Tag Archives: New Jersey

My Interview with Chris Christie

8 Feb

chrischristie_ap_img_0I was recently able to catch up with Governor Chris Christie for a brief interview.  While I want to be “fair and balanced,” I do worry that I need to be prepared for Christie to do a bit of sidestepping. 

Governor Christie, can you talk about what happened when Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer said she would not support your candidacy for President?

Yes, I will tell you! I told her she better be careful, or I Would Bust the Windows Out Her Car.

My, I see how that certainly would make people take you quite seriously. What about the allegations that you withheld Superstorm Sandy relief funds?

My management of money is none of your business!

Governor Christie, how do you wish to address the issues of your implication in the lane closures on the  George Washington Bridge?

Michael, what bridge doesn’t have troubled waters?

Governor Christie, can you talk about why you do not support marriage equality?

I am  so tired of all you people–you “friends of Dorothy” people

Governor Christie, what do you think of Speaker of the House John Boehner?

All I can say is: If only he had a brain.

Governor Christie, what would you say to those that are a bit fearful of the consequences if they do not support your presidential candidacy?  Is there a justified fear of further retaliation from you?

I would tell these good people they have nothing to fear but a final countdown.

While I had many more questions, Governor Christie reported in a mumble that he was in a hurry “to get out of this place.”

I tried to chase after the governor, but he was on a plane to go and visit Vladimir Putin.

What Tuesday’s Elections Really Mean

6 Nov

confused-elephant425Yesterday was election day for many parts of the country. Because it isn’t a Congressional election year, a handful of high-profile races dominated the airwaves and will be over-analyzed into the next big electorate meme. Even with one major — and expected — Republican victory, progressives have a lot to celebrate. Let’s start with a quick look at the results.

  • In New York City, Democrat, progressive, and all-around good guy Bill de Blasio crushed conservative Joe Lhota 73 – 24.
  • Sadly, across the river in New Jersey, Republican Governor Chris Christie handily won re-election by 23 points.
  • Most eyes were on Virginia, one of the few remaining true swing states, where the Governor, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General offices were all up for grabs. The news is mostly good for progressives. Terry McAuliffe beat the odious Ken Cuccinelli, 48 – 45 to become the next Governor and the unhinged E.W. Jackson lost his bid for Lt. Governor to Ralph Northam by ten points. The AG race is too close to call, with either candidate leading by less than 1,000 depending on whose results you see.

It’s still early, but the emerging theme is that the GOP must moderate its views and steer clear of their tight ties to the Tea Party to win, with hypothetical moderate Christie being compared to clear conservative Cuccinelli. While common sense and demographic trends might support the basic argument, the comparison is deeply flawed.

Christie is an outlier. He’s a skilled politician who has been elected twice as a Republican Governor in a very Democratic state. Somehow he manages to appeal on an “independent thinker” model that splits the ticket. Two thoughts about the Christie myth. First, he’s no moderate. He vetoed marriage equality and worked hard to limit the power of unions. His moderate actions were either clear compromises with a very Democratic legislature (labor, education) or calculated political theatre (banning conversion therapy for teens). His stands must be viewed through the lens of a crafty politician who has been angling for the 2016 GOP Presidential nod for years. Which brings up the second point: even in NJ Christie would lose a hypothetical presidential matchup to Hillary Clinton by at least six points. The real lesson here? Chris Christie is a talented politician in a unique situation that manages to still sell hate in a pretty package with a bow on top.

Virginia tells us more. The big lesson is for Democrats: Terry McAuliffe is hardly well-loved, but he ran a strong, progressive campaign including support for marriage equality and gun restrictions. He won in a very purple state. Tacking to the center would have made the contest more confusing and might have cost him — Democrats need to remember this. On the other hand, he won by less than 3% when polls had him up by an average of 7%. That indicates that Cuccinelli’s very conservative positions appealed to more people than were willing to admit it to pollsters. That counters the Christie logic pretty strongly. Virginia is also a borderline southern state, closer to the heart of the GOP power and more indicative of what will happen as the stage is set for 2016.

In short, there is happy news and mixed news. Progressives values can win — de Blasio and McAuliffe modelled that nicely. The GOP, however, is still experiencing confusion and internal tension. The Tea Party base is still churning up very conservative candidates in primaries. While the results so far — with Cuccinelli joining the ranks of Christine O’Donnell and Todd Akin — are good for Democrats, the times that one of these candidates wins the big race are dire indeed. Democrats can’t count on a GOP implosion, because complacency could easily see President Cruz in 2017. Oy! Perish the thought!

Hero of the Week Award, November 1: Rep. Bill Pascrell of New Jersey

1 Nov
Hero of the Week

Hero of the Week

Democrats in Congress have been demonstrating some real leadership for a change. Ever since the GOP/TeaParty overplayed its hand and forced a painful and unpopular government shutdown, Democrats have been holding together as a caucus and demanding that GOP obstruction and game-playing be called out.

This week’s GOP circus was the hearings on the rollout of Healthcare.gov, the federal portal to get insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Since they weren’t able to defund the ACA, the GOP are trying to hide its benefits by highlighting the current bugs in the website. Fed up with the hypocrisy and obstruction, Rep. Bill Pascrell (D – NJ) called the GOP out on its bad behavior.

Despite Democrats opposition to Part D ten years ago we committed to making the best of the program. … We lost the policy fight. And what did we do? We went back to our districts. And we told our seniors although we voted no, we personally believe and would work with the Bush administration to make it work.

He’s exactly right. When the Democrats lost the fight on Medicare Part D, they worked to make the law better and more effective. They did not waste millions of taxpayer dollars trying to repeal it. That’s good governance.

Rep. Tim Griffin (R – AR) responded with typical Republican talking points about alternative plans, trying to duck the issue. Pascrell would not allow it. He stood up from his seat and held the GOP accountable.

Are you really serious; after what we have gone through over the last three and a half years? You can sit there and say that you had a legitimate alternative after these years? We’ve gone through 44 votes, 48 votes now of you trying to dismantle this legislation. You call that cooperation? I don’t.

Let’s talk. Let’s not water the wine here. Let’s say it like it is. You refuse to expand many of these governors’ Medicaid, they refuse to set up state marketplaces.

He called out all the obstruction and asked what Griffin and his ilk propose. Sadly, Griffin and most of the GOP/TeaParty need a loud strong reminder that they are civil servants–they are to serve all Americans, not just the 1%.

What are you going to do about the approximately 17 million children with preexisting conditions who can no longer be denied health insurance coverage? You wanna go back? You wanna say ‘you are no longer covered any longer?’  You going to tell the parents of those kids? Which one of you is going to stand up and tell the parents of those children the game is over, sorry that was just a phase.

Nicely done, Rep. Pascrell. Thank you for standing up to the ridiculous and harmful games the GOP is playing. Let’s hope the American people are listening.

Good News in Oregon and New Jersey, While Rick Scarborough Foams at Mouth

21 Oct

MarrNewsNJORWhat a lovely way to start off a Monday morning with good news for LGBT folk who want to get married. Today marks the first day for marriage equality in the state of New Jersey, despite Governor Chris Christie’s homophobic protest.  To make this story even lovelier, Senator Elect Cory Booker, is performing same-sex marriages right now in his position as Mayor of Newark. Booker has made a point of not officiating weddings while equality was blocked in his state. A NJ appeals court had ruled that the lack of marriage equality was unconstitutional but stayed that opinion pending further legal action; the state supreme court lifted the stay last week noting that equality was legally sound.

More good news across the country in Oregon. Last week, the state of Oregon now recognizes same-sex marriages performed in other states.  Now we just need to achieve full marriage equality in Oregon. Despite a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, the Oregon Department of Justice released an opinion that a refusal to recognize out-of-state marriages was unconstitutional. The state COO immediately issued a memo requiring all state agencies to begin recognizing legal out-of-state marriages. Oregon United for Marriage is moving a marriage equality initiative forward for Nov. 2014; it is widely expected to succeed. The effort got a surprise boost last week when all three Oregon professional sports teams (the Portland Thorns, Timbers, and Trailblazers) endorsed the initiative.

While I certainly am taking time to celebrate this movement forward in civil rights for the LGBT community, alas we cannot rest here or grow complacent. Sadly, one of the  homophobic leaders of the Tea Party (Gays, Blacks, any non-white “Christians” not welcome), the odious Rick Scarborough, has announced that he wants to file a class action law suit against homosexuality.  Hmm, I wonder how that will work? Of course, he has partnered with the nefarious homophobic Peter LaBarbera.

It is clear that the Tea Party learned nothing from holding the country hostage during the Government Shutdown.  When will this small racist greedy group get it? Is there no chance of them showing any sense of decency or humanity?  Of course, I guess when your pockets are being filled with Koch money, there is less to motivate people to love rather than to hate.

Hero of the Week Award, August 30: Cory Booker

30 Aug
Hero of the Week

Hero of the Week

Newark Mayor and New Jersey U.S. Senate candidate Cory Booker has a longstanding reputation as a politician who understands his power and uses it to truly improve lives. He is very engaged with the people he serves and makes a practice of walking his talk — including a week spent on a food stamp budget and other practical demonstrations.

Booker is also an outspoken ally of the LGBT community. Although empowered as Mayor to perform marriages, he refuses to do so until all the citizens of his state have equal access to marriage. He has discussed his homophobia as a youth as an example of how people can grow.

As a lifelong bachelor with no visible social life, Booker is often the subject of speculation regarding his sexual orientation. Since he began his campaign for this October’s special Senate election. gay rumors have been swirling like mad in the media and online. Booker’s response?

And people who think I’m gay, some part of me thinks it’s wonderful. Because I want to challenge people on their homophobia. I love seeing on Twitter when someone says I’m gay, and I say, ‘So what does it matter if I am? So be it. I hope you are not voting for me because you are making the presumption that I’m straight.

Even more impressive is that the level of risk for Booker, as a multiracial man, supporting LGBT equality says volumes about his character and  his ability to lead. Sadly, Booker’s opponent, Steve Lonegan, chose to denigrate Booker for his wonderful attitude. Calling Booker “weird,” he said he “likes being a guy” and used Booker’s fondness for manicures as a sign of weak masculinity. Booker wasted no time in reinforcing his solidarity with the LGBT community.

It’s just disheartening to hear somebody, in this day and age, in the United States of America, say basically … that gay men are not men, they’re not guys. It’s shocking to one’s conscience in this country, where we believe that the content of one’s character, the courage in one’s heart, the strength of one’s sense of purpose, the love that one has for others and their service is what defines them.

During this week of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, how sad that people like Lonegan are on the wrong side of history.  Lonegan, like other folks who behave in homophobic or racist ways strip, not only others of their dignity, but strip away their own dignity. Thank you, Mayor Booker. We’re looking forward to your long and productive tenure in the Senate.

Hero of the Week Award: December 21, Helena, Montana City Commission

21 Dec
Hero of the Week

Hero of the Week

Thanks to my friend and LGBT activist Mark Szabo for bringing this week’s hero to my attention. It’s a delight to recognize hard work for equality in places where the struggle is more than a little uphill. This week the Helena, MT city commission UNANIMOUSLY approved an ordinance prohibiting discrimination in housing, employment and many kinds of public accommodation based on sexual orientation and gender identity. That’s a big step for the capital of one of 29 states that still provides no consistent protection for its LGBT citizens.

Special recognition goes to Commissioner Katherine Haque-Hausrath. She sponsored the ordinance and spent hours working with her colleagues to ensure language that could pass. She spoke passionately and clearly about the importance of the ordinance:

I believe, and I felt the commissioners believe, that being LGBT is part of the human condition. It’s something that people cannot change, and we believe that people should not be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation.

Brava! The public hearing was animated but civil, with more than twice as many supporters as detractors. The opponents typically played the bathroom/locker room card, displaying their sad ignorance. Unfortunately, that concern watered down the ordinance, with an amendment forcing transgender residents to use facilities “where people ordinarily appear in the nude” designated for their “anatomical sex.” To Commissioner Haque-Hausrath’s credit, she pushed hard against the amendment, proposing one of her own that would negate it.

Despite this notable flaw, the ordinance provides broad protections that are simply part of civil rights. Congratulations to Commissioner Haque-Hausrath and her colleagues for being leaders in their state.

We have a delightful honorable mention this week. Remember the Easy Bake Oven? Hasbro still makes it, albeit with a very modern, updated look. McKenna Pope, a 13-year-old girl in New Jersey, wanted to buy one for her younger brother. She was concerned that the pastel purple or pink color options wouldn’t appeal to him, and mounted a petition to have Hasbro produce a wider range of colors. She recorded a YouTube video and got the petition on Change.org.

Things really heated up when celebrity chef Bobby Flay spoke up in support of wider options for the toy, making the obvious point that baking is no more just for girls than tools are just for boys. Hasbro did the right thing, introducing three new colors (black, silver, and blue). Now Easy Bakers –boys and girls — can get an oven in a color they like rather than one that plays into outmoded stereotypes. Says McKenna Pope,

[Hasbro] really met most or even all of what I wanted them to do, and they really amazed me.

Nicely done Hasbro, and big thanks to McKenna Pope and Bobby Flay.

Don’t forget that TSM is still taking nominations for Hero of the Year Award.

Chris Christie: Storm Damage and Broken Clocks

30 Oct

Governor Chris Christie (R – NJ) has never been shy about his criticisms of the Obama administration. It’s especially notable, then, to see him set aside politics this week as his state copes with the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy. Noting the importance of Federal assistance as New Jersey copes with natural disasters the like of which it seldom sees, Christie praised the President and his hands-on approach to the storm.

The president has been all over this and he deserves great credit. I’ve been on the phone with him, like I said, yesterday, personally, three times. He gave me his number at the White House, told me to call him if I needed anything, and he absolutely means it. It’s been very good working with the president, and he and his administration have been coordinating with us great. It’s been wonderful.

Truly a broken clock moment for Gov. Christie, who deserves credit for doing everything he can for the citizens of his state.

Hurricanes don’t have politics; they devastate everyone in their path. Sadly, the GOP ticket for the White House has indicated an approach that would have left New Jersey in a very different situation. Remember nearly a year ago when “severely conservative” Mitt Romney was wreaking devastation on his primary opponents? He actually indicated that he found Federal disaster programs “immoral” because of their impact on the budget. His running mate, Paul Ryan, is a primary architect of a proposed Federal budget that would gut the Federal Emergency Management Agency. As the New York Times notes:

Over the last two years, Congressional Republicans have forced a 43 percent reduction in the primary FEMA grants that pay for disaster preparedness. Representatives Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor and other House Republicans have repeatedly tried to refuse FEMA’s budget requests when disasters are more expensive than predicted, or have demanded that other valuable programs be cut to pay for them. The Ryan budget, which Mr. Romney praised as “an excellent piece of work,” would result in severe cutbacks to the agency, as would the Republican-instigated sequester, which would cut disaster relief by 8.2 percent on top of earlier reductions.

In spite of this, the President has worked with his administration to significantly improve disaster response protocols, making the aftermath of Sandy easier to bear despite the horrific devastation. This storm provides a sad, practical illustration of the importance of this election.

TSM wishes the best for everyone feeling the effects of Sandy and sends all our positive energy to the storm-struck states.

Bigot of the Week Award: February 24, Gov. Chris Christie

24 Feb

Bigot of the Week

Surprising no-one, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie bucked the trend of equality sweeping the nation this week by vetoing a marriage equality bill passed by his state’s legislature. Thank you to my friend and LGBT ally Sara Carmona for her nomination of Christie. Despite pressure from advocacy groups, local politicians of both major parties, and a phone call from Washington Governor Christine Gregoire (who had just signed a similar law), Christie played politics with the civil rights of thousands of New Jersey citizens.

The Governor continues to hide behind a two-pronged attack on equality. First, he maintains that changing marriage law should be put to a vote of the people, an absurd claim that civil rights require a stamp of majority approval. This is also an ironic dodge given that all recent polls show a safe majority of New Jersey citizens supporting full marriage equality. Second, Christie points to New Jersey’s civil union law, saying that separate but equal should be just fine for the gays. REALLY? Wasn’t that concept thrown out by the U.S. Supreme Court fifty years ago, Governor?

It’s very clear that Christie is playing the political odds here. He wants to run for president in 2016 (being too afraid to challenge President Obama this year) and can’t risk a pro-equality vote that would alienate the slavering hordes of tea party types that vote in Republican primaries. As equality sweeps the nation, however, that move may be a major miscalculation as equality may well be the standard by the time he tries to run. He certainly wasn’t prepared for the strong backlash as demonstrated in this bloviating, ineffective attempt at defending his position.  Christie, yet another Republican on the wrong side of history!  Christie better be careful, for the Gay Agenda will be watching his actions!

A sad dishonorable mention this week goes to Daniel Porkorney, the mayor of La Grande, Oregon, who posted anti-equality statements (including approval of Christie’s action) on his Facebook page. He quickly learned the lesson so many celebrities have learned — online words will bite you — as his community mounted a petition demanding his resignation and forced a strong apology.

Wednesday Word of the Week, November 2: Semantics

2 Nov

This week’s word is SEMANTICS

the meaning of words and phrases –Macmillan Dictionary Online

Words matter, especially when one is making the case for simple human rights. This was demonstrated very vividly in a recent poll on marriage equality in New Jersey.

The poll found that a simple majority of New Jersey residents (52%) favor “gay marriage.” That’s a promising statistic. What is fascinating, however, is that the number jumps appreciably (to 61%) when the question is posed about “marriage equality.”  The rate of opposition drops by an even bigger margin, from 39% to 27%.

Why the difference? It would be tempting to guess that people are less familiar with the term “marriage equality” but the poll adjusted for that, finding that only 3% of respondents did not know what it meant. That leaves us with a pretty clear conclusion. Fair-minded people are interested in equality. When that equality is compartmentalized as some kind of special right, their interest in supporting it goes down. This is one big reason that the use of language matters.

Opponents of equality for LGBTQ Americans have worked very hard to frame civil rights as special rights. This is absurd. Gay rights are human rights.  There is no such thing as gay marriage, just marriage. The marriage of a same-sex couple is not part of some sinister agenda. It is the union of two people in love and the civil recognition of that union which conveys over 1,100 rights and responsibilities. It really is that simple.

Supporters of equality must remember to use their language carefully. Saying “gay marriage” or “same-sex marriage” is like letting the anti-choice crowd call themselves “pro-life.” It is misrepresentative and allows those who really have an agenda to co-opt the conversation by framing the parameters. Equality is simple. Let’s remember to ask for it clearly.

Bigot of the Week Award: October 21, Viki Knox

21 Oct

Bigot of the Week

Thanks to my friend “Voice of the Trailer” for nominating this week’s BWA.  Viki Knox certainly earns the great dishonor with her homophobic comments on Facebook.  Knox, a public school teacher in New Jersey, demonstrated how LGBT youth are bullied by those in power–the teachers that are charged with educating and protecting.

Knox posted on her facebook page:

…that homosexuality was a “sin” that “breeds like cancer” and that marking LGBT History Month was like parading “unnatural, immoral behavior before the rest of us.”

Of course, Knox is pulling the “victim” card about freedom of speech and freedom of religion.  Sorry, Viki.  You don’t get to be both the persecutor and victim at the same time. If a comment by a teacher had been against blacks, Jews, Muslims, or any other oppressed and marginalized population, she would be fired.  Shame on you Viki for not seeing how your comments only help to support a white, male, heterosexual power structure.  Double shame because you are a teacher.  When did you chose to be heterosexual?

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