Monday, October 24, 2016

Christie pushing back against ex-aide on trial in GWB case

"Saturday Night Live" lampooned the third and final debate between Democrat Hillary Clinton and wacko racist Donald J. Trump, above and below. When Alex Baldwin's Trump used the phrase "bad hombres," Kate McKinnon's Clinton declared she had won "Trump Bingo" ("rapists," "Miss Piggy," "They're all living in hell," and "If she wasn't my daughter").


If I didn't know better, I'd think reporters and columnists at The Record are taking sides in the trial of Governor Christie's ex-aides in the Bridgegate scandal. 

Today's lead story by Dustin Racioppi reports the Intergovernmental Affairs department (IGA) "did not become politicized until" right-hand man Bill Stepien left "and turned over duties to Bridget Anne Kelly" (A-1).

Kelly is on trial in Newark federal court, accused of working with Port Authority officials to block access to the George Washington Bridge as political retribution against Fort Lee's Democratic mayor, who refused to back the GOP bully's reelection in 2013.

That clashes with her testimony, including her claim that her email to David Wildstein, Christie's Port Authority crony -- "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee" -- wasn't an "order."

Tarring Kelly

Until today, Bridget Kelly enjoyed several days of being portrayed in flattering terms by Columnist Mike Kelly, who profiled her and then wrote a long piece commenting on her Friday testimony, which he called "her side of the story."

But Racioppi quotes a former head of the state Ethics Commission suggesting an investigation into whether the IGA under Bridget Kelly "conducted political activity during state time, using state resources, using state employees to do it" (A-6).

It's also troubling that Racioppi refers several times to an "investigation" commissioned by Christie that eventually cost taxpayers more than $10 million -- the lead lawyer, Randy Mastro, was charging $650 an hour.

That report was widely viewed as a whitewash of the governor's role in the George Washington Bridge scandal -- confirmed by Kelly and other witnesses who said Christie knew of the lane closures in Fort Lee as they occurred.

As an example of how today's piece amounts to major push-back by Christie, Racioppi quotes Mastro's report as claiming IGA "functioned very effectively during the first three years of the governor's first term, both in terms of responsiveness and non-partisanship" (A-6).

"But, then, during the governor's reelection year, under [Bridget] Kelly's stewardship, there was aberrational behavior at Kelly's direction," Mastro claimed.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

If reporter was on Bridgegate jury, we'd be in deep doo-doo

This New York Post photo shows Bridgegate trial defendant Bridget Anne Kelly, right, and Governor Christie on Sept. 12, 2013, touring a fire scene in Seaside Heights. 


"Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."

This email from Bridgegate defendant Bridget Anne Kelly, then Governor Christie's deputy chief of staff in Trenton, has long been considered the smoking gun in the September 2013 lane closures on the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee.

Not so fast, says Columnist Mike Kelly, who devotes his entire column on Page 1 of The Record today to "the other side of the story," based on Bridget Anne Kelly's testimony in her own defense on Friday. 

The day before her testimony, the veteran reporter's glowing profile of the defendant also appeared on A-1, declaring:

"[Bridget] Kelly's expected testimony could be one of the most pivotal moments in the bizarre case ...."

Well, I'm glad Mike Kelly isn't on the federal jury or he'd certainly vote for her acquittal.

Bridget Kelly's testimony didn't change the narrative, as the column reports; she is the fourth or fifth witness who said Christie knew about the lane closures as they were happening, despite his denials.

But both Bridget Kelly and the second defendant, former Port Authority Executive Director Bill Baroni, said they were duped by Christie crony David Wildstein at the Port Authority about the reasons for the lane closures.

Wildstein pleaded guilty and testified that about a month after he received Bridget Kelly's email, he put the plot in motion to punish Fort Lee's Democratic mayor for not endorsing the governor's reelection.

She claimed before the jury the email wasn't an "order."

In a development you haven't seen in The Record, work on a 14-story residential-retail project at Main and Mercer streets in Hackensack was halted three months ago after a pile driver damaged the building next to the site, forcing the evacuation of a preschool and other tenants.

Rest of paper

There isn't much of interest in the rest of the paper, including the silly Page 1 feature comparing the sleepy Dingman's Ferry Bridge over the Delaware River to the GWB (A-1).

On the Local front, Road Warrior John Cichowski's "Black Hole" column on Silk City's pockmarked West Railway Avenue is just more of the irrelevant Paterson news the editors are shoving down Bergen readers' throats to save money on newsprint (L-1).


Kelly, the columnist not the defendant, wrote another boring column for today's Opinion front (O-1).

Today's editorial on why The Record endorses candidates begins: "This has been a long election cycle" (O-2).

But Editorial Page Editor Alfred P. Doblin doesn't acknowledge the news media starts covering state and national contests years before Election Day, and are principally responsible for voter apathy.

As in the Nov. 8 presidential election, the vast majority of coverage is devoted to politics, not issues.

On O-3 today, Entertainment Editor Christina Joseph calls GOP nominee Donald J. Trump's "sweeping generalities about the black community ... an affront to all that my family and others like them embody."

Her column may be the first by a black staffer since The Record showed the door many years ago to the paper's only Hispanic and African-American columnists.

Also on O-3, a letter to the editor from Johnnie Najarian of River Edge says, "Television has given him [Trump] more than $3 billion worth of free advertising by broadcasting his rallies and his right-wing conspiracies."

Aching teeth

Check out the shameless promotion of Lolli and Pops, a candy purveyor at Garden State Plaza in Paramus (Better Living front).

Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung reports the store excited her "voracious sweet tooth," sending thousands of diabetics who read the paper searching for their insulin. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Editors should be calling on Trump to admit his mistakes

From cartoonist Jeff Darcy of The Cleveland Plain Dealer (


Amid new revelations about GOP presidential hopeful Donald J. Trump's groping, The Record's front page focuses instead on spousal abuse by an obscure athlete.

Trump has succeeded in distracting the news media with his pledge to accept the outcome of the Nov. 8 election -- but only if he wins (A-1 and A-8).

The New York Times calls the wacko racist billionaire an "enemy of democracy," and Op-Ed Columnist Dave Leonhardt declares:

"Trump has adopted the language of despots -- lie-filled accusations meant to delegitimize both his opponent and the country's entire democratic system of governance."

Contrast that with The Record's wishy-washy editorial on Trump and the integrity of the election (A-18).

Meanwhile, Karena Virginia, 45, of Monmouth County became the 10th woman to publicly accuse the GOP groper of unwanted physical contact -- saying he grabbed her arm and touched her breast during a chance encounter at the 1998 U.S. Open (A-7).

Sports lead

Leading the paper with a sports story is always wrong, but it's especially bad journalism now, when the nation is facing the possibility of seeing a sociopath and sexual abuser of women elected president.

Tara Sullivan's column -- "Giants need to admit their mistakes" -- even knocked the Bridgegate trial off Page 1.

Informal dining

Check your gas tank and make sure you bring your cholesterol-lowering pills with you, if you intend to visit Sette, a wood-fired pizzeria in Totowa recommended by Staff Writer Elisa Ung (BL-14).

Ung, the paper's chief restaurant reviewer, advises readers not to miss the cannoli pizza.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Trump's anti-women, anti-black rhetoric will never prevail

On Wednesday night in Las Vegas, GOP presidential nominee Donald J. Trump showed how truly ugly he is during the third and final debate with Democrat Hillary Clinton, who was the clear winner, above and below, though you won't see that reflected in The Record's Page 1 coverage today.


In anti-women and anti-black comments on Wednesday night, GOP White House hopeful Donald J. Trump again showed he is a truly ugly, unapologetic male chauvinist pig.

His attacks during the final presidential debate ranged from calling Democrat Hillary Clinton a "nasty women" to pledging to appoint right-to-life justices to the Supreme Court to denying reports from women that he groped and kissed them against their will.

In a parting shot designed to appeal to his racist supporters, the wacko billionaire claimed electing Clinton would be the same as returning our first black president to office. 

Today's coverage

Clinton said Trump "thinks belitlling women makes him bigger" (A-4).

"He goes after their dignity, their self-worth," she said.

His "trickle-down economics on steroids," as Clinton called it; his getting away with not paying federal taxes; his business losses of nearly a billion dollars in one year -- all show his economic plan is a sham.

"We have undocumented immigrants paying more in taxes than a billionaire," Clinton said (A-1).

Kelly on Kelly

Columnist Mike Kelly appears to have set a record with his Page 1 profile of Bridget Anne Kelly, Governor Christie's former deputy chief of staff and a defendant in the Bridgegate trial.

This is not only more than he has written about any one person, but it certainly eclipses anything the editors have published about Clinton's long public service and her policy positions in the presidential campaign (A-1 and A-6).

Kelly's largely sympathetic portrait of the defendant, who grew up in Ramsey, clashes with her being portrayed as a central figure in the George Washington Bridge lane closures to punish Fort Lee's Democratic mayor for not endorsing the reelection of Christie.

No one knows how Bridget Kelly, who is scheduled to testify before a federal jury, will try to explain away her infamous email to Christie crony David Wildstein at the Port Authority:

"Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."

Zisa editorial

An editorial claims Hackensack taxpayers will have to shoulder a $3 million payment to former Police Chief Ken Zisa because of the "mistakes of their city fathers" (A-10).

One so-called mistake was not having Zisa's back pay "accumulating in an account," but the editorial doesn't list any others.

Although all of the charges in a Bergen County grand injury indictment against Zisa have been dropped, the editorial neglects to mention no court or jury has ever said the former chief didn't commit a crime.

Stale news

The front page on Wednesday carried a stale headline.

"Hackensack plans
 $3M payment to Zisa" 

Eye on The Record already reported the payment on Oct. 5, and the Woodland Park daily's John Seasly followed with his own report two days later.

The news is that the City Council on Tuesday night proposed a $3 million appropriation raised through selling bonds "to fulfill a court-mandated payment" to Zisa (A-1 on Wednesday).

Seasly continues to ignore plans by Zisa and other members of his family's political dynasty, which ruled Hackensack for decades, to run a slate and try to regain power in next May's municipal election.

Zisa allies have long controlled the city's Board of Education.

Christie critic

Staff Writer John Cichowski is the latest staffer to pile on Christie since the fatal Hoboken train crash, revelations in the Bridgegate trial, and the biggest bugs up the veteran reporter's ass -- computer breakdowns and long lines at Motor Vehicle Commission offices.

His Road Warrior column on L-1 today breaks years of silent acquiescing to Christie's anti-mass transit policies, and refusal to raise the gas tax to pay for road and rail improvements.

Cichowski even blames Christie for rising traffic deaths this year "after three decades of decline" (L-2).

Columns such as Cichowski's ring hollow in view of The Record being the only major daily paper in the state that didn't call for the GOP thug to resign after he endorsed Trump.

Whole Foods

On Wednesday, retail reporter Joan Verdon was incorrect in saying the new Closter Whole Foods "will have features not found in other stores, including a juice bar and coffee stand."

The Whole Foods in Paramus has both.

She also omitted mentioning that Costco Wholesale has expanded its organic and natural-food selection far more than the Whole Foods competitors she lists: Fairway, Trader Joe's, Walmart and Target.