New Jersey Blues and The Big Guy

Though I now live in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, I’m a native of the Great State of New Jersey.  With friends and family scattered across the Garden State [something of a misnomer], I still keep half an eye on NJ happenings.

As we all know, Chris Christie now fills the Governor’s seat [with abundance].  Yes, that was a cheap shot.  Christie has become a Republican darling for his blunt, shoot from the hip style.  In Tony Soprano fashion, Christie badmouths teachers, unions and anyone who gets in the way.  What a guy!

But the man is not without Sin.

Christie believes in limited gun control.  Eeek!  He has stated that in urban situations, limiting the number of guns makes sense.  The ‘makes sense’ is obviously a big issue with the current crop of Republicans.  Christie also expressed a belief in ‘Climate Change,” stating that human activity is undoubtedly involved and that he would defer to the experts.

OMG.  A science guy!  How did this man squeeze his considerable girth under the GOP tent?

The proposed mosque site in NYC?  Christie refused to take a stand.  He withheld comment, while the flames of controversy were fanned with heady delight by crank pundits, 24/7 shock jocks, faux celebrities and Fox News [ahem] reporters. [In full disclosure, I believed the mosque plans were unwise and badly timed—too soon, too close to the proximity of Ground Zero, which I’d visited two years before the story broke].

But worse, when appointing a judge to NJ’s Superior Court last year, Chris Christie appointed a . . . Muslim!  Can you believe it?  Shades of Sharia Law rained across Tea Party brows.  The horror!  The betrayal!

Christie’s response?  He was sick of dealing with the ‘crazies.’

But it’s clear now, indisputable, that Governor Chris Christie has learned nothing—nada, zip–from his past misdeeds.  The National Organization for Marriage [NOM] is up in arms over Christie’s appalling nomination of Bruce Harris for the State Supreme Court.

Why? you may ask.

According to NOM, Harris is an extremist of the worst kind.  He would be the first openly gay, third African American to serve the High Court and has publicly admitted support of and work in behalf of gay marriage legislation.  Though Harris has agreed to recuse himself on any legislation involving same sex marriage, he’d sent an unfortunate email [emails can get you in a whole lot of trouble] to State Senator Joseph Pennacchio.  NOM, in a mailing to supporters dated 30 January, with a header reading, Tell Christie to Withdraw Nomination of Pro-SSM Judge For Extremist Views Equating Christianity and Slavery, reproduced said email:

When I hear someone say that they believe marriage is only between a man and a woman because that’s the way it’s always been, I think of the many “traditions” that deprived people of their civil rights for centuries: prohibitions on interracial marriage, slavery, (which is even provided for in the Bible), segregation, the subservience of women, to name just a few of these “traditions.”

I hope that you consider my request that you re-evaluate your position and, if after viewing the videos, reading Governor Whitman’s letter and thinking again about this issue of civil rights you still oppose same-sex marriage on grounds other than religion I would appreciate it if you you’d explain your position to me. And, if the basis of your opposition is religious, then I suggest that you do what the US Constitution mandates—and that is to maintain a separation between the state and religion.

Here’s the rub, according to NOM and their screeching advocates:

. . . a man who cannot tell the difference between supporting our traditional understanding of marriage and wanting to enslave a people lacks common sense and judicial temperament.

And to suggest that legislators should ignore the views of religious constituents, that moral views grounded in the Bible are somehow illegitimate in the public square, seriously compounds the offense.

These are not the words of a judicial conservative, a man who believes in common sense, strict construction of the state constitution—the kind of judge Gov. Christie promised to appoint to the court.

Over the weekend, it was suggested I lacked a sense of humor when referring to NC Congressman Larry Pittman’s email, sent ‘inadvertently’ to the NC General Assembly, in which Pittman suggested ‘abortionists’ [they would be physicians who perform legal and safe abortions] should be first in line for a public hanging.  Public hangings, Congressman Pittman added, should be reintroduced to deter crime and set a firm, if not ghastly example.

He was making a funny, I was informed.

Those who would expect me to laugh off the Pittman email would no doubt expect me to consider the Harris email a source of outrage and NOM’s response as perfectly reasonable.

They would be wrong.

The Bible is illegitimate in the public square when it’s stuffed down out throats as a wearisome and pathetic excuse to continue spewing ancient, ugly bigotry and discrimination; control the reproductive lives of women; and persist in the ludicrous, absurd proposition that a fertilized egg is a ‘person.’

And sorry, Harris is absolutely correct—you cannot erase or rewrite Biblical history.  It is not pretty. It is not even civilized. It is also not relevant, beyond the Beatitudes, which are rarely quoted and sadly ignored.

To be clear, I am not a fan of Governor Christie; I do not support the majority of his economic principles.  But when it comes to taking a stand against the ‘crazies,’ I give the man major props.  He’s standing firm for Harris.  He’s doing the right thing.

The National Organization for Marriage claims that Bruce Harris is an extremist.  My suggestion?

Take a look in the mirror, folks.  Take a long, hard look.

States of Denial

Gail Collins messed with Texas today. I’m rather glad she did because it shows exactly how much Texas seems to exist in a vacuum of its own making.  The head denier of reality is its wacko Governor who appears to get elected by saying the right things and doing very little.  The state that forces its antiquated views through textbooks onto the rest of the nation has a huge problem in the numbers of children having children.  This leads to all kinds of social problems that I probably don’t have to discuss here.

But, let’s just see how bad it gets down there with the denier-in-chief who seems to think abstinence education works and the Texas education system works when Texas’ own statistics show that they don’t work at all.  Republicans get elected spewing untruths and he’s a prime case in point.   The state’s out of money and like my governor Bobby Jindal, the first place Republican governors look  is for cuts to education rather than look for new revenue sources. What is worse, they talk about improving  children’s future while doing draconian cuts to children’s schools.  How do they get away with it?

“In Austin, I’ve got half-a-dozen or more schools on a list to be closed — one of which I presented a federal blue-ribbon award to for excellence,” said Representative Lloyd Doggett. “And several hundred school personnel on the list for possible terminations.”

So the first choice is what to do. You may not be surprised to hear that Governor Perry has rejected new taxes. He’s also currently refusing $830 million in federal aid to education because the Democratic members of Congress from Texas — ticked off because Perry used $3.2 billion in stimulus dollars for schools to plug other holes in his budget — put in special language requiring that this time Texas actually use the money for the kids.

“If I have to cast very tough votes, criticized by every Republican as too much federal spending, at least it ought to go to the purpose we voted for it,” said Doggett.

Nobody wants to see underperforming, overcrowded schools being deprived of more resources anywhere. But when it happens in Texas, it’s a national crisis. The birth rate there is the highest in the country, and if it continues that way, Texas will be educating about a tenth of the future population. It ranks third in teen pregnancies — always the children most likely to be in need of extra help. And it is No. 1 in repeat teen pregnancies.

Which brings us to choice two. Besides reducing services to children, Texas is doing as little as possible to help women — especially young women — avoid unwanted pregnancy.

For one thing, it’s extremely tough for teenagers to get contraceptives in Texas. “If you are a kid, even in college, if it’s state-funded you have to have parental consent,” said Susan Tortolero, director of the Prevention Research Center at the University of Texas in Houston.

Plus, the Perry government is a huge fan of the deeply ineffective abstinence-only sex education. Texas gobbles up more federal funds than any other state for the purpose of teaching kids that the only way to avoid unwanted pregnancies is to avoid sex entirely. (Who knew that the health care reform bill included $250 million for abstinence-only sex ed? Thank you, Senator Orrin Hatch!) But the state refused to accept federal money for more expansive, “evidence-based” programs.

“Abstinence works,” said Governor Perry during a televised interview with Evan Smith of The Texas Tribune.

“But we have the third highest teen pregnancy rate among all states in the country,” Smith responded.

“It works,” insisted Perry.

“Can you give me a statistic suggesting it works?” asked Smith.

“I’m just going to tell you from my own personal life. Abstinence works,” said Perry, doggedly.

There is a high cost to a state to living in this kind of denial.  Teen moms and children of teen moms are generally not a productive group of citizens.  You pay to prevent this realistically or you pay for their and your mistake to do so throughout their entire lives.  But, this seems to be the way of the new brand of Republican governor.  These guys start running for president the minute they hit the mansion.  They do so by following a litmus test of Republican items–regardless of the consequences to their states–that will make them sound like purity experts when they hit Iowa and New Hampshire.  They will undoubtedly leave their state in ruins, but that won’t be the story by the time they’re on the lecture and talking heads circuit for higher offices.

The Governor of New Jersey is doing the same thing.  He can read off a litmus list for the republican inquisition while at the same time ensuring the people of the state he governs languish.  Again, he screams about the importance of the future of the children while simultaneously downsizing it.

In a clear shot at congressional Republicans over calls for curbing entitlement programs, he said, “Here’s the truth that nobody’s talking about. You’re going to have to raise the retirement age for Social Security. Woo hoo! I just said it, and I’m still standing here. I did not vaporize into the carpet.

“And I said we have to reform Medicare because it costs too much and it is going bankrupt us,” he continued, later comparing those programs to pensions and benefits for state workers that he’s been looking to reel back.

“Once again, lightning did not come through the windows and strike me dead. And we have to fix Medicaid because it’s not only bankrupting the federal government but it’s bankrupting every state government. There you go.”

Clearly looking to blunt criticism of his famously combative style, the former federal prosecutor said there is a method to the battles he picks, insisting, “I am not fighting for the sake of fighting. I fight for the things that matter.”

The speech was titled “It’s Time to do the Big Things,” and Christie suggested the items that Obama called for as “investments” in his State of the Union address were “not the big things” that need Washington’s focus.

“Ladies and gentlemen, that is the candy of American politics,” Christie declared, adding that it appeared to be a “political strategy” – or game of budgetary chicken – that both Republicans and Democrats are playing.

“My children’s future and your children’s future is more important than some political strategy,” he said. “What I was looking for that night was for my president to challenge me … and it was a disappointment that he didn’t.

It’s difficult not to scream when you hear these folks talk about our children’s futures while cutting education, telling children abstinence fairy tales, turning down money for infrastructure improvements —like the nitwit Republican Governor Rick Scott in Florida–that will likely create better environments for business and jobs, and refusing to look at their tainted tax systems that usually punish the poor and flagrantly ignore the assets and the incomes of the rich.  It is clear whose children they have in mind.  It is not yours or mine or the majority of the people who live in their states.

These guys seem intent on turning their states into third world countries.  Many people seem more intent on letting them do it as long it doesn’t cost them anything immediate. Our fellow citizens appear beguiled by fairy tale promises and bribes of low taxes.  They should not be surprised then by a future where they and their adult children live in rented shacks together with few available public services.  They better just hope they don’t get robbed, the shack doesn’t catch fire, and there are no grandchildren needing public education.  They’re voting to downsize these things into extinction.

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