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WALK, THEY SAID: After my flight from Newark to Miami, I picked up my luggage and set off for the rental-car center, using elevators, ...

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Giving Trump unfiltered media platform to lie, then debunking him, doesn't work

Arizona Daily Star cartoonist David Fitzsimmons commenting on President Trump's tweets from the White House or Cuckoo's Nest.
In another Fitzsimmons cartoon, middle-class taxpayers are again holding their collective breath for the GOP-promised "trickle down" from the massive tax cuts for the rich enacted by Congress and signed into law by President Trump.



Editor's note: This post has been revised so the paragraphs on how the Russia probe began are easier to read on smartphones, and I've added links to previous commentary on President Trump.


In a classic case of one-upmanship, The New York Times ran with a scoop, an exclusive golf-club interview of President Trump -- only to have The Washington Post label most of his claims "false or misleading."

Times reporter Michael S. Schmidt was so excited over landing the impromptu 30-minute interview on Thursday in West Palm Beach, Fla., he called his editors to tell them "I had just spent a half-hour alone with the president."

After the interview was published, Schmidt immediately came under fire from other news media.

They noted his minimal pushback as Trump made one preposterous claim after another, many of them lies or completely fabricated, especially about the probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Esquire.com called the interview "the portrait of a man in cognitive decline," referring to Trump.

'No collusion'

Schmidt said Trump "did not demand an end to the Russia investigations swirling around his administration, but insisted 16 times that there has been 'no collusion' discovered by the inquiry." 

On Friday, The Washington Post's Fact Checker pored over the transcript of The Times interview, and highlighted Trump's many false claims, including this one:

"I think it's been proven that there is no collusion," the president said.

"Trump is entitled to his own opinion," The Post said, "but he sidesteps that the investigation has revealed that members of the Trump campaign interacted with Russians at least 31 times...."

The Post debunks many other false claims by Trump, including these:

"There was collusion with the Russians and the Democrats;" "I won because ... [Hillary Clinton] campaigned for the popular vote [and] I campaigned for the electoral vote;" "I'm the one that saved coal;" "we see drugs pouring into the country [so] we need the wall."

The bottom line

Although The Post's fact-checking was published only one day after The Times' interview, the damage already was done.

The pushback has to come from the very same reporter or reporters interviewing Trump, but few journalists are willing to risk being barred from news conferences or hearing the president's impromptu comments.

And few of their bosses have the balls to stand up to the illegitimate president, Sarah Huckabee Sanders and his other lying mouthpieces.

Or, the reporters can simply shut the president down instead of chasing exclusives; and the news media are under no compulsion to publish every idiotic tweet from the Liar-In-Chief. 


How probe began

On Saturday, The Times reported for the first time how the Russia probe began:

"At an upscale London bar in May 2016, George Papadopoulos, a young foreign policy advisor the the Trump campaign, made a startling revelation to Australia's top diplomat in Britain:

"Russia had thousands of emails that would embarrass Mrs. Clinton, apparently stolen in an effort to damage her campaign.

"Exactly how much Mr. Papadopoulos said that night is unclear. But two months later, when leaked emails began appearing online, Australian officials passed the information to their American counterparts, according to four current and former American and foreign officials."

The Record?

The front page of The Record, my local daily newspaper, is too busy recapping highlights of 2017 to pay much attention to Trump's chaotic presidency.

Today, a Page 1 headline asks, "How did our 17 newsmakers fare?"

One of them is Lieutenant Gov. Kim Guadagno, who was interviewed by Staff Writer Dustin Racioppi for another front-page story today.

Despite TV ads filled with lies and distortions -- and slanted reporting by Racioppi, who covers Governor Christie -- Guadagno lost the Nov. 7 election for governor to Democrat Phil Murphy.

Saturday's front page was dominated by another look back at 2017:

"Seven North Jersey moments
that shaped the year that was"  

"In New Jersey," Columnist Christopher Maag said in his opening paragraph, "2017 was a year for upstarts."

And in a shameless bow to an advertiser, Maag's third paragraph said:

"And who could forget northern New Jersey finally got a pair of Wegmans grocery stores."

On Friday's front page, Columnist Michael Kelly and other newsroom staffers shared "a behind-the-scenes look at stories that were most popular with our readers."  

Kelly thumped his chest over his interview with White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, who helped Trump lie his way into the White House.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Record columnist is fiddling while drivers get away with the murder of pedestrians

In this photo from NJ.com, investigators use a sheet to hide the mangled body of Leyla Kahn, 60, on Aug. 7, 2014, after she was struck in a downtown Leonia crosswalk and dragged for 71 feet as horrified onlookers tried to alert the driver of the small school bus that ran her down.
A staged photo from the website of a personal injury lawyer in Florida. Pedestrian accident attorneys around the country use graphic though staged photos of bloody victims who were knocked down in crosswalks. 



A front-page column in The Record reporting 2017 could be one of the worst years on record for pedestrian deaths was alarming enough.

But the Road Warrior column that ran 10 days ago muddled the issue by including motorcycle fatalities, as well as "passenger and teen deaths" in cars.

Staff Writer John Cichowski (aka The Road Warrior) has been covering vehicle and pedestrian fatalities for more than 14 years, as part of his so-called transportation beat.

But nowhere in his Dec. 18 column does he ask state officials whether criminal penalties like death by auto would act as a deterrent to drivers who ignore the 2010 state law requiring them to come to a full stop, and yield to a pedestrian in a marked crosswalk.

A driver can be charged with death by auto when he or she "acted recklessly or with a conscious disregard of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that death would result from his [or her] driving conduct."

Death by auto is a second-degree crime punishable by 10 years in state prison and a fine of $200,000.

Confusion reigns

After saying there were 261 pedestrian deaths in 1975, Cichowski reports they were reduced "largely because of safety innovations such as seat belts, airbags, road improvements," and the 2010 law requiring drivers "to stop, not simply yield for pedestrians in marked crosswalks."

But the reporter never explains how seat belts and airbags -- which protect drivers and their passengers -- could possibly help reduce pedestrian deaths.

Leyla Kahn

In September 2015, about a year and a month after Leyla Kahn, 60, was killed crossing Broad Avenue in downtown Leonia, former minibus driver Esperanza Jaramillo of Tenafly pleaded guilty in municipal court.

She admitted to failure to yield to a pedestrian who had the right of way, and driving a vehicle with badly worn tires.

She was fined $328. Saying the punishment was too light, the judge also imposed a 180-day license suspension on Jaramillo.

The Record reported on Sept. 22, 2015, that Jaramillo had received summonses for nine motor vehicle violations, and that her driver's license had been suspended five times since 1992. 

In a September 2016 column, the confused and error-prone Chickowski allowed Leonia's police chief to deflect attention away from what his officers could have done to prevent Kahn's death:

Other fatalities

Kahn was far from the only pedestrian killed in a crosswalk in the last several years. 

Weiqi Wang, 27, who had completed graduate studies at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, was killed in a crosswalk on Nov. 21, 2016.

A New Milford man was charged with careless driving, failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk and having an obstructed view.

The woman, who was from China, died in a hospital. 

No charges were filed against a detective in the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office after his unmarked Ford Crown Victoria struck and killed Hue D. Dang, 64, of Hackensack a few blocks from her apartment on March 9, 2015.

Felicia L. Sasso, 93, was killed by a tractor-trailer in downtown Teaneck on June 25, 2016.

Police said Sasso was in a crosswalk when she was struck by the truck turning into American Legion Drive from Cedar Lane.

Two days after the accident, police said no charges had been filed against the driver, but "the crash remains under investigation."

Monday, December 25, 2017

Feast of 7 Fishes (lobster, red king crab, scallops, crab cakes, salmon, sardine, cod)

THREE FISH: On Christmas eve, I improvised a Feast of the Seven Fishes with seafood I bought at Costco Wholesale in Teterboro. Here, I baked Red King Crab, a wild-caught Freshwater Lobster Tail and Sea Scallops under a mantle of dried herbs mixed with Dijon mustard, extra virgin olive oil and fresh lemon juice, plus grated cheese and bread crumbs.
RED KING CRAB SALAD: I bought four fully cooked Red King Crab Legs and Claws (about 3.4 pounds at $21.99 a pound or about $75). My wife shelled them, and I dressed the luxurious crab meat in Dijon mustard, fresh lemon juice, cumin and Costco's Organic No-Salt Seasoning. We had plenty of leftovers.
THREE MORE FISH: I toasted two slices of Dave's Killer Bread (an organic loaf with 21 whole grains and seeds from Costco); spread one with pesto, the other with Dijon mustard; melted a slice of Swiss cheese on each piece of bread in the oven, and then assembled the sandwich. I used 5 mini crab cakes, a fat sardine and slices of smoked wild sockeye salmon. 
TO DRINK: We washed down our Feast of the Seven Fishes with Kirkland Signature Asolo Prosecco, a sparkling white wine from Italy that set me back all of $6.99 at Costco Wholesale in Wayne.
SEVENTH FISH: I planned to have leftover Icelandic Cod coated in Asian-Indian spices with organic broccoli, organic spinach, fresh tomato, olives and other ingredients, but couldn't find the room.
SAY CUBANO! My wife adding garlic sauce to slices of a Cuban-style roasted leg of pork we brought home from La Pola Restaurant on Palisade Avenue and 54th Street in West New York. On the day before Christmas, the Cuban Sandwich shop also offered side dishes for customers who pre-ordered, including congris, above center, white rice and black beans that are cooked together. My wife's plate includes our Red King Crab Salad.

How-to videos

See how-to videos on my YouTube cooking channel, VICTOR'S HEALTHY KITCHEN:

Feast of the Seven Fishes (Part 1)

Feast of the Seven Fishes (Part 2)

World's Easiest Fresh Wild Fish Dinner (Part 1)

World's Easiest Fresh Wild Fish Dinner (Part 2)

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Consumer Reports is exposing Big Sugar for perpetrating a fraud on U.S. consumers

This small, 6-ounce container of Yoplait Original Harvest Peach low-fat yogurt contains 19 grams of "sugars" or the equivalent of nearly 5 teaspoons (4 grams of sugar in each teaspoon). The American Heart Association recommends 9 (or fewer) teaspoons or 36 grams of added sugar per day for men and 6 teaspoons or 24 grams per day for women and children.



And you thought saturated fat in meat, poultry, butter and other foods is the major cause of heart disease.

Now, Consumer Reports exposes "a food fraud that may have been perpetrated on the American public" by Big Sugar.

"A report published in JAMA Internal Medicine revealed that in the 1960s, scientific research -- secretly bankrolled by the sugar industry -- was released that downplayed the effects of a sugar-laden diet and instead called out 'saturated fat' as the real dietary demon responsible for heart disease.
"And media outlets, food manufacturers, and ordinary citizens ate it up.
"That bit of nutritional subterfuge may have been at least partly responsible for 50 years of misleading public health advice.
"And the resulting flood of packaged foods that were low in fat but high in sugars and refined grains may have contributed to the current epidemic of obesity and related diseases" in the United States, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
"Today, the typical American diet is packed with huge amounts of added sugars: We're talking those used as ingredients in many packaged food [yogurt, pasta sauce and so forth] -- not the one naturally found in foods such as fruit and milk.
"One thing there is little doubt about now: Added sugars are bad for you."

The November 2017 issue of Consumer Reports on the dangers of too much sugar in your diet carries an extensive report called "Eat Smarter, Eat Healthier." Sections include sugar as "the gateway to weight gain," "how food-packaging claims can fool you," how too much salt can tax your heart, how cutting back on fat is "only half the battle," and the risks of going gluten-free.

Sugar industry power

The sugar industry lobby is so powerful that sugar is the only ingredient on those "nutrition fact" labels you find on packaged food not accompanied by the percentage of maximum recommended daily consumption.

For example, a 6-ounce container of Yoplait Original low-fat yogurt with fruit lists the amount of "sugars" as 19 grams with no equivalent in teaspoons or any other information [4 grams of sugar equal 1 teaspoon].

The Food and Drug Administration's plan for new food labels has been postponed, Consumer Reports says.

Food reporting

In recent years, Consumer Reports has become the leading source of reporting on industrial farms; the danger of the human antibiotics used to raise cattle, chickens, pigs and other animals; and the excessive amounts of added sugar and fat in food.

Newspapers big and small have lagged in this regard, and even the food sections of newspapers as prestigious as The New York Times are filled with recipes that rely heavily on sugar, butter, heavy cream, and full-fat milk and cheeses, all of which have been linked to obesity and heart disease.

'Death by chocolate'

For example, on Wednesday, the Better Living section of The Record, my local daily newspaper, ran sugar-laden recipes from chefs for Triple Silken Pumpkin Pie and Chocolate Shortbread Cookies.

There also was a guide to making a Cinnamon Sugar Nut Jar at home with 1 cup of sugar, ground cinnamon and nuts.

On Dec. 15, the cover story in Better Living recommended "Dark Delights: The Best Chocolate Concoctions [spelled 'Concotions'] in North Jersey."

Appropriately enough, one of the photos showed a dessert with "four distinct chocolate treats" called "Death by Chocolate," served at Village Green Restaurant in Ridgewood.

"No one has yet been able to finish it [the dessert]," the chef was quoted as saying, though he didn't mention whether it has put anyone into the hospital.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

'Trump drops dead and the nation rejoices' is the headline I can't wait to write for real

In this cartoon from Pat Bagley of The Salt Lake Tribune, the people of Puerto Rico are still waiting for real relief, but GOP leaders rushed to approve a tax plan that is little more than a $1.5 trillion giveaway to the super rich, including all those big corporations that threatened to withhold millions of dollars in campaign funds.
Cartoonist Jimmy Margulies, formerly of The Record of Woodland Park, my local daily newspaper, says the GOP tax plan means smaller deductions for homes and bigger deductions for Trump Hotels.


Editor's note: This post has been updated with a link to the "Mueller Baby" impeachment carol.


New York billionaire, con man, racist and tax dodger Donald J. Trump has held the office of president of the United States for only 11 months, but I long ago tired of hearing his voice.

His tweets -- taking credit for a robust economy and stock market records -- are filled with lies.

They are painful to read, and have me wondering why the news media keep on quoting and analyzing them, and seeking reaction to every idiotic word.

I probably wrote thousands of headlines on the night copy desk of The Record, when that once-great local daily newspaper was headquartered in Hackensack.

But the headline I'm itching to write still eludes me:


You'd think all that low-quality McDonald's food and steaks and Diet Coke would have done in the 71-year-old moron by now.

Instead, it looks like Trump will be bounced from office by the special counsel investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election or impeached by Congress when control swings to the Democrats after the November 2018 midterm elections.

Of course, the latter can only happen, if the tens of millions of Democrats who didn't bother to vote in November 2016 go to the polls next year.

See: 'Mueller Baby' impeachment carol

Cartoonist Dave Grandlund calls House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell liars after they claimed the tax overhaul would benefit "everyone ... even the middle class." But the pair were quoted endlessly by newspapers on the positive effects of the tax plan on the middle class, and their sound bites dominated TV news.

GOP tax overhaul

The tax overhaul pushed by the president and approved by Republicans in Congress was panned by the news media, including The New York Times:

"G.O.P Wins on
Tax Cuts, but
Faces a Brutal
Election Year"

News media, voter apathy

Let's hope that in 2018, we don't see the kind of voter apathy that sidelined millions of Democrats in the 2016 presidential election.

Voter apathy can be traced directly to the media, including TV and radio news, and newspapers big and small.

For more years than I care to remember, the media have been relentless in their political focus when covering elections. 

Everything is reported in terms of Republicans and Democrats, and reporters and editors seem unable to grasp the importance of exploring issues, and reporting what would be good for the country.

This is essentially "he said, she said" journalism that is of little help to readers.

Turnout falls

On Monday, a front-page story in The Record disclosed turnout in the Nov. 7 election for New Jersey governor "hit an all-time low" after steadily declining since 2001, even though more people have been registering to vote.

The Record has done a poor job of keeping up with Governor Christie's nearly 600 vetoes, but Monday's story reported that in 2015, the GOP bully vetoed a bill that would have made voting "more convenient."

The story didn't note that Christie and other Republicans are synonymous with voter suppression while Democrats want to widen voting.  

"Dubbed the Democracy Act, it would allow for early voting, including extended and weekend hours up to two weeks before a Tuesday election.

"Online, automatic and same-day voter registration. among other initiatives, were also proposed, under the bill sponsored by outgoing Assembly speaker Vincent Prieto," a Democrat.

The bill has been reintroduced, and action is expected after Democrat Phil Murphy takes office as governor on Jan. 16, replacing Christie, whose two terms of mean-spirited rule brought the state to its knees.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Gannett raises 7-day home-delivery price by $75 after big cuts to staff and local news

Two views of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand calling on President Trump to resign over sexual misconduct. Above, Jimmy Margulies, former editorial cartoonist at The Record of Woodland Park. Below, Adam Zyglis, staff cartoonist at The Buffalo News.
Trump is exposed as a male chauvinist pig. His tweet about Gillibrand was widely interpreted to imply she would trade sexual favors for campaign contributions.




A hashtag I've seen on Twitter -- #gannettruinedmypaper -- came to mind when I read a letter raising 7-day home delivery of The Record of Woodland Park to $180 a year.

That's about $75 more than the $1o4.40 I pay now (the new price is $15 a month, compared to $8.70 a month).

Rubbing salt into my wounds, the letter assumed I haven't noticed how much The Record has changed for the worse since the payroll-slashing Gannett Co. bought its publisher, North Jersey Media Group, in July 2016.

"Dear Victor,
"We know how much you appreciate receiving your subscription to The Record and the enjoyable reading experience it provides you every day.
"We are committed to providing you the daily printed reading experience you have enjoyed over the years, but we need your support.
"As of 1/1/2018, the rate for your subscription to The Record will be $15.00 per month (plus applicable taxes)."

The claim that "We need your support ..." sounds like all of those year-end appeals from charities flooding my mailbox.

Keep in mind that Gannett long ago ended the practice of replacing wet and undelivered papers, and no longer delivers papers held during a vacation.

And early this year, Gannett already raised the price of 7-day home delivery substantially.

This latest price hike is expected to result in numerous cancellations.

See: Readers denounce Gannett's corporate greed

Fewer staff, less news

Gannett laid off more than 350 employees of NJMG; reduced the news hole, especially in the Local section; and moved production out of state, resulting in numerous typos and other errors.

Meanwhile, readers still are burdened with three veteran columnists, Charles Stile, Mike Kelly and John Cichowski, who are nothing more than glorified, overpaid space fillers droning on and on and on like broken records.

For example, Kelly's front-page column today quotes Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., calling on President Trump to resign, citing numerous allegations of sexual misconduct against him before he became president.

Any journalist can quote a resignation call from Booker, a potential Democratic presidential candidate in 2020, but I have to wonder why Kelly isn't using his own bully pulpit as a columnist to ask Trump to step down.

The likely reason is Kelly has been a persistent critic of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and can't see beyond politics.

Local news

In an economy move instituted by former Publisher Stephen A. Borg, The Record's combined Bergen County stories and features with those from Passaic and Morris counties into one local-news section.

After Gannett took over, the space for local news and feature stories was reduced even further.

In Saturday's Local section, Bergen readers saw no less than six Paterson stories, and a seventh from Wanaque.

There even was a long account from Morristown of all places.

Cartoonist Adam Zyglis commenting on the GOP tax-cut plan -- a $1.5 trillion giveaway to the wealthy at the expense of the middle class. When will Congress try to cut Medicare and Medicaid to pay for giving tax breaks to the super rich? 
Cartoonist Jimmy Margulies showing Russian dictator and Syrian war criminal Vladimir Putin shrugging off the 2018 Olympics ban. Putin says, "We still won the contest that really counts," a reference to the 2016 presidential election that put Trump in the White House.

'Hacking Democracy'

The Washington Post has published an investigation into Trump and Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election that concluded:

"Nearly a year into his presidency, Trump continues to reject the evidence that Russia waged an assault on a pillar of American democracy and supported his run for the White House.
"The result is without obvious parallel in U.S. history, a situation in which the personal insecurities of the president -- and his refusal to accept what many in his administration regard as objective reality -- have impaired the government's response to a national security threat.
"The repercussions radiate across the government."

See the full story: Hacking Democracy

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Dem voters stop spread of Trump poison; paper slants stories on N.J. governor-elect

This and other hair-swap photos of President Trump and Kim Jong Il are amusing, but do little to ease the tension from their war of words over North Korean missile tests.



We witnessed a simple but powerful lesson in democracy this week when voters in Alabama chose Democrat Doug Jones for U.S. Senate over a Republican who promised to spread President Trump's poison.

Democrats haven't won a Senate seat in Alabama since 1992, CNN reported, adding:

"But the Alabama results also reflect trends in prior elections like the race for governor in Virginia this year that could bode well for Democrats in the upcoming 2018 mid-term elections, when control of the House of Representatives, and now the Senate, will be in play."

Turnout of Democratic voters rose, especially in rural counties in the state's agricultural "Black Belt," where African-Americans make up between 59% to 82% of registered voters, CNN said.

So, that's the key. 

When Democrats vote -- instead of giving in to apathy or GOP propaganda about Democratic candidates like Hillary Clinton, as they did in the 2016 presidential election -- sexual predators, con men and liars like Trump are sent packing.

Write-in votes in the Alabama race totaled 22,780 -- 2,000 more than Jones' margin of victory.

The front page of the New York Daily News commented on losing Republican Roy Moore, who was shown in a photo riding a horse to his polling place:


N.J. angle?

As clear as the News' headline was, a headline on a Page 1 column in The Record of Woodland Park, my local daily newspaper, is a puzzler:

"Booker wins, 
Christie loses in Alabama"

Readers' hoping to explore this so-called New Jersey angle today ran smack into several paragraphs of boring background:

"More than five years ago, Gov. Chris Christie and then-Newark Mayor Cory Booker teamed up as New Jersey's bipartisan bros...."

That's how Staff Writer Charles Stile began yet another political column, putting legions of readers immediately to sleep.

Counting lies

Op-Ed Columnist David Leonhardt of The New York Times reports President Obama "averaged a little more than two blatant, distinct falsehoods per year during his presidency. Trump is on pace for 124 a year."

Gov.-elect Murphy

The Record's editors made a huge mistake when they assigned Dustin Racioppi, the Trenton reporter who covers Christie, to also cover the gubernatorial campaign that ended in victory for Democrat Phil Murphy on Nov. 7.

Racioppi gladly channeled Lieutenant Gov. Kim Guadagno, whose ads and tweets were filled with smears and lies, without bothering to seek rebuttal from the Murphy camp.

Racioppi v. Murphy

Now, Racioppi is covering the transition, as he did in a Page 1 story on Wednesday, claiming:

"Gov.-elect Phil Murphy plans to move ahead with a long and costly list of policy proposals once he takes office, despite identifying signs of greater financial instability in the month since winning the election."

On Tuesday, another reporter's front-page story had Murphy and the state's two U.S. senators "pleading ... for federal funding" for new train tunnels under the Hudson River, "seven years after Gov. Chris Christie put the brakes on what would have been the most expensive transit project in the country."

In his two terms in office, Christie brought New Jersey to its knees financially, and nearly destroyed NJ Transit, but in its stories on Murphy, The Record is treating the Christie years as the new normal.

And whatever happened to Trump's much ballyhooed $1 billion infrastructure plan?


More than half of The Record's front page on Monday related the powerful stories of "everyday women" in North Jersey who had been sexually assaulted or harassed by a building superintendent, grandfather, college professor and a minister.

How could the same newspaper, in its premier Sunday edition, also run a Page 1 column from so-called Road Warrior John Cichowski, lamenting missing, broken and upside-down road signs for the umpteenth time since he started writing the column more than 14 years ago?