Whether Chris Christie is a bully became a settled issue for me when he piled on, attacking a lone teacher who, while being courted in an after-hours bar, had been tricked into gossiping. The gossip concerned racial slurs by an unidentified teacher. Right wing internet sites attacked her, of course. And Chris Christie publicly held her up for humiliation.
Go watch this video. It's enlightening. It's enraging.
That was a bad show.
The allegations about muscling politicians for endorsements or policy changes never bothered me. I suspect that most folks see that sort of hard ball, nose-to-nose, push as an acceptable part of politics. In most cases, I do.
Bridgegate is different because it involves hard ball targeting of ordinary people, including little kids on buses, and injured people in transport to emergency treatment. Holding up non-politicians for hours on successive days is petty and reprehensible.
My first reaction, when news of Bridgegate began evolving into a national story, was skepticism. It seemed to me implausible that the Governor of a major state, even a governor with a history of hard nosed bullying, would be so phenomenally foolish as to create a problem that was bound to produce world-wide headlines.
When a series of memos hit the news showing Christie aides ordering the tie up, then gloating over the effects on ordinary commuters, it wasn't hard for me to suspend disbelief. Christie denied any knowledge, and I thought of Reagan's "doveryai no proveryai," the Russian phrase for "trust but verify." We should take Christie at his word, but legal authorities should investigate.
The dramatic Christie press conference was powerful. Chris Christie, even without the "Honorable" in front of his name, is a powerful individual.
The denials were as simple as a-b-c:
a. The Governor did not know about the deliberate traffic holdup before it happened.
b. The Governor did not know about the deliberate traffic holdup as it was happening.
c. The governor discovered the jam was deliberate through news reports only after it all was over.
And I'll say one last thing, just so we're really clear. I had no knowledge or involvement in this issue, in its planning, or its execution.
Then one of the fired aides, the sleazy David Wildstein, insisted there was evidence the Governor did indeed lie about his knowledge. The purported evidence would demonstrate that Chris Christie knew about the deliberate traffic tie up while it was happening. Wildstein would show the evidence only if he was given immunity from prosecution for his part in the traffic tie-up.
So the sleaze said he might prove the Governor at least knew about Bridgegate while the tie up was was happening.
Pretty weak, as I see it. Evidence that we haven't seen will be produced by a sleazy perpetrator only if he is guaranteed he won't be held accountable.
The new Christie response was strong to the point of overpowering. The office of the governor issued another denial:
a. The Governor did not know about the deliberate traffic holdup before it happened.
What happened to b and c? Remember the part about the Governor not knowing what was happening while it was happening? Remember the Governor discovering the jam was deliberate only after it all was over?
The second Christie response was strange. The release on non-letterhead was overkill that went to absurdity. It was an attack on the sleaze who was promising to produce evidence. It seems that, while on the job that the Christie administration created for him, Wildstein was reported to have "made moves that were not productive." Just in case that isn't persuasive, the release goes back to high school days. When Wildstein was 16 years old, he challenged a local school board election. Not only that, but a teacher at the time described him as "deceptive."
Wow. If anyone had thought of it, they might have accused him, as a kindergartener, of putting gum on the bottom of his desk.
Details about associated Christie practices are now going into allegations of what was happening before he became governor, when he was a prosecutor. The allegations include impeding a grand jury investigation. The indictment of a corrupt sheriff was quashed and the prosecutor was fired.
News stories are multiplying, going well beyond the traffic tie up.
Bridgegate is morphing into Christiegate.
Fox Debate - Women Paid Exactly What They're Worth (5:22) - Click for Podcast
For Original Text
Lessons for Chris Christie's Office from a Crime Boss (5:23) - Click for Podcast
For Original Text
Republicans and the Libido of the Unvirtuous Woman (5:44) - Click for Podcast
For Original Text
Hunter Steele, at Mad Mike's America, brings us the tale, not as dramatic as the Christie story since it involves mere money, of a Calfornia seeking to influence the path of a rail line, financially affecting his own pockets.
Dave Dubya is happy President Obama gets closer than before to a rational drug policy. Bad news the glass is still 95% empty. Drugs should legal, legal, legal. Government protecting us from ourselves should be approached cautiously.
- Rumproast discovers the new radical group targetted by radical conservatives: the Girl Scouts of America. Girl Scouts? Seriously?
I wish I could remember the film. I wish I was sure of the actor. I think it was Darren McGavin as a wisecracking reporter. He is approached by a newsboy offering free samples of a rival paper. "It's free," says the youngster. McGavin accepts the free paper. "It's a wise man who knows the value of his own product," he says.
It was decades ago. My father and I argued endlessly about a Michigan study on "comparable worth." The study was loosely based on an attempted policy in Washington state a few years before. The study in Michigan seemed to me to be hopelessly subjective in assigning point values based on levels of responsibility, training, background, and a host of other factors.
It seemed to me to be a worthy but failed attempt to compare what was difficult to compare. A clerk-typist and a truck driver would each be assigned 117 combined points of worth.
My father, on the other hand, saw a value in the attempt itself. An informal conspiracy had long existed that kept the wages of women down for identical or nearly identical work.
The comparable worth I saw was a hopeless comparison of sometimes enormously disparate roles. The comparable worth he saw was a comparison between an attempt to elevate the treatment of women to rough equality vs the status quo. The comparable worth of "comparable worth" was incomparably worthier than discrimination.
He has been gone for over 20 years. His point was valid. Still is.
I remember him at the slightest provocation. A Fox News argument sufficed yesterday. Media matters caught it on video.
Tucker Carlson was overpowering the always hapless Alan Colmes. Colmes parroted President Obama pointing out that women earn, on average, 77 percent of the wage of men. Carlson was having none of it.
That's just not true!
Women make more than men if you adjust for the time they take off for childbearing. That's a fact.
- Tucker Carlson, Fox News, January 29, 2014
It's a point often made by conservatives. There are other factors involved besides discrimination: education, work experience, the possibility of dropping out because of parenthood. The list goes on.
Many of those factors are outside of the control of individual women and have nothing to do with each person's effort. A woman who decides not to drop out for maternity, for example, is still judged by others who do. And women in the aggregate are pushed hard by cultural imperatives: staying at home as primary caregivers because they earn less than their partners, earning less because they are more likely to stay at home.
Education, work experience, and management opportunity follow the same pattern. Women are seen through the lens of prospective choices, which is to say the choice made by others before them.
But, Carlson and those like him, should be challenged by the very data they believe in. Like the Will Rogers character, we should not just point out what Carlson doesn't know. We should also note what he knows for sure that ain't so.
Education, work experience, management opportunity, and, as Carlson points out, women are affected by expectations of others. They are also affected by pure, simple discrimination.
Several rigorous studies have factored out the Carlson rationalization of unequal pay. The American Association of University Women conducted one such study. Their careful analysis found that even after screening out those factors a major contributor was simple wage discrimination. It ranged from 5% in more enlightened parts of the country and in some professions to more than 14% in others.
What made the Fox News exchange memorable was the contribution of the one woman who had waited patiently for the two men to take a breath. Martha MacCallum finally managed to interrupt. Women don't want protection, she insisted, because they don't like being regarded as a special class of citizens, having to be "given a little special handout just to make sure that they're okay."
They don't want to be treated like some group of people who have to be, you know, given this little special handout just to make sure that they're okay ... Many women get paid exactly, you know, exactly what they're worth, Alan.
- Martha MacCallum, Fox News, January 29, 2014
It was a sort of inside out Darren McGavin moment. While it may be a wise man who knows the value of his own product, it is a foolish society that undervalues the economic potential of a half of its members.
Women getting paid, "you know, exactly what they're worth," brought back a decades old conversation with my father.
It reminded me of how even some of us well into the older side of average can miss our parents.
There was a very scary sounding report on CNBC over the weekend that said the US government is “$16 trillion in the hole” The balance sheet the article used was overly simplistic and extremely misleading. The asset side of the balance sheet showed just $2.7 trillion in assets. Which is accurate, if you exclude almost all of the assets the federal government actually owns.
Because I am extremely lazy (though not as lazy as that article!), I am just going to point out a few of the US government’s assets that prove this point terribly misleading. For starters, the IER estimates that total fossil fuel resources owned by the Federal government are valued at over $150 trillion alone.
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Former New Jersey Governor, Republican Christine Todd Whitman, reacts to the GOP choice of Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) to respond to President Obama's State of the Union.
From the Los Angeles Times:
"It's hard for me to phrase this politely: Sometimes Republicans think that just putting a woman up front means somehow that women are going to feel good about the party," Whitman said. "It is not about the messenger. It's about the message. And until we figure that one out -- while it's nice that we have a woman as a spokesperson -- if the message itself doesn't get changed a bit, it's not going to work."
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It’s grown so conservative and tea-party orientated and I just can’t buy into that. I’ve left the Republican Party and it’s left me, at the same time.
- Sue Wagner, Nevada's first woman Lieutenant Governor, January 28, 2014
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) said that the government shouldn't help women who can't control their "libido or their reproductive system" by providing co-pay-free birth control and that Democrats are encouraging women to be "victims of their gender."
- Talking Points Memo, January 23, 2014
Well, that's one way of spinning it, I suppose.
Let's take a look at what Mike Huckabee actually did say:
Women I know are smart, educated, intelligent, capable of doing anything that anyone else can do. Our party stands for the recognition of the equality of women and the capacity of women.
That’s not a war ON them, it’s a war FOR them.
- Mike Huckabee, January 23, 2014
Well, so far, so good. That pretty much falls in line with what the ostensible leader of the Republican Party, Reince Priebus, has advocated. We should note Mike Huckabee's adherence to an even more ingrained Republican approach to inequality. He does not propose any new initiative. He does not condemn workplace prejudice against women. He does not defend, or even acknowledge, Republican efforts to derail anti-discrimination bills.
The Republican Party, says Mr. Huckabee, recognizes the equality of women. Unequal treatment? What unequal treatment?
Recognition has to be easier than than action.
"...the recognition of the equality of women and the capacity of women."
Still, the recognition that women have capacity, without any action to ensure fairness, is a deficiency only in the eyes of Democrats, liberals, and RINOs, Republicans in name only. Mr. Huckabee is well within the mainstream of conservative sensibility. His choice of words, up to this point, fits any Frank Luntz type vocabulary. Focus groups would swoon.
What comes after that has gotten him in some trouble. It is a reapplication of a traditional appeal to targets of unfortunate treatment.
Former slaves did not actually need protection provided by any Freedmen's Bureau. In fact, the existence of an agency to prevent lynchings and vote obstruction was kind of an insult, an implication that black people were victims, not able to control their own fate.
Today, anti-discrimination laws and poverty programs that give a leg up to people of all races working their way out of poverty are also an insult. They keep people on a Democratic plantation. Unemployment compensation is disrespectful of those receiving such help, since it implies a sort of victim status.
And so it is with birth control as part of basic health coverage.
And if the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it!
Let us take that discussion all across America because women are far more than the Democrats have played them to be. And women across America need to stand up and say, Enough of that nonsense.
- Mike Huckabee, January 23, 2014
It is here that Mr. Huckabee departs from any focus group that extends beyond the dining hall of the weekly church fish fry. Conservatives holding, or seeking, elected office are cautious. Agreement will provoke a deadly reaction in general elections. Who can forget Todd Akin and his hopeless definition of legitimate rape? On the other hand, vocal disagreement may discourage support in Republican primaries.
Reince Priebus has been more outspoken.
...you cannot offer up words like libido, wherever that came from. You don't offer up these sorts of lobs and set up passes and serves that allow the Democrats to spike the ball.
I mean, it's not where our party stands, it really isn't even what Mike Huckabee meant to say.
- Reince Priebus, January 27, 2014
Republicans seem unanimous in their agreement with Mr. Priebus. They disagree with Mike Huckabee's choice of words, but embrace his message.
The words may be inelegant, but they are sincere. They accurately represent a traditional view of women, of sex, of Democrats and liberals, and of birth control itself.
The logic is the very core of conservative cultural tradition.
Democrats are insulting women by suggesting they need either government or birth control itself. What Democrats, liberals, and many women themselves do not recognize is the value of sexual virtue: that women who use birth control cannot control their libido or their reproductive system.
"...they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government."
We have watched other cultural clashes. They hold our morbid attention just as train wrecks or traffic collisions sometimes do. Mike Huckabee's efforts will provide a special sort of horrifying fascination as he vows to "take that discussion all across America".
There are times you must, I think, recognize that certain individuals are superior in their talents and in what they have done and can potentially do for your state...
...Mark Warner, if I may say with a sense of humility, like John Warner crosses the aisle and makes things work.
- Former Senator John Warner (R-VA), January 27, 2014
endorsing Democrat Mark Warner (not related) for
United States Senate
This is the first time Republican John Warner has publicly backed a Virginia Democrat.
Democrats hold a sizable advantage on Republicans on several key perceptions of the United States's two major political parties, according to a new poll.
The Pew Research Center poll show Americans perceive Democrats as more willing to work with the other party than Republicans, by a margin of 52 percent to 27 percent.
Democrats also hold a 20-point advantage when it comes to which party "is more concerned with the needs of people like me" and a 10-point edge when it comes to governing in a more ethical and honest way.
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At the start of the midterm election year, Republican candidates hold a slim two-percentage point advantage when voters are asked about their preference for Congress.
Forty-three percent of voters would back the Republican in their House district if the election were held today, while 41 percent would vote for the Democratic candidate, according to the latest Fox News poll.
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In the aftermath of the attacks on the U.S. embassy in Libya, the Obama administration falsely claimed it was a spontaneous assault in response to an offensive online video, even though the administration had intelligence reports that the attacks were connected to terrorist groups tied to al-Qaeda. Which of the following do you think best describes why the Obama administration officials gave false information in their early public statements about the September attacks on Libya?
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Writing from the epicenter of progressive thought, San Francisco, I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its "one percent," namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the "rich."
- Tom Perkins, founding partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, January 27, 2014
in a letter to the Wall Street Journal
Those who met clothing salesman Arnold Schuster in 1952 would not have imagined that he would be responsible for the capture of one of the most notorious bank robbers in American history, or that his own assassination would bring down the head of one of the largest crime families in the country.
Willie Sutton is still famous for his answer when asked why he robbed banks. "That's where the money is." Back then, he had a reputation as one of the most polite bank robbers ever. He always treated victims and bystanders with uncommon courtesy. He also had an acute talent for escaping from prison.
Clothing salesman Arnold Schuster was on a New York City subway when he recognized Willie Sutton. Sutton had escaped yet again, this time from a prison in Pennsylvania. He was known to have a taste for fashion, so his FBI poster had been distributed to clothing outlets. Schuster followed Sutton to a gas station and notified police.
His role in the capture brought Schuster some minor fame. He later appeared on the television game show I've Got a Secret. Crime boss Albert Anastasia had never met Willie Sutton, but he happened to be watching the television program and flew into a rage. "I can't stand squealers!" he reportedly shouted "Hit that guy!" He ordered the killing of the young clothing salesman.
Supposedly, that killing contributed to the killing of Anastasia by crime associates a few years later. Gangsters killed each other in those days, sometimes in spectacular fashion. But the killing of civilians, even witnesses who testified in prosecutions, was forbidden.
That was not all because of altruism. The ethic was because of the cost of public opinion. When non-combatants were murdered, crackdowns would follow. Income from crime would go down, way down.
That's what happened after clothing salesman Arnold Schuster was killed. The cost hit all of New York's crime families. Anastasia had murdered a civilian. The public was enraged, Anastasia was responsible.
Watching some of the coverage of the activities in New Jersey brings to mind the violent saga of Willie Sutton, Albert Anastasia, and poor Arnold Schuster.
Rick Ungar, writing for Forbes Magazine, describes what he sees as the prevailing ethic of New Jersey politics:
I strongly suspect that what Mayor Zimmer is alleging is, indeed, representative of “politics as usual” in America and similar to behavior that most elected officials have participated in simply as a matter of how things are done.
- Rick Ungar, Forbes Magazine January 20, 2014
That's pretty much the way some of the earlier charges of bullying came across.
Adam Schneider, the mayor of Long Branch says he only got cooperation on a utility project after he endorsed Christie for re-election. Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop says he stopped getting access to the governor's office after he declined to endorse. Olympic star Carl Lewis was thinking of running against a friend of Christie until he was warned off. An appointment to some athletic council would get cancelled if he ran.
Policy threats, appointment cancellations, public projects backed or not backed, all are considered to be part of political strength. That sort of wheeling and dealing will be familiar to moviegoers who saw the movie Lincoln. It wasn't just cinema. The 16th President really did apply carrots and sticks.
That's what we often expect from those we elect.
The bridge block with traffic tied up for hours and hours on successive days is something different. Memos show public officials close to Governor Christie reacting to the suffering of little children sitting in school buses throughout the morning of the first day of school.
I feel badly about the kids ... I guess.
And the reply: They are the children of Buono voters - Buono being Christie's election opponent.
Granting or denying hurricane relief funds to people trying to survive puts political pressure way beyond any level that can be identified as strength. It goes beyond the outer limits of bullying. The allegation can be read one of two ways.
Chris Christie's Lieutenant Governor threatened to deny funds desperately needed by Hoboken residents unless Hoboken's Mayor Dawn Zimmer would clear some bothersome zoning regulations aside for a Christie ally. The deal involved a construction project worth many millions.
or the alternative allegation:
Chris Christie's Lieutenant Governor offered to shift funds desperately needed by other areas to Hoboken instead, if Hoboken's Mayor Dawn Zimmer would clear those regulations.
This is not American politics as usual, or even everyday New Jersey politics.
Intimidating politicians is sometimes considered political strength, sometimes political bullying. Depends on which side you take.
Going after commuters, school children, and hurricane victims goes to a level Americans don't tolerate.
Take a lesson from Albert Anastasia.
Chris Christie's people went after civilians.