Just when you think Governor CrankyPants of New Jersey couldn’t be that corrupt, more stuff starts leaking out about him.
Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer confirmed Sunday that she spent several hours privately with federal investigators, a day after leveling stunning accusations that Gov. Chris Christie’s administration held out Hurricane Sandy relief funds until she would sign off on a private development project, according to media reports.
Zimmer gave the U.S. Attorney’s office her journal and other documents, she said to NBC.
“As they pursue this investigation, I will provide any requested information and testify under oath about the facts of what happened when the Lieutenant Governor [Kim Guadagno] came to Hoboken and told me that Sandy aid would be contingent on moving forward with a private development project,” she said.
Asked by Candy Crowley on CNN why she had waited until now, with the scandal swirling around the Christie administration’s purported payback move to close the George Washington Bridge after the mayor of Fort Lee refused an endorsement, Zimmer said “I really didn’t think anyone would believe me and quite frankly, if I came forward, no one believes me, then I’m going to put Hoboken in an even worse position and my number one priority as a mayor of Hoboken is to fight to make sure that we can get as many Sandy funds as possible.”
Schneider told the Washington Post that a few months after he endorsed the governor, he contacted his office about an issue he couldn’t get resolved by the state utility board
“I’m not talking to any more underlings, and I’m not being delegated to,” Schneider told Christie’s aides, a strategy that proved successful. “I got what I needed.”
The Long Branch mayor believes the help from Christie’s office can be attributed to the endorsement, even though the governor never promised him anything.
Here’s the full statement from Reed (emphasis added):
“MSNBC is a partisan network that has been openly hostile to Governor Christie and almost gleeful in their efforts attacking him, even taking the unprecedented step of producing and airing a nearly three-minute attack ad against him this week. Governor Christie and his entire administration have been helping Hoboken get the help they need after Sandy, with the city already having been approved for nearly $70 million dollars in federal aid and is targeted to get even more when the Obama Administration approves the next rounds of funding. The Governor and Mayor Zimmer have had a productive relationship, with Mayor Zimmer even recently saying she’s ‘very glad’ he’s been our Governor. It’s very clear partisan politics are at play here as Democratic mayors with a political axe to grind come out of the woodwork and try to get their faces on television.”
“Our journalism speaks for itself,” MSNBC spokesperson Lauren Skowronski told Business Insider in response to Christie’s office.
The billionaire Kenneth G. Langone, Mr. Christie’s most devoted fund-raiser and loudest cheerleader, got in touch with him in recent days. Mr. Langone said he told the governor that he must be smarter about those who surround him.
“I conveyed the importance of the decisions he makes about the people around him and their qualification and their competence, including common sense,” said Mr. Langone, who called the politically motivated closure of lanes onto the George Washington Bridge “beyond the pale.”
“It upset the hell out of me,” he said.
Mr. Christie has told friends and contributors that he can weather the slings and scrutiny, even as he complains about what he sees as “piling on” by his enemies and a once-admiring news media, according to people told of his thinking, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to be associated with comments that could upset the governor or his aides. Mr. Christie has leaned hard on his wife and brother for advice, in long, searching conversations. (The governor could not bring himself to watch the traffic jam-themed parody of “Born to Run” sung by his idol, Bruce Springsteen, on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon,” though he was told by his college-age son, Andrew, that it was funny.)
Inside Mr. Christie’s inner circle, advisers are disputing public opinion polls, which show a noticeable drop in his popularity and job approval rating, saying that his previous sky-high numbers were inflated by election-year advertising.
Several Republican governors said they were heartened by Mr. Christie’s efforts to address the controversy head-on. So long as he is telling the truth and was not personally involved in the shutdown in Fort Lee, they said, Mr. Christie will remain a major force within the party.
You just gotta love the entire party and how it just continually strives to be out of touch with reality, doncha? Just so you know, Langone is basically the guy that founded Home Depot. It’s one of the stores on my boycott list.
Is it a law of evolution that the fatter the wallet, the thinner the skin? The wallet of Ken Langone, the billionaire co-founder of Home Depot, is so fat he he must sit on it funny, yet there he was the other day, crabbing to CNBC about Pope Francis’ missive to the effect that the rich are indifferent to the poor.
Langone was careful to attribute his complaints to an unnamed fellow plutocrat, who being a rich person ostensibly took the Pope’s remarks as an insult. Langone claimed his friend was so upset by the Pope’s remarks that he was reconsidering a donation for the renovation of New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
If Langone sounds a little like the guy with an embarrassing condition opening his medical consultation with the words, “Doc, I’ve got this friend…,” so be it. Langone told CNBC he advised Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York that the pope should cool it with the finger-pointing at the rich. (“You get more with honey than with vinegar,” he said.) Dolan promised to explain to the reluctant donor that he was “misunderstanding” the pope’s words and suggested he would explicate the pope’s words in a more emollient way. “And then,” Dolan said hopefully, “he’s going to say, ‘OK, if that’s the case, count me in for St. Patrick’s Cathedral.'”
Remember, this is all about a $180-million project to renovate the big cathedral on Fifth Avenue, which suggests that the priorities of the New York diocese may not leave so much room for “misunderstanding” the pope’s message.
That message, in part, was that “while the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few…. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules.”
Langone hates Obama needless to say. He was active against the President as he sought reelection and was pandering to Christie prior to Romney’s nomination.
Langone is a prodigious donor, having given millions to New York University and New York City charities, including the Harlem Children’s Zone. He’s also given hundreds of thousands to conservative groups, like the Republican National Committee, Karl Rove’s American Crossroads super-PAC, and the American Action Network, the dark-money outfit run by former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman. Langone strongly backed his friend Ross Perot for president in 1992 and was a bundler for Giuliani in 2008.
Last summer, after the White House and Congress (whose members Langone compared to “sex fiends” when around money) clashed over lifting the federal government’s debt ceiling,Langone branded Obama “petulant” and “unpresidential” on CNBC. He even ripped the president for entering the Oval Office without a suit jacket on—something, Langone insisted, Ronald Reagan never would have done. (PolitiFact rated this claim “mostly false”; Reagan sometimes wore track jackets in the Oval Office on weekends.) Obama is “not bringing us together,” Langone said. “Divide us and we all lose. This has got to stop.”
He’s just another one of those billionaires that thinks he knows what’s best for the rest of us and that mostly means fattening his wallet.
Meanwhile, the news about the chemical leak from West Virginia is awful. The Ohio River is tainted and Cinncinatti closed its intake valves to prevent the chemical from entering the tri-state water supply.
The chemical leaked from a tank along the Elk River in West Virginia last week. The Elk feeds into the Ohio. Traces of the chemical were found at the Meldahl Dam around 9 p.m. Tuesday and were detected at a GCWW intake around 7 a.m.
“Right at the intakes,” Jerry Schulte, a manager with ORSANCO said. “The intakes have been shut down so that’s not a concern.”
GCWW stored water and alternate sources to supply customers until the chemical plume passed Wednesday night or Thursday.
The Northern Kentucky Water District said that it has also shut down its Ohio River intakes as a precautionary measure while the remnants of the spill passes.
Water treatment experts said the water could have been treated with activated charcoal and made safe for customers to use, but Deborah Metz, a superintendent of water quality and treatment with GCWW, said, “We figure the least risky scenario is for us to just let it go on by.”
The environmental impact will be tracked by comparing fish counts and even bug populations from this spring to last spring.
“We won’t be able to detect the material it will be long gone from the system but if it had an impact on the systems we might be able to see it,” Schulte said.
Freedom Industries has filed for bankruptcy in order to avoid lawsuits and fines. This should not be possible under US Law but you know how this country is about the so-called job makers. What would be doing right now if this was Al Quaida that poisoned that many people?
Freedom Industries, the company that fouled thousands of West Virginians’ water with a chemical leak into the Elk River last week, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Friday.
Freedom owes $3.6 million to its top 20 unsecured creditors, according to bankruptcy documents. The company also owes more than $2.4 million in unpaid taxes to the Internal Revenue Service, and the IRS has placed at least three liens on Freedom’s property, demanding payment.
The unpaid taxes date back to at least 2000, according to a lien filed in 2010.
Under the bankruptcy code, Chapter 11 permits a company to reorganize and continue operating.
The filing also puts a hold on all of the lawsuits filed against Freedom Industries. Since the leak last week, about a mile and a half upriver from West Virginia Water American’s plant in Charleston, about 25 lawsuits have been filed against Freedom in Kanawha Circuit Court. The company also faces a federal lawsuit.
The company’s assets and liabilities are each listed as between $1 million and $10 million in the bankruptcy filing. Chemstream Holdings Inc. is the sole owner of Freedom Industries, according to the filing. Gary Southern, who is identified as Freedom’s president, signed all of the bankruptcy documents.
On Thursday, a source close to Freedom Industries, who asked to remain anonymous because of pending lawsuits, told The Charleston Gazette that Chemstream Holdings is owned by J. Clifford Forrest of Kittanning, Pa.
A bankruptcy filing halts most litigation, forcing plaintiffs to vie with other creditors for a share of a company’s assets. More than two dozen lawsuits have been filed since the accident, which led President Barack Obama to declare a state of emergency for the affected counties. The state attorney general is investigating the spill.
Shorter bottom line: This pits bankers and investors against people damaged by the company. It protects the company’s assets.
I drove south to the point where I-79 South ends, and you pick up I-64 West to head into the interstate exchanges on the freeway that runs the length of downtown. And there, about a mile and a half out, I smelled it, smelled the odor of the MCHM coming in through the car vents.
I keep hearing the odor described as “licorice.” That’s not quite right, at least to me. But I can see how you’d make that association. The smell was both sweet and sharp, and strangely light, at least in comparison to the smells I associated with chemical leaks growing up. But it was there, suddenly, like someone had flipped a switch. It wasn’t there, and then the next second, there it was.
I-64 West into Charleston, coming from southbound, unrolls in a big left-hand curve just after you come into the city. I’ve driven this route hundreds, maybe thousands of times. I grew up here. I recognize every building from the freeway—the banks, the hospitals, the hotels and apartment complexes, all of it. In the deepest part of that big left-hand curve, down off the freeway and to my left, there was West Virginia-American Water Company, and the smell suddenly became very, very strong.
On my way in, the rain had let up. Now there was low-lying fog, white-and-gray tufts and tendrils of vapor rising up from the street level all around the small wood-frame houses and gas stations and grocery stores. The sky was dark, and the fog was in the streets, and the smell was everywhere. I looked at the water company, and I smelled the air, and suddenly I was filled—I mean filled—with a rage that was quite sudden, very unexpected, and utterly comprehensive.
We can never predict what moments are going to affect us this way. I’m no dewy-eyed innocent about chemical leaks. They were regular occurrences when I was a kid. On the merits, this doesn’t seem right now to be the worst industrial threat West Virginia has ever endured. Hell, it isn’t the most immediately threatening one my family has endured personally; that would be the bromine leak in my very own hometown of Malden in the 1980s, the one that forced a complete evacuation of the entire town until the leak could be contained.
But something about this confluence, the way I had to bring potable water to my family from two hours north, the strange look of the landscape wreathed in rain and mist, the stench of a chemical that was housed directly upstream from the water company—something about all of that made me absolutely buoyant in my rage. This was not the rational anger one encounters in response to a specific wrong, nor even the righteous anger that comes from an articulate reaction to years of systematic mistreatment. This was blind animal rage, and it filled my body to the limits of my skin.
And this is what I thought:
To hell with you.
Do go read the entire thing. It’s worth it.
It took 32 years to get this holiday into law when it was signed by Ronald Reagan in 1983. It took until 2000 to get all 50 states to recognize the holiday.
The House took up the bill in 1983 and it passed by 53 votes. Democrats O’Neill and Jim Wright, along with Republicans Jack Kemp and Newt Gingrich, gave speeches supporting the King holiday.
But getting the bill passed in the Senate would be contentious. Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina openly opposed it. At first, Helms introduced a filibuster, and then he presented a 400-page file that accused Dr. King of being a communist.
Senator Ted Kennedy criticized Helms and Senator Daniel Moynihan called the document “filth” and threw it on the Senate floor.
Despite Helms, the bill passed the Senate by 12 votes–even South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond voted in favor of the King holiday.
President Ronald Reagan signed the bill in November 1983. The first federal King holiday was celebrated in 1986.
It took longer for the 50 states to adopt the holiday. By 1986, 17 states had already adopted it. But there was strong resistance in Arizona to passing a state holiday.
The fight between state legislators came to a head when the King holiday was put up for an Arizona voter referendum in November 1990.
At that point, entertainers had started boycotting the state in protest, and the National Football League threatened to move the 1993 Super Bowl from Tempe if the holiday was defeated at the polls.
The King holiday lost in a two-part voter referendum and the NFL made good on its threat, taking the Super Bowl to Southern California and costing the state an estimated $500 million in revenue.
Arizona voters approved the King holiday two years later.
There was also a fight in South Carolina over the holiday. It was one of the last states to approve a paid King holiday for state employees in 2000.
The state’s governor had tried to link the holiday to a commitment to allow the state house to fly the Confederate battle flag. Instead, he signed a bill that approved the King holiday along with a Confederate Memorial Day celebrated in May.
Have a great day! What’s on your reading and blogging list?
It’s another three day weekend, and it’s really quiet around here. I never thought about MLK Day being a big vacation weekend, but I was out in the car yesterday and the streets were dead. Where do these people go–the ones with enough money to get out of town? Florida? New Hampshire? I don’t know, but it’s nice when they aren’t clogging up the streets with their cars.
I expect it will be a slow news weekend too, except for the football games tomorrow. Let’s see what I can find out there in cyberspace.
Of course there’s the speech President Obama gave yesterday on NSA reforms. To be honest, I didn’t watch it. I’d rather just wait and see what happens. Here are a few reactions to Obama’s proposals.
Of course Glenn Greenwald hated it, as he wrote in an op-ed for the Guardian: Obama’s NSA ‘reforms’ are little more than a PR attempt to mollify the public. I tried to slog my way through it, but I couldn’t. He’s such a terrible writer–always nearly hysterical with rage and with absolutely no sense of humor to take the edge of his sarcasm and bile. He did end with a not-so-subtle threat to keep releasing U.S. intelligence secrets until America finally gives up spying altogether and accedes to Greenwald’s demands.
Today’s speech should be seen as the first step, not the last, on the road to restoring privacy. The causes that drove Obama to give this speech need to be, and will be, stoked and nurtured further until it becomes clear to official Washington that, this time around, cosmetic gestures are plainly inadequate.
After all, according to Glenn, there’s really no danger from terrorists or hostile countries like China and Russia. The entire goal of the national security apparatus and of signals intelligence is the instill fear in the populace.
A few more reasoned reactions:
Adam Martin at New York Magazine collects reactions from a number of people: So What Did People Think of Obama’s NSA Speech?
NPR’s Carrie Johnson offers: 5 Takeaways From The President’s NSA Speech.
Doyle McManus at the LA Times, who has been critical of both Snowden and NSA: A new day at the NSA — President Obama takes a step back from unfettered surveillance.
Individually, the concrete steps President Obama announced Friday toward reforming the National Security Agency‘s surveillance programs were modest. Taken together, though, they signal the end of an era of unfettered escalation in U.S. intelligence-gathering.
Since its establishment in 1952, the NSA’s history has been one of almost nonstop expansion. But for most of that time, the agency still faced limits on what kind of information it could gather and in the legal strictures that governed its programs.
That changed after the terrorist attacks of 2001, which prompted then-President George W. Bush to demand an all-out effort to collect every scrap of information available.
His order came at a time when the Internet, email, instant messaging and low-cost voice communications were pouring an unprecedented amount of private information into a global electronic network, available for sophisticated eavesdroppers to tap.
Bush brushed aside legal constraints and ordered the NSA to collect domestic telephone and email communications without court warrants. Later, Congress and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court legalized much of that program retroactively, including the NSA’s collection of domestic telephone call records, known as metadata. The principle driving intelligence-gathering had become collect first, ask questions later.
Obama’s proposals are step back from that rule.
Read the rest at the link. I have no idea what will happen, but at least Obama is open to talking about it, unlike Bush/Cheney.
I thought this article at Mediaite was pretty funny: Robert Gates Wanted to Recruit Bob Woodward for the CIA.
Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates shared an interesting detail during a conversation with POLITICO’s Mike Allen about his new book: he wanted to recruit iconic Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward for the Central Intelligence Agency. Yes, that’s right, Gates wanted one of the men who broke Watergate wide open to move to the government side because of his “extraordinary ability” to pry details out of people.
Gates admitted he wasn’t exactly happy with Woodward’s assessment of his book, but beyond that he said he has great respect for Woodward, and admitted he would have liked to bring Woodward into the CIA because he has a gift that not everyone has.
“He has an extraordinary ability to get otherwise responsible adults to spill his guts to him, on background, nothing there for the historians, but his ability to get people to talk about stuff they shouldn’t be talked about is just extraordinary and maybe unique.”
Seriously, does Gates not know that Woodward began his career in naval intelligence “where he was a part of a group which briefed top intelligence officials; at one time he was close to Admiral Robert O. Welander, being communications officer on the USS Fox under Welander’s command.” Woodward even briefed Al Haig during the Nixon administration.
Woodward knew nothing about journalism until the Washington Post installed him at a small newspaper in the DC suburbs for a year so he could get some on-the-job experience before moving up to the big time? Before that, Woodward was involved in briefing Bernstein was the writer on the Watergate story and Woodward had the CIA/government connections.
Gates should know that once you’re in the “intelligence community,” you never really leave. Please forgive me for this, but I’m going to link to a post by Larry Johnson from 2005: Blowing the Whistle on Bob Woodward.
Woodward has been the consumate insider while cultivating the image of the hard charging investigative reporter. He is anything but, and it is time to blow the whistle on his incestuous relationship with certain government officials. The fact that the Washington Post is still covering for this joker says volumes about the decline of the Post.
When he appears on Larry King Live Tonight maybe he will answer a longstanding question, “When did he resign from Naval Intelligence?”
Johnson then reproduces a letter to the editor of the Tampa Tribune by Len Colodny. Colodny is coauthor of a book about Watergate called Silent Coup: The Removal of a President. Check it out.
This is interesting. Greg Sargent thinks President Obama might decide to encourage an increase in the minimum wage with an executive order.
Here’s some welcome news. At his meeting with Democratic Senators last night, President Obama indicated that he is giving serious consideration to executive action designed to raise the minimum wage for employees of federal contractors, according to one Senator who was present.
Proponents want to see this executive action happen on the merits — theybelieve it could impact as many as two million employees of federal contractors, and would help the economy. But they also believe such action could give a boost of momentum to the push for a minimum wage hike for all American workers, which obviously would require Congressional approval, but is currently facing Republican opposition.
Senator Bernie Sanders told me in an interview that the president took the idea very seriously when asked about it last night.
Surely some Democrats could applaud Obama if he did that. Of course the Greenwald cult followers will ignore it, because it would only improve the lives of working class people and do nothing for the “privacy” of upper middle class white males.
These days it seems we’re getting shootings in public places on an almost daily basis. I posted about a grocery store shooting in Elkhart, Indiana a couple of days ago. The victims and the shooter have now been identified.
What happened, police say, is 22-year-old Shawn Bair walked into the store Wednesday at about 9:30 p.m. Surveillance video shows him making phone calls and texting people….
Police say Bair pulled out a .44 caliber semi-automatic handgun, and shot and killed 20-year-old Krystal Dikes. Police say she had just started working at the store stocking the shelves. Friends say she was a caring, compassionate person.
“I don’t know what his goal was, I don’t know what his aim was, mad at the world. There’s definitely a family grieving for her. Definitely. And lots of friends,” said Dikes’ boyfriend Kyle Barnett.
Also murdered was 44-year-old Rachelle Godfread who was shopping. Bair then held the manager of the store at gunpoint until police arrived.
Police still aren’t sure why Bair, who police have been in contact with before, decided to go on this rampage but his Facebook page is filled with violent images and posts. In one post he says he knows he’s going hell. One from 2010 says he realized everybody should die, no matter what race or religion.
According to the Chicago Tribune,
Rachelle Godfread, 44, had recently moved from southern Indiana to Elkhart, where she was closer to her son who played basketball at the South Bend campus of Indiana University. Now that college student has lost his mom.
Yesterday there was a shooting in a school gymnasium in Philadelphia. CNN reports:
A warrant has been issued for the arrest of a juvenile suspect in a shooting that wounded two students at a Philadelphia school Friday, police said Saturday.
The shooting occurred at Delaware Valley Charter High School.
The suspect is not in custody, but police expect him, accompanied by an attorney, to turn himself in Saturday morning.
The shooter was in the school gym with seven other students, city police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said.
Some were playing basketball and others standing in a corner when he pulled a gun and fired.
The victims, a boy and a girl, both age 15, were hit in the arm. They were taken to a local hospital, police said, and their wounds are not life-threatening.
The Friday afternoon incident was at least the second shooting at or near a school this week in the Olney neighborhood.
And then there are the plain old street shootings. Again from the Chicago Tribune: Shootings leave 2 dead, 7 injured since Friday afternoon.
Two men have been killed and seven people injured in shootings on the South and West sides since Friday afternoon, according to police.
The violent start to the weekend, which came as downtown temperatures hovered in the teens, included a shooting that injured three people on a Dan Ryan Expressway ramp and another that left a 15-year-old girl hospitalized.
Police were called to the first of Friday’s homicides about 5:20 p.m., after gunfire rang out in 4900 block of West Huron Street in the Austin neighborhood.
Officers found 21-year-old Timothy Travis on the ground, bleeding from a gunshot wound to the head, authorities said.
Travis, who lived in the 4900 block of West Quincy Street, was pronounced dead on the scene at 5:34 p.m., according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.
Of course the “experts” are “weighing in”: Experts: N. Mexico suspect, other young shooters show preteens’ impulse actions.
(CNN) — The New Mexico middle school shooting allegedly by a 12-year-old boy highlights how such gunfire is now occurring in America’s earlier grades, raising disturbing issues on whether such youngsters know the devastating consequences of such violence and on how they should then be adjudicated, experts say.
“It’s becoming more and more common, especially in the middle-school age, for these kids to be committing these violent acts,” said Sheela Raja, clinical psychologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago….
That tally includes last October’s shooting in Sparks, Nevada, by a 12-year-old boy who killed himself after fatally shooting a teacher; a 2010 shooting in a Madison, Alabama, by a ninth-grader who fatally shot a boy, 14, in the head; a 2000 shooting in Mount Morris Township, Michigan, in which a 6-year-old boy killed another 6-year-old; and the 1999 shooting in Deming, New Mexico, in which a 12-year-old boy killed a classmate, 13.
Raja explains that children at these ages do not have the cognitive development to restrain strong impulses or to understand the full implications of their actions.
“People should remember that a 12-year-old is barely past the age of believing in Santa Claus,” said Wendy Walsh, a behavior expert and psychologist.
“While there is great variance in cognitive development, plenty of kids this age are unable to fully comprehend that death is permanent,” Walsh said. “Add to that the impact of violent video games where ‘downed’ characters get up again, and there is good reason to assume this child does not think like an adult.”
Wouldn’t it make sense to keep guns out the hands of young kids then? I know, stupid question.
From the NYT: In Age of School Shootings, Lockdown Is the New Fire Drill.
For students across the country, lockdowns have become a fixture of the school day, the duck-and-cover drills for a generation growing up in the shadow of Columbine High School in Colorado and Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Kindergartners learn to hide quietly behind bookshelves. Teachers warn high school students that the glow of their cellphones could make them targets. And parents get regular text messages from school officials alerting them to lockdowns.
School administrators across the country have worked with police departments in recent years to create detailed plans to secure their schools, an effort that was redoubled after the December 2012 shootings in Newtown, Conn. At the whiff of a threat, teachers are now instructed to snap off the lights, lock their doors and usher their students into corners and closets. School officials call the police. Students huddle in their classrooms for minutes or hours, texting one another, playing cards and board games, or just waiting until they get the all clear.
Why should kids have to go through this at school–a place where they are supposed to be safe and protected? I guess because the NRA wants more and more guns everywhere and Congress doesn’t have the guts to do anything about it.
Another “expert” told Jake Tapper that mass shootings are on the rise. Isn’t it great that we have “experts” to explain that to us? /snark
OK, enough depressing news about death and destruction. What’s the latest on Chris Christie? Steve Kornaki has dug up some good stuff: Christie camp held Sandy relief money hostage, mayor alleges.
Two senior members of Gov. Chris Christie’s administration warned a New Jersey mayor earlier this year that her town would be starved of hurricane relief money unless she approved a lucrative redevelopment plan favored by the governor, according to the mayor and emails and personal notes she shared with msnbc.
The mayor, Dawn Zimmer, hasn’t approved the project, but she did request $127 million in hurricane relief for her city of Hoboken – 80% of which was underwater after Sandy hit in October 2012. What she got was $142,000 to defray the cost of a single back-up generator plus an additional $200,000 in recovery grants.
In an exclusive interview, Zimmer broke her silence and named Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and Richard Constable, Christie’s community affairs commissioner, as the two officials who delivered messages on behalf of a governor she had long supported.
Something tells me we have a lot more Christie corruption news to look forward to.
Now what stories are you following today? Please post your links in the comments and have a great long weekend!
One of the biggest problems that I have with folks who wear the smug mantle of libertarian is that they make hay over abuses of power at the Federal level while shrugging off what goes on at the state level unless it has something to do with dismantling public schools or taxing the rich. I’ve always thought that abuse of power and destruction of civil liberties shouldn’t happen at any level. However, if you go from state to state, you’re going to see how serious money has serious sway over the actions of politicians. Some states and locales just ooze plutocracy. It’s a lot easier to be a thug at the state level. It’s getting to the point where reality is unfolding like a TV plot.
On one hand, I’ve decided to volunteer for the Mary and Mitch Landrieus’ re-elections despite serious reservations about both, because I don’t want to live in a state ruled by one party intent on driving the trains straight off the reality track.
I’m also headed to a huge demonstration on Friday, because some freaking rich lawyer has time and money to continually harass the causes of street sounds and music near his property in the French Quarter. His pet peeves will impact all of us. Before he moved into the quarter, you would find musicians out about the street at nights. I would see them on the way home from my gigs all the time when I lived in the quarter myself. They now have to be out of sight and ear by 8:30. He’s been on a tear since then with a few rich neighbors. Problem is, they have money and time and they just don’t give up. Now, they want a “sound ordinance” that has an outlandishly low standard for what he deems ‘noise”. I literally will not be able to play my piano in my back parlor without risking a violation. That means also that Alan Toussaint would not have been able to play it in the taping of Hurricane on the Bayou. And, a few months back, you would not have been able to hear Robert Plant from my front porch. And, you will likely never hear live music in and around my neighborhood bars. This, to me, is unthinkable!
So, I am going to the city council on Friday and I’m going to sign in to testify. I’ve already written letters. This is bad for my friends who own small restaurants and bars. It’s also bad for musicians and those who enjoy live music. The only beneficiaries are these few rich landowners that are all over the city council right now although they try to give the impression they have mass support. The other beneficiaries are the downtown hotels and casinos and other big money interests that would rather have all the musicians held hostage in their bars. I’m doing something of a weird thing by supporting the status quo but yet fighting the powers that want to buy themselves a pristine, billionaire friendly New Orleans. Go figure. I do wonder why people would buy property when they know they are surrounded by bars and music venues. This is a bit like the other stuff that’s gong in my current neighborhood where I suddenly have neighbors who are all about having manicured grass in the back and side yards. All hell is breaking loose, however, around this ordinance.
All hell seems to be breaking loose from New Orleans citizens who are up in arms regarding the underhanded way that the VCPORA attempted to slip in a noise ordinance that would have a severe impact on the city’s music scene.
Understandably, the peeps at VCPORA are tired of getting no action from the City Council regarding what seems to be Mr. Smith’s Number One priority (other than bashing oil companies, from whom he’s won bazillions of dollars in class action lawsuits. (From his firm’s web page: “In a 2001 Stuart Smith and Michael Stag jointly prosecuted the widely publicized Grefer case. A jury returned a verdict of $1.056 billion dollars against Exxon/ Mobil Corporation, the world’s largest oil company, in favor of the firm’s client after a six-week trial. The landmark verdict was listed in Lawyers Weekly, USA as the second largest verdict in the United States for 2001.”)
To recap from last week’s post, attorney Smith bankrolls the VCPORA and is successfully using its purported agenda of “preservation” to achieve his goals of eliminating “noise” in the French Quarter.
Since last week’s post, I’ve attended a MaCCNO (Music and Culture Coalition) meeting on Friday, and have been subjected to several emails from Stuart Smith, by way of the Brylski Company, which bills its emails as “Krewe of truth.”
Stuart Smith. From the VCPORA website: “For years, VCPORA has been able to count on a man who’s led innumerable legal battles on our behalf, and on behalf of the Quarter – and done all of it pro bono. That man is Stuart H. Smith – our neighbor, our benefactor, and a man of courage and capability who’s been a passionate advocate on behalf of the Vieux Carré.”I’d call it more the “Krewe of Propaganda.”
Here are a few points in the email [First of all, it’s entitled “Hearing Beyond The Misinformation: TRUE SOUND FACTS [in BIG FAT BOLD letters] about the ‘Seven Essentials’ and the Sound Amendments.”
“WILL THESE AMENDMENTS ‘KILL’ NEW ORLEANS’ MUSIC SCENE?
NO! Of course not! No elected official in New Orleans would sign onto an ordinance that would kill, or even hurt, our invaluable New Orleans music scene [Not unless a VCPORA member like Nathan Chapman sneaked it into Stacy Head’s office to be presented to the council at the last minute pre-2013 Christmas holiday. Chapman is past president of VCPORA and, how shall I say this?: Stuart Smith’s “minion.”] “Music is an invaluable part of our culture and our economy. The reason all seven council members signed on was because, after four years of detailed study and hearing, these amendments are actually very limited in scope and provide common sense improvements. [Untrue, these are not common sense improvements to anyone other than those who want to keep music at the level or a normal conversation. Oh, one had better NOT say that they want to kill New Orleans music! Ask Mr. Smith how much he enjoys the jazz at the Gazebo. Smith bought a property at 516 St. Philip Street in 1997, just a half block from the Gazebo and tried to get the zoning changed at a bar that had had music for many years, well before Stuart took up residence. Oh yeah, he loves music all right. But he moved right next to it and did try to kill it.]
Smith appears to have done some really creative things in terms of showing he has support. And, he’s convinced the City Council that what he is doing isn’t a big deal at all but very responsible and reasonable.
When they use these unrealistically low sound levels to justify lawsuits and to try to get police shut-downs, the well-funded noise factories of Bourbon Street will come out okay. They can either pay the fine, pacify the enforcers, or hire effective attorneys to back the process into a corner with constitutional challenges which the local court can’t handle and the Supremes won’t be bothered with, so the cases sit in limbo like Bleak House.
But smaller, newer venues, events and street bands, where some new music might emerge – they won’t be able to come close to affording it. The gentrifiers’ suppression will take hold. Venues will have to either shut down the music, or get driven out of business. Perhaps it is the city establishment’s strategy: to leave us with just tourist music and a few big names in big sites, with no sense that they are strangling the future. And for what? Increasing the radius of the comfort zone for a few property owners claiming special privilege.
So, those of you that follow me on FaceBook or Twitter or here, will continue to hear me talk about this because I’ve just about had it with people trying to change my city into some blase suburb.
BTW, the HBO series Treme ended this season. There’s a great interview with a resident of that neighborhood on what the series has meant. I still haven’t watched it but I swear there’s not an episode that doesn’t have a friend or neighbor in it. I bought the DVDs some time ago but I still can’t bring myself to watch it. I lived the entire thing and just can’t get into the idea of doing it again. I think the biggest curse of Katrina has turned into two things for me. One is the number of transplants that seem to want a pristine version of what they think New Orleans should be and what seems like the forced diaspora of the black middle class from the area which brought a red Louisiana and the evil Governor Jindal. We could handle the Hurricane but I don’t know how much damage from those last two we can take.
RO: I think the show’s tapestry—dare I say gumbo?—of characters and struggles plays a big part in what makes Treme so authentically New Orleans. So it’s kinda hard for me to isolate a character or storyline—they all resonated with me at some level. But if I had to chose? I guess LaDonna running her bar; Nelson Hidalgo for his newcomer’s perspective, learning the byzantine ways of the city; Janette Desautel and her restaurant. Those would be the closest to my personal experience in post-Katrina New Orleans: I ran a bar right after the storm; I was a newcomer, in town just three months when the levees broke. Also, my first wife was a chef and we opened a summer restaurant in the Hamptons together, so Kim Dickens’ character’s professional struggles were very familiar to me.
This is one newcomer who seems to want to adjust to the way of life down here instead of having the way of life adjust to him. But then, he doesn’t have billions of dollars to spend and the attention of politicians needing donors. I think this sound ordinance protest is the beginning of the pushback. I’m not sure how much more folks are going to put up with gentrification at all costs. I just hope the city council gets it. All of the music culture of New Orleans shown in Treme will only occur in hotel bars, the city’s sole casino, and a few Bourbon joints if the ordinance passes.
There are a lot of times when the larger-than-TV-Life culture of a state seems to be brought to life. It’s just not my state where the government seems to be pushing the agendas of the plutocracy at the cost of the people who call the place home. New Jersey government seems to be the new Goodfellas under Chris Christie.
The Christie Bridge Scandal seems to just pop off the screen and right into your face So far, there are more questions than answers. However, this is not going away since the New Jersey Assembly has reissued subpoenas. If there was an attempt to ride out the legislative year, it didn’t work. Key establishment republicans are trying to buff this turd.
During a panel segment on Fox News Sunday, host John Roberts pointed out that many Republicans were praising Christie for firing one of his top aides after a newspaper exposed his administration’s role in closing part of the busiest bridge in the world as part of political retribution plot, but President Barack Obama had not fired anyone over the health care reform law.
“I think he did himself a lot of good,” Rove said of Christie’s reaction to the scandal. “I think he did himself some good by contrasting with the normal, routine way of handing these things, which is to be evasive, to sort of trim on the edges.”
“You’ll notice we haven’t been hearing a lot from the Clinton camp about this,” he added. “Contrast both with Bill Clinton and Secretary Hillary Clinton’s handling of Benghazi.”
Later in the segment, Roberts asked the panel: “Where was this media coverage on Benghazi, the NSA or the IRS?”
Columnist George Will admitted that “this was not a phony scandal” because Christie’s administration had used the machinery of government to “screw our enemies.”
“There are reasons why conservatives had disagreements with Chris Christie, I don’t think that the tea party is going to seize upon Fort Lee and the George Washington Bridge as their defining difference with Christie,” Rove opined. “In fact, I think his handling of this, being straightforward, taking action — saying, ‘I’m responsible’ — firing the people probably gives him some street cred with some tea party Republicans, who say that’s what we want in a leader, somebody who steps up and takes responsibility.”
I’m sorry, but there’s something distinctly different about handling people who have abused the public trust, committed crimes, and caused public safety issues and managing people who had oversight of a bad roll out of product. Here’s more information about those subpoenas because it looks more and more like something very criminal happened in Trenton.
At least six New Jersey residents have filed suit against Christie, the state of New Jersey, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, among others for the traffic jams and resulting problems.
The traffic jam caused by the lane closures delayed emergency services and left commuters and school children stranded on the bridge during periods of heavy traffic, according to local officials.
ABC News also obtained a letter from Fort Lee EMS coordinator Paul Favia that documents four medical situations in which emergency responders were delayed because of the traffic gridlock. In one case, a 91-year-old woman later died at a hospital of cardiac arrest.
Although Favia doesn’t directly tie her death to the delays, he noted that “paramedics were delayed due to heavy traffic on Fort Lee Road and had to meet the ambulance en route to the hospital instead of on the scene.”
Documents now show that the aides were told that this would hurt people and cause safety issues. Christie originally mocked the stories by talking about laying the cones down. How is this leadership? I don’t recall Obama ever making a joke about the people who were struggling with the original problems of the site and he told the people in charge to go back and fix it. Which model of leadership seems ethical to you?
No special interest groups appear to have larger sway over the country than the NRA and the various groups–like ALEC–that are funded by Pete Peterson and the Koch Brothers. They’ve convinced many Republican controlled states that even providing the most basic services is evil in the face of putting taxes on the wealthy. Well, the modern day Matt Dillons are going to have a rough time controlling gunslingers in Kansas.
Reasoning that more guns mean greater safety, Kansas lawmakers voted last year to require cities and counties to make public buildings accessible to people legally carrying concealed weapons.
But for communities that remained wary of such open access to city halls, libraries, museums and courthouses, the Legislature provided an exemption: Guns can be banned as long as local governments pay for protections like metal detectors and security guards, ensuring the safety of those they have disarmed.
It turns out that in Wichita, the state’s most populous city, and in some other towns, the cost of opting out before the Jan. 1 deadline was just too high.
“It was essentially being foisted upon us,” said Janet Miller, a City Council member in Wichita. The city applied over the summer for a six-month exemption but voted last month not to extend it after the police estimated that it would cost $14 million a year to restrict guns in all 107 city-owned buildings.
While Republican-majority legislatures across the country are easing restrictions on gun owners, few states are putting more pressure on municipalities right now than Kansas. The new law has forced some local leaders to weigh policy conviction against fiscal pragmatism in a choice that critics say was flawed from the start: Open vulnerable locations to concealed side arms or stretch meager budgets to cover the extra security measures.
I guess it will be open season on criminal justice employees in courtrooms in Kansas.
Anyway, these are just three different parts of the country where it seems that local politicians are doing a disservice to the people who elected them. They are more moved by special interests than their constituents. So, what’s a voter to do? As for me, I’m taking to the streets on Friday. I’m just relying on the Greater Ethos that I’ll be in my own bed on Friday Night.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Emotional relief gained by using indecent or vulgar language.
I think I am going to get this definition tattooed on my ass! (Well, maybe not on my ass but somewhere in the above vicinity!)
h/t Mona and her Facebook page for that perfect, perfect descriptive noun that actually could be my favorite form of a grandiloquent verb? (Or perhaps a medical condition?)
On to the cartoons for the night, Jon Stewart: Yes, Chris Christie did ‘set a tone’ — and it was ‘F-U sharp’ | The Raw Story
Love the devil…innit he cute?
This is an open thread…
The #BridgeGhazi scandal is still dominating the news this morning, so I thought I’d surf around and see what the pundits are saying about it. I’ll leave it to you to post links to other stories you’re following in the comment thread.
As you can see, LA Times cartoonist David Horsey focused on Christie today. He also had some editorial comments.
As revealed by a series of email exchanges, three of Christie’s top aides closed down all but one of the traffic lanes at the entrance to the George Washington Bridge to punish the Democratic mayor in the nearby town of Fort Lee, who failed to fall in line behind the Republican governor in his recent reelection campaign. New Jersey commuters spent days stalled at the bottleneck, emergency vehicles were slowed down and one elderly woman died before she could be taken to a hospital.
In a two-hour news conference, Christie claimed he knew nothing about the scheme to exact political retribution by manufacturing a traffic nightmare. The three staffers have been booted, and the governor insists that he is shocked and saddened by their actions. Nevertheless, many people are skeptical. Even if Christie is telling the truth and the aides were not following his direct orders, his combative, in-your-face political style makes plenty of people assume the three were mimicking the bullying ways of their boss.
Though he has played the victim a bit too much, Christie has handled the crisis well so far. Chances are, he will survive this round of revelations (unless, of course, it turns out he is lying, in which case he can probably kiss the GOP nomination goodbye).
Raise your hand if you think Christie was telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth in his lengthy press conference yesterday. Anyone? Anyone?
At U.S. News, Ken Walsh writes that It’s Just Beginning for Chris Christie.
What’s ahead for embattled New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie won’t be pretty. Investigations. Lawsuits. Ridicule. Doubt. A credibility gap. And quite possibly severe damage to his prospects as a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2016.
Christie can recover. Consider what Bill Clinton did in overcoming charges of adultery and draft dodging during his 1992 Democratic presidential campaign, which ended successfully. Consider how Republican George W. Bush overcame allegations of youthful drinking and past drug use during the 2000 campaign, which he won. And consider how Democrat Barack Obama dealt successfully with a political crisis arising from the inflammatory and divisive views of his pastor in Chicago in 2008.
Christie’s scandal is different, and worse. It involves an apparent act of political retribution against the mayor of Fort Lee, N. J., because the official didn’t endorse Christie’s re-election bid last year. But the price was paid by everyday people: innumerable motorists who suffered massive delays when Fort Lee traffic lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge were shut down for four days last September, apparently at the instigation of Christie aides. The governor says he didn’t know about it at the time, and he has fired two aides whom he is holding responsible….In political terms, “Bridgegate” is devastating to Christie for a simple reason: It undercuts his image as an efficient if abrasive leader, and reinforces the impression that he is a bully.
But who doesn’t think Christie is a bully? A couple of days ago,
Beltway Bob Ezra Klein wrote, Chris Christie’s problem is that he’s really, truly a bully.
Christie inhabits a rare space in American politics: He’s a bully. He’s followed around by an aide with a camcorder watching for moments in which Christie, mustering the might and prestige of his office, annihilates some citizen who dares question him.
Almost everywhere Christie goes, he is filmed by an aide whose job is to capture these “moments,” as the governor’s staff has come to call them. When one occurs, Christie’s press shop splices the video and uploads it to YouTube; from there, conservatives throughout the country share Christie clips the way tween girls circulate Justin Bieber videos. “The YouTube stuff is golden,” says Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review. “I can’t tell you how many people forward them to me.” One video on Christie’s YouTube channel — a drubbing he delivered to another aggrieved public-school teacher at a town hall in September — has racked up over 750,000 views.
Now in Moorestown, Christie was hoping to create another such moment. After some introductory remarks, he opened the floor to questions. “For those of you who have seen some of my appearances on YouTube,” he cautioned, peeling off his suit jacket as he spoke, “this is when it normally happens.”
It’s not an accident that Christie emerged in a period when the Republican Party is out of power. His videos make them feel powerful at a moment when they’re weak.
The reason Chris Christie is so good at this is that Chris Christie is actually a bully. That doesn’t mean he’s not also a nice guy who cares deeply about his family and his constituents and his country. It doesn’t mean he’s not an unusually honest politician who’s refreshingly free of cant and willing to question his party. There’s a lot about Christie that’s deeply appealing. But there’s one big thing that’s not: He’s someone who uses his office to intimidate people and punish or humiliate perceived enemies.
Watch video examples at Wonkblog.
Other writers are beginning to discuss the legal consequences of the scandal for Christie and his staff. Ben Brumfield at CNN:
It may have seemed like a teenage prank at the time, but the blockage of bridge traffic as a possible act of partisan political revenge has put New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in the middle of a serious legal stew.
And the fire underneath it is just beginning to heat up for the Republican presidential hopeful, as the state assembly plans to post online 907 pages of documents related to the case Friday.
State lawmakers questioned one of Christie’s allies on Thursday, a former state official implicated in the scandal. So far, David Wildstein has repeatedly refused to answer, invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
The legislators charged him with contempt for his lack of cooperation. But the dam could eventually break as lawmakers dig in their heels, analysts say.
As long as Christie was telling the truth at a marathon press conference he held on Thursday, he should be able to step out of the caldron, analysts who spoke with CNN say.
That’s the key question isn’t it? And I think most people assume Christie was lying through his teeth yesterday.
“He was pretty specific about what he knew and when he knew it,” said CNN analyst Gloria Borger on The Lead with Jake Tapper.
But if any of it doesn’t jibe with other peoples’ stories, information provided in documents or clues that pop up, experts say Christie could get dragged into civil and criminal lawsuits.
One thing is certain. The legislative inquiry into the alleged misdeeds that led to the traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge is just getting into gear.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s one-hour-and-forty-seven-minute self-serving, self-pitying display of contrition on Thursday was a climactic act in a brazen cover-up that threatens to further unravel his political career.
Ever so thoroughly the governor scoured the thesaurus for words of apology, regret and painless self-flagellation while nervily playing the victim and mercilessly destroying the aide who played only a supporting role for the George Washington Bridge political revenge plot.
Christie needed blood to express his outrage to the public, so he drew it from deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly for the sin, the governor said, of lying to him. Perhaps, Kelly did lie, although it seems incredible that anyone would flat-out attempt to deceive an intense, emergency inquiry.
Regardless, Christie made roadkill of Kelly and his former campaign manager while wholly exempting the close pals who were central to the lane-closure conspiracy that caused four days of gridlock and dangerously slowed emergency response in Fort Lee. Pathetic.
Read the whole thing at the link.
As the story stands, Christie’s deputy chief of staff called for George Washington Bridge access lane closures that created a massive traffic jam in Fort Lee for four days in September — a move that many have written off as political retribution for Democratic Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich’s refusal to endorse the Republican governor’s reelection.
Maddow on Thursday presented an alternate theory, saying Sokolich’s endorsement “wasn’t that important.” Instead, she suggested the political payback was motivated by a tiff between New Jersey state Senate Democrats and the governor.
Maddow took viewers back to 2010, when Christie declined to reappoint a New Jersey Supreme Court justice, John E. Wallace Jr., for another term. The move left state Senate Democrats “absolutely outraged,” Maddow explained, and they refused to confirm any Christie’s nominees for Wallace’s seat.
Could Maddow be onto something?
By last August, Supreme Court Justice Helen Hoens, a Republican, was up for renomination. When state Senate Democrats signaled they would challenge Christie’s nomination, the governor said he wouldn’t renominate Hoens.
“I simply could not be party to the destruction of Helen Hoens’s professional reputation,” Christie said during an August press conference. “I was not going to let her loose to the animals.”
“That was an angry Chris Christie,” Maddow said. “So angry that he was doing something almost unprecedented in New Jersey: Yanking the tenure of a state Supreme Court justice, who he liked! That was an angry Chris Christie, furious with Senate Dems at a hastily called press conference that took place late in the day on Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2013.”
Read more and see video at the link.
More links in case you haven’t gotten your fill yet:
MSNBC’s First Read: A Bridge Too Far?
Bloomberg News: Christie Flunks Crisis Management With I Am Not a Bully
Chicago Tribune: Chris Christie for president? Fuggedaboutit.
ABC News: The Christie Cold War Begins