Tag: New Jersey

More Garden State Gun Insanity

A couple of years ago, we talked about Brian Aitken, the man who was convicted of violating New Jersey gun laws because he had guns in his car while he was moving. He was released from prison by Christie and his convictions were eventually thrown out (in part because the judge gave poor instructions to the jury; proper instructions might have resulted in acquittal).

Then it was Shaneen Allen, who faced felony charges for having a registered gun in her car while driving through New Jersey. After enormous public pressure, the prosecutor relented and let her go into a diversion program for first-time offenders.

These things keep happening because New Jersey’s gun laws are insanely complicated and ignore any idea of mens rea:

Carrying a firearm in a locked container in checked luggage in an airport terminal to declare it to the airline constitutes unlawful possession and is not protected under the law.

This decision was a direct result of a 2005 incident where Gregg C. Revell, a Utah Resident with a valid Utah Concealed Firearm Permit was traveling through Newark Airport en route to Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Because of a missed flight, he was given his luggage, which included a properly checked firearm, and was forced to spend the night in a hotel in New Jersey. When he returned to the airport the following day to check his handgun for the last portion of the trip, he was arrested for illegal possession of a firearm.

Revell lost his lawsuit after The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held in Gregg C. Revell v. Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, [222] held that “Section 926A does not apply to Revell because his firearm and ammunition were readily accessible to him during his stay in New Jersey.”

This opinion will apply to NJ airports. If you miss a flight or for any other reason your flight is interrupted and the airline tries to return you luggage that includes a checked firearm, you cannot take possession of the firearm if you are taking a later flight.

Well, meet the latest victim:

Gordon Van Gilder is a retired New Jersey school teacher and collector of 18th century memorabilia. That innocuous hobby could land the 72-year-old behind bars for the rest of his life.

Van Gilder owns an unloaded antique 225-year-old flintlock pistol, the possession of which carries a potential 10-year prison sentence and mandatory minimum sentence of three to five-and-a-half years with no chance for parole.

When a Cumberland County sheriff’s deputy pulled over Van Gilder last November for a minor traffic violation, Van Gilder—after consenting to a search—volunteered the information that the unloaded pistol was in his glove box. The next morning, according to Van Gilder’s account in a video posted by the National Rifle Association (NRA), four officers showed up at his home with a warrant for his arrest.

New Jersey’s strict gun laws explicitly include antique firearms, despite the fact that federal laws exempt them from most gun control regulations.

The local cops are doing ballistics tests on the flintlock just in case Van Gilder used it to commit the world’s slowest robbery or something.

Most federal gun laws exempt weapons made before 1898. The reason is that antique firearms are usually the province of collectors and historians. When was the last time you heard of someone holding up a liquor store with a musket?

There’s no question that Van Gilder broke the law. But there’s little question in my mind that the law is an ass. A Republican state legislator has introduced a bill to exempt antique weapons from New Jersey’s gun laws, but that won’t stop this prosecution. Even if he pleads out, a conviction could jeopardize his pension. I don’t know the ins and outs of New Jersey law, but if Van Gilder is eligible for the diversion program, he should absolutely get it.

This is an inevitable consequence of overly broad gun control laws. They are passed in the wake of some awful act of violence and wind up snaring law-abiding people who pose no danger whatsoever. And any opposition is written off as the result of NRA mischief.

Another Kelo Atrocity

Kelo v. City of New London is one of the worst Supreme Court decisions of my lifetime (and that’s saying a bit). Once the Court decided that people could be forced to sell their homes to wealthy interests, the gloves were off for developers all over the country. The Institute for Justice — have I said recently how awesome they are? — has the details on the latest atrocity:

Charlie Birnbaum’s is a classic American story. His parents—both immigrants and survivors of the Holocaust—left him many things: a love of this country, a deep passion for music and a home right near the boardwalk in Atlantic City. That home—his parents’ foothold in their adopted country—has been a source of love, tragedy and renewal to the Birnbaum family for the past 45 years. Charlie keeps the ground-floor apartment as a piano studio devoted to the memory of his parents; the top two floors are given over to longtime tenants who pay below-market rents. Charlie lovingly maintains the historic brick home—which was built in 1921—keeping it in excellent condition.

Unfortunately, a state agency, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA), is trying to change all that. New Jersey’s CRDA is trying to use eminent domain to seize Charlie’s property as part of a “mixed-use development” project to complement the recently-bankrupt Revel Casino. The trouble is that CRDA has no concrete plans to do anything in particular with Charlie’s property—other than get rid of it. CRDA does not actually need Charlie’s property to develop the surrounding neighborhood. Instead, CRDA is just trying to take Charlie’s home because it thinks it can.

There’s hope here: the New Jersey Superior Court has previously sided with home-owners against this kind of bullshit. The specific bullshit was soi disant conservative Donald Trump trying to seize people’s homes to build a parking lot for limousines. Let’s hope they stomp down on this again.

A Microcosm of Education Fail

Newark has some of the worst schools in the nation despite spending absurd amounts of money on them. It’s a billion dollar school district that routinely gets ten-cent performance. Twenty years ago, the neglect and corruption was so bad that the state took over. But that has not improved things.

A few years ago, Christ Christie and Cory Booker, backed by $100 million from Mark Zuckerberg, pushed to overhaul the school system. The result, spelled out in this long and depressing New Yorker piece, was just another chapter of catastrophe. Some plans were made — maybe good plans, maybe crappy ones. But before you could say “Joe Clark”, the entrenched establishment took over. The union grudgingly agreed to pay bonuses to teachers who did well. But the price was insane:

The union demanded thirty-one million dollars in back pay for the two years that teachers had worked without raises—more than five times what top teachers would receive in merit bonuses under the three-year contract. Zuckerberg covered the expense, knowing that other investors would find the concession unpalatable. The total cost of the contract was about fifty million dollars. The Foundation for Newark’s Future also agreed to Anderson’s request to set aside another forty million dollars for a principals’ contract and other labor expenses. Zuckerberg had hoped that promising new teachers would move quickly up the pay scale, but the district couldn’t afford that along with the salaries of veteran teachers, of whom five hundred and sixty earned more than ninety-two thousand dollars a year. A new teacher consistently rated effective would have to work nine years before making sixty thousand dollars.

The seniority protections proved even more costly. School closings and other personnel moves had left the district with three hundred and fifty teachers that the renew principals hadn’t selected. If Anderson simply laid them off, those with seniority could “bump” junior colleagues. She said this would have a “catastrophic effect” on student achievement: “Kids have only one year in third grade.” She kept them all on at full pay, at more than fifty million dollars over two years, according to testimony at the 2013 budget hearing, assigning them support duties in schools.

The superintendent ran into a firestorm of opposition to any proposed changes. Some of the proposals were probably bad ideas, true. And she handled it poorly, spending more time and effort talking to outside consultants than to parents and local politicians. But in the end, the people did what they always do: rallied to the anti-reformers. This culminated in one of the ringleaders against reform and a shill for the unions being elected mayor on Tuesday. So the people of Newark can look forward to more spending, more bullshit and more failure. Three years and hundreds of millions burned for nothing. It was exactly what I feared would happen when I heard of Zuckerberg’s plans.

Oh, wait. There’s one group that did well. You’ll find them throughout the piece:

Ultimately, Zuckerberg and matching donors paid the firm and its consultants $2.8 million, although Cerf emphasized that he personally accepted no pay, and he left the firm in December, 2010.

During the next two years, more than twenty million dollars of Zuckerberg’s gift and matching donations went to consulting firms with various specialties:

….

With a federal school-improvement grant, he extended the school day, introduced small learning academies, greatly intensified test prep, and hired consultants to improve literacy instruction.

Using $1.8 million from the Foundation for Newark’s Future, she hired the nonprofit consulting group TNTP, in part to develop more rigorous evaluation systems. In her first year, the foundation gave her a four-million-dollar grant to hire consultants at her own discretion.

Anderson spent much of the fall working with data analysts from the Parthenon Group, an international consulting firm that received roughly three million dollars over two years from Newark philanthropy.

This is education reform in the United States. This is Arne Duncan’s America. Consultants and professional “educators” are paid millions to come up with elaborate plans. Sometimes those plans are implemented in a half-assed way. The teachers scramble to meet whatever metric or scheme has been handed down. The plan fails. More money is spent. More consultants are hired. More concessions are made to the unions. The leaders of the reform get elected to higher office. And ultimately nothing changes. Later rinse repeat.

It’s a pretty sweet gig if you’re a politician or a consultant or an “educator”. The only people that lose, really, are the taxpayers. And the kids. And the parents. And the actual teachers.

The more I read stories like this, the more I come to believe that it is impossible to fix the system. The interests, at least in Democrat-run inner cities, are too entrenched and far too skilled at manipulating the public and the media. I’m not going to say I’m in favor of privatizing the whole smash just yet. But … man … when I read something like this it makes that option look awfully tempting.

Christie Hits A Scandal

Ok, let’s review what we’ve learned over the last five years about political scandals.

When Obama’s attorney general was part of a program that lost track of guns it was walking into Mexico and people were killed with those guns, we were told this was not a scandal.

When an embassy in a hotbed of terrorist activity was poorly guarded and the subsequent attack killed four people and the President’s UN Ambassador falsely claimed it was because of a protest against a video, we were told this was not a scandal.

When the President rewrote his Obamacare law 16 times, this was not as scandal.

When the IRS targeted his political enemies, this was not a scandal.

When Obama spied on the AP and Fox News, this was a not a scandal.

When the NSA violated the law and ignored court orders, this was not a scandal.

When Obama started a war in Libya on his own, this was not a scandal.

When Clapper and Holder lied to Congress, this was not a scandal.

The Pigford and GSA scandals were scandals, but we were told they had nothing to do with Obama.

You know what would really have been a scandal? If Obama closed some traffic lanes:

The mystery of who closed two lanes onto the George Washington Bridge — turning the borough of Fort Lee, N.J., into a parking lot for four days in September — exploded into a full-bore political scandal for Gov. Chris Christie on Wednesday. Emails and texts revealed that a top aide had ordered the closings to punish the town’s mayor after he did not endorse the governor for re-election.

“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Bridget Anne Kelly, a deputy chief of staff to Mr. Christie, emailed David Wildstein, a high school friend of the governor who worked at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the bridge.

Later text messages mocked concerns that school buses filled with students were stuck in gridlock: “They are the children of Buono voters,” Mr. Wildstein wrote, referring to Mr. Christie’s opponent Barbara Buono.

Now granted those e-mails may have been reveling in an inconvenience rather than ordering one. And granted they were on private, not official e-mails accounts. And granted Christie has denied involvement. But … come on! The man blocked traffic lanes! That’s like a million Bengahzis! The Left wing is all aflutter, proclaiming Christie’s 2016 campaign — which doesn’t actually exist — dead.

I don’t mean to make light of this. If Christie did indeed inconvenience tens of thousands of people as a political retaliation, that is definitely wrong and should have an impact on his political future. The staffer who organized it should be fired and the people of Fort Lee deserve an apology, at minimum.

But … Come. The. Fuck On. The Left Wing has no credibility on this, none whatsoever. They have spent the last five years reflexively defending anything and everything their beloved President does. They have said that even investigating these things is a partisan witchhunt. They mocked the Benghazi hearings as bullshit. Now, all of the sudden, a four-day traffic jam should be the end of someone’s political career?

Look at what I did two paragraphs ago. I looked at an allegation against a politician I like and said it should be investigated and, if he turns out to have been involved, he should be punished. That’s because I don’t see the Republican Party as my tribe of Chris Christie as a tin god. I wish the same could be said about those who are currently dancing in the streets over this while ignoring everything done by … the most powerful politician in the world.

The Democrats Open the Gubernatorial Clown Car

One thing I’ve mentioned in this space before is that while I frequently despair of Republicans on the national level, there has been a surge of Republican governors who are competent, conservative and effective. This can not, however, be said of their Democratic counterparts. Last week, I countered the assertion that Jerry Brown is the Best. Governor. Ever. But two more races are drawing attention to the complete dearth of ideas that is the Democratic Party.

The first is in New Jersey, where Chris Christie looks ready to easily win a second term. Christie is winning because of his first term performance and popularity in the state. But if I were a Democrat, I would be embarrassed by the opposition. I showed last week how Buono completely muffed a softball question in the debate. Her performance has been so bad, however, that the Star-Ledger spends half of its governor endorsement slamming Christie as a fraud only to endorse him because Buono is so awful:

Begin with education. Buono’s close alliance with the teachers union is a threat to the progress Christie is making in cities such as Newark and Camden. She is hostile to charter schools, which now educate nearly 1 in 4 kids in Newark.

Buono opposes the Newark teacher contract, which freezes the pay of the worst teachers and grants bonuses to the best. She wants a traditional union deal, in which no distinction is made. She would return control of the schools to Newark, which would spell the end of Superintendent Cami Anderson’s promising stewardship.

Her critique of Christie centers on property taxes and jobs, but she lacks a convincing strategy to do any better herself. She has a long list of expensive plans, from universal preschool to more aid for public colleges. But she can’t name a single spending cut beyond the traditional promise to attack “fraud and abuse.”

(I think it’s hilarious that the Star-Ledger, in criticizing Buono, inadvertently highlights Christie’s achievements. It’s like they can’t quite bring themselves to admit he’s been pretty good.)

But it’s worse. The other race is in Virginia. This should be a gimme for the Democrats. The McDonnell Administration has been hit by scandals and the state, thanks to the exploding public sector in the DC/NoVa area, has been trending blue. The Republican nominee is Ken Cuccinelli, a deeply divisive attorney general who only won the nomination by changing the rules. So the Democrats looked around and nominated … you won’t believe this … Terry McAuliffe. McAuliffe is such an awful candidate that the Richmond Times-Dispatch decided to endorse … no one:

The Democrat stumbles when he proposes major spending hikes, which he claims can be financed by the federal dollars the state would receive by expanding Medicaid. He offers an easy answer to a tough question … On energy generally, McAuliffe has spun like a top and now supports items he once opposed, such as the exploration for energy sources off Virginia’s shores … McAuliffe styles himself a businessman and entrepreneur. He inhabits the crossroads where the public and private sectors intersect and sometimes collide. His experience with GreenTech does not generate confidence. He located the plant in Mississippi, which is not known for its social enlightenment. The company has not lived up to expectations. If it eventually does, no credit will accrue to McAuliffe, for he has, he says, stepped away from it. He is not the reincarnation of Henry Ford. His ignorance of state government is laughable and makes Rick Perry, the notorious governor of Texas, look like a Founding Father.

I’ve watched this race for a while and McAuliffe crosses me as someone who thinks it is basically his turn. He’s been involved in politics for a while, dammit, and he thinks he deserves this. He doesn’t know the issues and doesn’t seem terribly interested in learning about them. He doesn’t know Virginia government and doesn’t seem terribly interested in learning about it. And he’s the best the Virginia Democrats could come up with. Seriously.

The T-D comes close to endorsing Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis but shies away because of his lack of experience. I find that spineless. I endorse Sarvis and if I still lived in Virginia, would vote for him. What he lacks in experience, he makes up for in not being a buffoon. As it is, McAuliffe is leading in the polls. Whatever failings Sarvis may have, he’s got be better than McAullife. If you think McDonnell has had scandals, just wait until that jackanapes is in the Governor’s mansion.

Next year may even more amazing. The Democrats want to run Wendy Davis for governor of Texas. You may remember her from the abortion filibuster earlier this year as well as … well, nothing. Davis’s only real claim to fame is filibustering a bill that had the support of two-thirds of Texans. Whatever you may think about abortion, this is not an issue that is going to win Democrat the Texas state house. In my own state, Tom Corbett has become deeply unpopular but it’s not clear that the Democrats will nominate anyone in 2014 who has more credibility than Shakes the Clown.

The Republicans at the national level have been criticized for being out of ideas. But I think that applies even doubly so to Democrats at the state level. They seem to think that because they see Republicans as evil monsters, everyone else does too and all they need to is prop someone up who can spew liberal bullshit long enough to win. They’re in for a rude shock in the next year.

Christie and Obama

Chris Christie has never had any problem criticizing Barack Obama. A few weeks ago, for example, he uncorked this:

However, in the wake of Sandy, Christie has been praising Obama for his response to the crisis. This has prompted conspiracy theories about him having secret (or not so secret) 2016 ambitions.

Now, I’m as cynical as the next guy, but … really? Does Christie cross people as that sinister? I think Jeffrey Goldberg has the best theory:

Christie, in my experience, is a deeply emotional and highly sentimental man, and he is torn-up about the devastation along the Jersey Shore. The support he’s received from President Obama — the support he receives from anyone — at such a wrenching moment, makes him inordinately grateful. And President Obama has been extremely attentive.

Exactly. As I said earlier on Twitter, Chris Christie wears his heart on his sleeve. He says what he thinks and he doesn’t pull punches. This is, in fact, one of the things we like about him. Seeing the devastation wrought on the Jersey Shore of his youth, the Shore he has taken his children to many times, has clearly hit him hard. You can see it in his face; you can feel it in his statements. And having a President he has been highly critical of call him up and say, “tell us what you need” moved him.

Of course, I may be buying into Christie’s genuineness too much. And maybe Goldberg’s alternate theory — that Christie just wants to meet Bruce Springsteen — is the right one. But for the moment, I’m taking this for what it is: the gratitude of a man who is deeply hurt by what his state has endured. And I think it’s a sign of how weird our politics has gotten — just yesterday, I was reading about people only wanting to date politically like-minded mates — that we immediately assume a sinister motive? As Franklin Harris noted on Twitter, politicians used to play nice in the aftermath of a crisis. Katrina was the exception, not the rule.

By all accounts, Christie is doing a fantastic job managing this crisis. Why should we be upset if he wants to throw some credit in the Feds’ direction? Especially if the reports that FEMA has learned from Katrina and is doing a better job are true?

The Bully Initiative

Because our schools are doing everything else so well…

Under a new state law in New Jersey, lunch-line bullies in the East Hanover schools can be reported to the police by their classmates this fall through anonymous tips to the Crimestoppers hot line.

In Elizabeth, children, including kindergartners, will spend six class periods learning, among other things, the difference between telling and tattling.

And at North Hunterdon High School, students will be told that there is no such thing as an innocent bystander when it comes to bullying: if they see it, they have a responsibility to try to stop it.

The impetus for this is the Anti-Bullying … wait for it … Bill of Rights, a cumbersome new law that is imposing all kinds of policies on schools who already have strained budgets. It mandates reporting, includes “cyber-bullying”, requires the creation of antibullying specialists and is lining the pockets of various interests:

This summer, thousands of school employees attended training sessions on the new law; more than 200 districts have snapped up a $1,295 package put together by a consulting firm that includes a 100-page manual and a DVD.

That’s a cool quarter of a million for however threw that together.

The impetus for this is the death of Tyler Clementi, who killed himself after a video of him having sex with another man was circulated. But that’s more harassment and invasion of privacy than bullying. That can be prosecuted under existing law. Moreover, Clementi was a college student, not a high school student. As a general rule, laws passed after a tragedy are bad news. Laws that encourage anonymous tips to police are a recipe for an outrageous persecution of some poor kid.

This is my favorite quote:

“Kids have to learn to deal with conflict,” [Margaret Dolan] said. “What a shame if they don’t know how to effectively interact with their peers when they have a disagreement.”

But they’re not going to learn how to interact with peers and deal with conflict if a psychologist leaps out from behind the bushes every time two kids get into a conflict. Part of growing up is learning to deal with people who are assholes. This is something kids have to learn on their own. The only time authorities should step in is when there’s a real danger of physical violence. Once of things I like about Sal 9000 Beta’s day care is that the teachers don’t leap in every time two kids have a squabble, even if one kid is clearly being a jerk. The kids need to learn how to function on their own. And they do.

The real damage, I suspect, will be to education. This is just one more regulation, one more piece of bureaucratic bullshit that the poor public school teachers of New Jersey have to deal with. It’s bad enough that the state is looking over their shoulder, trying to micromanage every minute of class time and making a federal case when they try to discipline a student (or fire an incompetent colleague). Now they have to be on the alert for anything that can be remotely called bullying or be in violation of the law.

This wasn’t a difficult issue to deal with. Criminal sanctions can be used to punish those who intimidate, threaten or abuse others. But creating a huge mandate for training, snitching and counseling is just asking for disaster. It’s another iteration of the “We must do something! This is something! Let’s do it!” mentality that characterizes public policy.

This will blow up in New Jersey’s face. Just watch.

LA Times’ preemptive strike against Chris Christie

Yeah, the left is worried. They held the reigns of congressional spending for 7 of the last worst spending years, caused an economic implosion after their various schemes to make palatable the shit sandwich that their ideologically motivated government mandate to force lenders to give money to high risk people to buy homes came crashing down – but albeit successfully used the media to convince people to a large degree to blame Bush, whom granted, didn’t do enough to derail that freight train going off a cliff when he could but warned us of the coming disaster only to be labeled a racist for doing so, for that economic disaster – threw massive amounts of money into a pit, well at their donors, friends, lobbyist groups, corporate buddies, and of course their own campaign coffers, declined to pass a spending bill in order to mitigate the backlash sure to follow in the 2010 election, and left us still unable to get that done, and have been running annual deficits between 1.5 and 2 trillion dollars, just to name a few things. But they are not stopping there. Now they are playing a game of chicken with the other side in a political maneuver they hope will let them both score cheap points and finally straddle job creators and other in the productive sector with yet another punitive levy on their wealth production, in order to keep spending like drunken sailors. And as a consequence of all that enlightened left wing politicos and economics, with the 2010 elections indicating the direction things are going in, the prospects of another humiliating defeat at the polls in 2012 seem to be all but given.

And that’s why you are seeing hit pieces like this one from the LA Times which is obsessing over how good one of the most promising republican candidates “looks”.

To be president, do you have to look presidential?

And if so, does that mean Chris Christie should forget about a run for the Oval Office?

New Jersey’s governor, considered a rising star in the Republican Party, was hospitalized Thursday after having trouble breathing (he suffers from asthma), The Times reported. The story takes note of Christie’s weight issues:

The governor has acknowledged leading an unhealthy lifestyle. In a recent interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan, Christie said he feels “guilty” about his weight.

“I’m really struggling, been struggling for a long time with it, and I know that it would be better for my kids if I got it more under control. And so I do feel a sense of guilt at times about that,” he said.

Presidential image control is nothing new. As a candidate, Barack Obama took pains to downplay the fact he was a smoker. Bill Clinton, an admitted fast-food junkie, tried to tone down his late-night McDonald’s runs. George W. Bush was an avid runner; his dad, George H.W., still skydives on his birthday. Ronald Reagan beat back questions about his age by happily clearing brush on his Santa Barbara ranch. John Kennedy famously hid serious health problems. And, of course, Franklin Roosevelt mostly managed to avoid public scrutiny of the fact that polio left him unable to walk.

The guy is obese! Unhealthy! Who wants a fat guy for president huh? We would much rather have a good looking fast talking used car salesman or a nice looking community organizer for president. After all, looks are more important than policies it seems according to these LA Times writers:

So Republicans (and others) may like Christie’s politics. And the good folks of New Jersey elected him governor.

But is America ready for a president who, frankly, doesn’t look healthy? Or, given that more and more Americans are themselves obese, would Christie’s weight not be an issue?

What do you think? Take our (unscientific, informal) poll:

I took the poll, simply because these people need some perspective. At the time I did the results looked like this:

I am glad to see that the majority of people are smart enough to not let the LA Times “high school clique” politics and these collectivist twits idiotic looks over substance beliefs distract them from something as important as getting rid of the left’s current disastrous policies in favor of some like the ones implemented by Christies, whose policies and economic agenda grounded in reality. Maybe they need to run a poll next on whether Steven Hawkins, whom is wheel chair bound, should be taken seriously as a scientist, since he is you know, a cripple and all that.

Seriously, these people are the ones in charge. Are you frightened yet?