Thursday, August 30, 2007

Garrett Responds to the Humane Soceity

Representative Scott Garrett shot back at the Humane Society Op-Ed I republished yesterday. As reported at the end of this column by the Washington Post:
Garrett seems to think the group has more bark than bite, and he resents being compared to the disgraced Atlanta Falcons quarterback.

"Michael Vick has committed egregious acts towards animals and should get punished for his crimes," Garrett told us in an e-mail through his spokeswoman, adding: "My previous vote in regards to animal fighting was to keep federal law enforcement from taking over state crimes. Prosecutors and officers are already stretched thin. For instance, over the last 10 years, federal courts have dealt with a 172% increase in sexual offence cases, largely due to increases in prosecutions for sexually explicit materials such as child pornography. With almost 70,000 victims and families waiting for justice across the country (over 1,000 in New Jersey alone), it doesn't seem reasonable to prolong their suffering by creating a law that would make actions that are already illegal and prosecutable under state laws, a federal offense."

On this one, Garrett's reinterpreting his Constitutional obligations as a member of Congress. Among the powers relegated to Congress comes this from Article I, Section 8:

To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes;

The Bill stiffened the penalties for the INTERSTATE transport of dogs, and banned INTERSTATE transport of fight specific items (cockfighting blades, rape stands, etc.). No, this was definitely in the Federal jurisdiction from the beginning.

Garrett may want to rethink his lack of defense before election time next year. Otherwise, the Humane Society who used the end of the Op-Ed to give him a chance to redeem himself might bear their teeth.

Ferriero's Dare...Any Takers?

After Tuesday's story by Charles Stile about the BCDO planning to sue to eliminate pay-to-play restrictions, State Senator Loretta Weinberg fired off a letter challenging Papa Joe Ferriero's ability to do this without the consent of the other leadership of the BCDO. Stile had his own follow-up column on the subject today, where Papa Joe had this to say:

"It's an absolute absurd assertion to say that because people contribute to an election that it increases the costs,'' Ferriero said. "And I would defy anyone to prove that."
Anyone? Am I anyone? Are you anyone?

I'm not sure if Papa Joe was talking strictly about Bergen County or not, but there is plenty of evidence where the politically connected donor has padded a no-bid government contract at taxpayer expense. We'll give Ferriero the benefit of the doubt that he hasn't read any of the GAO reports on Iraq or Katrina, but those are a good place to start.

I won't have time to compile those this weekend, maybe someone else will, but I know the evidence is out there. If he's strictly talking about Bergen County, I've already raised some questions about the no-bids.

I'm sure with the time I could find more, but I simply don't have it right now. Hopefully, the Record will take Papa Joe up on his dare. Or someone. It's this sort of sheer arrogance that brought down Tom Delay and Jack Abramoff. Time will tell if Papa Joe will suffer the same fate.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A Solution to Primary Leapfrog Idiocy

With the Wyoming GOP announcing their intention to move their delegate selection contests to January 5th, it is now conceivable that New Hampshire will hold its primary on December 18th, with Iowa going December 10th, due to each state's laws dictating their position in the process and the fact that both Christmas and New Year's Day are on Tuesdays.

Nothing says Presidential elections like hot chocolate and candy canes. How will primary voters react to the carolling of the candidates? Fred Thompson may not even be in the race at that point, but I bet he does a heck of a rendition of "We Three Kings."

From the AP story:
"We're first in the nation," said Tom Sansonetti, the state party's 2008 county convention coordinator. "At least for the next couple, three weeks until New Hampshire and Iowa move, which I expect they will."


"Ultimately the goal here is to look beyond 2008 and fix the system, because the system is broken," Sansonetti said. "Ultimately the goal here is to look beyond 2008 and fix the system, because the system is broken," Sansonetti said. "All this jumping around is because the states feel disenfranchised by letting Iowa and New Hampshire call the shots."

First off, Iowa and New Hampshire don't call the shots: President Bush lost in 2000, Senator Bob Dole lost is 1996 and President Bill Clinton lost in 1992.

Now that we've got that out of the way, here's my solution for 2012 and beyond. However, part of it starts now.

- Iowa and New Hampshire go in mid-January.

- The remaining states are split into four groups of 12, with a geographic distribution so that each region of the nation has 3 representative states in each group.

- Then, the second Tuesday of February, March, April and May one group has a primary.

- This primary rotates every four years, so that the group that goes last one year goes first the next.

(ex. Year 1: 1234 Year 2: 4123 Year 3: 3412 Year 4: 2341)

- The initial order would be determined by overall eligible voter turnout percentage in the GENERAL election of 2008 for the group. The group of states with the top turnout goes first in 2012, with the group coming in second going 4th so they get to go first in 2016.

- Finally, in 2024, after everybody has had the chance to go first, the order is redrawn based on the voter turnout percentage over the last four elections (2012-24), and the process begins again.

It really isn't that hard, and I would think the parties and states could come to some kind of agreement before their conventions in August 2008, which at this rate will be nine months after the first primary ballots are cast.

Humane Society Links Vick & Garrett

This Op-Ed was published today in the Record and is reprinted in its entirety with permission from the Humane Society Legislative Fund.
Putting more bite into animal-cruelty legislation

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


ATLANTA FALCONS quarterback Michael Vick has pleaded guilty to federal dog-fighting charges, but one verdict was already in: America has no tolerance for the cruel and degrading spectacle of dog fighting.

Readers may wonder, then, why Rep. Scott Garrett, R-Wantage, was one of about three dozen lawmakers who recently sided with dog-fighting interests. Garrett voted in March against legislation to upgrade penalties for illegal transportation of fighting dogs -- the very crime Vick was charged with -- and he was the only member of Congress from the northeast United States who took that position.

The vast majority of members of Congress supported the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act to put a stop to precisely the type of behavior that Vick admitted to -- participation in a multi-state dog-fighting network. This anti-crime legislation was backed by animal welfare groups, the poultry industry and more than 400 law enforcement agencies. It was approved by 368 of Garrett's House colleagues -- 215 Democrats and 153 Republicans -- before passing the Senate unanimously and being signed into law by President Bush in May.

Garrett, however, apparently preferred to give dog fighters and cock fighters a free pass, rather than strengthen the federal government's enforcement of laws to combat animal fighting. Never mind that dog fighting and cock fighting are both the equivalent of felony offenses in New Jersey. Never mind that the illegal transport of birds for cock fighting has been linked to deadly diseases such as bird flu and exotic Newcastle, threatening public health and the poultry industry.

Animal fighting not only fosters unspeakable cruelty to animals, but also spawns other criminal activity, such as narcotics traffic, illegal gambling, public corruption and violence toward people. When animal fighters can earn tens of thousands of dollars wagering on a single fight, a slap on the wrist is considered just a cost of doing business.

Closer to eradication

The new law brings us one big step closer to eradicating the dog fighting and cock fighting industries, and that goal cannot be achieved too soon.

Ironically, the new federal law against animal fighting was enacted just after the crimes had been committed by Vick and his co-defendants, and they narrowly escaped the imposition of even more onerous penalties. Federal prosecutors have delivered some felony charges against Vick by invoking the federal Travel Act and conspiracy in their first charge. But the second and third charges in the indictment are misdemeanor charges relating to the federal animal fighting law -- penalties that Garrett opposed.

With dog fighting making national headlines, new legislation has been introduced in Congress to crack down on this underground criminal network even further.

In New Jersey, not only is dog fighting the equivalent of a felony, but possession of dogs for fighting purposes and being a spectator at a dog fight also carry felony-level penalties. In some states, however, it is still legal to possess fighting dogs and to attend a dog fight. The new legislation would make these activities illegal nationwide.
Of the 435 congressional districts in the nation, the 5th District has more members of the Humane Society of the United States than all but five districts. Garrett's opposition to the most modest animal welfare reforms, especially in light of the humane-minded constituency he represents, is just perplexing. It's not too late for him to turn around his record, and take a stand to help protect animals from needless cruelty.

Michael Markarian is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, on the Web at

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

BCDO to Fight For Pay-to-Play

As reported by Charles Stile of The Record, Papa Joe's Bergen County Democratic Organization is going to go to court to fight on behalf of pay-to-play. Their logic, polling shows it doesn't rank highly on people's priorities and the ban has hurt donations from contractors. Toward the end of the article, BCDO lawyer Dennis Oury says the following:
"What makes people think that because I made a contribution, I'm not a good lawyer?" he asked. "Why can't I contribute to a campaign and be a good lawyer and do a good job for the community? Why is it mutually exclusive?

"I think the borough has an obligation to get the best that they can get."

The borough does have that obligation, and handing out contracts on a no-bid basis to donors doesn't ensure that. Whether it's a no-bid contract in Iraq or a no-bid contract for County Jail health care services; without a bidding process there is no guarantee the government is getting "the best they can get."

Suing to support corruption in an election year? Are they kidding?

Wild Speculation Time

Well, it didn't take long for the news that Paul Aronsohn was dropping out of the race to lead to some speculation about who the nominee will be. Before I get into that, I do want to wish Paul well with where life takes him. It couldn't have been an easy decision to make, but it's a sign of character that he put family first.

So, on to the wild speculation.

Right now, Camille Abate is the only declared candidate, and has declared on her blog that she will beat Garrett next year.

In addition to Abate, there are several other names being thrown around. Here's a list of people from different sites:

Blue Jersey:

James Tedesco, Mayor of Paramus
David DeGerolamo, Phillipsburg Council President

2008 Race Tracker:

Mayor Tedesco
Jim Sekelsky - Mayor of Ogdensburg
Anne Wolfe - 2004 Challenger

One has to believe Bergen County Executive Dennis McNerney will think about jumping into the Fifth. McNerney received 69,641 votes last year from towns in the Fifth, topping Republican challenger Todd Caliguire by 9,300. McNerney's total also bested both Aronsohn (62,944) and our Representative Scott Garrett (67,287). Caliguire was an awful candidate, but the returns are impressive in any context.

I'm no fan of McNerney's association with Papa Joe or his embrace of pay-to-play. Objectively speaking; whoever runs on the Dem side would need to pick up a big chunk of the 18,000 vote cushion Garrett gets in the Western part of the District from Bergen in order to be competitive. Name recognition will be a big part of that and McNerney has his name all over the County, albeit at questionable taxpayer expense. I'd be willing to bet he has better name recognition than Garrett in the Bergen towns of the Fifth.

Like I said, this is all wild speculation, but it should be interesting to watch how this all plays out over the next couple of months. As candidates come forward, either Republican or Democratic, I'll let folks know.

Veteran's Expo

This is from the latest Garrett Gazette:

Dear Friends:

Next month, on September 17th, I will be hosting a Veterans Expo at the Paramus Veterans Home from 1:00 to 3:00 pm. This will be an opportunity for area veterans and their families to come gather information on programs and benefits available to our nation’s veterans.

I have invited representatives from a wide variety of agencies and organizations that serve our nation’s heroes. You will be able to:

-Learn more about health and other benefits available through the U.S. Department
of Veterans Affairs and the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs,

-Get glaucoma and blood pressure screenings,

-Talk to representatives about Social Security and Medicare,

-Meet other local veterans and find out about local veterans service organizations,

-Get involved with efforts to help local military families with loved ones in Iraq, and

-Find out more about the Paramus Veterans Home.

If you are a veteran or have a family member who is a veteran, I hope that you will be able to join me and my staff at the Expo on September 17th. Please feel free to spread the word to other veterans you know as well.


Scott Garrett
Member of Congress

Monday, August 27, 2007

Our Tax Dollars Killing Our Troops

This may be one of the more explosive stories about Iraq I've read. It's over the AP wire, but this is from The Seattle Times:

Iraq's deadly insurgent groups have financed their war against U.S. troops in part with hundreds of thousands of dollars in U.S. rebuilding funds that they've extorted from Iraqi contractors in Anbar province.


Providing that security is the source of the extortion, Iraqi contractors say. A U.S. company with a reconstruction contract hires an Iraqi subcontractor to haul supplies along insurgent-ridden roads. The Iraqi contractor sets his price at up to four times the going rate because he'll be forced to give 50 percent or more to gun-toting insurgents who demand cash in exchange for the supply convoys' safe passage


"Every contractor in Anbar who works for the U.S. military and survives for more than a month is paying the insurgency," the politician said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "The contracts are inflated, all of them. The insurgents get half."

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said he was aware of the "insurgent tax" that U.S.-allied contractors are forced to pay in Anbar, though he said it wasn't clear how much money was going to militant groups and how much to opportunistic tribesmen operating on their own.


"If I do it in the Green Zone, it's just putting gravel in ... bags and it would be about $16,000," the contractor said. "But they needed it for Ramadi and Fallujah. I submitted an invoice for $120,000 and I'd say about $100,000 of that went to the mujahedeen," as Iraqis sometimes call Sunni insurgents.

As I noted a few months ago, this sort of insanity is allowed to go on because the Iraqi cabinet members have a Constitutional right to block corruption investigations. Unless something significant changes in a hurry, any member of Congress voting to continue funding the reconstruction efforts is literally handing 50 cents of every dollar they approve to kill our own troops.

Aronsohn is Out

Blue Jersey is reporting that Paul Aronsohn will not be seeking a rematch with Representative Scott Garrett again next year.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Stem Cells Regrow Heart Muscle

Scientists at the University of Washington have used human embryonic stem cells to regrow rat heart tissue. This is an area where adult stem cells have failed completely. It's a great article to read, outlining the challenges they've previously dealt with and how they've overcome them.

If they could perfect this procedure, it might find another purpose for the 400,000 or so frozen embryos that are not adopted won't be thawed and tossed. However, even if that won't work due to political considerations, the interesting thing is that the scientists were able to pull this off with one of the "presidential line" of cells.

Garrett's only 87% Republican

Well, the Washington Post has an interesting feature on their biographical pages now, how often you vote with your party. Our Representative Scott Garrett, after years in the 90% range of voting with the Republicans, has dropped to 87%. How did this happen?

First, in looking at the votes, they've included all of the amendments heralded by the Club for Growth that were opposed by an overwhelming majority in Congress. Garrett, as discussed earlier, voted for all of them while the vast majority of Republicans voted against them.

Second, as often covered by yours truly, are all the 12 to Garrett votes, where he's one of anywhere from 12-80 or so Representatives to vote against a bill Things like his votes against cutting student loan interest and giving small businesses tax breaks for the next 10 years were earlier in the year, so they're at the bottom of the list. However, the list as a whole is pretty interesting.

This is our Representative, and remember he voted no on our behalf to all of these bills:

7/31/07: Vote 771: H R 176: Shirley a. Chisholm United States-Caribbean Educational Exchange Act

7/17/07: Vote 633: H R 980: Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act

7/16/07: Vote 632: H R 799: Appalachian Regional Development Act Amendments

7/16/07: Vote 631: H R 1982: Rural Housing and Economic Development Improvement Act of 2007

7/16/07: Vote 630: H R 1980: To Authorize Appropriations for the Housing Assistance Council

7/12/07: Vote 629: H R 1851: Section 8 Voucher Reform Act

7/17/07: Vote 633: H R 980: Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act

7/16/07: Vote 632: H R 799: Appalachian Regional Development Act Amendments

7/16/07: Vote 631: H R 1982: Rural Housing and Economic Development Improvement Act of 2007

7/16/07: Vote 630: H R 1980: To Authorize Appropriations for the Housing Assistance Council

6/20/07: Vote 515: H R 2284: To Amend the Small Business Act to Expand and Improve the Assistance Provided by Small Business Development Centers to Indian Tribe Members, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians

5/24/07: Vote 424: H R 2206: Making Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for the Fiscal Year Ending September 30, 2007

5/22/07: Vote 398: H R 2264: No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act “Nopec”

5/15/07: Vote 348: H R 1700: Cops Improvement Act

5/15/07: Vote 347: H R 916: John R. Justice Prosecutors and Defenders Incentive

5/7/07: Vote 302: H R 407: Columbia-Pacific National Heritage Area Study Act

5/2/07: Vote 285: H R 1429: Improving Head Start Act

4/25/07: Vote 263: H R 1332: Small Business Lending Improvements Act

4/24/07: Vote 257: H R 363: Sowing the Seeds Through Science and Engineering Research Act

4/24/07: Vote 254: H R 362: To Authorize Science Scholarships for Educating Mathematics and Science Teachers, and for Other Purposes

3/26/07: Vote 188: H R 137: Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act

3/14/07: Vote 153: H R 985: Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act

3/14/07: Vote 143: H R 1255: To Amend Chapter 22 of Title 44, Usc, Popularly Known As the Presidential Records Act, to Establish Procedures for the Consideration of Claims of Constitutionally Based Privilege Against Disclosure of Presidential Records

3/8/07: Vote 130: H R 700: To Amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to Extend the Pilot Program for Alternative Water Source Projects.

3/7/07: Vote 125: H R 569: Water Quality Investment Act

2/16/07: Vote 102: H R 976: Small Business Tax Relief Act

1/29/07: Vote 58: H R 521: To Designate the Facility of the United States Postal Service Located at 2633 11th Street in Rock Island, Illinois, As the Lane Evans Post
Office Building

1/17/07: Vote 32: H R 5: College Student Relief Act

Eminent Domain Abuse vs. Real Revitalization

Almost everybody either knows somebody or knows somebody who knows somebody touched by eminent domain. My grandmother's family lost their farm for a Navy Base, and I got my car fixed once at a shop eventually taken to put in a road. Those are deemed for the common good, even though the property owner will still have ill feelings years later.

However, in New Jersey, our governments seem to have an illness when it comes to eminent domain. You read stories almost monthly where some town is going to take one person's private property to give to another, usually a politically connected developer, for the purposes of redevelopment. Economic revitalization is often promised (luxury condos, high end shops, etc.), and people start talking about the old downtown through "remembering when." coke-bottle rose glasses.

Eminent domain abuse seems to be the municipal version of a get rich quick scheme, which has predictably bad results. As the EnCap disaster should teach everybody, in the end the lotto ticket promises often leave towns in bad shape with the added bonus of a population divided.

There is another way.

When I lived in Holland, Michigan I arrived on the tail end of an award winning revitalization project. For comparative purposes, the City of Holland's population is somewhere between Ridgewood and Hackensack, with a downtown about a mile in length.

Here's how the National Trust for Historic Preservation described the effort when they awarded Holland the Great American Mainstreet Award in 1997:
In 1978 Holland established the Downtown Development Authority to promote economic growth. But it wasn't until 1984, when Holland adopted the Main Street approach to downtown revitalization that the community was galvanized for

Holland's downtowners made plans for a beautification project and encouraged property owners, merchants, tenants, and government leaders to partner a proposed streetscape effort as a mutual investment essential to the community's future.
The City didn't go around taking everybody's buildings and turning them over to some private contractor with a fancy slide show (PowerPoint wasn't around then). No, this is how they did it:
Main Street supporters credit the city government as a significant partner, initiating financial incentives for building improvements, an overall design plan, and no-cost design assistance to downtown building owners and tenants.

The city helps recruit businesses and chips in to the operating budget for the merged MainStreet/Downtown Development Authority. "City hall believes downtown is the heart of the city and an integral part of the city's health," says Seiter.

The private sector contributes with low-interest loans for building improvements that work in tandem with public design incentives. Businesses and individuals have given financially, physically, and politically to make the Streetscape and Snowmelt projects a reality.

Holland's downtown success is contagious. A mix of restaurants, eateries, galleries, and vest-pocket parks makes Holland an attractive destination, as well as a place to while away time. The retail vacancy rate is less than one percent and upper stories downtown are more than 95 percent filled by offices and apartments that cater to young professionals, young families with children, empty nesters, and students from neighboring Hope College.
It's the planning, and the idea that the businesses who have an economic interest in revitalization need to be treated as stakeholders in the plan as opposed to impediments to the vision of a few. In spite of Michigan's overall downturn, the Holland area seems to be somewhat insulated.

There are parts of NJ that could use a rebirth, and I'm sure the communities would be all for it. However, understanding that it won't happen over night and no one politician will be able to take credit for it may be too hard for some to embrace. It's not about the individual political career however, it's about the community they serve.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Broke Phi Broke

Jersey's broke, broke broke phi broke...we ain't got it.

The news that New Jersey is going to have to borrow $2 billion to give $2 billion of tax rebates begs the question: can we afford the rebates? Most reasonable people would say no; however I realize many politicians don't seem to concern themselves with the details.

Whether it be the Republican Congress in Washington granting the first tax cuts during war in our nation's history, ramping up debt at rocket speed (the Chinese thank them daily); or the Democrats in Trenton talking about leasing or selling the Turnpike while borrowing $2 billion to send "rebate" checks to voters right before election day, fiscal irresponsibility seems to be a truly bi-partisan issue.

Presidential Candidate News

Simply because I wanted to be able to read the headlines in one spot, at one shot, I've put together a new blog with the feeds from Google and Yahoo on all the declared candidates. When/if Fred Thompson gets into it, I'll throw him up there as well.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A Young Rove

H/T to Rob Tornoe on this one. This is a great piece, which also shows the seeds of modern campaigning.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Beckham Effect

I love all sports, including Major League Soccer. I've gone to two games this year. The first, The Red Bulls against The Kansas City Wizards on June 16th, which ended in a 3-3 tie. I took some pictures.

The second game was last night, against the LA Galaxy, which the Red Bulls won 5-4. I took some more pictures.

Yes, David Beckham was in town. Up until last night, the game against the Wizards had been the highest attended of the year. Last night exceded that by 51,000 people. The majority of which was to see this guy:

It was a lot of fun, and Beckham should be a great thing for the game and the league. Although, like I told people I knew going to the game, the Red Bulls are a pretty good team and don't be surprised if we win.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Shrinking Lake Superior

About a month ago, I read this story about the declining water levels in Lake Superior. The water has been going down for years, and as noted in the article, locals believe the government is stealing the water to aid in the expansion in the southwest. This view seems to be held by locals in Canada as well. Scientists and the Army Corps. of Engineers dispute this theory.

However, the water keeps going down as reported by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) yesterday:
NOAA hydrologists indicate that Lake Superior is nearing record lows for the month of August, a trend that if continued could break past record lows for the months of September and October.
The big lake they call Gitche Gumee going dry? How can this be? Well, the NOAA provides their answer:
The lake has been decreasing by a rate of 10 mm every year since 1978, and has dropped a dramatic two feet during the last decade. The Great Lakes region has been experiencing warmer winters since 1997, and the combination of warmer air temperatures and less ice cover leads to increased evaporation rates during the winter. Also, with less snow pack, there is less spring runoff to replenish the lakes.


Lake Superior’s record low of 182.69 meters was set in April 1926, the same year the lake reached an averaged annual record low of 182.90 meters as a result of a major climatic event that led to the dust bowl. Sellinger said that dramatic water level changes are generally caused by major climatic events.
The dust bowl caused the widespread economic and environmental hardship that inspired both The Grapes of Wrath and the song "My Oklahoma Home", which was recently covered by Bruce Springsteen and the Seeger Sessions Band. Not a pleasant time by any stretch of the imagination.

A few years ago, NASA scientists published their findings about how the "major climatic event" causing the dust bowl and drop in Superior happened.
The study found cooler than normal tropical Pacific Ocean surface temperatures combined with warmer tropical Atlantic Ocean temperatures to create conditions in the atmosphere that turned America's breadbasket into a dust bowl from 1931 to 1939.


"The 1930s drought was the major climatic event in the nation's history," Schubert said. "Just beginning to understand what occurred is really critical to understanding future droughts and the links to global climate change issues we're experiencing today."
Part of those global climate change issues the folks at NASA are talking about is not just the evaporation of Lake Superior, but the melting ice caps. Yesterday, the AP reported that Arctic Ice is about to set a record low as well.
Sea ice is particularly low in the East Siberian side of the Arctic and the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska, the center reported
Yep, that's basically the Pacific Ocean side. Anyone who has ever stuck their finger in a glass of ice water knows, by it's very nature, the ice cools the water it melts into. This poses a pretty serious question, are we as a nation capable of dealing with another dust bowl type event?

Whether you believe Al Gore and the vast majority of the scientific community, or the well funded deniers campaign, when it comes to severe climate change we have to be prepared for the consequences. We weren't prepared for Katrina, even though we knew she was coming and thought she would be stronger than she was, and we still haven't recovered.

Lake Superior's previous record low happened four years before the dust bowl. Is that enough of a warning? While the signs are there that we may be heading into another situation like the dust bowl, as a public it doesn't seem like we're talking about preparing for it. We should be, as a nation. There's no excuse not to.

Here Dean Comes...

Are we ready?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Drafting Garrett for Senate

A Facebook Group entitled Scott Garrett For U.S. Senate is attempting to draft our Representative Scott Garrett to enter the race against Senator Frank Lautenberg next year.

Here's the group's description:

This group is to help spread the word of Congressman E.Scott Garrett. By Human Events' standards he is the second most Conservative congressman in D.C. New Jersey is going to elect a senator next year, lets work together and persuade Garrett to run and rehabilitate NJ's image.

If 2,000 people(from jersey) join this group I think it would be enough to get Garrett in on the race.

With no one lighting the Republican base on fire, it could be possible when you consider: Garrett's ahead of schedule fundraising; Garrett's activity on national blogs like Human Events and Townhall reaching out to the national (fundraising) base; and Garrett's switching from an interpretive to a partisan spin oriented press practice*.

Well, if voters ever wanted contrast, Garrett vs. Lautenberg would provide it. I doubt Garrett's going to go for it, but for conservatives of his stripe there is no one with more name recognition in New Jersey, except maybe Steve Lonegan. However, Garrett's always seemed to be a smart politician, and he has to realize a statewide race has an outstanding chance of ending his political career.

Who knows. It would definitely be interesting to watch.

Update: Who knows, with 1 in 4 people from New Jersey thinking Lautenberg is too old Garrett may have a shot.

*I do say that last point with a straight face. Last year, Garrett was interpreting the facts through a very conservative lens, but unlike his latest article regarding SCHIP, he wasn't lying about stuff.

Reform Quote of the Day

This from Senator Barak Obama, as reported by the AP:
"Part of the problem here is not just George Bush and the White House," Obama told a crowd of hundreds gathered at a park in Cedar Falls. "We can't just change political parties and continue to do the same kind of things we've been doing. We can't just go about business as usual and think it's going to turn out differently."
Amen to that.

We need reform in politics badly. The corruption and no-bid contracting running rampant in Washington under the Republicans over the last few years has been mirrored by pay-to-play and corruption in Hackensack by the Democrats. Corruption seems to be a truly bi-partisan problem, and candidates need to address the issue in a substantive manner.

Among the "top" candidates:

You can read Obama's plan for reforming government.

John McCain has always been solid about reform, and here's his plan.

Hillary has a plan as well.

Rudy Giuliani has made reform part of his pledge to voters, but hasn't released his plan yet.

I looked through the key issues sections of each, and was disappointed to see that neither John Edwards nor Mitt Romney have presented a plan, an outline, or even listed reform as a priority.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

2 Recalled Toys Per 5 Kids

Forbes put up a rundown of bad Chinese toys over the last few years, just for lead paint and small magnet recalls. The whopping total of over 16 million toys works out to roughly 2 bad toys for every 5 children under the age of 10.

Put another way, 40% of kids under 10 could have a toy that could cause them harm, all were manufactured in China. Even though China has guaranteed the quality of their products, and mounting evidence to the contrary, our government hasn't done much.

Part of the silence has to be due to the fact China has already loudly been talking about using the $900 billion in treasury bonds they hold as leverage in trade talks. Their holding is roughly 10% of our total national debt ($8.9 trillion), and if we should come down too hard on them their liquidation of our bonds would lead to a crash in the dollar. Our inability to force China to stop sending us tainted goods points to the fact that our creditor dependency, like our foreign oil dependency, is a national security issue.

It's also important to note that when the National Debt Clock turned off in 2000, it read $5,676,989,904,887. That works out to roughly $25.3 billion of debt per year of our nation's 224 years of existence to that point. From that point to today, the debt has risen more than $3.2 trillion, or more than $470 billion a year.

Granted, the $25.3 figure is not adjusted for inflation. However, when you consider our government went from repaying over $100 billion of debt in 2000, to adding over $470 billion a year over the last seven years, it is damning testimony of the fiscal mismanagement our nation has endured.

Websites of Interest

Update: is back up.

Well, a number of new websites have come to my attention related to our District.

First, Camille Abate has a new website for her 2008 bid to be the Democratic Party nominee to take on Representative Scott Garrett. It's complete with blog and upcoming events sections. With several fundraisers planned for this fall, Abate seem to be working to widen her lead in cash on hand over 2006 challenger Paul Aronsohn.

Aronsohn hasn't updated his website in about a month, despite still generating interest in a rematch.

The Bergen County Republican Organization has a new site (h/t Red Jersey), less than a month after new Chairman Rob Ortiz pledged to make better use of technology. It is a really good site, although having a little more info on the candidates would be beneficial to voters.

In related news, it seems the website that had be running for the Bergen County Republican slate of candidates ( has been taken off-line.

And, when seeing if Steve Oroho had finally gotten his website up and running for his bid for to represent the 24th District in the State Senate, you get the most basic of welcome messages. This is a bit behind his opponent Ed Selby.

CFG Still Loves ESG

Representative Scott Garrett was the only member of our Congressional Delegation to receive a 100% ranking from the oxymoronically named The Club For Growth (CFG) regarding earmark voting. The reason I say that about their name is that they oppose government spending on pretty much anything, including programs that generate growth or increase efficient use of taxpayer dollars (more on that below).

After reviewing the list of votes chosen by one of Garrett's most consistent campaign backers, several I agree should have been stripped. For example, taxpayers shouldn't be funding a "perfect Christmas Tree" project or an institute named for Representative Charlie Rangel with an earmark from, you guessed it, Representative Charlie Rangel.

However, at least three of the items on the list will actually generate growth and protect the taxpayer dollar. That's why it makes no sense as to why they are on the list or why a group claiming to be pro-growth would praise Garrett for voting against them.

Here were the first two that raised an eyebrow:

House Vote 590 - Bars funding of $231,000 for the Grace Johnstown Area Regional Industries Incubator and Workforce Development program in Pennsylvania. Amendment failed, 87-335.

House Vote 594 - Bars funding of $231,000 for the West Virginia University Research Corporation's renovation of a small-business incubator. Amendment failed, 101-325.

Once again, Garrett (with the CFG cheering him on) backed the elimination of funds to help small businesses thrive and strengthen their community. That's about as anti-growth as you get, considering small businesses generate roughly 75-80% of new jobs and account for more than half of the GDP.

And the other:
House Vote 699 - Bars funding of $400,000 for the North Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission in Wausau, WI. Amendment failed, 68-356.
Regional planning Commissions coordinate the efforts of a region so that Federal, State and local money being used in that region is used in the most effective and least wasteful manner. They ensure that those receiving funds are not duplicating services and make sure there is a need for the proposed projects. So in reality, Garrett voted against funding an agency charged with protecting taxpayers. Go figure.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Vets Finally Getting Fire Alarms?

Back in October, Representative Scott Garrett announced that The Veteran's Memorial Home in Paramus would be getting a $590,000 grant to update their fire alarms. Then, the Republicans decided after losing the elections in 2006 not to pass any spending bills, leaving it to the new Democrats, who in turn passed one massive bill without any earmarks.

At the time, I commented on Garrett's reaction to this move by Democrats by saying it was misplaced rage, because had the Republicans passed the bills they were supposed to pass the funding for things like our Veterans in Paramus wouldn't have been in jeopardy.

Today, the Record reported that the VA has announced the Veteran's Home grant was back on. Hopefully, they are actually getting the check this time.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Garrett on the Energy Bill

The Record reported what Representative Scott Garrett said about his being the only Representative from New Jersey to vote against the New Direction for Energy Independence, National Security, and Consumer Protection Act:

"I believe it's important to increase our nation's energy availability and address our concerns for high gas prices and dependence on foreign oil," he said. "Last week's energy bill presented on the House floor did nothing to ensure that, so I voted against it."
It's important to note, Garrett did not offer a single amendment to deal with what he perceived as the bill's shortfalls. The bill was considered under an open rule and several Republicans who voted against the bill as a whole did offer really good amendments. One example is Representative Lee Terry of Nebraska, whose amendment was to accelerate the use of geothermal heat for government buildings.

I'm not sure what part of expanding the availability of alternative energy sources does not register with Garrett as increased energy availability. Unfortunately, what I am sure of is Garrett is the only Representative from New Jersey to support drilling off the Jersey Shore.

Fortunately, the rest of our State's delegation understood the important steps this bill takes toward energy independence.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Doherty Out

PoliticsNJ is reporting that Assemblyman Mike Doherty is dropping his bid for the Republican nomination for the US Senate. From our very own Fifth District, the Warren County native had Representative Scott Garrett serving as his Exploratory Committee Co-Chair.

Garrett, My Mom and NCLB

In Representative Scott Garrett's latest franked mailer, it seems he's targeting the women of our District to talk about his education "reform bill", including my mom. He goes after No Child Left Behind with a vengeance, and even includes an op-ed he posted over at From forcing teachers to teach to the test; no exceptions for special needs students; no exceptions for failing to meet the guidelines in lieu of the glaring shortfalls in funding; and the added bonus of corruption; no one I've talked to likes NCLB.

What most people don't realize is that when NCLB was enacted, it was actually a reauthorization of, and amendment to, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. They think of them as separate bills, or don't realize the new requirements everyone hates were added to the programs people know. While Garrett's letter to my mom and others talked about all the NCLB failings people associate with the Bill, what he doesn't mention is what his bill is really seeking to do: defund almost the entire Department of Education.

Here's the purpose of Garrett's bill:
To allow a State to opt out of K–12 education grant programs and the requirements of those programs, to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide a credit to taxpayers in such a State, and for other purposes.
And here's the key definition:
(1) The term ‘‘K–12 education grant program’’ means any grant program carried out under any title of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, except for the following:

(B) IMPACT AID.—Title VIII (20 U.S.C. 11 7701 et seq.).
As early as the 2002 Primary, Garrett was talking about ending the Department of Education. He repeated that desire at CPAC this year, even being straight forward about his desire to end Title I funding, which helps out schools with predominantly poor children. If you look at the table of contents of the entire original bill you realize just how far Garrett wants to go. None of that was brought up in the letter.

I suppose, on some level, Garrett should be given credit for being true to his word about trying to end the Department of Education. Not being truthful to the mothers of our District about the extent his Bill seeks to go is another story.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Garrett Full of SCHIP

Well, Representative Scott Garrett has posted again over at This time he writes about his opposition to the State Children's Health Insurance Program. It's an interesting read, and a prime example of rhetorical spin at it's finest if you're a fan; or worst if you just want politicians to tell it like it is. You can read the complete text here.

For those not having the time to read the whole thing, here are a few inaccuracies right off the bat:

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 2.1 million people who are currently covered by private health plans will be forced into this nationalized health care.
Nowhere in either the CBO report to the Committee on Ways and Means or to The Rules Committee is that said. What they do say is that 2.1 million people who are not eligible will be eligible with increased funding and are likely to enroll. Forced is powerful word meant to be used as a scare tactic, but it's simply not in the report.
Interestingly enough, the SCHIP bill balances the new entitlements on the backs of our nation's vulnerable seniors with $37.1 billion in cuts to Medicare providers. It makes cuts for hospital care, skilled nursing care, home health care, oxygen therapy and imaging. It even limits access to wheelchairs.
The Bill stopped taxpayers from having their Medicare dollars used to ensure corporate profits instead of providing medical care. In a separate CBO report they had this to say about the over-payments taxpayers are making to private Medicare vendors:

Such growth, under current payment policies, increases net costs to Medicare because payments made to Medicare Advantage plans exceed costs under the traditional fee-for-service program.
As a "Hero of the Taxpayer", one would expect Garrett to protect us from paying too much for things, however time and time again Garrett has lately put corporate welfare above the taxpayer's interest.

Between the $37.1 billion of over payments he's defending here, and his opposition to the elimination of $19 billion in bank profit-subsidies by the College Cost Reduction Act; in under a month Garrett has signaled his blessing on $56.1 billion in corporate welfare (roughly $183 per citizen).

And last but not least:
And, according to a non-partisan Congressional Budget Office report, an estimated 3 million seniors will literally lose their coverage altogether, including more than 6,700 seniors in New Jersey's 5th District.
Ok, once again, not in either CBO report and simply meant to scare the hell out of senior citizens. My guess is, that particular number, is in relation to the shifting coverage from one program to the other that the CBO notes. However, I'm not sure where he got the figure and considering Garrett's history of making up stats we can't be sure if such a study exists or not.

It's unfortunate that Garrett's entire argument against the legislation is based on distorting pretty straight forward reports and backing corporate welfare. It's not what voters expect of someone with a reputation as a straight shooter and being a fiscal conservative. However, for the time being it's what we in the Fifth have got.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Leave the Kids Out of It

The AP story about Rudy Giuliani's daughter's Facebook page really disappointed me. Here's a bit of the story:
On her Facebook profile, 17-year-old Caroline Giuliani listed herself as a member of Obama's Facebook group, "Barack Obama (One Million Strong for Barack)." She left the group Monday morning after the online magazine Slate sent an inquiry and later in the day, a spokeswoman said she did not intend to comment on the 2008 race.


Her profile can be viewed by Facebook users who have access to New York City's Trinity School or Harvard University networks. Caroline, who is Giuliani's daughter with his second wife, Donna Hanover, recently graduated from Trinity and will attend Harvard in the fall.

So a reporter looking for a story decided to target a minor's Facebook profile. Nice. This sort of gotcha political reporting is a big chunk of the media's responsibility in politics as usual and the politics of personal destruction. The kids, especially the minors, should be left alone.

"The Record" Makes Misrepresentation "Fact"

Well, our Representative Scott Garrett's false positioning of himself on the fight over the FAA proposal has found its way into the main stream media. Today, The Record covered the on-going fight. Garrett has taken credit for Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen's amendment, and in turn the Record gave him credit for it.
The congressman introduced an amendment last week to the 2008 funding bill for all Transportation Department agencies that would have barred the FAA from using any funds to execute its airspace plan.
Except that he didn't. The Record going along with Garrett's deliberate misrepresentation of the truth is disappointing.

I don't discount Garrett's role in fighting against the FAA on this; he's been involved along with others and it's a fight I hope our community can win. I wouldn't even mention it in a negative context if he wasn't trying to play on people's emotions for his own personal gain.

However, by taking sole credit for efforts to stop the redesign of the airspace that's exactly what he's doing. Receiving such credit by the largest paper in the District is equally wrong.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Garrett's Speech Against SCHIP

In checking for his thoughts on being the only Representative from New Jersey to vote against the energy bill, I discovered a speech that did not come up in Thomas the first time I looked. Here's Representative Scott Garrett's speech against the State Children's Health Insurance Program:
Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, throughout this debate, we have heard a vote against this bill is a vote against the children, a vote against the poor, a vote against those who need the help most; and had this legislation merely reauthorized the current law, the arguments might have had an element of truth to them. But with this unconstrained growth in a welfare entitlement bill that this expansion has become, what we do know is that this bill now undermines the health care of millions of uninsured children and insured children and does so at the expense of American seniors.

Supporters of this bill would say that by no means is this a back door to a mandatory, socialized, government-run health care system. I say, not the back door, but, as PAUL RYAN might say, it's a front-door approach to a socialized, government-run health care system. Also, it opens the windows and the garage door as well.

This bill does not set a cap on the annual income levels of the families it covers, it does not include an asset test to ensure that millionaires are not eligible, and it expands the program to cover childless adults.

It is entirely conceivable, and, actually, it probably will occur, that the States can enroll as many people in this program as local politics will make expedient. A benchmark figure that has been bandied about is 300 percent. They want to enroll families up to 300 percent above the poverty level.

Just what would that system look like? According to the Census Bureau, and I just got these numbers a little while ago, of the 300 million or so people in this country, 48.3 percent, or roughly 145 million people, live at or below the 300 percent of the Federal poverty level. So we're now considering a new entitlement program for early half of the entire population of this country. And if you add to that number the 44 million people who are currently enrolled in Medicare, what does that mean? That means, with this bill, almost two-thirds of the entire population of this country will be on a government-run, socialized health care system, two-thirds paid for by one-third.

Mr. Speaker, make no mistake about it. This proposal is a large step towards a single-payer, Washington-run State health care system.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Props to Menendez & Garrett

In my earlier post about the '08 hopefuls health care plans, I noted that no one makes a strong case on our behalf about the differences in cost of living when it comes to Federal programing and tax rates. Well, our own Senator Bob Menendez did make the case with regard to the State Children's Health Insurance Program. He distributed a chart showing the differences between several locales and it was reprinted in the Record.

And, for all of you who enjoy Greenwood Lake or rely on it for your business, Representative Scott Garrett secured $250,000 in funding to help clean it up. In his press release he had this to say:
“I’m proud to be a part of this community-wide effort to preserve and protect Greenwood Lake. The growth of the aquatic weeds has reached a critical state, putting the Lake at risk, and with it, the creatures that inhabit it and the businesses that rely on it as a regional tourist attraction.”

On these issues, we have been well served by our representation down in Washington.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Calling the Kettle Black

In looking for a floor speech on the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) expansion, I found that Representative Scott Garrett once again was without substantive comment. Before Garrett voted to continue raiding the Medicare trust fund to subsidize insurance companies and cut Medicare payments to doctor's 10%, he did give a soundbite to Herb Jackson of the Record, but no Floor speech.

Despite the fact we once again have to wait to see if Garrett submitted a written essay to the House Clerk instead of giving a speech, I did find this minute long speech he gave yesterday.
Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. America, your freedom of speech was trampled on yesterday. This new Democratic leadership quashed any semblance of free speech here on this House floor. This is not just a procedural matter, mind you. This is a matter for all Americans.

You see, each Member of Congress represents 600,000 constituents. That is 600,000 American voices that were quashed yesterday. As I say, this is not just a Republican issue, for their voices were quashed, but so were Democrat and Independent voices as well.

But in fact, this is nothing new for the new Democrat leadership. Just a week ago we had to come to this floor to make sure we could fight to keep the radio waves and the media opening dealing with the Fairness Doctrine. Prior to this, we had to fight to make sure that the centuries-old tradition of bipartisanship would not be broken. Prior to that, we had to fight to make sure that there would be transparency in earmarks, and all the Republicans fought on the side of openness and freedom of speech.

The Democrats say they tolerate all diversity, but apparently diversity not of thought and speech.
Garrett really does go out of his way to make a hypocrite out of himself sometimes. This from the man who attacked a member of his own party for not following in lockstep. This from the man who came to Washington during the Tom DeLay authoritarian era, and followed along faithfully enough to have a voting record more conservative than 97% of his colleagues.

Also, one cannot forget Garrett praised the President for not reaching out to Democrats and Independents during the State of the Union; even though Independents outnumber members of both parties in our District combined.

Where was this criticism when the Republicans maintained a majority of the majority rule to bring forward a bill? Where was this criticism when committee chairmanships were no longer doled out based on seniority, but instead whether you kowtowed the party line? The sad reality is that the Republicans did more to destroy the centuries-old tradition of bi-partisanship than anyone could have imagined; but you didn't see Garrett standing on the floor defending the right of the Democrats to be heard.

It's unfortunate the House Democrats limited debate on SCHIP, as once again they don't have a bill that can withstand a veto. The Senate version is bi-partisan in nature and has much broader support (the AMA, AARP, and the Insurance Industry). In all likelihood the final bill sent to the President will more closely resemble that one.

In the meantime, Garrett has once again slammed the Democrats for mildly repeating the sins of the Republicans over the last six years. I'm not sure if it's institutional amnesia or not, or if Garrett just likes to call the kettle black.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

No Oops; Garrett Does it Again

As noted last week, our Representative Scott Garrett has disingenuously positioned himself as the lead dog on fighting the FAA's airspace redesign plan for our area. In his initial release, he made it sound like he introduced Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen's amendment to squash the plan. However, he did mention Frelinghuysen and Representative Shays, who also co-sponsored the Frelinghuysen amendment.

This is the start of Garrett's latest Garrett Gazette:
Last week, I offered an amendment that would have prohibited the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) from implementing its preferred alternative forairspace redesign in the New York-New Jersey area.
So not only does he take sole credit for Frelinghuysen's amendment, he doesn't even mention him. That's just not right, but that's our Garrett.

I was getting ready to write about no Gazette this week, thank goodness it got e-mailed to me.

Health Insurance & Taxes

Well, Rudy Giuliani sent out his health care plan today. so there are now three visions for voters here in the Fifth and the rest of the nation to pick from.

Giuliani's plan hinges on a $15,000 tax credit for families to buy their own insurance. I'm not sure if Giuliani's staff realizes the median gross income for families in the United States was slightly over $46,000 in 2005. The idea of half the nation having to put up roughly 32% of their income up front and wait for a refund check the following year could have disastrous implications for the economy. To me, it seems this is another area where a theoretical fix doesn't meet the reality of the situation.

Right now, we have 15% of the nation uninsured. How many more would lose their coverage and not be able to front the $15K is a mind blowing figure to contemplate. It's tough to gauge how many people that is, but even if the plan is more like TransitChecks there is only so much a family can lay out for health care up front. Would lack of demand for services start to bring costs down? Maybe, but it's more likely more people would have to wait until they're in the emergency room and the hospital crisis would worsen at light speed.

Speaking from personal experience, this plan is a non-starter for me. If my employer chose to drop my health coverage since I get a $15,000 tax cut, I wouldn't have insurance due to cost. It's that simple. On another angle, a small family business owner I know currently pays over $60,000 a year for his coverage, so it's a start for him but once again he's laying out a tremendous amount of money.

I'm still working through the John Edwards plan and the Barack Obama plan. From a practical standpoint, even with their shortcomings each seems more likely to work in the real world. However, of concern to our District is that both candidates intend to fund their respective plans by allowing tax breaks to expire that particularly affect our District.

Whenever the national discourse turns to wages and income, no one ever talks about cost of living. If I made what I make and still lived in West Michigan, I'd own a small house as opposed to looking for an apartment with my brother. It costs roughly 34% more to live in North Jersey than in West Michigan, not including the astronomical property tax difference, and 40% of households achieve what the IRS deems as the top 10% of earnings (over $104,000). Simply looking at the numbers blindly doesn't work if we're talking about fairness and shared responsibility.

The government has formulas to determine government aid caps based on location. If income taxes are how we're going to fund healthcare, then there needs to be a better formula of taxation as opposed to simply looking at numbers on a page. If that gets developed, the AMT would also need to go away otherwise the reforms wouldn't apply to our District.

As far as our District goes, the fact our current Representative Scott Garrett ranks in the bottom 5.5% of the influence on Capitol Hill is not going to help us make the case for some sort of cost of living adjustment to be in there. The fundamental questions for our District should be what do we want, and do we have a Representative capable of getting as much of it as possible? Right now, the answer to that second part is probably not.

Health care reform is coming, one way or the other. It has to, as costs are wrecking the budgets of families and our nation's economic competitiveness. It should be an interesting debate to watch.