User-agent: * Allow: / Trenton Butcher Block: The Eagle Has Landed, Don't Worry Corzine's Golden Pheasants Fared Well

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Commentary on national and local events from the standpoint of a Trenton city resident and state worker.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Eagle Has Landed, Don't Worry Corzine's Golden Pheasants Fared Well

This family man is none other than Hermann Goering, who was a long-time Hitler associate and head of the German Luthwaffe during the war.  He was also a poster child for what a top-level corrupt official can achieve for himself in a one-party state.  Despite being an absolute failure as an air force commander from late 1942 onward, the man who could not keep Stalingrad supplied and could not protect German cities from allied bombing raids kept his job.  He also managed to keep his ample belly filled with gourmet food, his arm well supplied with pure heroin and Carinhall, his palatial residence, well stocked with the best artwork the Nazi forces could steal.  To find out more about Goering, click here.

Top-level Nazi officials were sometimes referred to as "golden pheasants", after the golden eagles which appeared on their personal banners which often flew proudly from their cars, offices and residences.  The term also signified the lifestyle one could secure for themselves in such a position with a little guts and creativity.  True, some of the Nazi leadership was relatively honest when it came to stealing for personal gain.  Hitler and Himmler for example, led relatively modest lifestyles.  Others, like Goering above were less restrained when it came to using their position to secure whatever it took to satisfy their personal desires.

And of course, corruption did not just exist at the very top level in Berlin, it extended downward to the gauleiters and their underlings.  The Third Reich was not unique.  In the Soviet Union, the ruling elite also had their share of thieves that lived high off the hog while ordinary Russians suffered.

We have our own golden pheasants right here in New Jersey, however unlike Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, they must remain nimble enough to find new gigs once a new governor arrives on the scene and their politically-appointed positions come to an end.  Not every political appointee lost their position when Christie tool over last January.  That would have disrupted day-to-day government operations.  The new governor gradually replaced  some of the Corzine people with his own, while others left 'voluntarially", knowing their days on the job will soon be up if they chose to stay.

Since they initially flew into their jobs and must be prepared to someday fly away, all state political appointees are like birds.  However, within this group there are distinctions based on how important the position is to government operations and the political connections of the individual involved.  Some, like the graduate student Max who lost his job in my unit last July are like quail or sparrows.  They have no power and little value and can be tossed out on the street like last week's trash.  Others, well they are more like birds of prey.  In other words, very powerful, must be handled with care and are very able to fend for themselves.

Take for example our former Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development under Corzine, David J. Socolow.  Incidentally, his last name in Russian means "eagle".  He was asked to resign from his position when the new governor took office and was gone by the end of the day of the inauguration.  Don't feel too sorry for him, however.  He is now a Vice President of Pinnacle Foods in Cherry Hill.  This company purchased Birds Eye foods last year and also owns Vlasic Pickles, Log Cabin Syrup, Duncan Hines and Aunt Jemima among other food brands.

Perhaps you are wondering why this "bird" got to land in a top job at a food manufacturing company.  Probably not for his many years of experience in the food industry, do you think?  Well here's a hint.
Pinnacle moved to a new headquarters in Cherry Hill.  The company which was previously located at a smaller office in Cherry Hill had been shopping around with other states for incentives to move the office elsewhere.  The New Jersey Economic Development Authority responded by granting Pinnacle $1.1 million in tax incentives over 10 years to keep the headquarters in the state.  I don't know for sure, but I bet Mr. Socolow either was given the job as a reward for his part in securing this assistance or perhaps because the company sees value in his political connections.  You know, kind of like our banker genius right here in Mercer, Peter Inverso.  Perhaps his former position as a Republican state senator got him his job as Roma Bank CEO.

I also worked under other former birds which landed well.  Take for instance Yustina Saleh, who was Director of the state labor department's Division of Planning and Analysis under Corzine.  During the time she was employed by our agency she developed a product called Real Time Jobs in Demand which is a report prepared from an analysis of job listings posted on private job boards on the Internet.  In case you aren't aware, most people now check Internet job boards for available positions in the same manner they used to check newspaper want ads before the Internet largely replaced the newspaper ads.  Ms Saleh analyzed a list of listings obtained by a private company, Employon, which used web spidering software to obtain the listings.

In recent months, Ms. Saleh left her job at the labor department to accept a position at a private company called Burning Glass Technologies.  Burning Glass recently acquired Employon now has a contract with our labor department to develop and provide software for analyzing private job board listings, and matching candidates with jobs.  Gee, I wonder why they hired Ms. Saleh.  Maybe it was her good looks and not her contacts at the NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Now we are supposed to have an ethics policy for state employees that prohibits state workers from accepting positions with other firms where they can make use of knowledge of department procedures or contacts in state government.  I guess this only applies to the little guys, not to golden pheasants.

Remember that in the bird world, it is the sparrows and quail that starve or wind up on the dinner table while the eagles and golden pheasants get to feast and live large.


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