Monthly Archives: September 2008

Bailout fails, Republicans blame a speech

Ridiculous logic sometimes emerges at ridiculous moments.

Such was the case today in Washington, D.C. after a massive, controversial piece of legislation that would given the Bush administration up to $700 billion for a bailout of the nation’s beleaguered finance industry failed by a narrow margin in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The result on Wall Street was historic, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average absorbing a 777-point drop that comes in as the greatest daily drop in points in a single day in the history of trading in New York.

Coupled with that collapse was an immediate search for blame among U.S. officials, who immediately sought to interpret what the bill’s failure meant and who was really at fault.

But the most curious blame handed out on this historic Monday came from House Republicans, who chose to fault the defections of some of their party officials from the contingent supporting the bill on a speech given by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Ca., prior to the vote.

In her speech, Speaker Pelosi blamed the nation’s current fiscal crisis on the Bush administration and years of “right-wing” leadership that resulted in little regulation, as greedy investors and bankers lent out billions in bad, high-risk mortgages that precipitated the current crisis.

Because of that, say House Republicans, some GOP legislators that would have voted in the affirmative and perhaps ensured the passage of the bill defected and ended up voting no, contributing to failure of the bill by the narrow, 228 to 205 margin.

But let’s really consider what this means.

For Speaker Pelosi’s speech to have caused the defections of perhaps dozens of Republican representatives from voting for this bill, it would mean that these legislators allowed themselves to be convinced by their own childish anger to vote against legislation for which they were ready to vote.

People who allow their emotions to get in the way of how they ought to legislate for the good of the country and the good of their constituents have no right to be working in Congress.

Given how ridiculous such reasoning is, it is way more likely that the Republican Party simply could not garner the necessary support for legislation that was originally sponsored by the sitting, Republican U.S. President.

Maybe they are fed up with President Bush, and despise his policies as much as everyone else does.

But even if most Republicans simply did not support the bill to begin with and only a handful of Republican legislators defected due to simple political speech, it remains very telling about the way that handful of legislators work and what the American people are really dealing with in terms of some current U.S. legislators.

Tying into this is speculation that many of the officials who were on the fence about the bill and eventually voted against it were legislators facing tough challenges in the November election.

They probably feared that a vote affirming the delivery of $700 billion taxpayer dollars to the very Wall Street tycoons who have taken the U.S. down this road could potentially sway their local elections in the wrong direction, regardless of the presence of significant oversight and stipulations protecting taxpayers in the revised bill.

Considering the general disdain for the bailout, they are probably right.

But wouldn’t it be great if the names of some of the Republican legislators who voted no simply because of ill will stemming from Speaker Pelosi’s political speech become public?

Taking such action on a very important piece of legislation is also deserving of electoral retribution from the voters, as legislators should vote based on careful thought and deliberation, and not on personal or partisan anger directed at their opponents across the aisle.

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The Times gets it wrong again

It’s unfortunate that the valiant work done by many on The Times of Trenton’s talented reporting staff is frequently undermined, overshadowed, and ignored by the fools in charge of writing the paper’s editorials.

The reporters and the paper’s readership deserve well-written, educated opinion pieces that actually heed the paper’s reporting, rather than the drivel that occasionally indicates some sort of perverted allegiance to Trenton’s misguided mayor, Douglas H. Palmer.

This kind of garbage emerged over the weekend, with Sunday’s editorial that called upon City Council members to either scrap the city’s longstanding residency ordinance or do the impossible, and circumvent state law that exempts police, fire, and teaching personnel from residency requirements.

This editorial spin comes as the reins of the Trenton Police Department have been handed over to Capt. Fred Reister, who is now leading the department in an acting capacity after former Police Director Joseph Santiago was ousted for living outside of Trenton.

The first indication of spin was that Sunday’s editorial, in questioning Mr. Reister’s appointment as a residency-exempt sworn police officer, ignored the fact that City Council is powerless against relieving the exemptions of fireman, policeman, and teachers from residency.

It is common knowledge that those exemptions are grounded in superseding state law that would require legislation to undo, which is totally out of the realm of Trenton City Council’s power and duties.

Again using the temporary appointment of Capt. Reister, a non-resident, The Times took the position that the city has conducted some sort of search for appropriate police leadership, but came up empty, meaning the residency must be relaxed or eliminated to find suitable leaders.

The Times and Mayor Palmer act as if Trenton has deteriorated so badly that there is no one in the city with the qualifications to lead the police department. But the reality is that a lack of candidates is due to politics, and the blame for that lies squarely on the shoulders of Mayor Palmer.

With all due respect to Trenton’s mayor and The Times’ editorial writers, Trenton is actually holding on, and a thorough search would have surely located plenty of qualified candidates. There must be dozens of men and women looking to lead a large department and earn a six-figure salary, even if it meant moving into the city and becoming part of our community.

But no one in the administration made an effort to seek out such candidates.

Mayor Palmer readily admitted that as a court-ordered 75-day period prior to Mr. Santiago’s ouster dwindled and expired last week, the administration made no effort to find a successor with the qualifications to lead the department and a willingness to live in Trenton.

What’s actually occurring, is that a situation brought on wholly by the arrogance and indifference of Mayor Palmer and his minions is being used a political sticking point as to why the residency law should be changed.

In fact, these calls for the amendment or elimination of residency are nothing more than a push to legitimize the double standards and unfair policies that the Palmer administration uses when dealing with employees.

Prior to Mr. Santiago’s ouster, the residency law was used as an uneven tool that, when broken, meant termination for some employees, and nothing for others enjoying the favor of Mayor Palmer. That embarrassing situation, more appropriate for fascist countries, was resolved when the courts did what Mayor Palmer and others refused to do and ousted Mr. Santiago.

Now Mayor Palmer wants to get back to the status quo – a reinstatement of Mr. Santiago or someone like him – and a return to the days when he could appoint anyone to lead the department, regardless of the existence of a residency law

Mayor Palmer, with the support of some loyal faction at The Times, obviously wants City Council’s help in the affair, despite the fact that amending or eliminating the residency law will weaken the city’s economic base and allow for politically-based exemptions and more uneven justice.

It’s better to ignore those calls, and remember that such a situation was, and remains, unacceptable to the people of Trenton.

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Bailout nears completion

A Wall Street bailout package that could potentially see $700 billion in taxpayer dollars go to the beleaguered banking and finance industry is creeping towards completion.

But it appears that U.S. lawmakers have recognized the flaws in the original proposal and have added significant oversight, taxpayer protection, and some assistance for people other than the well-compensated Wall Street titans that got the nation into this mess.

Legislators in Congress could pass the bailout bill as early as tomorrow, after the weekend saw it grow significantly larger than the bill originally proposed by the George W. Bush administration.

That rendition requested unlimited and unchecked power to purchase the toxic, sub-prime mortgage-related assets that are hampering U.S. banking institutions.

Added to the legislation, according to reports, are stipulations that limit excessive compensation packages for finance executives and require that the government receives shares in any company selling assets to the U.S. Treasury.

That way, when the expected economic upswing occurs the government and the taxpayers will be able to recoup some or all of their investment.

An oversight structure, which was sorely lacking from the initial proposal, has been added into the bill currently being drafted in Washington, D.C., along with protections and assistance for homeowners facing foreclosure.

Also, if government-owned stakes do not create the kind of revenue expected, a “Wall Street” tax could come into play in five years, providing a safety valve to recoup money spent on the bailout plan.

At the very least Congress appears to have watered down the Bush administration’s original proposal, reducing the inital appropriation to $350 billion, with an additional $350 billion available following intense oversight and review of the initial process.

It is now in a smaller, more regulated form that provides additional bailout oversight with a chance that taxpayers and the government may actually see a return on their investment.

The next step is increased banking regulations. The bankers and the nation’s great financial minds, who greedily invested in these bad assets and risky subprime mortgages, have shown that greed triumphs over good judgment.

Until that situation reverses itself, the U.S. government’s job is to make sure that judgment is bolstered by law.

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Crime stats in Camden taking a "Trenton" turn

Camden is apparently experiencing a miniature criminal renaissance as new police tactics appear to be resulting in reductions in certain crime categories, according to an Associated Press report.

But wedged way down in the bottom of the same report was a note that Camden has recently experienced homicide number 43, a number equal to all the homicides that occurred in New Jersey’s worst city in all of 2007.

The murder rate in Camden will likely surpass that of the previous year when the new crime tactics were not in place. That definitely calls into question the effectiveness of those tactics, and for those familiar with recent trends in Trenton’s crime statistics, it could raise some suspicion about the Camden Police Department’s policies regarding the recording of those same statistics.

That much can be extrapolated from the experience of the City of Trenton, under recently ousted Police Director Joseph Santiago and his pal, current Mayor Douglas H. Palmer. Crime statistics took a similar dive after Mr. Santiago took over the helm of the department in 2003, that is, every statistic except murder.

Murders are unique, because the death of a person is an act that is quite hard to hide or distort. But thefts, assaults, and other crimes that are recorded in the official compilation of crime statistics are less impervious to the willful distortions of police directors whose job performance, and that of their bosses, is based upon the trends in the very same statistics they are supposed to compile.

Officers at a city event recently remarked how Mr. Santiago, who recently left Trenton after breaking the city’s residence ordinance, bent and warped crime statistics as best he could, giving the appearance of a city where every single crime rate went down – except murders.

Last year Trenton had 25 murders, and in 2005 the city set an all-time record with 31, all in the middle of a drop in pretty much every other category of crime universally recorded for reporting to the FBI.

That downward trend, however much it was manipulated behind the scenes, was held up as evidence to all in Trenton and beyond that Mr. Santiago’s contentious and often wasteful police leadership style was paying dividends for the city, even as every resident knew that the situation on the streets was steadily worsening.

The same is probably going on in Camden, where a tweaking of anti-crime tactics have allegedly resulted in a large drop in many categories except homicides, which promis to soon advance beyond the very level they attained last year prior to the new tactics.

Unfortunately for places like Trenton and Camden, warped statistical work and the actual level of crime within a city often become intertwined with politics, meaning that politicians, officials, and others can point to crime trends as meaning something when they really mean nothing.

That will likely happen in Trenton in the near future.

When normal statistical practices are again practiced following Mr. Santiago’s departure, the level of murders will likely stay static, while the rates of other, less heinous crimes formerly manipulated under the old regime will naturally go up.

And when that happens, Mayor Palmer and his associates will likely point fingers, blaming the new department leadership and those who pressured and pushed for Mr. Santiago’s ouster for causing a false spike in crime.

In Trenton, and possibly in Camden and elsewhere, crime statistics have fallen victim to politics, and no longer resemble reality.

Just ask the residents.

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Get politics out of policing

For a moment there it looked like the political interference undermining the Trenton Police Department was actually over, but Mayor Douglas H. Palmer wouldn’t let that happen, proving again that he is the number on threat to the city’s future.

Capt. Fred Reister, made the department’s acting director after court ousters forced out Joseph Santiago, was set to make some changes to the department in the wake of Mr. Santiago’s volatile reign.

Mr. Santiago frequently made the placement of police commanders in the various leadership positions throughout the department based on personal like or dislike rather than individual ability, and that resulted in a department with many of the most skilled officers relegated to positions of irrelevance.

Capt. Reister moved to reverse some of those decisions, by pushing for the transfer of Capt. Ernie Parrey from a meaningless midnight shift to his old position of importance, leading the patrol division.

But already Mayor Palmer has stepped in, saying he wants to take to Capt. Reister and enforce the old management decisions made by Trenton’s ex-director.

These actions show Mayor Palmer has little or no respect for the Trenton taxpayer.

High-paid cops like Capt. Parrey have skills best-suited for use in important police affairs, yet Mr. Santiago was allowed to place Capt. Parrey and dozens of others in positions of little value.

There, these officers’ $100,000 salaries and years of street experience are wasted, with less-qualified individuals occupying positions because of loyalty, rather than actually ability. The monetary cost is astounding, with officers at a city event yesterday estimating that Mr. Santiago’s idiotic personnel decisions “cost the taxpayers millions of dollars.”

There is also the other, less clear cost, in how many crimes have been committed, lives changed, or people killed, all because the Trenton Police Department’s best minds are placed behind desks because a mayor and his appointed stooge would rather rein in the department than let its officers do actual police work.

Unfortunately for Trenton, Mayor Palmer’s recent actions prove that while the departure of Mr. Santiago was of great benefit to the city, the real target for removal should be the mayor himself.

He no longer cares about this city and the people living within it, and that’s just an unacceptable trait in a mayor tasked with the important duty of putting this city on the right path.

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A sea change, or a wind shift

You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, according to Bob Dylan.

The same is true in Trenton, where a distinctly different wind has been blowing during a week that saw the departure of one of Mayor Douglas H. Palmer’s most favored and important cabinet members, former Police Director Joseph Santiago.

Mr. Santiago is the same guy that was allegedly given a special, extra-legal dispensation for following city residency law, according to Mayor Palmer.

But that fell through with the rulings of two separate courts against the two men and the last-minute announcement of resignation by the director, even though everyone in Trenton knew that what really happened was the ouster of the director and the utter and total defeat of Mayor Palmer and his position.

But as Wall Street crashes, and the federal government offers hundreds of billions of dollars to the very investment bankers who got our economy into this mess, the stock of civic activists in Trenton is up.

The Trenton Residents Action Coalition and the larger group of civics-minded citizens who have exerted overwhelming pressure on the formerly impervious Palmer administration have proven that a group of dedicated residents that recognize the malicious activities of their public officials and act accordingly are sure to win, when it comes down to power-based, urban political standoffs.

Yet, with this week’s victory for Trenton’s resident, it is important to recognize that the battle is not over. Trenton stands on the brink of forcing unstoppable change upon what has until now been a city government of the usual indifferent variety.

To continue that change, citizens should advocate for a unilateral push towards smaller city government, a reduction in the privileges and excesses afforded our current mayor, and a return to efficient, cheap, yet effective government.

That way, the city can move beyond the current status quo and head towards realistic, viable fiscal policies and legitimate economic development that has so far escaped the Palmer administration.

The Ruins of Trenton would like to announce the awarding of Citizen of the Year to its editor and only contributor, me, Greg Forester.

As the above article states, I don’t necessarily agree with this choice in the award recipient, but I will accept it, as long as others within this great city take on the task of working towards a more open, transparent, and effective city government.

That is the only possible way that we can advance beyond the Palmer years.

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Palmer cabinet exodus comes at the right time

The winds are changing for the S.S. Trenton, and many of the bilge rats are getting ready to jump ship and flee their positions in the city government.

Assistant Business Administrator Dennis Gonzalez, one of the more despised members of the Palmer administration, is apparently shopping his curriculum vitae at his old stomping grounds in Perth Amboy, according to The Trentonian’s L.A. Parker.

Mr. Parker wrote that many of the leading members of Mayor Palmer’s expansive and bloated cabinet are getting ready to high tail it out of Trenton. The longtime mayor is not expected to run for the mayor’s spot in the 2010 election, after five consecutive terms in office have resulted in a mayor that is increasingly disconnected and disliked in the city.

It is probably a good decision on the part of cabinet members and other high executives to get out now, because the looming closure of branch libraries and other cuts in municipal services have many civic activists looking directly at Mayor Palmer’s cadre of administration officials as the right place to slash the budget.

The Palmer administration, even with the temporary subtraction of Mr. Gonzalez’s sizeable compensation, is made of numerous, high-paid employment positions that exist solely to support a mayor who’s ego and image have become too large for Trenton to support.

Mayor Palmer insists upon traveling around the nation, and sometimes the world, attending ritzy political events and hanging out with rich and powerful, all while the shrinking of the City of Trenton’s population and economic activity mean a smaller, more effective, and less costly administration and associated mayor would better fit the city’s needs.

Trenton can no longer afford to have a group of high-paid administrative support positions that only exist because the mayor is simply not in the city enough to take care of business.

People in the community recognize that reality and are beginning to push for the slashing of unneeded positions to save budget dollars and get a more down-to-earth government, led by leaders who care about Trenton more than their larger political ambitions.

With that in mind, maybe the other high-paid cabinet members should follow the example of Mr. Gonzalez or even recently-resigned, but really ousted Police Director Joseph Santiago and get themselves out of employment in Trenton, before the people of the city do it for them.

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