Monday, November 30, 2009

Not Just a Second Banana

Twenty lieutenant governors and seconds-in-command succeeded to governor from 2000 thru November of 2009. Several of the largest states by population are lead by former lieutenant governors. An average of one in every four governors first served as lieutenant governor or first in line of succession. A study showed no other city, state or Congressional office is more successful than the office of lieutenant governor as a springboard to governor.

Bill Halter, Brad Owen, John Cherry, Becky Skillman, Barbara Lawton, Casey Cagle, Peter Kinder, Walter Dalton and James ‘Duke’ Aiona. Their names may not be familiar to you, but they are America’s last line of defense when a state’s chief executive is no longer able to lead.

They are the greatest of unknown Americans: the Lieutenant Governors.

New Jersey long scoffed at the idea of having an LG. Why have an orderly transition in the case of a gubernatorial vacancy when you can have the Senate President also be the Acting Governor? You’re saving a paycheck and office space. Plus, you won’t have to keep redecorating Drumthwacket.

While Chris Christie is becoming New Jersey’s 55th governor in January, the truly historic news is that Monmouth County Sheriff Kim Guadagno will be the first Lieutenant Governor in the history of our state. Never before has New Jersey had a permanent second-in-command, and only time will tell how that will change our politics.

The most exciting aspect of New Jersey having an LG is that New Jersey has never had a scandal involving an LG. We’ve never had federal law enforcement agents storm an LG’s office and carry away computers. No LG has ever been caught in a sex scandal, taken a bribe, or hired people for no-show jobs. It is the cleanest office in New Jersey.

While we’ve had all sorts of elected officials go to prison, no New Jersey LG has ever been behind bars.
Clean slate, so far.

Also in 2010, New Jersey will be able to take its rightful place in one of the nation’s most prestigious organizations, the National Lieutenant Governors Association. When the NLGA meets in Washington, D.C. in March to take care of important lieutenant governor business, Kim Guadagno will be there to make sure that New Jersey’s voice is heard.

What do you think the conversation is like at these meetings? “My governor lets me have full run of the mansion when he’s away, and he gave me the code on the remote control so I can watch all of the pay-movie stations.” “When he’s got a lot of meetings, my governor let’s me take his limo wherever I want to go.”

Actually, according to the NLGA’s website, lieutenant governors are making big news. Michigan LG John Cherry was highlighted for his outspoken support of the state’s new multi-species hunting package. Now, people in Michigan can get pre-approved to hunt for all sorts of animals, not just elk and deer but turkeys too. Missouri LG Peter Kinder is passing out gold, silver and bronze medals to people who take part in the “Your Heart is in Your Hands” healthy food and exercise program. North Carolina LG Walter Dalton even started a charity drive to get shoes to needy children by holding a “barefoot” press conference.
Important work for all.

So I now call on my fellow New Jerseyans to give their full support to Kim Guadagno as she looks to make her mark among the other great Americans now serving as Lieutenant Governor. And take her rightful place at the NLGA annual conference in Mississippi on July 27th-31st, 2010 at the Beau Rivage Resort.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Flemingtoon* 11.24.09 *All dialogue mostly guaranteed almost verbatim.

I have a Blackberry device that I am not completely thrilled with. It’s clunky and not intuitive like an IPhone, which I would rather have. In fact, the regular message on all my Blackberry emails is “I have a Verizon Blackberry, but I would rather have an IPhone.”

While the folks at Verizon were not too happy about that, it’s my phone and I will send out the message that I want.

Anyway, the email function on the Blackberry has this spelling correction feature -- Presumptive Spelling. When generating a text or email message, I often use abbreviations. The Presumptive Spelling function “thinks” that I am misspelling certain words and will automatically change the words to what it thinks it should be.

The other day I get an email from a local Democrat in Flemington, and she [let’s go with a generic name of “Shirley”] asks me the following question:

“My husband and I were appalled to find out that State Senators and Assemblymen can still practice as lawyers when they get elected. Can Chris Christie still be a lawyer when he becomes governor? We’d thought you might know.”

So, I answered her on my Blackberry:


“When he becomes Governor, Christie will still be atty.” [I abbreviated ‘attorney’ as ‘atty’.]

Her answer to me seemed odd, at the time: “Not funny. Stop the jokes.”

Upon further investigation, I made a discovery.

The only thing is the Presumptive Spelling function ‘corrected’ the ‘atty’ abbreviation for me, and unbeknownst to me, I hit SEND.

The correction produced:

“When he becomes Governor, Christie will still be fatty.”

Makes me wonder what other embarrassing ‘corrections’ lurk in the Presumptive Spelling function. Now, I need to figure how to turn it off.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Murray’s Margin of Error

Patrick Murray is the founding director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. According to their website, “The Monmouth University Polling Institute has become a premier independent survey research center known for its in-depth tracking of public policy and quality of life issues.”

Murray is a frequent media commentator on politics and public opinion---in fact, one of the folks that asked the opinion of each week to see which gubernatorial candidate “Won The Week”. named him one of 14 People to Watch in New Jersey Politics in 2009. He’s got a fancy looking website, with all sorts of numbers and names, graphs and graphics, statistics and such. Polling Institute director Patrick Murray appears regularly on One-on-One with Steve Adubato, and is a frequent guest on all the shows that cover NJ political scene.

Furthermore, according to their website, “The Monmouth University Poll’s standard methodology utilizes a random digit dial (RDD) ‘probability’ sampling design to select survey participants. All telephone exchanges (i.e., area code and first three digits of the phone number) that reach a household are programmed into a computer…after interviewing is complete, the sample is ‘weighted’ to correct for the fact that some respondents are harder to reach than others…. The Monmouth University Poll either tracks or adjusts for geography, gender, race, age, and education to comport with current U.S. census figures of the adult population. This weighting ensures that findings from a sample can be generalized to the full target population.”

One would think that Mr. Murray could predict anything with extreme accuracy, given all the fancy degrees, computers, and statistics training.

But wait, there is this catch-all disclaimer on all the surveys: “All surveys are subject to ‘sampling error’ ”----you know, that “plus or minus” number at the end of the poll that tells you just how much they could be off by. “This poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3%” or so is what you’ll hear.

Now, my background---I am just an old, bald, overweight comedian from Brooklyn, with no fancy statistics degree. I don’t have an extravagant office at Monmouth University. I am not on NJN or ‘One on One with Steve Adubato’ each week. I was not named one of PolitickerNJ’s ‘most important’ anything last year or this year. And the same will most likely be the case for next year.

My methods for predicting the results of a contest between two (or more) does not require me to spend hours and hours bothering people of all ages by phone at dinner time, and then weighting the results ‘cause I could not get enough of one type of folk or another.

I just go by my instincts. That’s right—from the gut. My keen insight. My unique sixth sense. And that insight told me the Yanks in Six.

With all his fancy training, stats, and phone calls—what was Murray’s prediction?

That the Phillies repeat.

I guess that would be a margin of error of ---“plus or minus 100%” percent.

“I was looking at the World Series through (Phillies)red-colored glasses,” opined Mr. Murray, paying off on our bet. The result: one hundred dollars from his pocket to the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang Camps for kids with cancer. And he will be sending on a jar of honey to me, too. How sweet it is.

So, the lesson: If you want accurate predictions of who will win political races in NJ, stick with Murray. (I predicted Jon Corzine by 3 points).

However, if you wish to predict the winner of any World Series where the Yankees play the Phillies, call me.

If anyone else want to donate to the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang Camps for kids with cancer, go to and follow the links.