WORLD WITHOUT FACTS, AMEN: Guess who isn’t shown weeping at all?

MONDAY, MARCH 31, 2014

Part 1—Zernike’s zombie idea: In this morning’s New York Times, Paul Krugman describes the process by which we get fed our “zombie ideas.”

Krugman discusses the bogus claim that there is a serious “skills gap” afflicting our economy. He notes that there are quite a few other influential bogus facts out there.

He calls these bogus facts “zombie ideas.”

According to Krugman—and we strongly agree—we may get fed these bogus facts as an assertion of “tribal identity.” This is Krugman, speaking accurately:

“The point is that influential people move in circles in which repeating the skills-gap story—or, better yet, writing about skill gaps in media outlets like Politico—is a badge of seriousness, an assertion of tribal identity. And the zombie shambles on.”

Indeed. In many instances, people’s heads get stuffed full of bogus facts. The recitation of these bogus facts can be an assertion of tribal identity.

Then too, the accumulation of bogus facts may create a sense of tribal identity. Let’s not leave that problem out, since it can happen to us!

In today’s column, Krugman discusses zombie ideas which come from the right and/or the plutocracy. That said, other influential groups feed us different zombie ideas.

This brings us to today’s story. A new set of zombie ideas is being peddled as we type. In last Friday’s New York Times, Kate Zernike played a role in the creation and spread of these new bogus facts.

Zernike is easily one of the worst reporters we’ve ever covered. Here’s the way her treatment of the Mastro report began:
ZERNIKE (3/28/14): She “seemed emotional.” She was “habitually concerned about how she was perceived by the governor.” A boyfriend had ended a relationship.

Bridget Anne Kelly has been the center of blame in the George Washington Bridge lane closing scandal since early January, when it was revealed that she sent an email calling for “some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”

Gov. Chris Christie, seeking to stanch the damage the scandal had caused to his political fortunes, fired her as his deputy chief of staff after that, calling her “stupid.” But the report commissioned by Mr. Christie and released Thursday doubles down on a strategy of portraying Ms. Kelly as duplicitous, weeping frequently and dependent on men for approval and stability.
Did Christie call Bridget Kelly “stupid?” On balance, we’d say he did not—and we’d say that this has already become a bit of a zombie fact.

Has Kelly been “the center of blame in the lane closing scandal” since early January? It seems to us that a fellow named Wildstein has also been a “center of blame.”

Zernike will rarely make an accurate statement where a less accurate statement will do. But Kelly as the center of blame is a very minor problem with last Friday’s report.

Elsewhere in Zernike’s report, she offers facts which are grossly misleading, even flatly false. And uh-oh! As of this morning, we can see the inevitable process in which her bogus claims are becoming zombie ideas.

Can we talk? Bridget Kelly is never shown “weeping” in the Mastro report, let alone “weeping frequently.” Beyond that, the word “emotional” is applied to her one time only.

By way of contrast, the world “emotional” is applied to Governor Christie at five different points in the report. At two points in the Mastro report, Christie is shown in tears.

(For a searchable version of the report, you can just click here.)

What can explain Zernike’s claim that Kelly is “portrayed as weeping frequently?” Had Zernike even read the Mastro report when she produced her instant report?

We can’t answer those questions. But Zernike’s claim may have sounded good to Mike Kelly (no relation to Bridget Kelly), whose zombie-fueled column appears today in the Bergen Record.

Has Mike Kelly read the Mastro report? We can’t answer that either. That said, the Record is the paper of record (no pun intended) in the Fort Lee affair—and this is the way Mike Kelly’s column starts:
KELLY (3/31/14): It’s a dilemma faced by historians, corporate managers, journalists, even lawyers representing couples in divorce court. When is it appropriate to reveal details about someone’s personal life?

That question is the focal point of a debate swirling around the report released last week by a team of lawyers hired by Governor Christie that exonerated him from any blame in the George Washington Bridge lane-closure scandal.

At the center of the controversy is a conclusion that seems fitting for a novel, not a report on traffic jams that were alleged to be political payback: Bridget Anne Kelly, the former gubernatorial aide whose email suggested “some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” had been distraught, weeping frequently and behaving erratically after a romantic breakup.
Has Kelly read the Mastro report? This morning, he repeats a false claim—the claim that the Mastro report portrays Bridget Kelly “weeping frequently and behaving erratically after a romantic breakup.”

Let us say it again: Bridget Kelly is never shown weeping, or even crying, in the Mastro report. The claim that she is shown “weeping frequently” is just flatly false.

That statement is false, but it’s on its way to becoming a “zombie idea.” Almost surely, many people will repeat that claim as part of their tribal identity.

To his credit, Mike Kelly doesn’t put the word “erratically” inside quotation marks in the passage we’ve posted. He doesn’t claim that the Mastro report actually uses that word to describe Bridget Kelly’s behavior.

As such, Mike Kelly rejects the flat misstatement which drove Joan Walsh’s piece last Friday—a flat misstatement which was spanning the globe by the start of the weekend. (He retains the loaded characterization while dropping the claim that Mastro used the quoted word.)

That said, what about Mike Kelly’s other claim—the claim that Mastro’s report shows Bridget Kelly “weeping frequently?”

We’re sorry, but that isn’t true. Bridget Kelly is never shown weeping, or even crying, in the Mastro report. Below, you see the only passage which is in any way relevant.

It is now December 13, 2013—three months after the lane closings, at least four months after the alleged “romantic breakup” (Mike Kelly’s term) which Mike Kelly says is used to explain the frequent weeping.

In an “emotional and, at times, agitated manner,” Christie holds a meeting in which he “ordered his staff,” including Bridget Kelly, “to come forward with any information about the lane realignment.”

No one speaks up! Christie then holds a press conference, saying that none of his staff knew diddly-squat about the lane closings.

After the press conference, the following scene occurs. In his press conference, Christie has named Deborah Gramiccioni as Bill Baroni’s replacement at the Port Authority:
MASTRO REPORT (page 102): Shortly after the press conference, Gramiccioni passed by Kelly’s office and noticed that Kelly was seated alone and looked as if she had been crying. Gramiccioni entered Kelly’s office and asked her what was wrong. Kelly said she had spent the morning going through her emails for O’Dowd, was unable to find any emails discussing the lane realignment, and did not remember whether she had any emails relevant to the lane realignment issue. Gramiccioni asked Kelly how she could not remember whether she had any such emails, to which Kelly responded that her practice was to delete her emails to prevent her children from reading any communications she had with her ex-husband. Gramiccioni recalled thinking that this was an odd, non-responsive answer. Gramiccioni then advised Kelly that if she had anything else to share, she needed to talk to O’Dowd again or else she would be in serious trouble. Gramiccioni told O’Dowd about her conversation with Kelly, noting that Kelly had looked upset and had continued to deny having any emails reflecting her knowledge of the lane realignment.
Did those events really happen? Did they happen as described? Without consulting the flight of birds, we can’t answer those questions.

But this is the only place in the Mastro report where there is any reference to Bridget Kelly weeping, crying, being in tears, or looking as if she has been in tears. In 340 pages, that is the only such reference, claim or portrait.

Chronologically, there is no claim or suggestion that this has anything to do with the alleged breakup. As such, Mike Kelly’s chronological claim about the report is bogus and zombie too.

In Zernike’s opening paragraphs, this lone event somehow gave birth to the claim that Bridget Kelly is shown “weeping frequently” in the Mastro report. Zernike’s statement was flatly false, but Mike Kelly makes the same statement this morning.

The word “erratic” no longer appears inside quotes. In its place, we get this latest false assertion, which will likely become a zombie idea and a marker of tribal identity.

There’s a lot to criticize about the Mastro report. Even seen as a statement by the (Christie) defense, it’s very weak in several major respects. (On the other hand, it seems to include some new information.)

That said, Mastro’s report doesn’t come from the press corps. At this site, we talk about the work of our nation’s “journalists,” not about the work of our political hacks.

Last Friday, Joan Walsh composed an orange-shoed review of the Mastro report. Her ludicrous logic was the main problem. But she started with a flatly false quotation, which was soon spanning the globe.

In that morning’s New York Times, Zernike had advanced a different false fact. Three days later, Mike Kelly has made the same false statement in the paper of record for the Fort Lee affair.

Our “journalists” have been working this way for decades. They have invented many false facts and false quotations. Some of their many inventions have led to deaths in this country and, in very large numbers, all around the world.

The career liberal world has routinely accepted the conduct to which we refer. Career liberals will continue to accept, or engage in, this newest misconduct.

Krugman describes the process today, but let’s be very clear. The plutocrats will feed you false claims, but so will fallen corporate players from within our own pitiful tribe.

Only you can decide how you feel about those bogus facts, the false and misleading claims which become your own tribe’s source of identity. Will you decide to repeat those false facts? Or are you prepared to reject your tribe’s zombie ideas?

For decades, the American public has lived in a world of zombie ideas and bogus quotations. In many respects, our “journalistic” world has been a world without facts, amen.

Krugman describes the process today. These would be our questions for you:

Do you like some of these zombie ideas? Does your sense of identity make you accept your own tribe’s bogus facts?

Tomorrow: More from Zernike’s reports

Yet to come: Hayes [HEART] Stefano


  1. OMB (Back to Back, Belly to Belly at the BOBster Jamboree)

    "Did Christie call Bridget Kelly “stupid?” On balance, we’d say he did not—and we’d say that this has already become a bit of a zombie fact." BOB today

    Has Leticia Smith Evans of the NAACP "acknowledged that she didn’t know what the heck she was talking about." Unbalanced BOB invented that she did. After he invented some things like she "seemed" she did not know "diddly" and "squat" about.

    Of course BOB has an excuse. When he rose up from his crushing death caused by the hardly visible collapse of intellectual culture, his meme made him do it.


    1. Leticia Smith Evans did backtrack from her original statement. Are you quibbling because of the words used to describe that? What is the matter with you?

    2. We must have missed that backtracking. Please link us to where BOB covered that.


    3. What does OMB mean? And why do you capitalize all the letters in BOB?

    4. OMG, you haven't figured that out?

      IOHO it would be insufficiently reverential to use anything in lower case to refer to the OTB. We do not, however, consider it heathenistic if infidels do not show the same reverence.

      Thanks for asking. Now if only Anon @ 11:38 would favor us with an answer.



    5. Well, we gave Anon at 11:28 from last month 24 hours and no link. Guess BOB never did cover Smith Evans backtracking. Just invented the acknowledgement.


  2. Looking at the report, Kelly is described as upset about two things: (1) being unable to find more emails about the lane realignment and feeling she wasn't being believed by O'Dowd, and (2) hearing that Ridley was interacting directly with Mayor Sokolich without her knowledge (prior to the lane closures). Her relationship with Stepien was long over and there is only speculation that it explains why she may not have communicated with him during the lane realignment.

    What troubles me about the report is the assumption that because Kelly, Wildstein and Stepien all took the 5th,l they are guilty of something. The report speculates that Stepien had nothing to do with implementing the closures (but may have had prior knowledge), but he is assumed guilty because he took the 5th and is not cooperating with any investigations. Since these are the three people who were fired and they are the targets of investigation, their taking the 5th is a legally prudent move and something they are entitled to do without presumption of guilt (in court at least), so I think it is inappropriate to assume their doing so indicates guilt when anyone with competent legal advice would probably do the same thing under the circumstances.

    I do not understand why the press is trying to portray Kelly as solely responsible and I agree that she is not described as emotional in the report. Only Gramiccione describes her that way, and she doesn't say she was witnessed crying, but only that she appeared as if she had been. That strikes me as a wholly subjective interpretation, and something explainable by something as simple as allergies, a sleepless night, or being upset about something her ex-husband or someone entirely unrelated could have said or done. This woman, new to her job and unfamiliar with Kelly, is hardly an expert on whether she was previously crying or not. She asked what was wrong and Kelly said she couldn't find her emails because she routinely deleted them, something Gramiccione found odd, but something I do myself.

    There does seem to be an agenda here to portray Kelly in ways she perhaps doesn't deserve. If I were being scapegoated (or feared I would be), I would be upset too.

    1. Kelly's lawyer: "A preemptive strike to isolate Ms. Kelly and impugn her credibility is not surprising."

      Now instead of worrying about how many times the report uses the words "weeping frequently" to describe Kelly's emotional state which the report clearly states affected her judgment, perhaps Bob should ponder why Kelly would be singled out for treatment that would "impugn her credibility" well in advance of her testimony.

    2. I can understand why Christie's investigation would portray her that way (except that they didn't), but why would the press be doing this? Is the press in the bag for Christie?

    3. Did YOU read the Mastro report? It said this one one of Wildstein's crazy ideas that Bridget Kelly bought into when she had a kid in the hospital and her boyfriend dumped her.

      Sorry, but "emotional female not fully in command of her senses" is exactly the portrait Mastro painted of Kelly.

      And no, "the press" isn't portraying Kelly in that way. Practically from the minute this "report" was issued, "the press" has been pretty much calling it like it is -- a sexist hatchet job designed to impugn the character and integrity of a person who could certainly fry Christie's bacon.

    4. "A person who could certainly fry Christie's bacon."

      Well, she is the mother of four.

    5. Calling an action stupid is a lot different than calling a person stupid.

    6. Really? Explain how the act of putting your 'Stand With Somerby on Stupid' statement in the wrong place is not dumb.

  3. Bob Somerby, as always, is right. On balance.

    "I would never have come out here four or five weeks ago and made a joke about these lane closures if I had ever had an inkling that anyone on my staff would have been so stupid but to be involved and then so deceitful as to just -- just to not disclose the information of their involvement to me when directly asked by their superior."

    "And I'll say one last thing, just so we're really clear. I had no knowledge or involvement in this issue, in its planning or it execution, and I am stunned by the abject stupidity that was shown here. Regardless of what the facts ultimately uncover, this was handled in a callous and indifferent way..."

    Chris Christie 1/9/14

    He only called "anyone" stupid and deceitful. And he only called what was "shown" abjectly stupid, and the way it was handled callous, and indifferent.

    Just because Bridget Kelly and David Wildstein were mentioned as having their hands on this does not mean he meant those words applied to them as persons. Just their actions.

    Shame on Zombie Zernike for not putting the full facts before us. Shame on any rube who reads her work and is stupid enough to believe it and deceitful enough to repeat it. Let's be pretty clear (perfectly clear would be Nixonian) here, commenting otherwise would be callous and indifferent and detract from the good job black babies are doing with biting problems amont other things.

    1. Literally, he called her (and Wildstein) stupid. Literally, he is talking about people being stupid, and anyone who was a target of those words would consider them to be calling him or her stupid. Sure, you can argue that he really only meant that the action was stupid, but it is hardly journalistic malpractice to say he called her stupid. That's what he said.

    2. He said it was a stupid thing to do.

    3. 7:46 that was a stupid thing to say.

    4. If she was involved, and I don't hear anyone doubt otherwise, she was and is STUPID!. Why mince words. Is liberal identity politics in play here? Because she's female her actions must be viewed as righteous. Are we supposed to forget all about that poor woman who died in the traffic jam?

  4. Good Lord, give it up already. Rachel was right, you were wrong. And please get an editor.

    1. Rachel who? I searched this entry and yours is the only one that mentions Rachel.

    2. Try searching under "clown." If that does not work, try "witch hunt."

    3. Yes, it is interesting how Bob has yet to get around to "anal-yzing" the work of Maddow, his primary target in this whole deal.

      On Thursday, it sure "seemed" like she and her staff had not only read but digested the entire "report," because she sure took it apart point-by-point.

      So on Friday, we have Bob declaring it to be an "oversold dud" and on Saturday and Monday, we have Bob defending it against the likes of Joan Walsh and Kate Zernike.

    4. 2:04 that is unfair.

      Bob has no transcript yet. Maddow is sucking down every spare MSNBC dollar to pay for her clown shoes and extravagant drunken internet television buying binges.

      When MSNBC gets a transcript online we will find out every
      quotations mark that is astray.

    5. 2:04 I apologize. It would appear they had that transcript posted and even updated before noon on Friday.

      Your Howler gets results!

  5. If Kelly was one of the masterminds behind this heinous, horrific act why make up language to portray her as a victim?

    1. Right. Saying she did it because she got dumped certainly portrays her as a victim.

      Please read the report. It says that the entire "lane realignment" (new working term) scheme was the work of Wildstein and Kelly, and absolutely nobody else anywhere near Christie, and poor, noble Chris Christie was brought to manly tears when he found out he was betrayed by people he trusted after he dug tirelessly into the case for months.

  6. KZ is actually doing to the blogger (with a wicker sense of humor) what the blogger only claims to be doing to public figures (liberals and/or women almost always) with absurd bombast and fatuous self-congratulation.

    The blogger is like haemorrhoids - but his saving grace is that he provide material for KZ.

  7. KZ is an annoying jerk.

  8. OMB (Front and Center with Zernike the Zombie)

    These are the words of the OTB:

    Zernike’s zombie idea:

    "Zernike is easily one of the worst reporters we’ve ever covered.

    Here’s the way her treatment of the Mastro report began:

    ZERNIKE (3/28/14): She “seemed emotional.” She was “habitually concerned about how she was perceived by the governor.” A boyfriend had ended a relationship.

    Elsewhere in Zernike’s report,she offers facts which are grossly misleading, even flatly false.

    Had Zernike even read the Mastro report when she produced her instant report?

    In Zernike’s opening paragraphs, this lone event somehow gave birth to the claim that Bridget Kelly is shown “weeping frequently” in the Mastro report. Zernike’s statement was flatly false...

    In that morning’s New York Times, Zernike had advanced a different false fact.

    The BOBster According to Zarkon:

    Has Zernike been “the center of blame" for this "weeping frequently" zombie fact. It seems to us at least eight times BOB has given her sole credit for the work that led to "weeping frequently" spreading all around the globe from the Times to the Bergen record in the short span of three days

    It also seems to us that a fellow named David Chen has also been a “center of blame.” We say that because his name is on the byline along with Kate the Zombie Zernike in the New York Times article BOB has questioned.

    Did BOB even bother to read the byline before hastily promising to savage Ms. Zernike's work last week? Did BOB explain, when two reporters are given credit for an article, why he singled out the reporter who was female?

    BOB did this "blame the woman" thing before. In fact on this very topic he criticized Taylor Marsh and Joan Walsh for putting quotation marks around the word "erratic" used by penis possessor Mark Halperin when he reported on the story with spoken language on television. BOB held the X reporters, not the Y reporter for spreading the diseased Z fact.

    So there must be a good reason to blame the woman. If BOB does it, how can Christie and Company be wrong? BOB didn't even bother with that Chen fellow. We don't understand why Christie's lawyers felt it was necessary to give that unreliable Mr. Wildstein fellow such undue blame.


    1. Since it is perfectly OK in Bob's World to speculate about private lives, especially of emotionally distraught women who take out their frustrations on the northbound motorists of New Jersey, are there any women at all in the life of Bob Somerby?

      You see, not a single one of the women in my life from my daughter to my wife to my aged and dear mother-in-law to my sisters (in both political "tribes") and even including my female co-workers around the office water cooler has failed to be "sauced" at the treatment of Bridget Kelly in this report.

      And they aren't blaming Mastro. They are blaming Christie.

      So how does Bob react? He parses the report to see if it used the same language as the female reporters he so despises.

      While, as the sharp-eyed KZ notes, completely disappearing the male co-reporter, and of course, not the first time Bob has done that.

      But let's be Malala about it shall we? Instead of condemning the poor man for lying in the pen with sexist pigs, perhaps we should pity the poor ex-teacher, ex-comedian, and for a brief time, a blogger that some people actually took seriously.

      The last break-up he must have had with the last woman in his life must have been extremely painful.

    2. Poor Bob. He was promised the answers to all the important questions by none other than Chris hisself. And what did he get? An "oversold dud."

      So who does Bob think is lying to him? Christie? Perish forbid!

      Of course, the liars and the only liars are Joan Walsh and Kate Zernike with their falsified quotation marks.

      Oh, the humanity.

    3. Irishguy, perhaps intemperately, I recently referred to you as a "known nitwit." Even though that characterization might well be accurate, it was rude of me to use it.

      Still, like so many of the crew of "bobhaters" who have taken over the comment section, you distort what THD said. He never said or implied that he expected the report to provide all the answers. His point was that until the report was issued, it didn't make sense to draw conclusions about it. Also, TDH does not claim that Christie is telling the truth when he claims he had no foreknowledge or direct responsibility for the lane closing; only that this hasn't been proven..

    4. AC/MA, instead of indirectly quoting Somerby, why don't you use his actual words? Because they don't fit the bullroar your trying to sell?

      For the record, Bob got his panties all in a wad last Thursday, because people with functioning synapses saw a $1 million whitewash about to be unleashed. Bob called that "propaganda". After all, until we read the report, how can we possibly say that a $1 million investigation by a team of lawyers hired by Christie wouldn't get to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, even without interviewing Kelly, Wildstein or Stepien?

      Then Bob let his weak imagination run wild. In sharp contrast to your convenient memory, here are his actual words. I'll even include the typical Somerby weasel words, useful only to his fans who wish to believe their leader isn't such a fool after all.

      But carefully note the portrait he is planting in your lizard brain about the potential for this report to answer "all the important quiestions, just like Chrissy promised him. And boy, THEN would he put it to Rachel, et al:


      SOMERBY 3/27: Duh. As we noted yesterday, it may be that no one will ever interview Kelly, Wildstein or Stepien.

      That doesn’t mean you can’t solve a case. In many instances, documents allow you to solve a case. And Christie said against last night that new documents will be coming forward as part of this report.

      Everyone knows that this report could turn out to be a dud. But it’s also possible that new emails and texts may shed light on what happened. . . .

      We don’t have the slightest idea. We haven’t seen it yet.

      That said, we can imagine finding out who engineered the lane closings. For example, we can imagine seeing more emails from Bridget Kelly which make this transaction clear.

      It all depends on what kind of documents Christie has. It all depends on what the documents say.

      The report could answer those basic questions—unless you’re Alfred Doblin. Last night, Doblin couldn’t even seem to imagine the process of learning a fact."


      So tell me, AC/MA? Should Bob feel shame or outrage or both that Chris Christie sold him this "possibility" and he once again wound up looking like a fool ass/u/ming once again that Christie "could" be telling the truth?

      At what point does it dawn upon our Harvard-educated blogger that the person who has been lying through his teeth about this since Day One is not Joan Walsh, not Kate Zernike, and not even the vile, hated Rachel Maddow?

      Or to put it more directly, when does Bob get even a hint of an idea that not a word that comes out of Chris Christie's mouth on this is ever to be trusted?

      Oh, and on a personal note, for a person who seems to abhor "haters," you sure do reach for the ad hominem in a hurry as you. Guess you learned hypocrisy from the master.

      Next time, try backing up your mouth with some evidence instead of your own spin. You might not look like such a "known nitwit."

    5. AC/MA did you actually believe Randy Mastro was going to cast Christie in a glowing, heroic light? Why? Because Somerby told you it was "possible"?

      Good grief! Did you get the license number of the turnip truck you just fell off?

    6. "in anything other than a glowing heroic light" of course.

      Face it. Once again, the people who saw the obvious got it right. The people who pretended to see "possibilities" wound up looking foolish once again.

      After all, this could still be a legitimate "traffic study" done in good faith, but merely bungled, after Wildstein had gone through all the careful and necessary steps.


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