Incite -- (v) 1: give an incentive; 2: provoke or stir up; "incite a riot"; 3: urge on; cause to act
Sunday, March 13, 2005

Counting the cars on the New Jersey turnpike
Written by: Beck

Little did I imagine the response I would get by typing a word or two on the level of government corruption in New Jersey. As it is, I've discovered an entire new world of New Jersey blogs. Not coincidentally, there doesn't appear to be a single one of them--regardless of political leanings--who is happy with the state of New Jersey administration. I may not be too happy about the state I now find myself living in, but at least I'm in good company.

The standard complaint is that New Jersey has some of the highest taxes in the nation while receiving an abysmal level of services. That's just the standard complaint though. The specific complaints are much more entertaining.

For instance, the state's Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee (how's that for a bureaucratic sounding name?) designated a new state vegetable. The tomato. I find this amusing because technically speaking, the tomato is a fruit.

That particular bit of mind-numbing insipidness hardly scratches the surface. Consider New Jersey senator Jon Corzine. The blog Enlighten-New Jersey posts a devastating letter tracking the corruption that occurred at Goldman Sachs back in the days when faux-populist Corzine was the CEO there. Most amusing: Corzine was at the helm of Goldman back when the financial instruments Enron used to hide debt were invented. Indeed, Goldman's involvement contributed directly to both the hyper-valuations Enron stock briefly enjoyed and the eventual downfall. Good work senator.
In 1993, Goldman Sachs "invented" a security that offered Enron Corp. and other companies an irresistible combination. It was designed in such a way that it could be called debt or equity, as needed. For the accountant, it resembled a loan, so that interest payments could be deducted from taxable income. For shareholders and rating agencies, who look askance at overleveraged companies, it resembled equity.
I find the irony quotient especially high considering how much flack Republicans have taken over a couple closed-door meetings VP Cheney had with Enron and others in the energy industry.

While cruising Enlighten-New Jersey's site, I also noticed this fantastic post on public school expenses and performance in the state.
So how does our state stack up? New Jersey ranks number 1 in terms of expenditures per student, 4th in average teacher salary and ranks 29th in student achievement. Is this a satisfactory level of performance? Not for our money and not for our children.

Prepare yourself for the state's educators to raise the "money for the children" club as Acting Governor Codey's budget is debated. It's time for New Jersey’s education establishment and other associated tax receivers to take some responsibility for schools and children that don't achieve minimal standards.
Of course every once in a while the professional ineptitude of New Jersey's government workers--elected and otherwise--can cause some serious harm. For instance, imagine if a couple police helicopters decided to run some Homeland Security drills near one of the nation's largest nuclear complexes... and failed to notify the security personnel at the plant.
New York Television news is reporting that two New Jersey State Police helicopters were almost shot down today over a south Jersey Nuclear Power plant.

The two helicopters approached low, at points less than 60 feet from the ground, as part of a Homeland Security drill by the NJ State Police. Security teams at the power plant armed their weapons and were awaiting orders to fire when a visual identification prevented a potential tragedy.

At this time the New Jersey State Police are saying that the unit planning the operation failed to notify security at the power plant of the drill.
I'm assuming from the article that the plant in question was the massive Hope Creek-Salem complex, representing over 3,000 MW of generating capacity. The one reassuring thing to come out of this is that our nuclear plants are prepared to shoot down unidentified incoming air craft. The bad news is that New Jersey Homeland Security can't even run a drill without screwing things up royally.

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