Nothingburgers Don’t Lawyer Up

I don’t read a lot of Bob Somerby, but what I’ve read has usually been pretty smart. But I don’t get his latest, lengthy and fairly nasty examination of Rachel Maddow’s work on the Chris Christie bridge scandal. Here’s a sample:

Rachel engaged in free insinuation, trying to provide us with our nightly Christie hard-ons.

Luckily, we were able to answer her question. If the traffic study line is proven to not be true, Chris Christie will say that he didn’t know.

Presumably, his claim will be true. That’s what happens to Christie.

We had a different question after last evening’s latest silly con. What happens to the IQ of the liberal world with this very bad, very willful person behaving like an escapee from Fox News, to which she neverpersonally applied for a job?

Maddow’s treatment of this story has marked a watershed for her program. She’s been playing us rubes every step of the way, turning her program into pure propaganda.

Every minute she has burned on this bullshit could have gone to a real news topic. For example, she could have tried to help the public know more about low-income schools.

She doesn’t care about low-income schools. Maddow is playing her viewers for fools.

Two of the main players in this supposed non-scandal lawyered up yesterday. Maybe Maddow is onto something.

When I started reading about the bridge story, I thought it actually might be a big deal, not simply because Christie was directly, personally involved (who knows if he was), but because the more dirty Jersey laundry that gets aired around Christie, the better. If Maddow wants to push the story, I don’t see the harm if she’s not making shit up. There’s a line somewhere between protecting the precious IQ of the liberal world, and asking tough questions from a partisan angle. It might be more seemly and civilized to be a polite, intelligent loser who gives Chris Christie the benefit of the doubt, but I’d burn a few IQ points to make sure that asshole doesn’t get anywhere near the Oval Office. And the worst thing that could happen to low income schools isn’t Rachel Maddow failing to talk about them on her program, it’s President Chris Christie.






114 replies
  1. 1
    geg6 says:

    Somerby is an asshole. He has always been an asshole. I’m no major Maddow fan grrrrl, but I’d take her over Somerby any day.

  2. 2
    wvng says:

    He has had a problem with Rachel from the get go. Whatever the source, it is obviously personal and seems pathological.

  3. 3
    JPL says:

    Did Somerby mention that the NYTimes and other publications have followed the bridge incident? It’s apparent that he doesn’t like Maddow, so why watch and why write about her. I haven’t followed Somerby for years and it’s apparent that I haven’t missed anything.

  4. 4
    raven says:

    @JPL: I don’t like Scarborough.

  5. 5
    Baud says:

    The bridge thing is more newsworthy than 90% of the media reporting on President Obama. As others have said, maybe it’s personal.

  6. 6
    Schlemizel says:

    Nobody did a better job of taking down the media for their treatment of Gore in ’99 than Sommerby. For a year or two after his work was marvelous and deserved to be required reading at J school. Then somewhere along the way he went nuts. As I recall it may have started with the false equivalency deal where he went way overboard on something trivial on the left, I sort of chocked it up to an attempt to be ‘fair and balance’. But the over wrought nit-picky just became a daily occurrence. He was obviously very angry and any little insignificant thing would set him off on a tirade that made no sense.

    The media could use a watchdog like he used to be but the guy today is unreadable and often more wrong than his target. Its been a decade f that, he needs to take a break

  7. 7
    Earl says:

    Isn’t journalism supposed to be adversarial?

  8. 8
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @raven: And a clearer case of self-loathing I have never seen!

  9. 9
    Just Some Fuckhead, Thought Leader says:

    Dudebras like Maddow don’t care about poor schools. Excellent Bob! You should comment here.

  10. 10
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    Oh, one more thing mistermix, people lawyer up for lots of reasons, being guilty is just one of them.

  11. 11
    Chyron HR says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead, Thought Leader:

    So are you supposed to be ironically acting like a whiny little bitch about being called a “dudebro”? Is that the excuse?

  12. 12
    Just Some Fuckhead, Thought Leader says:

    @Chyron HR: Are you suggesting my comment somehow makes me a “whiny little bitch”? How does that follow?

  13. 13
    Betty says:

    Love the last sentence of this post. Yessir!

  14. 14
    James E. Powell says:

    Somerby often makes points that others are deliberately avoiding. He has never recovered from the experience of being the only person who saw the War on Gore in real time and tried, in vain, to get somebody somewhere to respond.

    He’s good at poking holes in education reformer propaganda, but I am waiting for his book on what ought to be done. He goes on and on about how liberals don’t care about poor African American children, but doesn’t suggest what anyone would do if they did care.

    He really does seem to hate Rachel Maddow, though he also slams everyone else on MSNBC.

    He seems like a well-motivated person. I wonder if he might not benefit from stepping away from politics and writing for awhile. Let go of the anger.

  15. 15
    Sherparick says:

    Somerby has a strong distaste for MSNBC going back to the way they covered the Gore-Bush campaign in 2000, and he dislikes Maddow because she uses her program to entertain and push the buttons of those of us in the liberal tribe, and he believes she knows better. He in a sense, he hold her to a higher standard then he holds Fox and O’Reilly, since right-wing grifters are like the Scorpion, it is their nature. http://www.dailyhowler.com/dh081004.shtml

    His basic point is that Rachel, and Keith Olbermann before, found a schtick that plays with liberal and hip audiences and gratifies us primarily as a way of making their own fortunes. To some extent that might be true, but he takes it over the top. In the Bridge matter, it really does not matter if Christie was playing Henry II or Nucky Thompson, while his knights knowing what he wanted based on a nod and a wink did the dirty work, it is an interesting story. Somerby may not like it, but Maddow’s job is to get eyeballs to watch her show, that is modern cable TV News and broadcast news and it’s been Ron Bugundized for 40 years now. I think he can remind us that this is essentially entertainment without all the snark.

    Somerby, a former school teacher in Baltimore, is really good on education and the testing wars.

  16. 16

    Wasn’t it commenter eemom that referred to Somerby as a “lunatic-savant”? Don’t know whether she coined the term personally, but it was most appropriate and has stuck with me.

  17. 17
    NorthLeft12 says:

    @Schlemizel: You nailed it. I have seen the same arc from The Daily Howler as you described. It used to be one of the blogs that I visited daily. Now I go back about every other month to see if he has suddenly returned to sanity. No such luck.

  18. 18
    WereBear says:

    Cassandra also came to a bad end. He should have figured that out.

  19. 19
    gene108 says:

    because the more dirty Jersey laundry that gets aired around Christie, the better.

    The real issue is will it stick. There are plenty of outbursts, questionable (corrupt) decisions and other issues of malfeasance about Gov Christie, but he’s been able to shake it all off. They just haven’t impacted enough voters to make them not support him.

    There’s a certain Homer Simpson v Frank Grimes quality to Christie that makes me curious, if this can last long enough to damage him politically. Like Homer Simpson, there’s a certain “that’s our Christie” quality to stuff that usually gets normal people in trouble and drives his opponents mad, because he should be taking heat for it.

    Bush, Jr. had that sort of quality on the national stage, where people seemed to turn his inability to talk coherently into a “I’d like to have beer with him” persona, for example.

    So far the backlash to the bridge closing hasn’t made it into “water cooler” talk here in South Jersey.

  20. 20
    IowaOldLady says:

    Whatever Christie’s involvement in closing the bridge was, he’s handling the aftermath very badly. And the story on him is really temperament, with this bridge closing as an instance.

    Also, Rachel Maddow doesn’t care about low income schools? Sweet Cartwheeling Jesus.

  21. 21
    liberal says:

    @NorthLeft12: Agreed. I think DougJ has a very good analysis of Somerby, though I don’t think he’s ever shared it in full detail. I think it had something to do with race.

    A few months ago some very astute commenter nailed Somerby. They pointed out that Somerby was very critical of (us) anti-Bush folks who attacked Bush for the lies about Iraq getting uranium from Niger. Somerby’s criticism was based on a ridiculous parsing of Bush’s claims (something along the lines of them being true in a literal sense that you’d have to be laughingly stupid to agree to). But now, as the commenter pointed out, Somerby wanted to have it the other way (I don’t recall, but probably in wanting to criticize the liberal tribe) as to the degree of literal-ness one has to adhere to.

    The other thing is that, while I agree that the press treated Gore badly, gave Bush a pass, and the resulting (Bush) presidency was a total disaster, the fact is that Gore wasn’t all that liberal and wasn’t that talented a politician (nor is he all that bright, IMHO). The media double standard (in treatment of right-wing figures vs center/center-left) has been going on as long as I can remember, and Gore’s hardly the only “victim”. (While I’m no Obot, the fact that the media just doesn’t drop all pretenses and announce that the Rethugs are knuckle-dragging fascists is absurd.)

  22. 22
    SteveM says:

    Did Somerby mention that the NYTimes and other publications have followed the bridge incident?

    Or that the story was broken by that bastion of liberal chic, The Wall Street Journal?

    http://online.wsj.com/news/art.....0525950894

  23. 23
    bg says:

    I don’t understand the attack on Rachel Maddow, but there are an awful lot of reasons why an innocent person might hire a lawyer.
    “Lawyering up” is a phrase made popular by the awful Nancy Grace and it casts aspersions on lawyers an on innocent people.
    Everybody has something in their life that makes them vulnerable. If you have never been up against the government, state or federal, you have no idea what they can do.
    They can call you before grand juries repeatedly until you say something inconsistent with something else that they “know,” or slightly inconsistent with something you said, and then prosecute you for perjury. They can get you for contempt if you refuse to say something they want to hear.(Susan McDougal is an example from the Whitewater years)
    II’m a big government liberal but there is a downside and if you are going up against the government, you need a lawyer even when you are innocent.

  24. 24
    liberal says:

    @bg: OK, sure, but if you were a betting (wo)man, would you really bet that these people are innocent?

  25. 25
    drew42 says:

    When I started reading about the bridge story, I thought it actually might be a big deal, not simply because Christie was directly, personally involved (who knows if he was), but because the more dirty Jersey laundry that gets aired around Christie, the better.

    And this is exactly the reason why Somerby continues to do what he does. Clearly, you want Christie to be involved, or at least want him to appear to be involved in order to damage his reputation. Maddow has been reporting with a strong “guilty until proven innocent” tone, which makes her viewers happy, but isn’t good journalism.

    Yeah, Somerby is repetitive and shrill, and often I just skim his posts since I’ve read it all before. But he actually is on our side, and still doing some excellent work (especially his posts on education). And he covers the same topics over and over, because who else is?

    It’s really strange how so many prominent liberal bloggers dislike Somerby — and their reasons always seem to boil down to, “because he’s an asshole.”

  26. 26
    bg says:

    @liberal: no,but not because they hired lawyers

  27. 27
    Fred says:

    The Washington bridge story is a story that needs to be told, for sure. Will Christie get hung on it? Not likely but it will get hung on him.
    Does Christie have a slimier underbelly than the other GOP front runners? Not really. Slimy is what GOPers do. And they are proud of it. Maddow knows how to lay out that story and it can’t be told too often.

  28. 28
    liberal says:

    @liberal:
    OK, I found the comment:

    Well, if somebody in the know actually told Harry Reid that the Mittster paid no federal income taxes for a decade, that’s not exactly lying, is it?

    In other words, let’s apply the standards to Reid that Somerby applied to G.W. Bush and his famous “Sixteen Words” in the 2003 State of the Union.

    Bob spent much of the next two years explaining how Bush was telling the Gospel truth when he said there were British intelligence reports that said Saddam was trying to buy enriched uranium from Africa, and what a horrible human being Joe Wilson was for saying the British intelligence report that he attempted to make the purchase from Nigeria was forged, bogus, and untrue.

  29. 29
    liberal says:

    @drew42:

    It’s really strange how so many prominent liberal bloggers dislike Somerby — and their reasons always seem to boil down to, “because he’s an asshole.”

    No, it’s because, as in the example comment from his blog I quoted pointed out, he applies absurd and inconsistent standards of evidence.

  30. 30
    kc says:

    Somerby went batshit a few years ago.

  31. 31
    liberal says:

    @bg:
    That depends, doesn’t it?

    Cops routinely perjure themselves and never get called on it.

    While I’m in complete agreement regarding the McDougal example (well, if memory serves me right), if a politician/political appointee lawyers up, my “Bayesian prior” is that they’re likely guilty.

  32. 32
    kc says:

    @Chyron HR:

    “whiny little bitch”

    Spoken like a true dudebro.

  33. 33
    Soprano2 says:

    Somersby has a real hatred of Rachel Maddow. He believes she should have a serious show with no jokes or snark, that somehow that stuff should be beneath “intelligent liberals”. He totally ignores the reality of how to keep a news program on the air in these times when people expect to be entertained even by the news. He also seems to want liberal journalists to cover education policy 24/7/365 or else he claims they “don’t care about black kids”. I agree that he’s excellent on education policy, on that topic I wish he had a national platform because not only does he know a lot about it he knows about the reality of low-income schools, having taught in Baltimore inner city schools for 10 years. He is also excellent on the War on Clinton and the War on Gore, and he does point out that the frenzy around Obama isn’t much different than the frenzy around the Clintons. He also wants to deny that anything is about race, evidently even when it’s obvious something is about race we should give people the benefit of the doubt and act like they aren’t racists. Sometimes he bends like a pretzel to deny that something has a racial component, his writing about the Trayvon Martin shooting is a good example of that.

    Somersby holds liberals to a higher standard than conservatives, that’s for sure. Sometimes the lengths he’ll go to just to make it seem like conservatives are telling the truth are insane, this Christie thing is a good example. If there’s nothing there nothing will come of this, if there’s something there it was a real abuse of power for political reasons that should come out. From the excerpt it seems that you can sum up his attitude as “Liberals should leave Christie alllllooooonnnneeeee.” It seems that if Somersby had his way liberals would discuss these kinds of things in hushed, gentlemanly tones and with utmost politeness, being sure to bend over backwards to be absolutely fair to conservatives. In other words, we would unilaterally disarm as far as the media is concerned and let conservatives have a pass on the things they say and do.

    I used to read Somersby daily, now I check him occasionally because his posts are so repetitive, he could use a good editor. I also wish he hated and snarked a lot less on those people whose side he claims to be on.

  34. 34
    Suffern ACE says:

    @gene108: here in north jersey (ok. 300 yards from North Jersey), where the GW Bridge is the way a lot of us travel to the city, the scandal is still a blip. It’s something that’s on the Daily News cover, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense. I’m not even certain how mad I’m supposed to be about it and it clearly is a fuck up by a political hack.

  35. 35
    kc says:

    @liberal:

    Somerby had a real hard-on, to use his own phrase, for Joe Wilson. He HATED Wilson. Thought Wilson was a big phony. He went on and on about it. For days, weeks. It clearly drove him nuts to see liberals praising Wilson.

  36. 36
    kc says:

    @kc:

    Somerby had a real hard-on, to use his phrase

    As an aside, I remember when he used to take Jane Hamsher to task for using profanity,while his own writing has gotten increasingly vulgar over the years. ( Not that I have any fucking room to complain about naughty words.)

  37. 37
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @kc:

    I can’t figure out why he hated Wilson, either. Wilson exposed the malassministration for the lying sacks of offal they are, and Sommerby objects to that?

  38. 38
    Suffern ACE says:

    @Soprano2: Somerby was actually a big fan of Maddox, when she could be used as a foil to attack the jackassery of Olberman. He was fighting against msnbc becoming Fox News for liberals. He also has not forgiven Tweety for his role in Clinton bashing and Gore mocking, and can’t stand that the liberals stood by and let that happen and have decided to make Tweety dean of the liberal channel.

    He turned against Rachel when she stopped taking the threat of a reemergent right seriously due to some premature triumphalism. There were quite a fe liberals who thought that Obamas victory meant we’d never see the right wing again, and she was in that clique. And he was right about that.

  39. 39
    Woodrowfan says:

    I gave up on Somerby ages ago. His criticism of Maddow crossed over long ago into MDS (Maddow Derangement Syndrome)

  40. 40
    Bighorn Ordovician Dolomite says:

    I used to read Somerby daily back in 2002-2004, but he’s really been solidly in “old man yells at cloud” territory for for years. And the constant tone, that since the national press corps wasn’t shifitng to hi sway of thinking menat that all of his readership was a bunch of “dumb fucking rubes!!!!” just got old.

  41. 41
    sw says:

    Somerby is a dick. If you haven’t figured that out by now well go ahead and be surprised when he comes all over you out of no where.

  42. 42
    Betty Cracker says:

    Somerby has been a crank for years. He fancies himself a brave, honest truth-teller, but he’s really just a contrarian asshole who seems entirely motivated by spite. Check out his George Zimmerman apologia if you have any doubts on this score.

  43. 43
    matt says:

    Along with Glenn Greenwald, and for similar reasons, Somerby’s flaws have taken him off my reading list altogether.

    He’s a hyperventilating freak who develops crushes and antipathies so far they ruin his judgment.

  44. 44
    legion says:

    Obviously, the next question to ask is “What is the connection between Bob Somerby and Christie?” Because this is a deeply personal and nasty attack to come from simple professional snootiness – dollars to donuts, Christie’s paying him for this.

  45. 45
    Betty Cracker says:

    @legion: Nah. Somerby has been obsessed with Maddow for years — way before anyone ever heard of Christie. Sometimes a spiteful asshole is just a spiteful asshole.

  46. 46
    Samuel Knight says:

    I actuallly used to love Somerby in the MWO days. He was quick, insightful and snarky. BUT….

    Somerby was not the only person who talked about the war on Gore in the 1990s – Lyons and others saw it as it was – a logical exention of the Arkansas project against the Clintons.

    Somerby “jumped the shark” in the Wilson case. He hammered Wilson for being egotistical and refused to answer the question – what does that have to do with what he brought to light?

    His basic point that Christie will say he didn’t know, beg the question – well does that make it true?

    Lastly his constant berating of liberals not to follow some standard that he defines is just weird. There is no unfied liberal wing, and there never will be.

    And yes, I’d put my money on the Stanford PhD (Maddow) beating out the Harvard undergrad (Somerby) any day.

  47. 47
    wvng says:

    @Suffern ACE: “He turned against Rachel when she stopped taking the threat of a reemergent right seriously due to some premature triumphalism. ”

    I watch her regularly, and have never seen any sign that she didn’t take the threat posed by the right seriously. She mocks them for being stupid when they are stupid (unlike this blog) but when has she ever dismissed them?

  48. 48
    Just Some Fuckhead, Thought Leader says:

    @kc: I’m pretty sure it’s the brogressive that would use the word “bitch” in a disparaging way, if we were trying to reduce a complicated subject down to a single name we could call someone. At any rate, it’s FUN! It’s like having 50 Allans all commenting simultaneously.

  49. 49
    burnspbesq says:

    “Nothingburgers don’t lawyer up?”

    That’s pathetically stupid.

    If yougot a grand jury subpoena, would you appear without first consulting a lawyer?

  50. 50
    Kay says:

    I like Somerby and I read him but really only on public schools. I do know he dislikes Maddow, though.
    I think the Christie thing “matters” because it goes along with what local NJ media reported after the election; that Christie had courted Democrats in the state by trading funding for local projects in return for their support. This is the flip side of that political trading, the punishment side.
    That wasn’t the national media narrative, which was that Democrats had just fallen in love with Christie for his strong leadership.
    They’re following this so rabidly because it fits with what they already know about how Christie operates.
    Somerby (perhaps understandably) is wary of this sort of pursuit because of his experience with Gore – media set a narrative, a story on Gore and then used everything he did to validate it.
    I think Somerby is too rigid. Following a story that seems to go along with how Christie operates isn’t the same thing as saying Gore is weak because he wears brown, or whatever.

  51. 51
    liberal says:

    @Betty Cracker:

    Check out his George Zimmerman apologia if you have any doubts on this score.

    Sadly, he’s not the only one. Jeralyn at talkleft or openleft or whatever it was was terrible, as were other defense attorneys I saw who commented on blogs. They even claimed that Zimmerman would be innocent under (their interpretation of) the old rules about your right to defend yourself if you have no means of retreat.

    I could see a line like “well, it’s a terrible outcome, but it’s dictated by a terrible law” (putting aside the thorny issue of whether Z actually used a SYG defense). But some of those scum actually spoke as if it were the just outcome, period.

  52. 52
    liberal says:

    @burnspbesq:
    Yawn. That’s not question. The question is
    probability(innocence of X | X has lawyered up and X is a politican/political appointee)
    not
    probability(I lawyer up | I get subp. by a grand jury)

  53. 53
    Cervantes says:

    @Soprano2:

    Somersby holds liberals to a higher standard than conservatives, that’s for sure.

    Bob Somerby is angry, in much the way that Villago Delenda Est is angry: tumbrels for everyone. Maddow may not be the most deeply entrenched Villager, but she’s no Amy Goodman, either: some of her guests, and the way she lavishes praise on them, make me cringe.

    Somerby is a harsh — even intemperate — critic but Maddow is smart enough to see where he is right. When he tries to tell her what to cover, e.g., the abuse of public schools, I think he’s wasting his time. (Similarly, I know people who have tried to get her to cover disability issues and apparently so far she has refused — it is her show, not theirs.) But when he criticizes her journalism on technical grounds, well, I think it bears taking seriously, at least.

    One other irritant: Maddow’s show would be good at 20-30 minutes, but as an hour-long extravaganza, even I find it less than engrossing. The format may not be her choice entirely — but being aware of this does nothing to make the show more watchable. And apparently, this (for example, the relentless “teasing”) is part of what annoys Somerby: in some ways Maddow’s show is a lost opportunity — which goes back to what Soprano2 says (quoted at the top of this comment).

  54. 54
    Cervantes says:

    @burnspbesq:

    “Nothingburgers don’t lawyer up?” That’s pathetically stupid.

    Or ignorant, anyway.

  55. 55
    Cervantes says:

    @drew42:

    And this is exactly the reason why Somerby continues to do what he does. Clearly, you want Christie to be involved, or at least want him to appear to be involved in order to damage his reputation. Maddow has been reporting with a strong “guilty until proven innocent” tone, which makes her viewers happy, but isn’t good journalism.

    Precisely.

  56. 56
    liberal says:

    @Kay:

    I like Somerby and I read him but really only on public schools.

    I think he’s good on some of hte school stuff, particularly for pointing out that we have to teach kids based on their ability at the time, not based on some magical thinking about what all children are always capable of.

    But overall, he’s a giant douche-canoe, as shown by the comment I quoted at #28 above. Basically, S.’s claim boiled down to “Well, if Bush claimed that Br. intelligence said that Iraq tried to get uran. from Niger, then his claim is true, even if the Br. lied about it, and even if Bush almost certainly knew it was a lie.”

  57. 57
    liberal says:

    @Cervantes:

    But when he criticizes her journalism on technical grounds, well, I think it bears taking seriously, at least.

    Like the technical grounds he was on when he claimed Bush didn’t lie about British intelligence learning that Iraq was trying to get U from Niger?

    LOL…

  58. 58
    Cervantes says:

    @Betty Cracker:

    Somerby has been a crank for years. He fancies himself a brave, honest truth-teller, but he’s really just a contrarian asshole who seems entirely motivated by spite. Check out his George Zimmerman apologia if you have any doubts on this score.

    Citation, please, if you have it. I have not read this “apologia.” Thanks.

  59. 59
    Kay says:

    @liberal:

    He is, I get that, his Zimmerman analysis was just horrible. His complaint was liberals “profiled” Zimmerman but then he profiled Martin.

    I read him for public schools and also because I like his style of writing. He writes like Walker Percy.

    Maybe a little too much like Walker Percy, actually :)

  60. 60
    Cervantes says:

    @liberal:

    Like the technical grounds he was on when he claimed Bush didn’t lie about British intelligence learning that Iraq was trying to get U from Niger? LOL…

    I see above that you’ve paraphrased him repeatedly to this effect — and for all I know you may be right — but I’m not about to criticize anyone’s text on the basis of a paraphrase.

  61. 61
    Feebog says:

    I have not followed the bridge story as I have been out of the country for the last ten days. I have checked in on TRMS website a few times. I don’t see her pursuit of this story as much different then her reporting on the Bob McDonald gift scandal. This issue is the subject of at least two investigations. We already know that the initial “road study” story was bullshit. I’m thinking there may be more incriminating emails out there.

  62. 62
    EthylEster says:

    I have mixed feelings about Somerby but I have to agree with his basic point here. TRMS for the last week or so has been repeating this Christie stuff, trying to gin up outrage. I have stayed abreast of this story and don’t need to hear the same crappy snark over and over. PLEASE RM stick with substance…or return to substance.

    I don’t get TRMS on my low level comcast package at home but am visiting folks for the hols that do. So I thought I’d tune in to MSNBC and check things out. My conclusion: Chris Hayes is WAY better. And Mathews is still frequently (mostly?) an idiot.

  63. 63
    Cervantes says:

    @Kay:

    Maybe a little too much like Walker Percy, actually :)

    Now that’s funny.

  64. 64
    Joel says:

    @Suffern ACE: I hated the triumphalism, too. But my thoughts were that it was more rooted in wishcasting than anything else.

  65. 65
    Brian R. says:

    Bob Somersby was great a decade back, but he went off the fucking rails a while ago. He’s pretty much batshit crazy these days.

  66. 66
    MattR says:

    @liberal: And if you have nothing to hide, you should not object to a search. Who cares if you could end up in jail for a month because the police think homemade soap is cocaine?

    @liberal:

    But overall, he’s a giant douche-canoe, as shown by the comment I quoted at #28 above. Basically, S.’s claim boiled down to “Well, if Bush claimed that Br. intelligence said that Iraq tried to get uran. from Niger, then his claim is true, even if the Br. lied about it, and even if Bush almost certainly knew it was a lie.”

    Based on this, how could anyone criticize Judith Miller for her pre-Iraq War WMD reporting. All of her claims were equally true.

  67. 67
    Petorado says:

    Steve Benen is the guy whose blog reports over at Maddow’s site are laying the groundwork for the Rachel’s nightly reporting. Considering that Benen’s hallmarks are his reasonableness, thoroughness, and lack of hyperbole, I trust Steve’s version of events far more than some guy who seems prone to fits of hatred. And reading Steve’s accounts, there’s very good reason to see some “there” there in the story.

  68. 68
    kc says:

    @Soprano2:

    Sometimes he bends like a pretzel to deny that something has a racial component, his writing about the Trayvon Martin shooting is a good example of that.

    Yeah. He finally lost me for good with his awful writing about Prof. Gates after the man was arrested on his own front porch.

  69. 69
    flabbydoo says:

    I don’t see the harm if she’s not making shit up. There’s a line somewhere between protecting the precious IQ of the liberal world, and asking tough questions from a partisan angle. It might be more seemly and civilized to be a polite, intelligent loser who gives Chris Christie the benefit of the doubt…

    Is Maddow “asking tough questions” or is she assuming that Christie was responsble for the bridge closing without any hard evidence? How did you feel about the tough questions from a partisan angle which were asked about Clinton’s blow job, or Hilary’s involvement with Bengazi?

    I personally don’t like patisan witch hunts, and would prefer in the case for more facts to emerge.

  70. 70
    ruemara says:

    He’s always had an issue with Rachel. Not even sure what’s to debate here. Somersby has been anti-Rachel for a loooong time. And it’s not about Chris Christie or her reporting style.

  71. 71
    J says:

    @Petorado: This is a good point. My main complaint about the Maddow blog–I haven’t seen the TV program–is that it makes it hard to go straight to Steve Benen, who is and has for a long time been one of the best.

  72. 72
    GregB says:

    Somerby comes across as a melding of Mickey Kaus and Pat Cadell with a smattering of asshole sprinkled on top.

    I am all for being critical of the left to which I belong but when you only criticize your side you are a sell-out like Caddell or a troll like Kaus or a mixture of both with a liberal dose of asshole on top.

  73. 73
    Culture of Truth says:

    If there was a traffic study, it wouldn’t take 100 days to find it. There was no study. This is corruption and abuse of power defined. Perhaps Mr Somerby doesn’t care about elected officials using their power to disrupt the lives of citizens to exact revenge against other elected officials for endorsing his re-election, out of corruption or fear of blackmail, but other people do. Using power over public infrastructure to fix elections is they definition of corrupt government, and that doesn’t help schoolchildren or anyone else — except perhaps, devoted defenders of people like Chris Christie.

  74. 74
    Culture of Truth says:

    I personally don’t like patisan witch hunts, and would prefer in the case for more facts to emerge.

    My impression is that facts are all Maddow is seeking, which are in short supply from Christie’s appointees on the Port Authority.

  75. 75
    Cervantes says:

    @Culture of Truth:

    If there was a traffic study, it wouldn’t take 100 days to find it. There was no study.

    You know, here’s Rachel Maddow herself on the subject of whether there was a “study”:

    MADDOW: And their assertions that this was part of a traffic study—and you [Ted Mann of the Wall Street Journal] ferreted out a lot of these details. First, it seemed very damning that the executive director of the agency said, “I don’t know anything about a new traffic study.” We’ve since seen documentation that they did do something that looked like a study, and that continues to be their political explanation for what they were doing. The study itself, such as it was, though, does seem completely unusual and completely unlike anything else the Port Authority has ever done.

    That’s from her show on December 13.

    And then you proceed:

    This is corruption and abuse of power defined. Perhaps Mr Somerby doesn’t care about elected officials using their power to disrupt the lives of citizens to exact revenge against other elected officials for endorsing his re-election, out of corruption or fear of blackmail, but other people do. Using power over public infrastructure to fix elections is they definition of corrupt government, and that doesn’t help schoolchildren or anyone else — except perhaps, devoted defenders of people like Chris Christie.

    Perhaps I can’t stand Chris Christie any more than you can — and perhaps Mr. Somerby beats his wife and does not care about baby seals — but these perhapses have very little to do with Somerby’s criticism of Maddow.

  76. 76
    Cervantes says:

    @Petorado:

    Steve Benen is the guy whose blog reports over at Maddow’s site are laying the groundwork for the Rachel’s nightly reporting. Considering that Benen’s hallmarks are his reasonableness, thoroughness, and lack of hyperbole, I trust Steve’s version of events far more than some guy who seems prone to fits of hatred. And reading Steve’s accounts, there’s very good reason to see some “there” there in the story.

    Is Somerby criticizing Benen’s “reasonableness, thoroughness, and lack of hyperbole” here? Or is he criticizing Maddow’s presentation?

  77. 77
    bg says:

    @liberal:
    Using the term “lawyered up” to describe hiring a lawyer when someone gets a subpoena from the government, which has resources and knowledge vastly greater than theirs, is like using the word “entitlements” to describe social security and medicare, or the word “benefits” to describe unemployment insurance instead of calling those things insurance, which is what they are, earned and paid for.
    One of the first things taught in law school is that if you let your opponent define the terms, you are more than halfway to giving them the win.
    We have an adversary system. If the other side has a tank, shouldn’t you at least have a slingshot?

  78. 78
    Petorado says:

    @Cervantes: I’ll take the bait. You’re right that Somerby does not implicate Benen, but it’s pretty obvious throughout Somerby’s article that he has it in for Maddow:

    There wasn’t much news value to this tale. Once again, the analysts said that Rachel was simply projecting. “It’s her way of exploring her own disorders,”

    Somerby does some ineffective parsing of Maddow’s reports, but the kicker is the ad hominem conclusion. The linked article is not good media criticism of Maddow’s show. You’re right that Bob criticizes Maddow’s presentation — he goes to great pains to focus on the superficial and appearances — all in the service of being mad that she’s not reporting on stories he’d rather see on the air.

    Go ahead and criticize Maddow’s choice of subject, her grasp of the facts, or her presentation style, but what Somerby really is doing is throwing a hissy fit about why Maddow’s not covering his pet story. His article was a pretty immature way to be manipulative, which is what the gist of the allegations are about with Christie and the bridge traffic snarl. Pretty rich of Somerby to talk about “projection.”

  79. 79
    aimai says:

    @drew42: Well, its precisely because he’s not exactly “on our side anymore.” I exchanged email with somerby years ago because we knew someone in common. There’s no doubt that he has changed and become embittered, spiteful, and extremely anti-women on the left in his coverage. And there’s no reason for it. Its not as if there aren’t enough targets to go around just on the right side of the aisle. But he has become the kind of person who will attack and wound someone who is “on his side” most of the time (like Maddow) because she doesn’t do exactly what he thinks he would do if he had her platform. And worse than that, he does it by impugning her intelligence and her motives. Its not enough for him to disagree with her choice of what to put on TV when, which is like castigating a novelist for writing a novel that you didn’t want to read–he has to attack her and everyone he thinks is like her.

    This is more than a critique of him for ‘being an asshole.’ Because its worse than that. Being an agressive curmudgeon is not particularly praiseworthy, but if it were in pursuit of his own goals I’d see its value to us as a progressive movement. But he spends as much or more energy lashing out at other progressives for not being progressive enough as he does promoting or exploring his own goals. Its not Maddow’s job to do Somersby’s job. If he wants to make alliances to get something done he can do it the way people have to: by making friends and influencing people.

  80. 80
    Cervantes says:

    @Petorado:

    what Somerby really is doing is throwing a hissy fit about why Maddow’s not covering his pet story.

    To the extent that’s what Somerby is doing, I said above that I think he’s wasting his time.

    I also agree with you (and said above) that Somerby’s criticisms can be intemperate.

    But have you read his series of articles on Maddow and the GW Bridge or only the one article excerpted and linked above by dpm?

  81. 81
    Cervantes says:

    @aimai:

    But he has become the kind of person who will attack and wound someone who is “on his side” most of the time (like Maddow) because she doesn’t do exactly what he thinks he would do if he had her platform. And worse than that, he does it by impugning her intelligence and her motives.

    Really? I don’t think you’ve captured Somerby’s most important objections to Maddow’s show. For example, what do you make of this article?

    Maddow played tape of Sylvester citing the 77 percent statistic. She didn’t play tape of Sylvester’s conclusion, where Sylvester said that women are only underpaid—discriminated against—by a factor of five percent. Was Sylvester right in that judgment? We don’t know. But Maddow made it easy for liberal viewers. She simply didn’t let them know about the judgment Sylvester reached.

    Does this behavior not disturb you?

  82. 82
    drew42 says:

    @aimai: Embittered, spiteful, and extremely anti-women. He must have said some pretty awful things in those emails. Do you still have any of them?

  83. 83
    Cervantes says:

    @drew42:

    He must have said some pretty awful things in those emails. Do you still have any of them?

    She said she has no doubt that he has changed since then:

    I exchanged email with somerby years ago because we knew someone in common. There’s no doubt that he has changed and become embittered, spiteful, and extremely anti-women on the left in his coverage.

  84. 84
    drew42 says:

    @Cervantes: aimai would need to confirm. I just re-read the comment, and it could be interpreted either way.

  85. 85
    El Tiburon says:

    Somerby has done a lot of good work — tons of good work.

    But I stopped reading him a few years ago when he got a severe hard-on for Maddow. I could never understand his beef with her. Every journalist makes mistakes or perhaps analyzes the story differently. But Bob seemingly wanted to put her in the same category as Fox News or something.

    He would nitpick her on the tiniest shit.

  86. 86
    El Tiburon says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead, Thought Leader:

    Dudebras like Maddow don’t care about poor schools. Excellent Bob! You should comment here.

    Nice.

  87. 87
    Linnaeus says:

    Loved Somerby’s work on Michelle Rhee. But he’s off the mark here.

  88. 88
    MattR says:

    @Cervantes: I don’t see the problem here for two reasons. First, Maddow played the clip to substantiate her argument that women make 77% of what men make as a whole in this country so the percentage due to direct discrimination is not very relevant. And second, Sylvester’s conclusion that only 5% comes from discrimination when you control for everything else is unsourced (the 77% is sourced back to the Census Bureau) and is a “fact” that is in dispute. Somerby completely screwed up in his interpretation of Hartmann’s comments about the GAO results. They actually found that even when you account for work patterns, occupation and other key factors women still only make 80% of what men make. (The GAO acknowledges that they cannot determine whether that 20% is solely caused by discrimination or if there are other factors that they cannot measure or control for)

    Maybe it is not perfect journalism from Maddow and she should have done a better job of acknowledging that the entire 23% might not be due to discrimination, but it seems silly to focus on that detail of her argument while ignoring the truth of her conclusion. Even if it is only 5%, that still means that gender discrimination in wages does exist. Yet Republican pundits like Alex Castellanos argue that women get paid exactly the same as men for the same work and Republican policitians like Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers and Governor Romney use that argument to defend their opposition to the Fair Pay Act.

  89. 89
    kc says:

    @drew42:

    Embittered, spiteful, and extremely anti-women. He must have said some pretty awful things in those emails

    .

    You left out “in his coverage,” which is what she said. She didn’t say that his emails were embittered etc.

    If you doubt that he’s embittered and spiteful, shit, just go read some of his recent output.

  90. 90
    kc says:

    He’s been nutso since looong before he started going after Maddow. She’s just his latest punching bag.

  91. 91
    patrick II says:

    Presumably, his claim will be true. That’s what happens to Christie.

    Yeah, that that presumption is why people like Somerby can be useless and what Maddow is doing is important. Someone with a little grit needs to beyond the presumption and see what is actually true. Evidently that type of work is beneath Mr. Somerby’s intellectual dignity — leave that to the peons — a type of intellectual elitism that is much the bane of the left as money elitism is of the right. Too bad for him that is where much of the real work of politics gets done.

  92. 92
    Culture of Truth says:

    @Cervantes: I stand by my statement that if a real study (and not a fake one) were done, it would not take 100 days for a Govenor facing scandal and his two now-resigned employees to produce it.

    I never said CC beats his wife or clubs baby seals.

    By the standards he applies to Rachel Maddow regarding schools, Mr. Somerby does not care about public corruption. By another standard, one not driven by irrational hate, I grant that he probably does. I was being sarcastic. If Somerby was not, his utterly ridiculous, over-the-top accusations about Maddow regarding schools undercut his credibility. It’s a shame he can’t see that.

    In addition, for people who live near the bridge, this not a joke or a ginned up scandal. In fact, the kids Bob says he cares about were not able to get to school because of the road closures. I wonder if that ever occurred to him.

  93. 93
    MattR says:

    @Culture of Truth: The lanes were closed from 9/9-9/13 which was the first week kids were back in school and of course included the 9/11 anniversary. Even if there was an actual study, it was the absolute wrong week to conduct it.

  94. 94
    mtiffany says:

    the more dirty Jersey laundry that gets aired around Christie, the better

    As I once overheard my grandmother say, “The bedsheets don’t shit themselves.”

  95. 95
    LT says:

    He has been very nasty to Maddow for years.

  96. 96
    Plantsmantx says:

    @James E. Powell:

    He’s good at poking holes in education reformer propaganda, but I am waiting for his book on what ought to be done. He goes on and on about how liberals don’t care about poor African American children, but doesn’t suggest what anyone would do if they did care.

    I haven’t read this guy in years, and had forgotten all about him. Does he classify education reformer propaganda as “liberal”? If he does, that’s a mistake.

  97. 97
    Valdivia says:

    Kleiman (at samefacts) had an interesting take on this. It’s not just that they laweyred up, is who they laweyred up with.

  98. 98
    Chris Andersen says:

    Somerby’s reason for being appears to be to instill in the press the idea that they should never report anything unless it is something that can be shown definitively to be true. Speculation of any sort, no matter how strong the circumstantial evidence, is a no-no.

  99. 99
    Cervantes says:

    @Chris Andersen: That’s part of it, I agree — and, I would say, an understandable part given what he has (and all of us have) seen in the press.

  100. 100
    aimai says:

    @Cervantes: No. “this behavior does not disturb me.” I don’t think Somerby has a leg to stand on with most of his objections and his specific objections to Maddow are just dripping with spite. Maddow is pretty far from being a lying shock jock. In fact her coverage is so dull and detailed I don’t even bother with it. But she is a partisan in a war I would like to win so if she gets her “liberal” viewers riled up I think thats her job.

  101. 101
    aimai says:

    @drew42: No. At the time we exchanged emails they were very, very, cordial. He was a huge fan of my grandfathers and we talked about politics–but this was years ago, during the Bush years. He really seems to have gone off the rails late in the Bush years and deeply after Obama won. He just doesn’t seem to have recovered from a permanent state of “they done us wrong” with Gore’s loss to Bush. I feel the same way but I still can engage in politics and care about democratic initiatives and winning with the democratic politicians we have. The world didn’t end with Gore not getting into the White House. Its still possible to do political work.

  102. 102
    Cervantes says:

    @Culture of Truth:

    I stand by my statement that if a real study (and not a fake one) were done, it would not take 100 days for a Govenor facing scandal and his two now-resigned employees to produce it.

    Did you notice what Maddow said about “the study”? (It’s above.)

    I never said [Somerby] beats his wife or clubs baby seals.

    Of course not, because there’s no evidence for it — but with just as little evidence, you suggested that “[p]erhaps Mr Somerby doesn’t care about elected officials using their power to disrupt the lives of citizens to exact revenge against other elected officials for endorsing his re-election, out of corruption or fear of blackmail.”

    Not only is there no evidence for this, it’s irrelevant to the criticism of what Maddow did.

    By the standards he applies to Rachel Maddow regarding schools, Mr. Somerby does not care about public corruption. By another standard, one not driven by irrational hate, I grant that he probably does. I was being sarcastic. If Somerby was not, his utterly ridiculous, over-the-top accusations about Maddow regarding schools undercut his credibility. It’s a shame he can’t see that.

    If here you’re suggesting that Somerby can be intemperate in his criticisms (in this case of Maddow), then I might agree. (Said so myself above, in fact.)

    In addition, for people who live near the bridge, this not a joke or a ginned up scandal. In fact, the kids Bob says he cares about were not able to get to school because of the road closures. I wonder if that ever occurred to him.

    Somerby isn’t saying it’s a joke. He’s saying that when Maddow acts as if Christie is known to be responsible, she is going beyond what she knows to be the truth — and that’s not good journalism.

    Not a particularly difficult point to understand, I should think, for someone who values (a culture of) truth.

  103. 103
    Cervantes says:

    @aimai:

    In fact her coverage is so dull and detailed I don’t even bother with it.

    Perhaps if you bothered with it more, you might understand Somerby’s criticism of it.

  104. 104
    MattR says:

    @Cervantes:

    He’s saying that when Maddow acts as if Christie is known to be responsible,

    Can you provide an example of this? When I look in the Somerby article that mistermix linked to I can’t find an example of him quoting Maddow acting like Christie is known to be responsible.

    (EDIT: I do see her linking Christie’s political fortunes with the outcome of this situation, but that is to be expected when it involves two high level political appointees)

  105. 105
    Death Panel Truck says:

    Did he “emit low, mordant chuckles” as he wrote that bullshit? Guy’s an asshole. I stopped reading him back in 2004 or thereabouts.

  106. 106
    Cervantes says:

    @aimai:

    I don’t think Somerby has a leg to stand on with most of his objections and his specific objections to Maddow are just dripping with spite.

    I can understand not liking Somerby’s tone though I find such complaints uninteresting, but you think “most of his objections” — over the last 13 years? — are invalid?

    Maddow is pretty far from being a lying shock jock. In fact her coverage is so dull and detailed I don’t even bother with it.

    [I commented on this earlier.]

    But she is a partisan in a war I would like to win so if she gets her “liberal” viewers riled up I think thats her job.

    If I may quote someone (from memory): This is how Izvestia and Pravda are edited but it hardly fits Jefferson’s idea of a free press.

  107. 107
    David Koch says:

    He was a big support of Hillary and during the campaign Rachel once described Hillary’s tactics as “post-rational”.

    I thought that was a little hash as well as wrong. But there’s no need to declare war on Rachel.

  108. 108
    Cervantes says:

    @Valdivia:

    Kleiman (at samefacts) had an interesting take on this. It’s not just that they laweyred up, is who they laweyred up with.

    I was underwhelmed by Mark’s argument. There’s a limit to what you can infer about a (potential) defendant by looking at his or her attorney’s prior clients.

  109. 109
    Cervantes says:

    @MattR:
    @MattR:

    Matt, I see your comments. If you are still checking this thread and would like me to respond, do let me know here. Thanks.

  110. 110

    @Cervantes:

    If I may quote someone (from memory): This is how Izvestia and Pravda are edited but it hardly fits Jefferson’s idea of a free press.

    If I may quote myself, this is a rancid heap of bullshit.

    Jefferson’s idea of a free press absolutely and explicitly included a space for partisan journalism. Even when he whined about being the target of them as president, he’d still defend their necessity to the health of the republic. To pull a couple of random Jefferson quotes on the subject (emphasis mine):

    “No government ought to be without censors, and where the press is free, no one ever will. If virtuous, it need not fear the fair operation of attack and defence“.

    “I think an editor should be independent, that is, of personal influence, and not be moved from his opinions on the mere authority of any individual. But, with respect to the general opinion of the political section with which he habitually accords, his duty seems very like that of a member of Congress.”

    If you think for one second that Thomas Jefferson would share Somerby’s (and, apparently, your) criticism of Maddow’s reporting on this, you are out of your fucking mind.

  111. 111
    Kolohe says:

    “Two of the main players in this supposed non-scandal lawyered up yesterday. Maybe Maddow is onto something.”

    Yeah, innocent people never need lawyers. There are, after all, no innocent people in jail due to inadequate counsel.

  112. 112
    Cervantes says:

    @Anton Sirius: Dear Anton … In all your excitement, you forgot to bold one word in the following:

    “No government ought to be without censors, and where the press is free, no one ever will. If virtuous, it need not fear the fair operation of attack and defence”.

    Can you spot the one word? (Hint: It’s the entire point of this discussion.)

  113. 113
    Culture of Truth says:

    Can you provide an example of this?

    Did we ever get an answer to this?

  114. 114
    Culture of Truth says:

    He’s saying that when Maddow acts as if Christie is known to be responsible, she is going beyond what she knows to be the truth

    — and that’s not good journalism.

    Not a particularly difficult point to understand, I should think, for someone who values (a culture of) truth.

    Did we get cite to Maddow acting as if she knows Christie to be responsible?

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