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Re: Christie

I am not at all surprised that New Jersey is experiencing financial difficulties:

April’s income tax revenues from the state’s wealthiest residents are far less than expected, and the overall shortfall for the current fiscal year is $800 million below the Christie administration’s projections.

From a first hand perspective, I lived through Pharmageddon from 2007-2013 when lab after lab shut down, transferring a tiny fraction of the workforce to Cambridge, MA and leaving tens of thousands of highly skilled, well paid STEM professionals to rot in the vast suburban jungle between New York City and Philadelphia.  (Don’t believe me, you congressional lurkers out there?  Go look up the NJDOL stats for those years.  When you’re done cringing in horror at the waste of human and tax resources, you can tell those Pharma lobbyists to f^&* off the next time they whine that they just can’t find good help anymore and need to import from Asia.)

Of course, it wasn’t all Christie’s fault.  He wasn’t elected until 2009 (no, I didn’t vote for him.  I voted for Chris Daggett).  By then, the merry axmen in the executive suites were already hacking away at families and careers with abandon.  Living in New Jersey ain’t cheap and it gets damn near impossible when you lose your $100K salary to be replaced by a measly $2000/month in unemployment.  Someone besides me should see the link between the hemorrhaging of highly paid jobs and NJ’s fiscal problems.

Just think of all the tax revenue that was lost when Christie couldn’t be bothered to stop the carnage.  That’s tens of thousands of well paid jobs, *poof!*, gone in a flash.  Deval Patrick didn’t seem to have trouble attracting that (vastly reduced) pool of jobs, did he?  By the way, did those biotechs in Cambridge who promised to hire in order to get tax breaks actually hire all the people they said they would?  And why didn’t Christie try to make a deal with the pharmas to keep them in the state?  Was he just too busy putting his political adversaries in thumb screws?  Was he having too much fun killing infrastructure projects and slashing the NJ Transit budget in order to give hard earned NJ tax dollars to developers of a white elephant in the Meadowlands?

Anyway, Paul Krugman should stop wondering about why people are so enamored with Christie.  Well, some of us weren’t but then we weren’t taken in by Obama either and for roughly the same reasons.  Both politicians coasted to victory by playing on the emotions of the electorate.  In Christie’s case, he says what he thinks everyone is thinking.  Or at least he’s not afraid to verbally abuse the defenseless.  He gives his supporters status by picking on someone down the totem pole, separating them from their fellow citizens.  In Obama’s case, he was all about appealing to the aspirations of the insecure.  He called them “the creative class”, gave them status and separated them from their natural allies.  He made some vulnerable democrats feel all warm and gooey.  Yes, we can.

So, what can we learn from Christie and Obama?  My guess is that when it comes to politics, it’s best to be a cold blooded voter and ask very directly and persistently, “What have you done for ME lately?”  And when those pols start going for the emotional jugular to tell them to talk to the hand and walk away.

 

Followup and stuff

A few random followups based on comments and such:

1.) I am well aware that there is a law (HIPAA) or guideline or suggestion that your insurance carrier has to provide you with a certificate of coverage and that you can not be denied insurance for a pre-existing condition and that new carriers have to pick you up within 63 days of the last day you had coverage from your previous carrier.  And I qualified for all of that.  I have never been without insurance for even one day since August 1986.  That has nothing to do with the cost of the premium.  You and the carrier can comply with the laws and you could still get stuck with a ginormous, whopping premium through no fault of your own because one of your family members has a pre-existing condition.  They can’t deny you coverage but they can make you wish you didn’t have to pay the premium.  That’s the insurance industry’s way of encouraging you to not bother them for a policy.  See how Congress has looked after us?  Heartwarming, isn’t it?

2.) I have no problem covering the costs of other people’s health care but I do have a problem with people who insist on consulting unproven alternative medicine and I’d like that to no longer be possible.  If you want to visit chiropractors and acupuncturists, do it on your own dime.  My point about insurance is that at this point in time, it’s easier for the ditzy to get their weekly back cracking covered than for those of us with ailing family members to get the care they need at affordable prices.  That’s wrong.

3.) Unrelated: Atrios posted a link to an older post he had on ACORN and the foreclosure crisis and how the Vampire Squids were shoving their blood funnels into every aspect oo mortgage and real estate interactions back in 2007.  That reminded me of the letter I got from Wells-Fargo yesterday.  It was a sort of frantic letter on their part saying, “We see that you are escaping our event horizon by paying off your mortgage and home equity loan.  We are trying frantically to reach you (by an old phone number) and haven’t been able to.  Please contact us so we can persuade you to renew your relationship with us.  We’d like to talk to you about new ways we can hook you back up to our perpetual money making apparatus.  Sincerely, your BFFs at Wells-Fargo”

Too funny.  By the way, I’m still waiting for the escrow account money Wells-Fargo generously decided to withhold for the payment of the ridiculous property taxes I paid in NJ and if the check is not here by the end of the week, I’m contacting my lawyer.  Sincerely, the newly emancipated RD.

Note: A curious thing happened when I called W-F about the payoff amount for the home equity loan (all of which went back into the house for really useful stuff, not vacations to majorca or a new car).  When I called them, they wouldn’t give me the payoff amount and they refused to release the lien on my house.  They told me that only a third party could do that.  In other words, my exasperated lawyer had to prepare a document and send it to them on his letterhead in order to get a payoff amount at closing and have the lien on the house released.  Both myself and the lawyer were pretty steamed about this.  It cost me extra legal fees and it seemed completely unnecessary.  The lawyer said that Wells-Fargo is full of serendipitous surprises like this that hold up closings.  So, what was the alternative?  Wells-Fargo said they would give me the payoff amount and release the lien directly IFF I contacted them by snail mail and waited- are you ready for this?- FORTY DAYS from the receipt of the snail mail.  By then, the closing would have had to be put off and all kinds of chaos and expensive and unnecessary mayhem would have ensued.  I have yet to hear a logical, rational, consumer friendly explanation as to why the loan account holder was not able to process this request within the 3-5 days and that it required the magic mojo of a lawyer’s third party stationary to get it done.  But I smell a scam.

4.) Chris Christie has set an October date for the election of a new senator to replace Frank Lautenberg who died recently.  The Democrats are howling at how unfair it is because it means there will be an expensive election separate from the one for governor to be held a month later and the earlier one will dissuade voters from showing up to kick Christie’s ass out of Drumthhhhhhhwackit.  As if NJ residents didn’t already have a zillion reasons to displace Christie.  I don’t know anyone who really likes him and quite a few teachers and school employees who actively hate his sizeable guts.

But all of the candidates that the Democrats are proposing to replace Lautenberg are male.  Corey Booker, another bonus class ass kisser in the mold of Barack Obama, is on the top of their lists, as is Frank Pallone, a Democratic Congressman.  NJ is not my problem anymore but I would like to point out- again- that there isn’t one single woman in the US Congressional delegation from NJ.  Not one single Congressperson or Senator from NJ is a woman.  NJ is the densest state in the union, in more ways than one (don’t even get me started).  You would think Democrats would make more of an effort to promote women into that delegation but I lived there for 20+ years and saw very little evidence of it, Linda Stender being a notable exception in 2006.  The state Democratic machine abandoned Stender in 2008 when Obama and Rahm Emannuel decided to knife liberal Democrats.

Take that in.  In the state with the densest population not one of their congressional delegates to either house is a woman and this has been the status quo for almost 2 decades.

I have remarkable little patience for either party in NJ but the crocodile tears the Democrats are spilling over this golden opportunity to elect a woman to the Senate and start cleaning up their shameful record of neglect for more than half of their population has me playing a very tiny violin.

Chris Christie: Faux Outrage or Genuine Distress?

I’ve read a lot of skepticism about Chris Christie’s harsh words for his party.  Even the NYTimes is jumping into the speculation frenzy by pointing out that Christie’s harshest words were for Speaker Boehner while he was rather conciliatory towards Eric Cantor.  So, is Chris Christie just trying to score some political points for his future presidential campaign by contrasting himself against his own party or is he genuinely frustrated?

I’m going to go with the latter and here’s why.  First, everyone in Congress expected a vote on Tuesday for Hurricane Sandy funds.  Chris Christie and Peter King were not the only people who were surprised that the Sandy vote was pulled at the last minute.  We can debate whether it was personal ire towards Christie from the Republicans or some bigger strategy.  I lean towards a bigger strategy.  Republicans are not stupid.  They’re like zombies who think.  You can never turn your back on them. Pulling the Sandy bill serves some purpose of theirs.  We don’t know what yet but they’re going to use Sandy and New Jersey for something.  Count on it.

Secondly, the shore businesses that were devastated by Hurricane Sandy need to be at least partially up and running by Memorial Day.  That’s only 5 months away.  People tend to forget that New Jersey’s economy relies heavily on shore business during the summer.  We’re not all trashy, spangly Guidos and Guidettes.  The shore money usually comes from families renting houses for 1-2 weeks in the summer in places like Avalon and Lavalette.

Time is of the essence.  Christie’s re-election will definitely hinge on whether or not he can deliver the funds in time or not.  Getting people all fired up against Republican House members isn’t going to help him *this* year.  It might have an impact in 2014 but Christie might be gone by then.

Now, is it possible that Christie is playing a part in some elaborate game where he blusters and storms about Sandy relief and the Republicans wring their hands and say, “All that money will increase the deficit.  We can’t afford it without some skin in the game from every American in the form of cuts to Social Security and Medicare.”  Well, I hate to be tin-foily but anything is possible with this bunch.  But if this all hinges on the debt ceiling crisis that’s coming up in March, then I think Christie doesn’t give himself enough time to get the job done at the shore by going along with it, something I’m sure he has reiterated to Boehner’s office.

So, I’m going with genuine distress.  That doesn’t mean I like Christie (I don’t) or think he’s secretly a nice guy (as if) or that he’s undergoing a character building experience (dream on).  I think he’s as self-interested as any other governor who’s running for re-election.  Sandy might be Christie’s Waterloo and he knows it.

The latest news is that Boehner is scheduling the Hurricane Sandy vote for Friday.  It’s very interesting timing.  The bill includes money for fisheries in Alaska and the Gulf coast that were also damaged by Sandy.

huh?

Also, the funds would be split into two parts.  $27 billion now and $33 billion for later projects.  If we assume that the Republicans know they can’t get around passing *some* kind of Sandy relief, splitting the bill into two parts still gives them leverage to get what they want later.

 The new Congress is sworn in today.  So, one of the first things they will vote on is a spending increase, which Republicans will use next year against their opponents when they run for their seats.  Sweeeet.  Can’t you just hear the campaign stump speeches now?  “My opponent was sworn in only a year ago and the very first thing he/she did was vote to increase the deficit by $27 BILLION dollars.  We’ll be working for the Chinese before you know it.  The world will end, dogs and cats will be living together…”

Life in Post-Apocalyptic New Jersey: Was it something I said?

Hoboken Path train station flooding during Sandy

Back on December 19, 2012, I wrote:

On to Sandy.  I got an email from Senator Menendez about the negotiations for Hurricane Sandy funds and it has occurred to me that if Menendez and Lautenberg concede on the so-called “Fiscal Cliff” negotiations, it could be that they’re being pressured to give in or the funds will be much, much smaller than we need or non-existent.  Would the Republicans screw business owners in New Jersey who have been footing the bill for their states for decades by getting the least amount of federal funds back for every dollar they send to Washington?  Sure they would.  They’re not concerned with the fate of New Jersey, the shore communities that make their livings in the summer or the fact that the Northeast Corridor trains from DC to New York cut through this state or that New Jersey towns are really suburbs of either New York City or Philadelphia.  No, all that matters is that the Republican donors get to sit on as much wealth as they can possibly accumulate under them.  I’d like to hear what is going on with the Sandy reconstruction funds and be reassured that they aren’t being held hostage to the Republican terrorist threat but I am not hopeful.

Ooooo, so close.

But I was wrong.  Yes, you heard me say it.  I was wrong to think that Republicans were going to use Sandy as a threat on the so-called “Fiscal Cliff” negotiations.

I’m betting they’re going to use this for the next hurdle, the debt ceiling.  “Nice little state you got there, Senator Menendez.  Be a shame if something *happened* to it.”  Or it might be something in the interim.  They’ll make helping New Jerseyans and Lawnguylanders into a bad thing.

Would Republicans do it?  Oh ,heck yeah they would.  There’s nothing they like so much as to make people feel good about kicking the next person down on the totem pole.  Except that’s not the direction where all the money is.

Chris Christie got a little exorcised (as opposed to exercised, a word with which he appears to be unfamiliar) today when he said this:

“There is only one group to blame,” Christie said. “The House Majority and John Boehner.”

“Last night, the House Majority failed the basic test of leadership and they did so with callous disregard to the people of my state,” he said. “It was disappointing and disgusting to watch.”

“Shame on you, shame on Congress.”

Following his remarks, Christie doubled down on his criticism in a lengthy — and incredibly candid — press conference in which he laid into House Republicans for putting “palace intrigue” ahead of their actual jobs.

“Our people were played last night as a pawn…and that’s why people hate Washington, D.C.,” Christie said later. “They forget that we’re the ones who sent them there.”

Asked who he thought was responsible on the holdup over Sandy aid, Christie laid the blame entirely on Boehner.

“It was the Speaker’s decision — his alone,” Christie said, adding that he tried to reach Boehner four times, but that the Speaker did not take his calls until this morning.

“I won’t get into my conversation with [Boehner], but I will tell you there is no reason to believe anything they tell me.”

If I hadn’t watched Christie throw his weight around here in NJ for the past three years, yelling at teachers, maligning union workers and giving our two Democratic Senators the silent treatment, I might feel a little sorry for the predicament he’s in.  Here’s a Republican governor pissed as hell with his party for good reason.  If human behavior were susceptible to selective pressure, this is the time when Christie would begin to experience empathy for the Sandy stricken victims in his state and evolve away from the hard hearted, “fend-for-yourself” political tactics of his party.

Well, a girl can dream.

On the other hand, I have read somewhere that political revolutions happen when the pain intensifies on the middle and upper stratum of society and the Haves start feeling betrayed by the Have-Mores.  We might be at that point now. So, maybe the House Republicans should continue to act like f^&*ing assholes.  In fact, the assholier the better.  Get it all out there.  Let’s see how low they can go.

I’m more than a little incensed right now that the Republicans have decided to hold New Jersey hostage.  Unemployment here is pretty bad since the big pharmas picked Massachusetts as their new Bug Out Location.  And it’s only going to get worse in the summer if the shore properties and businesses are still under water, metaphorically or not.  The money would have been a much needed stimulus package as well as a way to fix our deteriorating infrastructure.

But the Republicans are the majority in the House and they’ve decided to do nothing.  This is why we can’t have nice things.

Not sure what Christie can do at this stage.  He’s made a career out of nastiness to Democrats and while they’ll do the right thing, his own party is never going to forgive him for sashaying around the shore with Obama a few days before the election.  Of course, that’s just the excuse they’ll give for being sociopathic bastards who are bent on killing the social safety net.  They don’t really need a reason but their gullible public will probably demand one so they feel justified in piling on poor Ortley Beach and Hoboken.  Christie’s in a tight spot.

Then again, he could just send some men around to break some knees.

*****************************************

Update on the tree situation: It’s going to be a long process cleaning up the trees.  All along the roads, people have stacked tree corpses in neat little pyramids.  But the other day, I was driving through the Duke Estate in Hillsborough and the storm has been devastating there. The estate has lost 2,000 trees.  Brook and her friends wanted to visit the nature center and ride their bikes through the park back in early December.  But when they got there, the caretakers told them the estate was closed because of tree damage.  It’s just too dangerous to ride along the paths.  I could tell that there was substantial damage and had to agree with them.  You just never know.

Then, a wind storm struck right before Christmas.  The wind was really strong and as I was driving through the other day, I noticed that there were a lot more trees down.  The estate now looks like a bomb hit it and more fragile trees that made it through Sandy came down. That might have been where I saw another tree dragging down a power line.  It’s unnerving because cutting through the Duke Estate is the best way to avoid the main drag here.

I’ll try to take pictures tomorrow.

Life in Post-Apocalyptic New Jersey: Climbing the water tower to defend our honor

Tree down on a road about a mile from my house the day after Sandy.

I read a post by Chicago Dyke at Corrente this afternoon that was a little disturbing.  CD thinks that Chris Christie’s request of $36 billion is too much.  I think Chicago Dyke has a distorted perception of who actually lives here in New Jersey but I’ll address that in a minute.  Here’s my response to her from my comment at Corrente (edited) with an additional point that I think any liberal would love to sign on to:

New Jersey resident here climbing the water tower with a bucket of paint to defend new New Jersey’s honor.

First, we in NJ have been footing the bill for the rest of the country for years now. For every dollar of taxes we send to DC we get $.61. That’s right, we lose almost 40 cents of every dollar. We make up for the shortfall by paying the most punitive property taxes in the country. While I would LOVE to send my $.39/dollar of taxes to Michigan, it usually gets sucked down by Mississippi and Alabama who hate us for our freedoms.

Second, this is the densest state in the nation. There are a lot of buildings and a lot of people. And real estate here is not cheap. I live in the NYC metropolitan area in central Jersey where the average house price in my town is about $450K and the median salary is $108k per year. And at that salary, you’re barely middle class. I was making about $100k when I got laid off and I live in a modest townhouse and drive a second hand car that I bought in 2007. It’s just fricking expensive here.  So, anything that needs to be repaired is going to cost a fortune.

Third, the businesses wiped out at the Jersey shore are seasonal. There’s not a whole lot going on there in the winter. The shore businesses make their money from May to September. Imagine if you were the owner of a store in a mall and the mall burned to the ground before Christmas.  Now, imagine thousands of stores in that predicament. There are many people who will lose their shirts and their jobs next year if these businesses can’t be rescued.  The problem can be somewhat alleviated next year if we start now.

The shore is great for families who want something between a cruise and a staycation.  You rent a house there for a week or two, invite everyone you know and enjoy the sun and sea. So, tourism is big in this state. Homeowners who had their seasonal rental properties wiped out and restaurants and motels amusements all have to be somewhat ready before next summer.  By the way, I’ve rented a house at the Jersey Shore and it was just a little bungalow, nothing fancy.  It was no three story modern monstrosity on the beach.  Most of the properties down there are not owned by the fabulously wealthy.  They’re just simple little vacation homes with few frills.  The owners are the people who are going to be really hurting next year if they can’t rent their houses.

Four, the devastation was pretty bad in Newark, Jersey City and Hoboken. Those are not high rent districts, except for Hoboken, which is becoming gentrified and is the hot place to live if you can’t afford Manhattan. In other words, these cities were already hit hard by decades of neglect followed by an economic downturn starting in 2008. I think I know your heart CD and I don’t think you wish further hardship on these people. Not everyone lives in Princeton.

Five, the devastation was wide spread. This much I know for sure because I see it every fricking day. There are still parts of my township that were without power up until last week. The number of trees that are down is unbelievable. I mean, you really have to be here to see it. Some people walked out of their houses the day after the storm and were electrocuted on their front porches. I did a video of a neighborhood near mine. Check it out. There were huge trees down on almost every property, streets blocked off from fallen power lines and one house that was literally surrounded by fallen power lines. I don’t know how people in that house were able to leave it safely. I was out of power for 5 days which wasn’t so bad but without power when I had the generator, you can’t turn on your furnace even if it’s gas. Some people had to go almost four weeks without heat in the middle of November.

Princeton *was* extremely hard hit. There were main streets in downtown Princeton that were blocked off because of dangerous fallen and falling trees. (Witherspoon was completely blocked off at Nassau Street) Up until last week, I was still driving thru parts of Princeton that had no working traffic signals. In the coming months, there will be many more deaths from this storm. There are still too many damaged trees close to the road. Yours truly is very afraid of driving around my area and Princeton because a car is bound to get hammered by one of them at any point in time.  But not everyone in Princeton is rich.  There are many students, graduate students with families and regular, working people who live in and around Princeton.

And as to the intensity of the storm, when your house vibrates and shakes from the wind and you can hear trees groaning and snapping all around you for about 3 hours straight, it’s not just your average storm.  It came ashore as a hurricane and met with another storm system.  And it was scary as hell to live through so let’s not trivialize it.  For some people, it was wind, storm surge and fire all in one night.  I think it gave Katrina a run for its money. There may not have been as many deaths from drowning but the damage to property is extensive and much worse than Katrina because it is over such a big, densely populated area.

Finally, this state had an unemployment rate of 10.2% BEFORE Sandy. It’s higher now because so many businesses were damaged or forced to close during the power failure or lost money because counties like mine declared a state of emergency and told everyone to stay indoors until the dangerous power lines and fallen trees and street lamps and overhead power supports could be secured. To give you an idea of how long that took, it was November 16 before the kids could go trick or treating safely.

Sandy has been awful for a lot of people but there is a silver lining. That is with $36 B (and to me, that sounds cheap but that’s because I know what things cost here) we can put a lot of people back to work doing construction, clean up, maybe forward planning, insurance adjusting, relocations, etc. There will be enough money to maybe jump start this economy, which believe it or not, has been harder hit during the little Depression than most people know.

And here’s the thing that liberals should be onboard for: since the stimulus money was inadequate, pumping $36 Billion into New Jersey would demonstrate something that even  Chris Christie doesn’t want to admit.  Stimulus works.  This state is in pretty bad shape but now there is an opportunity to do something about it.  Just burying the power lines would be a HUGE improvement and would put thousands of people to work.  We’ve lost so much in the past 4 years.  The pharmaceutical industry, which everyone loves to hate but I loved working for, has pulled out of New Jersey leaving thousands of well educated, technically current people out of work, under-employed and just flat broke.  Will those people be looking for jobs in the clean up?  Um, yeah.  And once they’re employed, they’ll get off the unemployment rolls and start pumping money back into the economy.  Some of that money will come in the form of taxes where we will, once again, give away $.39 of every dollar we send.

One more thing:  If Chris Christie wants to get re-elected and be a real hero, he could use Sandy to apply a tax overhaul shock doctrine.  Now is the time to reform the highly regressive property tax system and collect taxes from the people who actually make a lot of money, including all of the businesses here who have been welching on local townships.  Sure, it will look like something only a progressive FDR type could do but remember that FDR got re-elected- three times.

Think about it, Chris.

So, I hope I’ve changed your mind, CD. We really need the money. It will be well spent. And it will do a lot of working class and middle class people a lot of good. Those people have been funding the rest of America for years. It’s time for America to give back in our state’s hour of need

Here’s a video from MacJersey (kinda shaky) of Mantoloking on the shore.  Some of the houses were built in the 1920s and never expected to be part of an inlet.  The landscape has changed and part of the road infrastructure is gone.

Life in post apocalyptic NJ: gougers and bipartisan bullshit

Running off Generator Power!!
Riverdaughter’s — Free Charging Station

Courtesy of The Confluence

I’m about to head out for gas and firewood but not very confident about finding either. Last night,the lights flickered briefly, then went out again. The high voltage transmission lines cut through this section of new jersey about a mile from my house. The road beneath them is blocked off and it now occurs to me that there must be a major problem with one of the towers.

In the meantime, I’ve been listening to the news on WNYC and everyone is marveling over the amazing bipartisanship display between Chris Christie and Barack Obama. Allow me to be cynical here. Christie is the governor who cancelled the new rail tunnel project underneath the Hudson between Hoboken and manhattan. That tunnel wouldn’t have saved Hoboken or the rail line this year but in future storms, it would have had modern anti flooding and pumping mechanisms so the catastrophe we’re now looking at with the rail system would be avoided.

Governor Christie has a particular loathing for NJ Transit. His budget cut $300 million from NJ Transit in the first year of his administration, causing fares to skyrocket and improvements to be cut. Instead, Christie’s administration gave $300 million to the developers of a white elephant shopping mall extravaganza in the Meadowlands. Those developers lost their shirts in 2008 before they could finish the mall that nobody wanted. So, to recap, NJ rail customers – 0, rich developers – 300. This is the same governor who yells at teachers and makes the rest of us feel like parasites. He belongs to the party that cut back unemployment bennies for people in this state by 26 weeks. Let’s not make a hero out of Christie.

And let’s not pretend that it is above Barack Obama to milk this disaster for all that it’s worth. Sometimes, I wonder if there really is a Satan and Obama is his guy. First there was the financial collapse of September 2008 and now this. In both cases, Obama looks like he’s cruisin for a bruisin and then voile! Catastrophe and loss. It’s perfect. Lots of free airtime with Obama hugging displaced elderly ladies in a shelter and distributing packs of White House stamped m&m’s to poor little kiddies missing Halloween. Did Michelle know he was going to do that? Message, “I care”.

Please.

Here’s what I imagined happened. Christie reads the signs on the national hurricane service maps, which his party is dying to privatize, and sees sandy heading right towards us. Knowing that re-election campaigning for him starts in January 2013, he swallows his pride and calls the White House. Obama drives a hard bargain. If you want a quick response, you’d better say nice things about us from the very start. You will appear at my side and fawn all over me. You will say I’m the nicest, bestest, most efficient and empathetic president you have ever met and my administration is on the ball.

So, Christie is.

I don’t expect Obama’s attention to New Jersey to last beyond election day. After that, Christie is on his own and so will the rest of New Jersey. If we’re going to get this state up and running again, it all has to happen before next Tuesday or we’re screwed. By the way, to change the date of a presidential election takes an act of Congress. Please let me know if you hear of representatives rising back to make the election fair for those communities at the shore who were obliterated.

In the New Jersey Hall of Shame add AT&T. Their response has been pathetic during the aftermath. Unlike the electric and gas utilities, they have been very tight lipped to reporters about the extent of damage to their cellular network. Service has been spotty at best although it looks like the local cell tower is finally back on line. But considering the fact that we still don’t have cable or any electricity and are living in a black out zone as far as news goes, I was more than a little infuriated that AT&T sent a “you only have 20% left on your data plan” message to my iPad. Amazing how they can keep track of that in the midst of a catastrophe that they are partially responsible for. I’ve heard that AT&T was finally forced to join forces with Verizon to get the data/cellular network going and the first thing they send out is a data limit notice.

In this emergency when we don’t know what’s going on or whether to boil our water or not or where we can get cheap firewood, the idea that AT&T is still putting artificial limits on the data plans is outrageous. Not only that but from what I heard in WNYC last night, back in 2008 after another cellular network failure in the aftermath of a catastrophe, there was a bill pending in Congress that would have mandated that the cell towers have an 8 hour back up generator plan and the telecoms killed that bill. Yep, they killed it. This is when many people such as myself have ,given up our landlines so the only way we can call first responders after and emergency is by using our cell phones and the immoral bastards killed the bill with their army of lobbyists.

There should be congressional hearings when this is all over. There need to be limits on how little regulation utilities and telecoms should be getting away with. We are talking about public safety now.

F}#^ers.

Swapping out the candidate: The Curious Case of Governor Codey

Richard Codey, 4 time governor of New Jersey than no one’s ever heard of

New Jersey has a reputation for being special.  In the summer, we go to the shore instead of the beach.  We aren’t allowed to pump our own gas.  And almost none of the nice restaurants in the area have liquor licenses because the mafia owns the few licenses the state issues.  We do have restaurants with liquor licenses that go through a sequence of “new owners” before they’re burned down, but that’s a story for another post.

We also have a history of Governor problems in the decade Brook likes to call “The Naughties”.  Our problems were exacerbated by the fact that up until 2009, the state of New Jersey didn’t have a Lieutenant Governor position.  How ironic that in a state chock full of excessive administration, we wouldn’t have a lieutenant governor during the decade when one would have come in handy.  Go figure.

Let me back up a second and say that although New Jersey is considered to be solidly blue in presidential matters, that’s a bit of a misleading statistic.  Our Congressional representation in the House is 50/50.  We also have no female congressional reps and haven’t for several decades.  The local Democratic org says that’s because none ever apply, to which I answer that there don’t appear to be any lower level female politicians who are mentored and why is that?  But I digress.  New Jersey also votes for Republican governors and while Democrats are lucky if they last through a single term, Republican governors are usually two termers.  Tom Kean and Christie Whitman come immediately to mind.  Our story begins with Christie Whitman when a Democratic legislator named Richard Codey served the first of his several terms as governor of New Jersey.

When Whitman became head of the EPA under George Bush the lesser, she left a void in Drumthwacket (that’s the gov’s mansion right outside of Princeton).

Drumthhhhhhhhwacket, Chez Governor in Princeton

Since there was no lieutenant governor, the time left in her term until the election of a new governor was filled by the president of the state senate.  In 2001, the person in that position changed three times and each senate president took a turn being governor.  Richard Codey served his first 3 day term as governor just before Jim McGreevey, the newly elected governor, was sworn in.  We all know what happened to Jim McGreevey.  When he stepped down, Richard Codey, then president of the state senate, became governor once again for about half a year until the next governor could be elected.  That new governor happened to be Jon Corzine. But during the transfer of power when Corzine went from Senator to Governor, there was some weird little protocol where the state was in danger of not having an acting governor for a few hours (Oh No!), so Codey was asked to fill in until Corzine was free to take over.

Corzine had a thing for taking risks even back then.  Early in his term, he decided that he didn’t need to wear a seat belt as his SUV raced up the highway from Atlantic City because he was special.  What former Wall Street banker isn’t?  What could possibly happen?

Corzine’s State Trooper driven SUV crashes while speeding on the way back from Atlantic City.

Well, the SUV speeding at 91 mph could be involved in a serious accident where the governor was tossed around in the vehicle like dirty laundry and broke his femur.  The fracture, and other injuries, were very serious and the governor was hospitalized and incapacitated.  Richard Codey once again stepped up to fill the vacancy while Corzine temporarily suspended his powers for about 3 weeks.

So, if you’ve been counting, that makes Richard Codey the governor of NJ *four* times.  After the last time, the state got serious about the Lieutenant Governor position and in 2009 we elected our first.

But back to Codey.  He turned out to be not bad as a governor.  He’s a true blue Democrat that leans liberal and has a passion for championing the mentally ill.  His one major accomplishment during his brief stint as governor was making sure that insurance companies cover treatment for mental illness and postpartum depression.  He also made sure stem cell research wouldn’t face any obstacles in New Jersey.  It appears that everyone played nicely when Codey was in office, although he wasn’t in long enough to make any significant policy changes.  Even stranger was that even though he got good approval ratings, nobody really knew who he was.  His tenure was just one of those special things that happen here.   When his last crack at being governor ended, he went back to the senate.  All hunky dory and people forgot about him.  Until 2009.

In 2009, Jon Corzine was facing reelection against Republican Chris Christie.  Let’s remember here that New Jersey doesn’t have a problem with Republican governors.  Christie was not as moderate as Kean and Whitman but Corzine would have had a better chance of winning if he hadn’t been so meh as a governor.  During the economic catastrophe that followed the housing bubble, he should have stepped up and presented some policies that would have helped municipalities and cash strapped property tax payers. But he didn’t.  He represented the bonus class.  He was a former Goldman-Sachs guy and I think that he thought he could ride to reelection on the coat tails of Barack Obama.

Part way through the election campaign, it looked like Corzine wasn’t going to have the cake walk he was anticipating.  He was having trouble attracting interest and couldn’t fill his rally venues.  The race was starting to tighten up.  This is where it gets interesting. Richard Codey says it happened like this:

Codey said he got a call from the White House a week after Vice President Joe Biden appeared at Corzine’s poorly attended primary night kickoff rally in West Orange in June. “They wanted to talk about what’s going on with the governor’s race,” he said. “They would call me every week, every two weeks.”

By July, Codey said there was growing concern from the president’s advisers as Corzine’s polls declined even as he poured money into anti-Christie ads. It grew worse after 44 arrests on July 23 in a corruption and money-laundering case.

Corzine privately mused to the White House he was having second thoughts about continuing his campaign, Codey said.

“He was, mentally, as low as you can get,” Codey said of Corzine, even before July 23. “Then this … hit. It was understandable he was having a moment where he was saying ‘to hell with this.’”

Codey said White House political director Patrick Gaspard called him and expressed “great concern about the governor’s race, (Corzine’s) lack of support amongst Democrats and whether or not he would be able to overcome it. He never criticized Jon personally. But he said he was meeting with Obama and ‘the president wants to know if you might run if, in fact, Mr. Corzine got out.’ Can he tell the president ‘Yes.’”

Codey said Gaspard detailed an internal poll that showed Newark Mayor Cory Booker and Rep. Frank Pallone about the same as Corzine, but Codey leading Christie by double digits.

“I told Gaspard I was going to be seeing Mr. Corzine in Trenton. I told him I felt duty-bound in terms of being a gentleman to tell Corzine. I sat with Corzine. I told him what I knew. I said ‘as a friend, I just wanted you to know.’ I said ‘bottom line is you’re the decision-maker. You want out, just do me a favor let me know as soon as possible. If you’re going to stay in there, I’m with you.’”

“I did not hear back from the White House.”

I guess the Democratic party leadership was concerned that losing New Jersey to a Republican would look bad.  (And it did, Oh, how it did) And even though Corzine went out of his way to make sure to deliver all of New Jersey’s delegation to Obama during the 2008 convention in Denver, from a primary that Obama LOST by 10 points to Hillary Clinton, I might add, Obama and Biden didn’t feel any sense of loyalty to this guy who carried their water and sold out the rest of the state for them.  So they approached Richard Codey and tried to work out a deal where they would pressure Corzine to step aside in the campaign and Codey would become the nominee.

Oh no they di-int.  Oh yes they did.

Corzine didn’t quit but that hardly matters, does it?  It was the thought that counts. And the thought was that Corzine was in danger of losing the governorship of New Jersey and the Democrats were concerned enough to want to make a switch of candidates at the top of the ticket of an incumbent governor with a solid, well liked Democrat former temporary governor whose approval rating was higher than Corzine’s.

So, ladies and gentlemen, if someone tells you that it’s not possible to change candidates before or during the Convention, and that the world would end if we merely *entertained* the idea of changes at the top of the ticket, remember that it was Obama himself who proposed the very same thing to the Democrats of New Jersey in 2009 when Corzine was in danger of failing.  Indeed, he did fail and Christie the Republican is now governor.  All that stuff about how an incumbent is sacred and the primary voters have spoken (because they had a gun to their heads and didn’t have a choice) and the world will end, yada-yada-yada, all that is bullshit.  The Democrats are a private party.  They can (and have) change the rules any time they want.  We have seen by 2008’s example that the delegates can be forced to vote for who ever the party wants, voters be damned.  And if they want to switch candidates, it can be done.  Franklin Roosevelt switched out his VPs, Lyndon Johnson stepped out of the race when he knew he couldn’t win a second term and, by golly, if Democrats don’t think Obama can win in 2012, they can make him “spend more time with his family”.

Obama and Corzine have a lot in common.  It’s not like Christie is well loved by New Jerseyans or that we actually wanted a Republican this time around.

Chris Christie during the first leg of his helicopter-limo-walk triathlon.

The problem was we didn’t want Corzine anymore. Voters were well aware of all of Christies liabilities and Corzine’s campaign flogged us with the fear whip and tons of advertising to make Christie look bad.  In the end, it didn’t matter.  It wasn’t about Christie.  It was about Corzine’s performance.  Voters judged him fairly, so, he lost.  I might add that Independent Chris Daggett, who I voted for, took almost 6% of the vote, almost all of it from Corzine’s hide.  New Jerseyans wanted to send a message to the Democrats but it remains unclear whether the Democrats actually got it.

But if any Democrat tells you you’re crazy to even suggest that Obama step aside for a better Democrat in 2012, and starts terrorizing you about Supreme Court justices and women losing access to birth control and dogs and cats living together, ask them why the Democrats didn’t think a candidate switch was so crazy in New Jersey in 2009.  Obama is not having a cakewalk this year.  And in spite of the media blitz against Mitt, Obama and Mitt are still tied in the polls.  People may not like Mitt personally, but they really don’t like Obama’s performance.  He has let regular people out to hang by themselves for four long years.  The Democrats are fooling themselves if they think that’s not going to hurt in November. And it’s not like the Democrats don’t have a back up who would be a lot more popular than any politician on the current scene.

Time to call Obama into the office and tell him management would like to make a change. We’re in the doldrums, the dog days and the base is depressed.  Change up the ticket, bring in a relief pitcher see what happens.  I’d be very surprised if management hasn’t already entertained such a possibility behind closed doors. In the event of an Obama loss in November, they might be in political oblivion for a very long time.  If the Democrats are sincerely concerned about all the horrible things they fear will happen if Mitt wins, then they owe voters a REAL choice.

Otherwise, the country might just end up with a Chris Christie type Republican in the White House in 2013 and it will be very hard to take Democrats seriously if they lose without ever considering changing their lineup.

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