Saturday, August 22, 2009

Wing Man: How I survived three days of Right-Wing peace, love and music.

Part One: Gorillas in the Missed

In the 1970s, Dian Fossey spent a great deal of time living in a habitat with mountain gorillas in Rwanda, in an effort to learn all about their way of life. She wanted to separate the truth about the mountain gorilla from the Hollywood "King Kong" myth of an aggressive, savage beast.

I was very inspired by her story, and so I decided to do the same thing. Just not with gorillas, though.

Last weekend, I spent three days of ‘peace, love and music’ with that very rare animal in New Jersey, the Republican-Conservative-Libertarian (herein after referred to as the ‘RCLs’). I wanted to separate the truth about the RCLs from the national political rhetorical myth of being passionless, humorless, narrow-minded, and not-very-bright politicos. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most are bright, spirited, passionate, insightful folks, whose values very largely differ from mine, as well as other Left of center Democrats. Oh, they have plenty of whackos, for sure. But ALL of the RCLs should be not defined by those whackos.

While the Daily Kos Netroots Nation conference was happening at the Westin Convention Center in downtown Pittsburgh, just across one of the Three Rivers, the Americans for Prosperity (AFP) were holding their own counter-conference---the RightOnline Conference. This is where, at the Station Square Sheraton Hotel, the RCLs gathered with their ilk for some information, inspiration, and instruction from the likes of commentator/blogger Michelle Malkin, economist Stephen Moore, Bush tax-cuts creator Grover Norquist, and (even) Joe The Plumber---just some of the aforementioned RCL whackos.

I decided to go for the full-tilt-boogie RCL experience: I traveled with them. I stayed in a hotel with them. I ate meals with them. I hung out in between sessions and ‘joked’ with them. Yes, that is right---

Contrary to popular belief; the RCLs do have a sense of humor. They cracked jokes about Gore (“Yup, he invented the Internet…..and Global Warming.”); President Obama (“The Anointed One even needs a teleprompter to take a dump.”); and the Netroots Nation people across the three rivers (“We can tell where the Left-Wingers

are---from the smoke haze above Pittsburgh---they’re all smoking dope, wearing tie-dye and singing ‘Kumbaya’”.) Well, maybe, that last observation is not too far off.

I rode with them on their AFP bus from New Jersey, leaving bright and early at 7am in Bordentown, NJ, and picking up several other Pennsylvania

RCLs along the way in King of Prussia. After that stop, we were on our way to Steel City. While I was disappointed that Mr. AFP-NJ himself ---Steve Lonegan ---was not on the bus, I was treated to a plethora of various RCLs of different species during the six-hour plus ride. Some were more CL than R. However, all seem to be pro-life, anti-marriage equality, anti-any tax, and all solid Reaganistas. And they were all on the bus to fight against health care, cap and trade, and any further bailouts.

I seem to ‘fit’ in just fine. Being fat, bald, and white-bearded, I seem to ‘blend’ in just fine. It did not hurt that I know many of the required RCL ‘buzz words’, and know my Constitution fairly well.

No one asked me about my politics----which I would have shared gladly. At one point, however, I was asked who I voted for in the presidential primary. I declared that “I hold my secret ballot sacred, but I will tell you one thing: I did not vote for John McCain.” Nodding knowingly, she said, "Neither did I."

Like out of a Hollywood casting call, there were RCLs of every shape and size. While the names here are not going to be changed to protect the innocent---these folks were hardily innocent---I will, respectfully, just use initials.

There was ‘M’, a very religious Evangelical Christian who carried a photo book of a trip he made to see Bush speak in New Jersey a few years back. In a conversation we had about the Iraq War.

He made to see Bush speak in New Jersey a few years back. In a conversation we had about the Iraq War. I asserted that I was opposed to the war (in part), because there was never a formal declaration of war under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. For that ‘infraction of conscience’, he actually reported me to the bus captain as being opposed to ‘peace through strength’. Really. More on 'M', later.

There was chain-smoking ‘R’, a newly elected Republican State Committee member, who was furious that his State Committee refused to adopt the Pro-Life/Anti-Gay RNC National Platform. There was ‘D’, a 40ish former media professional, who hated Affirmative Action, who asked me, “What’s the problem with those people? We have a black president? What else do those people want?”

There was ‘N’, a teacher who was a former Liberal Democrat (‘LibDem’ was the self-describing term she used), who was converted over the airwaves by the magic of Rush Limbaugh. She now argues regularly with her brother, a solid ‘LibDem’. She said she was in a quandary over his assertion that “healthcare is a right, like ‘police protection, and an education.’”

For the next twenty minutes we looked diligently at the Constitution copies we had been given, trying to figure the whole thing out.

I came up with the idea health care was a ‘right’ under the “promote the general welfare” assertion in the Preamble. And that the "cruel and unusual punishment" clause of the 8th Amendment to the Constitution had been interpreted by the Supreme Court to require prisoners, as part of their humane treatment during detention, to be guaranteed the right to health care under ESTELLE v. GAMBLE, 429, U.S. 97, 1976. “And certainly citizens have rights greater than that of prisoners,” I said, to which all nodded.

...So, it must be a ‘right’. And, after all, what more important way to ‘promote the general welfare’ than promoting the ‘health’ of the populace. And it’s so important, the Founding Framers chose to put it up front.”

This did not sit well with ‘M’, the former LibDem. Fighting against government health care was the reason she was on this bus. I got that “Deer in the Headlights” look from her.

I would get that look periodically through the weekend from several other RCLs.

More later, in Part Two: Lonegan and the Conference.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Read ALL about what happened yesterday!

Here is the news round-up from Monday. Why waste your Monday looking at the news of the day, when you can relax and read it tomorrow:
News Roundup & Open Thread for Monday, Aug. 17, 2009

Friday, August 14, 2009

At RightOnlIne Conference

I am at the Right OnLine Conference, and just got a brief POV on the overall conference from the Timothy Lee, Director of Legal and Public Affairs for the Center for Individual Freedom.

Right now, I am in the Patients First, Healthcare Reform forum. The guy speaking compared the Cash for Clunkers program with Obama's approach on healthcare----Government thinks that expendable, people are expendable, the Constitution is expendable...this is the way the Obama adminstration thinks..."

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I Read The News Yesterday, Oh Boy....

Many of the New Jersey blogs and political websites try to “out news” each other in the mega early of the morning with features like “News Roundup & Open Thread” (BlueJersey) Or Wake-Up Call –(PolitickerNJ).

These folks get up waaaay too early, don’t have breakfast with their loved ones, leave the house a mess, and gather news from web-news sources and newspaper websites (who probably have people who get up even earlier to gather the news around the state). They care about you that much to make sure you get the news immediately, and as early as possible. Oooh, Politigasm.

Reminds me of the old joke about Jews in Florida: “They eat dinner at 4:30pm, lunch at 11am, and dinner the night before.”

They scan websites from every source and site from north to the south; from east to west, from the cyber to the historical—teetering-on-the-edge-of-demise dailies like the Star-Ledger, Asbury Park Press, Bergen Record, Courier News, Courier Post. From weeklies, monthlies, and magazines. From other websites and even each other. They link back to these stories with clever little lines like “Christie is a jerk” or “Teabaggers stage protest”. Or “Joey Novick is funny and brilliant.” Bigger, faster, stronger.

All in pursuit of all the news that fits we print. Or blog.

So, in order to make it even easier for you, the daily blog reader, each day I am going to try to do the same thing. Link back to the news. But make it even easier for you. I will link back to everyone else’s news round-up----but not until they’re done, usually the next day. The news does not change that much from day to day, anyway. “Christie is a jerk”. “Teabaggers stage protest”. Or “Joey Novick is funny and brilliant.” Yada yada yada.

That way, I can be done more quickly, and sleep later. Or have breakfast. Or take an exercise walk. Here is the news from yesterday. Tomorrow, we should have today's news. Thanks to Rosi and Laura.

PolitickerNJ Wake-up Call from Tuesday, August 11th

Blue Jersey News Round up Tuesday, August 11th

...also, if you missed it, Lincoln lost New Jersey.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Steve Lonegan anti-Cap and Trade Road Show

Went to see the Steve Lonegan anti-Cap and Trade Road Show last night. This one in Clinton, in the heart of conservative-right wing-libertarian Lonegan country.

Packed house for the usual right-wing debunking of the global warming "myth/conspiracy". On hand, of course, was Assemblyman Mike Doherty, the original anti-global warming zealot.

Packed house—all the usual Republicans were there: Hunterdon Chairman Kuhl (no question with a name like that he be opposed to global warming); the aforementioned Mike Doherty, who had his own anti-global warming road show while back---the one where he was asked if he believed in evolution, and he said, “It does not matter. Evolution or creationism. It just does not matter.” Erik Peterson, the winner of the political sweepstakes shift when Leonard Lance won his seat in Congress.

Missing were State Senator Marcia Karrow and Congressman Lance, himself.

Lance has always been a good thinker, and an independent legislator, by and large. No doubt he is a Republican by philosophy, geography and family lineage ----however in a district that went big time for Lonegan in the gubernatorial primary, he may be shifting too far to the center to suit some of the RLC* folks –*Republican Conservative-Libertarian. His vote for Cap -n- Trade was one of the few Republican votes in Congress. Three from NJ, so he was not alone. But the usually popular Lance got booed last night.

Much of the anti-Cap and Trade was based on their “proof” that climate change does not exist. Debunking Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” with stories by John Stossell about how a photo of a polar bear was taken in August; how the whole global warming conspiracy can be traced somehow to Goldman Sachs, who would make billions on Cap n Trade; and how their science (which comes from ‘objective’ sources like The Heritage Foundation) was just seeking The Truth.

Anyway, 250 or so angry folks sat and listened to Lonegan, who cracked jokes (“Proof of climate change for me is the change in women’s lingerie over the years.”), asserted that Friends of The Earth and the Sierra Club were “communist front groups” (Are you listening Comrade Tittle?) and got cued-boos when he mentioned Obama, Gore, or Lance.

By way, maybe the liberalism is catching: Congressman Lance and Al Gore both went to the same law school, Vanderbilt University Law School.

Anyway, if any of the folks there did not see “An Inconvenient Truth”, it is now available on DVD.

Cap and Trade is what the Republicans always say they want: tax incentives to promote environmental protection, rather than government regulation.

Friday, August 7, 2009

2009 NJ Powerlessness List

You may have noticed that PolitickerNJ recently posted their own Power List for 2009. Their list identifies New Jersey’s 100 most politically influential personalities. People whose phone calls get returned. People whose advice everyone seeks. People who get interviewed by CNN, Fox News, and the Star-Ledger. The Ultra-Movers and Uber-Shakers.

Well, I’ll have none of that for my list. This list identifies the most politically non-influential personalities. On my list, I don’t worry about some arbitrary number like “100”. While PolitickerNJ eliminated current office holders, former governors, former senators---we’ve eliminated no one.

If you no longer matter in New Jersey, you matter to me.

We include anyone and everyone whose phone calls don’t get returned, Those who never get invited anywhere anymore. Those with whom photos would be a death knell in any election campaign.

As opposed to the PolitickerNJ 2009 Power List, our method was scientific, empirical, data-driven, objective---and any other super cool words used by Ben Dworkin or the folks at Eagleton.

And while there are no right or wrong answers, this list changes from moment to moment---just like 'realpolitics'. As a matter of fact, when you started reading this list, you were on the list. But because you have taken out time to read this very important stuff, you’re now too important to be on the list. Puff, you’re gone.

We welcome your comments. Contact me at And if you’re unimportant and un-influential enough, I won’t respond to your email.

So here goes:

14-20- Former [and soon to be former Mayors] Peter Cammarano, Anthony Suarez, and Dennis Elwell used to wield much power, albeit some for a longer time than others. Now, not so much. [I am leaving space for at least five others ‘soon to be former elected officials’ to fill out the list]

13 Golan Cipal—Then: He brought down a governor, and was the punchline to comedy club jokes. Now: He has a website explaining “his side” of the story., still under construction.

12-Craig Carton—the former 101.5 personality once was able to make state legislators fear for their political lives. named him the 9th most politically influential personality in the State of New Jersey in 2007. Now, like every other guy, he just talks sports in the morning.

11-Dina Matos McGreevey – Then: The Queen of Drumthwacket. She appeared on Oprah. Now: Her book is on the quarter rack at .99 stores.

10-Mike Ferguson – The golden boy of New Jersey’s right-wing spent eight years in the halls of Congress, and his most notable achievement was successfully retrieving his congressional pin from a co-ed at a Georgetown bar. One day: He’ll be the answer to a Jersey Jeopardy question: Who beat Tom Kean, Jr. in a primary for a seat in Congress?

9-Mayor Henry Franco – There’s nothing negative to report on the mayor of Deal, other than the fact that he’s so unknown that some of his constituents, namely a group of Syrian Jewish rabbis, seemed to have more influence in Trenton than he does.

8-Steve Lonegan – There’s an old saying that someone is so unknown that they couldn’t even get arrested in this town. Well, Lonegan did once get arrested for protesting ---- outside a Corzine town hall meeting, but that may be the end of his public theatrics and criminal record.

7-Sarah Palin- she has a string of ‘formers’ now added to her resume. Now the former Mayor-Beauty Queen-Governor-VP Loser can’t even get Chris Christie to invite her to NJ.

6-Sharpe James – He once wielded strong power in the state senate and ran our state’s biggest city with an iron fist. But now, the imprisoned former mayor of Newark is mostly concerned with protecting his own southward.

5- The Star-Ledger –this once mighty newspaper laid off so many experienced reporters, that they are a thinner, paler version of their former selves. Still, they carry my favorite strip, Doonesbury.

4-Randall Pinkett- Once the heir apparent to the coveted LG spot, “The Apprentice” champ Pinkett was replaced by feisty Jewish grandmother Loretta Weinberg before you could say, “You’re fired!”.

3-The “In The” guys – Their emails are boring, and they have too many ads. Never seen a scoop there at all. Hey, I write for the PolitickerNJ team. What did you expect?

2-Chairman of the Hudson County Republican Party. Pathetic. Not even the Republican State Committee knew who he was. There’s standing room only at the courtrooms where Democratic officeholders are being arraigned, and this guy can’t even field a softball team let alone a slate of candidates. The statue of Lou Costello in Paterson wields more influence.

But there is one person who is the least influential politico in New Jersey politics and that’s…

1-Me – I’m in Hunterdon County. Getting votes delivered? I can’t even get a pizza delivered. I'll be lucky if I can stop a street naming after Dick Cheney. There’s an old saying in politics. Those who can, do. Those who can’t, write sarcastic blogs about those who can.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The definition of irony: “an incongruity or discordance between what one says or does.”

Like a school crossing guard who crosses in between, and not at the green, the Government Records Council (GRC) ---the folks who were created to enforce the Open Public Records Act---found themselves on the wrong side of the law. No irony in that.

In July, a Mercer County gave props to the fine folks at the New Jersey Foundation for Open Government (NJFOG), and ordered the GRC to provide full copies of requested emails in unredacted form. In the interest of full disclosure, I must reveal that this blogger is on the state board of NJFOG.

Details, details: NJFOG was trying to get the names and email contact information for people who had filed complaints with the GRC, with the attempt to contacts those folks to help them further, if need be. Good folks those NJFOG people, if I must say so myself.

GRC’s claim: That “it was protecting complainants' privacy by shielding their home e-mail addresses.”

NJFOG: was trying to "evaluate and monitor the GRC's performance in handling individual complaints."

NJFOG filed suit on May 8, alleging that was a violation of OPRA, the common law right of access to public records, and N.J.S.A. 1:1-14.1(a), which provides a right of access to quasi-judicial records of administrative agencies.

Winner: NJFOG.

Thanks to attorney Richard Gutman, who “analogizes the GRC's effort to withhold the addressees to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ‘violating the law against discrimination.’”