THE NEW SAM-AND-COKIES: What in the world is a traffic study?


Part 4—The Times on the head of a pin: Is it even possible?

Is it possible that David Wildstein was trying to conduct a traffic study when he closed two access lanes from the town of Fort Lee?

That wouldn’t be our first guess. That said, guesswork is massively overrated—and everything is possible! In this case, that possibility hasn’t yet been disproven.

That wouldn’t be our first guess! But whatever Wildstein was trying to do, he went to a lot of trouble to do it—and he burned the time and energy of quite a few state employees in the process.

You’d never know it from reading the New York Times, whose front-page “news reports” have reeked of novelization. But Wildstein did the following things on and before the week of September 9, when the lanes were shut down:
*According to the Bergen Record, he caused traffic engineers to predict what would happen in Fort Lee if the lanes were closed.

*According to sworn testimony by two bridge officials, he caused the Port Authority’s staff to gather traffic data all during that fateful week.

*Those traffic data were analyzed. According to the testimony of those officials, a slight improvement had occurred in northbound traffic flow on I-95.

*As can be seen in the emails which have been released, Wildstein discussed this change in northbound traffic flow with his Christie teammates in real time that week.
Does that mean that Wildstein was trying to conduct a real traffic study? Not necessarily, no! He may have been defrauding the state, robbing it of those employees’ time as he staged an elaborate hoax.

But none of the conduct we have listed has even been reported in the lengthy, front-page reports presented by the New York Times, which seems to have taken a series of shortcuts to a novelized story it likes.

At this point, we might include an interesting bit of testimony from the legislative hearings held on December 9.

For the full transcript of the hearing, click here.

Bridge director Cedrick Fulton testified first. At one point, he introduced am unwelcome fact which complicates the tale:
WISNIEWSKI (12/9/13): Was this the first discussion that you had had with Mr. Wildstein about the three lanes?


WISNIEWSKI: Was there a prior discussion?

FULTON: He had made references to it in the past, just in passing, just to comment, “What about the three lanes? How long have the three lanes been in effect?” To which I would answer, “As long as I’ve been cognizant of Fort Lee and its relationship to the George Washington Bridge, those three lanes have been there.”


WISNIEWSKI: You had said in passing he had mentioned it previously.

FULTON: Correct.

WISNIEWSKI: Can you tell me when that was? Can you specify a date or specify a month?

FULTON: I really can’t because I didn’t focus on it, because it was just a comment, an observation that he had made to me. It may have been late 2010, 2011—just a comment and observation.
Say what? Wildstein had inquired about the three access lanes several years before?

Sometimes, such unwelcome facts complicate preferred tales. But wouldn’t you know it? In his own sworn testimony, bridge general manager Robert Durando said the same darn thing:
DURANDO (12/9/13): Mr. Fulton had made reference to a remark that Wildstein had made to him back in 2010 or 2011 with regard to traffic lanes being dedicated to Fort Lee. I, too, am unclear on the exact time frame, but it was probably a couple of years ago when Mr. Wildstein was at the bridge. And he asked about why those three lanes were dedicated to Fort Lee. And we actually walked out to the upper-level plaza and he remarked to me that, “There are a lot of New York plates coming through those lanes, Bob.”

WISNIEWSKI: A lot of New York plates coming through the so-called Fort Lee lanes?

DURANDO: The dedicated Fort Lee lanes, right.

WISNIEWSKI: So that was the first conversation you ever had with Mr. Wildstein about this issue?

Manifestly, this doesn’t mean that Wildstein was acting in good faith on August 21, 2013, when he told Fulton that the lane closings may lie ahead. That said, these facts complicate a preferred, simple tale, and so they’ve never been mentioned at all.

That said, the fact that Wildstein alerted Fulton on that date has also gone unreported. In the Times, the fact that planners were directed to create those predictions has also gone unmentioned.

The collection of traffic data that week has not been mentioned by the Times, even as it fills its front pages with silly, tabloidized “news reports” stretching to 2800 words—“news reports” which are larded with various inaccurate statements.

What kinds of inaccurate statements? Below, you see what Kate Zernike reported about Fulton and Durando on December 14.

In this report, she failed to name or number the officials in question, of whom there were two; she described them as “Port Authority workers.” From context, it’s clear that she is referring to Fulton and Durando in this passage and to no one else:
ZERNIKE (12/14/13): Mr. Wildstein, the workers said, told them not to tell anyone about the closings, and had not followed procedure for such significant changes to traffic patterns—75,000 cars use those lanes each day. The Port Authority workers said they had gone along with the plan despite warning it would “not end well”; they said they had feared for their jobs, because Mr. Wildstein worked for Mr. Baroni, and Mr. Baroni worked for the governor.
Given five days to get her facts straight, that’s what Zernike reported.

Did the “workers” say they feared for their jobs, for the reason stated? Below, you can see what Durando actually said in response to a direct question:
ASSEMBLYMAN WISNIEWSKI (12/9/13): He currently still works for the Port Authority. Does Mr. Wildstein have the ability to terminate your employment?

DURANDO: I suspect he does.

WISNIEWSKI: So would it be fair to say that you did have a concern about your continued employment if you went outside of his direction?

DURANDO: I honestly don’t know how to answer you.

WISNIEWSKI: Well, either you did or you didn’t.

DURANDO: Well, I was not fearful that I was going to get fired.
Oops. Also this, a bit later:
ASSEMBLYWOMAN STENDER (12/9/13): When I questioned you before, you said [in response to leading questions] that Mr. Wildstein reports to Mr. Baroni and Bill Baroni reports to the governor.

Clearly, David Wildstein, in my opinion, based on what we’ve heard today, acted with impunity with this whole study and they— Not wanting to tempt the fate— Did you believe that when it [the order to close the lanes] was coming from Wildstein that, in fact, this was coming down through the chain of command from the governor?

DURANDO: I have given that no thought whatsoever.

STENDER: Thank you.
Without question, Wildstein did behave with impunity; his motive and conduct may have been much worse. But we’re talking about our journalists here, and people need to watch their wallets when “journalists” like Zernike start typing these familiar embellished tales.

(During the hearing, Fulton was also encouraged to say that he had feared getting fired. Whatever the actual truth may be, he too declined to make the preferred statement. In her subsequent news reports, Zernike simply made the statement for him, creating a more pleasing tale. By failing to name or even number the “workers” who said they feared for their jobs, Zernike reduced the likelihood that anyone would correct her.)

Starting on December 10, the news reporting by the Times has been a familiar mess. It took Zernike almost a month just to get clear on the number of lanes which were closed in Fort Lee that week (two). Along the way, she made an array of outright misstatements, while introducing inane tabloid elements to her reports and omitting basic facts.

On January 13, N.R. Kleinfield’s 2800-word front-page overview was, if anything, worse. Whatever this clownish pair was doing, it wasn’t news reporting.

Please note: Some of the facts these clowns disappeared may make this story even worse for Wildstein. If Wildstein wasn’t conducting a good faith study, it only makes his conduct worse to see him wasting the time of traffic engineers in the ten days before the lane closures and during the entire week of September 9.

If Wildstein was conducting a scam, he wasted the time of a lot of state employees as he carried it out. Was the traffic study a scam? Quite possibly, it was. But manifestly, it wasn’t a story he dreamed up after the fact—unless you’re reading the New York Times, which often gave that impression as it omitted key facts.

As noted, Wildstein ordered traffic projections, collected traffic data, subjected the data to analysis. This is a basic part of what he did, but these actions have not been reported in any of the New York Times’ lengthy front-page reports.

What has this conduct disappeared? We’ll take a guess: reporters were crafting a simpler, more pleasing, more elegant story. Below, you see the hapless way Zernike began her 1600-word front-page report on January 9, when the Fort Lee fiasco reached a new level of coverage:
ZERNIKE (1/9/14): The mystery of who closed two lanes onto the George Washington Bridge—turning the borough of Fort Lee, N.J., into a parking lot for four days in September—exploded into a full-bore political scandal for Gov. Chris Christie on Wednesday. Emails and texts revealed that a top aide had ordered the closings to punish the town's mayor after he did not endorse the governor for re-election.

''Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,'' Bridget Anne Kelly, a deputy chief of staff to Mr. Christie, emailed David Wildstein, a high school friend of the governor who worked at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the bridge.

Later text messages mocked concerns that school buses filled with students were stuck in gridlock: ''They are the children of Buono voters,'' Mr. Wildstein wrote, referring to Mr. Christie's opponent Barbara Buono.

The emails are striking in their political maneuvering, showing Christie aides gleeful about some of the chaos that resulted. Emergency vehicles were delayed in responding to three people with heart problems and a missing toddler, and commuters were left fuming. One of the governor's associates refers to the mayor of Fort Lee as ''this little Serbian,'' and Ms. Kelly exchanges messages about the plan while she is in line to pay her respects at a wake.

Mr. Christie denied knowledge of the emails and said his staff was to blame. The growing scandal threatens to tarnish him at the moment he assumes an even larger position on the national stage, as chairman of the Republican Governors Association and an all-but-certain candidate for his party's presidential nomination in 2016.

While the emails do not establish that the governor himself called for the lane closings, they show his staff was intimately involved, contrary to Mr. Christie's repeated avowals that no one in his office or campaign knew about them. In fact, the emails show, several staff members and appointees worked to cover up the scheme under the ruse that it was a traffic study.
The full report ran 1642 words. Let us count the problems just in those first six grafs:

First, those emails did not “reveal” the motive for the lane closings, a point that even our major journalists seem to have realized by now. Zernike continued to make this claim over the next several days.

Wildstein was not “a high school friend of the governor.” In the past week, that popular claim has at last been dropped all through the mainstream press.

The fact that Kelly sent an email from a wake has nothing to do with anything. Zernike placed that piffle in paragraph 4 to heighten the tabloid excitement.

Finally, we reach the ur-passage. According to Zernike, several staffers and appointees “worked to cover up the scheme under the ruse that it was a traffic study.”

The word “ruse” entered the Times reporting that day, creating a lot of confusion. To this day, many people think this “cover story” was dreamed up after the fact, in the weeks after the lane closings. That is plainly untrue, but in thousands of words of reporting, the Times has made no attempt to present the fuller picture of what Wildstein actually did.

Did Wildstein conduct a traffic study that week? For various reasons, it’s hard to say. But alas! In that December 9 hearing, a semantic conundrum took form concerning the term “traffic study.”

There was never any doubt that traffic data were collected and analyzed that week. If Wildstein was engaged in a hoax, this conduct only deepens the extent of his misconduct.

That said, some assembly members seemed eager to create certain talking points. One example: Rather plainly, they wanted Fulton and Durando to say they’d feared getting fired.

They also wanted the “workers” to say there had been no traffic study. This created pointless ruminations about the essence of same:

Durando had testified, at some length, about the stated rationale for the project—a project he himself had described as a traffic study. In some detail, he had described the collection of data, and the process by which the data were analyzed.

He even described the findings, which were worse than underwhelming. “By the end of the week, they had made a determination that there was a slight improvement on the main line flow,” he said. That slight improvement on I-95 had been purchased at the cost of chaos in Fort Lee.

(In Durando’s full statement, “they” referred to “the traffic folk”/“the planners”—the people whose valuable time Wildstein was quite likely wasting.)

Data were collected and analyzed; this had produced a rather pitiful finding. That said, some assembly members seemed to want a talking point.

They seemed willing to work to create it.

No written report had been prepared in the aftermath of the lane closings. In that rather specialized sense, there had been no “study.” Recalling Socrates in The Republic, an assembly member led her own Glaucon toward a preferred conclusion:
ASSEMBLYWOMAN STENDER (12/9/13): So this traffic—so-called traffic study. You said that they were gathering data. Has there been a traffic study presented anywhere as a result of that closure that week?

DURANDO: I have not seen anything, no.

STENDER: So has anything been done with the data that would substantiate the premise that there was a traffic study going on?

DURANDO: Other than a verbal with regard to the slight improvement to main line traffic flow, I have seen no report.

STENDER: So it really calls into question whether there was, in fact, any traffic study done, when they were just gathering data.

DURANDO: One could reach that conclusion.

STENDER: Because a traffic study would mean that all of that data would have been sent out for additional, further study to speak to this issue of whether these lanes should exist or not.

DURANDO: Studies should result in a conclusion, yes.

STENDER: And there were none.
Durando had seen no “report.” To Stender, this meant there was no “traffic study;” they were “just gathering data!”

Angels were dancing on heads of pins as this discussion proceeded. It’s easy to state the basic facts here—traffic data were collected and analyzed, but no report was written. But here’s the simplified way the hapless Zernike reported these facts the next day:
ZERNIKE (12/10/13): [Christie’s] chief appointee at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which oversees the bridge, insisted that the lane closings were simply part of a traffic study.

But on Friday, the man who ordered the closings—a high school friend of the governor's who was a small-town mayor and the founder of an anonymous political blog before Mr. Christie's appointee created a job for him at the Port Authority—resigned, saying the issue had become ''a distraction.''

And testifying under subpoena in Trenton on Monday, bridge workers described Mr. Christie's associates' ordering the closings, and called the different maneuvers “unprecedented,” “odd” and “wrong.” There was, they said, no study.
If you read the New York Times, Fulton and Durando said they had feared for their jobs. They also said that there was no traffic study. Full stop!

We would call the first statement false, the second absurdly misleading.

Zernike never mentioned the data collection which proceeded all week. She never mentioned the data analysis or the pitiful finding.

Instead, she created the world’s simplest story, a story her readers were asked to enjoy: Christie’s man said there was a traffic study. Bridge workers said that was false!

Later in that same report, Zernike described the week’s events in a bit more detail. Note the way she described the rationale for the lane closings:
ZERNIKE (12/10/13): About 70,000 cars from all over northern New Jersey travel along the three access lanes each day, and on the first day of what would be four days of the shutdown, cars stalled the streets of Fort Lee. Cedric [sic] Fulton, the director of tunnels and bridges at the Port Authority, testified on Monday that he had repeatedly told Mr. Wildstein that it would cause a traffic disaster. ''My exact words were, 'This will not end well,' '' he said.

When Mr. Fulton asked Mr. Wildstein whether he had informed Fort Lee officials and its police, or Mr. Foye, or the media, Mr. Wildstein replied, he testified: ''Don't worry about that. We will take care of it.''

Mr. Wildstein told the bridge workers that the study was to determine how traffic would be affected if local lanes were shut down.
Please. That highlighted statement is technically accurate, but clownishly truncated.

It was easy to state the rationale. According to testimony, Wildstein told the two “bridge workers” that he wanted to determine if traffic flow on I-95 could be improved if Fort Lee’s lanes were reduced.

(Fulton: “The question was, if there was only one lane as opposed to three, could the overall throughput through the George Washington Bridge be improved? That was the fundamental question that he was asking, for which I didn’t have an answer.”)

Wildstein said the study “was to determine how traffic would be affected if local lanes were shut down?” Yes, if you're in third grade! If that represents Zernike’s best effort, she should be given desk duties right now.

If that isn’t her best effort, why was it in the Times?

Can we talk? As a journalist, Zernike strongly resembles Wildstein as a traffic planner. At best, her work is clownishly bad. Presumably, it’s less than honest.

At any rate, this is the way the world was told that there was no traffic study. The data collection simply wasn’t reported at all; a ridiculous rationale was concocted; readers were told that “bridge workers” said there was no study at all. Given the length of the Times’ reports, that would be a harlequin’s account of what actually happened that week.

That said, the Times has crafted our nation’s stories in this manner for a long time. These practices date to the days when the Times invented the Whitewater scandal. They date to the days when the New York Times reinvented Al Gore as a liar.

Earlier this month, these same practices prevailed when the Times continued to misparaphrase and even misquote Susan Rice. Kate Zernike may be a clown, but she belongs to a troupe.

On the bright side, we keep getting handed our simple-ass tales, the ones which are easy to read in the morning.

Sometimes these silly novelized tales cut in “our” direction. Quite often, they’ve they cut the other way.

It’s stunning to see the way the we liberals continue accepting this practice. But that's just what we do.

Success in the afternoon: After the two “bridge workers” testified, Port Authority executive director Patrick Foye took his time on the stage.

It was Foye who ordered the lanes reopened on September 13. In his testimony, he spoke quite favorably of Bill Baroni, quite harshly about David Wildstein.

He also gave assembly members a talking point they had been seeking all day:
ASSEMBLYWOMAN STENDER (12/9/13): Okay. You said you’ve had a number of conversations with Mr. Baroni regarding this incident.

FOYE: Yes.

STENDER: Did he, at any time during those conversations, explain why this decision was made on the part of Wildstein to do these lane closures?

FOYE: Traffic study.

STENDER: And that was the best he could give you, or gave you, in terms of rationale for causing all of this?

FOYE: That was the rationale.

STENDER: Okay. You know there’s been a lot of speculation that these lane closures were done for political purpose because of the issues with the mayor in Fort Lee. And when you’ve had these conversations with Wildstein, did he make any reference to his decision having to have political purpose?

FOYE: So, Vice Chair, just to be clear, I’ve had no conversations with Wildstein. I’ve spoken with Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni. And the answer to your question is no.

STENDER: So you accepted their statement, their rationale that they put people at risk, and spent money, and created tremendous upheaval solely for the purpose of a traffic study?

FOYE: I don’t.

STENDER: You don’t. Why do you think they did it?

FOYE: I’m not aware of any traffic study. I don’t know why it was done.

STENDER: Thank you.
“Thank you,” the assemblywoman said. We’ll guess she really meant it.

On several occasions, Foyre repeated his point; he “wasn’t aware of a traffic study.” No one asked him what he meant by that statement.

Did he mean there had been no written report? Was he disputing what Fulton and Durando said about the data collection? Was he saying the data collection had just been a hoax, a beard designed to hide Wildstein's real motive?

No one asked him what he meant. We’d say the reason was fairly obvious. Foye had stated the desired point. Why ruin a good thing by asking him what he meant?

In similar ways, folk like Zernike took their dictation from John McCain in September 2012.

According to McCain, Ambassador Rice had said all kinds of things about Benghazi, things she hadn’t actually said. But in that case, the “press corps” took their story lines from McCain. Rice was hurled to her death.

This is the way the process works. In that earlier case, folk like Zernike bowed to McCain. In this case, they bowed to assembly Dems, even transmitting the bogus claim about the high school friendship.

In each case, you’re handed a silly, simplified tale. You’re handed a prefab novel, the sort of simplified story these simple, empty heads like.

A lot of those stories have hurt liberals badly, but we just keep lapping them up. We leave the Zernikes in charge.


  1. Meticulous argument, excellent.


  2. My word, Bob. Please.

    "Is it possible that David Wildstein was trying to conduct a traffic study when he closed two access lanes from the town of Fort Lee?

    That wouldn’t be our first guess. That said, guesswork is massively overrated—and everything is possible! In this case, that possibility hasn’t yet been disproven."

    1. The Usual Douchebag Troll CrewJanuary 24, 2014 at 1:48 PM

      Yeah! So Somerby's wrong, the New York Times has been doing great work. Proven!!

      Also, despite Somerby's claims ("Rice was hurled to her death"), Susan Rice wasn't murdered by the NYTimes.

      Blogger's days must be numbered.

    2. No True Scottsman would do a "legitimate" traffic study that way.

    3. I don't see how Drum is taking down Bob. If you read this post, at no point is Bob arguing that the traffic study is legit.

      He's focusing on the way journalists take a more complicated picture and ignore all the facts that get in the way of a simple narrative they want to tell. That's been his MO for a decade.

      From this post:
      "That said, these facts complicate a preferred, simple tale, and so they’ve never been mentioned at all."

      You don't have to agree with him. Bob has his take on how journalists should filter and transmit facts about a complicated reality. You can have yours.

      But this post isn't about whether the traffic study is real. It's just not. You're in the wrong place if that's the discussion you want to have.

  3. Did Hitler send troops across the Polish border in response to Polish provocations?

    That wouldn't be our guess, but anything is possible.

    Was Baby Bush looking for WMDs when he invaded Iraq?

    That wouldn't be our guess, but anything is possible.

    Are Republicans trying suppress poor/minority votes with their voter ID laws?

    Anything's possible.

    1. It is possible its is not our values which are rotting but instead vegetables Bob left out in the kitchen sink while blogging too many days on end.

      Is it possible that what is broken is not the intellectual culture but the garbage disposal.

      That would explain why too many people can see the problem. It could also explain what appears to be that smell.

      That would be a guess, but we are probably nice people you would all like to meet. We just don't know.

    2. Somerby's opinion about what is most likely is very clear. Why are you trolls always insisting he state definitively as fact propositions that have not been proven. You are insisting he engage in sloppy thinking.

    3. 8:40

      Perhaps the "you trolls" as you label them, are not suggesting Somerby state anything as fact.

      Perhaps they are suggesting he not appear totally ridiculous by continuing to put forth misleading points gleaned from testimoney of three people whose basic point was that THERE WAS NO STUDY in order to show that well, there might have been.

      Perhaps, in context, the "trolls" might be asking Bob to recognize he seems intent on criticizing journalists for getting the fact that THERE WAS NO STUDY because, in fact, there wasn't. They might be arguing that BOB is beating a dead horse because the media is ignoring that which even he seems to be saying accrding to you, is least likely.

      Some might be thinking that Bob began this self inflicted nightmare by hammering a TV personality for whom he has repeatedly displayed a visceral distate by accusing her of focusing on what had not been proven and was unlikely to be linked to the Governor.

  4. OMB

    Anon @ 1:13 "Uncle" Drum is quite kind in his thorough debunking of our beloved OTB (whose theory of a possible bungled traffic study we
    have been among the first to defend).

    Others, however, have not been so kind.

    Note to hardcore BOBfans. Do not read the commentary section. It is filled with people who have taken your advice to leave.

    1. KZ, one of those readers at balloon juice opined that the burr was placed on Somerby's saddle during the ascendancy of the liberal blogosphere in the early 2000s, early into the Bush Administration.

      No longer was Bob one of the few places liberals could go to read opinions they already held. They had multiple sources, more by the day, who were saying more things and better, while Bob remained stuck with his 1998 blog and his 1998-2000 content, forever obsessing in lengthy, rambling posts about the Election of 2000, when all these whippersnappers were writing about the events of the day, and even in some cases (like Josh Marshall) making a pretty good living at it.

      Then lo and behold, they started giving TV shows to "those damn kids." That really sent him over the edge to the point where there could have been a serious traffic study in Fort Lee, thus no harm no foul. And Gov. Ultrasound's 14 or so alleged federal crimes were no big deal. After all, who did he hurt?

      You know, if Bob could see it, he could see how he let's Rachel Maddow do his thinking for him, if only in reverse. If she's for it, he's agin it, by gum. If she's agin it, he's either for it or he will talk for weeks on end about how it's really nothing to talk about.

    2. Ad hominem. The old standby of those without arguments.

    3. Yeah 8:42. You tell em. Those ad hominem charges really destroy a non argument.

      Plus they make me so mad I break out in a sweat that ruins my large orange clown shoes.

    4. Yes, the Rules de Somerby which apply to the rest of the known universe, never to Bob.

      It's OK If You Are Bob to "analyze" every word spoken by Rachel Maddow, reach the conclusion that she is working under only the worst possible motives his agitated brain can imagine, then call her the vilest names imaginable.

      But when somebody says that Somerby should follow the rules he expects her to follow? Have the couch handy and the smelling salts ready.

    5. @ 7:06 Somerby doesn't take Maddow to task for motives, but lousy tribal "reporting."

  5. In deference to deadrat, let it be noted no commenter has suggested the First Analyst has entered the bridge, relieved the CO of command, and taken over the USS Howler.

    However, no keys to the wardroom icebox or legitimate traffic study have been found. Liberty is still suspended for all members of the crew.

    1. Here's to you, Mr. Keefer.

    2. Sorry Mr. Greenwald, this is Whitakker. All the officers are being strip searched by the Captain with an ultrasound wand.

      Can I get you any strawberries? We saved you some.

  6. For every low information tea party voter who suspects but doesn't care if his information level is low there are two equally low information left wing rube voters who are convinced their information level is high as a result of reading Times reports with many words.

    1. Thank you for this insightful comment. It is nice to see Mr. Somerby let the analysts try on a pair of socks and strech their hands every now and again.

  7. My instinct about this guy turns out to be right:

    From the Balloon Juice site about our valorous blogger:

    "Before the war, he had pilloried liberals who claimed that there was no evidence that Iraq retained any WMDs, claiming that this was an obvious mistake that would shatter the credibility of liberalism for a generation. Not only did he never admit to being wrong about that, but he went on to crusade against people who had been rightly skeptical about the Bush admininstration’s claims."

    Now why is he so upset that Gore didn't make it - since he apparently agrees with Baby Bush's signature accomplishment.

    Others have more or less smoothly transitioned to winger territory - why doesn't he come out and try to make an honest living? He can certainly out-Coulter Coulter (the ugly hate in her piece on Wendy Davis is more less the same as one can see here day after day - but she is still enough of a woman to stay away from "self-stroking", "sweating" etc.).

    1. Well if Balloon Juice said it

    2. Ann Coulter is a woman? I thought she was a female impersonator.

      My bad.

    3. It not entirely my fault. I was fooled by the Adam's apple.

      And the 'tude.

  8. Bob, the guy quit without comment and took the Fifth. You probably couldn't do much with those factors in a courtroom, but in the realms of journalism and public opinion, they permit compelling inferences.

    Regards, SJH Esq.

    1. Admit it. Compelling inferences are good enough for you. Even better than facts, because the facts might not make you feel as good, right?

    2. But it hasn't been disproven that 2+2 does not also equal 5. It is possible. We don't know.

      And those of you speculating that 2+2 must always equal 4 are guilding of making inferences without the facts to support you.

    3. I went back to the old Howler site to look for mention of WMDs. Sorry that I didn't make it through all 139 finds from the google. In the few I read, TDH takes liberals to task not for claiming that there was no evidence for WMDs (in other words that the WPE lied about them), but for their haplessness in defending their position.

    4. You know, when Somerby's last remaining friend in the blogosphere whom he hasn't toally pissed of yet, Kevin Drum, can remain silent no more and calls bullshit on Bob's bullshit, perhaps Bob needs to rethink a few things.

      As well as his two or three loyal followers, some of whom also seem to be speaking loudly lately in their MIA.

    5. Yes, it's so inexplicable of him to want the NYT to accurately report the facts. Even when arguing that an understanding of those facts could be MORE damning of Wildstein and company in the end.

      And goodness knows it could never have been a botched incompetent study, it must only be a bogus one.

      I don't know why we have things like investigations. Let the media do their job and report the thrilling news as we all know it to be.

      Damn, party- pooper. It's not like media malfeasance could ever happen to me or to anyone I care about.

    6. If that's all it were, Cecelia, nobody would complain.

      But instead, Bob parses the NYT or Maddow for any nit he can use to "prove" how horribly "inaccurate" they are in everything they do, applying standards and ever-shifting rules that are not only impossible to meet, but that he himself willfully and repeatedly violates in his obsessive zeal.

      Follow the link and read Drum's takedown of Somerby's utterly stupid "It still could have possibly been a real study. Maybe. We don't know" nonsense.

      Then ask yourself to why he continues to pimp this line, day after day, if he doesn't think its only use is to beat the NYT and Maddow over the head with it.

      After all, he told us himself this blog is about "journalists", not "politicians." After his faceplant on "Gov. Ultrasound Still Hasn't Been Indicted."

    7. Been reading TDH long? His standards were writ in stone in1998 and haven't budged a millimeter since. And as for his violating his own rules, you've been reading KZ again, haven't you? I hope you had your tin-foil hat on.

      Drum didn't take down TDH. He wrote that the study couldn't have been a legitimate one, i.e., one planned by engineers and according to Port Authority guidelines, something that no one, including TDH, disagrees with.

      I'll ask again about Gov. Ultrasound. What's your objection to the headline? That it was invalidated the day it was written? Or do you believe TDH knew it was wrong when he posted it?

    8. Case in point, deadrat, since your memory is either short or selective. (Could be both. We don't know.)

      Not so very long ago, Somerby lectured us on the principles of King, Mandela and Malala -- Love your enemies. Don't resort to vile name-calling, especially concerning Tea Partiers. Only speak well, at all times, and with respect for every human being.

      He even repeated this "writ in stone rule" a very short time ago in remarking how wonderful Sokolich was. Back before Sokolich "changed his story" and ceased following Bob's narrative.

      Once you recall that lecture, then go back as far as you care to over the past month or so and look at all the names he's called Rachel Maddow. Look at all the evil motives he has accused her of, even to the point of saying that whatever McDonnell did, she was far worse and far more dishonest.

      Silly rules "writ in stone" are apparently for others, never for Somerby.

    9. "I'll ask again about Gov. Ultrasound. What's your objection to the headline? That it was invalidated the day it was written? Or do you believe TDH knew it was wrong when he posted it?"

      Poor deadrat. Can't see the forest because he keeps staring at an acorn.

      Bob's headline -- and post -- was an attempt to club Maddow, to prove how wrong she was once again, because here we are, some 10 days or so after McDonnell left office, and he STILL hadn't been indicted yet.

      His gloatfest lasted approximately two hours before it turned into a face plant. An embarrassing, self-adminstered, pie-in-the-face.

      Object to it? No. I got a huge bellylaugh out of it. Haven't seen anybody make such a fool of himself since the Three Stooges.

    10. Anonyous @8:40P, OK. I think I've got it now. Your objection (er, sorry, enjoyment) is that TDH posted a headline that was invalidated a few hours later. Really? Whatever makes you happy.

      In fact, Darlin' Rachel was wrong when she first reported about the delay in the McDonnells' indictment, and that didn't change when the indictment was handed up. Yeah, yeah, I know the mistake was minor, and in fact, I don't think it was worth the belaboring. But if it's such a small thing, why not get it right in the first place?

      When did you last watch the Three Stooges? When did you last read one of your own comments?

    11. Anonyous @8:30P, Don't worry, as a member of the "special" team of "challenged" commenters here at TDH, you'll get a trophy. Everyone of you gets a trophy, if only for showing up here day after day on a blog you hate and think worthless.

      Malala's principles, like Gandhi's include not hating your enemies because they are "the other," and to refrain from wishing ill on them because you don' t like them, even if you don' t like them because they've hurt you. Even this much is impossible for most people, which is why we revere those who can do it. So even if TDH isn't one of those, so what? But TDH reserves his criticism of Maddow not for who she is, but because of what she does. I don't recall TDH questioning Maddow's motives, i.e., why she acts the way she does. He contemns what she does.

      My memory on this issue is neither short nor selective. If it matters to you, I'll tell you that I think TDH's reaction to Maddow is overdetermined, to use a psych buzz word. But neither Malala nor Gandhi requires that TDH approve of Maddow's performance on her job or refrain from criticizing her when he doesn't.

      Sokolich earned his praise for not yearning for political retribution. That's independent of whether he shifts his story or not. Can't you keep two ideas on one topic in your head at the same time?

      Oh, listen to me. I forgot. Of course you can't. Your trophy is being engraved as I type.

    12. deadrat you have to be one of the most knowledgeable defenders of Somerby I have ever seen. Either that or Somerby himself. Everything is possible. We just don't know.

      You claim Somerby never reads comments on his own blog. It is more that an evident fact that you read nearly every one and jump in regularly whenever Somerby is criticized.

      "Sokolich earned his praise for not yearning for political retribution."

      You know from the comments here that Somerby chose to praise Sokolich for comments Somerby selected which sounded like he did not want retribution. They sounded that way because Somerby left out the portions of the interview which made it clear in no uncertain terms that Sokolich feared retribution still from Chistie operatives.

      You want to talk about a meme driven misleading scribe?
      His name is Bob Somerby.

    13. Anonymous @12:33A,

      Er, thanks for sharing? I'm not Somerby, although if you're convinced that Somerby comments on his own blog but not under his own name, ….

      I don't claim Somerby never reads comments on his own blog. I claim there's no evidence that he does. He doesn't sign any comments, he doesn't refer to comments in blog entries, and as far as I can tell, the commentariat has no influence on his writing. Given the level of ignorance displayed in the comments, I wouldn't read them if I were he.

      I do read most of the blog entries and the accompanying comments, and as I love the sound of my own voice, I counter those that seem wrong to me. I skip the sports entries, and I don't have the patience for some of the longer education entries.

      We may be talking past each other here about Sokolich. The mayor clearly felt that his city had been singled out for punishment but said he wasn't looking for Christie to suffer any retaliatory political retribution. I don't see how his continuing fear of retribution from Christie operatives figures in, unless you figure he was lying to prevent forestall more punishment.

      There's no doubt that TDH has a script, or a meme, if you wish. The lesson of TDH isn't that scripts are necessarily false; it's that scripts need checking to make sure they're valid. Where have you been misled? For instance, do you think that the press, including the liberal press, isn't lazy, ignorant, and salacious?

    14. "In fact, Darlin' Rachel was wrong when she first reported about the delay in the McDonnells' indictment, and that didn't change when the indictment was handed up."

      Poor deadrat. Still tilting at that windmill.

      Events prove Maddow right and Bob "We Don't Know" Somerby not only wrong, but clueless.

      At that, of course, means Bob's right and Maddow's wrong.

      No, in the words of another commenter, it means Bob is a "world class horse's ass."

    15. "In fact, Darlin' Rachel was wrong when she first reported about the delay in the McDonnells' indictment, and that didn't change when the indictment was handed up."

      deadrat, see here's the thing. Darlin' Rachel wasn't wrong that night, December 19.

      Let us go back and review what Bob wrote about the show.

      Rachel is a true believer in the evil of Others. As she introduced her guest, she expressed her frustration with the failure to charge:

      MADDOW (12/19/13): The Justice Department is not commenting on the Washington Post’s reporting, and the Justice Department would not make someone available to talk with us tonight about this case.

      But it is thought to be unusual for the Justice Department to overrule a U.S. attorney like this. And if they are delaying the indictment out of deference to Governor Bob McDonnell’s standing as a public official, why is that?

      The alleged crimes here, violations of the Hobbs Act, the alleged crimes here, they are public official corruption crimes. Of all the crimes, wouldn’t that be the kind of crime where you would not defer to the guy’s stature as a public official? Isn’t the whole point that he has abused the office? Why keep him in it if that’s what he’s done to it?

      Joining us now is Thomas Cullen. He’s a former federal prosecutor in Virginia.

      Now let us look at what Bob conveniently omitted from the transcript.

      For weeks now, there`s been practically no information about when prosecutors would make their Bob McDonnell decision.

      But then late last night, "Washington Post," in probe of Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, prosecutors agreed to delay decision on charges. The Justice Department apparently overturning the U.S. attorney`s decision
      that he wanted to charge him this week, but apparently they did not overturn the decision to charge him at all.

      Now, the Justice Department is not commenting on "The Washington Post`s" reporting and the Justice Department would not make someone available to talk with us tonight about this case.

      But it is thought to be unusual ....
      There it is, deadrat. You notice what Bob left out of his account?

      She stated the situation as clearly as it could be stated.

      "prosecutors agreed to delay decision on charges. "

      And here is how Bob described Rachel's reporting"

      "According to Rachel’s account, the Post report left no doubt that McDonnell will be indicted. The date on which he will be charged has merely been delayed."

      That is a completely dishonest characterization of what she reported. In addition, she had a guest on to discuss the matter. She wasn't playing fast and loose with the facts.

      What is the first thing Rachel asks her guest,
      MADDOW: Let me just ask first if I explained there in a way that makes sense. Did I get anything wrong or fuzzy there about the legal case?

      CULLEN: No, I think you covered all your bases. I think it`s
      important to remember that these allegation and most of the information that`s out there comes from "The Washington Post." They`ve been out front
      on this story and done a remarkable job.

      Now in point of fact, this was a huge story. Washington Post reported that the decision had been made to indict. They told the Governor of their decision. The governor's lawyer asked for a delay and was granted the delay. There was very little chance that the prosecutors were going to change their mind about whether to indict but until it happens, you never know. I watched that show and that's exactly what I took away from the segment.

    16. Not only that, but Cullen and Maddow held a completely adult discussion in which both laid out their cases (without shouting over or interrupting the other), both strongly disagreed, and both held firm.

      Maddow said that if the indictment was ready, it should be filed now, just like with any ordinary citizen. Cullen said that since there was no evidence of an active ongoing crime, such as Blagojevich selling Obama's U.S. Senate seat, there was no reason not to wait until after the transition and McDonnell left office.

      Both stated their cases, and the viewers were left to decide for themselves.

      Unlike, for instance, a blogger who insists that his way is the only moral, correct way to look at anything.

  9. Rat

    " TUESDAY, APRIL 22, 2003

    SEARCHING FOR WEAPONS OF MASS PROPAGANDA: Here at THE HOWLER, we’ve never doubted that Saddam had WMDs. In fact, we’d be surprised if he didn’t. We think antiwar types set themselves up for a fall when they crow about the lack of quick discovery."

    Sheesh - this guy is pond-scum - it never ceases to amaze me that he actually has fans.

    1. Game. Set. Match to 7:35.

    2. I thought it was game, set, and Surge to the antiwar types.

      You know the antiwar types. They are the ones who ushered in the Reagan era. For you young 'un in the audience, that was before the liberal press gave us Bush.

    3. Yep. Game, set, and match to a player in this blog's Special Olympics for its more challenged readers. The post was written a little more than a month after the WPE's glorious mission started, and TDH warns about jumping to conclusions in a such a short period. How stupid could anyone get?

      The remainder of the Iraq part of the entry, is about reporting. (Note, that this will be a surprise to this crew.) And the point? To warn people not to be as gullible as Judith Miller when she reports about an Iraqi scientist who said that Saddam sent some WMDs out of the country and buried materials for others. TDH notes that Miller wasn't allowed to meet the scientist or see any of the stuff supposedly dug up. This story, he warns, is part of our gov's propaganda effort. Pretty dumb, huh?

      As a reminder to the slower members of the "special" club in the TDH commentariat. Judith Miller is usually referred to with her epithet as "the disgraced Judith Miller," who based her pre-war NYT reporting on the fabrications of Ahmed Chalabi, who shares her epithet. TDH's pre-war intuition about WMDs may have been wrong, but he was dead-on about Miller's reporting.

      From Wikipedia, here's the arc of Miller's career: New York Times -> Fox News -> Newsmax.

      'Nuff said?

    4. Truncated preface quote from a Judith Miller takedown. Disingenuous much?

    5. OMB (Imagine Bob's surprise)

      Since deadrat is the master of the old Howler archives, can he find the post where BOB expressed the surprise he said he would have if we didn't find Saddam's WMD? How about the post on the fall of the antiwar types for crowing? How about the names of those antiwar types he claimed were
      prematurely crowing? You see that is what he said. He didn't "warn about jumping to conclusions." You might try to say that is what he meant, but it isn't what he said.

      Did BOB go on to take down Judith Miller for a bad article?
      Yes. And that is why so many lament the state of the Howler today. He is still as wrong in his predictions as he was in that 2003 post. But his follow ups are no longer accurate take downs of a flawed piece by a reporter.

      What BOB is peddling now are repetitive attacks on persons whom he doesn't like and which contain mountains of information unrelated to the accuracy of the stories those people are telling. And when his meme gets challenged, either by events or in comments here he resorts to doing the same thing he professes to abhor. He makes things up.
      He fudges data. He leaves our salient facts.


    6. KZ,

      TDH said he'd be surprised if we didn't find WMDs in Iraq. Presumably he was subsequently surprised. So what? Do you read TDH for his prognostications? If so, why?

      Let me explain why I treat your comments as no more than occasionally amusing jokes: Here's the quote from TDH 04/22/03: "We think antiwar types set themselves up for a fall when they crow about the lack of quick discovery." Notice that this is a warning about a possibility, perhaps one that he should have taken to heart before his indictment faux pas. Now in what universe is crowing about a lack of quick discovery not the equivalent to jumping to the conclusion that there will be no discovery? Do you understand what "crowing" means here? See below.

      Oh, I forgot, you're commenting from your own universe, somewhere beyond the Main Asteroid Belt, where they're opposites. In that same universe I suppose that TDH must be taken to task for not listing the crowing people. In this universe it took me three minutes to find a report from June 2003 about Colin Powell whining about the adverse press coverage of his doomed search. Maybe in your universe, TDH was lying unless he had produced antiwar types who sounded like crows. After all he said "crowing," and that couldn't have meant anything else.

      You'll just have to take my word for it that I used to try to follow your comments trying to make the case for TDH's hypocrisy. I never found one that made any sense. In this universe, of course. I can't vouch for yours.

      But "2+2 might equal 5. Anything is possible. We just don't know" Ha ha ha ha ha. That never gets old. Just like it never gets relevant. But, I'll have to admit, funnee. Just like The Caine Mutiny references.

    7. Poor deadrat. Yet another sleepless night.

      If you got your news from more sources besides Somerby, you might remember this name: Hans Blix.

      Hans was the head of the U.N. inspection team that couldn't find weapons of mass destruction immediately before the invasion. So we had, at the very least, a pretty good indication before the invasion that there were none. And had Bob been paying attention, he wouldn't have been so surprised that there were none.

      The Bush Administration's response, of course, was that the sly Saddam had carefully hidden his enormous stockpile, and that Blix and his team were too incompetent to find them.

      They even sent Colin Powell to the U.N. with photographs with circles and arrows and labels, showing exactly where these weapons were.

      Only, to date, there were none.

      So the whole "Bush Docrtine" of pre-emptive war to prevent any country we choose from doing something we think they might do was a lie.

      Now one would think, if one had two working brain cells and a working synapse between them, that the Bush Administration would have found these WMDs in rather short order, given all the great intel they had about what Saddam was up to, along with the photographs with circles and arrows and labels.

      And finding them in rather short order, we could have expected a series of photographs and stockpiles of the humongous stockpiles of these things, since that's why we sacrificed lives, both Iraqi and American, to put an end to them.

      So the mission suddenly changed to Plan B. With no WMDs, the war became one of liberation -- to bring democracy to not only Iraq but to the Middle East, with elections and purple fingers and all the benefits.

      Only that hasn't worked out so well either.

      So essentially, we fought a war with no clear mission, no clear exit strategy, and insufficient force to secure the country. At a cost of thousands of American lives, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilian lives, including children.

      But what is truly offensive is Bob's characterization of liberals "crowing" about it, painting as he always does with the same broad tar brush.

      Unlike Bob, I can only speak for myself and the "liberals" I know. We weren't "crowing." We were horrified.

    8. "What BOB is peddling now are repetitive attacks on persons whom he doesn't like and which contain mountains of information unrelated to the accuracy of the stories those people are telling. And when his meme gets challenged, either by events or in comments here he resorts to doing the same thing he professes to abhor. He makes things up.
      He fudges data. He leaves our salient facts"

      Well worth repeating.

      And some of those "salient facts" that Bob never seems to get around to as he advances his "We Don't Know" theme is the extensive testimony, under oath, from Fulton, Durando and Foye about the REQUIRED steps and long advance planning and the advance notification of local authorities and the motoring public necessary before lanes are closed on ANY Port Authority facility.

      That would argue that Wildstein's motives were somewhat less than noble when he ordered on Friday the lanes to be closed on Monday. So Bob won't mention that.

    9. "Truncated preface quote from a Judith Miller takedown. Disingenuous much?"

      You just don't get it. Bob was right about Judy Miller many, many moons ago. That means he's been right about everything, before and since.

      I guess that means there still might be a traffic study out there somewhere. And the McDonnells still might not get indicted.

      Deny, deflect, change the subject.

    10. Anonymous @6:39A,

      If it really matters to you, I stay up all night and sleep during the day. I'm not sleep-deprived; just sleep-reversed.

      Your comment is the perfect example of the manufactured outrage and misplaced criticism that animates much of the commentary here. Let me repeat the obvious and give the rules for TDH:

      Rule 1: Thou shalt beware of bad journalism.
      Rule 2: There is no Rule 2. See Rule 1.

      Note in particular, that TDH is not a news source. It is commentary on news sources. So I don't get my news from TDH because that's not what it's for. See Rule 1.

      Now back in 2003, TDH said he would be surprised if Saddam didn't have WMDs. In this, he was in numerous if not always good company that included our politicians and some in the Iraqi military. He was wrong. But TDH is not a source for predicting the particular weaponry of other countries. I didn't look to TDH for an informed opinion on WMDs because that's not what it's for. See Rule 1.

      The Bush Administration was born in the lies of its campaign for office and persisted in those lies for eight solid years on topics wide and diverse. This includes aluminum tubes, Uranium from Niger, and Colin Powell's twenty-seven 8×10 color glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was to be used as evidence. But I didn't look to TDH for an informed opinion on the mendacity of the WPE because that's not what it's for. See Rule 1.

      When the WMD excuse was exposed for what it was, and Plan B turned into the tactical mess and strategic blunder that it became, I didn't look to TDH for a discussion of US foreign policy because that's not what it's for. See Rule 1.

      Are you starting to notice a theme? TDH is a blog about the performance of journalists when they cover various topics. If you think that's a petty thing, and TDH ought to concentrate on the likelihood of an active Iraqi WMD program, or the lies of the Bush Administration, or the failure of US foreign policy 1/2001-1/2009, then you're in the wrong place.

      See Rule 1.

  10. Sock puppeting your own site could be considered a kind of performance art. Sock puppeting over at balloon-juice just seems dishonest.

    1. OK, Kreskin, how would you like your own nonsense contributions referred to?

    2. deadrat:

      as "comments", just like your snarky contributions.

    3. What if there were no more rhetorical questions?