Kate Zernike never quits!


Three pundits, four perspectives on motive: Over at the New York Times, Kate Zernike never quits.

Yesterday morning, she said it again. We have no idea why:
ZERNIKE (3/4/14): Court papers filed by a lawyer for Gov. Chris Christie’s former campaign manager indicate that federal prosecutors are moving aggressively to investigate the role of the governor’s aides in the George Washington Bridge lane closing scandal.

An agent from the Federal Bureau of Investigation telephoned the campaign manager, Bill Stepien, in January, about a week after a cache of electronic messages were released showing that the governor’s allies planned to close access lanes to the bridge as a political act against the mayor of Fort Lee, N.J., who had declined to endorse the governor for re-election despite assiduous courting from the campaign.
We have no idea why the Times keeps acting like the motive for the lane closings has been established. Simply put, the emails to which Zernike refers do not establish the motive for this ridiculous act.

Other observers know this:

In one of her rare points of clarity, Rachel Maddow routinely notes that the motive has not been established. When she interviewed the Bergen Record’s Shawn Boburg on Tuesday night, he was careful to withhold judgment concerning motive:
BOBURG (3/4/14): Remember the context here. We’re talking about lane closures that, as far as we can tell, had a political motivation. The theory that’s been proposed is that this was about an endorsement, or the lack of an endorsement, by the Fort Lee mayor...
To Boburg, the lack of that endorsement is a theory about motive, a theory that has been proposed. He didn’t even assert as a fact that the motivation was political at all.

We agree with Boburg’s approach. On a journalistic basis, we would say that nothing has been established about the motive for this ridiculous act.

That said, the analysts howled over something Maddow said last Thursday night, on one of the worst shows she has ever done about Fort Lee. In the midst of mountains of piddle, Maddow said this about motive:
MADDOW (2/27/14): The business of governance in New Jersey, epically and for way too long, has been the business of people who are in government helping themselves—helping themselves to public resources. People who are in government using the power that government gives them to steal what ought to be public resources to use for their own private ends.

And the great political scandal in New Jersey that is afflicting the presidential hopes of that state’s current governor, Chris Christie, is not entirely about that age-old New Jersey problem. The bridge scandal is not a kleptocracy scandal, right? Nobody appears to have walked away with envelopes stuffed full of cash from those closed access lanes onto the George Washington Bridge. At least we haven’t heard about it yet.

The bridge scandal for the Chris Christie administration is about using a public resource. It is about using the world’s busiest bridge as a weapon to apparently inflict some sort of petty political vendetta which still has not been explained, but at least at this point we haven’t seen the profit motive.
In that passage, Maddow notes that the closing of lanes “still has not been explained.” But how about what follows?

“At least at this point, we haven’t seen the profit motive?” Might we respond to that?

At this point, we haven’t established any motive for the lane closings. But the possibility of a profit motive was raised early on by Steve Kornacki’s focus on the billion dollar development which is rising by the access lanes in question.

Did Kornacki’s citation of that development make any possible sense? This is one of the many questions Maddow has failed to explore as she feeds viewers a steady porridge of low-IQ piddle and pap.

Maddow loves her horror tales about David Samson. We can imagine a horror tale in which Samson directed this ludicrous effort with the profit motive in mind.

We have no idea if that’s what happened. But we also wouldn’t be so quick to move past the profit angle.

At present, there’s no reason to assume that this wasn’t a kleptocratic act. The kleptos stay in the picture!

For unknown reasons, the New York Times seems to think motive has been established. If Maddow would stop rehearsing her low-IQ horror stories, she could spend some time asking experts to evaluate the possibilities which have been put on the table.

Kate Zernike notwithstanding, the motive here has not been established. A possible financial motive was suggested long ago.

Has that motive been rejected? If so, could Maddow perhaps explain why? Or are we fated to watch her discuss that $1 rent again?


  1. $ 1 rent? How about the $ 1.5 million fee Samson got? The Somerby can talk about her $7 million contract tnd the cash she stuffs in her britches she is to big for.

    1. How do you know Samson got a dime?

    2. You are so right. I should have thrown Wolff in there!
      how about the $1.5 million fee Wolff and Samson got?

      I can't wait to see the work product all those billable hours generated.

      How many lawyers does it take to privatize a parking lot?

    3. NJ Transit is public.

    4. That's right. So?

    5. "How many lawyers does it take to privatize a parking lot?"

      You are not privatizing something when it is public.

    6. 8:30 am et al, you write:

      "You are not privatizing something when it is public."

      We agree. Piracy is perhaps a better word.

      We take over for the person who began this thread since we have commented on this point prior to this and have mastered our P's and Q's on this particular problem, and perhaps that commenter is asleep.

      Mr. Samson chairs the Port Authority, PA (Public Agency 1). He is founding partner of Wolff and Samson, (Private Firm 1). His Public Agency owns land leased to New Jersey Transit (Public Agency 2) which it uses to operate Park and Ride Lots (PRL) serving the New Jersey Motoring Public (NJMP).

      Public Agency 2 decides to profit by privatizing the operation of its PRLs. In 2010 it hires a law firm (Private Firm) as opposed to a business consultant or using in house staff. The purpose of the $650,000 contract is "as special counsel for an initiative to privatize the mass transit agency’s parking lots. The idea was to turn over operation of NJ Transit’s parking lots to private companies." The firm is Wolff and Sampson. Mr. Sampson is already well connected to the new Governor and is selected to chair PA1 in 2011. The contract is later increased to $1.5 million.

      In 2012, PA1, with the vote of its chair, lowers the lease cost for public land it owns but is used by PA2 for a PRL from $900,000 to $ 1 a year. No big deal, you might say. It is all public money, you say. Except for the $1.5 million which we presume is ponied up by the NJMP and put into the deep private pockets of the private firm partnered by Samson for legal services rendered to PA2 for a public service PA2 does on property owned by PA1 which Samson chairs.

      Yes, PA 2 is a public agency. And what has become of this $1.5 million in special counsel services needed for the privatization initiative begun back in 2010? "The parking-lot privatization plan, meanwhile, appears to be in limbo. .... There has been no mention of it since July 2011 in the official accounts of NJ Transit’s board meetings. The last time it was raised was at that July 2011 meeting when the fees to Wolff & Samson were authorized to go up to $1.5 million."


      KZ (Happy to fill in for the news voids created by BOB, who trims unecessary fat from stories to serve his meme or to make his posts crisp and clear when covering piddle and pap)

    7. I, myself, would be happy to see you leave here and start a blog about the corrupt doings of the NYNJ PA. I don't know what they would call this where you come from, but here we call it "win-win" for the obvious reasons.

      TDH wouldn't compete with your new blog, because TDH is about how issues are covered. If there are "news voids" in the 900,000 to 1 reduction in rent, it's up to people like Darlin' Rachel to fill them. She doesn't, and for good or ill, that's what TDH talks about.

    8. deadrat is dead on. we the people get screwed over everyday and the news channels mostly talk about BS. Case in point, Mr. Somerby's data on per capita healthcare spending in industrialized nations...

    9. deadrat, we might conclude you have a point were your head not invisible from its location so far up BOB's hindquarters. Where, perchance, do you imagine our friend Anon.@ 8:35 got the misimpression there was nothing wrong with Mr. Samson's self dealing if the money was simply changing hands between two public agencies?

      Why from "we only muse about news coverage" BOB.

      "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!"

      Merely two posts back. BOB just disappeared a few facts, deadrat, that's all. Now snuggle up tight and don't scratch the sphincter with your tiny little claws.


    10. The clock trolls @7:21!

      Kinda like clockwork, eh KZ? As soon as anyone calls you on your bullshit, he must have his head up "BOB's hindquarters," in your delicate phrasing.

      Where did your friend @8:35 get his misimpressions? I don't know. He's not only not my friend, he apparently also posted at some time other than thirty-five minutes after eight o'clock. Heck, where do you get your misimpressions? Somewhere beyond Saturn's orbit, I suppose.

      Here's TDH: "We’re not suggesting that David Samson hasn’t had conflicts of interest." I'd say that sentence would pretty much give me the impression that there might be something wrong with Mr. Samson's self-dealing. That is, if I didn't already understand what self-dealing means without recourse to TDH. Which, in turn, probably leaves me open to the accusation that I'm a BOBfan. Or something.

      Why would anybody in the PA vote to reduce the annual rent on a PA property from $900K to $1K? Sounds like somebody arranged a theft of $899,999 per year. It turns out there was a rationale. Was it a good one? Hard to say. Was Samson taking a payoff no matter what the quality of the rationale? Perhaps. Is it TDH's job to tell you the ins and outs of PA dealing?

      No, that's Darlin' Rachel's job, and a heckuva job she's doing, a fact independent of me or your fantasies about sphincters.

    11. You didn't call us on our bullshit deadrat, you spead a ton of your own rodent feces. You ignored the substance of our comment that Somerby has created a false impression in his post by disappearing a major element of the story and instead said it isn't Somerby's job to cover an issue, just criticize the way the press covers it. Maddow has covered the conflict and Somerby said she did a poor job doing so. We simply noted BOB doing exactly the same thing.


    12. Seriously??

      Maddow has covered the conflict and Somerby said she did a poor job doing so. We simply noted BOB doing exactly the same thing. "

      They. Do. Not. Have. The. Same. Job. Drawing equivalences is so unproductive. It's not Bob's chosen, done for free, mission to clear up all the details of the case. It's beyond me why you fundamentally want him to be someone else.

    13. Seriously stupid! They. Both. Crapped. On. The. Lawn.

      Who cares if one is compensated like Rin-Tin-Tin and the other is a range free stray?

      We don't want BOB to clear up "all the details." We just want him to not "disappear" facts to support his meme while accusing others of the same thing.

      It was, after all, BOB who volunteered to interject the $ 1 rent in this post without mentioning the $1.5 million fee. And it was one of Mr. Somerby's commenter/defenders who said, parroting the OTB "NJ Transit is public." (Which fact, we might note, Maddow herself pointed out.)


    14. KZ,

      I know you're from out of town, so I'm trying to type as slowly as I can so you can follow. Just because you didn't understand something, doesn't mean that TDH has "created a false impression." Clear now?

      Perhaps "Crapped. On. The. Lawn." means something different in the Galaxy Schizophrenia. Anything is possible.

  2. Hey, what time did this post go up? Where are all the paid trolls with the alert system Volt61 speculated about to the applause of two other friends of Somerby? Do they only work the day shift? And now that the hard working friends of TDH are off work, where are their 1 or 2 line praises of Somerby? Do they get to bed early at their age?

  3. OMB (The Great Ones Never Quit)

    "We wouldn't be so quick to move past the profit angle," says BOB today.

    "When you finally see the bridge, you also see those now-famous access lanes from Fort Lee. Ten million cars from those access lanes crawl in front of you into the flow, slowing your approach from the south. Having cursed your overall fate for miles, you now start cursing those drivers." said Bob once, proving he can count comments better than cars, and Maddow embellishments better than his own.

    "Is it possible that this bungled effort was actually undertaken in good faith? Everything’s possible! That said, we don’t know if it was done in good faith. It may not have been." BOB opined not long before that.

    "Concerning Wildstein, did you know that those “bridge workers” each testified that he had been questioning the need for the access lanes from Fort Lee since 2010 or 2011?" asked BOB about a single question in one conversation that neither could even place in an
    exact year.

    "According to this theory, Wildstein never intended to reduce access lanes on a permanent basis. The “traffic study” was a ruse. It was really designed to shake money loose from that massive development.

    That said, this theory hasn’t been proven. It’s entirely possible that this isn’t what happened at all. That theory hasn’t been proven. Meanwhile, another possibility hasn’t yet been disproven." said BOB, who had
    yet to joke Lawerence O'Donnell, an Irishman from NBC might have been behind it.

    "Christie can’t explain what happened if he doesn’t know what happened" explained BOB in December about why Christie could not explain what happened in September and which remains true today three months later still. BOB has yet to advance a theory on why Christie did not know then and cannot find out to this day.

    All we know for sure is it was Captain Licorish with the cones on the toll plaza.


    1. Did you notice this Howler?

      "In one of her rare points of clarity, Rachel Maddow routinely notes that the motive has not been established."

      Is it rare or is it routine of her to do so? We don't know. Bob doesn't make it clear in that confusing sentence.

      And if it is routine, doesn't that fly in the face of one of Bob's routine themes about Maddow? That she "speculates" far beyond the evidence?

      This, of course, should pose no problems to Bob's fans, who are conditioned to forget what Bob writes not only from one day to the next but from one sentence to the next in the same post, and, in this case, in the very same sentence.

      Should they insist on clarity and consistency of thought from Bob the way Bob demands -- even in puff profiles written by different authors -- their poor, befuddled heads would explode.

    2. I don't see the problem here. I think he is saying that while she often states that the motive has not been established, this is one of a small number of topics where she is clear/accurate. the thing that is rare is her being clear and not bungling the facts. She can repeat that one clear item a hundred times, that doesn't mean she is being routinely clear, it means she is being routinely clear about the fort lee matter as a whole, only that one point.

    3. sorry, that last sentence should read "She can repeat that one clear item a hundred times, that doesn't mean she is being routinely clear about the fort lee matter as a whole, only that one point."

    4. Except for one inconvenient truth. That's pretty much the way Maddow has covered the whole Fort Lee thing.

      Bob is not only running ahead of far less evidence to support his hypothesis that Maddow runs ahead of the evidence, he is making it up as he goes along.

      That's how much he hates Rachel Maddow. And that, unfortunately, is what this Web site has turned into -- far less about "general themes about contemporary media" (to quote the comment below), and far more reason to express his personal animus about Rachel Maddow, even if he has to make things up.

      For example, this "ginned-up controversy." Not to mention the (alleged) crimes of Gov. Ultrasound, which Somerby incredibly deemed to be not so bad compared to Maddow's salary.

    5. "I don't see the problem here."

      Of course not. You are loyal Bob fan who can see how something could be both "rare" and "routine" at the same time. Why? Because Bob says so, and Bob is always crystal clear to you in his musings/ruminations/ramblings.

      Every cult leader makes perfect sense to the cult members.

    6. i am a fan of this page yes, but i don't really hold any particular loyalty to Mr. Somerby. If i disagree with him, which happens (imagine that!!!) i will let you know. Please don't assume to know where my loyalties lie.

      I am just saying in this instance I see the nuance. i think he meant (and i can be wrong) that while the one accurate statement is routine (motive hasn't been established), Mr. Somerby believes that overall Maddow's stating of accurate details of the case is rare. That is, even if she repeats the accurate statement 1,000,000 times, it still only represents one accurate statement out of X inaccurate statements.

    7. Anon @ 6:16

      We did notice. It is one of those delightful sentences from BOB which, when criticized, sparks a few fans to write what they think he might have meant. And, who knows (we just don't) they might be right. Which is why, in comments, they should call their opinion of what BOB meant a "theory."

      Speaking of that:

      "On a journalistic basis, we would say that nothing has been established about the motive for this ridiculous act."

      We are still unclear what is either the meaning, purpose, or motive in the contant reference to "journalistic" in BOB's writing. He repeats this term almost as many times as he calls Maddow a clown or says Chris Matthews almost got somebody killed.

      I wouldn't bet the 10 million cars cramming into the GW Bridge from Ft. Lee on it, but I'd wager neither BOB nor his readers can define a motive which has been "journalistically" established or a theory which has been "journalistically" disproven.


    8. One of the ongoing criticisms of TDH is that his language makes his blog so mysterious that it might as well be written in Rongorongo, and that anyone who offers an explication is merely a BOBfan who's presenting his own interpretation of what is actuallly an unsolvable enigma. Anonymous @6:16A, quotes TDH: "In one of her rare points of clarity, Rachel Maddow routinely notes that the motive has not been established." And he wonders how can Maddow work both routinely and rarely? It's a mystery beyond human comprehension. Unless, of course, in the highly unlikely event that Maddow, like the rest of us, does some things routinely and some things rarely.

      Now KZ chimes in from some area of the universe uninhabited by journalists. What could anyone mean by the term "journalistic proof"? he wonders. Proof is a high standard and its literal use should be restricted to the work of bakers, brewers, minters, and mathematicians. In the vernacular, something proved is something determined by convincing evidence. In US civil law, this is generally attained by the side with majority of such evidence, the "preponderance." In US criminal law, the state has a higher bar, sufficient evidence to banish all reasonable doubt. In journalism, such proof is obtained by gathering corroborating evidence about a story from all parties involved.

      Let's try an example. The Orwellianly-named astroturf organization funded by the Koch Brothers, Americans for Prosperity, has run ads showing some supposedly ordinary Americans receiving the bad news in voiceover that Obamacare has taken away their health insurance. How can we "journalistically prove" that these stories are fact or fiction? First you find the people in the ads and talk to them. They say they're actors, and no, their health insurance is just fine. Then you ask a spokesman for AFP whether the people in the ads are actors, and the spokesman says, Yes, the ad is meant to convey a general condition in the country and that the actors don't actually have the problem; they merely "represent" the problem. You have now "journalistically proven" that the ad is nothing but deception. The problem it trumptets may exist, but you can't tell whether it does by listening to fiction.

    9. The clock trolls @8:34A: Only someone in thrall to a cult leader would believe that people do some things routinely and some things rarely. It's one or the other. Only a BOBfan could think otherwise.

    10. journalistic, from meriam webster online ": of, relating to, or characteristic of journalism or journalists "

    11. Well, yes, Anonymous @12:53P, but this isn't a matter of vocabulary. It's KZ' s conceit that nobody knows what it means to do a convincing report in the manner of a conscientious journalist..

    12. If Maddow reported that the ad you described was blatantly deceptive because it used actors and not real people, Somerby would be on her in a heartbeat crying that she is "clowning" once again.

      And how is she clowning? By claiming that just because the ad used professional actors instead of Bette from Spokane herself, it doesn't necessarily mean that the situations described were not real. And since Maddow failed to "journalistically prove" that no one had their health insurance cancelled again, she is guilty once again of "ginning up controvers" while stuffing millions in her pants on behalf the partisan hacks she works for, and is herself.

    13. Thanks for proving KZ might be right, deadrat.

      We criticized a sentence as did 6:16. You chimed in, as we predicted with several paragraphs to define what BOB meant. We salute you. As we noted in anticipation of you filling the predicted role of the BOBfan, you might be right.

      Unfortunately your example of journalisitic proof meets neither of the criteria for which we were seeking definitions. You cited a hypothetica health care ad with very "fuzzy" facts. We asked for motives which had been "journalistically established" and theories which had been "journalistically disproven." You provided an example of neither, much less a definition.

      Anon. @ 4:56 did a good job with your hypothetical ad by posturing another hypothetical. But what would BOB's motive be in attacking Maddow in his example? How would you establish it journalitically?

      You claim to be Mr. Science around here, at least compared to BOB. We will allow you to pat yourself on the back unchallenged. But you ought to know proof and disrproof of theories. Pretty tough act for even a conscientious journalist.


    14. Hey, Anonymous @4:56! This is my hypothetical. You don't get to hijack it, and then get on your high horse about a story that you pretend that TDH wrote. Have the common courtesy to write your own material and restrict your criticisms of TDH to things he actually writes instead of your fantasies about what he could write.

      What's wrong with you? Working on your resume for the Trollery Hall of Fame?

      If Darlin' Rachel reported a story about AFP and restricted her remarks to their deceptive advertising campaign, no one would complain that she hadn't done a story about something else. Except, perhaps the trolls here, whose panties are in a constant twist because TDH won't write a blog entry that suits them.

    15. KZ,

      What you want? The Kreskin Award for Predictive Trolling? You and 6:16 write something stupid, then you predict that someone will call you on your stupidity, and then when that happens, you do the happy dance because you're so farsighted.

      Sorry, you can't inoculate yourself that easily from your ball-peen hammer dumbness. I'm not "defining what BOB meant." I'm telling you what native speakers of English understand. I do this as a public service for those whose first language is Trollish.

      And all your friend @4:56 did was work himself into a lather over an imagined TDH blog entry. Apparently, he's not satisfied with misinterpreting what TDH actually writes; he now has to write the blog entries himself.

      You're not happy with my definition of "journalistically proven"? You find you can't apply that definition to reporting on people's motives? Try to imagine my disappointment. Below I'll give you a procedure to measure it.

      I don't claim to be "Mr. Science." My understanding of physics is at the level of an interested layman, and I think anyone who writes about popular science, including TDH, ought to educate himself to that level. And you allow me to go unchallenged? Mighty decent of you. Here's that procedure I promised for estimating how much that will affect me, even assuming you've got the chops to try: Think of the smallest thing you can; divide that by the largest number you can think of. You'll be getting close.

      Yeah, I know the difference between the scientific meaning of the word "theory" and the vernacular. Apparently, you don't. Now, take your permission slip and piss off.

      Do they have that expression in the Galaxy Schizophrenia? I hope so. If not, the google is your friend.

    16. Now, my dear dedrat, you are sounding positively peckish and peeved.


    17. Oh, sorry. Did I forget to ask your permission? Do you need me to go over the procedure one more time?

  4. with regard to the use of the word theory to describe whether the motive in the fort lee case has been definitively established as political payback for not supporting christie --> a theory (or at least a scientific theory) is a hypothesis or group of hypotheses that have been supported by scientific testing. Therefore, if the motive referenced above has not been established by the evidence, it is supposition and would be considered a hypothesis, which is (according to google) "a supposition or proposed explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation."

    These two terms are consistently confused in the political realm (especially when discussing global warming, which is often referred to as "only a theory"). Maybe the US really IS behind the rest of the world on science and math.

    Personally, think what you want about Mr. Somerby and his coverage of Maddow but you can't deny that his general themes about contemporary media, particularly that they are overpaid and underprepared, is spot on in my opinion (for the record i tend to agree with Mr. Somerby about Maddow and MSNBC).


    1. "you can't deny that his general themes about contemporary media, particularly that they are overpaid and underprepared, is spot on in my opinion"

      I just wish he would stick to those general themes more often, and set his personal loathing about Rachel Maddow aside.

    2. Fair enough. I would agree he has been a little heavy on Maddow lately but it is his site to do with as he pleases. I agree with Mr. Somerby that the scales have tilted at MSNBC over the past few years to a clownish extent. Mr. Somerby is also right that the clowing and incompentence in the media is dangerous.

    3. Which is why it is right for him to note the color of the clown shoes Maddow wears.

    4. Yes, ad hominem is verboten to everyone except Bob and his fans.

    5. Either you don't know what an ad hominem argument is or you're unclear on what "verboten" means. Look them up, and then don't bother to get back to the commentary.

    6. Deadrat, I know what both mean. Stop pretending that there are other meanings that excuse that excuse your hero.

      All one has to do his access his "incomparable archives" to see that whatever bugs Somerby about Maddow is personal, and has festered for six years into absolute, bitter hatred.

    7. The clock trolls @8:33A! You get called on your bullshit, so the caller must regard TDH as his "hero."

      I'll take your word for it that you know what the words mean. It just wasn't possible to tell from the context.

      You ability to read minds from a blog isn't any better than your vocabulary usage. Not just hatred; not just bitter hatred, but absolute, bitter hatred.

      Extra points for using the word "festered."