Why were Gov Christie’s office staff screening Ft Lee mayor’s calls?

One of the emails from the massive bridge-gate document dump that I found particularly interesting has not gotten much attention thus far. It is an email from Christie aide Christina Genovese Renna to Christie’s then Deputy Chief of Staff, Bridget Anne Kelly. In it, Renna describes a phone call that another Christie aide, Evan J Ridley, fielded from Ft. Lee’s mayor, Mark Sokolich. 

The most interesting part of the email is the first paragraph, in which Renna explains why Ridley answered the phone, saying:

This afternoon, Evan received a call from Mayor Sokolich. It came from a number he was not familiar with that was actually a secretary who patched the Mayor through to Evan.

This paragraph leads me to believe that Renna felt she needed to justify Ridley’s behavior (speaking to Mayor Sokolich). It also implies that Governor Christie’s staff would have been “familiar” with Sokolich’s number if he had called directly.

The last paragraph is also enlightening. According to Renna, Ridley told the mayor that “he was unaware that the toll lanes were closed.” This was in the afternoon of September 12, the fourth day of the lane closures.

This seems to be evidence of widespread knowledge, in the Governor’s office, of the issues surrounding the Ft. Lee traffic problems and the George Washington Bridge. Based on their salaries, Christina Renna and Evan Ridley don’t hold high ranking positions in the office and probably wouldn’t have been privy to much more than general information. I can’t imagine them having more information than the Boss about anything.

The full email chain is below. Let me know if anyone has a better explanation.

Christie Staff Screening Calls From Fort Lee Mayor


Tom Delay in 1990 - Inviting Mandela to speak diminishes the honor of addressing Congress


HON. TOM DELAY in the House of Representatives

TUESDAY, JUNE 26, 1990

• Mr. DeLAY. Mr. Speaker, I am saddened to learn that the Members of this body are diminishing the value of the honor of addressing the U.S. Congress.
• Today, Mr. Nelson Mandela addressed a joint meeting of Congress. He is not a head of State nor has he been victorious in his struggle. This is
unprecedented in the history of our Congress. What’s more is that while all of us in Congress want to see an end to apartheid, I doubt that any of our Members would support the kind of governmentally oppressive society that Mr. Mandela would seek to impose.
• Keep in mind that Mr. Mandela still actively supports Marxism. Keep in mind that Mr. Mandela still refuses to renounce violence and terrorism. Keep in mind that Mr. Mandela still publicly praises and admires tyrants and terrorists like Fidel Castro, Mu’ammar Qaddahi and Vasser Arafat.
• In fact, Mr. Mandela recently stated that he supported the terrorists who in 1954 attempted to assassinate Members of Congress right here in the hallowed Chamber of the House of Representatives. He praised the terrorists at a rally in New York City and considered them to be comrades.
• As recently as 1 month ago, Mr. Mandel a declared that Cuba ‘stands head and shoulders above’ the other nations of the world ‘in its love for human rights and liberty.’
• Fidel Castro is a tyrant and despot and Mr. Mandela’s praise of him is greatly misplaced. It is precisely for this reason that five Cuban-American mayors in South Florida have denounced Mr. Mandela for refusing to condemn the human rights violations in Cuba.
• The United States of America and the U.S. Congress have been a beacon of leadership for the principles of liberty, democracy, and human rights for more than 200 years.
• Mr. Speaker, make no mistake, Nelson Mandela is no friend to liberty,
democracy, or human rights. He is the deputy president of the African
National Congress. Their support for liberty and freedom is feigned. The ANC has announced their own constitutional guidelines which call for democracy, the freedom to form political parties, and freedoms of association, thought, worship, and the press.
• However, all of these rights are subject to the direct approval of the ANC which could ban any and all state or social institutions which do not ‘take active steps to eradicate, speedily, the economic and social inequalities produced by racial discrimination.’ Further, the ANC would reserve the right to ban any or all groups which the ANC believes is ethnically or regionally exclusive.
• The ANC does not respect nor defend human rights. Our own Defense
Department has appropriately labeled the ANC a terrorist organization. Nelson Mandela even admitted last April that it is a practice of the ANC to torture and execute its own members when they try to exercise freedom of thought and not obey the directives of the ANC. In fact, throughout Nelson Mandela’s 27 years of imprisonment, Amnesty International never recognized him as a political prisoner because he was not jailed for his political viewpoints, but for his personal involvement in violent activities.
• Mr. Speaker, by allowing Nelson Mandela to address the U.S. Congress
without renouncing violence, terrorism, or tyranny we have done an extreme injustice to all of those persons who have come to address Congress before him.
• I deeply regret the decision to invite Nelson Mandela to speak at a joint
session and cannot participate under these circumstances.

From the Congressional Record


NBC News investigates Obamacare… poorly

NBC News has a scandalous headline up today: Obama administration knew millions could not keep their health insurance, with a story by Lisa Myers and Hannah Rappleye.

The article includes this paragraph:

Buried in Obamacare regulations from July 2010 is an estimate that because of normal turnover in the individual insurance market, “40 to 67 percent” of customers will not be able to keep their policy. And because many policies will have been changed since the key date, “the percentage of individual market policies losing grandfather status in a given year exceeds the 40 to 67 percent range.”  

While this is technically true, it doesn’t have anything to do with the Affordable Care Act, and the article misses the point entirely, beginning with the very next sentence and continuing through the end of the piece and into the interviews the next day:

That means the administration knew that more than 40 to 67 percent of those in the individual market would not be able to keep their plans, even if they liked them.

Yet President Obama, who had promised in 2009, “if you like your health plan, you will be able to keep your health plan,” was still saying in 2012, “If [you] already have health insurance, you will keep your health insurance.”

So President Obama is a liar, right?


Page 17 of the regulations themselves makes this very clear:

Reliable data are scant, but a variety of studies indicate that between 40 percent and 67 percent of policies are in effect for less than one year. Although data on changes in benefit packages comparable to that for the group market is not readily available, the high turnover rates described here would dominate benefit changes as the chief source of changes in grandfather status. While a substantial fraction of individual policies are in force for less than one year, a small group of individuals maintain their policies over longer time periods. One study found that 17 percent of individuals maintained their policies for more than two years, while another found that nearly 30 percent maintained policies for more than three years.

Using these turnover estimates, a reasonable range for the percentage of individual policies that would terminate, and therefore relinquish their grandfather status, is 40 percent to 67 percent.  

So, the 40 to 67 percent are health care plans that would have ended whether or not Obamacare existed. Obamacare didn’t cause the affected people to “lose” their coverage. Obamacare is providing those people a chance to get better plan. 

The NBC News report is misleading, if not outright false. Giving them the benefit of the doubt would require believing the reporters read the regulations, but didn’t comprehend them.


Making sure my mom can still vote in Texas

By special guest blogger, my wife, Sally Carter

I really love talking politics with my Mom and Dad. They’re both what I would consider “moderate” politically (i.e., not crazy), with my Mom tending towards the left and my Dad pretty squarely on the right, and as someone who considers herself a firm progressive, I always find their opinions and points of view valuable.  I grew up in Texas, and while I don’t live there anymore (I am, at present, in the similarly frustrating political landscape of Georgia), my parents and a good-sized portion of my heart reside in the Lone Star state. And so at a family gathering/event this past weekend in the politically-neutral state of Minnesota, I was excited to have an opportunity to talk with them in person about some events that have been unfolding recently in Texas.

Me: “So have you been following the new voter ID thing?”

Mom: “I don’t think so, what new voter ID thing?”

(Dad quickens pace to slightly faster than wife and daughter, reaches plausible out-of-earshot distance)

 Me: “So you know how you have to have your driver’s license to vote now, photo ID?”

 Mom: “Yes…”

 Me: “So for some reason, a long time ago they made it the law in Texas that your driver’s license has to have your maiden name on it, even if it’s not legally part of your name anymore – is that how yours is?”

Mom: “Really? I’m not actually sure what mine says,”

Me: “Yeah, well your license probably has your maiden name on it like it’s your middle name, but the name on your voter’s registration has your real full name,”

(Dad slows pace, could be considered to be actively listening to conversation)

Mom: “So….?”

Me: “So they don’t match. The name on your ID doesn’t match the name they have on the roll,”

Mom: “Oh. Wait…”

Me: “So, fun new rule – you and every other married woman in Texas might have problems when they go to vote,”

(Dad makes skeptical face and noise, re-quickens pace)

Mom: “So what do I need to prove that those names are both me?”

Me: “Your marriage certificate. Not a copy.”

Mom: “I’m not bringing my marriage certificate. I’m not digging that out,”

Me: “Well, they might try to make you vote on a provisional ballot. A judge had problems when she went to vote last week,”

Mom: “I have to check and see how my name is on my voter’s registration,”

Me: “And this is all just in time for Wendy Davis and the election for governor,”

Mom: “But someone will challenge this right? It will go to court?”

Me: “I don’t know, the reason they get to do this is because the Supreme Court overturned part of the Voting Rights Act, remember just a few months ago?”

(At this point, most of the relevant information has been exchanged, and the rest of the discussion consists of me and my mom making appropriately disparaging remarks about Republican politicians in Texas. You get the idea.)

It turned out that my mother’s driver’s license did indeed have her maiden name on it, which did not match the name under which she was registered to vote. However, Texas elections administrators announced that if the names were “substantially similar” a woman would simply have to sign an affidavit and would then be allowed to vote – a regular ballot, not a provisional one.

My mom usually votes on Election Day (in this case, November 5). But today, the very first day my parents got back to Texas, my mom looked up the closest polling place for early voting and went down there so that she could take care of the name discrepancy and make sure that she was able to cast her ballot in time. As promised, she was allowed to vote after signing an affidavit. She was also permitted to change her name on the voter registration rolls so that it matched the name on her driver’s license.

Me: “So you had to show something as proof to change your name on the rolls, right? Did you take your marriage certificate after all?”

Mom: “Nope”

Wait, WHAT? What has all of this been about? If it isn’t really a problem that the names on the roll and the names on the IDs aren’t exactly the same, then why make everyone go through this affidavit business? Even if I pretend to agree that voter fraud is an actual problem in Texas, just how, precisely, does this reduce it?

One might conclude that this is simply adding an extra step (and time, and resources) to the voting process. And that this extra step mainly affects women. And that some women like my Mom will be expecting this extra step and make sure that they have enough time to take care of it, but many of them won’t. And whether they are expecting it or not, women like my Mom – who are white and live in nice, upper middle-class suburban neighborhoods – most likely won’t have a problem having their affidavits approved by the election officials. But hey, this year Texas is just voting on dull, constitutional amendments. One might conclude that we won’t really understand the effects of this rule until a more exciting, higher-turnout election is held – you know, like an election for governor.


GOP Rep Joe Barton’s alternative to Obamacare: More people on Medicaid

October 17, 2013 - Congressman Joe Barton (R-TX), during an interview with Texas conservative talk radio host Mark Davis, offered an alternative to Obamacare.  People with pre-existing conditions and no insurance (who Barton admits would be helped by Obamacare), should instead be put on Medicaid.  Preparing for the walk-back in 5, 4, 3…

Listen to the full interview here


Congressman Mick “There is No Default” Mulvaney experienced at not paying bills

Congressman John Michael (Mick) Mulvaney (R-SC) has been one of the members of Congress aguing that not raising the debt ceiling wouldn’t be that big of a deal. He has accused President Obama of lying about the serious consequences that would result if the US couldn’t pay all of its bills. Mulvaney may be speaking from experience: He doesn’t pay all of his bills, and it doesn’t seem to have bothered him at all.

The Congressman’s company, The Mulvaney Group Ltd, owes Mecklenburg County, NC at least $7,854.65 in back taxes. The oldest of the bills was due on September 1, 2008.

Mulvaney Group Ltd Taxes Due by jecarter4


33 Members of Congress who have benefited from farm subsidies yet voted to cut food stamps


Full data can be seen here


American Legacy Firearms is marketing its “Dallas Heritage Rifle.” Prominently featured on its stock is an engraving of the Kennedy Memorial (it is the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination after all). It also includes an engraving of cotton pickers.

The advertising flyer was included with others in the Monday, July 15 edition of the Dallas Morning News. This prompted a letter to the paper from Kenneth Mathias of Grand Prairie, TX that was included in the Saturday, July 20 edition. I think Mr. Mathias sums up the issue quite well:

The rifle proudly displays the Kennedy Memorial on its stock. The builders of this rifle appear to be looking to capitalize on the good Republicans here who take pride in the way Dallas welcomes powerful Democrats like President Kennedy.

This has changed my understanding of what the Kennedy Memorial means. I always thought  it was meant for quiet contemplation of, not celebration of, the event.

Contrary to what is on the flyer, the NRA has denied that this rifle is an officially licensed product.


Mistake in CBO estimate leads to new anti-choice talking point

On June 27, 2013, the Congressional Budget Office published its cost estimate for HR 1797, The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.* The basis for CBO’s estimate is abortion data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As the CBO report says:

Based on data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), CBO estimates that, each year, about 11,000 abortions take place 20 weeks or more after fertilization.

Lifenews.com divided the CBO’s figure (11,000) by the number of days in a year (365) and came up with the headline: Report: 30 Babies Die From Abortions After 20 Weeks of Pregnancy Every Day

This is not true.

The CDC’s most recent data on abortion is in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report dated November 23, 2012, titled Abortion Surveillance — United States, 2009. The report finds that out of 784,507 abortions performed in 2009, 1.3% of them in the 21st week of gestation or later. 1.3% of 784,507 is about 10,199. The total number of abortions in 2009 was significantly lower than in 2008. Given this, the CBO’s estimate of 11,000 is reasonable.

The problem with the CBO data: there is a difference between gestation age and post-fertilization age. The 20 week figure in HR 1797 and the CBO report is a post-fertilization age. The 20 week figure in the CDC data is a gestational age.

As the Committee on Fetus and Newborn of the American Academy of Pediatrics states: “Gestational age is 2 weeks longer than conceptional (post-fertilization) age; they are not synonymous terms.”

Therefore, the 11,000 figure estimated by the CBO is the number of abortions 18 weeks or more after fertilization. Given that the distribution of abortions is weighted heavily toward the beginning of the pregnancy and the number of abortions decreases the longer the pregnancy lasts, it is reasonable to assume that most of the 11,000 abortions would happen in the period from 18 to 20 weeks post-fertilization age (20 to 22 weeks gestation age).

So, 11,000 is a wildly inflated figure.

The person that I spoke to at the CBO said she was confident that the CBO analysts hadn’t made a mistake…

* HR 1797, “The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” is a model bill authored by the National Right to Life Committee. See here for more.


Replace “George Zimmerman” with “Trayvon Martin” in this jury instruction:

If George Zimmerman was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in any place where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he reasonably believed that it was necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

From the jury instructions in the George Zimmerman trial.

Trayvon Martin had that right too.