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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Times backs Phil Murphy for governor, saying N.J. can't afford more chaotic rule

During one of their debates, Democrat Phil Murphy, left, grimaces at a statement from Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who has been employing Trump-like lies and wild exaggerations during the election campaign to replace Governor Christie (AP Photo).

DO GOP LIES, VOTER APATHY
 POSE DANGER TO DEMOCRAT?


-- HACKENSACK, N.J.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Next Tuesday, New Jersey voters get another chance to replace Governor Christie and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who have done their best to sabotage the Affordable Care Act, hurt the environment and cripple mass transit.

Now, The New York Times has endorsed Democrat Phil Murphy over Guadagno, noting "that's not even a close call."

"There is only one choice on the ballot next week who guarantees voters an end to the Chris Christie era, and that's the Democratic candidate, Phil Murphy," according to The Times' Editorial Board.
"Mr. Murphy, who was ambassador to Germany during the Obama years, is running against Mr. Christie's loyal lieutenant governor, Kim Guadagno, whose agenda differs little from that of her boss.
"New Jersey can't afford another four years of Christie-inspired chaos.
"Indeed, Mr. Murphy would be taking on a formidable task. Eight years ago, Mr. Christie arrived promising to fix 'our broken state,' as he called it. Instead, he is leaving it even more damaged than he found it."

Times v. Record

The Times' Editorial Board on Monday was far less kind to Christie than The Record, my local daily newspaper, which also endorsed Murphy, but which backed the GOP bully in his successful 2013 re-election bid.

The Woodland Park daily actually praised Christie for his so-called bipartisan deals during his first term, conveniently ignoring the hundreds of vetoes or threats to veto Democratic initiatives on everything from a tax surcharge against millionaires to raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

The Record's editors also assigned Staff Writer Dustin Racioppi, who is assigned to cover Christie, as the main reporter on the election, and he doesn't seek comment from the Murphy campaign on the lies and distortion in GOP ads. 

For example, The Times editorial noted Murphy has pledged to provide a check on President Trump, "especially when it comes to the treatment of undocumented immigrants."

"Ms. Guadagno's campaign has met this pledge with a bitterly negative, fearmongering ad that accuses Mr. Murphy of welcoming in immigrants like one who murdered three people a decade ago."

The indictment

Here is The Times' Editorial Board indictment of the Christie years:
"Mr. Christie leaves behind an economy still struggling to recover a decade after the Great Recession. New Jersey's unemployment growth lags well behind the rate for the country.
"The state's credit rating has been downgraded 11 times in the Christie era, primarily because of the underfunded pension system. Schools, likewise, aren't fully funded.
"And traffic and public transit are a daily trial, thanks in part to Mr. Christie's shortsighted cancellation of a new rail tunnel under the Hudson.
"(A recent report estimated the average driver in the state spends an unnecessary $600 a year on lost time, car repairs and wasted fuel)."

'Christie's shadow'

The Times editorial said: 

"Ms. Guadagno's real problem, however, is that, as lieutenant governor, she served as Governor Christie's shadow."

She said she opposed the governor's decision to raise the gas tax, but The Times noted that was one of the things Christie "got right."

"New Jersey had among the lowest gas taxes in the nation, and those funds were desperately needed to fix dilapidated roads and NJ Transit."

Murphy's promises

Murphy spent 23 years at Goldman Sachs before he became campaign chairman of the Democratic Party.

Among his priorities, according to The Times, is using his expertise "to start restoring the pension system and improving its investments," fixing NJ Transit, raising the minimum wage, creating a public bank to offer low-interest loans to residents, and adjusting the tax codes to make the wealthy and big corporations pay higher taxes.

"Like former Gov. Jon Corzine, who also has Wall Street roots, Mr. Murphy has little political experience in the state," The Times noted.

"It is hard to see how new taxes or other revenue sources would pay for his high-end promises. Still, he is not Christie-lite."

"On the campaign trail, Mr. Murphy likes to say that he sees New Jersey as America's best opportunity for a turnaround. We agree and recommend Phil Murphy for governor."

Manafort indicted

Almost the entire front page of The Record today is devoted to the indictment of former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, his associate; and the guilty plea entered by former foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos (1A).

But the deadly dull banner headline -- "Mueller files criminal charges" -- merely confirms Saturday's Page 1 story that Mueller was going to file charges.

And it misses the biggest news, the guilty plea from Papadopoulos, who lied to the FBI about meeting with a Russian professor with Kremlin ties who promised "dirt" on Hillary Clinton.

If he makes a deal with prosecutors, he could agree to provide evidence and testify against other Trump associates or campaign officials or even Don Jr. and son-in-law Jared Kushner in the probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Former Trump campaign chief is indicted in probe of Russian meddling in election

To emphasize President Trump's insensitive comments to the widow of a black soldier killed in Niger, political cartoonists Marian Kamensky, above, and Steve Benson, below, invoke the image of Trump tossing paper towels to storm victims in Puerto Rico.
Many more cartoons can be found at Cagle.com, a website that relies on contributions from the public.


-- HACKENSACK, N.J.

UPDATE: President Trump's ex-campaign chief, Paul Manafort, and his former business associate were indicted today. And a Trump aide, George Papadopoulos, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about contacts with a Russian professor who said Moscow had thousands of emails with "dirt"on Hillary Clinton.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

No major news outlets, including The New York Times and Washington Post, have been able to add details to a CNN report that a grand jury has "approved the first charges" in the probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 Russian election.

On Friday night, CNN claimed an exclusive, reporting "the charges are still sealed under orders from a federal judge."

"Plans were prepared Friday for anyone charged to be taken into custody as soon as today, the sources said.

"It is unclear what the charges are," CNN said of the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Could this first indictment mark the beginning of the end for Trump, who was elected nearly a year ago, when millions of Democrats sat out the election?

All he has accomplished so far is dismantling many of the health and environmental achievements of former President Barack Obama.



Residents of Clinton Place in Hackensack go all out in the weeks before Halloween, above and below, drawing hundreds of visitors from near and far.
Most of the decorated homes are on Clinton Place between Summit and Prospect avenues.



The Record

On Saturday, my so-called local daily newspaper, The Record of Woodland Park, ran a Page 1 story from USA Today on CNN's report, but there was no follow up on Sunday.

Instead, most of Page 1 was devoted to the fifth anniversary of Superstorm Sandy. One sub-headline said:

"The Garden State is still storm proofing its vulnerable infrastructure"


In nearly five full pages of coverage, there was no blame placed on the Christie administration for bungling the recovery from Sandy (1A, 5A-6A, 8A-10A).

And a front-page column by Mike Kelly defended wealthy Margate residents who fought the construction of protective dunes that block their beachfront views of the Atlantic Ocean (1A).

NJ Transit

Also on Page 1, The Record reported NJ Transit's rail ridership declined 3 percent last year, echoing declines in public transit ridership in almost every major urban area.

"According to the American Public Transportation Association, U.S. transit ridership fell 2.88 percent in the first six months of 2017, almost identical to the 2.9 percent annual decline at NJ Transit," Staff Writer Curtis Tate said on 10A.

Tate reported low gas prices have lured many commuters back to their cars.

But The Record has never reported on the lack of rush-hour seats on NJ Transit trains and buses, or written about growing traffic congestion and air pollution at the Hudson River crossings, where toll-booth waits of an hour or more are commonplace.

Christie helped cripple NJ Transit by cutting state subsidies to the agency by more than 90%.

Endorsing Murphy

On Sunday, The Record's Editorial Board endorsed Democrat Phil Murphy for governor in the Nov. 7 election.

"Murphy promises a more progressive, inclusive agenda than [Republican Lt. Gov. Kim] Guadagno," an editorial on 2O stated.

"Guadagno ... has moved further to the right, abandoning her centrist roots during these last weeks of the campaign," according to the editorial.

Defense of Christie

Sadly, The Record mentioned that it endorsed Governor Christie in 2013, when the GOP bully won a second term.

His re-election came just two months after his aides and a crony at the Port Authority secretly ordered the closure of access lanes to the George Washington, causing five mornings of traffic chaos in Fort Lee. 

The editorial claimed Christie "during his first term" showed "an ability to forge deals with Democrats who controlled the Legislature."

But, of course, The Record forgets  Christie used hundreds of vetoes and the threat of more vetoes to achieve his deals.

And Sunday's editorial shocked readers by mentioning Christie's "stalwart defense of Muslims living in New Jersey," without providing any context.

That ignores he tried to ban all Syrian refugees from coming to New Jersey and the rest of the United States after the Paris terrorist attacks in November 2015, a few months before he dropped out of the presidential race and endorsed Trump.

Pedestrian deaths

A column on Sunday's Local front raised an alarm over the 166 pedestrians killed crossing New Jersey "roads" last year (L-1).

But for some reason, Staff Writer John Cichowski pads the column with 10 or 11 paragraphs (8L) on a Ridgewood woman who was severely bitten on her arm by a small dog "upon leaving Saddle River County Park" (he doesn't say whether she was driving or walking out of the park or whether the dog walker was in a crosswalk).

Most of the rest of the column discusses crackdowns in Hackensack and Paterson on jaywalking pedestrians, and drivers who violate state law by refusing to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.

The headline over this rambling piece:


"The price we pay for
darkness, deer and dogs"


Thursday, October 26, 2017

Attacking the courts, press and Congress, Trump is poised to destroy the presidency

"The Remaking of the GOP" is how cartoonist Nate Beeler of The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch sees President Trump's attacks on Republican members of Congress who don't do his bidding.


The Atlantic: He's bringing
 vital institutions down with him


-- HACKENSACK, N.J.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

President Trump is a "Frankenstein's monster of past presidents' worst attributes," The Atlantic magazine says in a hard-hitting cover story:
"Andrew Jackson's rage, Millard Fillmore's bigotry, James Buchanan's incompetence and spite; Theodore Roosevelt's self-aggrandizement; Richard Nixon's paranoia, insecurity and indifference to law; and Bill Clinton's lack of self-control and reflexive dishonesty."

"Will Donald Trump Destroy the Presidency?" is the troubling headline on the cover of The Atlantic's October issue, though I question the use of a question mark.

"He [Trump] disdains the rule of law. He's trampling norms of presidential behavior and he's bringing vital institutions down with him," Jack Goldsmith reports.

"Donald Trump is testing the institution of the presidency unlike any of his 43 predecessors," Goldsmith says:
"We have never had a president so-ill-informed about the nature of his office, so openly mendacious, so self-destructive, or so brazen in his abusive attacks on the courts, the press, Congress (including members of his own party), and even senior officials within his own administration."

At another point in the article, Goldsmith says:

"Trump, in short, is wielding a Soprano touch on American institutions: 'I'm fucking King Midas in reverse here,' Tony Soprano once told his therapist. 'Everything I touch turns to shit.'" 

Read the complete article here:




Cartoonist Adam Zyglis of The Buffalo (N.Y.) News calls the Harvey Weinstein sexual-harassment scandal, "No Country for Dirty Old Men ... Except if you're President." Go to Cagle.com for many more political cartoons.


The Record

My so-called local daily newspaper, The Record of Woodland Park, pulled out all the stops in covering the Yankees' bid to play in the World Series. 

Five days of front-page coverage ended in the Bronx Bombers, well, bombing or, as the headline on last Sunday's front page put it:
"BITTER END
FOR YANKS"

What a joke. In these perilous times, putting sports on the front page is a real disservice to readers.

College rapes

What was Editor Richard A. Green thinking when he allowed Columnist Mike Kelly to give a Page 1 platform in last Sunday's paper to a defense attorney for male college students who rape and commit other sexual violence against women on campus?

Freshman women are the favorite targets of these predators.

Kill the headline

Many readers noticed a headline over a fatal accident in Tuesday's section:

"Man killed by own car on Route 80"

But if they bothered to read the story on 3L in the Local section, they realized nothing could be farther from the truth.

Turns out a Pennsylvania man crashed his Honda sedan into a guardrail in Parsippany, and was standing alongside the vehicle in the center lane when an SUV hit the sedan, which hit the owner, causing the fatal injuries.

Police blotter

Wednesday's Local section had only four news pages, but carried eight crime, fire and court stories.

And the Business section on Wednesday promoted UNTUCKit, a company that sells short men's shirts meant to be worn outside the pants.

The shirt front "reaches mid-fly and is tapered on the sides to reveal the pockets," says Staff Writer Joan Verdon.

The shirts range from $68 to $98 -- meaning you'd be paying a lot more for much less material.

Local foodie?

Wednesday's Better Living section profiled Brigitt Early of Ridgewood, praising the 30-year-old woman's Instagram food photos, "which will make your stomach growl with hunger," says Staff Writer Laura Adams Stiansen.

Unfortunately, the overwhelmingly older readers of the print edition may react with heartburn or worse when they hear about Early's affection for doughnuts, S'mores, apple strudel filling "topped with crunchy bacon pieces" and nachos.

USA Today

After The Record was purchased by the Gannett Co., the daily became part of the USA Today network.

That means North Jersey readers get a lot of news that has no relevance to them, such as today's front-page story on a California trucking company that cheated drivers and now has evaded paying a state judgment of $8.7 million (1A).

Teterboro flights

A story on the Local front today promises long-suffering Hackensack residents the FAA will divert business jets and other planes headed for Teterboro Airport "as early as summer 2019" (1L).

The planes would avoid flying over Prospect Avenue high-rises and Hackensack University Medical Center.

This would be the second attempt to do so.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Food shopping: A few good buys at Costco, Whole Foods Market, ShopRite + H Mart

These hothouse-grown Cluster Tomatoes at the Costco Wholesale in Teterboro and the Costco Business Center in Hackensack are from Sunset, and they are sized between the Campari Tomato and the Beefsteak Tomato. A 4-pound box was $5.59 or about $1.40 a pound. I used them in sandwiches and cooking, but for maximum tomato flavor, stick to the pricier Campari Tomato.

-- HACKENSACK, N.J.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Amazon's bid to cut prices and make its Whole Foods Market subsidiary more attractive to budget-conscious food shoppers got off to a slow start.

Last week, though, I was able to pick up organic table grapes, organic carrots, sparkling water and grass-fed leg of lamb from Iceland at great prices.

The butterflied leg of lamb ($7.99 a pound) was from free-range sheep that have been raised on the big North Atlantic island since the year 878.

Whole Foods also is the only supermarket to give you a credit (10 cents) for bringing a reusable bag.

And you can keep up with sales and coupons by downloading the Whole Foods app to your smart phone.

My Whole Foods purchases supplemented others from Costco Wholesale, ShopRite and H Mart in Little Ferry, the three places where we spend most of our food dollars.


Second Nature-brand Naked Medley - GMO-free raisins, whole almonds and cashews with no salt or added oils -- was $7.99 after an instant coupon at the Costco Business Center, 80 S. River St. in Hackensack. That's about 50 cents for each 1.5-ounce bag. The regular price is $9.99.
Organic red or green seedless table grapes were on sale for $1.69 a pound at the Whole Foods Market in Bergen Town Center, Paramus. A-5-pound bag of Organic Carrots was $3.99.
A pack of a dozen 12-ounce cans of 365 Everyday Value Sparkling Water with natural lemon, grapefruit and other flavors was $3 at the Whole Foods in Paramus.
A 2-pound bag of Organic Blue Mussels from Canada was on sale for $4.99 at ShopRite, Forest Avenue and Route 4 in Paramus.
Large Golden Pineapples were on sale at the Paramus ShopRite for $1.99 each last Thursday, and the sale continued today, when I picked up two.
But the Paramus ShopRite was out of 3-pound bags of sweet potatoes last Thursday, so I paid $1.99 a pound for 2 pounds of what were labeled "sweet potatoes" at the Englewood farmers market on Friday. They were twice the price of the ShopRite sweet potatoes and not as sweet after I boiled them with garlic cloves and mashed them with extra-virgin olive oil and seasonings.
Fresh whole, wild-caught Porgy were $2.99 a pound at H Mart, the Korean supermarket at 260 Bergen Turnpike in Little Ferry.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Writers just want to have fun at annual track event sponsored by the automakers

Honda imported the first gas-electric hybrid into the United States in 1999, but now the Japanese automaker is competing in a horsepower race with other companies. This Civic Type R, which packs 306 horsepower into a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, was among performance models auto writers could drive on a racetrack in the Catskills.
If you dare spend more than $100,000 on a Mercedes-Benz AMG performance sedan with 563 horsepower and all-wheel drive -- another track car -- just hope you never encounter a Tesla Model S at a traffic light.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

MONTICELLO, N.Y. -- Automakers threw a party of sorts this week for members of the International Motor Press Association, the nation's premier organization of automotive journalists and public relations professionals.

Cadillac, Fiat Chrysler, Ford, Mazda, Toyota and other sponsors made available more than 100 cars, minivans and trucks to nearly 215 auto writers and others for two days of racetrack, on-road and off-road driving in New York State's Catskill Mountains.

Breakfast and lunch were provided by the Monticello Motor Club, a private 4.1-mile racetrack for the wealthy. 

On Tuesday night, IMPA members also enjoyed a reception, dinner and after-party at the Honor's Haven Resort as part of 2017 Test Days.

They paid $100 each for tickets to the event, held on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Previous editions were staged for many years at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania and before that at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut.

Pollution kills

You'd never know these are troubling times for world auto manufacturers, which face stricter gas-mileage standards and pressure to produce more hybrid and all-electric cars, minivans and trucks.

A new global study blames pollution for an estimated 9 million premature deaths annually.

The study, published in The Lancet medical journal, concludes that pollution "endangers the stability of the Earth's support systems and threatens the continuing survival of human societies."

A news story from USA Today didn't break out how many of those deaths are caused by vehicle emissions, but Tesla CEO Elon Musk has cited an MIT study that said 58,000 people die prematurely from them every year in the United States.

Only one EV

Yet, the writers who attended the event found only one zero-emissions car, the Chevrolet Bolt EV, and a handful of hybrids.

Nissan brought its brutal GTR, but the Japanese automaker ignored the Leaf, the first mass-produced all-electric car, which the company treats like a stepchild.

Honda's Acura division allowed writers to drive the NSX, a gas-electric hybrid sports car, on country roads and lanes in and around Monticello.

"It's a Japanese Ferrari," one writer blurted out.

Of course, most of the auto writers who attended the event weren't thinking of air pollution or climate change.

They prize horsepower, loud mufflers and driving fast so much you'd think they had gasoline running through their veins.

In fact, many have to be warned repeatedly about speeding and endangering children in quiet hamlets near the track.

And many of them write for publications, websites and blogs that are supported by the same automotive and oil industries that are resisting change. 


The Lexus LC 500 was available to drive on twisting, two-lane country roads like Dingle Daisy Road, as well on the challenging racetrack at the Monticello Motor Club, above and below.

The all-electric Chevrolet Bolt EV is fast, smooth and quiet -- the perfect vehicle for a beautiful day when the leaves are changing. When the transmission is shifted into low, regenerative braking allows one-pedal operation -- the Bolt comes to a stop at traffic lights and stop signs when you lift your foot completely off the accelerator.
Toyota brought the 2018 Camry gas-electric hybrid.
Honda's 2018 Accord sedan is available with as much as 252 horsepower from a turbocharged engine, and a 10-speed automatic transmission.
Some IMPA members brought their vintage cars to compete in the Catskill Concours.
A 1954 Jaguar XK120 open two-seater, above and below.


Friday, October 20, 2017

Trump blame game, obsession with lying have us trapped in a trick-or-treat America

As Halloween approaches, tens of millions of people feel they are trapped in a trick-or-treat America, where, if you didn't vote for Donald J. Trump, you are powerless to stop the president's celebration of white supremacy, assault on the environment and repeated attempts to erode our democracy. The Lowe's in Paramus is asking $199 for this Skeleton Couple. 

GUADAGNO LAGS IN THE POLLS,
BUT GAINS AT THE RECORD

-- HACKENSACK, N.J.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Today's post was inspired by a Wyckoff man's letter to the editor of The Record, my local daily newspaper.

The letter from Ronald Barone appeared on Thursday's Editorial Page under this heading:

"Tales of a self-absorbed, 
insecure president"

As happens often, letters from readers like Barone often say what the editors of the Woodland Park daily don't or won't say about President Trump's nine months in office.
"One has to wonder how this totally insecure individual, Donald Trump, became president," Barone began. "Why does he feel the need to continually blame others for his failures?
"Why, everytime he speaks, does he feel the need to lie? Does he think people can't check his facts? What is his compulsive obsession with President Obama? Could it be he knows he will never measure up to Obama's presidency?
"Does Trump know that he hasn't the intelligence or empathy required for this position? His recent statements that he's not taking the blame for the failure of the Republican Congress to overturn Obamacare should not be surprising.
"He has not taken responsibility for anything he promised on the campaign trail, which was plentiful.  
"Everything he speaks of ultimately comes back to how it affects him. Have we ever had a more self-absorbed president? I don't think it's close."
Barone's letters to the editor of The Record have been published frequently.



A Bernie Sanders supporter shows her loyalty on her car's rear bumper.


How Trump did it

Of course, millions of registered Democrats who stayed home on Nov. 8 was one of the factors in the election of Trump.

Another was the 12% of Bernie Sanders supporters who voted for the Vermont senator, a Democrat, in the primaries, then voted for Trump in the general election.

That's according to the Cooperative Congressional Election Study, a survey among 50,000 people by Brian Schaffner, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts. 

In the key swing states -- Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin -- the Sanders supporters who voted for Trump were potentially enough to have handed Clinton those states and the presidency. 

Can happen in N.J.

That kind of voter apathy among Democrats could sink the candidacy of Phil Murphy, who hopes to succeed Governor Christie, New Jersey's own GOP bully.

In the Nov. 7 election, Murphy, a former U.S. ambassador to Germany, is facing Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who is using such Trump-like tactics as lying about what Murphy would do if elected.

In 2013, Christie was re-elected, but the turnout was the lowest for a gubernatorial election in state history, and that hurt his opponent, Democratic state Sen. Barbara Buono.

On Thursday, The Record's front-page coverage of the second of two Murphy-Guadagno debates was played below the Yankees' chances of going to the World Series.

More slanted coverage

Dustin Racioppi, the same reporter assigned to cover Christie, has filed one slanted story after another favoring Guadagno, and his debate story on Thursday was no exception. 

Racioppi's second paragraph is a classic example of a reporter stacking the deck against the Democratic candidate:

"Guadagno insisted repeatedly that she would lower taxes in New Jersey, and that Murphy would raise them," Racioppi wrote, without telling readers the Democrat wants to raise the income taxes paid by millionaires, and the wealthy corporations and hedge funds the Christie-Guadagno team shielded from taxes.

Guadagno isn't pledging to lower income taxes; she claims she'll be able to lower local property taxes, even though governors have little or no control over levies set by local councils and school boards.

Pulled from air

"She calculated a multitude of promises Murphy has made during the campaign to run between $50 billion to $65 billion, all of it to be borne by taxpayers," Racioppi said, strongly suggesting Murphy would raise taxes on the middle class.

And Racioppi doesn't mention that Guadagno's claim is that she can lower property taxes -- the highest in the nation -- the same Big Lie that got Christie elected in 2009.

As one of the paper's Christie apologists in recent years, Racioppi is absolutely the wrong reporter to assign to the gubernatorial election.

Obama, Bush

Former President Barack Obama campaigned for Murphy on Thursday, saying a victory for the Democrat would reject "the same old politics and division that we have seen so many times before" (1A in The Record).

Meanwhile, in Manhattan, former President George W. Bush called on Americans to reject bigotry and white supremacy -- a veiled reference to Trump's divisive policies (5A).