The Times’ reporting has been Wildsteinesque!


So too with Maddow’s performance: Kevin Drum says there’s no chance that David Wildstein was conducting a “legitimate” traffic study when he closed two traffic lanes leading out of Fort Lee. Click here for the analysts' favorite.

We don’t completely agree with Drum’s post, for reasons we’ll offer below. It wouldn’t be our first bet that Wildstein was acting in good faith. But on a journalistic basis, we would say that possibility hasn’t yet been disproved.

That, of course, doesn’t speak to the question of the New York Times’ reporting of the Fort Lee affair. We’d say that reporting has been Wildsteinesque from Day One right up to the present.

But first:

Consider something Rachel Maddow said last night. We’d have to say the highlighted statement is rather Wildsteinesque too:
MADDOW (1/24/14): David Wildstein, who arranged the shutdown of those lanes and gridlocked Fort Lee, New Jersey back in September, apparently on orders from Chris Christie’s deputy chief of staff, he was a guy who was already and understandably getting lots and lots of lawyering, right? We can see that from his appearance thus far before the assembly committee investigating the matter. He’s already getting lots of lawyering. And lawyering is never cheap.

But as of today, the Port Authority, his employer when he did all this stuff, says, “We are not helping with any of that. You are paying for all of that yourself.” And the Port Authority also indicated today that that may also be the fate of Bill Baroni, the other Chris Christie ally at the Port Authority, the deputy executive director of the agency who was appointed directly by Chris Christie, and who we now know lied to the state legislature about the fake traffic study cover story for what they did to Fort Lee.
Watching last night, we had no idea what that highlighted statement meant.

Granted, it was a compound statement. As we watched, we didn’t understand what Maddow meant by any of its basic parts.

Is the first part of that statement true? Do we “now know” that Baroni “lied to the legislature” when he testified in November?

Watching last night, we had no idea what Maddow meant.

Baroni testified on November 25. We’re sorry to say that we’ve read the full transcript, in which Baroni recites endless statistics about traffic flow on I-95 and legislators emit a seemingly endless array of snarky rejoinders.

For the full transcript, click here.

Having read the testimony, we had no idea was Maddow meant last night. For starters, what did Baroni lie about? We had to refresh our recollection, reviewing the presentation Maddow made last Friday.

On that evening, Maddow offered viewers the large pile of piddle which started as shown below. We discussed this obvious crap in real time.

We’d call this Wildsteinesque:
MADDOW (1/17/14): November—so after the shutdown, after the election, right? This is when the press was pushing really hard to figure out what had happened with the [traffic lanes] shutdown. The legislature was starting to sniff around, to try to figure out what happened with the shutdown.

But at this time in late November, Governor Chris Christie was still mocking this story, telling everybody it was nothing. In late November, Bill Baroni testified to the legislature about what happened on that bridge. And he appears to have not told the truth in that testimony, really, at all, really egregiously.

For example—

BARONI (videotape): At all times during the week of the study, the Port Authority Police Department monitored traffic on the George Washington Bridge. They were alert for any emergency vehicles in the area and prepared to further alter traffic patterns—excuse me—in the event of an emergency.

MADDOW: That is not true. Emergency vehicles had a ton of trouble, actually, because of the bridge lane shutdown.
Maddow raged against the dying of day that night. Eventually, she described that statement by Baroni as “a lie.”

Her analysis didn’t make any sense, and it still doesn’t today. In the clip Maddow played, Baroni didn’t claim that emergency vehicles didn’t experience any delays during the lane closings.

That simply isn’t what he said, as you can see in what we’ve posted. Beyond that, no legislators showed any sign of thinking Baroni had said that.

The assembly members complained throughout Baroni’s testimony. For obvious reasons, no one complained about that.

As of November 25, everyone knew that emergency vehicles had experienced some delays during the lane closings. (The most widely discussed such event was a delay of three minutes.)

If you can read the English language, you can see that Baroni didn’t deny that fact in that statement—and that was Maddow’s only example of the way he had “egregiously” “lied.”

Maddow’s presentation last Friday was Wildsteinesque. Here’s what we mean by that:

Wildstein conducted a “traffic study” which, if it was done in good faith, was clownish in its planning and execution. As Drum notes, he failed to employ the standard good practices of the traffic planning profession.

(Not being a traffic planner, he may not have known that.)

That said, Wildsteinism is widely observed in our modern culture. It prevails at the New York Times, as has been true for decades. It runs through much of Maddow’s work, especially when she surrenders herself to the thrill of scandal reporting.

Did Baroni lie at that hearing? It’s certainly possible that he did, but he certainly didn’t lie in Maddow’s pathetic example. Meanwhile, what did Maddow mean last night when she referred to “the fake traffic study cover story?”

We’re not sure what that meant either. It could mean several different things, none of which have been proven.

Did Baroni lie at that hearing? It’s possible, but Maddow was being Wildsteinesque when she made that assertion.

That said, Wildsteinism is everywhere in modern press culture. Wildsteinism is hardly restricted to the works of political henchmen.

If Wildstein was acting in good faith, he ran a ridiculous study. According to testimony, he ignored various warnings about the mess which would inevitably result. As Drum notes, he blew right past professional norms for the conduct of such studies.

That’s pretty much what Maddow did when she made last night’s thrilling assertion.

Wildsteinism is everywhere in the modern world! The New York Times has engaged in the practice since the day it began its Fort Lee reporting. If you want to see Wildsteinism in action, we suggest that you reread the Times reporting on this matter, starting with Kate Zernike’s initial report on December 10.

From that day forward, the Times has blown past normal professional standards, ignoring the safeguards which are lodged in conventional journalistic practice.

Forget the problem Zernike had counting the number of lanes Wildstein closed (two). The Times has misreported basic facts, sometimes in egregious ways.

The Times has invented other facts. (The motive has been revealed!) And it has omitted large blocks of facts about what happened that week.

In these very familiar ways, the Times has created a simplified story about the traffic lane closings. If it’s Wildsteinism you seek, you should just read the New York Times—or watch Maddow’s program.

In closing, let’s discuss the current theories about the reason those lanes were shut down. None of these theories seem to make sense in the world as we know it.

If Wildstein wanted to punish the mayor, or the state senator, why would he do so in a way which would be right out in the open? According to testimony, he was warned that the lane closings would be a highly visible public event—that everyone was going to notice, that “it wouldn't turn out well.”

In the modern political world, that isn’t the way retribution is done. Retribution is normally done in secret, in a way which won’t bring public opprobrium down on the aggressor’s head.

That leaves the billion dollar development as the third possible motive. In that case, it might make a type of sense to stage a public fiasco.

According to that theory, such as it is, Wildstein wanted to undermine the progress of the development. He wanted to queer the deal in some way, perhaps to get a piece of the action.

Perhaps to make the deal collapse, so The Rockefeller Group could step in?

We have no idea if something like that was the motive. But if it was, you might want your conduct to be highly public.

You’d want the developers, and their financiers, to see the developing threat to the project. You might be willing to take the risk involved in the kind of craziness The Wildstein Group unloosed.

Is that what happened in Fort Lee? We have no idea. Even that makes little sense, given the the giant risk involved in the chaos Wildstein created. But good grief! Even when Patrick Foye ordered the lane closings stopped, The Wildstein Group raged against his conduct in their emails.

They wanted to continue the closings! How long did these lunatics think this ridiculous thing could go on?

None of these scenarios seem to make much sense. For that reason, we crack the door for another possibility—the possibility that Wildstein is simply crazy, or deeply stupid, or maybe just on drugs.

Some people are actually mentally ill. We wouldn’t rule that out.

There’s a lot of The Crazy about in the world, and a lot of the semi-crazy. If you doubt that, just watch Maddow conduct her scandal reporting.

Last night, she continued to dream about the ruin and the destruction of the people she opposes. When you see someone employing this language, we suggest you approach them with care:
MADDOW (1/24/14): As David Wildstein gets cut loose, as he gets his lifeline hacked off the mother ship and he drifts into space, to not just be blamed for what happened here but to be potentially bankrupted by this disaster that he had this role in, and as Bill Baroni twists at the end of his line, not knowing whether he’s going to get cut off too but it looks like he might, he`s already been blamed, is he also going to be bankrupted and ruined too?

As those guys see their lives destroyed, as those guys not only get blamed for this scandal but potentially destroyed by it, Chris Christie’s other top guy at the agency, his top appointee at the agency, he`s apparently still fine. Still has his job. He’s still running the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and its budget that’s bigger than nine U.S. states and its 7,000 employees who get paid apparently an average of well into the six figures.
Wow! At times like this, Maddow reliably drifts toward images of ruin and destruction. When she pictures Baroni “twisting at the end of his line,” does she know she’s talking like Nixon’s henchmen, not like the people who brought them down?

Is that a reference to Gravity? Is that what she’s longing to see? What makes a person with millions of dollars and barrels of fame speak in public like that?

None of the proffered scenarios seem to make sense at this point. In part for that reason, Wildsteinesque figures in the press corps have invented simpler stories. They pretend that they have discovered lies when they actually haven’t. They pretend, in front-page reports, that the motive has been “revealed.”

They baldly misstate elementary facts. They omit large sets of facts about what happened that week.

Wherever there's a fight so hungry people can eat, Tom Joad said he would be there. Whenever you turn on cable or thumb the Times, there’s a good chance Wildstein is there.


  1. Now we're down to "Rachel the Big Meanie" meme.

    Bob, this is past the point of boring.

    1. Well, the headline was about the New York Times being Wildsteinesque. Good thing he got back to that with a few short paragraphs after launching into full scale Maddowphobia
      for most of the post.

  2. "We don’t completely agree with Drum’s post, for reasons we’ll offer below."


    Well. That was convincing

    1. Some people need to have things enumerated and others can read and infer them without explicit statements, such as "Reason 1 why I disagree with Drum is..." We now know which sort you are.

    2. I'm so dumb. You're so smart> Please tell me what reasons we can read and infer from Mr. Somerby as to why he disagrees with the following statement:

      "there’s no chance that David Wildstein was conducting a “legitimate” traffic study when he closed two traffic lanes leading out of Fort Lee."

    3. He clearly disagrees that the only possible explanation is fraud. The suggestion of incompetence and mental illness are alternative possibilities. How hard is that to get?

    4. The quote I gave you is Somerby's interpretation of Drum's post. Nowhere does Somerby suggest Drum said "the only possible explanation is fraud."

      The "suggestion of incompetence and mental illness" is discussed. I would suggest, since it has not been disproven on a journalistic basis, that someone reading things which are not there may suffer from one of the two things Bob did discuss.

      It would not be our first bet. We don't know. Everything is possible.

    5. I have to agree with the op in this instance - it seems as though Somerby forgot to go back and actually discuss his disagreements with Drum's post.

    6. When he raises other possible explanations the source of his disagreement is obvious.

    7. When you put it that way I may be hedging the bet placed at 6:55.

    8. 8:39, don't fall for the "it's possible" ploy. It's a cheap trick that instantly loses in a high school debate tournament.

      Everything is possible, including me winning the next Powerball lottery.

      As yourself instead, "is it plausible?" The notion that this whole thing was a legitimate traffic study gone wrong passed the plausibility point a loooooong time ago.

    9. Anonymous @12:34P, Great advice, 'cause life is just like a high school debate tournament.

      Is everything possible? LIke you understanding TDH's tiresome trope? LIke you understanding that TDH, like everyone else, acknowledges that the traffic study wasn't "legitimate"?

      Tough call.

    10. Sleep well last night, deadrat? You seem kind of cranky. Of course, staying up into the wee hours making yourself look like a fool can do that.

    11. As I've explained, I'm not sleep-deprived; I'm sleep-reversed. I stay up all night and sleep during the day.

      If I seem kind of cranky, that's because I am. But I'm always cranky, and that's unaffected by how late I stay up or by how ignoramuses like you call me a fool.

      But thanks for your concern.

    12. TDH acknowledges the the study probably wasn't legitimate but is keeping an open mind that perhaps massive stupidity occurred instead, because there is plenty of that in the world.

    13. If he needs evidence, all he has to do is read his commentary.

  3. "But on a journalistic basis, we would say that possibility hasn’t yet been disproved."

    What, on a journalistic basis, contitutes disproval of a possibility?

    Where, in teaching the craft of journalism, or in acceptable canons of journalistic practice and ethics, is it stated one should cover all possibilities, even ones that, despite testimony from three relevant officials, haven't been disproved on that "journalistic basis?

    1. Journalists report the facts and keep an open mind about their interpretation.

    2. An open mind can disprove possibilities.

      So anyone with an open minded approach to facts can disprove possibilities?

      And all possibilities which cannot be disproven with an open mind should be reported, even if they are not facts?

    3. Anonymous 6:45

      That is a brilliant reply to Anoymous 5:29!

  4. Fine analysis, as usual, Bob.

    1. And an exceptionally fine comment, as always Anonymous.
      Crisp, concise, original, and well within your literary range.

    2. Fucking Douche TrollJanuary 27, 2014 at 10:20 AM

      I sarcastically rue and mock any agreement with Somerby, even to the extent that I am unable to recognize that "agreement" may itself have been made sarcastically.

      Why? Because I am...

      Douchebag Troll

  5. "Some people are actually mentally ill. We wouldn’t rule that out."

    We completely agree with Bob's statement.

    Therefore, in all articles, journalists need to note there is a possibility the people whose actions or statements they are covering are mentally ill. Unless it has been disproven on a journalistic basis.

    One question. If it has been disproven that the persons are mentally,
    must the journalist cite the soruce of disproof?

    1. When the proposed explanations don't make sense as the acts of a rational person, you either don't know enough to understand the true explanation, or the actors are not rational, making mental illness a more plausible explanation.

      Do you trolls really not understand how to reason about things?

    2. I can't wait for the edition of the Rachel Maddow Show when she opines:

      We can't explain why Governor and Mrs. Ultrasound drove around in that Ferrari at the guy's lakehouse, hosted an event for him at the Governor's mansion the next morning, then requested an engraved Rolex. They must be crazy!

    3. Doesn't it sound stupid or crazy to you? Especially given the consequences?

    4. Yes it does, but Bob would hit her for the use of the word "must." She would have to say "they appear crackers."

    5. Just because "it sounds stupid or crazy" doesn't mean it wasn't criminal as well.

      You know, back when the e-mail exchange between Kelly and Wildstein was revealed, that would have been a good time for Somerby to stop putting all the eggs he wants to throw at Maddow into the same "legitimate study" basket.

    6. Taking it one step further, Anonymous @ 8:49, what does it sound like when some old guy sits at his roadside stand day after day offering his wares beneath a sign which says:
      Crazy Broken Eggs for Sale: Free by the Dozen.

    7. Anonymous @8:49A, Yeah, that egg-putting thing would be bad were the basket labeled "legitimate study." TDH called it "bungled mess" back on Jan. 11.

      Anonymous @10:01A, It sounds like you keep cruising down the road until you find a better roadside stand. You certainly don't pull over. Yet here you are. Go figure.

    8. Ah, more of the wit and wisdom of deadrat.

      You know you'd be a lot less obnoxious if you pulled your head out of Somerby's ass every now and then and took a breath of fresh air. You'd probably make more sense and contribute more to the discussion.

      But I guess all you got left in defense of Somerby's increasing stupidity and craziness are pithy little insults that only you think are clever.

    9. Ah, yes, instead of this being about your apparent inability to read for comprehension and your inexplicable attachment to a blog you can't stand, somehow this is all about me. I'm obnoxious, I'm a "Bobfan," I'm insulting, I'm the only one who thinks I'm clever. Would it make you feel better if I pled guilty to all of it? Because I'm all about how you feel. I'm a people-pleaser; I just can't help it.

      Feel better now? If not, don't read my comments. It's so easy. I'm not one of the Anonymi like you. My easily-recognized nym is right there at the top of each comment.

      If you do feel better -- and I promise that I really, really hope that's the case -- how about you do me a favor in return. Reread TDH and find out that he doesn't think the study was "legitimate" (i.e., planned by traffic engineers according to professional standards and Port Authority guidelines.) He thinks it was "a bungled mess."

      And just in case you're worried too, yeah, I'm getting enough sleep.

  6. "Some people are actually mentally ill. We wouldn’t rule that out."

    We completely agree with part of Bob's statement for reasons offered throughout the post above.

  7. Don't forget Hanlon's razor:

    Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

    1. Your family motto?

    2. Now that's mere snark.

      Unlike the ordinary trolls here, I recognize you are above that.

      You know it too. For that reason you probably regret it, but just a little.

    3. Alas, you hold me in higher esteem than I warrant.

  8. I actually think the mayor of Ft Lee knows more than he's saying, and not in a good way, either.

    Something weird going on there. He swings between anger and what looks like fear or even remorse over the course of a single interview. That is one extremely conflicted human being.

    Ultimately, if indeed we ever get to the bottom of it, I think it will involve Christie + a whole bunch of complicit Democrats.

    I think this is good! It would be a good thing to have a public discussion on corruption, not necessarily actionable, criminal corrupt acts (theft of honest services, etc) but a broader conversation about who, exactly, these people are working for. I don't think they're working for "us."

  9. OMB

    "Baroni testified on November 25. We’re sorry to say that we’ve read the full transcript, in which Baroni recites endless statistics about traffic flow on I-95 and legislators emit a seemingly endless array of snarky rejoinders.

    Did Baroni lie at that hearing? It’s certainly possible that he did, but he certainly didn’t lie in Maddow’s pathetic example."

    Sideshow Bob Somerby

    Bob has prided himself on saying he read all the transcripts. Here is a portion he left out. Keep in mind Baroni's opening statement was to assert the closures resulted from a study of whether it was fair to dedicate 25% of the lanes to Ft. Lee when Ft. Lee generated only 4.5% of the traffic. He repeated this over and over again, despite being reminded by "snarky legislators that the hearing was about closing the lanes without notice to Ft. Lee and the resulting impact.

    Here is what the Executive Direcotr said when asked about that at the next hearing.
    ASSEMBLYMAN SCHAER: Very good. Thank you.
    And one last question if I may, Mr. Chairman.


    Mr. Foye, do we have any idea exactly how many automobiles,
    buses, trucks, etc., were actually affected by these four days of bedlam? A raw number? The figure was given -- 300,000 cars a day traverse the Bridge. Do we have any breakdown further in terms of what this--

    MR. FOYE: Well, Assemblyman, a rule of thumb is that the
    Fort Lee lanes -- which obviously don’t serve just Fort Lee, but beyond -
    account for about 25 percent to 26 percent of the traffic on any given
    morning, any given afternoon. So using the 300,000 number, that gets you to 70,000 to 75,000 cars total. How long each was delayed, I don’t know. But it would be a number like that, sir.

    ASSEMBLYMAN SCHAER: I’m asking another question.
    Forgive me, Mr. Chairman. I apologize. There was testimony earlier given by the director of the GW Bridge.

    MR. FOYE: Right.

    ASSEMBLYMAN SCHAER: Would you remember, sir, how
    many lanes there are that -- how many toll lanes there are actually that the director responded to?

    MR. FOYE: I believe what the director said -- and the director
    is still in the room -- was he said 12 toll lanes on the upper level, of which three are the so-called Fort Lee lanes, sir.

    ASSEMBLYMAN SCHAER: So a question, if I may. You just
    stated, sir, that 26 percent, 27 percent of toll lanes are accounted for from the Fort Lee access. There are 12 lanes, 3 of them are Fort Lee. That’s 25 percent. Come back to me again -- please let me understand -- we did a survey that no one can understand or has any material of. We saw charts the other day presented by Mr. Baroni that, at best, seemed fantasy-like, for lack of any other term. And now we’re learning that, indeed, 3 lanes is totally proportionate to the amount of traffic from the Fort Lee area that feeds into the Bridge. Is that correct?

    MR. FOYE: I believe that to be -- that rough math is correct.
    Yes, sir.

    Maddow's clown shoes may be orange. Bob's are horseshit of another color.

    Here's to rubes and losers all around.


    Teasing Ahead: Was Maddow's comment a pile of piddle? Obvious crap? We assess a real poo piler ahead.

    1. Foye is engaging in a time-honored practice called CYA.

    2. Hope that's not Bob's next theory: That the real culprit in all this is Patrick Foye.

      Sure seems like Somerby is trying everything to avoid the increasingly obvious.

    3. Anon @ 3:22

      Whose ass would he need to be covering?

    4. He is making it very clear he was not involved & would never do anything like it. Max distancing.

    5. Gee. I thought he was saying about 25% of the traffic coming onto the bridge was coming through the dedicated Ft. Lee lanes. And that the dedicated lanes comprise 25% of the toll lanes. I don't see how that covers anyone's ass.

      I can see where your comment appears to cover the blogger's ass, but that may not have been what you intended.

    6. Actually I thought Foye, at another point in the hearing, made it clear there was no study he was aware of, and that Bob decided that didn't mean what everyone else who heard it took it to mean.

  10. Poo Poo Platter (Time to Return to Bob's Menu Staple)

    All the "p" words popping us like poppinjays in BOB's perambulations made us pine for our previous posting personality, PPP.

    We started off with the notion that BOB is exactly what BOB criticizes. He engages in broad generalizations of things (Liberalworld), names no names "liberal leaders think," "antiwar types crow," fails to make corrections (Bad boy Krugman versus Still Unindicted Ultrasound) and a host of other noticeable acts of hypocrisy

    But lets focus on the Pig Killing Picture. BOB says the press engages in Pig Killing By Picking on a Victim By Disappearing or Distorting Facts to Serve a Meme.

    Bob's favorite pig is Rachel Maddow, the perspiring pimp of piddle. We don't much care for Maddow's work either, although we're sure she's a very nice person.

    In the current post Maddow's sin, according to the OTB, is a pile of piddle about Bill Baroni lying at a hearing. Lets foucus on what BOB calls "obvious crap" in this and a previous post one week ago.

    BOB makes it seem as if this is Baroni's statement which Maddow claims is untrue:

    BARONI (videotape): At all times during the week of the study, the Port Authority Police Department monitored traffic.... They were alert for any emergency vehicles in the area and prepared to further alter traffic patterns—excuse me—in the event of an emergency."

    MADDOW: That is not true. Emergency vehicles had a ton of trouble, actually, because of the bridge lane shutdown.

    BOB: Her analysis didn’t make any sense, and it still doesn’t today. In the clip Maddow played, Baroni didn’t claim that emergency vehicles didn’t experience any delays during the lane closings."

    That simply isn’t what he said, as you can see in what we’ve posted."

    No BOB, that wasn't what Baroni said. But it wasn't what Maddow said either. She makes no claim Baroni denied there were problems.

    BOB has just done to Maddow what he howled about for over a year being done to Susan Rice. In both this post and one a week ago, BOB simply left out what didn't fit his meme.

    Following the sentence BOB cherry picks, Maddow, like Rice on Meet the Press, says a great deal more. She says Baroni's statement is false because, while reports were made directly to him about EMT vehicle problems in Ft. Lee, he did nothing to change the traffic flow, as he testified PA police were ready to do. He deliberately ignored pleas for help.

    But, BOB defenders might say, and so would BOB, Baroni never testified they did do anything. He said they were "alert" and "prepared" to do something even though they did not.

    BOB tells us the Legislature did not focus on this statement.
    No. They had a hard time getting Baroni to focus on the lack of disclosure of the closings instead of harping on how unfair it was for 95% of the people to be delayed by the 4.5% coming from Ft. Lee.
    That got them labeled 'snarky" by Bob. And guess what BOB and BOBfans alike? They had no idea at the time of the hearing how much Baroni knew about the EMT problems nor did they know that when Foye ordered the lanes opened, Baroni was described by Wildstein as engaging in unspecified "retaliation" against Foye.

    BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE! BOB focused on the Baroni statement about Emergency responders because that is the only clip Maddow showed and it is where she launched into her comments. But it is clear throughout the transcript she thought his testimony to be false because the testimony about this closure being done as part of a study was designed to cover up the real reason for the lane closures. BOB makes no mention of that. That isn't a possibility that hasn't been disproven but ignored by the NY Times. It is real words uttered on air and retrievable online in the program transcript. Omitted by BOB.

    KZ (Oh, and did we mention we have an even weirder theory about Maddow than BOB)

  11. The Actual Traffic Study Revealed (NYT)

    1. This is hilarious, and it raises yet another "possibility."

      Perhaps Somerby isn't as stupid or "mentally ill" as his posts. Perhaps some time in the not-so-distant past, our host stand-up comic decided to devote his blog to satire and self-parody.

      It has never been disproved. It is possible. We don't know.

    2. Somerby probably wouldn't know self-parody if he tripped over Chiris Christie.

    3. Trolls applauding more Wilsteinesque behavior from the New York Times.

  12. Legitimate study still possible Bob? I did my own similar study and found that if I turned off my water that my sink stayed dry, and when I turned it on, it got wet. Problem solved! Now back to harpooning the Great White Maddow!

    1. So are bullies like our broken intellectual culture? Few see them?

  13. You know, one thing that comes in pretty handy for reporters is a good, working "bullshit detector" so that when they get a bullshit answer, like it was a "traffic safety" study, they keep probing and asking questions.

    Kinda like the guy who writes the "Road Warrior" column for the Bergen County record did when he wrote the very first piece on the Fort Lee gridlock.

    And kind of like the Wall Street Journal editor did when he read that column and assigned one of his reporters to the story.

  14. As a long time Daily Howler reader, i thought back to an earlier and equally frustrating example when Bob wouldn't admit he was wrong. He wrote this in 2006:

    "SMILE-A-WHILE/NUMBERS ARE HARD: Good God! Kaplan and Kaplan spent some time writing a book on “adventures in probability.” For their trouble, they get to read this, from William Grimes’ review in the Times:

    GRIMES (3/31/06): Before scoffing, chew on the now famous Monty Hall problem, named after the host of ''Let's Make a Deal.'' A contestant knows that concealed behind three doors there are two goats and one new car. The contestant chooses Door No. 1. The beaming host opens Door No. 3 to reveal a goat, and then asks the contestant if he would like to change his choice to Door No. 2. Two doors add up to a 50-50 proposition, obviously. So why bother? Because the odds have actually shifted. The chances are now two out of three that changing to Door No. 2 will obtain the car.

    Say what? We don’t know what the Kaplans wrote to provoke that highlighted sentence. But for the record: If the contestant changes to Door No. 2, he’ll obtain the car half the time—and “half the time” is not “two out of three.”

    Numbers, dear friends, are hard work."

    Yes, Bob numbers are hard, and you are wrong. When several e-mailers (including myself) pointed that out to Bob here was his mea culpa.

    "SMILE-A-WHILE—MONTY’S REVENGE: Many e-mailers wrote to insist that there is a counterintuitive “Monty Hall problem” of the type we discussed yesterday (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/31/06). We haven’t had time to review this in detail, but:

    We didn’t dispute that there’s some such effect—an effect which the Kaplans describe in their book. What we said is this: Whatever that counterintuitive “Hall effect” might be, the Times review doesn’t seem to describe it. We’ll persist in our statement about the situation as described in the Times review: In that situation, it just isn’t true that the contestant would gain an advantage from switching his guess. We’ll grudgingly try to sort through the matter. "

    Not only does Bob refuse to admit was wrong, he still insists that the contestant would NOT gain an advantage from switching his guess. How very stubborn in the face of mathematical certainty!

    Anyway, face it long time fans, Bob will never admit he's wrong. The fact that even Christie himself is no longer going with the "it was just a study" canard won't matter to Bob, he's got his script and he's sticking to it.

    Bob, it's one thing not to admit you're wrong, but to keep harping out it is just embarrassing, please move on to something else!

    1. And might I quickly add that Bob's fans should do just a wee bit of research on the well-known and well-tested "Monty Hall Problem" before they jump in and proclaim that Bob is STILL right.

    2. Anon, 1:13, sort of my point Bob made an error. E-mailers pointed that out to him and explained why it's wrong. But rather than taking five seconds to check on the facts and saying "Ooops, i was wrong" Bob stuck to his script. Embarrassing.

      Note, math may be hard, but the Monty Hall Problem concept is pretty easy to grasp.

    3. Bob is in good company. Professor Andrew Vazsonyi reported in Decision Line magazine in 1999 that his friend, Paul Erdos, one of the greatest number theorists of all time, refused to accept his explanation that switching is the better strategy. There really is no common-sense explanation for the solution. You have to lay out the combinations to find there are more way to pick the car by switching than by standing pat.

    4. You're right...Of course a newcomer who was presented the scene at the point of 2 remaining doors would guess right only half the time, but his choices would break down as right for the contestant's original choice only 1/3rd of the time.

    5. Yep, and part of the reason is also the reason casinos make a lot of money.

      The odds of you picking the right door are still one in three. They did not increase to 50/50, even if "logic" dictates that. And this was proven by skeptical mathematicians who ran the problem through computers. Two thirds of the time, the car was behind the "second chance" door.

      Had he taken the five minutes to even google "Monty Hall Problem" Somerby would have known that. But he was both too certain to entertain the notion he could be wrong and Grimes could be right, and too lazy to look it up.

      I will give him at least some credit for this. With egg all over his face, Somerby apparently dropped the whole thing back in 2006, without, of course, mentioning that he was completely wrong and William Grimes was completely right.

      These days, he'd double down ad infinitum rather than give up his own script.

    6. "There really is no common-sense explanation for the solution."

      Yes, there is. The odds are one out of three that it's behind the door you picked, two out of three that it's behind one of the other doors. That does not change.

    7. "Professor Andrew Vazsonyi reported in Decision Line magazine in 1999 that his friend, Paul Erdos, one of the greatest number theorists of all time, refused to accept his explanation that switching is the better strategy."

      And now, as Paul Harvey said, for the rest of the story.

      When Vazsonyi ran hundreds of computer simulations that demonstrated that the odds in favor of "switching doors" was 2-to-1, Erdos admitted he was wrong.

      Still waiting for Somerby.

    8. Anonymous @2:39, That's a statement, and true though it be, it's not an explanation. The odds of the original three-door problem don't change, but the problem is now a two-door problem. Things have changed, but your statement doesn't include anything about Monty's choice or the contestant's.

      Perhaps your common sense is more finely tuned than mine.

    9. Anonymous @2:49, Perhaps you're still waiting for Somerby because he still thinks he's right. That would have some amusement value, I suppose, but the real question is why you're waiting. Does this have some implications for his belief or lack thereof in a "legitimate" study?

      I guess it gives you an opportunity to bash him, though. There is that.

    10. No, it's still a three-door problem. Since there is only one car, the odds are also 100 percent that the car wasn't behind one of the two doors you didn't pick. So Monty really didn't change the problem at all.

      That is why Vazsoni's computer simulations showed that switching gets you the car two out of three times.

    11. "Does this have some implications for his belief or lack thereof in a "legitimate" study?"

      Hankest put it quite well:

      "Anyway, face it long time fans, Bob will never admit he's wrong. The fact that even Christie himself is no longer going with the "it was just a study" canard won't matter to Bob, he's got his script and he's sticking to it.

      "Bob, it's one thing not to admit you're wrong, but to keep harping out it is just embarrassing, please move on to something else!"

    12. Oh, well, if Chris Christie has dropped the study "canard," then by all means, we've had the final word. 'Cause CC would never do anything politically expedient.

      No one, including TDH thinks this was a standard or "legitimate" study. TDH called it a "bungled mess." He even says it may have been a planned ruse to cover up illicit motives, but whatever it was, it was in place before the traffic jam and not a post hoc excuse dreamed up after the proverbial excrement hit the proverbial cooling device. It doesn't seem to make very much sense, but little does at this point.

      Including the commentariat insistence that TDH still holds out for this being a real engineer-approved type traffic study.

    13. OK, I'll bite. Why would it be "politically expedient" for Christie to drop the "legitimate study" defense?

    14. So which do you pick, deadrat, the cover story behind Door 1, the cover-up behind Door 2, or the crazy clown benind Door 3.

      By the way, most of us did not fall for the theory advanced by Bob that Rachel accused Baroni of lying by denying there were Emergency vehicle problems. And we are not falling for your advancing the theory that we accuse Bob of saying there was an engineer- approved study. Even though he devoted a whole post quoting an engineering professor saying it couldn't be ruled out. I think most of us appear to be barfing at the "good-faith' theory. Something in the "don't tell anybody" instructions part of the study might give you a clue.

    15. I will admit, Somerby seems to realize that the "legitimate study" limb he was on has been sawed off. Perhaps Kevin Drum gets results. It is possible. We don't know.

      Now he is out there by himself on a new one -- Wildstein is stupid, crazy, on drugs or all three. Which still means he thought this up all by hisself, the e-mail from Kelly forgotten. It's also possible. We still don't know.

      This seeming backtracking of course is done while at least some of his readers remember the nonsense from a month ago that this was all a made up scandal, a la the McDonnells, advanced by a partisan hack, and reported at the expense of far more serious matters.

      Or the nonsense of from just a couple of weeks ago and continuing into this week that since they counted cars, it sure looks like it could have been a good faith, legit study that merely went wrong. For five straight mornings. With no end in sight. Until Foye got wind of it.

      So excuse me if I don't give waste too much credibility on whatever Somerby's theory du jour might be. His track record so far on this story is quite abysmal.

    16. Wait, wasn't there a post not too long ago where Bob accused the NY Times of being all Wildsteinesque covering some professor who counted cars and found fault with the etiquette of BMW drivers?

    17. In point of fact there was. Maybe three. But I think the thrust of the post was not about counting cars but about Bob expressing disappointment with yet another black professor on MSNBC.

    18. Are those crickets chirping? Or in the absence of rat droppings can we assume the dead one is starting his late afternoon day/night reversal?

    19. Anonymous @3:29,

      CC laid his initial bet on the whole thing blowing over and his people having nothing to do with it (or at least nobody finding out that any of his people had something to do with it). Remember "Ha, ha! I put the cones out there myself"?

      The bad publicity and the definite involvement of his folks drove him to the opposite wager: It's revenge masquerading as a study or a study masquerading as revenge. He's on the side of righteousness and he's not gonna stand for it, so he fires his deputy chief of staff without talking to her and portrays himself as another victim, not one caught in traffic but one betrayed by underlings.

      You think he's gonna stand in front of cameras and say, "It doesn't make sense; we don't really know everything that went on?"

    20. Anonymous @3:43,

      Do me a favor and vomit somewhere else. Especially if you can't read TDH to find out that he thinks the study was bungled and that the whole thing seems to be downright insane.

    21. I'm beginning to think that TDH lets the commentariat run free to prove his point about script.

      No, TDH never claimed there was a "legitimate" study. He even says it was massively bungled.

      No, he doesn't say Wildstein is stupid or crazy or on drugs, but given what we know, things make so little sense that they seem insanely stupid or stupidly insane.

      No, TDH never claimed that the McDonnell scandal was made up. He just has the nerve to report on the reporting while expressing an opinion that the damage inflicted on the Commonwealth was minimal.

      If his track record is so abysmal and you can't waste any of your precious credibility on anything TDH says, what. the. fuck. are. you. doing. here?

    22. Sorry, deadrat. I don't owe you an explanation for anything that's none of your damned business.

      But hey, don't try to lose too much sleep over the reading habits of other people as you type furiously into the wee hours again.

    23. Poor deadrat. Still clinging to the meme that there was a "study" to "bungle."

    24. Anonymous @6:13P, Just as Somerby owes you apology for getting a math problem wrong, you don't owe me an explanation for why you spend time on a blog you hate and that you deem worthless.

      But both situations are a little odd, dontchathink? Somerby is notoriously silent in his comments section, while you're not shy about shooting off your mouth here. But you've gone all shy and indignant over a simple question.

      But I like that you can see me typing "furiously." What is that? Projection?

    25. Deadrat, I gave your "simple question" exactly the answer it deserves.

      You don't like the answer because you've got no argument against it, so now you pretend it doesn't exist.

      Once again, it's none of your damned business what I or anyone else choose to read and comment about. So nobody including me owes you or anybody else an explanation.

      But of course, if I thought it was any of my business, I might be curious enough to ask you what you would be doing with all those extra hours of free time you would have without us "trolls" mercilessly attacking poor Somerby and you spending hours upon hours every day in his defense.

      But it's none of my damn business, so I won't ask.

    26. Anonymous @7:38A,

      What an oddly defensive (or is it defensively odd?) response. You seem to be laboring under a series of misapprehensions. The first is that I'm inquiring into your reading habits. But I'm not asking what you read and comment on. That's evident. I'm asking why. Secondly you think I claim a right to an answer. Obviously, you and everyone else may read and comment about whatever they want for any reason at all. I'm not demanding that you tell me anything. Next, I neither like nor dislike your answer. I have nothing invested in your hobby of spending time commenting on a blog you hate and think worthless. How you value your time means little to me, just enough to ask about this odd behavior. Lastly, you have no "argument" for your position nor do you need one. You have a preference.

      Your hypothetical question to me isn't quite parallel. What I do (or would do) otherwise with my time is immaterial to my commenting. You might ask why I choose to spend my time commenting in defense of TDH. And I might answer, probably in the same tone that I talk about my sleep habits. Or I might just choose not to respond. The one thing I wouldn't do is saddle and mount my high horse and canter in here to inform you that it's none of your damn business. Of course, why would you ask in the first place? No one really wonders why people do things they find enjoyable and worthwhile.

      "Hours upon hours every day"? You really think it takes me that long to knock off a few, or even a dozen paragraphs, for this commentary? I suppose it fits in with all the sleepless, furious typing you imagine I'm doing.

  15. Bob, did you see Rand Paul and the 20-year-old intern on Meet the Press today?

    1. Don't know if Bob saw it. It's possible. But I sure did. Sometimes, you just got to let a guy talk, and he'll make an ass out of himself just fine.

      And I wouldn't be surprised if, should Rachel Maddow weigh in on Paul's words, that Bob will use that as another occasion to try to beat on Maddow some more -- while he uses it tomorrow as an excuse to beat on David Gregory.

      After all, this blog isn't about politicians. It's about journalists. Bob told us this himself.

    2. Anonymous @ 4:21P (in some time zone not mine),

      "rat droppings" Ha ha ha ha ha ha! I get it, my nym is deadrat Hilarious! Ha ha, ... meh.

      So much willful ignorance, so little time.

      Time for a nap, though

    3. Typing so fast and furiously you forget what thread you're in?

    4. Oh, dear! Did I make a mistake and hit the wrong button? Will it make you feel better if apologize about that and while I'm at it, apologize on Somerby's behalf for his math error?

      Can you see the expression on my face as I type "fast and furiously"?

    5. I prefer to imagine dedrat typing lithe and fierce, like a Tiger.

    6. Quite apropos for the commentariat here. So much imagining with so little (alas!) correspondence to reality. If you can't spell my nym correctly, at least conjure me as a Blakean Tyger.

    7. Rand Paul's comments will be a blast from the past that Somerby can't resist. And he will find some way to blame Rachel Maddow.

    8. At least I did not call you dudrut. In all honesty, whether I would like you if I met you or not (anything is possible that we don't know of), the error was the result of my typing slowly and erroneously like a turtle.

  16. Bob doesn't admit he's wrong because he (1) doesn't read these comments, (2) if he reads them, he doesn't ever respond to them, (3) isn't convinced by the chatter here, (4) doesn't believe in using hindsight to correct legitimate expressions of opinion made in the past with more limited knowledge, (5) has some reason for going forward (never back) known only to himself.

    It is kind of amusing to see the trolls become so frustrated with trying to get him to acknowledge what they think is an error, when he never responds to anything said here. It is like those cat toys sold on TV that have a metal arm the sweeps back and forth while cats try to pounce on it. Keeps those cats amused forever.

    1. You left out (6).

    2. It's called applying the same standards to yourself that you demand of others.

      Or more succinctly put, "Don't be a hypocrite."

    3. Anonymous 3:31 could be on to something. I just don't know. I don't watch programming where they sell cat toys
      that have the metal arms that sweep back and forth.

    4. I'll bite. Is (6) because in his heart he know's he's right?

    5. (5) encompasses anything else you might propose as (6).

    6. How much do those cat toys cost? Has Drum ever discusssed them in his cat blooging?

    7. Bob may or may not read his own combox, and he certainly doesn't comment in his own combox (unless he does so under another name, and I see no evidence of that).

      But he sure does read the comments on other Web sites, particularly the ones he selectively quotes to show how the "rubes" are so easily misled.

      I'll also point out that a couple of weeks ago on Drum's blog, either Somerby or somebody appropriating his name got into a rather extensive and increasingly heated exchange with "gyrfalcon" -- a handle that used to contribute to this blog's comment section.

  17. "There really is no common-sense explanation for the solution."

    Alas, deadrat, has it really come to this? That if Somerby (and you as well, apparently) doesn't understand the common-sense explanation, there's no obligation to admit you're wrong? And no shame in opining on subjects you don't understand?

    And this is the guy who regards Rachel Maddow as an offense against all decency and good sense?

    1. Anonymous @9:02P,

      Come to what? The Monty Hall Problem is what's known as a veridical paradox, one that has solution that defies simple explanation. If Paul Erdos got the wrong answer, I have no shame in admitting that the common-sense answer (two doors, one car, 50/50) seems right to me. Go read the "common-sense" explanation @2:39P and tell me how convincing it is.

      Why do I have to admit that I'm wrong? I'm not. I understand that switching doors is better because I wrote down the possibilities and counted the number of ways to get a car and compared it to the number of ways to get a goat.

      Probability isn't the only thing that Somerby doesn't understand but opines about anyway. He's hopeless at physics, too. But I don't read him for his views on probability and physics. Does anybody do that? I therefore don't care if he ever gets his cars and goats straight or if he understands the Higgs boson. Why would anybody care?

      Darlin' Rachel is often an offense against good reporting. I think TDH's reaction to her is extreme, but what does that have to do with common-sense solutions to veridical paradoxes?

    2. The Monte Hall problem becomes more intuitive if instead of 3 doors, Monte starts with a million doors. If the contestant picks one of the million doors, and then Monte shows there are goats behind 999,998 doors-leaving just the original door picked and one other, then it is pretty clear that the original pick is a million to one chance and that the car is almost certainly behind the other door.

      However, in the actual TV show, Monte is not obligated to offer the contestant the chance to switch doors. If Monte only (or mostly) offers the chance to switch when the contestant has initially picked correctly, then obviously the contestant should not switch.

      Monte was interviewed on this by the NYTimes:

    3. Monty Hall problem is even simpler if you simulate it. Don't even need that many tries to come up with the 1/3, 2/3 solution.

    4. Yes, of course. And just because the correct answer is counter-intuitive does not mean it defies common sense explanation.

      It's like that quote attributed to Will Rogers (and yes, I know a lot of quotes are atrributed to Rogers and Mark Twain), and I paraphrase: It ain't what we know that gets us in trouble. It's what we think we know that ain't so.

      This is a good example of how Somerby sometimes lets his own biases overrule intellectual curiosity. It never occurred to him that Grimes could be right and he could be wrong. So he rushed to his blog with another club to beat the NYT with, and it turned into a stick of dynamite that blew up in his face.

      And we are seeing the same dynamic play out in both the McDonnell and Fort Lee cases. Bob isn't nearly as interested in either case as he is in clubbing the NYT and Rachel Maddow.

      It's one thing to propose "counter-intuitive" theories. But when Somerby can't refrain from continuing using personal, insulting language against his favorite targets of long standing in doing so, don't be surprised if he is the one accused of sticking to a narrative.

    5. "isn't nearly as interested in either case as he is in clubbing the NYT"

      But the NYT coverage has been journalistically bad.

      But pointing that out -- of course -- is the worse sin by far...

    6. To me the real Monty Hall Problem was insoluble. He could never hold a candle to Wink Martindale.

    7. "But the NYT coverage has been journalistically bad."

      I have not read the NYT's coverage of this issue, nor do I feel any real need to. So excuse me for not taking the nits Somerby wants to pick as yet one more example of horrible, bad reporting by the horrible, bad NYT.

      His record of identifying bad reporting hasn't been so hot lately.

  18. Folks we're getting lost in the weeds, whether smart people also question the Monty Hall effect, is besides the point. The point is Bob was certain that Grimes had to be confused about the Monty Hall Argument described in the Kaplan book, because there's no way what Grimes wrote could be a correct description.

    Here's his quote: "Say what? We don’t know what the Kaplans wrote to provoke that highlighted sentence. But for the record: If the contestant changes to Door No. 2, he’ll obtain the car half the time—and 'half the time' is not 'two out of three.' Numbers, dear friends, are hard work."

    When people pointed out that Grimes description of the phenomenon was accurate, did Bob check? Apparently he couldn't be bothered as his mea culpa was:

    " What we said is this: Whatever that counterintuitive “Hall effect” might be, the Times review doesn’t seem to describe it. We’ll persist in our statement about the situation as described in the Times review: In that situation, it just isn’t true that the contestant would gain an advantage from switching his guess."

    No the Times review describes it correctly, you were too lazy to check and too proud (i'm guessing) to admit your error when your readers pointed it out to you. In other words, you kept to the script rather than clearing up the facts.