Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Trump’s Peeping Tom admission on Howard Stern should get much more attention than it’s received

BuzzFeed News reported on Sunday that Trump also walked through the dressing rooms at the 2000 Miss USA pageant, where he watched the naked contestants prepare backstage.

“I’ll tell you the funniest is that I’ll go backstage before a show and everyone’s getting dressed,” Trump tells Howard Stern. The recordings were released by CNN on Saturday.

Trump continues, “No men are anywhere, and I’m allowed to go in, because I’m the owner of the pageant and therefore I’m inspecting it…. ‘Is everyone OK’? You know, they’re standing there with no clothes. ‘Is everybody OK?’ And you see these incredible looking women, and so I sort of get away with things like that.”

His words to Stern echo similar statements that were recorded on the 2005 tapes, in which Trump suggests that he can do whatever he wants with women because of his status.

In the spring, a former Miss New Hampshire told BuzzFeed a similar account of the incident, noting that Trump walked through the dressing rooms during the 2000 pageant and stared at the women while they were undressed.

She said at the time, “The time that he walked through the dressing rooms was really shocking. We were all naked.” The Trump campaign denied in May that such an incident ever occurred.

Trump boasted of owning Miss USA pageant so he could watch naked contestants backstage: report, Erin Corbett, Raw Story, yesterday

If there’s any meaningful difference between this and someone peeping through his neighbor’s bedroom window when she’s changing her clothes, I wouldn’t know what that would be.  Yet this has received almost no attention.

I’m curious: Do all those Trump fans who pass off the Boys-on-the-Bus admission of serial sexual assault as locker room banter think this, too, is what men in their mid-50s do?  And talk about in the locker room?

I’m betting that this qualified as criminal voyeurism under New Jersey’s criminal code, even all the way back in 2000.  Maybe Chris Christie, who’s still that state’s governor, can tell us.

Apparently it wasn’t time for some traffic problems on I-95 during Kaine’s term as governor

Kaine’s emails show he was engaged on everything from traffic flows on southbound I-95 to explanations on why he picked one state lawmaker over another to sponsor income tax legislation. “Because I know him much better,” the governor wrote.

Kaine email trove shows media-savvy micromanager, Darren Samuelsohn, Politico, today

I thought it was time for some humor.  Apologies.

Lock WHO Up?

I’ve been waiting for the Clinton campaign to respond to Trump’s “Crooked Hillary” meme by pointing out that fraud, including bank fraud, is generally considered crooked—i.e., illegal.  To no avail, of course; that would require some guts and going off-script.

But in light of Christie’s speech last night, might the Clinton campaign consider featuring at the convention next week a couple of people whom Trump actually defrauded or just skipped out on?

Chris Christie Says We Should Not Treat Ebola Patients, Because No One Wants Their Kids to Get Ebola, and Anyway We’re Trying to Develop an Ebola Vaccine.

Okay, here’s what Christie actually said:

I’m tired of hearing about the minimum wage. I really am. I don’t think there’s a mother or father sitting around the kitchen table tonight in America saying, ‘You know, honey, if our son or daughter could just make a higher minimum wage, my God all of our dreams would be realized.’ Is that what parents aspire to?

That’s from a transcript posted yesterday on the New York Times website in a Taking Note blog post by Eleanor Randolph.  Christie said this during his already infamous luncheon speech to the Chamber of Commerce in Washington on Wednesday.  (Thanks, Governor!)  Randolph reported that “[e]ven that crowd had the decency not to applaud” Christie’s Marie Antoinette impersonation.

My guess is that the absence of applause was partly in reaction to the jarring non sequitur—and to the realization that this guy, who’s apparently planning to run for the Republican nomination for president, thinks we need to choose between addressing a current situation and trying to prevent the situation from reoccurring, or continuing to occur, in the years and decades to come.  Or maybe it occurred to them that Christie promises that there will be no such thing as low-paying jobs in America once the Republicans gain full control of the government.*

Ms. Randolph writes that there are nearly half a million people in New Jersey who earn less than $10.10 an hour, the rate that Democrats in New Jersey and elsewhere are proposing as the minimum wage.  There also are many thousands of Ebola cases in West Africa right now, and the possibility that the disease will spread at some point in this country beyond the three cases diagnosed here.  But there’s the potential to develop an Ebola vaccine—if the NIH receives sufficient funding to proceed—so there’s no reason to try to treat anyone who has the disease.

And anyway, I’m tired of hearing about Ebola.  I really am.

Christie for President!

*Paragraph typo-corrected and edited slightly for clarity. 10/24 at 10:11 p.m.


UPDATE: Ah.  I knew the Comments thread on this post would be fun.  Here’s the thread as of 6:14 p.m.:

Axt113/ October 24, 2014 3:10 pm

It’s not about the final aspiration, it’s about having enough to not only live on, but also to achieve said aspirations.

College ain’t cheap fatass.


Mark Jamison/ October 24, 2014 3:19 pm

There are more than a few people sitting around the kitchen table wondering about how they are going to make it on their minimum wage jobs. I wonder what the impact is on their kids as they sit and listen to Mom and Dad worry about making the rent or putting food on the table.

Christie and his ilk live in a fantasy land where everyone just magically pulls on their bootstraps and dreams come true.


Urban Legend/ October 24, 2014 3:26 pm

If he would stop fighting it and just listened to the American people — who by a strong majority want it — he wouldn’t hear as much about it. What a jerk!


 ME/ October 24, 2014 5:57 pm

Normally, I would say that all three of your comments are spot-on, guys. But on second thought, I think you all just have no foresight. Once Republicans control all branches of all levels of government, and we start taxing only people who make less than $10.10 an hour, we’ll be able to fund development of a vaccine for Ebola AND replace all those jobs at Walmart and McDonald’s with management positions at Koch Industries or entry-level trader positions on Wall Street.

Trickle-up economics is awesome.

Yup.  This is fun.

Chris Christie proves himself to be a genius!

The problem we have in this country is not income inequality. It’s opportunity inequality.

— Chris Christie, today

And since there’s no causal relationship whatsoever between income inequality and opportunity inequality, this is sure to be a winning political message in 2016.

Christie made the comment “at a ‘fiscal summit’ hosted by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, which was created to increase public awareness of the dangers of budget deficits and rising national debt,” according to an Associated Press report about it. Also, from the report:

Christie also said that if Republicans retake the Senate it could lead to a more productive Washington during President Barack Obama’s final two years in office. Obama could make progress on trade negotiating authority, for example.

Yes! That’s the ticket to equality of opportunity!

The article also reported that “he’ll announce a plan next week on what to do about New Jersey’s unexpected $800 million budget shortfall. Tax increases are off the table.”  Presumably, the plan is being drafted by Peter Peterson himself.

Okay, so Christie will run for the presidency on a platform of fiscal austerity, a denial of a relationship between income inequality and opportunity inequality, and international drug-patent and movie-copyright protections. And on his mastery of government budgeting.

Go for it, Chris!

Sure you wanna use those particular analogies, Gov. Christie?

OXON HILL, Md. – New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie gave a rousing speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference today taking on President Obama while stressing his own conservative credentials.

Christie’s signature tough talking style was on full display when he took on Obama asking, “Mr. President, what the hell are we paying you for?”

“Leadership,” Christie said, “is not about standing on the sidelines and spit-balling.”

Christie To Obama: ‘What The Hell Are We Paying You For?’, Shushannah Walshe, ABC News via Yahoo News

Unless, of course, those sidelines are the lane markers on an entry to the George Washington Bridge, and the spit balls are orange-colored and cone-shaped.

Thought it would be fun to be the first to say that.  Or has someone beaten me to it?


Note to Christie: Sleights of Hand Work Only If They Go Unnoticed.

Chris Christie’s political success in New Jersey was based on the perception that his personal style — which involved lots of yelling at people — was a sign of his governing effectiveness. This perception may have flourished most easily in a state whose informal motto is “You got a problem with that?”

But what some of us suspected all along was that Christie didn’t yell at people because he was a get-results kind of guy; he yelled at people because he had anger management issues. And his office’s bizarre screed against David Wildstein, his former ally now turned enemy, confirms that diagnosis.

— Paul Krugman, Be Nice to Your Social Studies Teacher,, today

Since the bridge scandal broke early last month, and it’s been reported that some now-high-profile Christie appointees have resigned or been fired, I’ve wondered from time to time what has happened to one obscure Christie appointee: the guy who Christie assigned to shadow him with a videocamera in public settings and capture his tirades at ordinary constituents.  The purpose was to post the videotapes on YouTube: publicly humiliating unwitting foils as the road to reelection and higher office.

Sadistic-narcissistic-clown for president!

George Will and I don’t agree on much, but last fall, after Christie made some  highly-publicized vile comment to, if I remember right, a fan of a baseball team that was competing with Christie’s favorite team (or some such), Will wrote a column in which he made what struck me as a spot-on point.  His larger point was that he dearly hoped that the 2016 presidential contest does not end up being one between Hillary Clinton and Chris Christie, but he made clear that his objection to Christie was that a pathologically rude person–someone whose stock-in-political-trade is gratuitous insults–should not be president, irrespective of any other considerations.

I remember thinking at the time, “Well, good for George Will.”

After I read the full story on Friday about Wildstein’s lawyer’s letter, I thought any judgment about its meaning and effect was, rather obviously, premature. The letter provided no specifics at all.  But after Christie’s office responded on Friday, saying that the attorney’s letter proved that Christie played no role in the decision to cause “traffic problems in Fort Lee,” I wondered whether Christie was now claiming it was Wildstein who texted deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly that it was “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” rather than, y’know, the other way around.  Wildstein’s apparent lack of documented evidence that Christie knew of the plan to cause traffic problems in Fort Lee before it was executed hardly means that no such evidence exists; it means only that Wildstein has no documented evidence of it.

So an important question was, is Christie really going to claim now that the others who it already is known were involved in the scheme–Bill Baroni, Wildstein’s superior at the Port Authority; Bill Stepian, Christie’s top political advisor; Bridget Anne Kelly, his deputy chief of staff–were mere puppets of Wildstein?

And now we have the answer, which is, yes.   Otherwise, what in heaven’s name was the point of that really weird memo disseminated yesterday?  Maybe that, as Krugman says, “This guy is scum. Everyone has always known that he was scum, since he was a teenager. And that’s why I appointed him to a major policy position”? Wildstein either has or knows of obtainable, documented evidence of whatever, or he doesn’t.

And Wildstein was not the one who sent the text saying, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” He was the one who received the text.  Sleights of hand work only if they go unnoticed.

But Krugman’s larger point is this:

What’s remarkable here, actually, is how many pundits were taken in by the Christie persona. How could they not at least have wondered whether this guy’s bullying style reflected deeper flaws?

Yes.  But his bullying style, in itself, should have offended pundits en masse, as deeply abusive of his official position, which was the source of his ability to so publicly misuse ordinary individuals.

To reiterate: Good for George Will.

Is all of this LEGAL? — Specifics added, 2/16

By “this,” I mean this.  I don’t know, but it sounds to me like some of it is not.  

Wish I could ask Chris Christie, a former (very high-profile) U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey (2001-2008).  He would know.  

UPDATE:  In light of the comments to this post, saying that Florida law allows the type of influence-peddling that Rubio has engaged in (presumably, unless there’s some overt quid pro quo)–something that the article I linked to does make clear–I want to clarify what I think may be illegal (i.e., violate federal law, thus my reference to Chris Christie). From the article:

For Rubio, a rising star in the Republican Party, more government did indeed create more opportunities. As the Tampa Bay Times reported during his U.S. Senate run in 2010, it’s hard to determine with Rubio where politics stops and the private begins:

As Rubio climbed the ranks, he began to use little-noticed political committees to fund his travel and other expenses and later had a Republican Party of Florida credit card.

What emerged, records show, is a pattern of blending personal and political spending. Over and over again Rubio proved sloppy, at best, in complying with disclosure requirements.

Virtually broke, the 31-year-old lawmaker began campaigning to be House speaker in 2003 and created a political committee — Floridians for Conservative Leadership — to help elect other Republican candidates and curry their support.

With his wife serving as treasurer, Rubio did not wait for the state to authorize the committee before accepting campaign donations.

The committee listed its address as Rubio’s home, a modest place he and his wife bought in West Miami in 2002, but reported spending nearly $85,000 in office and operating costs and $65,000 for administrative costs.

Over 18 months, nearly $90,000 went for political consultants, $51,000 went for credit card payments and $4,000 went to other candidates. That’s less than the $5,700 that went to his wife, Jeanette, much of it for “gas and meals.” (Mrs. Rubio does not work and the couple file joint tax returns.)

Virtually broke, the 31-year-old lawmaker began campaigning to be House speaker in 2003 and created a political committee — Floridians for Conservative Leadership — to help elect other Republican candidates and curry their support.

With his wife serving as treasurer, Rubio did not wait for the state to authorize the committee before accepting campaign donations.

The committee listed its address as Rubio’s home, a modest place he and his wife bought in West Miami in 2002, but reported spending nearly $85,000 in office and operating costs and $65,000 for administrative costs.

Over 18 months, nearly $90,000 went for political consultants, $51,000 went for credit card payments and $4,000 went to other candidates. That’s less than the $5,700 that went to his wife, Jeanette, much of it for “gas and meals.” (Mrs. Rubio does not work and the couple file joint tax returns.)

Some of this sounds to me like taxable (but probably undeclared) income for him and his wife, beyond just his wife’s salary and actual expenses related to the PAC.  The PAC also sounds like it was largely a fraud; its stated purpose was to help elect other Republicans to the state legislature, and I guess some of the consulting was used by or for other candidates, although the article doesn’t make that clear, but just a tiny percentage of the donations were given to other candidates.

But also, two other things the article mentions sound like they violate federal law:

  • Rubio earmarked money to Florida International University and later got an unadvertised job as a part-time professor at the school. The former school president, Mitch Maidique, said Rubio was “worth every penny.”

  • After appropriating millions of dollars to Miami Children’s and Jackson Memorial Hospitals, Rubio formed a lobby shop and got contracts with the hospitals.

Some of these things sound like things that Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife were formally charged with yesterday, albeit on a much quieter scale, and some of the other things sound similar in nature, if not scale, to what former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich was convicted of.  

Marco Rubio Needs to Travel More. Seriously. [Updated and lightly edited.]

Mr. President, I still live in the same working-class neighborhood I grew up in. My neighbors aren’t millionaires. They’re retirees who depend on Social Security and Medicare. They’re workers who have to get up early tomorrow morning and go to work to pay the bills. They’re immigrants, who came here because they were stuck in poverty in countries where the government dominated the economy.
— Marco Rubio, last night.

I lifted that quote from a Politico article by Jonathan Martin that went on to say that Rubio left school with more than $100,000 in student-loan debt, which he finished paying off only a few months ago. Presumably, those loans were government-sponsored.  Although maybe at the age of 18, he had some collateral to offer the bank.

Rubio’s parents, like so many of his working-class neighbors now, emigrated from Cuba before 2001, when the first of the two sets of Bush tax cuts were passed.  Apparently, he hasn’t checked the federal income tax rates on individuals and corporations when his parents and his neighbors came here because they were stuck in poverty in countries where the government dominated the economy.  Because, best as I can tell, that comment about immigrants from countries where the government dominated the economy was intended as a warning about Obama’s and the congressional Democrats’ plans to have the government dominate the economy.  

So I’d like some specifics.  What policies and programs, current and proposed, does he have in mind?  Exactly?  Maybe next time he’s interviewed by some high-profile journalist, he’ll be asked that.  And maybe he’ll answer.  But I doubt it.

Anyway, for now, I’m left to speculate that he means raising tax rates to Clinton-era tax levels for people with non-investment incomes above $250,000 a year, and on corporations, and on investment income.  He also might mean Obamacare, but that’s questionable unless he thinks that only people who qualify for Medicare get cancer or other serious illnesses, because he also said this last night:

[Medicare] provided my father the care he needed to battle cancer and ultimately die with dignity.  And it pays for the care my mother receives now.

But the title of this post suggests that Rubio travel more.  Both within this country and outside of it. First he should visit communities where immigrants from, say, Pakistan and Central America live.  People who came here to escape poverty but whose homeland governments did not, and do not, dominate the economy.*  

Then, if he has a passport, he might consider traveling outside the United States.  Maybe to Canada, or Germany, or Sweden, or Holland, or Australia.  Or France. Or, for that matter, Singapore.  Or Taiwan.  Or he could save the plane fare and just use the Internet to check the rates of poverty in those countries, the tax rates there, the social safety nets there, the education systems there, the healthcare systems there.

I didn’t watch the Rubio Show last night, so I missed the reaching-for-a-water-bottle-but-wishing-it-were-a-Vodka-bottle-instead moment.  I wish I’d watched, but I didn’t.  So I’m relying on tidbits reported by others.  And Paul Krugman provides one that, unlike the quotes above, have not garnered much attention.  It’s this:

This idea – that our problems were caused by a government that was too small – it’s just not true. In fact, a major cause of our recent downturn was a housing crisis created by reckless government policies.

Krugman points out that numerous studies, as well as observation by, say, ordinary folks, dispel that claim. Specifically, Krugman writes:

OK, leave on one side the caricature of Obama, with the usual mirror-image fallacy (we want smaller government, therefore liberals just want bigger government, never mind what it does); there we go with the “Barney Frank did it” story. Deregulation, the explosive growth of virtually unregulated shadow banking, lax lending standards by loan originators who sold their loans off as soon as they were made, had nothing to do with it — it was all the Community Reinvestment Act, Fannie, and Freddie.
Look, this is one of the most thoroughly researched topics out there, and every piece of the government-did-it thesis has been refuted; see Mike Konczal for a summary. No, the CRA wasn’t responsible for the epidemic of bad lending; no, Fannie and Freddie didn’t cause the housing bubble; no, the “high-risk” loans of the GSEs weren’t remotely as risky as subprime.

So I guess I was wrong when I said above that Rubio must have had only tax rates and Obamacare in mind.  He apparently also had finance-industry regulation in mind, too. And on this he was specific.

But on this too, I suggest some overseas travel–either physically, or virtually, on the Internet. He’d learn that Spain, Ireland and Iceland must have had a Fannie Mae and a Freddie Mac. Not to mention a Barney Frank. Because those countries’ current and recent fiscal and economic woes were caused entirely by a housing bubbles virtually identical to, or worse than, ours, spurred by Deregulation, the explosive growth of virtually unregulated shadow banking, lax lending standards by loan originators who sold their loans off as soon as they were made.

Then Rubio might consider returning to Canada and Germany, physically or virtually, and checking out why those countries had little or no such bubble.  And before he leaves, or after he returns, he should travel to Texas.  Yes, Texas, of all states.  It had almost no housing bubble.  Something to do with government involvement in the economy, i.e., legislation regulating the mortgage industry, post-savings-and-loan debacle, circa 1989.  State government, in this case.

What is the national debt of Canada and Germany?  And the poverty levels and standards of living in those countries?  

The Politico article, by the way, is called “Marco Rubio as the anti-Romney.”  The title of Krugman’s post indicates disagreement with that assessment. It’s called “Marco Rubio Has Learned Nothing.”  

But a majority of Americans, I think, have.  They’ve learned that you can’t judge a book by it’s jacket cover. And that ideology can’t substitute for fact.

UPDATE:  Oh, dear. As I said, I didn’t watch Rubio last night.  I also haven’t read a transcript of his speech.  And I didn’t know until just now, when I read Jazzbumpa’s post below, that Rubio said that proposals to deal with climate change, including trying to slow its progression, are attempts to have the government “control the weather.”

Um.  Yeah.  That’s the idea.  


Why do I think Chris Christie is the happiest person in America today?

UPDATE II: I’m getting the strong feeling that there are a lot of people who are downright dumbfounded by that speech last night–that this guy who’s being touted as the Republican savior went on national television and established himself as stunningly stupid.

We’re going to elect a global warming denier as president in 2016?  We’re going to elect as president someone who is unaware of such things as financial derivatives, and the role they played in the financial meltdown?  We’re going to elect as president someone who seems not to know that student loans and Medicare are government programs–or at least what it means that they are?  We’re going to elect as president someone who thinks Clinton-era tax rates are a government-dominated economy?

I’ll certainly agree that he’s no Romney.  Romney isn’t stupid, by any stretch.  He just pretended to be.  With Rubio, it’s apparently no act.

*Paragraph edited for clarity. 2/14. (I figured that since this post is getting a decent number of “hits” and Google+ links, it should be edited so that typos and such are corrected.)

Sandy, Christie and Cantor. Oh, and Joplin, Missouri.

“There is only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said Wednesday. “The House majority and their speaker, John Boehner.”

But after a closed-door session with the New York and New Jersey congressional delegations, Boehner announced that the House would vote on the measure in two phases — first on Friday, for $9 billion in flood assistance, and then on an additional $51 billion on Jan. 15, the first full legislative day of the new Congress in the House.

The House had been expected to vote on the package Tuesday night, but GOP aides said that became increasingly difficult as the fiscal-cliff package took final shape.

They said s politically untenable after the cliff plan, with higher tax rates and no spending cutsthe specter of holding a vote on a federal aid package that included no offsetting spending cuts wa, split the Republican conference and could pass the House only with a large Democratic majority.

Christie, Republicans slam Boehner for delay on Hurricane Sandy relief measure, Nia-Malika Henderson and Ed O’Keefe, Washington Post, today

The article goes on to note that Christie exonerated House Majority Leader Eric Cantor from responsibility for this absurd fiasco.  Christie said he had spoken with Cantor several times on Tuesday and that Cantor had worked hard to gain passage of the relief measure before the close of this Congress on Wednesday night, to no avail.  But Boehner pulled the plug.  

Thus avoiding the the specter of holding a vote on a federal aid package that included no offsetting spending cuts.  And bringing Cantor’s chickens home to roost–in Boehner’s front yard.  

Oh, the irony.  Forgive me if my memory is faulty here, but I do seem to remember that it was Cantor, along with Paul Ryan (a redundancy, I think, since I’m convinced that they’re one and the same person), who back in 2011, after the tornado devastation of Joplin, Missouri and a few smaller towns in other states, tried to hold emergency financial aid hostage to an equivalent reduction of spending on social-safety-net programs–or was it the EPA, the FDA, the Agriculture Department,  the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the National Transportation Safety Commission, road and bridge maintenance and repair?  I forget.  

It was a great idea, and explained why these folks don’t want any action taken to prevent global warming and the more severe and frequent natural disasters that are resulting.  Bring on the destruction of the Eastern Seaboard and heartland small cities and towns, so that we can get rid of that pesky Medicare!  But it proved politically untenable then.  And it appears that Cantor, one of its chief original proponents, understands that.  A majority of the Republican House delegation apparently does not.

And, no wonder.  I mean, it’s not like they agree with Mitt Romney’s proposal–highlighted a week before the election, thanks to Sandy–to simply shut down FEMA and related federal emergency disaster relief programs.  If the states want to pick up the cost for this, fine. Let them. Or, better, the private sector can do this, for a profit!  (Got that, near-miss Romney running-mate Christie?  Got that, Rep. Peter King and the rest of you northeastern Republican pols?)  

Okay, that wasn’t the Republican House delegation’s proposal.  Not this time around, anyway.  Their proposal was simply to use natural disasters as a ploy to starve the beast in even more Republican-preferred ways.  But to their dismay, it is becoming clear that the beast about to be starved is none other than the dinosaur crowd.

And then there is this, from an article by Jonathan Weisman in today’s New York Times:

Michael Steel, a spokesman for Mr. Boehner, said the last-minute crunch that produced the tax accord was necessary only because the Senate refused to act earlier. The House passed legislation months ago to extend all the expiring Bush-era tax cuts and to stop automatic military cuts by shifting them to domestic programs.

Of course, the Senate several months ago, I believe, passed competing legislation returning tax rates for incomes above $250,000, managing to escape filibuster because it was a “reconciliation” bill, or something.  Seems to me, and undoubtedly to a spokesman for Harry Reid (not to mention Reid himself), that the last-minute crunch that produced the tax accord was necessary only because the House refused to act earlier!

A veritable hallmark of the House Republican crowd is its stunning, stupifying childishness.  These people really, really need to grow up.  For their sake, not for the Dem’s, or even for the country’s.  Happily for Dem prospects in 2014, though, they probably won’t.  And then we finally will get policy solutions to this country’s real problems.