CORRUPTION SPREADS: Like John Gorka, we don't expect much!

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 5, 2014

Part 3—Rachel’s piddle and pap: For better or worse, investigations tend to take a long time.

Along the way, news may sometimes occur. On February 19, a tiny bit of news occurred in the case of the Fort Lee lane closings.

Everybody knew what it was. On that day, the chairman and vice chairman of the Port Authority offered that agency’s first apologies for the lane closings.

The New York Times led with the formal statement by David Samson, the chairman of the agency. (Headline: “Port Authority's Chairman Is 'Deeply Sorry' for Lane Closings at Bridge.”)

His statement was made at the first board meeting since the release of subpoenaed documents on January 9.

The paper also quoted the statement by Scott Rechler, the agency’s New York-appointed vice chairman. Like other newspapers, the Times quoted Rechler saying it was “abundantly clear that some members of the Port Authority shut down lanes and put public safety at risk.”

(Rechler’s full statement was a bit longer. But one word was garbled on the tape, and had perhaps been indistinguishable in person.)

This was fairly minor news, but it was news all the same. On the Rachel Maddow Show, it became the occasion for some of the host’s famous clowning—the hilarious performance art through which Maddow makes a joke of the news and trains us to love her more fully.

Maddow started her program that night with some remarks by Patrick Foye, an official “white hat” in the novelized story she has been telling.

Foye had made a snide remark about the nature of David Wildstein’s job at the Port Authority. Maddow presented the snarky statement as if Foye has brought it down from the mountain direct from God him- or herself.

(To watch this full segment, click here.)

Please understand! Through use of her entertainment skills, Maddow has been giving viewers a highly novelized version of this slowly unfolding story. Her story comes with black and white hats. Rarely do the twain meet.

Foye is the executive director of the Port Authority. It seems clear that he did the right thing on September 13 when he angrily ordered the lane closings stopped.

That stamped Foye as an official “good guy” in this tale. From that point forward, it can never be imagined that he too might be “political” or partisan in some way or another, or even that his judgments might be fallible.

Foye’s snarky remark about Wildstein’s role was treated as fact this night. Meanwhile, Maddow has made virtually no attempt to explain what Wildstein actually did at the Post Authority, good, bad or indifferent.

We viewers don’t need to know shit like that. Rachel is telling a story! Instead of presenting some real reporting about what Wildstein actually did, viewers are constantly told that his job carried no formal job description. This pointless fact, repeated ad nauseam, drives the tale along.

Foye’s snarky remark was treated as fact this night, even though it was so vague as to serve as nothing but a putdown. Then too, we had the statement by the hapless Rechler.

As noted, Rechler is an appointee of New York’s Governor Cuomo. There is no reason to think he had anything to do with the absurd lane closings.

Except for one garbled word, Rechler had made a clear-cut statement of apology. Unless you were watching the Maddow show, where the host saw a chance to clown.

You will have to watch the tape to appreciate Maddow’s wonderful clowning. But after reporting Foye’s statement-from-God, this was the ridiculous way Maddow described Rechler’s statement:
MADDOW (2/19/14): Just fascinating stuff today!

Also, for the first time today, the Port Authority, where David Wildstein worked when he did shut down those bridge lanes, the Port Authority as an organization finally apologized [pausing]—for something. They apol— [pausing] What exactly they apologized for is not exactly clear, but there was an apology or two.

RECHLER (videotape): We’re apologizing for the fact that it became at least, you know, abundantly clear that some of the members of the Port Authority shut down lanes and put public safety at risk and put public convenience in, at [garbled word]. So you know, we’re apologizing for the action that everyone has been reporting on. It’s inappropriate, and we’ve noted that, and now we’re taking forward action.

MADDOW: “We’re apologizing for the action that everyone’s been reporting on.” (Waving her hands) “You guys know what we mean.” A little vague! But still a good first shot at it from the Port Authority today. That’s the first time anybody there has apologized for what happened on that bridge and to that town last September.
Before she played tape of Rechler’s statement, Maddow clowned, saying it wasn’t exactly clear what he’d apologized for.

She then played the tape, in which the apology was perfectly clear. After that, she told her viewers to ignore what they had just seen and heard.

“A little vague,” the clown princess said, as she continued to perform. To drive home her ludicrous point, she swiveled to review these words, which had been on the screen behind her since the start of the segment:

“WE’RE APOLOGIZING FOR THE ACTION THAT EVERYONE’S BEEN REPORTING ON”

Classic Maddow! She simply ignored the specific part of Rechler’s apology. In capital letters, She clownishly pimped the throw-away comment with which he ended his statement.

Some years ago, Jon Stewart spent a good part of an hour telling Maddow to stop this.

Stewart was too polite to speak directly, which we count as a minor demerit against hid effort that night. But fairly clearly, Stewart told Maddow that her job, reporting the news, was more important than his job. He told her to stop playing the fool, specifically citing the episode in which she directed dick jokes at average Americans for a week and a half, while pretending to be embarrassed by what she kept doing.

Maddow wasn’t buying, then or now. As we watched her clown about Rechler's statement, we were struck by the disrespect she was showing to her viewers. We also wondered about those viewers:

Were viewers unable to see and hear what Rechler had actually said? Did they believe their lying eyes? Or did they believe their clown princess?

We have no way of knowing what Maddow’s viewers think at such piddle-rich moments. Last Thursday, did viewers fail to see that their emotive host was saying one thing, even as a quotation on the screen was saying something different?

The screen shot, with uncorrected punctuation, was sourced to The New Republic:
Thursday evening, February 27:
What Maddow was emotively saying: Cory Booker was the first mayor of Newark, New Jersey, since 1962 to not be convicted of corruption charges and to go prison. Yeah!

What it said on the screen as she spoke: Cory Booker, is the first mayor of Newark since 1962 not to be indicted.
Do viewers really not notice such moments? In fairness, the bullshit can slide by pretty fast as Maddow improves her tales.

In large part, Maddow has built an impressive array of good guys and bad guys in her many segments about Fort Lee. She sometimes misstates basic facts to add to her growing roster.

(One night, she misquoted two different people to make Chip Michaels a bad guy!)

Beyond that, a great deal of clowning has transpired. It’s amazing to see how little real information has been developed in the process.

Given the time she devotes to this topic, Maddow doesn’t seem to care too much about information. Examples:

What did Wildstein actually do at the Port Authority?

Snark from Foye is all we need to hear about this. As far as we know, Maddow has brought no one on the air to try to detail Wildstein’s actions, though some reporters seem to have real information about his role at the agency.

What is David Samson all about?

Amazing! In yesterday’s New York Times, some real reporting appeared concerning Samson’s apparent conflicts of interest while serving as chairman of the Port Authority.

Last Thursday, Maddow simply rehearsed the same two examples she had recited before. Once again, she failed to answer an obvious question about this thrice-told tale:
MADDOW (2/27/14): While David Samson has been chairman of the Port Authority, the Port Authority has repeatedly taken actions that have financially benefited Mr. Samson’s clients at his private law firm. So, for example, his law firm had a client that wanted to make more money on its commuter parking lots that it had in New Jersey. A lot of people commute from New Jersey into New York. They park their cars at one of these lots and then they take some sort of transit into the city.

One of the commuter parking lots owned by this agency, that was run by this agency, was owned by the Port Authority. So the Port Authority owned the lot and this other agency operated it. The Port Authority charged rent on that parking lot. They charged about $900,000 a year rent for that company to operate the parking lot. So yes, the entity could make a lot of money off that lot. You charge people $10 a day to park there. And you got all that as revenue, but they also had to pay rent too. They had to pay to the Port Authority and that reduced their profits, of course.

Well, that entity hired David Samson’s law firm to figure out how they could increase their profits on their parking lots. And then David Samson, at the Port Authority, voted that the rent for that parking lot should no longer be $900,000 a year. It should be $1 a year!

The Port Authority owns that parking lot. That means the rent they were getting was going to a public agency, which means theoretically that money was supposed to go to the good of the public. Instead though, that money will now be going to David Samson’s client. And they in turn will pay his firm to thank them for having come one this great arrangement for them that saved them a million bucks. So it is a win/win, right, from their perspective at least.

The entity that is running the parking lot saves almost a million dollars on rent. David Samson’s law firm gets paid handsomely for having saved their client almost a million dollars a year on the rent. And the only people that lose is everybody else.
Just for the record, the entity whose rent was reduced is a public agency too. Which means theoretically that the money this agency is saving on rent goes to the good of the public!

Maddow was telling a horror tale she had told two times before. The Port Authority had been renting a parking lot for $900,000 per year. It then reduced the rent to just one dollar, benefiting a Samson client!

Each time we heard this story, an obvious question arose. Forget about Samson's vote for a minute: Why did anyone on the Port Authority board vote to do such a thing?

Why did anyone vote to reduce the rent to one measly dollar?

When we checked the source provided at Maddow Blog, we found that an explanation exists. The explanation involves increased costs to New Jersey Transit, a public agency, which were created when the Port Authority, another such agency, raised tolls into New York. It also involves the stated desire to keep people riding buses instead of commuting into New York in their cars.

Is the explanation a good explanation? We can’t begin to judge that. But in Maddow’s three tellings of this tale, the explanation has simply been ignored. Instead, we've been handed a pleasing tale, in which one of the official “bad guys” engaged in some clownish misconduct.

Why did the rest of the board follow suit? Viewers weren’t encouraged to ask. And by the way:

If you read that background report (brief as it is), you will see that several facts in Maddow’s recitation seem to be wrong. By and large, this is the way the Fort Lee story is told in Maddow’s endless segments.

We’re not suggesting that David Samson hasn’t had conflicts of interest. We’re applauding the New York Times for real reporting on this topic, while noting the fact that Maddow’s show traffics a different drug.

Maddow’s presentations tend to be childish and self-involved. She offers structures torn from the pages of fairy tales.

Last Thursday, Maddow devoted the bulk of her program to Fort Lee. We’d have to say that every topic discussed that night bore the mark of overstatement and silly-bill novelization.

As we noted yesterday, the leading “bad guy” in Thursday’s program seemed to be the state of New Jersey itself. Weakly supported horror tales drove the first part of the program.

And sure enough! Less than four minutes into the show, we were allowed to learn a bit more about the host herself.

What follows is perfect Maddow piddle. To watch the full segment, click here:
MADDOW (2/27/14): Personal point of privilege here for a moment. Just a personal aside.

My partner Susan is from New Jersey. She’s from Perth Amboy, born under the Outerbridge.

I was trying to explain to her about the Trenton mayor the other day, trying to explain to her how amazing it was to me that the convicted mayor of Trenton was still the mayor of Trenton even after he had been convicted. And Susan just looked at me. She looked me right in the eye, just dead-eyed, and said, “John Gorka.”

Which in our family is shorthand for the John Gorka song, “I’m from New Jersey,” which explains this whole thing.

GORKA (singing on videotape): I’m from New Jersey
I don’t expect too much.
If the world ended today
I would adjust
Yes, I would adjust
I would adjust.

MADDOW: “I would adjust if the world ended.” God bless you, John Gorka! “I’m from New Jersey. I don’t expect too much.”
We were really having fun now, four minutes into a lengthy segment which was basically piddle and pap.

At this point, Maddow was advancing the claim that New Jersey’s level of corruption is “astonishing,” “epic.” She made no real attempt to demonstrate the truth of this apparent claim, the claim that the state of New Jersey is epically off the charts.

Nor did she really explain why the claim would be relevant here. The lane closings seem to have been absurd and outrageous on their face. Whatever we end up learning about the motives behind the lane closings will stand or fall on its own.

Beyond that, we’re sorry, but no:

Gorka’s song really doesn’t “explain the whole thing.” Nor is Susan’s dead-eyed reaction in any way relevant here. What might be relevant would be some reporting—reporting about this bizarre event, whose basic elements remain extremely murky.

That said, Rachel Maddow’s scandal coverage doesn’t traffic in reporting. It traffics in silly novelization, mixed with uninformative pseudo-interviews with assemblymen and reporters.

According to Gorka's song, people from Jersey don’t expect much. Neither should Maddow’s viewers.

Tomorrow and Friday: Explaining the beast. And yes, we’ll quote Gabe Sherman!

49 comments:

  1. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.. . .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Do you really need to post a comment saying that you have nothing to say in this thread?

      Delete
    2. I think this person is saying the article is boring, which is not saying nothing.

      Delete
    3. There are blogs all over the internet that I find boring. I would have no time for anything else in life if I were to post ZZZZZ at every blog I have no interest in. So, why waste people's time here by posting a comment that says nothing more than that some anonymous person was uninterested?

      Delete
    4. But don't you wish Bob would take a break from his Maddow obsession for at least a week if not a month and get back to "musings on the mainstream press corps and the American discourse"?

      How many times and in how many ways is he going to write, "Maddow is childish"? Are his fans too dense to get the message the first 3,000 times he said it?

      Delete
    5. No, I don't. I am very unhappy with the way the press treated Hillary Clinton's campaign. I am especially unhappy with the way Clinton supporters were treated on various blogs. That was my introduction to the idea that people on the left have clay feet and can be just as flawed in their behavior as those on the right, who I expected that kind of treatment from. It is mainly when someone is doing bad things to a candidate you favor that you notice their bad behavior. So, I feel like Somerby is opening my eyes to problems that we should be complaining about. We should be expecting more and demanding it, because there are so few people on the left in the media. I don't want to wait until Clinton runs again to protest the way our media chooses its favorites, builds myths and distorts truth to manipulate public information to suit their own purposes.

      Maddow lost me a long time ago. I am glad to see Somerby pointing out her flaws to others because I would like to see her replaced by someone with more integrity and a better sense of service to someone besides themselves.

      Delete
    6. "That was my introduction to the idea that people on the left have clay feet and can be just as flawed in their behavior as those on the right, "

      You must either be very young or very naive. Hope you either grow up or wise up soon.

      Delete
    7. One privilege of the old is patronizing the young. Have you ever written a comment that didn't call someone a name?

      Delete
    8. It is a halmark of this blog and blogger, young commenter.

      Delete
  2. OMB (BOB Semi-Applauded)

    "Classic Maddow! She simply ignored the specific part of Rechler’s apology."

    Everyone seems to ignore the specific part of Rechler's service as Vice Chair which enabled much of the fun and games we have since called Bridgegate.

    It seems to have been Scott Rechler, reading the media pendings put out by Port Authority staff, who called the lane closures to Patrick Foye's attention on the Thursday evening before Foye acted to reopen the lanes.

    Nobody seems to have noticed or reported that. Including BOB. He did, however, ferret out that excellent comment from a Berkeley professor, however, in a widely ignored AP report, which suggested you could not rule out a good faith traffic study.

    KZ

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    Replies
    1. Why exactly does it matter that Rechler called this to Foye's attention?

      Delete
    2. Wait just a minute.

      "As noted, Rechler is an appointee of New York’s Governor Cuomo. There is no reason to think he had anything to do with the absurd lane closings."

      Under the "anything is possible - we just don't know" rule, just because there is no reason to think such a thing does not mean it has been journalistically disproven Rechler did not.

      And why did these lane closings suddenly become "absurd?" Somerby has obviously taken an unfair pounding from the trolls. Is he now cratering to their incessant tyranny?

      It has been less than two months since he firmly asserted Maddow was telling a novelized tale by leaving out the ostensible purpose of a study involving the closures. There were benefits these lane closures provided northbound drivers on Interstate 95. Why is Somerby leaving that out and calling the closure absurd?

      Delete
    3. Seems like Bob is also finally off "the ostensible purpose" perhaps realizing how big a fool he was for continuing to propose it.

      But he is still continuing his six-year "War on Maddow" -- even reaching back to Feb. 19 to fashion his latest ad hominem with.

      Delete
    4. Anon. @2:54

      It matters because Maddow is making fun of the real hero.

      We semi-applaud BOB for noting Maddow should not be making fun of him. We don't give him full applause because, in all his reading of all the articles, testimony, and documents, he should have known how truly bad her actions were in this instance and given Rachel a real dunking, or hanging, or burning at the stake.

      Just like the Washington Post and those NAEP scores, BOB may not know how to read those tricky e-mails. But there’s no excuse for the BOB's failure to understand and grasp the magnitude of Maddow's folly.

      If we look at all the players in Bridgegate, Rechler stands out. As of today, BOB didn’t know that. Therefore neither do his readers.

      In this matter, we see the flip side of poor reporting. As cable news has made a joke of the American public discourse, our biggest blogging critic didn't seem to know how to access and assess crucial facts.


      KZ

      Delete
    5. Remember also the e-mail about Samson helping to retaliate against Foye?

      Someone seems to have stopped that in its tracks. Rechler? I don't know. I read Somerby.

      But I do know that the professor in Berkley did say it kinda, sorta, maybe looked like they were studying something, but in a botched sort of way.


      Delete
    6. E-mails from Wildstein to Christie's lower level staff is idle gossip amongst the hired hands. Someone in a make-work government job like Wildstein has no idea what the General does or does no do in between providing counsel to make certain those millionaires clipping coupons on the tax free bonds issued by his clients have legally sound debentures.

      Delete
  3. It occurs to me that perhaps a motive for the lane closings was to demonstrate power by doing something arbitrary to inconvenience others, as an object lesson for someone entirely unrelated to the event itself. That would explain why they were upset when Foye reopened the lanes and when others tried to mitigate the impact of the closures.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm off work today, so I had the chance to visit TDH while sitting down for a late lunch. I found today's colum articulate and thorough - well backed up in its critique. I was impressed once again (yet not surprised) by the clarity and length of the opinions of today's "column" - but as all regular readers know, that's par for the course here. I noticed there were already two comments, and casually wondered what they might be, so I clicked over to see the remarks. I imagine some of the negative respondents must have TDH on some kind of update alert. They are so vigilant with the non-stop invective that I was again given pause by this diligence. It seems to go beyond mere disagreement with the author, and makes me seriously consider what I had always blown off as "silly" - that they are paid to do this kind of thing? Why else the dedication to what would otherwise be seen as a ridiculous waste of time?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dingdingding!!!

      We have a winner.

      Delete
    2. Yes, I agree with this comment too.

      Delete
    3. So at 2:11 pm you noticed that TDH had only been able to generate two comments in an hour and a half. And you ascribe that to paid vigilance?

      Delete
    4. I too agree with the question.

      Delete
    5. "I imagine . . ."

      And of course, like a good Disciple of Bob, what you can imagine certainly must be true!

      Delete
    6. OMB (Like Romney I Enjoy Firing People)

      I just read Volt 61. I am shocked! Shocked that the system employed to notify me the instant BOB has a new post waited at least half an hour to alert me!

      Somebody will lose more than one of their heads.

      Volt 61, it won't happen again. And rest assured we appreciate your making BOB a part of your off day late lunch.

      In addition to taking the time to comment, we hope your lunch included a visit to the Shawn Boburg article BOB linked to. In it you will find Mr. Samson's private law firm got $1.5 million in public funds from one agency to maximize "profits" from that agency's park and ride facility
      operated by another public agency whose board Samson chairs. Ostensibly moving public money from one agency's pocket to another's while plucking off a larger share for his private firm is a notable feat. Unmentioned by BOB of course.

      KZ

      Delete
    7. Trolls do seem to have more time on their hands during the day when others are working at other jobs. That does make you think it may be their job to write disruptive comments, rather than a casual activity, as it is for most other commenters. Why else would someone bother writing ZZZZZ after reading a post they claim bores them to the point of having to write such an inane comment? Why is such a bored person even here?

      Delete
    8. Mercy me. I should have said "owned" instead of "operated" by the agency Samson chairs.

      Of course Samson's private contract with one public agency doing business with another public agency he chairs was also to help the public agency who hired him privately to privatize the public facility operated on the public property of the public agency he chairs. There are so many "P" words it is a wonder a pundit like BOB can find a paragraph in which to place piddle and pap.

      We look forward to the postponed poss on propaganda. Perchance it will probe perjury and piracy as well.

      KZ

      Delete
    9. Anonymous 4:21 you raise an excellent point. For the past 16 years or so I have wondered how when I and others were busy working at our jobs, TDH seemed to have so much time to voraciously watch, read, and write about the media.

      Delete
    10. I assume it is because Somerby is retired. He is about my age and I am 65, but cannot afford to retire yet. I assume he is more fortunate and can spend his days doing what he likes instead of what he must do to earn a living. Are all the trolls retirees? I suspect some of them are on disability or someone's disinformation budget payroll.

      Delete
    11. So he retired at the ripe old age of 50?

      Delete
    12. How would he have been in college with Al Gore and be 50?

      Delete
    13. Silly. Al wasn't in college when he invented the internet.
      He was in Congress. When Somerby was fiftyish, Al had
      already been the model for Love Story, invented the internet and been Vice President.

      Delete
    14. "Trolls seem to have ... ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzz.

      Delete
  5. I think that Jon Stewart interview is a big indictment of Maddow and her work. She refuses to see a distinction between what Stewart does and what she does. She keeps trying to equate them. I didn't love her before that interview, and she pretty much lost me after it.

    I also think that your reaction to that interview will probably be a pretty good indicator of your general feelings about Maddow.

    Watch it here if you haven't yet:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AkHq_wueVMw&list=PLADCD90B01AFF9B98

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You'll get another chance at viewing their small screen chemistry in a few minutes. TDS is having RM of the RMS as a guest tonight. Surely TDH will be watching. If its good we might hear about it after his piece on the psyche of the evil she beast.

      Delete
  6. OMB (Sad Tales From a Paralyzed Planet)

    "Some years ago, Jon Stewart spent a good part of an hour telling Maddow to stop this." Bob Somerby

    Some months ago Bob Somerby spent several posts telling Maddow to stop wasting time with the shazam that was a worthless story.

    Today, John Stewart inerviewed Maddow as a guest on his show and promoted an upcoming documentary she narrates. The second such documentary about a war Bob got a bit wrong as a prognosticator. Just like he did with a "ginned-up" bridge story.

    KZ

    ReplyDelete
  7. If it sold a few downloads for Mr. Gorka I am all for it. That song happens to be from one of his strongest albums, "Jack's Crows." Give it a listen.

    ReplyDelete
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