Saturday, July 01, 2006

What is really going on in New Jersey?

My ability to post images continues to be blocked. Nevertheless, I will write these essays, making a point of "following up" on issues of New Jersey law and/or politics and/or corruption stories. "Law, politics and corruption" go together in New Jersey, like "a horse and carriage."

The current budget crisis and a number of fascinating political developments in "perpetually hapless New Jersey" (the phrase appeared in The New York Times), are worthy of comment. People seem to be asking: "What's really going on?" A careful perusal of newspaper accounts allows us to infer some of what is really happening.

Compare, for example, David W. Chen, "Police Stop of Companion Puts Pressure on New Jersey State Official," in The New York Times, July 1, 2006, at p. B6; with Richard G. Jones, "Rivalries Hobble Resolution of New Jersey Budget Standoff," in The New York Times, July 1, 2006, at p. B6; and also Richard G. Jones and David W. Chen, "Going to Rollaway Matress in New Jersey," in The New York Times, June 30, 2006, at p. B3.

Setting aside the Senatorial campaigns -- which must be affected by this internecidal war -- the struggle between mostly south Jersey politicos and their Democrat machine, dark and mysterious behind the scenes operatives (mostly organized crimes figures, allegedly!), and their time-tested "gimmicks," as opposed to the slightly preferable north Jersey Democrats, who have figured out that they have to do something about the budgets so that the public will not catch on to their shenanigans any time soon, provides a glimpse into how things are still done in New Jersey.

"It's business as usual" the politicians chuckle as they puff on their cigars, which are probably provided by New Jersey's unfortunate tax payers. Evidently, each side has friends in the media and in local police departments. An effort has and will be made to smear opponents or their family members -- allegedly, by the anti-Corzine faction -- making use of not-so-subtle innuendos through hirelings in the media. The goal is both to intimidate adversaries and to have them spending time defending themselves, rather than worrying about who's doing all of that stealing of public funds in New Jersey. Threatening people (like me) will not solve New Jersey's problems. Neither will destroying this blog. I will continue to write elsewhere.

Republicans were hoping to sit this one out, having a laugh at the country club, before their next round of golf. The welfare of their constituents and the state's desperate finances, however, awoke them from their dogmatic slumbers. Republicans will do their best to resolve the issues because there is no alternative to doing so, while still hoping that Democrats will self-destruct. The best thing about Democrats, from a Republican perspective, is that "when they form a firing squad" (as former New York Mayor David Dinkins once commented), "they do it in a circle."

New Jersey's Supreme Court justices are out to lunch, as usual, except that they probably get calls from their political friends and patrons as needed, so that they will do whatever favors are requested, allegedly -- or (better yet) do nothing, when necessary -- so as to please their "bosses." New Jersey's Supreme Court is good at doing nothing. This is fortunate, since their decisions are often worse than inactivity. What the law requires is usually irrelevant to their activities.

A great American comedian once said of Herbert Hoover, as he left the Presidency: "You did a fine job Mr. Hoover. You didn't do nothing, but nothing is what we wanted you to do."

New Jersey's Attorney General, Zulima Farber, is said to have had a "brush with the law" because her partner was stopped for a traffic offense (he didn't wear his seat belt, allegedly), but he was not issued a summons. Calls for her resignation were swift from within Democrat ranks. So was an instant, lengthy, semingly "pre-packaged" article in The New York Times. How can anyone associate with a person who forgot to wear his seatbelt and was not issued a summons for it? Unforgivable. Terrible. What's the world coming to?

This can only mean that Ms. Farber is intent upon prosecuting corruption regardless of the political affiliation of dishonest officials. This kind of reminds me of Mayor Healy's unfortunate recent experience. I wonder if there is a connection? A future target may be Governor Corzine or Senator Menendez, possibly information may be fed to Mr. Menendez's Republican opponent and/or leaked to media "buddies" (or employees?) of the opposing machine's players, who dislike this Senator's refusal to cooperate with corrupt politicians. Worse, Mr. Menendez has actually testified against organized crime in the past. Honesty from public officials cannot be tolerated in the Garden State. Fortunately, it has rarely been a problem to find an honest politician in the vicinity of the Turnpike. "On the one hand," Bob said, "but then, on the other hand."

Some may be heard to whisper: "Hey, why did we put Menendez there if he's not going to play ball?" Senator Menendez is his own man -- which is unforgivable, especially in a Latino -- who put himself where he is now (for good or ill, depending on your opinion), in the U.S. Senate. We are not related, to my knowledge, and I am not involved with his campaign or any other in New Jersey. Organized crime does not like Mr. Menendez because he is not "controllable." That's a pretty good thing in a Senator, both not being liked by criminals and being independent as well as honest. Keep your fingers crossed. At the moment Menendez does not exactly appear to be as honest as the day is long. I am pretty "uncontrollable" too. I doubt that I will be intimidated at this point in my life.

Menendez is not someone I particularly admired or liked in the past, but he has shown me something recently by his steadfastness, refusal to be intimidated and intensity of focus. Menendez insisted, recently, that "there are those who say ---, but there are those who disagree."

I liked and supported Tom Kean. I think he was one of New Jersey's best governors. I do not know his son's record very well, but I am favorably disposed towards the younger Kean. I am glad I do not have to choose between those two candidates in my state's Senate race, where I think I know for whom I will vote and why. Incidentally, "Kean" would be a great name for a university.

Menendez must be an able guy since he is one of the few Hudson County politicians who has not been indicted -- so far. This means either that he is honest or (even better in politics) very careful, both qualities are essential in higher office. "If you can't be good," Tricky Dick used to say, "be careful."

The goal for Jersey boys may well be to intimidate Ms. Farber or Governor Corzine, possibly hinting (allegedly) at a connection between support for Corzine's budget and an end to annoying prosecutorial efforts aimed at curbing graft or interfering with other time-honored features of New Jersey's political scene. Where's Monty Hall ("Let's make a deal!") when you need him?

To accomplish their goals, these "boys" will seek to make use of "Democrat soldiers" who care about social issues and can be told that this fight -- which is about power and ending corruption -- is really about trendy lifestyle "issues." Some "activists" will be stupid enough to believe it and will be used by the bad guys and gals for their own purposes, probably exposing those same unsuspecting party loyalists to liability of some kind. The thinking by the "pros" is that there are always "more chumps" where those "party soldiers" came from.

The tacit threat, allegedly, is that anyone who rocks the proverbial boat, will be sunk by media smears and attacks, or worse. The hoods want to see if Corzine and Farber will blink; so far, they haven't. I hope they won't. I wouldn't. One thing we've learned is that Corzine and his Attorney General are tough as nails.

Does all of this have something to do with south Jersey's Atlantic City casinos? They'll lose some serious change if Corzine shuts down the government, which he probably will. Is this a fight about who really runs the state? If so, then I hope Corzine wins. So should you, if you care about Democracy in America. Sure enough, guess what just happened? Richard G. Jones, "Corzine Orders New Jersey Government Shutdown," in The New York Times, July 2, 2006, at p. A1 and David W. Chen & Laura Masnerus, "No Progress On Resolving Tax Standoff: More Services May Stop In New Jersey Stalemate," in The New York Times, July 3, 2006, at p. B1.

"A little for you and a little for me ... just let me wet my beak ... What's the matter with you guys?" Such comments are not unknown in the halls of power of the Garden State which is said, on summer evenings, to acquire a vomit green glow from all the radiation and chemical waste in its flowing waters, even as cancer cells reproduce happily in the bodies of citizens unprotected from its many "connected" polluters or from the damage they have done to the natural and legal environment. What exit are you from?

Mr. Corzine and his Attorney General have put on their high tech "clean up suits" and are working on removing the toxic effects of legal corruption, before they turn to some environmental clean up, even as they hire accountants -- each of them equipped with environmentally friendly atomic-powered pocket calculators -- to fix the financial mess. Sorry, folks, but you're getting a tax increase to compensate for all the "gimmicks" (to use Corzine's term) of the past.

When questioned, old-fashioned Jersey politicians (hoping for a distraction) respond that they are still "against smoking in public places." Habitual corruption seems to be changing with this administration, which is shocking. From disappointment, I have gone to admiration. I am blushing. Hang in there Governor Corzine and you too, Ms. Farber. Keep your right hands high and always lead with your lefts. Ms. Farber has not been intimidated, I see that now, and is quite serene in pursuing her constitutional responsibilities. Don't forget to wear to wear your seatbelt, Ms. Farber.

"What is the world coming to, fat Tony? It's not like the good old days, no more, huh? Geez, whatta ya gotta do now?" Imagine that, an honest Attorney General in New Jersey. It is still difficult to believe such a thing. Needless to say, somebody is going to try to "get to" Ms. Farber or have her resign. My suggestion is that she be extra careful. Me too. We can anticipate a smear campaign from the hoodlums. (See my comment on the new "book" by "Anonymous" in my essay on Chomsky's Turkish publisher and resistance to censorship.)

Corzine is seeking to pass a budget that tries to do something about the nearly five billion dollars that have "disappeared," allegedly, or are missing, allegedly, from accumulated budgets of the past, where the "short falls" (I love that phrase!) were hidden by "gimmicks." Historically, public money in New Jersey has not been, shall we say, "well spent in the people's interest." This year's "Corzine budget" will be painful. Yet it is essential to stop New Jersey's financial bleeding now. Corzine knows that, so do those who are hoping to stop him from passing this new budget, while preserving "business as usual."

The "boys" want to keep "dipping" a little here, a little there. If they intimidate Ms. Farber or the Governor, then they will do exactly that, allegedly, and nothing will change, also allegedly, until a major new financial crisis surfaces and the state screeches to a halt. The politics of personal destruction and murder in the mass media will not alter any of this. Neither will threatening or framing critics, like me and many others. Attempts to destroy this blog and many of these posts are probably just a coincidence. Sure they are.

I wonder whether "some" in New Jersey find me annoying. I sure hope so. I plan to continue to annoy them.

It is in everyone's interest for this Governor to succeed in his efforts. I can only hope that, for the sake of people in that state -- who certainly deserve better from many of their public officials -- this budget will pass.

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