Saturday, November 05, 2005

Fear and Loathing in New Jersey.

Election time is sometimes very ugly in America. Nowhere is this more true than in the Garden State. New Jersey is a place with a tradition of political and legal corruption which has, sadly, become an international joke any time the words "democracy," "free elections" or "rule of law" are mentioned. Scott Turow territory is a paradise of legality and ethical behavior by comparison.

The current gubernatorial contest has exposed, yet again, the open sewer running under the political system and secret power-structure of that state. Each of the candidates has resorted to vicious insults of the other. Republican Doug Forrester has now stated that the Democrats have "planted" false stories about him in the media, which would not surprise me. Each political party, it is said, has "friends" in the so-called "independent" media, who are used to slander the other party's candidate or anyone they wish to target for harassment or destruction.

Candidates are forced to respond without knowing exactly who is responsible for the slurs. For example, the goal for the political club house boys (who usually run the "attack machines") is to smear Forrester with accusations that he has had an amorous "affair."

My suggestion to Mr. Forrester and Mr. Corzine -- who (personally) probably had nothing to do with the slanders of his rival -- is to "consider the source" any time one of these insults is "put out there." And they will be. The usual method for coping with critics of "politics as usual" in the vicinity of the Turnpike is to "arrange" for charges of some kind to be brought against such a critic or to conduct a behind the scenes slander campaign against him or her (everything is "behind-the-back" in the Garden State), which is meant to cause financial or other harm to that person. Organized crime is a player in state politics and in the legal system, as recent convictions attest. These efforts are usually successful, though not always. For some reason, I can relate to this.

Organized crime and/or political "machines" have a lot of influence in the selection of judges or other appointed officials, who will remain indebted to these "behind-the-scenes" operatives who get them the jobs that they want. So part of the fun in the legal system is to figure out who is really running things behind the scenes. The hoods in machine politics in New Jersey have recently gone high tech, developing methods designed to silence Internet critics. I am always hopeful that some feisty, individualists will continue to find ways to express dissent and criticisms of the strong arm tactics, cronyism, and theft that has become New Jersey's "politics as usual." (see "Da Jersey Code.")

The opinions of the low-life, scum-buckets wielding power behind the scenes in such places must never deter us from speaking our minds freely or living our lives with heads held high. After opposing "development in Bergen County [and helping] to halt plans for a multimilliondollar housing complex," Charles Mysak was disbarred. "There's so many dirty rats in New Jersey -- and I'm the [person] they come after?" Jennifer Medina, "A Sidewalk Bookseller With a Keen Ear for Outrage," in The New York Times, December 27, 2005, at p. B3. Happily, some of the dirty rats are now in serious trouble, since it looks like the feds are getting ready to move in for a while. My guess is that more trouble is on the way for the pols from New Jersey.

I am not surprised by Mr. Mysak's experiences. Much worse horror stories abound, seemingly without effect on the culture of corruption and favor-mongerring in a legal system devoured by the cancers of corruption and secret deal-making. See Tina Kelley, "Study Finds University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey Overused No-Bid Contracts," in The New York Times, January 11, 2006, at p. B3.

The wisdom in New Jersey legal circles runs something like this: if you don't have the facts, argue the law; if you don't have the law, argue the facts; and if you don't have either one, call a corrupt politician (redundancy?), after making a campaign contribution, of course. Politicians make sure to appoint law enforcement and other legal officials, from among their own ranks. There is little grounds for hoping that things will get better any time soon. Recent appointees to a State Ethics panel included a former New Jersey Attorney General, Robert Del Tufo, criticized by U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie for, allegedly, failing to act on a corruption probe with due diligence. (See "Same Old, Same Old.")

It seems to me that, if one is going to be accused of having an affair, one should at least be in a position to recall, fondly, some pleasant weekends in Las Vegas or the Bahamas. Nothing is worse than accusations of sexual impropriety when one has only been going to the Knicks games or (worse) to the public library.

Most of the political operatives or "hacks" in New Jersey are the sort of "guys" whose knuckles graze the ground as they walk. Some of them are lawyers, others are Supreme Court justices. They are "appointed" to positions of importance and real power by their fellow goons, so as to judge other people, only after they help to elect the goons to office. Meanwhile, everybody's property taxes are going up and public services are suffering.

New Jersey is the sort of place where people are said to show up with paper bags filled with cash in order to get "legal" permits of one kind or another. So long as they have the right friends, nothing will happen even if they are arrested for these quaint practices. By reputation, the state court system and government agencies offer little possibility or hope of achieving justice, since they are also the products of that tainted political system. As they say, in Jersey City ... "What else is new?"

I wish any New Jersey public official responsible for law enforcement not to look away from the reality of crimes, like torture, even if the victims are not politically influencial and the victimizers are "connected" -- politically or otherwise. Have the decency to tell the truth to the victims of such secret tortures. It is bad enough that officials are corrupt, but there are so many of them in the Garden State that it is difficult to tell which corrupt official has to be bribed in order to get something done. It may be time to simply write off that state, in its entirety, as beyond repair.

I suppose that what I find most puzzling about the realities of that terrible place is not the spectacle of human greed, malice and hypocrisy masquerading as the opposite. After all, "hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue," in the words of Oscar Wilde. What is really shocking is that someone can sit in judgment of others and be aware of or complicit in heinous and despicable actions, without pangs of conscience, in order to further a career or to get along with the powers that be, while becoming increasingly unaware of his or her own moral confusion, projecting guilt and disaproval towards others, while deviating energies into, say, an obsessive concern with rules combined with disdain for moral consequences. There are lots of physicians in New Jersey who should heal themselves.

If you know that a person's rights are being violated in New Jersey, that persons are being tortured or otherwise abused, anywhere in the state, then please go to the FBI or to any appropriate FEDERAL agency, like the U.S. Attorney's Office. Tell the feds about it. 200 convictions for various forms of corruption have been obtained over the past several years. There will probably be more soon, lots more and very soon. For as long as I can keep this blog going, I will continue to say it. It is time for a change in New Jersey.

By contrast, New York's Mayoral campaign has been tough, but conducted with a lot of class by a diligent, well-intentioned and committed challenger, Fernando Ferrer (Democrat), who lacks the big money but has a lot of heart, and a popular and highly competent incumbent, Mr. Blumberg (Republican). I like and respect both of them. Mr. Ferrer refused to indulge in negative ads at the end of his campaign in order to bring up his numbers. I hope he will remain in public life.

Whoever wins, they are providing a lesson -- by example -- for neighboring states. Yes, democracy is a messy business, but to paraphrase Winston Churchill's famous line: "You got something better?"



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