Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Saturday, January 08, 2011

The Next Step

To all those political consultants who urged the Tea Partiers to take the “next step”, to all those tea partiers who felt the public rallies weren’t enough and were eager to take that “next step,” and to all those RINO Republicans who believe appeasement rather than standing up for American values is “the next step”: Congratulations. I hope you’re all very happy.

By the act of merciful God, this woman, Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords wasn’t killed today when a gunman shot her through the head from four feet away. Not only is it a miracle for this woman and her family, but a miracle for a republic that’s supposed to be civilized and the Tea Party movement that’s trying to keep it that way. It’s also a hopeful sign for all those who suffer such gunshot wounds. Great strides have been made in microsurgery so that where, once upon a time, such a wound meant instant death, now doctors can save the victims’ lives. When the first news accounts reported her death (I have no doubt she did die), I thought maybe they should wait until she gets to the hospital; with these new microsurgery procedures, she might just make it – and she did.

Thank the Lord. Not so lucky were five other people, including a 9 year-old girl and Federal Judge Michael Roll, who judged in favor of a group of illegal immigrants suing an Arizona rancher trying to protect his property and our rights, where the federal government has reneged its duty.

A 9 year-old kid, for crying out loud. I don’t care whether she was illegal or not; it’s not right to murder anyone, but particularly a kid. Passions are running high over the illegal immigrant issue, but surely we can do better than this. Our republic should be stronger than this; that if the American people feel that strongly about the issue, than the will of the people should be honored; illegal immigrants should be sent back, not given a free pass into our country. Someone let their frustrations with our bureaucratic government overthrow their better nature and result to a desperate and horrible act, one that will only stymie the cause of securing our borders.

Conservatives let the success of the 2009 Town Hall meetings against federal health care overthrow their common sense. They appeared in sufficient numbers and wouldn’t back down. They had the microphone and let their angry voices be heard, as they had every right to do. But the Liberals learned their lesson and gamed the system.

They learned how to control the meetings, filling the halls with their own hacks. Limiting citizens who opposed to one minute, while allowing more favored speakers to monopolize the microphone and violate the time limit. Meanwhile, the Tea Partiers urged their members to fax, call, or even meet in person with their representatives, a futile effort more likely to lead to frustration than to favorable results.

New Mexico Sen. Linda Lopez deplored the “vitriol” against Gibbons during various town hall debates, as well as vandalism against the Gibbons’ Arizona office. The Democrats are no one to level charges of vitriol against anyone. Their attacks on candidates like Sarah Palin have been unconscionable. The Liberals are vicious, unprincipled, deceitful, and arrogant. I’ve been to enough Liberal town hall meetings and even debates where they deliberately filled the audience with their own hacks. They plan the game cunningly, waiting until the end to fill up the line for the microphone to insure that they have the last word, and then run the clock out.

These town halls are billed as a chance for the representative to listen to the public, but in truth, they do very little listening and an awful lot of talking, while the audience is forced to listen. The only way the audience can be heard is to be rude through catcalls and boos. The meeting is simply a forum for the representative to present their views. Especially if audience members are in the minority, there’s very little likelihood that the representatives will concern themselves with those view; they’ll simply tout the fact that they won the election, even if it was only by 4,000 votes, as in Gibbons’ case.

All this does is send Tea Partiers away even more frustrated than when they came. Frustration leads to anger, and anger, as the character Yoda pointed out in the film Star Wars, leads to the “Dark Side” – to violence. Now, on the Sunday morning talk shows, Moderates will have their opportunity to appease the Liberals, like our new Republican House Majority Leader, John Boehner, who promised the give the Liberals “more of a voice”. As though they needed one. With help like that, we don’t need enemies.

But we’ve known that the battle is far from other. There are still too many Moderate Republicans more interested in getting along than standing up for America (which they redefine anyway). They’re on the alert, and they’ve probably been hoping someone like this gunman would be frustrated out of the woodwork, guns ablazing (Gibbons herself is a gun owner). And voila! He arrived right on cue at that Safeway supermarket parking lot.

Some of the blame belongs to the Tea Parties, for not being aware of Liberal disingenuous in such public invitations to come hear the representative “listen” to their “constituents,” (i.e., the people who voted them in, not necessarily the minority – and a not very small minority in this case – who didn’t vote for them).

Hoping to win in a one-on-one debate with these elected politicians is like betting against the house; the chances of your winning are very slim. They’re not going to listen to you – they don’t have to. Such invitations are a set-up. They’re very well-entrenched, trained in their message points, and totally devoted to their party. They don’t care what the opposition things. They like to be seen as giving the other side a chance, but only a very small one, and only to demonstrate their superiority in fending off opponents.

I don’t know how many times I’ve had to tell my local Tea Partiers that their best chance is in the rallies. Preferably the outdoor rallies, although here in this area in the Northeast because of the weather, indoor rallies are necessary until better weather arrives.

The reason we must depend upon the outdoor rallies is they’re more accessible to the public. They also give Conservative people a chance to make their voices heard or at least hear their point of view aired. The open forum also allows undecided people to attend without feeling trapped. I don’t know why our Tea Parties understand this. But let me tell you the story of Annie, the stray cat.

“Annie” was a gray tabby who had been stalking the birds my mother regularly feeds. To “appease” Annie, my mother set food out for the cat so she’d have a full belly and leave the birds alone.

One winter, we had a blizzard. My mother was able to lure Annie close enough to the door so my younger brother could grab her. Annie put up quite a fight and even though my brother’s quite strong, she gave him quite a tussle. Still, he subdued her and they got her into the lower hallway and shut the door.

Annie, used to being outdoors, was panicked by the four walls, the closed door, and the ceiling. She didn’t know what to make of the ceiling; she was used to seeing the sky. Annie thought she was trapped in a very big box.

The cat commenced a terrible howling and yowling, and started throwing herself against the door. Finally, mother spoke to her firmly and told her that she was not going to be released back out into the wild where she would almost certainly succumb to the storm and the cold. She was going to have to get used to being indoors for the night and that was that.

Mom said that she finally calmed down and crawled under my brother’s bed for the night (he sleeps in a downstairs bedroom). The first thing in the morning, my brother shoveled the snow away from the back door, my mother opened it. Annie shot out the door like a bullet out of a gun.

That, in short, is the essence of the typical “independent” voter. They tend to think of political meetings as revival meetings, or sales pitches, where someone’s trying to talk them into buying a house in the Poconos (in Pennsylvania). You have a better chance of getting them to listen under an open (and hopefully clear and sunny sky). If they become unnerved, they can make a run for their minivan.

An open rally also allows for tents where the children can be entertained with games, puzzles, and coloring books about America’s many positive virtues. They’ve got a lot of peer pressure against them in school about attending such meetings. But if you can make it fun and cool for them, they might be more amenable to the lessons you’re trying to teach them. Some of the Tea Parties did away with the music. That made the seniors happy but drove away the younger people. We have to reach some sort of generational compromise here.

The rallies are the most positive way for Americans who feel disenfranchised to “vent” in a productive manner and not feel as though their only alternative is violence. That’s why the signs were so popular. Average Americans aren’t really keen on giving speeches, but they’ll be quite willing to listen to them if they’re brief and to the point of view, and if they can respond positively to them (cheering and some good-natured booing of those they oppose, who aren’t on-hand anyway). The opposition will just have to lump it.

Education, not violence, is the way. Our targets (of education, not violence) are those other people out there. Debating with opposition politicians is useless, futile, and even dangerous as we see by today’s events. There’s no “convincing” them; it’s voters who must be convinced, voters who are undecided, voters who feel disenfranchised, voters who are ignorant of what’s going on.

We must also do something about the GOP. Again, it’s a matter of educating the voters, but also letting the party machine know how we feel about the direction they’re taking us. Faxing them is okay. Writing letters to the editor. Calling them – good luck with that. You must remember that these people are skilled debaters. Chances are they will talk you down, or tell you what you want to hear, and then turn around and do what they want to do, under the auspicies of being authorities of the constituents.

The Tea Parties haven’t made people angry or angrier; it’s our growing, iron-clad bureaucratic government that’s done that job, made some people feel desperate to literally start shooting from the hip.

The Liberals are looking for trouble and we’re giving it to them, unfortunately. I hope, for God’s sake, that the Tea Parties will listen, this time. They have gotten back to the local level. Now they have to give the Tea Partiers back their own forum and forget about trying to take on the entrenched beast and encourage their friends and neighbors to open their eyes and ears to what’s going on.

The Liberals have no business blaming the Tea Parties for creating panic. The Liberals have done that themselves. Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, Shawn Hannity and Michelle Malkin have simply been telling the public the truth. They’ve exposed a socialist movement intend on creating a completely bureaucratic, tyrannical government that will rule every aspect of our lives and rob us of our freedom.

This is dilemma best solved through voices and votes, ballots not bullets, agglomeration not aggression, and patience, patience, patience, not panic. Urgency, but not panic. And above all, listening to someone who helped organize one of the first (and most successful tea parties). I warned you to stay away from Washington; that it’s radioactive, like a nuclear reactor, and the closer you get to it, the more contaminated you will be.

In this case, an irradiated representative came to the people. Although she’s a critic of the Obama administration, and is in favor of banning illegal immigration, she also voted in favor of Obamacare. She deserted the Republican Party (no great shakes, but still better than the Democrats). I’m glad she survived the attack, but she’s still got that radioactive mark – you know that radioactive symbol. Stay away from her, and people like her from now on and focus on the people.

As for the Federal Judge who was murdered, he was nominated by Republican Pres. George H.W. Bush, a moderate. Although he was in favor of disbanding the drug cartels, he received death threats for that lawsuit, apparently someone succeeded in carrying it out. Whoever it is will almost certainly receive the death penalty for murdering these five people and if so sentenced, will deserve what he gets.

I just fear that some will regard him as a martyr for a cause. Crikeys. That’s all we need. Murdering judges is what they do in Third World countries. Perhaps this murder shouldn’t be surprising, as Obama is reducing us to Third World country status. What was he said today? Something about such violence being intolerable in a free society? The trouble is, we’re not all that free and some people have become unhinged over it, sort of like Annie, the cat.

Although the rest of us, on the whole, are not murderers, we don’t intend to go quietly into that good night of socialism or communism. In spite of this tragic setback and even because of it, we must (forgive the expression) “stick to our guns,” or at least our meetings, our faxes, our signs, our blogs, our rallies, and our values.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Critics of Constitution Reading a Piece of Work

According to the website, The Raw Story, yesterday’s reading of The U.S. Constitution cost taxpayers $1.1 million.

“In a year,” writer Eric Dolan whines, “when Republicans have promised to reduce wasteful spending, it is estimated that reciting the Constitution will cost $1,071,872.87 if it takes three hours to read the document.

Preaching to the choir, ESPN writer Peter Keating explained to Vanity Fair magazine, "When one chamber of Congress is in session but not working, we the people still have to pay for members' salaries and expenses, and for their police protection, and for keeping their lights and phones and coffee machines on.

“To get this estimate, I took the total FY 2011 costs for House salaries and expenses and House office buildings, then added half the costs of joint House-Senate expenses, the CBO, the Capitol Police and the Capitol power plant," he continued. “Then I divided that sum by 205, the number of days the House was in session last year, then divided again by 24 (the number of hours in a day) and multiplied by 3 (the estimated length in hours of members reading the Constitution).”

Dolan continued with his choir preaching, quoting Kevin Gutzman, a “conservative-libertarian” history professor at Western Connecticut State University, who told the Salt Lake Tribune in an interview, “They (the Republicans) humor people who are not expert or not fully cognizant, And then once they’ve humored them and those people go away, it’s right back to business as usual, except for the [time] it takes to read the Constitution out loud."

Danbury, Ct., sure is a long way from Salt Lake City. How much did it cost them for that long-distance phone call? Who footed the bill for that call? The readers and advertisers of the Salt Lake City Tribune, or the taxpayers and parents who underwrite Western Connecticut State University?

Congress, once its in session, its security, its maintenance, its staff and so forth, are paid no matter what they do once the Congress is in session. There are far worse things they could do and have done in the halls of Congress than read the document that serves as the blueprint for all the laws – good and bad – that Congress passes.

By Keating’s calculations, Congress costs us roughly $360,000 every hour it’s in session, no matter what it does. The estimate for Obamacare is $2.5 trillion. Let’s say it took Congress 24 hours to pass Obamacare (with all the debating, obviously it took a lot longer than that). At $366,000 an hour, Obamacare’s overhead cost alone is $8.7 million.

Had Congress read the Constitution aloud prior to Obama’s election, we would have saved $7.6 million immediately. Instead, that theoretical $8.7 million turned into an investment on a $2.5 trillion debt.

But we Americans owe Mr. Keating a debt of gratitude for alerting us to how much of our money Congress wastes every time it gets together to spend the taxpayers’ money.

The check is in the mail.  The U.S. Constitution is worth every penny - and more - it took to read it out loud.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Freedom of Blue Speech

“You see, I'm the enemy, 'cause I like to think; I like to read. I'm into freedom of speech and freedom of choice. I'm the kind of guy who likes to sit in a greasy spoon and wonder, "Gee, should I have the T-bone steak or the jumbo rack of barbecued ribs with the side order of gravy fries?" I WANT high cholesterol. I wanna eat bacon and butter and BUCKETS of cheese, okay? I want to smoke a Cuban cigar the size of Cincinnati in the non-smoking section. I want to run through the streets naked with green Jell-o all over my body reading Playboy magazine. Why? Because I suddenly might feel the need to, okay, pal? I've SEEN the future. Do you know what it is? It's a 47-year-old virgin sitting around in his beige pajamas, drinking a banana-broccoli shake, singing "I'm an Oscar Meyer Wiener". Edgar Friendly, leader of resistance movement in “Demolition Man”

The 1993 film “Demolition Man,” starring Sylvester Stallone and Sandra Bullock, was a movie that was just way ahead of its time. Among its other predictions, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger becoming a politician (in the movie, he’s mentioned as President of the United States), a California murderer named Scott Peterson, the prohibition of firearms (even by the police) red meat, and smoking, the big earthquake of 2012 (well, we’ll see about that one), and safe sex.

The movie’s most accurate – and hilarious – prediction is about political correctness. Offending other people in any manner is outlawed (happy, happy, joy, joy) and profanity is punishable by a fine and ticket, dispensed by ticket machines conveniently around San Angeles (a great metropolis stretching from San Diego to Los Angeles).

We don’t have to wait for 2036 for “blue” laws, however. In Pennsylvania, it’s already a crime to use profanity. In one year, Pennsylvania State Troopers wrote more than 770 citations for expletive explosions. Each ticket costs $300.

However, the ACLU reached a settlement with the Pennsylvania State Police to try to reduce the number of citations for potty mouth in the commonwealth. The ACLU had filed a lawsuit against the Pennsylvania State Police on behalf of a motorist who cursed out a motorcyclist for trying to run her down in 2008. She reported the incident to the police, who fined her for using impolite language.

Pennsylvania and the U.S. Supreme Court, in long ago rulings, held that foul language is protected as long as it is not threatening. In the settlement, the state will pay the motorist $17,500 for violating her First Amendment rights.

By golly, what a victory for the First Amendment.

My mother drove a group of students on a retreat years ago. As she was driving them back to the airport, the air in her bus grew bluer and bluer. So finally, she asked them if they planned to use that language when they went out into the business world.

“I can just hear you dictating a letter to your secretary,” she said sarcastically (yeah, it was that long ago).

“Dear Mr. Smith,

You f—ng moron. How dare you call my office to complain about our customer service? We don’t give a s—t about g-d problems. We don’t need your lousy business, you motherfudger. We’re a billion dollar business and the problems of an a-hole like you aren’t worth the dime it takes to have to listen to your whining.

As far as I’m concerned, you can take your f-ing business someplace else. You make me want to puke. I wish any poor bastard who has to try to deal with you a lot of luck, you pain in the a--. Don’t write to me again, you jerk.

Sincerely yours,   Mr. Jones.”

There was more, but I can’t remember what it was and in any case, this is a family blog. Mom really laid it on thick, though. By the time she got them to the airport, the kids were speechless.

No, there shouldn’t be a law against profanity. But we sure could try a lot harder to be polite and watch our language. My father used to say that there were thousands of better words in the dictionary – find one and use it. Anyone needs to use profanity as a method of persuasion or expression is walking through life upside down.

We also have the freedom to choose not to swear.

Kong Ka Rrrrrreeeee!

“Kong-ka-Ree” is the call of the Red Winged Blackbird. This particular blackbird is the fairly resistant to cold weather – it summers and mates in Canada – and is the most common of the blackbird family.

It’s a good thing they are so common because they’re dropping by the thousands, particularly just north of the Gulf Coast and along the Chesapeake up to Cape Cod, where it’s a year-round resident. The other thing that’s happening in Gulf and in Chesapeake Bay is that the fish are also dying by the thousands.

Meanwhile, the Northeast is bracing for another forecast of snow showers that could have the potential for a blizzard. Even a brief look at the sea temperature and anomalies map will tell you why: the waters off eastern Florida and north from the southern Virginia border to Cape Cod are freezing. The temperatures are so far below normal that they’re off the chart. In the Cheaspeake Bay Area and along the South Jersey Coast in particular, the temperatures are actually very close to the freezing point. The Atlantic Coastline and its fish and birds are accustomed to the warmth of the Gulf Stream. But not this year. Any fish that expect to survive in those areas need to break out their parkas.

There are no reports of shorebird deaths yet; only this one variety of blackbird that also makes its home in these areas. Maybe the gulls have tougher feathers than the redwinged blackbirds.

Why none of this has occurred to the ornithologists, the piscologists, and the weather forecasts is the real mystery. Don’t they read each other’s maps? Well, I was at Emergency Preparedness Conference one year and I made the mistake of asking a geological question of the water experts that pertained, I believe, to rivers. They sent me packing with a mighty huff: that wasn’t their area of expertise.

After last month’s surprise blizzard, Northeast residents are now worried. The blizzard snow has only partially melted and now they’re telling us we can expect more “snow showers.” Which means people are panicking, raiding the stores for supplies to hold them over the expected period.

What would they have done in January 1780 at New Jersey’s Jockey Hollow, where the Continental Army was bivouacked for the winter? We were playing a variation on “Chester” at band rehearsal tonight. The conductor had visited Jockey Hollow during the summer. He remarked on the fortitude of the soldiers, and their determination to see it through.

“To think of the people on whose backs our country was built,” he said. “The strength they had. They were just country people but they just decided they were going to do it. ‘Bring it on!’ they told the British. There they were at Jockey Hollow, barefoot in the snow. Worse even than Valley Forge. We couldn’t do that today,” he said, shaking his head.

“Those people were amazing. As a teacher, I will never tell my students our country sucks. Not my kids. I’m not preaching,” he added, noticing some liberals in our group were getting testy. “I’m just saying…”

According to Wikipedia, on Oct. 17, 1779, the Continental Army bivouacked for the winter at Jockey Hollow in Morristown, N.J. Soldiers camped at this location until January, 1780, during which they endured some of the harshest conditions of the Revolutionary War. Jockey Hollow was a strategic location, several hundred feet above the British to the east. The mountainous range also allowed Revolutionary soldiers to spot British movement. In the days of horsepower, this was considered an impregnable redoubt. Another reason why the location was chosen was because the surrounding area held citizens that were sympathetic to the rebel cause That winter was considered the harshest of the war, including the one at Valley Forge the two years before. Twelve men often shared one of over one thousand simple huts built in Jockey Hollow to house the army. Desertions were commonplace. The entire Pennsylvania contingent successfully mutinied and later, 200 New Jersey soldiers attempted to emulate them. Several of the latter ringleaders were hanged.

The soldiers had to build their own huts, including surrounding trenches for drainage. The huts, made of log, were 14 by 16 square feet and 6.5 feet high. Twelve men often shared one hut. Inside the huts, soldiers had a fireplace for warmth and cooking. They packed the ground for an earthen floor. Soldiers also had to make their own furniture, including bunks and tables. Their bunks got covered with straw and each soldier was given one blanket. Soldiers’ huts were about 2 to 3 feet apart, with three rows of eight huts for each regiment. By 1780, soldiers had built about 1,200 huts in Jockey Hollow.

When the snow comes again – as we know it will – just think of the birds and fish who have been probably affected by Obama’s mismanaged Gulf oil spill and of the frozen, shoeless soldiers of Jockey Hollow in 1780, whose feet turned blue and finally fell off.

Be careful shoveling. Take your time. Then go back into your nice, warm house, have a hot cup of cocoa, and thank God for freedom and freedom fighters who made it possible for you to enjoy your liberty.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The "Tenthers"

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

When the 112th United States Congress convenes tomorrow, Jan. 5th, and the new members of the House of Representatives are sworn in, House Republicans plan a full reading of the U.S. Constitution, the first time such a thing has ever been done in the Capitol. They also propose that every bill have attached to it the article (or amendment) of the Constitution which justifies the bill.

In the reading, the House Republicans will be led by New Jersey’s own Scott Garret, the congressional representative for the 5th district, which encompasses a large swath of northernmost New Jersey, from the Hudson to the Delaware. According The Bergen Record, Ian Millhiser, a constitutional analyst with the Center for American Progress, a liberal think-tank, thinks Garrett is nuts.

Millhiser advises Garrett to actually read the Constitution and cites Article 1 of the Constitution as the justification for Congress to raise taxes for anything it deems the interests of the general welfare. What’s more the commerce clause allows Congress to regulate business transactions between the states, though not within a state’s borders.

But then, there’s that pesky Tenth Amendment, which Tea Partiers and their champions, i.e., Garrett cite in arguments against legislation such as Obamacare. “Tenthers” are the derisive name their critics have given them, as though the Tenth Amendment was a figment of their imaginations, limiting the federal government to certain enumerate powers, and nothing more. The Constitution is no conspiracy theory, however.

Millhiser needs to consult his dictionary and find out just what an “amendment” is and why the framers of the Constitution added them. Even at the foundation of our nation, there were proponents of Big Government and defenders of Limited Government.

In 1789, at the convening of the First Congress in New York City, Congress submitted to the then-12 states 12 amendments clarifying certain individual and states’ rights not referred to in the Constitution. They were called “The Bill of Rights.” Virginia delegate George Mason refused to sign the original Constitution as it did not oppose slavery or guarantee individual rights sufficiently.

“The conventions of a number of the States,” the Preamble to the resolution offering the proposed amendments read, “having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added, and as extending the ground of public confidence in the government will best insure the beneficent ends of its institutions, be it resolved that: (etc.)”

An “amendment” does not mean “change” in that you can simply wipe out a law that was previously written, as though you were erasing an embarrassing e-mail. The original law must stand so that history can record what was amended. But clearly, the 12 states were not happy with Article 1, Section 8 (in particular) feeling that it gave too much power to the federal government. In any case, Article 1, Section 10, already enumerates what the states cannot do.

The position of Secretary of Education is a fairly new position, created under Jimmy Carter in 1979. Created with it was the Department of Education. Until that time, the states had the authority to deal with education themselves. With the establishment of this cabinet position, the states’ lost that right. All the school board elections in creation cannot overcome this bureaucratic legerdemain. The right to decide how students would be educated was transferred from community leaders to community activists, political hacks, and bureaucrats. The federal government gained control of the purse strings, the syllabus, and the curriculum. Today, an avowed communist is in charge of the curriculum at my old alma mater.

If we leave the decision to the Liberals, there will be no state powers left. Education, marriage, even the election of Senators (see the 17th Amendment) has been stripped from the States. The Libs won’t be satisfied until we are one massive conglomeration of powerless people at the mercy of their tyrannical form of “government.”

Critics like Millhiser boast that it’s for the federal government to determine what the “general” welfare of the people and the country entails; but they get pretty darned specific and detailed when it comes to things like health care, a 2,000-page bill that the people never had the chance to read until it was passed.

The Liberals have made sure they’ve crossed every t and dotted every i in the words “tyrannize,” “totalitarian,” and “entitlement.” Or is it just my “imagination”?

Monday, January 03, 2011

Doing the Board Walk

Where do old politicians go to die? To the board. In New Jersey’s Bergen County, that could be the Bergen County Planning Board. Or the Bergen County African-American Board. Or the Bergen County Technical School Board. Or the Bergen County Board of Social Services. Or the Bergen County Community Oversight Board.

Or it might not be a board at all. Some former Bergen Democrats, over 100 by count, were appointed to county positions by the five county Democrats who were voted out of office on Nov. 2nd. Some are figurehead positions while others are managerial in nature, with command over hundreds of government employees and millions of dollars in government – no, taxpayers’ – assets, particularly public employee pension funds.

Such public entities as the Bergen County Ethics Board, the Workforce Investment Board, and the Northwest Bergen County Utilities Authority are kind of like retirement villages for public officials with no useful purpose. The government certainly takes care of its own. Dumont, N.J., Mayor Matthew McHale was appointed as Executive Director of the Bergen County Improvement Authority.

McHale has experience as an executive director; he served in that capacity for the Bergen County Democratic Organization. The BCIA is the county’s primary bonding agency. He’ll earn a mere $85,000, the Bergen Record informs us; his predecessor earned $157,000. Undoubtedly, McHale will receive generous pay raises and bonuses.

The new director of the Bergen County Utilities Authority is Robert Laux. The former county administrator and county counsel under the Democratic County Executive has a five-year contract, starting at $145,000, that will guarantee raises every year of his term. Wow, it would be wonderful if my company guaranteed me a raise every year. I have to earn my raises, though.

8th District U.S. Congressman Bill Pascrell defends the practice of lame-duck appointments, claiming they were fairly straightforward, according to The Bergen Record. “The law is the law,” he says. “The new county executive has the right to protest the appointments” but as long as the proper procedures were followed, there’s nothing anyone can do about them.

William Schluter, of the state Ethics Commission, notes that political employees often take on appointed positions after their party has lost control to remain vested in the state pension system. They just can’t let go of the government apron strings, in other words. Private sector employees don’t have that luxury. Once they’re laid off, that’s it; that’s the cut-off for their pension. If a private sector employee loses their job, due to a layoff, they too, can depend upon the government – again, the taxpayers – for awhile. A short while, a fund to which the terminating company must contribute – and then that’s it. They’re on their own.

What’s particularly appalling about this scheme is not so much that they’re government employees – or former employees – but that they’re political hacks. Their jobs were to protect the interests of the party that elected the official under whom they were working.

Why are we, the taxpayers, footing the bill for all of this? Let the political parties create pension funds for their own hacks. Why do we owe people we didn’t even vote for a living? Especially people whose careers have been devoted to destroying the free enterprise system that has employed us and provided them with tax-paid jobs?

Pascrell claims it’s done all the time. Maybe it’s time to be done with it altogether.

I hope my faithful readers – from all over the globe – will forgive me for missing the Sunday post. Sunday served as our family’s New Year’s Day dinner. I was so busy putting away Christmas decorations (believers in the 12 days of Christmas have only until Jan. 5th; after that, it’s bad luck) and making dinner that I had no time to write my blog My older brother leaves his tree permanently decorated.

Garden State of Emergency

It can happen to almost any vacationer – you make plans to go on vacation, and Mother Nature changes your plans. Look what happened in the Spring of last year, when the Icelandic volcano altered the itinerary of millions of travelers in Europe?

Now, when you go on vacation, if it’s an extended period, you call the post office and the newspaper to temporarily cancel your deliveries. You set a timer switch to periodically turn your lights and television on and off, to fool burglars into thinking someone is home. You also ask a good neighbor (as opposed to a bad neighbor) to keep an eye your house for any suspicious activity.

When New Jersey Gov. Christie took his young family to Disney World in Orlando, Fla., someone was supposed to stay behind to keep an eye on New Jersey. No reasonable person would expect him to never leave the state to go on vacation. But they would expect him to leave behind a stand-in while he was away, in case of emergency. After all, he doesn’t have crystal ball to predict when a hurricane, blizzard, or terrorist will strike.

New Jersey amended its Constitution to prepare for just such a contingency. They created a position the Garden State hadn’t had before: a Lieutenant Governor, to act in the governor’s stead when he’s away or incapacitated.

Only the Lieutenant Governor, Kim Guadagno, decided to go on holiday at the same time Gov. Christie did, leaving N.J. Senate President Senate Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) as the state's acting governor during a whopping blizzard.  Sweeney was left to declare the state of emergency that freed commuters, by and large, from the treacherous commute to work that morning.  Liberal critics are all over Christie for vacationing, which is hardly a crime, and all over the state government in general for allowing its lieutenant governor to vacation when the Big Guy was already on vacation, which makes her appointment a waste.

What were they thinking? The governor defends his own decision to take a vacation, which is okay. But is there some kerfuffle between their administrative assistants? Are the two not speaking to one another? Didn’t they check one another’s calendars before going off on their separate jaunts – at the same time? Don’t they have Microsoft Outlook, that allows colleague to synchronize their calendars? Note to Kim Guadagno, from CC: “My family and I will be in Disney World Christmas Week. Keep an eye on things and don’t feed the Democrats.”

This is not a time when the Republicans need to be put in such an embarrassing position. They should be apologizing for it, not making excuses or dismissing this snafu. That’s what the Liberals do. Christine won a stunning victory in 2009. In 2010, he was the talk of all the political circles.

Making New Jersey look like a Mickey Mouse operation is no way to start off the New Year.