenhouse gas accumulation in the atmosphere; and

(3) mandatory steps will be required to slow or stop the growth of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. (b) It is the sense of the Congress that there should be enacted a comprehensive and effective national program of mandatory, market-based limits and incentives on emissions of greenhouse gases that slow, stop, and reverse the growth of such emissions at a rate and in a manner that (1) will not significantly harm the United States economy; and (2) will encourage comparable action by other nations that are major trading partners and key contributors to global emissions.

I'm not sure why Garrett opposed this language, maybe he read one of the reports written by the scientists hired by the Exxon backed American Enterprise Institute to dispute global warming and is confused. Fortunately, the rest of New Jersey's delegation (Republicans and Democrats) understood the importance of putting this in writing.

The debate over acid rain went roughly the same way. Scientists, those impacted, and those that read about what was going on were screaming for help; while opponents of regulation painted the scientists as idiots, the activists as fringe, and rolled out their own "experts" to confuse the issue.

However, in that case the government went ahead and implemented regulation with stunning success in achieving reductions. The economy didn't collapse, there was a tangible reduction in the release of acid rain causing chemicals and the environment has begun to recover. Now, faced with over $4 billion a year in crop losses, among other things, China has started to close their coal fired plants to combat their own acid rain issue.

So now, we have a choice to make: do we as a District accept the fact that we have a Representative who would rather have us sit on our hands and do nothing about climate change; or do we get a new Representative. This isn't a partisan issue, as the rest of our delegation proved. This is a big beefy issue that needs people up to the challenge, and by all appearances it seems we don't have that kind of Representative at the moment.

Live Earth - Update 3

I'm watching the replay of the Foo Fighters in London at the moment and checking out the media reports on the event. Of note, considering my earlier post, is that Zach Braff once again showed his love of his roots. From USA Today:
During the concert, most of the artists were giving shout outs to being in New York City. When Scrubs' Zach Braff stepped on stage, the New Jersey native said, "People keep saying this is New York, and I'm sick of it and tired of it. We're in the beautiful state of New Jersey!" The crowd screamed and cheered.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Live Earth - Update 2

So, watching the London show I've enjoyed the intentional set design of having something recycled as the light fixtures. Australia had tires, London has oil drum lids. While one is a product of petroleum, the other is what's used to deliver it. Looks good.

I suppose as I'm getting ready to go pay almost $3 a gallon to fill my car, one of my continuing frustrations with the naysayers on climate change is their complete lack of economic patriotism. Oil prices have been cited as hurting small business, who Inc. Magazine cited as creating 60% of the new jobs in the nation last month. Don't believe in global warming, fine, then take a look at our sagging GDP growth and rising inflation.

Implementing these measures reduces oil consumption and saves money for families and businesses. The oil industry has told us time and again that they're not gouging because prices are based on supply and demand. More recently they've said they're not going to increase supply, so our only recourse is to reduce demand. Kind of like my doing the South Beach Diet, it's not about changing yourself for a short time (ex. drilling off the Jersey Coast), it's about changing your mindset. Individually, as families, and as a nation changing our mindset only has benefits.

There's a lot each of us can do in our own lives to save a few bucks here and a few bucks there, and it will add up. On a government level, any elected representative opposing implementing many of these measures is wasting taxpayer money making taxes higher than they need to be and our national debt worse. I don't know why that's not said more often, but it's the truth.

Live Earth - Update

Ok, Missy Higgins just finished her set and she's good.

I'm less interested in seeing the crowd in between sets and seeing the films they're showing. However, I'm done for the night.

In the event I don't get back on here tomorrow, here's the things they're asking people to pledge to help improve the environment. Environmentalists seem to be particularly verbose, so for the naysayers out there let's put this another way; here are 10 ways you can save yourself a good amount of money.

Courtesy of Conservation International

Do your part to ensure a healthy planet by incorporating these ten simple actions into your everyday life.

1) Replace your incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). Look closely at labels when buying light bulbs. Those marked as CFLs last 10 times longer and use 66 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs while delivering the same light levels. As a result, CFLs accrue net savings between $30 and $45 over their lifetimes, depending on your cost of electricity, the wattage size of the CFL, and the lamp's lifespan (manufacturers make CFLs that last 6,000, 8,000, or 10,000 hours). The return on investment is 15 times higher than leaving your money in a bank account or the average return on Dows-Jones stock investments. CFLs also reduce the release of greenhouse gas emissions and are safer because they burn at a lower temperature (160° F or less) than incandescent and halogen lights, which can burn at temperatures up to 500° F.

2) Turn down the thermostat just three degrees in the winter and up three degrees in the summer. You can prevent the emission of nearly 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide annually.

3) Inflate your car tires. When walking or biking isn't feasible, you can do something to better protect the Earth while driving. Take a step in the right direction by inflating your car tires. Pumping them up can improve your gas mileage by about 3.3 percent -- a savings of about 7 cents per gallon. It's the right thing to do for your wallet and the right thing to do for the Earth.

4) Turn down the hot water heater. Set your water heater to 130° F. While you're at it, turn down your house thermostat during the winter to 55° F when you go to bed or leave home. These simple actions can have enormous positive consequences, preventing the emission of more than 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide over the course of the year, while cutting your energy bill by more than 10 percent. And that's just from you! Get your friends on board, and the benefits will multiply.

5) Choose your seafood wisely. We can't afford to wait until 2008. The world's seafood will be entirely depleted by 2048, according to an early November report in the journal Science. That means the moment to shape up is now. By buying and eating certain types of seafood, you can discourage harmful fishing practices and avoid the more depleted or threatened species. Take a look at Seafood Choices Alliance or Seafood Watch to make smart choices.

6) Purchase EnergyStar-labeled appliances. EnergyStar products are among the top 25 percent most efficient and can provide a 30 percent return or better through lower utility bills.

7) Wash and rinse in cold water. If everyone in the United States alone switched to cold water with their washing machines, we could save about 30 million tons of carbon dioxide each year -- and more than $3 billion in energy costs, collectively. And what's more? Cold water cleans your laundry just as well as hot water.

8) Buy locally produced meats and produce. Sounds like a good idea, but you don't know where to start? Just type in your zip code on Local Harvest's website to see a list of farms and farmers' markets close to home, as well as nearby restaurants committed to supporting their neighbors. Buying locally produced food cuts out the middlemen and the vast amounts of energy required to get your products onto store shelves. Most produce in U.S. supermarkets travels an average 1,500 miles before it is sold!

9) Drink more water from reusable glassware. It's great for your bank account, your health, and your planet. The average American consumed more than 400 beverage bottles and cans in 2006, leaving behind wasted glass, plastic, steel, and aluminum. That adds up to excessive amounts of fossil fuels and hydropower for mining, processing, refining, shaping, shipping, storing, refrigerating, and disposing of those materials. Of course, changing your drinking habits both at home and at work is applicable to just about every other habit, as well. You've heard it before and you'll hear it again: Reduce, reuse, and recycle.

10) Walk, bike, and carpool. In the United States, the car represents one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions. However, you don't have to give up your car for a healthier planet, just expand your transportation options. You can significantly reduce your emissions by commuting to work. Try combining trips to minimize emissions, which are greatest at the beginning of a journey before the engine has reached optimum temperature and efficiency. When purchasing your next car, make it a fuel-efficient one. Hybrid cars can get twice the fuel efficiency of the average new car, cut greenhouse gas emissions by half or more, and reduce urban air pollutants. Carpooling saves energy, cuts on additional pollution, and allows you to take a turn as a passenger instead of driving everyday. Car-sharing (not pooling) is available in numerous U.S. cities. Car-sharing enables you to rent a car just when you need it. Each car-share vehicle displaces four to eight privately held cars, requiring less parking area and creating less road congestion. If you live within an hour's bicycle ride to the office (~10 miles), consider biking to work one or more days a week

Live Earth - It's in NJ

So, I'm watching/listening to the Live Earth show from Australia while I'm working on another project. The band playing at the moment is Eskimo Joe. They're really good musicians and absolutely not helping me stay up as they're rather slow. There's no shot of me staying up for Wolfmother, which is what I could use at the moment.

MSN has the show times and line-ups here. Last time I checked, there are tickets still available to the show at Giants Stadium if you have a minimum of $200+ to blow per ticket (all the $100 variety are gone).

On another note, you can count me among those that's annoyed they refer to it as being Live Earth New York. Today, Corzine signed what many consider the toughest green house gas reduction bill in the United States, if not the world, with enforceable targets. Love the bill or hate the bill, it's New Jersey's bill and not New York's.

It was nice of Al Gore to show up at Corzine's signing, my guess is he might have noticed the signing wasn't in Flushing Meadows; or the Bronx; or Coney Island; or Staten Island; or Randall's Island; or Jones Beach; but in East Rutherford, which is in Bergen County, which is in New Jersey.

A little respect would be nice.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Pre-Tax Commuting

For my 100th post, I've decided to cover something near and dear to my heart: Commuting Costs. After dropping the cash for my various monthly commuting passes today; I find myself once again wondering why the two-plus hours a day I spend on mass transit are not completely pre-tax cost. Currently, the limit on pre-tax transit benefits is set by Congress at $105 dollars. Here's the bit of the tax code that makes it possible:
Qualified Transportation Fringe. For taxable years beginning in 2005, the monthly limitation under § 132(f)(2)(A) (regarding the aggregate fringe benefit exclusion amount for transportation in a commuter highway vehicle and any transit pass) is $105.

For those that don't receive TransitChecks, or one of their cousins, the $105 is deducted in a pre-tax manner the same as contributions to a 401(k), flex account or health insurance premiums. For the hundreds of people that use the exact same methods of travel I do, our commute from our NJ Transit rail zone into lower Manhattan costs $426 dollars a month ($5,112 per year) including the mass transit and parking. Those that live further away from New York City pay even more. I know several people paying a few hundred dollars more.

That's no small chunk of change to be shelling out every month. It appears that the House is looking to expand the credit to $175, via HR 1300 (Title V, Sec. 501). On behalf of the tens of thousands of my fellow commuters, I'd like to say we appreciate that greatly. However, at the same time why not let us cover the whole thing pre-tax?

There are so many benefits to commuters, employers and taxpayers.

For commuters, it's more money in their pocket and a lower tax liability.

For employers, it's happy employees and a lower tax burden.

For taxpayers, assuming the benefit attracts more riders, it's less spent for highway repairs from heavy road usage and would push the mass transit systems closer to the black; thus reducing federal subsidies.

Those are just a few of the benefits, and there are so many more. It wouldn't be that hard to implement, because many transit benefit providers already send passes directly to employers for distribution. My co-workers receive their Metro-Cards directly from TransitChecks, who delivers them to our company, and I'm sure those who provide the service would have no problem tracking down my passes if they were completely covered.

Currently, New Jersey Representatives Steve Rothman, Donald Payne, Rush Holt and Albio Sires are co-sponsoring the entire Bill. At a bare minimum, I would hope the entire New Jersey Delegation could figure out how to word and co-sponsor an amendment to increase the ceiling. There is not a District in our state where some portion of the population doesn't use some form of mass transit. Pull in those Representatives from New York, Connecticut and the eastern part of Pennsylvania and you've got a powerful block of votes.

I realize that some of the Republican delegation will not vote for this particular bill regardless of how many voters they'll make happy. It's ok. They can vote for a full pre-tax amendment but vote against enacting the amended Bill; as Representative Scott Garrett did with his SOX compliance deadline extension amendment. They'll still get to send out the press release saying they supported bringing relief to commuters who are doing the right thing by using mass transit.

Contact your Rep and let them know you'd like the full amount pre-tax.

Contacting our Delegation:
01 Robert E. Andrews D
02 Frank A. LoBiondo R
03 Jim Saxton R
04 Christopher H. Smith R
05 Scott Garrett R
06 Frank Pallone Jr. D
07 Mike Ferguson R
08 Bill Pascrell Jr. D
09 Steven R. Rothman D
10 Donald M. Payne D
11 Rodney P. Frelinghuysen R
12 Rush D. Holt D
13 Albio Sires D

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Happy 4th, Everybody

If it's been a while, take a read. This is the soul of America.

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

John Hancock

New Hampshire:Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

Massachusetts:John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Connecticut:Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York:William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey:Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Pennsylvania:Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Delaware:Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Maryland:Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Virginia:George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina:William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina:Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Georgia:Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

Monday, July 2, 2007

God Bless Your Loyalty, DBeck

Even though I find myself a man without a party, I respect those who are loyal to their party and their party's public office holders. One such blogger is DBeck over at Red Jersey. S/he wrote a lengthy piece about how Representative Scott Garrett can help bring the Republicans in Bergen County back. When I argued that for the BCRO to make a comeback they needed to dump Garrett and Talarico, I wasn't joking. From DBeck's piece:
Clearly Ridgewood voters are losing confidence that the Republicans stand for what they believe in, but we can win them back with the right message.

Another fact is that the home base of Marge Roukema voted for the bumbling, McGreeveyite Rotarian Democrat Paul Ahronsohn over an incumbent GOP congressman by a margin of 4,814 to 3,820! This margin is probably partly frustration with Iraq and other issues, but it also means that work is cut out for Republicans. Yet I believe we can rise to the challenge.

First off, Garrett is not Marge Roukema; nor does he want to be. People genuinely loved Marge, because they trusted her to do no harm. She voted Republican, but she wasn't going to be in lockstep with the leadership when they did things that would harm the families of our District. She was more pragmatic and infinitely less of an ideologue than Garrett. As opposed to Garrett's rigid partisan mentality that leads him to attack fellow Republicans, the voters here respected Marge for bi-partisanship and bucking authority when appropriate. Marge also didn't misrepresent her voting record. After two terms, people are starting to realize Garrett is no Marge.
His stands on the economic and national security issues of the day are with the voters in these towns and against the welfare state values many in the NJ Democratic Party support, but sadly the Ferriero-Cryan regime has tried to define the Congressman as an extremist which is not the case.

It's (mostly) the social beliefs, DBeck.

Garrett is true to his beliefs, however many of those beliefs fly in the face of the moderate or classic conservative mindset of so many here in Bergen. The hard right turn of the national agenda by the Republicans has already been cited by Stuart Rothenberg and others as being a problem for the BCRO. Making Garrett the poster child for the BCRO would put local candidates in his spotlight: Intelligent design in public schools? Global warming doesn't exist? Terri Schiavo? What about reaching out to theocracy proponents or contributing website content that brings in advertising dollars to pay for the bandwidth to host murder fantasies? I'm sure most would agree that this is what the BCRO doesn't need, and Papa Joe would like nothing more than to see it happen.

Garrett is who Garrett is, and although he has his ardent backers, the more time he spends in office the less people in Bergen seem to like him. It really has very little to do with some bias against him or conservatives. It has to do with those votes he makes on our behalf where he is among 5-17% of the House voting against a bill. Ten years of tax cuts for small businesses, he votes no. Restoring funds to community policing programs, he votes no. Renewing the Voting Rights Act, he votes no. Reducing interest on student loans, he votes no. The list goes on.

Garrett almost lost Bergen in '06, and the Dems are going to have a field day reporting his voting record against so many of the issues so many moderates and classic conservatives support. Many Republicans and Republican leaning independents still vote for Garrett because they don't want to lose the seat, not because they support him personally. The longer he serves, and the more super minority votes he makes, the less support he's going to have. As a loyal campaign staffer, I respect DBeck believing this is the man who can help save the BCRO. However, I couldn't disagree more.