Monday, June 30, 2008

Habeas Quote of the Day

From the AP story detailing the first of what is to be many court rebukes of the logic for holding prisoners without charges at Guantanamo Bay:
"Lewis Carroll notwithstanding, the fact that the government has 'said it thrice' does not make an allegation true," the court wrote.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit also had this to say:
"The government insists that the statements made in the documents are reliable because the State and Defense Departments would not have put them in intelligence documents were that not the case," the court wrote. "This comes perilously close to suggesting that whatever the government says must be treated as true."

Part of the reason Representative Scott Garrett and Senator Frank Lautenberg should have their commitment to the Constitution brought into question this Election were their votes to suspend Habeas Corpus via the Military Commissions Act of 2006(Garrett, Lautenberg).

It has been nearly two years since the MCA passed. Nearly two years that individuals who may have been falsely accused of terrorist ties have been locked up unjustly. These are years of life we cannot give back to the people we stole them from.

We're coming up on 232nd birthday of our Nation. When we declared our independence, we cast aside many things of British rule. However, one we kept was Habeas Corpus. As the light of the free world, it's been nearly two years since the world saw our own Congress take away one of the fundamental rights of free people everywhere.

As more and more of these wrongful detentions come to light, these votes will look worse and worse.

Garrett on Blitzer

Representative Scott Garrett will be on with Wolf Blitzer at 4PM on CNN to discuss the DCCC Ad. If I can get a link, I'll post it here.

DCCC Attacking Garrett on Oil

Update: You can listen to the ad here.

Seems when the DCCC decided to name Dennis Shulman as an emerging race, they meant top 13 in the nation. The DCCC is coming after Representative Scott Garrett in a new radio ad using a Bush Impersonator:
"Wanted to thank you for continuing to support the Big Oil Energy Agenda,” the impersonator says. “‘Preciate you voting to keep giving billions in tax breaks to the big oil companies. Sure, gasoline is over four bucks a gallon and the oil companies are making record profits, but what’s good for Big Oil is good for America, right? I guess that’s why they call us the Grand OIL Party. Heh, heh, heh.

The DCCC has also announced they will also be doing web videos and targeted e-mails in select Districts.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

War With Iran?

News outlets here in the US, as well as in the United Kingdom, Turkey, China, Qatar, Israel, and Iran are all running stories about a $400 million "covert" operation to destabilize the Iranian government.

The source is Seymour Hersh's "Preparing the Battlefield" from this week's New Yorker. Although this has been said before, part of the reason this particular story has gained such notice is because Hersh's previous work has included exposing the My Lai massacre in Vietnam and the abuses at Abu Ghraib.

I'll be curious to see what, if any response Representative Scott Garrett has to this report. If he releases a statement or is quoted anywhere, I'll re-post it here.

Garrett's New Press Secretary

Herb Jackson has the story in his weekly column, but Representative Scott Garrett has a new press secretary. Erica Elliot has stepped up to the plate for Garrett. Here's her quote from Jackson's piece.
"I was amazed that just by answering the phones as an intern, I could actually make a real difference in people's lives.... That's when I realized that if I could get a job assisting public servants like Congressman Garrett, I would get to make a positive difference in the world," she said.

All the best to Erica in her new endeavor.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Garrett vs. Speculators

A vote by Representative Scott Garrett that didn't get mentioned by anybody was his vote for the Energy Markets Emergency Act of 2008.

The bill empowers the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to go after those artificially inflating the cost of oil through speculation. I've been very critical of Congress for it's inaction dealing with speculation within the oil markets and the impact it's having on prices at the pump.

While this doesn't deal with the favorable taxation that have brought hedge funds and day traders into the oil markets; it is a very good first step in reversing the trend and I'm glad to see Garrett supported it.

2nd Veteran History Project Event

The Garrett Gazette is back. As a reminder, Garrett included the following:

I recently hosted a kick-off event for my Veterans History Project. This exciting project, created in 2000 by Congress is aimed at collecting oral history interviews, memoirs, letters, diaries, photographs, andother original materials from veterans like you.

Our Second Veterans History Project Forum will be Tuesday, July 1st at 9am - 11 am at the Tice Senior and Community Center, 411 Chestnut RidgeRoad, Woodcliff Lake, NJ 07677.

If you have questions regarding this event or would like to sign up foran interview, please call my Newton office at 973.300.2000. Additional information can be found at

Thursday, June 26, 2008

I Want My Garrett Gazette!

Yet another Press Secretary for Representative Scott Garrett has left (the third, I think, since I started blogging); and that means Chief of Staff Amy Smith is doing double duty. However, it should be noted we're missing our Garrett Gazette!

I know I may be a bit critical of the Gazette's content from time to time, but we as a District have had an award winning newsletter coming to us.

With all of the big votes this week, it would have been good to know Garrett's thoughts. The Gazette also usually provides information that's actually useful for constituents, such as Mobile Constituent Service Hours.

I realize it's just one week, but in a year where Republicans are saying they need to frame their races locally, Garrett losing the one thing he does well is something he really can't afford.

Garrett's Full of Sham

Here's something to think about - Representative Scott Garrett said the following regarding the deficit neutral patch of the AMT:

The bill was "really a sham by the Democrats. They know there is no chance of this becoming law," said Rep. Scott Garrett, R-Wantage, a member of the House
Financial Services and Budget committees.

So, in Garrett's eyes a bill with no chance of becoming law is a sham. Fair enough.

Just so everyone is clear, Garrett has introduced 64 bills in his career. Of that, 57 have not made it out of committee (no chance of becoming law). Of the seven that made it out, 2 became law.

I've been saying for the better part of two years when Garrett is talking about his school bill, highway bill, energy bill or basically anything that he touts as his "solution" to a problem that it has no way of getting made into law.

I suppose I should thank him for giving such a concise word to describe his time as our Representative: Sham.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Will the Borrowers Win Again?

Back in December, I wrote about how Representative Scott Garrett had joined the tax cut and borrowers in voting against meaningful AMT reform. Well, today he did it again.

Once again, the $61.5 billion in projected borrowing to provide relief to 20 million families is being off-set by targeted tax increases directed at 5,000 or so hedge fund managers. Here's how the AP explains it:
The offsets in the package before the House Wednesday include a measure that would raise $31 billion over 10 years by increasing the tax rate on the share of investment profits received by private equity and hedge fund managers, also known as carried interest. Managers of private equity and hedge funds are now generally taxed at the 15 percent capital gains rates on the profits they share instead of the 35 percent individual income tax rate that would normally apply to high-income individuals. The bill would tax most of their profit-sharing income at the higher 35 percent rate.

That's right, there are roughly 5,000 people paying an average of $620,000 less in taxes than they would be if they were taxed like normal people. Many Americans won't make that much money over 20 years of work, let alone skip the taxes annually.

As a deficit hawk, it's extremely frustrating to watch this debate every year. The dream used to be getting the Democrats around to supporting balancing the budget. Then, almost as soon as it happened, the Republicans became the deficit spending lovers. What gives?

While I haven't seen a comment from Garrett this time around, Representative Jim McCrery provides a decent soundbite as to the Republican logic:
Republicans believe that Congress should not raise taxes on one group of
taxpayers in order to prevent an increase on another set of taxpayers.

So instead, Republicans want to raise the taxes on entire future generations payable to the Chinese?

Taxes today are about 25% higher than they need to be because of interest due on previous deficit spending. How high are we going to go if these special interest driven partisan games continue?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Garrett Against Medicare Reform

I won't have time to do a full analysis of this bill today, but Representative Scott Garrett joined 14.3% of the House in voting against HR 6331: Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act.

Among other things, the bill expands access in rural areas such as Sussex and Warren Counties, increases the focus on preventative care (which costs less in the long term), ensures service providers are paid promptly, and fixes some of the problems with Medicare Part D.

Considering Garrett represents a District with 13.4% of the population over 65, which is a higher percentage than the nation as a whole, one really does have to wonder what Garrett is thinking. If Garrett took to the floor to explain his vote I'll post it here.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Fanning running in the Fifth

Ed Fanning of Dumont will be joining Representative Scott Garrett and Dennis Shulman on the ballot in November. Fanning will be running as a member of the Green Party. So far, he's had 88 people visit his website.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Garrett & Countrywide

Well, with the news breaking about the VIP program at Countrywide, I decided to check out if our Representative Scott Garrett was part of the brewing scandal.

Happily, I can report he is not. He has a small loan from a local bank, and that's it.

Unfortunately, as noted by the Center for Responsive Politics, he has received $5,000 from Countrywide's PAC.

Countrywide's largest competitors in the home loans category are no doubt Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two of Garrett's regular targets in his quest to eliminate the government.

It should be interesting to see if the Shulman campaign decides to make an issue of Garrett's opposition to the existence of the two, as well as voting against other housing programs that would benefit our District; while taking contributions from the one company who benefits most from his stances.

This is part of the reason I think public financing is so important. I have little doubt that Garrett really does want to eliminate the government, as he says often. However, due to political contributions it's easy for people to question whether it's motivated by his own beliefs or his campaign coffers.

Drill, Baby, Drill?

It's widely documented that Representative Scott Garrett is the only member of our Congressional delegation to support drilling off the Jersey Shore (Record, Star Ledger, Forbes). Here are his thoughts as reported in the Star Ledger:
"Providing states the opportunity to choose deep sea exploration using 21st century technology would help increase American supplies and thereby lower gas prices," Garrett said.
Problem with Garrett's statement is a little thing most of us like to call reality.

The amount of known reserves off limits are vastly below what Garrett and others have claimed. It's also at least 10 years away from adding oil to the market. So basically, this falls into the ideological false promises category. Even if the ban is lifted, there will be no impact on prices.

Even if there were oil out there, as pointed out by fellow NJ Republican Representative Frank LoBiondo to the Star Ledger, there's plenty of supplies available that the oil companies have signed leases for and aren't doing anything with right now:
"With more than 68 million acres nationwide already leased though unexplored for oil and natural gas, we should be focusing on those areas before drilling in sensitive locations such as off the Jersey Shore," LoBiondo said.

We've given oil companies tax breaks, credits, and government funded research as to where and how to drill; however, we cannot make the oil companies drill. It's kind of like we can't make the Saudis open the spigots a little.

The companies and nationals know the price right now is based on wild speculation, their dividends and treasuries reflect it, and there is no motivation for them to increase supply regardless of how much we're hurting.

Maybe that's why Garrett is proposing nonsense solutions; because the market is working as a market will without intervention. The only problem with the current climate that Garrett sees is that the government is saying companies can't drill in certain spots. So, Garrett's trying to convince his base they're paying too much because of the government and not reality.

Problem with being an ideologue is that your statements often have no grounding in reality. Garrett has to know his "solution" won't do anything to lower gas prices, but he's still going after the ideological target instead of pushing for something that will actually help.

It's more of the same from Garrett: cheap talk and useless action.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Call an Earmark an Earmark

Part of the problem with the fight against earmarks is that, when they are presented to what most people deem a worthy program, the press refers to them as grants.

Such is the case with the The Express-Times story talking about our Representative Scott Garrett's earmark for a rural police training program to be conducted at Centenary College in Hackettstown:

A $894,348 federal law enforcement grant is bringing rural police training back to the local level. U.S. Rep Scott Garrett announced the award of the three-year U.S. Department of Justice grant Monday at Centenary College, which will develop the program.
For those that aren't familiar with Centenary, it is a great school. Unfortunately, the nature of the earmark process does absolutely nothing to validate that reputation.

In addition, the fact much of our rural District falls within the Highlands region providing the vast majority of NJ's drinking water makes us particularly susceptible as a soft target. So, it sounds like a valid program, and on face value this seems to be a noble deed.

That said, the press calling this a grant implies Centenary won the funds in a competition against their peers. In fact, Garrett sent a letter to the Appropriations Committee requesting $750,000; Appropriations approved $940,000; and, on a side note, somehow $46,000 vanished in Washington.

The problem with the press calling earmarks grants is that then there is no accountability for Garrett in the public's mind? What was his vetting process? Could either Warren or Sussex County Community Colleges have provided the same classes at a better cost? Would another college, in say Pennsylvania or New York, done even better?

We'll never know. The only thing we know is that Garrett is very comfortable railing against earmarks in Washington; probably because he knows most folks don't realize that's exactly what he's doing with these "grants".

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Headed on Vacation

While it's not impossible I'll have time to pay attention and blog while gone, regularly scheduled blogging of the Fifth will resume June 17.

Bergen Reformers Bloodbath

Well, the Real Bergen Democrats went down in flames yesterday:
With 93.5 percent of Bergen County votes counted late Tuesday, the incumbents appear to have defeated the challengers by about 3 to 1.

According to the returns, Ganz received 18,383 votes, McPherson received 19,276, and Walton got 18,890.

On the challengers’ slate, Skiba got 6,302 votes, Hoernlein got 6,468 votes and Rasul got 5,476.

"The results show a mandate for the Bergen County Democratic Organization," said Bill Maer, a spokesman for the county Democrats. "This shows that the voters are comfortable with the leadership we’ve shown over the last few years."

Maer's statement is a little misleading. What he should be saying is that 11.8% of registered Democrats are comfortable with the leadership, because that's how many people actually voted for McPherson when compared to registered Democrats.

But, credit where credit is due, you don't win elections with the people that decided to stay home. Inside Bergen highlights the beating The Real Bergen Dems also took at the County Committee level. And the pay-to-play goes on...

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Obama vs. McCain

When I started telling people this was the race I wanted in the middle of last year, even I didn't believe it was likely to happen. I just hope it lives up to my expectations. Honest disagreements are what politics is about, but my sincere hope is that each side actively keeps it out of the gutter.

Shulman's Statement

Dennis Shulman won a decisive victory in tonight's Democratic Primary in New Jersey's 5th Congressional District and immediately promised to change the corrupt, special interest politics of Washington."

"We need to change the way we do business in Washington," said Shulman. "We need to get our country back on track -- lower health care costs, lower fuel costs, and fix the mortgage crisis that has put our economy on the verge of recession. Unfortunately, the special interests and their lobbyists are standing in the way."

"And Scott Garrett is part of the problem. He's taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from the banking and financial industries that are responsible for this country's mortgage crisis - and he has voted their interests every step of the way. He recently voted against legislation to help families hurt by the mortgage crisis meltdown - and that is simply unacceptable," said Shulman.

"I want to thank the people of New Jersey for their support and compliment our opponents on running spirited campaigns. I intend to wage a vigorous campaign challenging Garrett and the special interests - and I intend to win in November."

Shulman Wins

Dennis Shulman has won the primary to take on Representative Scott Garrett in the fall. As of this writing, Shulman is winning 60% of the vote.

I took the opportunity to check out the Shulman headquarters. I was very impressed with not only the local support, but the national interest in this race. There is a definite sense of family among his staff, among other things they sang Happy Birthday to a volunteer who put in something like a 14 hour day at that point.

I was able to speak with Shulman for a little bit about the race. The excellent sense of humor he has a reputation for is well earned. He is very genuine, which if enough people get to meet him should help against Garrett.

It should be very interesting to see how this race plays out. I'll post any official statements from Shulman, Camille Abate or Garrett should they become available.

Let the games begin. Yippee.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Garrett's Oily Gazette

Undaunted by the fact the head of the MTA shot down our Representative Scott Garrett about his plan to eliminate Federal oversight for our regional transportation needs, Garrett pressed his plan again in the latest Garrett Gazette.

In true to Garrett form, he's cited a study that I can't find. It doesn't mean it doesn't exist, it just means what I could find didn't match his numbers. Here's the statement:
I strongly believe that we need to develop our nation's current resources. We need to begin opening up our own fuel sources here in the U.S. and begin deep sea exploration. The Energy Information Administration estimates that untapped U.S. reserves would provide 1 million barrels per day for 30 years.

By Garrett's math, there would have to be 10.9 billion barrels of oil in untapped reserves (1 million x 365 x 30). However, the only number I could find from the EIA regarding non-production was 5.174 billion in proved non-producing reserves. So, pending a link being sent, Garrett's numbers seem to have been inflated 112%.

Garrett making up numbers and sources is nothing new. However, Garrett is also attempting to make it sound like this would really help.

Even if we fully tapped these reserves to get a million barrels a day, before they ran out in less than 14 years, we'd only be offsetting our imports by 7.4% per day if our consumption was not lowered significantly.

Another key example that Garrett is misrepresenting the truth was this statement:
And to make matters worse, our great state of New Jersey is one of the hardest hit states. For every gallon a gasoline attendant puts in your tank, you as a New Jersey resident will pay 18.2 cents in federal taxes.

We always rank among the 10 lowest states for average gas prices, often the lowest in the nation. It doesn't mean it's not high, but "one of the hardest hit states" is a ridiculous statement with no basis in fact. Juxtaposing it with the Federal gas tax to push his plan is nothing short of malicious misinformation.

If Garrett wants to push his plan, he should at least engage in an honest discussion with constituents. Similar to the SCHIP debate, without arguing from a position of honesty, we can't take any of his positions seriously.

The fact Garrett can't get a bill out of committee shows his colleagues feel the same way.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Record Endorses Shulman

The Record has endorsed Dennis Shulman as the Democrat to take on Representative Scott Garrett in the fall.