Thursday, August 26, 2010

Thursday Mashup (8/26/10)

  • Boy, did “Governor Bully” put his proverbial foot in it (here)…

    It was, according to New Jersey’s governor, a $400 million mistake.

    The state was drenched in recriminations on Wednesday as Gov. Chris Christie said a clerical error by a midlevel official had caused the state to lose out on $400 million in federal school reform money — an error that caused its Race to the Top grant application to fall short of the 10-member winner’s circle by just three points.

    The mistake, reported Tuesday by The Star-Ledger of Newark, resulted from a failure to correctly read a straight-forward question worth not quite 5 of the competition’s 500 points. The application asked states vying for billions in federal funds to compare their 2008 and 2009 school budgets to illustrate their commitment to education financing. Instead, a New Jersey official, whom the governor would not identify, compared the state’s 2010 and 2011 financing, thus forfeiting the points.
    Or, as Blue Jersey tells us here…

    …there was once an application - negotiated by the Christie administration's Commissioner of Education Bret Shundler (sic) and the NJEA - that would have scored high enough to get the $400 million. That application also didn't have the error that cost us $400 million. But Christie threw a another hissy fit when he heard about it on the news instead of from Shundler, and tossed that application out.

    Instead of just changing the parts he didn't like, Christie appears to have started from scratch as part of his hissy fit. As a result a question that was simply factual and had no bearing on the NJEA-Shundler negotiations was removed and replaced with the wrong information. And that led to the loss of $400 million during a massively problematic fiscal era.

    …there are only two explanations I can see for this disaster. The first is that Christie intentionally tanked the application in an effort to continue hurting the public schools to the extent where vouchers appear to be the only solution. Or that Christie intentionally mis-wrote the answer to that question in order to hide funding cuts by the previous administration in some effort to improve his own standing or image. I find conspiracy theories like this not terribly realistic, in no small part because Christie's not that clever.

    The more likely is that it was Christie's need to be in control, his hate of the NJEA and his inability to play well with others that lost this money. Essentially his pissy temperament - the same one that got him in trouble as a Freeholder and was so respected by the media as US Attorney - just cost every resident of the state of New Jersey $45. It's incompetence of the worst kind - willful and unnecessary.
    Oh, and here is more on Christie’s reaction from the Times…

    In a lengthy news conference on Wednesday, Governor Christie, a Republican, said he took ultimate responsibility for the error, which “believe me,” he said, “I am not thrilled about.” But he said no one would be fired over the matter, then he assumed his signature anti-Washington tone. The Obama administration, he said, should have called, or checked the state’s Web site, when it discovered the error, which was on just one page of a 1,000-page application.

    “That’s the stuff that drives people nuts about government, and that’s what the Obama administration should answer for,” he said. “When the president comes back to New Jersey, he is going to have to explain to the people of the state of New Jersey why he is depriving them of $400 million that this application earned them, because one of his bureaucrats in Washington couldn’t pick up the phone and ask a question.”
    Oh, so it’s Obama’s fault for not finding Christie’s error.

    The Repugs like to preach about how the private sector supposedly trumps the public one at every turn. Name for me one business that would condone an episode like this without some type of disciplinary action.

  • Update 1 8/28/10: Oops, looks like Schundler is out after all (here, and nice job on the sprinkler matter noted here, Guv).

    Update 2 8/28/10: And oh yeah, Think Progress makes a good point here about how the Repugs like to treat the unemployed as political punching bags, as TP more or less puts it, until one of their own needs to collect.

    Update 9/1/10: I give you another truly deplorable chapter in the ongoing, utterly ruinous Christie governorship (here - my sympathies to the Katsnelsons).

  • Next, I came across this interesting bit of concern trolling from Joe Trippi at the Fix Noise site (here)…

    Now come the questions: The first question is how well will Charlie Crist do with Democratic voters in November? Can he pull enough Democratic votes away from Meek to sneak past Republican Marco Rubio and win election to the Senate as an independent?

    The White House would clearly prefer a Meek or Crist victory in November. A win by either man could give the president a boost in his re-election bid a little over two years from now.
    For someone who is supposed to represent the Democratic Party, I would say that this is at best a tepid endorsement of Kendrick Meek, the winner of the Democratic primary for Florida’s U.S. Senate contest (I guess, though, that if Trippi did anything except write about the “horserace” and provide analysis with any actual depth or examination of the issues, Fix Noise would never publish him).

    Oh, and one more thing – would it have been too much trouble to point out that Trippi was a paid adviser to Jeff Greene, the “Democrat” Meek defeated in the primary election?

  • Also, what would a day be like without more wankery from former Laura Bush employee Andrew Malcolm (probably a lot more enjoyable – here)…

    Having successfully shut down an estimated 23,000 American oil drilling jobs off the Gulf Coast, citing possible environmental concerns, the Obama administration is now moving on New England fishermen.
    This is the same lie peddled by Smokey Joe Barton yesterday, and here is the same Media Matters link that I used to update yesterday’s post.


    It's rained during much of Obama's latest vacation there. And now the Democratic president is scheduled to be confronted with a flotilla of protesters today off his private estate on the souvenir-laden island of Martha's Vineyard.

    The immediate boating protest is about their claim the feds are using bad science to set extremely limited area fishing allotments, certain to wipe out many traditional private family businesses.

    The fishermen -- possibly involving as many as two dozen vessels -- will be traveling from as far away as New Jersey and all along the Northeastern coastline. Wednesday the noon protest earned the support of the Greater Boston Tea Party.
    Funny, but I cannot recall receiving weather forecasts when Dubya and his pals vacationed anywhere (including the times he “cleared brush” at his “ranch”…you remember, the one Number 43 sold as soon as his misbegotten presidency finally ended and he didn’t have to perpetuate that phony-baloney image of a “regular guy” anymore).

    See, when legitimate journalists do sourcing for their material, they link to the AP, Reuters, McClatchy, etc., or particular individuals such as Dana Priest, Scott Shane, or other accomplished reporters. However, since we’re talking about Malcolm, he links instead to Michelle Malkin, Ed Morrissey and the like to tell us about what appears to be some kind of Obama protest flotilla that is scheduled to appear somewhere near the island (And am I the only one who can smell “astroturf” here, by the way?).

    And as far as the gripes of the fishermen with the NOAA, the following should be noted from here (a Forbes story dated about three weeks ago)…

    BOSTON -- The nation's top fishery managers met Tuesday with industry leaders from California to Maine to discuss ways to improve the troubled fishery law enforcement system amid findings of mismanagement, misspending and questionable fines.

    The summit at a Washington hotel, broadcast on the Internet, followed months of revelations about the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's law enforcement division that have fractured relations between the agency and fishermen and have prompted lawmakers to call for the resignation of NOAA head Jane Lubchenco.

    Recent findings by U.S. Commerce Department Inspector General Todd Zinser described the misspending of millions of dollars in fishing fines and showed heavier fines for Northeast fishermen, who have long complained of unfair treatment. Zinser also said the head of the law enforcement division, Dale Jones, wrongly ordered dozens of files shredded during his investigation.

    Jones has since been replaced and NOAA has made various changes to better track fines and mend relations with the industry. NOAA hopes to have broader changes in place by October 2011.
    So it looks to me like the culprit more than Lubchenco here is Jones, an 11-year veteran of NOAA who was replaced in April by Alan Risenhoover, who had been heading NOAA's Office of Sustainable Fisheries.

    Also, the following should be noted from here…

    By including the new NOAA administrator as part of his core science team, Obama gave a boost to NOAA scientists who have long lamented the agency's low stature in Washington -- and who had complained their findings were altered or suppressed during George W. Bush's presidency.

    Lubchenco said she and (her boss, Commerce Secretary and) former Washington Gov. Gary Locke…are in sync on their priorities for NOAA. One shared concern is restoring the West Coast's salmon fishery. Their backgrounds and interests may signal a westward shift of focus in an agency best known for tangling with New England fishermen over the cod collapse and for tracking hurricanes.
    I’m not going to argue that everything is hunky-dory here and Lubchenco and her agency don’t have work to do. Somehow, though, I have a feeling that New England fishermen have been butting heads with Washington bureaucrats for longer than Malcolm would have us believe.

    For a change, though, it appears that Malcolm is actually in an element he knows well, and that would be “fish stories.”

  • Finally, Matt Bai tells us the following (here, in a column featuring Dem U.S. House Rep Earl Blumenauer of Oregon)…

    President Obama’s bipartisan panel on the national debt won’t issue any recommendations for reshaping the budget until after the November elections, but that hasn’t stopped liberals from mobilizing to discredit the panel’s work. This month, more than 70 organizations, including the A.F.L.-C.I.O. and, formed a group, Strengthen Social Security, to pre-emptively oppose the panel’s findings, starting with any reduction in Social Security benefits it might propose. And they are calling on Democrats in Congress to pledge the same.

    The liberal groups that are already speaking out against the debt panel’s unfinished work have chosen to start with Social Security because it is likely to be at the center of any budget compromise. “If there’s a place where it looks like Republicans and Democrats can reach agreement, we’re afraid it’s Social Security,” says Frank Clemente, the director of Strengthen Social Security. (In other words, the two parties might actually work together on something. They must be stopped!)
    You know, it really is shocking that the New York Times actually gives Bai a paycheck, particularly when he writes on this issue (and as an almost humorous counterpoint, the print edition of the paper featured a story on Alan Simpson’s recent outburst on this subject right next to Bai’s column – here and here are updates…and in yet another example of their tone-deafness, the Obama Administration is going to allow Simpson to continue to “serve”).

    The real problem, though, as noted by Atrios and others, isn’t Simpson; the problem is the very existence of the commission itself. And with that in mind, I bring you the actual reporting on this subject that Bai, and the rest of his paper, fails to do (here).

    As firedoglake tells us, this all started last year with a “Fiscal Responsibility Summit” chaired by Pete Peterson, the hedge fund billionaire who made his money by not paying his fair share of taxes, and who has pursued a decades-long quest to destroy Social Security and has pledged $1 billion to achieve that goal (and Peterson is no small influence on Obama, who has said that overhauling Social Security would be “a central part” of his administration’s efforts to contain federal spending).

    Well, fortunately, filthy unkempt blogger types such as yours truly raised a ruckus, and Peterson was “disinvited” from the summit.


    In January of 2010, a bill sponsored by committed Social Security slashers Judd Gregg and Kent Conrad which would have created an official Catfood Commission to make recommendations about the nation’s deficit was defeated by the Senate on a bipartisan vote — 22 Democrats and 24 Republicans voted no.

    Undeterred, on February 18, President Obama issued an executive order creating a Catfood Commission anyway.

    Unlike Bill Clinton’s Danforth Commission, which ended in deadlock, Obama set this commission up in such a way that it was stacked with deficit hawks who largely agreed on what needed to be done: 12 of the 18 members were to be appointed by Senate and House leaders in each party, and 6 would be appointed by the President. This virtually guaranteed that Social Security privatization fetishist Paul Ryan would be on the commission, as would Gregg and Conrad.
    And who would be supplying “staffers” to this commission, top-heavy with “hawks” on “reforming” Social Security? Why, Pete Peterson, of course (and there’s a lot of other great reporting by fdl in their post, which to me is reminiscent of what they did on the “Scooter” Libby trial, another story basically ignored by our corporate media)…

    The post concludes with this…

    The Catfood commission is not legitimate. It was stacked with people who knew their job was to fulfill Pete Peterson’s dream of rolling back the New Deal and waging war on the social safety net. It is a committee of oligarchs designed to circumvent electoral repercussions for those who oppose the will of the vast majority of the American people, both Republicans and Democrats, who don’t want to see the federal budget balanced on the backs of the nation’s senior citizens.
    We all know what Bai is and it really doesn’t make sense to belabor the point (receive dictation, type it up to conform to the prescribed narrative, submit it, collect paycheck, show up for happy hour), but it really is shocking that this administration can try to perpetrate this garbage and still wonder why progressives feel no inclination whatsoever to support it.

  • Update: Kudos to mcjoan for this - probably didn't see it because too much smoke was coming out of my ears.

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