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Monday, January 13, 2014

The "false underdog" tactic. Plus: What's REALLY behind that bridge?

Give him this much: Obama has the right enemies. His opponents on the right are so vile, they make me like a president who doesn't otherwise deserve much admiration. Take, for example, John Podhoretz' latest, "Why Bridgegate made headlines but Obama’s IRS scandal didn’t."
Why? Oh, come on, you know why. Christie belongs to one political party. Obama belongs to the other. You know which ones they belong to. And you know which ones the people at the three networks belong to, too: In surveys going back decades, anywhere from 80% to 90% of Washington’s journalists say they vote Democratic.

Scandals are not just about themselves; they are about the media atmosphere that surrounds them.
And so on. What sheer guff! Where does one start...?

1. When you work for Taco Bell, you don't make tacos your way -- you make them the Taco Bell way. When you work for Jeff Bezos, Rupert Murdoch, the Kochs or any of the other libertarian billionaires buying up our media infrastructure, you write news the way they want it written. By any reasonable global or historical standard, American journalism is both infuriatingly conservative and perpetually restricted by internalized self-censorship. Ask Bill Clinton, Al Gore and John Kerry whether they got a fair shake from the media.

2. The IRS pseudoscandal was not ignored -- in fact, it received a truly insane amount of coverage. IRS stories flitted across CNN screens day after day. Memeorandum must have linked to dozens, perhaps hundreds, of stories on the topic. The NYT, the WP and all other major papers gave this "scandal" far too much attention.

3. The IRS pseudoscandal never deserved the attention it got. From the start, it was very, very pseudo. This "story" wasn't news; it was surrealism. It was one of those globules of inanity that right-wing propagandists routinely emit so the rubes can use the stuff as a lube to wank themselves into rage-gasm.

Contrary to what we were told in endless headlines, the IRS did not target conservative groups. They went after political groups of both persuasions who were potentially abusing claims of tax exemption. No Tea Party group ever suffered. As I wrote on an earlier occasion:
The only group which got kicked out of 501-c(4) land was a liberal organization in Maine. The keywords "Tea Party" and "patriot" applied to only about one-third of the groups whose tax-exempt status came under IRS review -- a distribution which strikes me as perfectly fair, since the teabaggers appeal to roughly one-third of the population.
The true scandal is the cowardice of the IRS. They should have gone after the Tea Party organizations which claim tax-exempt status despite being obvious Republican Party fronts. I reproduce, once again, a photo of one allegedly "non-partisan" gathering. You can see more examples of "non-partisanship" here. The Tea Partiers, far from being targeted by this administration, have carved out a position of privilege in which they continually flaunt the law.

Poddy's game is obvious. Resentment-filled rightists wallow in what I call the "false underdog" position. In the wake of the bridge scandal, conservatives have had no choice but to pretend that their jumped-up pseudo-scandals were real scandals, and worse than anything done by Christie's staff.

I wasn't surprised when they tried to divert attention away from Christie by screaming "Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghaaaaaaaazeeeeeeee!!" But...this IRS phoniness? Are they serious?

Good lord. No wonder they call this guy "Poddy": He's filled with stool.

About the bridge scandal:  Brian Murphy has proffered a fascinating new theory about this matter. He's right about one thing -- the story we've been told so far does not add up.
Why did deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly text David Wildstein on the morning of August 13 that it was “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee”? Why did Wildstein already know enough about this plot to simply reply “Got it.”?

The explanation that’s been offered so far is that Governor Chris Christie, a Republican, was so obsessed with portraying himself as bipartisan in advance of a 2016 presidential run that he wanted to lock up as many local Democratic endorsements as possible during his gubernatorial campaign. The story is that the mayor of Fort Lee, Mark Sokolich, refused his request, and Christie’s people punished him, and his hometown, as an act of retribution.

For obvious reasons, this explanation is deeply unsatisfying. Mayor Sokolich can’t recall being asked for an endorsement – at least not with any pressure – and Governor Christie has claimed that he couldn’t pick Mayor Sokolich out of a lineup. Moreover, it seems unlikely that so many top aides and appointees would spend so much time and energy, and put themselves in so much legal jeopardy, to punish one mayor for not giving them an endorsement they hadn’t really pushed to get.

So if not that, what?
Emphasis added. Murphy thinks that the true motive for the intentional traffic jams concerns a massive development project called Hudson Lights, located next to the George Washington Bridge.
A Bergen Record story about the funding said that the groundbreaking had been pushed back “because of a combination of factors…including nailing down financing as well as lining up a high-profile tenant.”

I find it hard to believe that would-be investors in this project weren’t alarmed by the prospect that Port Authority officials had decided, without warning, to begin running experiments to see what would happen if local access to the GWB was temporarily, and then permanently, restricted.
The Port Authority spent $25 billion on such projects since 2002; about a third of that has gone toward rebuilding the World Trade Center, leaving just under $16 billion for everything else. That’s a pile of money just too big to ignore, and the inherent power it vests in the top brass of the Port Authority means that they’re not just ordinary political appointees. They’re political entrepreneurs, always looking for new ways to get in on new deals and make things happen for their bosses.

I think that begins to get at what was going on here. We now know that a major redevelopment project, one that depends on Port Authority assets and relationships, was put in jeopardy at a vulnerable financial moment, and in a way that put the viability of the entire project at risk.

But we still don’t know why.
Murphy has not yet given us a complete, comprehensible narrative. But perhaps he has pointed us in the right direction. Those who wish to dig further into this story should head toward that spot of land near the bridge. Plant your shovels there.
Murphy got this idea from Kornacki, who is at MSNBC and who worked for Wildstein in the past.
The good Dr. Maddow posits that the timing of Christie deciding not to renominate a female New Jersey Supreme Court justice for lifetime tenure "to protect her" from NJ Senate "animals" on August 12 could have been the impetus for Kelly sending her email to Wildstein first thing the next morning.

Maddow pointed out that earlier Christie had declined to renominate the only black justice for lifetime tenure -- the first time that a sitting justice had not been renominated in 63 years -- and that had enraged NJ Senate Democrats, who then did not approve Christie's next two justice nominations for that empty seat.

"Animals" he called them, and the Senate leader of the Democrats just happened to represent Ft. Lee. Sounds like a good theory to me.
How about this theory:

I think the reporting said that there was this last Big Tenant (or investor) that got locked in, enabling the sponsors to close the financing deal. What if the Big Tenant was balking at the potential rents or other terms the sponsors were asking? What if Big Tenant was friends with Chris Christie? What if BT said, "Chris, can you help me out? I want to move in there, but these guys are asking too much and won't budge. They think the project's worth so much because it has great access to the GW Bridge. Chris, can you talk to these people and try to get them to be reasonable?"

And Chris says: "'Talk' to them? I can do even better than that!"
Dr. Maddow and Steve were just on talking about this. But neither has yet offered a theory as to why Christie would like to knife that project, other than as retribution to the Mayor personally. Which of course is no better than the "wouldn't endorse" theory. Yet everything Christie said at his news conference early December suggested he (for whatever reason) wanted to do bodily harm to that $1B project - claiming Ft Lee cdidn't need three access lanes even as the September fiasco proved exactly the opposite.

So I repeat what I said earlier: Follow the money. Someone either made a lot of money or saved a lot of money because of the lane shutdown, and Christie's people made that happen.

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