Posts tagged ‘NJ’

New Jersey Privatization Initiative

New Jersey under Christie continues to be a leader in challenging traditional government models.   I discuss and link to some of the findings over at my privatization blog, including some interesting findings on recreation.  This is from Reason's Len Gilroy:

Park management concession agreements: Having written numerous articles in recent months suggesting that states embrace the private operation of state parks"”something relatively "new" to states, but common at the federal level"”it was particularly rewarding to see the Task Force embrace the concept, recommending that the state should enter into one or more long"term concession agreements with private recreation firms for the operation and management of all state parks. Annual savings to the state were estimated to range between $6-8 million annually, a significant sum relative to overall park spending. This is the boldest, most sweeping call for state park privatization that I've personally ever seen at the state level, and Gov. Christie and NJ State Parks have an opportunity to blaze a new and transformational path forward on state parks management that policymakers in every state should be watching closely.

Please Mock These People

Every one of these members of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection voted to pass this absurd law out of committee except Rep. John Barrow, D-Ga.

Bobby L. Rush, Illinois, Chairman

Jan Schakowsky, IL, Vice Chair George Radanovich, CA, Ranking Member
John P. Sarbanes, MD Cliff Stearns, FL
Betty Sutton, OH Ed Whitfield, KY
Frank Pallone, Jr., NJ Joseph R. Pitts, PA
Bart Gordon, TN Mary Bono Mack, CA
Bart Stupak, MI Lee Terry, NE
Gene Green, TX Sue Wilkins Myrick, NC
Charles A. Gonzalez, TX John Sullivan, OK
Anthony D. Weiner, NY Tim Murphy, PA
Jim Matheson, UT Phil Gingrey, GA
G. K. Butterfield, NC Steve Scalise, LA
John Barrow, GA (voted NO!)
Doris O. Matsui, CA
Kathy Castor, FL
Zachary T. Space, OH
Bruce L. Braley, IA
Diana DeGette, CO

Hat tip: Don Boudreaux

Dead On

Sean Lynch of Catallarchy is dead on with this:

The headline showing on Google News reads: "NJ's Move Toward Same-Sex Unions Called Undemocratic." My first thought upon reading that was, "Duh!"

It seems to me that civil rights are undemocratic by their very
definition, since they are rights that cannot be taken away, even by
the will of the majority, at least in theory. The whole reason our
Constitution even contains anything other than voting procedures is
that it was clear to the framers that if they left everything to the
will of the majority, they'd end up with an even worse tyranny than the
one they just threw off.

As much as some libertarians may complain, the fact that civil
rights today are in as good of a state as they are is a testament to
what a great job the framers did at making the USA an
"undemocratic" country. Heck, even the Second Amendment survives mostly
intact in most states. And the rate at which technology seems to be
empowering individuals seems to be outstripping the rate at which
democracy is attempting to take away our rights, even using that same
technology.

Terrific!  I shared similar thoughts but from a different angle when I wrote that "the right to vote" is the least of our freedoms.

Get Wal-Mart Out of the Public Trough

I have defended Wal-Mart on a number of occasions given its new whipping-boy-of-the-left status.  However, if it wants to get my further support, it is going to have to take it's nose out of the public trough.

It's hard to find reliable numbers on the total value to Wal-Mart of such subsidies. The leading report is Shopping for Subsidies: How Wal-Mart Uses Taxpayer Money to Finance Its Never-Ending Growth
by Philip Mattera and Anna Purinton was published by a left-leaning
advocacy group and funded in part by one of the very unions trying to
unionize Wal-Mart's work force, which will suggest to some a need for
caution. Yet, even if one applies a substantial discount to Mattera and
Purinton's results, Wal-Mart is still doing quite well at the public
trough:

  • In a sample of subsidy deals for individual stores, they found
    subsidies ranging from "$1 million to about $12 million, with an
    average of about $2.8 million."
  • In a survey of Wal-Mart regional distribution centers, they found
    that "84 of the 91 centers have received subsidies totaling at least
    $624 million. The deals, most of which involved a variety of subsidies,
    ranged as high as $48 million, with an average of about $7.4 million."

In a very real sense, Wal-Mart thus is in part a creature of big
government. From this perspective, Wal-Mart's recent hiring of
long-time Democratic operative Leslie Datch and significant increase in
contributions to Democratic politicians comes as no surprise. (Of
course, as Timothy Carney has argued,
it may also be that Wal-Mart is now using big government not just to
boost its own growth but as a tool to squash competition.)

Is Wal-Mart becoming the Archer-Daniels-Midland of retail?  In fact, the article does not even mention the egregious practice of getting local governments to use eminent domain to clear them a building location.  A while back I argued that Wal-Mart was using regulation as a club to pound on their competitors:

Apparently, though I can't dig up a link right this second, Wal-mart
is putting its support behind a higher minimum wage.  One way to look
at this is a fairly cynical ploy to get the left off its back.  After
all, if Wal-mart's starting salary is $6.50 an hour (for example) it
costs them nothing to ask for a minimum wage of $6.50.

A different, and perhaps more realistic way to look at this Wal-mart
initiative is as a bald move to get government to sit on their
competition.  After all, as its wage rates creep up, as is typical in
more established companies, they are vulnerable to competitors gaining
advantage over them by paying lower wages.  If Wal-mart gets the
government to set the minimum wage closer to the wage rates it pays, it
eliminates the possibility of this competitor strategy.  Besides, a
higher minimum wage would surely put more low-skilled people out of
work, increasing the pool of people Wal-mart can hire  (and please do
not bring up the NJ convenience store study that supposedly shows that
higher minimum wage increase employment - no one in their right mind
really believes that demand for labor goes up when the costs go up).  I
am not sure what the net effect on Wal-mart's customers would be --
some would have more money, from higher wage, and some would have less,
from fewer hours or due to being laid off.

I have defended Wal-mart in the past,
but I am going to stop if they become the new auto or steel industry
and use the government to protect their market position.  Already they
are losing my sympathy with their whoring for local relocation subsidies and eminent domain land grabs.

If Wal-Mart wants to seek public funding for its business and impose regulation on its competitors, and thereby make itself a semi-governmental entity, then I am no longer going to have any sympathy for them when governments want to single them out for special regulation, no matter how bone-headed the regulation may be.

More Prosecutorial Abuse

As I suspected in this post last week, it is increasingly clear that Wayne Gretzky's name was leaked by the NJ Police and/or prosecutors in order to raise the profile of their investigation, and therefore their work.  For those not following the case, initially they accused one or more B-list hockey players of running an illegal bookmaking business.  When that failed to get their investigation on the front page, they leaked the fact that they had tapes of Wayne Gretzky proving he knew about the alleged illegal activity. 

Well, that helped them achieve their goal.  They got their investigation on the front page everywhere, and set up a feeding frenzy as the media tried to climb all over each other to throw mud at one of the heretofore last unsullied great names in sports.  Now, as I suspected, we find out that they really had nothing on Wayne, and misrepresented what they had to get themselves headlines:

One of Canada's all-time great
heroes may get the change to keep that title, after a long week in an
ugly spotlight. The heat's being taken off Wayne Gretzky.

Gretzky was
beaten down by the media spotlight since early February, when his wife
and assistant coach were implicated in an alleged illegal gambling
ring. Gretzky was pulled into the fray a couple of days later, when
sources suggested he was in the loop on the whole thing. But there's
new information on a wiretap conversation between Wayne Gretzky and
Rich Tocchet, which seems to support Gretzky's contention that he had
no prior knowledge of an illegal gambling ring allegedly involving
Tocchet.

It turns out the conversation on how Gretzky's wife
could avoid being named as a participant was recorded last Monday, the
day after Janet Jones allegedly won money betting on the Super Bowl.
Also, Gretzky's wife Jane was alleged to have laid a half million
dollars in bets -- but that also appears to have been false
information. It's believed she only bet about a fifth of that.

OMG, I guess they told the truth -- they did have tapes that showed Wayne Gretzky knew about the abuses.  Of course, what they did not say last week was that the tapes were made AFTER the whole mess became public.  OK, I confess, I too knew about the bettin scandal after it became public.  There goes my reputation.

Unfortunately, our country is increasingly being operated as if we have a inalienable right to be titillated that trumps stuff like, oh, due process.  I made a similar observation in response to leaks of grand jury testimony on steroids.  I also recently posted on prosecutorial abuses in the Enron trials.

Update:  Apparently, NJ prosecutors are now saying that the bets Janet Gretsky allegedly made are not even illegal in the state of NJ.  So they leaked damaging information about both the Gretsky's "involvement", then 2 weeks later let the other shoe drop and made it clear they really didn't do anything illegal.  It couldn't be clearer that the police and prosecutors released the Gretsky's names to the press to grab the front-line headlines they were not getting with their B-list targets.

Enron Trial Update

As the Enron trial lumbers towards the end of its second week, Tom Kirkendall continues to have good analysis (keep scrolling).  While the Enron bankruptcy has spawned a number of books, it is likely that the Enron prosecution may spawn a few of its own.  Already, the prosecution has botched trials thought to be lay-ups and has demonstrated a new level of presecutorial abuse.  I know that most people have little sympathy for the defendants, but one has to be concerned with the tactics being used in these cases.  From reading his posts, while its early in the game, the defense may be ahead on points, as the prosecution made another tactical error in leading with and spending far too long with a weak witness, indicating that they are ready to commit on the same mistakes they made in the failed broadband trial.

By the way, this snippet is very funny - the indictment against Skilling and Lay is apparently so unclear and confusing and poorly written that the prosecution, who wrote it, is asking that the judge not allow it to be mentioned or quoted in the trial.  LOL - they are asking that no one mention the charges against the defendants in front of the jury.  Which is actually pretty appropriate, since in effect the prosecution is going to try to get Skilling and Lay convicted of being rich and unlikable rather than convicted of any specific charges.

By the way, we in Phoenix have been watching the revelations about gambling surrounding our Coyotes coaching staff.  The leaks by the police of as-yet unproven charges against prominent people is yet another abuse that happens all-too-often.  Beyond my own questions as to why gambling of this sort is even illegal in this day and age, it is crystal clear to me that the NJ police are going out of their way to leak insinuations of Gretsky involvement, which I don't think they can prove, merely to get press and attention for themselves.

Wal-Mart and The Minimum Wage

Apparently, though I can't dig up a link right this second, Wal-mart is putting its support behind a higher minimum wage.  One way to look at this is a fairly cynical ploy to get the left off its back.  After all, if Wal-mart's starting salary is $6.50 an hour (for example) it costs them nothing to ask for a minimum wage of $6.50.

A different, and perhaps more realistic way to look at this Wal-mart initiative is as a bald move to get government to sit on their competition.  After all, as its wage rates creep up, as is typical in more established companies, they are vulnerable to competitors gaining advantage over them by paying lower wages.  If Wal-mart gets the government to set the minimum wage closer to the wage rates it pays, it eliminates the possibility of this competitor strategy.  Besides, a higher minimum wage would surely put more low-skilled people out of work, increasing the pool of people Wal-mart can hire  (and please do not bring up the NJ convenience store study that supposedly shows that higher minimum wage increase employment - no one in their right mind really believes that demand for labor goes up when the costs go up).  I am not sure what the net effect on Wal-mart's customers would be -- some would have more money, from higher wage, and some would have less, from fewer hours or due to being laid off.

I have defended Wal-mart in the past, but I am going to stop if they become the new auto or steel industry and use the government to protect their market position.  Already they are losing my sympathy with their whoring for local relocation subsidies and eminent domain land grabs.  I wrote on minimum wage from a small business perspective here.

Awsome Defense of Free Speech

Several times on this blog I have found myself defending "hate speech".  Not because I agreed with it, but because I am deeply concerned that the effort to label certain speech "hate speech" is part of a general campaign to limit first amendment rights.  If speech limiters are successful in establishing the principal that certain speech is so bad that it is not protected by the first amendment, then we are suddenly at the mercy of whoever is in charge of defining "bad" for our speech rights.  Universities, ironically at the forefront of the "free speech" movement of the 60's, have been at the forefront of "hostile environment" limitations on speech in this decade.

There are many such examples.  The group FIRE, which fights speech limitations on campus, has a blog and a university rating system that is a great resource.  One recent example from their files is of Mr. J. Daniel at William Patterson University in New Jersey.  A couple of facts first, and then a fantastic letter in his defense from Rutgers professor Norman Levitt.  The background:

Mr. Daniel was one addressee of a mass mailing from Prof. Scala publicizing a
film she was about to show, a documentary that presented a positive view of
lesbian relationships. Mr. Daniel, who espouses religious doctrines deploring
homosexuality, responded with a request not to be sent similar notices in the
future, along with a few brief sentences summarizing his general views. It is
notable that he did not threaten Prof. Scala directly or by implication, nor did
he deny her right to show the film. He did not publicize the exchange. He did
not use the incident to launch a campaign of ridicule or vilification against
homosexuals or anyone else. He merely counterposed his ideas to those she was
presumably promoting, in a purely private way and in response to an unsolicited
message directed to him.

What Prof. Scala actually did was engage her university president in a joint effort to censor and punish Mr. Daniel.  I have read Mr. Daniel's comments, which I don't happen to agree with.  However, the response he got to his very reasonable actions is very scary.  Prof. Levitt describes the rest:

Prof. Scala, however, seems to regard disagreement with her position as a
punishable offense. In this respect, she has embraced peculiar dogmas that have
become all too prevalent on campuses throughout the nation. These hold that
there are certain groups who, by reason of a presumed history of oppression, are
to be safeguarded from opinions that they find distressing or uncomfortable. The
rights of others to hold, or at least to express, such dissonant views are
supposedly nullified by the new-minted "right" of the protected groups to be
shielded from discomfort and distress. Both the ethic of free speech and the
constitutional guarantees that bolster it are supposedly trumped by the duty to
shield the tender sensibilities of the officially recognized victim class. If,
by chance, someone utters a sentence or two, even in the context of private
discussion, that affronts these sensibilities, terms like "harassment" and
"hostile environment" are immediately trotted out to justify retribution against
the offending speaker. In short, the assumption is that colleges and
universities have both the right and the positive duty to require students,
faculty, and employees to uphold official doctrine on these matters, if only by
silencing themselves if they happen to disagree.

Wow, I wish I could write like that.  There is much more, all on point and very well written here.

The NJ Attorney General has chimed in and said... wait for it ... that Ms. Scala is entirely in the right and that Mr. Daniel is probably guilty of harassment and discrimination under NJ law as well for expressing his opinions.

By the way, if you think that Professor Levitt was exaggerating for saying that speech is condemned merely if it hurts the feelings of someone in a protected group, here is a very typical quote from a college speech code (I just grabbed the first one I found on the FIRE site):

The Albertson College
Student Handbook
's harassment policy states that "[a]ny comments or conduct
relating to a person's race, gender, religion, disability, age or ethnic
background that fail to respect the dignity and feelings of the individual are
unacceptable." The Handbook also provides that "[a]ll inappropriate behaviors
may not be specifically covered in the misconduct definitions, and students will
be held accountable for behaviors considered inconsistent with the standards and
expectations described in this handbook."

Just to prove this is not an aberration, here is another:

The Rhodes College Policy on Discrimination and Harassment states
that "[f]reedom of expression does not include the right to intentionally and
maliciously aggravate, intimidate, ridicule or humiliate another person." Now,
we at FIRE know that all too many university administrators believe this
statement to be true; this is apparent from the way speech codes are enforced on
campuses across the country. However, few colleges and universities are bold
enough to make an explicit statement about free expression that directly
contradicts U.S. Supreme Court precedent. The administrators of Rhodes College
need to read the Supreme Court's decision in Hustler Magazine v. Falwell, in which the Court upheld
Hustler's right to publish a parody suggesting that Jerry Falwell's first sexual
experience was a drunken tryst in an outhouse with his own mother. Parody and
satire"”which often intentionally and maliciously ridicule and humiliate their
targets"”enjoy the strongest constitutional protection.

Update:  By the way, here is the whole text of the email in question.  Don't agree with him, but I have a hard time seeing anyone threatened and certainly can't fathom kicking the guy out of school and threatening him with prosecution for it.  More evidence that the promotors of diversity don't actually want diversity.

 

They Feel Safer, but I Feel Wealthier

The Onion reports that "Americans Feel Safer with Martha Stewart in Jail":

"When I found out [Stewart] was behind a 10-foot-thick concrete wall, I heaved a huge sigh of relief," said Daniel McAllen, a jeweler from Newark, NJ. "If she were on the streets, who knows what sort of business maneuvering she'd be up to behind closed doors?"

"I have a family to think of," McAllen added.

Boston-area teacher Helen Greene said she had been "afraid to leave the house" before the verdict in Stewart's trial was announced.

LOL.  Well, if they feel safer, I feel wealthier.  Last weekend, my wife read something in a Martha Stewart magazine that sent her off reorganizing her closet.  By the end of the weekend, I had bought over 400 identical wooden hangers (hint: get them from Ikea, they are half the price there as anywhere else) and a variety of other organizing gear.  Thank god Martha is in the slam so that maybe now, my weekends can be more peaceful.