Posts Tagged ‘New Jersey’

Beached!

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

By Jeffrey Page

So long, Chris. Write when you get a job of work, not an appointed commissionership.

That is, if you get work; there’s not much call for professional bullies and blowhards. Maybe you can make a career of explaining why people hate being treated like chumps. Sometimes it seems like making fools of people is your specialty.

Here’s what I mean.

Gov. Chris Christie and family enjoy an exclusive day on the beach.

Gov. Chris Christie and family enjoy an exclusive day on the beach.

Several million dollars was supposed to be set aside for the much needed but long delayed repair and rehabilitation of the railroad tunnels that connect lower Manhattan and New Jersey. The tunnels need a lot of work.

So weren’t New Jersey and New York rail commuters left aghast when they learned you diverted a huge chunk of that money for other uses?

The explanation was the basis of a recent story in The New York Times, which reported that you’ve been diverting a large sum from the tunnel repair project and using it instead to support a little used ferry boat service that connects Atlantic Highlands on the Jersey Shore with service to Jersey City and Hoboken.

Chris, you are a screen writer’s dream. Passengers aboard the ferry pay a roundtrip fare of $24, and then New Jersey reimburses the carrier at the rate of $95 per round trip. But wait, this gets better. The Times noted that in addition to the individual subsidy, the carrier, Seastreak, also received $7,200 a day.

In the meantime, the rail tunnels await repairs.

Now, just six months before you leave office, it’s Beachgate, the latest outrage you’ve foisted on New Jerseyans.

It was a beautiful day, a perfect beach day, recently. But anyone thinking about taking the family to Island Beach or any other state park in New Jersey soon found himself out of luck: The state’s beaches were closed due to a government shutdown.

This of course didn’t apply to you, Chris. You’re a man who’s good at getting what he wants and who spares little in getting it. Except when you played sycophant extraordinaire to Donald Trump so that he’d make you his vice presidential running mate. Hey, you can’t win them all.

It was hot and the beaches were cool on July 2. So you took the family and a bunch of aides to Island Beach and if any of the other 8,958,999 perspiring New Jerseyans objected they could take the first bus to hell.

When journalists got wind of your little outing, one enterprising photographer grabbed an incredible shot of you and your private party taking in the rays. The rest of the beach, which is 10 miles long, was empty of all visitors.

A reporter later asked you about your private use of the public beach, and you responded with the tact of a mule: “This is just the way it goes,” you said.

If you ever wish to understand why New Jerseyans dislike you as much as they do, just play back that quote.

R.I.P., F.R.L.

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

By Jeffrey Page

The late Sen. Frank Lautenberg

The late Sen. Frank Lautenberg

Frank Lautenberg could be devastating if he thought he or his friends were being unfairly attacked. So in 2004, with John Kerry’s war record in Vietnam being torn apart by the Bush forces, it was the distinguished gentleman from New Jersey who was recognized on the floor of the Senate for remarks.

In that short talk, Lautenberg gave as good as Kerry was getting, and once again proved that if Democrats were smart, they’d search for some more pugnacious candidates like himself and stop being so damned polite.

Lautenberg referred to “chicken hawks,” a species he described as having an appetite for war but only if they could find someone else to fight it for them. Lautenberg was never one to speak quickly and then break for lunch. So he went on to identify Dick Cheney as “the lead chicken hawk.”

He continued: “We know who the chicken hawks are. They talk tough on national defense and military issues and cast aspersions on others, but when it was their turn to serve, they were AWOL from courage.” His outrage extended to the shameless GOP trashing of Senator Max Cleland of Georgia, a triple amputee from Vietnam, as somehow not strong enough on defense matters.

Calling the vice president of the United States a coward was a variation on the old Democrats-are-soft-on-defense drivel the Republicans had been spewing for years. Now it was in their faces. And they yelped that it was unfair.  

Lautenberg had the standing to make the case. He had spent four years in the Army during World War II while Cheney spent about the same amount of time getting his five deferments during Vietnam and while George W. Bush was finding himself a cozy place in the Texas Air National Guard.

President Obama would be in a much stronger position these days if he had a few more Lautenbergs to call on when his party, his supporters and himself are slimed by the Right. When Congressional Neanderthals play dirty, Democrats often seem quick to shrug their shoulders, look sincere, and announce to anyone who’s listening that they’re ready to work with the other side. They’ve yet to figure out that the other side has no interest whatever in working with them. Democrats ought to listen to tapes of Lautenberg when he was angry and stop being so characteristically courteous.

It isn’t just Lautenberg’s partisan mouth that will be missed. He was a passionate national politician.

–He led the struggle for a national drinking age of 21. For years, New Jersey teenagers drove across the state line to New York to drink. The Jersey drinking age was 21; New York’s was 18. There were comparable situations elsewhere. Using the possible loss of federal highway funds as a club, Lautenberg persuaded all the states to adopt that higher age.

–Lautenberg was an advocate of a national blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent. If your BAC is higher, the law presumes you’re drunk and incapable of driving safely. Again, no state could be forced to adopt the lower BAC. But neither are the feds required to write highway-aid checks to states that refuse to comply. Today, 50 states subscribe to the 0.08 level.

–He was a strong supporter of the Secaucus railroad station, a $500 million project in the Jersey Meadows that was designed to allow NJ Transit rail commuters to switch trains and ride into midtown Manhattan or to Newark instead of traveling to Hoboken and the PATH trains.

–Just two things about Secaucus. There was an early proposal to spend $200,000 on a statue of Lautenberg for the station, an idea thankfully laid to rest by then-Governor Jim McGreevey, a fellow Democrat. I checked the clips to be certain and could find no story suggesting that Lautenberg opposed the idea of a statue of himself. I think he kind of liked the idea. Anyway, he got the next best thing; the station’s official name is the Frank R. Lautenberg Secaucus Rail Station, but most people just call it “the transfer,” and wonder why it’s such a confusing place.

–It was Lautenberg who led the fight to outlaw smoking on most domestic passenger flights. Remember what it was like when smoke drifted from the smoking section to the nonsmoking section? Remember the headaches? Remember thinking how much you’d pay for a breath of fresh air? Remember the smell of your clothes?

He had other issues: One of his environmental measures requires manufacturers to inform local officials of the chemicals they have on hand and use. He supported gun control. His intervention sped up federal assistance to survivors of Hurricane Sandy.

Lautenberg was one of the wealthiest members of Congress but he fought the people’s fights. The party and the people need a few more like him.

‘Which Mitt’ Would Preside Over FEMA?

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

By Emily Theroux

Ssshh! A moment of silence, please.  Turn down that racket from incessant campaign ads and warring TV pundits (if you didn’t already lose your cable service to a gargantuan maple tree toppled by Hurricane Sandy, as I did Monday afternoon).

You wouldn’t want to miss the sound of one hand clapping, a paradox that developed when poor Mittens had no one to play partisan patty-cake with. His good buddy from New Jersey abandoned the Tea Party games that MittWit had talked him into playing. The frivolity got too preposterous and infantile for Mitt’s BFF to stomach, so he ran off to join the grown-ups who had finally reached across the aisle to begin solving the country’s problems.

In the eerie hush of an early Halloween twilight — without lights, heat, and background noise in the millions of households without power — you could almost hear Mitt Romney fuming, all the way from Ohio, over New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s treachery.

 

Obama & Christie emerge  as politics’ strangest ‘power couple’

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, left, praised President Obama for his bipartisan collaboration with the GOP leader on disaster relief, after Hurricane Sandy devastated Christie's state. (Photo: Associated Press)

The news teemed with post-disaster anecdotes about “Sandy’s political odd couple,” Christie and his unlikely ally President Barack Obama, who worked in tandem to coordinate the relief effort and flew together in Marine One to tour parts of New Jersey devastated when the hurricane made landfall there. And just look who’s green with “envy” now, absorbing the spectacle of political polar opposites patting each other on the back, a freaking mutual admiration society!

“Seeing him with Chris Christie is tearing me apart,” satirist Andy Borowitz imagined a steamed Mittster venting. (The nerve of Mitt’s own convention keynote speaker, defecting to the enemy camp just one week before Election Day to call a truce in electoral hostilities over a freaking windstorm!)

 

Storm of the century sidelines Mitt from headlines

“Frankenstorm” is over, leaving a grim tally of casualties and destruction in its wake: 94 reported dead thus far, millions without power, countless families homeless, 9 out of 23 subway lines still closed in New York City, and as much as $50 billion in property damage, extra living expenses, and lost business. The president admirably rose to the challenge to oversee disaster relief endeavors by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  Christie, doing likewise, even signed an executive order “rescheduling Halloween” because the streets in his state weren’t yet safe for trick-or-treaters.

Mitt Romney

Marooned in my silent living room sans Internet access, I could still easily discern from my cell phone connection that Mitt Romney didn’t have a lot to say about how he would handle disaster relief if he were in the president’s coveted shoes.

Granted, Mitt’s got several tough acts to follow. Even though Obama was bashed for reacting “prematurely” to the hurricane threat by stunningly inept Katrina-era FEMA head Michael Brown (of  “Heckuva Job, Brownie” fame), the president smoothly coordinated a truly bipartisan storm response with fellow executives like Christie, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Newark Mayor Cory Booker.

The GOP  contender, as New Yorker columnist John Cassidy opined, “has a FEMA problem and a Chris Christie problem.” The “unemployed” multimillionaire challenger finds himself cast in the unenviable position of odd man out in a venue tailor-made for incumbents. Obama shines by simply doing his job (and gleans a 77 percent approval rating among likely voters on his overall response to the storm). Romney, on the other hand, has no official tasks to perform and doesn’t feign empathy very well. He’s limited to phony photo ops that reveal him to be the cynical, calculating, and purely political android that he really is.

"Donations" to Mitt's fake storm relief event were actually purchases from Walmart. (Photo: BuzzFeed)

In the aftermath of the superstorm that flooded city streets, swamped the New York City subway system, and flattened homes, businesses, amusement parks, and boardwalks along the Jersey Shore, the sidelined Romney campaign staged a bogus “storm relief event” offering faux “donations” of granola bars, diapers, and canned goods purchased by staffers from an Ohio Walmart for $5,000. People who showed up for what was originally billed as a “victory rally” were encouraged to pick up Walmart merchandise and hand it to Romney in front of the cameras. When skeptical reporters began questioning him about whether he would ax FEMA, as he had suggested during a 2011 primary debate, Mitt clammed up and ignored them as if they were a bothersome swarm of gnats.

Sharron Angle, AP photo

Like Tea Party whack job Sharron Angle, who ran for Harry Reid’s Nevada Senate seat in 2010, Mitt traded his mirthless, chiseled mug for a Halloween mask just days before the 2012 election, dodging questions he didn’t want to answer by pretending the people asking them were as ephemeral as  “Invisible Obama.”

 

As Massachusetts governor, Mitt vetoed flood prevention bill

After watching Barack Obama “palling around” for days with Christie, Romney was finally goaded by his campaign staff to respond to the anti-FEMA rap that his own past positions had pinned on him. The craftily constructed switcheroo issued by the Romney campaign late Halloween night read as follows:

“I believe that FEMA plays a key role in working with states and localities to prepare for and respond to natural disasters. As president, I will ensure FEMA has the funding it needs to fulfill its mission, while directing maximum resources to the first responders who work tirelessly to help those in need, because states and localities are in the best position to get aid to the individuals and communities affected by natural disasters.”

While insisting that Romney doesn’t intend to eliminate or defund FEMA outright, this “Mitticism” relegates the federal agency to “play(ing) a key role” in working with states and localities. Like every other vague policy proposal that the GOP’s Obfuscator-in-Chief has released to date, this statement is as flimsy and mutable as Mitt Romney’s word. He could change it tomorrow, next month, or next year.

If he wins next week’s election, what would Romney really do? His record as governor of of Massachusetts offers an ominous prologue. In 2004, after Peabody’s downtown had been repeatedly flooded by heavy spring rains, Romney vetoed a $5.7 million flood control bill. His longtime spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom, claimed that Romney had asked Peabody officials for more information but “none was forthcoming” — a charge that local residents vehemently disputed.

Then-Gov. Mitt Romney vetoed a flood control bill passed after the downtown district of Peabody, Massachusetts, was repeatedly 'submerged' in 2004.

Two years later, the area flooded again. “Massachusetts is sitting on millions in unspent emergency funds from Hurricane Katrina and more than $1 billion in cash reserves, yet Romney has failed to even respond to the Lowell delegation’s requests to discuss additional aid for victims,” the “conservative-leaning” Lowell Sun commented.

“When you’re dealing with a candidate as sketchy and shifty as Romney, his brief record as an elected leader is perhaps the most telling guide you have,” wrote Paul Constant in Seattle’s Slog blog. “Romney has demonstrated an inability to prepare for the future, and then an inability to face the consequences of his actions when the future arrives.”

 

Privatized disaster relief would put profits before victims

The day after Hurricane Sandy decimated the East Coast, The New York Times published an editorial titled, “A Big Storm Requires Big Government.” Without FEMA’s “war room,” the National Response Coordination Center, the Times argued, relief efforts for a multistate emergency would be virtually impossible to coordinate. When Romney expressed his position du jour at the September 2011 New Hampshire GOP primary debate, he went beyond saying that disaster management should be “returned to the states. … If you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.”

Jeb Bush

Romney the “vulture capitalist” has given us no reason to doubt that he really does believe privatization of many government functions would be optimal. Privatizing disaster relief, however, would be, well — “disastrous.” If Romney wins the election, private disaster response companies (including one headed by Dubya’s brother, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush) are waiting in the wings to profit from disaster victims’ misery. Stephen D. Foster Jr. of the blog Addicting Info calls this playbook “a recipe for fraud,” as for-profit response companies could hold both disaster areas and individual victims hostage until their asking price is met. Foster cites a frightening recent example:

“Remember the home in Tennessee a couple years ago that was allowed to burn down by the local for-profit firehouse because the residents failed to pay the fee? Well, you can bet that same scenario will play out across the country and on a more sickening scale.”

 

Christie says he doesn’t ‘give a damn’ about Election Day

Pundits have speculated about whether Christie is simply sucking up to Obama because he won’t be able to run for president as the GOP candidate in 2016 if Romney wins in 2012. Democrats, however, aren’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth, so most are taking Christie at his word.

That word, as usual, is devastatingly blunt when you’re on the receiving end of it, as Fox flunky Steve Doocy found out after wondering aloud when Romney “was going to get some of the same benefits from the hurricane with a photo op in disaster-stricken New Jersey towns,” in the words of the blog Raw Story’s David Edwards. “[W]e hear that perhaps Mr. Romney may do some storm-related events. Is there any possibility that Gov. Romney may go to New Jersey to tour some of the damage with you?”

Christie minced no words in his response:

“I have no idea, nor am I the least bit concerned or interested. I’ve got a job to do here in New Jersey that’s much bigger than presidential politics and I could [sic] care less about any of that stuff. … I’ve got 2.4 million people out of power, I’ve got devastation on the shore, I’ve got floods in the northern part of my state. If you think right now I give a damn about presidential politics, then you don’t know me.”

That nonpartisan approach could be just the ticket for an Election Day rejection of the mendacious, divisive politics embodied by the Mitt Romney wing of the Republican Party.