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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Bridge Too Far

 

If Stupid jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?

That’s what my mom used to ask us kids when we were contemplating doing something dumb.

If your idiot friend jumped off a bridge, does that mean you have to as well?

You should be smarter than that.

I’ve been traveling over the last few weeks and haven’t had time to do much writing.  My inbox is full to bursting and I’m working my way through it slowly. A lot of folks wrote to ask what I thought of the president’s speech outlining policy changes to NSA’s domestic data collection programs. As many long time readers know, I used to work inside the NSA firewall, and in fact I do have an opinion or two on the subject. There will be an essay soon, after I see how a couple of things shake out. In the meantime, the second most common topic clogging my inbox like so many undigested jelly donuts in Rush Limbaugh’s large intestine is, of course, the Chris Christie scandal.

I wasn’t going to write about this, because honestly? A politician possibly abused his office? No kidding? Wow, that’s never happened before. And then when it came to light he fired a bunch of staffers and denied that he knew anything about it in the first place? Really, that’s what you’ve got?

It’s been done, Man, it’s so been done. 

And the news media seems to have it covered from all directions.

Frankly, If you don’t, at the very least, have a dead hooker in the dumpster behind the Governor’s Mansion with Christie’s teeth marks on her (or better yet his) ass, you know, I’m going to have a hard time working up any actual interest.

And so, I wasn’t going to say anything.

But, hell, you just can’t get away from Chris Christie’s stupid bridge scandal.

And that’s what bugs me.

Let me explain.

Dubbed “Bridgegate” by the liberal press in a staggering bit of literary originality, and “Bridgeghazi” by the obsessive compulsives of Fox News (where all bridges lead inevitably to Libya), apparently certain of Christie’s staffers not satisfied with an overwhelming landslide victory, decided to punish the lone mayor who failed to publicly cheer the governor’s reelection. In retaliation against the liberals of Fort Lee, Christie’s office shut down a couple of lanes on the world’s busiest bridge causing massive traffic jams during the first week of school.

Now, there’s no need to insert “alleged” in front of the asshattery here. It happened, that’s absolutely not in dispute. And there’s no question that it happened at the behest of the governor’s office either. And there’s no doubt whatsoever that this was a malicious and deliberate abuse of power directed against the governor’s political enemies, even Christie admits that and says that as the guy in charge he “takes responsibility for it” (responsibility in the generic comes with the job sense, not the personal one). And yes, if you squint your eyes, this has the faint whiff of Jersey mafia boss written all over it. What? Fort Lee didn’t cheer loud enough for the Governor’s reelection? Time for a little encouragement. Mr. Mayor, meet my “associates,” Rocko and Bruiser…

That said, Folks, in case you haven’t been paying attention, it’s New Jersey.

It’s New Jersey and it’s Chris Christie. How the hell did you think he got the job in the first place?

And, seriously, using the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for political ends? Not exactly a new thing, that. It’s practically as big a cliché as tacking “gate” on the end of everything that even vaguely looks like a political scandal.

Hell, the mayor of Fort Lee is lucky he didn’t end up encased in cement under a Hoboken Public Works project paid for with Hurricane Sandy relief funds. It’s Jersey. The question isn’t what happened, the only question at this point is whether Christie was running the show personally or did he just have Rocko and Bruiser quote take care of it unquote. 

In other words is he smooth enough to arrange for plausible deniability or is he a greasy crook who stepped on his own dick? 

After all, this guy wants to be president. Republicans should probably figure out in advance whether they’re getting a Reagan … or a Nixon.

So, yeah, it was a petty vindictive childish thing to do, absolutely. An abuse of power no doubt. But in the grand scheme of things? It just politics as usual.

A traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge? Just how egregious is that really? When isn’t there a traffic jam on the GWB? When isn’t there gridlock in New York? When isn’t the Jersey Turnpike under construction? I’ve driven through this area I don’t know how many times, and it’s always a ride through giant festering donkey balls. Always. Sure it was a shitty thing, and it’s even been alleged that a few deaths occurred as a result, but I mean come on, this isn’t even remotely the worst thing we’ve caught a politician doing lately. It’s moderately scandalous and, sure, Christie ought to be held to account by the New Jersey voters who elected him, but on a national scale? On the scale of Watergate? Oh, please, there wasn’t even an illicit wiretap or a dead hooker involved – let alone actual bodies being actually entombed in actual concrete. Hell, there aren’t even any (alleged) pictures of Christie’s rampant junk floating around Twitter (and if I’m wrong about this and you come across such, just feel free to keep it to yourself, OK?).

As scandals go, this one is pretty run of the mill.

A politician using his office for political ends and to punish his enemies? Yow, I’m shocked, shocked I tell you … or maybe I’ve just spent too much time in Washington.

Now absolutely there should be an investigation and, if indicated, criminal charges against those responsible, including Christie himself – if there’s evidence to support an indictment, which so far there isn’t.  But, again, that’s something for New Jersey and New York to deal with and if this was any other governor, this whole thing would have been a minor one-day headline under the front page fold (What? Rod Blagojevich? Okay, you got me there. But, seriously, that guy was really, really asking for it).

Let’s at least be honest and admit what this is actually about.

This isn’t about a traffic jam, or if somebody actually died or not, or even how Hurricane Sandy funds were distributed, or whether Christie is a bully (he is, try to keep up).

This is about 2016.

Just like Benghazi.

Folks, I just spent the better part of two weeks trapped in front of Fox News.

I started counting.

On average, out of one hundred individual news clips, forty-seven were specifically about Obamacare. 

Twenty-one were about Benghazi.

(And, just because I know you’ll ask, there was one Fox News Chris Christie Bridge story during the period where I was recording statistics. Fair and balanced, Folks, fair and balanced)

As an experiment, I had two tally sheets running on my tablet, one for each subject, Obamacare and Benghazi. Including the commercials, Fox News didn’t go more than seven minutes without a reference to Obamacare, seven minutes, and no more than ten without playing a Benghazi clip. The screen was continuously filled with jiggling cleavage and red tinged monomaniacal hysteria shouting Obamacare! Benghazi! over and over. Obamacare! Obamacare! Benghazi! Obamacare! Obamacare! Obamacare! Bleat! Bleat! Obamacare! Ook! Ook! Benghazi! Alert! Alert! Alert! Scandal! Scandal! Sandal! With the basic idea being that even if there’s no actual scandal, you can make one if you just keep beating the drum hard enough and long enough – the manufactured hoopla around Benghazi is a perfect example of this type of manipulation. And you don’t have to go very far, or listen to too many conservatives, to see how well this kind of perception manipulation works on even relatively aware and intelligent folks.

Joseph Goebbels had nothing on Roger Ailes.

And the best part? It’s self-reinforcing. When shown irrefutable proof that they are being actively manipulated, people get angry – not angry at being manipulated, but mad and offended that it was pointed out.  People are deeply outraged at the mere thought that they’ve been duped and so perversely rather than change their position or admit they’ve been had, they instead typically deny that any such manipulation has taken place – and in reaction their artificially implanted beliefs become even more entrenched (incidentally, this particular human trait is one of the primary reasons why con men and cult leaders are able to ply their trade so successfully, often coming back to the same victims over and over).

It’s propaganda, what the military calls psychological warfare, a form of population manipulation in the purest sense.

Trust me on this, I used to do this for a living and I was one of the military’s foremost experts on it. I know it when I see it. The so-called IRS scandal is a perfectly executed textbook example of this form of manipulation.

And it’s no secret. Despite Dan Rather’s recent public half-assed no-but-not-really denial to the contrary, Fox News cheerfully admits that’s exactly what they’re up to. Ailes and Rupert Murdock took a page right out of the defunct TVN’s information warfare playbook – which is not at all surprising given that Ailes helped to write it. And I’m not the only one who’s made that connection (and really, if you get a moment, follow that link and listen to the interview, it’s worth your time).  In America, this kind of thing may be unethical as all hell (as if ethics had anything to do with either politics or the press, but I digress), but it’s not even vaguely illegal.  

There’s nothing particularly new about this, media organizations have been actively attempting to manipulate the public since long before William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer helped goad America into the Spanish American War. Fox News under the command of Roger Ailes has simply refined it to the level of military science.

Fox News and the Right have spent the last year hammering at Benghazi, not because they give a good Goddamn about the death of a liberal Ambassador and the personal friend of a president who they abjectly despise, but at first because they wanted to prevent Barack Obama’s reelection and lately because they fear, absolutely utterly fear, Hillary Clinton in 2016. 

Just as the left fears Chris Christie.

Now, personally, I think calling any election this far out is a sucker’s bet, but it’s our national pastime and Clinton and Christie are the two most popular potential contenders for 2016 at this point. They are both the only two potential candidates who, at the moment, actually seem to have a real shot at winning the general election. Both are enormously popular. Both are charismatic in their own personal ways. Both have the ability to appeal to both their own bases and to independent moderates. Both are experienced savvy politicians who know how to work the crowd instead of routinely putting their own feet into their own mouths all the way to the hip.

Needless to say, both scare the ever living shit out of the opposition.

And so, naturally, both sides are doing their level best to wage preemptive warfare just as far in advance of the actual battle as possible – because that’s how we Americans do democracy.

Now, just so I’m clear – because I can hear the howling already – let’s make no false equivalency here.  With cynical malice aforethought, Roger Ailes and Fox News are engaged in an active, practiced, and well planned campaign of information warfare. The liberal slanted media, on the other hand, is a disorganized herd of cats engaged in a “so’s your mother!” style of debate.  Conservatives have always been better at war than liberals, and it shows.

And don’t get me wrong here, I’m no particular fan of Chris Christie (or Hillary Clinton for that matter). And I’m certainly not trying to either dismiss the issue or make excuses for it, people in New Jersey and New York who were affected by this asshattery have every right to demand an accounting and they should.  But, what I’m saying here is the same exact thing I’ve said to the Obama haters over and over, if you’re going to hate the man, at least hate him for who he actually is instead of some nonsense manufactured in the bowels of the media machine. At least hate him for what he actually did, instead of just because he’s Chris Christie. One of the most disturbing things I hear in conversation with liberals over this affair are those who mock the man for his weight. If you smugly point out the bigotry and personal attacks on President Obama due to his race, but can’t discuss Chris Christie without prefacing your comment with “that fat tub of lard,” you probably ought to go take a long look in the mirror. Ditto if you hate the fact that conservatives continue to insist on Obama’s complicity in the IRS “scandal” despite numerous investigation results to the contrary, but are ready to convict Christie just because you don’t like his politics.

Again, don’t get me wrong here, there’s certainly a scandal – again even Christie openly admits that – and there has most certainly been an abuse of power.

But time and the law will tell if it’s actually Bridgegate or just Bridgeghazi.

It’s bad enough that the cynical malignant ideologues behind Fox News are actively working to divide the country and drive us to civil war in all but actual practice. There’s no need for the rest of the press, and the nation, to follow suit.

As mom said, the fact that your idiot friend jumped off a bridge is no reason for you to jump too.

67 comments:

  1. I try to get my news from many sources, and have found out about events in the US from the BBC (to name one) which were not being covered by our media outlets. We used to have "Trust, but Verify" as a catchphrase, now it's "Don't Trust, Verify First" if you want to get to the heart of what is being reported. But it takes effort, and we know how much effort the average person is willing to exert when they can just suckle on the boob tube...

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  2. I absolutely agree with every point you've made, and the nit I'm about to point out is utterly irrelevant to them; just wanted to get that clear first.

    That said: the traffic jam generated by those lane closures was _not_ on the bridge, but in the town streets of Ft. Lee.

    Why do I care about correcting that particular nit? I spent a couple summers of my college years living in Ft. Lee, and it seems to have inspired at least a minimal sense of ownership. I can't think of any other reason.

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  3. The sheer volume of admittedly speculative comments on MSNBC is a clue that there is more to their reporting than wanting to get to the facts. I do think the "office of the Governor" initiated the bridge closure, because, as you said, it is Jersey politics. The media blitz feels contrived somehow, and the fact he is the current favorite for the GOP nomination is a reasonable explanation for all the hooplah.

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  4. I think you meant "cheerfully" in your paragraph mentioning Dan Rather.

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    1. I think you are correct. It's fixed. Thanks for the assist.

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  5. First, I'll NEVER be able to hear "Fort Lee, New Jersey" without Gilda Radner immediately filling my head. It's starting to look like Bridgegate is just the initial release point for the rest of the pitchfork and torch brigade of folks that the Christie crew has coerced during his short gubernatorial career. I think (hope?) it's going to get Chinese Interesting for the little Mafia running the state now that a couple of other folks have gone public with their "that's a nice little thing you've got there" stories.

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    1. Fort Lee is the tip of the iceberg. Definitely more than a -Ghazi. There is the story of the criminal appointed to law enforcement and the Governor's office swooping in to quash the investigation. The Barrens pipeline issue. "Little Mafia" is a great description.

      More importantly, I despise the little Authoritarian Followers who are so eager to find a BIG MAN to obey.

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    2. Guess you missed the part here about referring to Christies weight like it matters then,Brian M?

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  6. Don't have a TV in my house. It really helps reduce the noize I need to deal with.

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  7. Indeed, it's all about the 2016 election. The Clinton campaign is trying to get in front of the news cycle and paint Christie as a vulgar crude bully. And he is.

    I do agree that this is politics as usual in New Jersey, but Christie is running for President (I don't believe denials to the contrary), and the way things are done in New Jersey isn't how it's done in other places, which use more subtle means of retribution rather than the horsehead in the middle of the bridge lane. From that perspective it's a fair and relevant question to ask whether we want someone who does that kind of thing to be President of the United States.

    As for whether New Jersey will punish Christie for this: Fuhgeddaboutit. They relish their brutal brand of politics there, and his popularity probably went up 5% when this came out. Like you said. It's New Jersey.

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    1. ...his popularity probably went up 5% when this came out.

      That's my take on it too.

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    2. "The Clinton campaign is trying to get in front of the news cycle and paint Christie as a vulgar crude bully. And he is.
      ....

      From that perspective it's a fair and relevant question to ask whether we want someone who does that kind of thing to be President of the United States."

      Christie is Nixon albeit without the veneer, so he should be acceptable as a GOP candidate.

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    3. Um... "his popularity probably went up 5%" AMONG REPUBLICANS -- nationally.
      http://swampland.time.com/2014/01/14/christies-approval-ratings-slide-except-among-republicans/

      Not in NJ. http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2014/01/christies_popularity_in_wake_of_bridge_scandal_plummets_poll_shows.html

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    4. http://crooksandliars.com/2014/01/bipartisan-christies-poll-numbers-drop-hot

      poll numbers dropping big time.

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  8. Pointing out Christie's weight issues will prove to be as ineffective as pointing out Sarah Palin's ignorance, and it's even less kind. I don't care about that. Things I do care about are his meanness, his character, his political bedfellows, his cronyism, his 1%-ism.

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    1. Yes, this, 100%.

      Weight is irrelevant, character and the evidence of Christie's vindictiveness and pettiness towards his opponents - very relevant as to his suitability for POTUS in my view.

      Mind you I wonder in 2016 who will remember this far back from there? A week is supposed to be a long time in politics, a couple of years is a geological aeon. Or is it?

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    2. I don't agree that his weight isn't relevant. It points to his character. Lazy, self indulgent, and lacking self control are serious character flaws in my book. The incident where he conscripted a taxpayer bought RESCUE helicopter to fly him to his son's baseball game, where he landed on the field and then took a limo the last hundred yards or so tells me he's lazy and feels entitled to such treatment. None are characteristics I want in the White House.

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    3. Respectfully, I'll agree with the above character assessment based on Christie's actual actions, but not just because of his weight; assuming character faults based on physical characteristics is rather like resorting to personal remarks when no other ammunition is available. That being said, his actions, like the above helicopter incident, speak volumes about his character.

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  9. I'm pretty disappointed in the ongoing coverage of this whole thing on MSNBC. There are much more important stories that are real national news. Though I do find the allegations that being awarded federal Sandy disaster money was contingent on cooperation with the Governors goals. But as you said they are being investigated and will be resolved one way or the other. The Ed Show seems to be the only one really covering things I consider more important such as fast tracking of trade bills and lost unemployment insurance not to mention contaminated water near where I live and all the other issues that have been pushed out of the public discussion by sensational scandal mongering.
    In 2005 I spent three days in the hospital because my blood pressure was dangerously low and they couldn't understand why or how to raise it into a normal range. Halfway through the third day my BP was suddenly borderline high and the Doctor asked me what I had done.
    After much thought and consideration the only new thing we could figure out that may have caused the cure was that I had spent one hour watching Fox News just before it went up.
    So I learned that that network is good for something. I'm starting to get the same reaction watching MSNBC now though.
    Looking forward to more great posts now that you have found your way home through the air travel time warp.

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  10. In many respects I agree with you. Don't lower yourself to their level..etc...etc.. But, you also shouldn't bring a knife to a gun fight. Fox News takes glee in the fact they are a shill for Conservative interests, and not taking that Australian seriously is a mistake. The Kaiser didn't take Hitler seriously either. I am still bewildered the press continues to rest their laurels on the "political retribution" theory against the Mayor of Fort Lee while Rachel Maddow eloquently presented a strong case for something much more sinister. Please listen to her theory and you may have a different opinion. I am not a huge fan of Ms. Maddow, but her theory has legs, IMHO. More importantly, this is not a referendum on whether political muscle was abused, but how Chris Christie handled the mess he created. Not very Presidential, and he fell completely flat as a man I considered to have potential "gravitas". This was more than telling to me. Not renewing the term of an African-American Chief Justice in order to hire a political hack for the same job and then closing a bridge as political payback to the Democratic Senate Majority Leader who opposed his blatant and racist power play showed incredibly poor judgement. Any idiot could figure out that there would "literally" be hell to pay for decisions like that. As you stated above, Nixon didn't even know Watergate was being bugged, but it was his actions after the fact that sealed his fate. It is my prediction that Christie is closer to Nixon than Reagan. Time will tell...

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    1. In addition to the theory that involves the bridge-adjacent development in Ft. Lee, there's also the theory put forth by Hoboken mayor Dawn Zimmer: http://t.co/PVcDf20L97

      ...and the various and sundry scandals involving that pipeline vote through the Pinelands: http://thesandpaper.villagesoup.com/p/cautious-celebration-for-pinelands-victory/1104371

      ...and involving the Lt. Governor: http://t.co/XWhfL3CX4Q and http://t.co/yTgXe66d2e

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  11. This is a +++ for Christie. He has the backing of money. The Koch's personally flew him out to their 2011 Take Over America conference and the assembled Plutocrats begged him to run. Christie's allies on Morning Joke will defend him no matter what is revealed and if he can slide on responsibility the Tea Party will love him for giving it those eastern liberals and that Fort Lee DemocRAT.

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  12. I'm not sure how or if this applies to a neologism, but I'm pretty sure it should be "asshattery" unless ass hate is the idea you intended to convey. Like doable, it works better when spoken.

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    1. See, this is why I love you people. Each in your own special way.

      Thanks, Phil, I agree. It's fixed.

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  13. Hmm, well I think you're understating the vastness of the Bridge thing (I hate the term Bridgegate) and it wasn't about punishing the mayor for not supporting him for Gov, but for other reasons... and the reason it keeps growing is because there's more rot there...

    I don't have cable, btw, so I don't watch cable news, I get most of what I read online, and I'm pretty cynical, but Christie's in trouble... the visual thing about screwing the citizens over, that doesn't help his image at all (espec over something petty) but also a woman died waiting for an ambulance...

    but it goes deeper than that, there is a "dead hooker" there, and the press smells it, which is why they're on it, why Christie is lawyering up, etc... and the new Hoboken Port Authority thing, that's a real can of snakes waiting to pop...

    Yeah, it's politics as usual, yeah, it's Jersey... but I think you underestimate how much that bridge really hurt his image and opened a door to smell the other bad odors... in a very real way, it was like when Romney got filmed about the 47% thing... it was like a glimpse of the real guy, and people didn't like it, and the rest that came out, kept stinking and smelling...

    I'm on the east coast (NYC) so it's covered in depth here, but there's a lot more nuance to the story than you're giving it credit for, this is not Bengazhi, mainly because there's a real scandal here somewhere... there was no dead hooker in Benghazi, but there is one in Jersey, if not more, and the press can smell it and they're after it.

    The other thing is that I think you overestimate Christie's charm outside of the east coast... I think large parts of the country (the south) would have trouble trusting him (the whole embracing the black President thing, that burned him)... especially his bluntness...

    And his record is pretty bad.

    None of that, I'd add, has to do with his weight, which I don't think I ever comment on. I left his comment on FB, but I'll add it here:

    "Overweight people certainly face things that are nasty and unfortunate... but it's not equal or the same as the bigotry against a race of people...

    I mean, we can ask Kevin Smith, the film maker, who was kicked off a flight for being too fat, if he thinks he's discriminated against the same as a black person...

    Plus, an obese person has options so as not to be obese (surgery, diet) and we have many a triumphant person who does so (Jarrod fromSubway) hell, we have whole reality shows about overweight people fighting to lose weight. ...

    We dont' have any realities shows about black or brown people losing their racial makeup...

    One is a health issue, the other is not.

    I"m not saying it's okay to always ridicule the overweight, or anyone else with a health isssue. I'm simply saying that they are not equal. "

    Christie is like Rudy G, does a good photo op, good sound bite, tough acting but there's rot underneath and southern states are gonna have trouble trusting a yankee like him, especially a blunt on, and they're gonna poke and shit will come out...

    So I never thought he'd be a great candidate, and weight never had anything to do with it.

    But I agree with much of the rest of what you wrote...

    Sorry for the long comment, but I missed yah...

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  14. Well,at least all Christie did was FIRE the staffers.

    At another point in time in Jersey, they used to send them to the bottom of the Atlantic wearing concrete overshoes.

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  15. I remember when Edwin Edwards, former governor of Louisiana, once said "The only way I can lose this election is if I'm caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy". He won that election. It took the Feds several tries to put him away. He's out now, he's old, and there is talk that he may run again for a congressional position. And if he were in my district, I would vote for him above the Republican congressman, John Fleming, that we have right now. I think it's all about staying in the headlines, but it would make an interesting campaign.

    Mike

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  16. I discussed this campaign with a Real Reporter™ this evening and he pointed out that right now Christie is polling much worse than Hilary Clinton. Whether this will stick, who knows? The thing about Christie is, yeah, it's pretty standard New Joisy corruption, and I snicker and pass the popcorn, but I do also worry about what he would do with access to the powers of the Presidency.

    I think Ailes has far outdone Goebbels and perhaps even Muenzenberg. You obliquely referenced Gabriel Sherman's book on Ailes, The Loudest Voice in the Room. Sherman has been giving interviews, and I found this quote (it's over on Media Matters, whose beat is the conservative media) terrifying: "The self-mythologizing. How unreliable of a narrator Roger Ailes is. I read -- made an effort to read almost every interview -- every major interview that Ailes has given in his more than four decades in public life, thousands of pages of interviews and transcripts and newspaper accounts. And when I was doing all of this reporting and talking to all of these people I just thought so many contradictions between the way Ailes would describe an event and the way either a memo or document would or other sources would. And so that showed me that Ailes was spinning his own narrative that wasn't supported by the historical record. So, that was just such a revelation to me that not only is Ailes a master mythmaker for his own political candidates and the news he programs on Fox, he applies that to his own life."

    In other words, he is lying all the time. And this is what is shaping public opinion in much of the USA.

    Meantime, first we have to get through the 2014 election. Imagine what a Republican Senate and Republican House could do, even with Obama's veto. As to 2016, I think it's going to be either Paul or Cruz vs. Clinton. I think I'm going to move to Mars and raise dental floss.

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    1. It will be interesting to see what happens at Fox once Ailes passes away.

      BTW, getting some strange things happening when I attempt to post here. As soon as I hit reply I was jumped to the very top of the page. That never happened before. Also I'm being asked to sign in on Blogger. Something that I've never been asked before. Did the blog background software get changed or something?

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  17. Now THAT was a breath of fresh air. Thanks.

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  18. I've been following this story more closely because Christy seems to be the only GOP member with a shot of beating Clinton, and I'm torn... do I want his falling on his behind to make things easier on her (or any Democratic candidate) because I really do not want a Republican in the White House? Or do I want a good competitor to keep the democrats running hard and remind them that they need to EARN their votes and our loyalty?

    Messy, messy, messy...

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    1. The only Republican who's put his name out there who's the tiniest bit acceptable to Dems might be Jon Huntsman, who bowed out early in 2012 because The Crazy was just too much to overcome. But if he ever decides to return to the Presidential meatgrinder, he should run as an Independent -- and just give up trying to suck up to the Tea Partiers and the right wingnuts. After Romney's flip-flopping back and forth between sucking up and trying to appear "moderate", I think Americans have caught on to them trying to bridge the gap.

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    2. I would have no problem voting for Huntsman. It was a sad day when his campaign folded. I wrote about it here: Upon the Sands of the Coliseum. If Republicans fielded candidates like Huntsman, they'd stand a pretty good change of winning.

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  19. The goal from either party is to open a wound and if lucky it gets infected. If really lucky it goes to gangrene. So, first comes the investigation and then the special prosecutor. Clinton's semen stain and subsequent denial would not have made the news without an open Whitewater investigation. Fox is just peeling the IRS scab and trying to keep the Bengazi sore open with running ooze. Its up to the politician to have or assemble an adequate immune system.

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  20. I am so glad that you commented on this. A lot of what you say has been how I've felt about this event. I've watched a lot of the videos that show Christie or purport to show him bullying people. Most of what I have observed is that he is quite blunt, however there is provocation involved in most cases. They like to egg him on because they know he's not going to go gently into the night. He no doubt bullies, would hate to see him go off in private.

    All that to say, I'm waiting on the proof, if there is any, that he directed this event. I tend to believe that he was unaware of the involvement and that he was lied to. Someone, most likely a few someones went by example and felt that this is what the boss would really like to do so let's do it for him and not let him know. Biggggg mistake. And, I kind of believe him when he says he has to look at himself in this and do some soul searching. I've always said, it flows from the top (not that original, but hey.)

    I have been in the minority in these feelings though it would seem.

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    1. a lot of those videos of him bullying people are released to youtube by his own staff, they're proud of his tactics... personally, I think you can make your point without screaming at a teacher... any perusal of those videos sort of shoots a hole in his "he's not a bully" identity... even if they did provoke him, his responses are hardly adult and hardly measured... usually he's speaking from a position of power and showering abuse on someone not in power...

      And even if he didn't direct the bridge thing, he's really, really out of touch with what his staff is up too, which is disturbing for other reasons... is he that out of touch?

      I doubt it.

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    2. What does he do when facing someone with equal or greater power? Lose it? Bluff and bluster? Or just fold? None of these are behaviors I want to see from a President.

      And if he surrounds himself with people willing to trash a major city's infrastructure to make him happy, that is not acceptable, either. Imagine such people at cabinet level. Imagine Chris Christie's choice for Secretary of Homeland Security.

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    3. "It flows from the top"? So how does that mean he knew nothing about it? Shit, like water, flows downstream. Sorry, but you can't make me believe someone did this behind his back. He may have not known specifics but I don't doubt his involvement for a second.

      Pam in PA

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    4. Did he sit down with a map and point out where the worst spot would be to close lanes? Probably not but he has worked with his staff for quite some time, they do U-Tube him on his orders - it was probably something like the worst way to hit XYZ is to ABC - maybe like the military he has a list of enemies and has people looking to hit them politically/personally no matter who else gets in the way because there is no way a one sentence e-mail and a short response plus the short lead-in time that this wasn't a plan already discussed - all Christie had to do is on day 1 of the shut-down is say is this one of our deals? Well, point made. No he came out and piled on making a joke out of it and saying the other party was stupid for even thinking this was not planned well in advance, shame on them for not getting the memo and making alternative arrangements. As for being a bully -- you can argue that teachers, reporters whatever are going for a response - I've attended Congressional/Representatives doing town halls and there are lots who are there for that purpose but every town hall I've gone to my Rep has responded in such a way that doesn't make the matter worse and tries to defuse the nut jobs while answering even the dumbest question. While it works for Christie in NJ it doesn't make it right or show the man as intelligent...he's a bully. What also speaks to character is the way he threw his staff under the bus without any soul searching and lied. For anyone who thinks he apologized in his 100+ minute press conference - it was HIM who was betrayed, it's the typical GOP apology - IF there was wrong doing it was done TO him - it is never their fault - sure he says the buck stopped with him but only because THEY lied - even though he admits he didn't talk to them (so how do you know they lied?). Someone somewhere has an e-mail trail - "Gov suggests, Gov thinks" and again he will say they lie but really? A staffer has THAT much power? What kind of leader is he - does he DO anything but stomp and yell? Marlene

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  21. I've had to learn to consciously refrain from making "fat" remarks, as I am friends with many over-weight people, and I recognize the bigotry. I appreciate you pointing that fact out, but isn't the "donuts, colon, Limbaugh" sentence verging on the same double standard. Not that I want Fuckface Limbaugh to be cut any slack. jcollier AR

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  22. Aw, Jim, there you go being all fair & thoughtful & respectful & stuff. Why do you hate America so much? Because that is not the way we do things around here anymore. And you had the Fox News example to follow!

    Seriously,though, the central thing to me - whether it relates to the bridge closing or the allocation of hurricane relief funds - is the attitude of those who were elected or appointed to serve the interests of the people of their state towards those very same people. The health, welfare, time, money, etc, of the people of New Jersey were used as bargaining chips by the very officials whose duty it is to promote and protect those interests. These so-called public servants displayed the same attitude you so recently described coming from the airlines: "Because, fuck you, that's why."

    Unfortunately, it seems to be a pervasive attitude at all levels of government these days. Shut down the government because we don't want to lose face? Cut veterans benefits to save money while actually increasing the defense budget? Sure, because fuck you, that's why!

    But I guess political office, and the power that comes with it, will always attract the thugs, the egomaniacs and the hucksters. Good argument for term limits, there.

    Meanwhile, as you know, we in Virginia are busy indicting our former Governor on charges of receiving gifts from one of his backers.

    Bruce

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  23. As a Jersey boy myself (and coming from the same hometown as Christie), I appreciate your insightful summary of the media feeding frenzy surrounding the GWB issue. The story seems to have more "legs" outside the state than inside. Here in Jersey, those of us who don't appreciate his bully persona are happy to see him get taken down a peg or two -- the rest couldn't care less.

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  24. Jim, discovering your blog has been a real treat. Intelligent discussions of real issues are few and far between. I don't know if you're familiar with the writings of John Michael Greer, but he has quite a bit to say on the subject of mass media as political thaumaturgy. It weaves in and out of his blog but Pluto's Republic is a good place to start. I generally watch no TV except some sports, which I have learned to pre-record so I can fast forward through all the commercial drivel. Fox does broadcast football games, and their ads boasting that they are the only network with a full prime time program of cartoons for adults has often brought to mind Bradbury's Farenheit 451, where everyone gathers to watch "parlor walls." The Wikipedia entry for that book is fascinating in a dreadful sort of way. Keep up the good work!

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  25. I think it should be 'a', not 'an' as the "H" is pronounced: "an Hoboken Public Works project"

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    1. I put those errors in the text just to see if you're paying attention.

      It's fixed. Thanks.

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  26. "In America, this kind of thing may be unethical as all hell (as if ethics had anything to do with either politics or the press, but I digress), but it’s not even vaguely illegal."

    It used to be. Under the Fairness Doctrine, a broadcaster was required to air contrasting views. The Fairness Doctrine was put into place after World War II, as an anti-fascist measure. It was abandoned by an FCC packed with Reagan appointees.

    Thanks, Ronnie.

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  27. I'm a bit weary of folks equating FOX with MSNBC, suggesting they're both simply (and equally) providing spin for opposing political parties - yin and yang, push and pull, us and them, pick your side, no facts, all spin, blah, blah, blah. Lets take a look at the coverage of just one topic, the IRS "scandal".

    FOX viewers learned that IRS agents flagged the applications of conservative groups based on identifying clues in their names like "Patriot" or "Tea Party" and delayed granting the exemptions while those applications underwent further scrutiny. Period. End of Story.

    MSNBC viewers learned that agents, when given the nearly impossible task of identifying to what degree groups applying for tax exempt status were engaged in partisan political activity (groups whose activities were "primarily" political did not qualify) flagged groups with obvious clues in their names like "Progressive" or "Tea Party" or "Green" or "Patriots" and held up those suspiciously named applications further scrutiny. Turns out the few groups that were denied their exemptions were liberal progressive ones.

    A few questions to consider ... Were the facts presented by both networks strictly accurate? Yes. Did both networks present viewers with ALL of the facts, shown in context? Not so much. Which network's viewers do you think are better informed voters on this particular issue? After all, the IRS will be enforcing the Affordable Care Act's tax penalty for those who choose to remain uninsured. Do you think the above example might explain why so many FOX viewers hate "Obama Care" but pretty much support most parts of the Affordable Care Act?

    As for the Chris Christie thing - yes, it's politics as usual but where do you draw the line between punishing your enemies and punishing every single resident of your enemy's congressional district as well as any unsuspecting schlub just passing though on the highway? If a private citizen pulled off the same caper, would they be labeled a criminal or a terrorist? If I did this and explained I was just playing a nasty prank on a personal enemy (while inconveniencing or worse, endangering countless fellow citizens) rest assured I would go to jail. That said, whoever gave the order for the lane closings shouldn't be able to claim the "politics as usual - everybody else does it" defense. The endless conjecture on cable news will hopefully run its course when the person who gave the order is identified.

    Lastly - welcome back and sorry about your unplanned detour through the nether world (though it was a damn funny read). My step-son is a TSA agent at O'Hare and they've all been on high alert for copy-cat attacks after the TSA agent was murdered at LAX recently.

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  28. Thanks. Nice summary.

    I've been posting something like what follows on a number of blogs and in Comments after news reports. The results are predictable.

    'Re Governor Christie and The Bridge, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt, just for the moment, because he hasn't yet been indicted or convicted of any crime. Bear with me for a moment, and if the first thing that comes to mind is to scream, "Bennnnn Ghaaaazzzzzi!", just take a seat in the rear and try to remember that we're talking about Christie, not Hillary or the ACA or that President you so enjoy disliking.

    Ok. There are two, and only two possibilities:

    1. Governor Christie is innocent of all criminal wrongdoing. or...

    2. He's in it up to his abundant anatomy, and belongs behind bars.

    Now, if you picked #1, please tell me what that says about Christie's executive management skills, that is, the ability to hire and supervise senior staff."

    What shouldn't surprise anyone is that most of the replies to my comment begin with


    Benghazi!

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  29. "Folks, I just spent the better part of two weeks trapped in front of Fox News."

    (I see you've been spending time with my relatives...)

    ---

    "When shown irrefutable proof that they are being actively manipulated, people get angry – not angry at being manipulated, but mad and offended that it was pointed out."

    (And clearly you made the mistake of engaging every one of my tea party relatives in a conversation beyond "I'm heading to Walmart for some Miller Lite - you need more ammo?")

    ---

    That all said, I have to say that I appreciate your observations about the situation here in Northern NJ. I agree with nearly everything you've detailed in your essay about the coverage of "Bridgegate" - I've been telling everyone that keeps getting heated up over this that they have to allow an actual investigation to take place and come to some sort of conclusion before they start getting their panties all knotted up over this.

    Really the only thing I disagree with would be your observation that the GWB traffic is always like that. When the lane closures happened, the normal commuter traffic backups went from being "normal" to being "EPICALLY DESTROYED". Nothing was typical about the traffic snafu for those 4 days. My wife's friend lives in Fort Lee, and I pick her up for our commute into NYC across the GWB every day. Normal messed up traffic could put us behind by 30-ish minutesif we don't get over the bridge by 7am (so we normally aim to cross the GWB before 6am). 2 of the 4 days I couldn't even get off her street (much less get to the bridge). The only 2 days I made it in to work I was delayed nearly 5 hours each of those days.

    I accept that their is traffic to cross that bridge, that's why we leave very early to beat 90% of the commuters, but when even the backup started locking down Fort Lee @ 6am, you know this is a serious problem.

    Also, not part of the whole "Bridgegate" issue but still a "Gov Soprano" issue - quite a bit of info has come out in the news about the situation in Hoboken. Again, I totally feel we need to wait and see where things are going in respect to any investigations, but this looks to turn into a federal investigation much much sooner than the "Bridgegate" situation.

    Also, first time posting (I think) here in the 'kettle, long-time lurker/stalker.


    - Bradyhawke

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  30. My nephew tried to tell me why the bridge thing didn't matter because of Benghazi being so much worse. I had to point out to him that no one planned to have the ambassador and three other Americans assassinated. Someone planned to mess up the traffic in Fort Lee.

    And even if the mayor of Fort Lee deserved somehow to be punished, the punishment of hours and hours of being trapped in traffic was suffered by the people of Fort Lee, many of whom voted for Christie. People in the governor's office messed up the lives of citizens of a whole town for four full days just to get back at the mayor of that town. That the epic traffic jams --not just an added hour, but hours upon hours stuck in traffic--went on for four days without anyone in the governor's office taking public notice of it says something in itself.

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    1. Let me clarify myself: No one in the White House or State Department planned to have the ambassador and three other Americans assassinated.

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  31. From the outset of the Christie bridge scandal as all I could say was "well, isn' this business as usual, it's politics after all." Last night I read the full indictment of former Virginia Governor Bob McConnell and his wife and once again I said to myself "business as usual, politics...blah, blah." It's the rare person that embarks on a career as an elected official thinking "how can I help my fellow man; how can I make my constituent's lives better?" No, 99% of those that seek public office do so to enrich themselves, their family or to "get one over" on their detractors or opposing candidates. It takes a special kind of mentality to run for public office, a certain kind of personality, and more often than not that personality profile is rife with narcissistic tendencies and has a deficit of "loving my fellow man" type indicators.

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  32. "If your idiot friend jumped off a bridge, does that mean you have to as well?"

    Well further information is required :

    1. How high is this bridge?
    2. Whats beneath it and
    3. Have you been merely dared or double-dared and did you start the whole bet / challenge in the first place? ;-)

    (Brings to mind some historic famous ex-Yugoslavian high bridge {Mostar?} people famously jump from in some odd tradition. Also working in pedant mode and off topic, if this is too wrong then my apologies.)

    PS. Speaking as someone with three brothers who grew up climbing and falling from trees and other things which may explain a bit ..

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  33. When they were building I96 just off Fulton and the East Beltline outside Grand Rapids, we used to jump off overpasses into sand piles below. I don't remember who got the idea first, but all of us took a whack at it. State police cruised along the not-yet-open highway and we scrambled into tunnels we'd constructed out of straw bales that would be used when the median was seeded. Ah those were the days... On the other hand, I'm phobic about small enclosures. Enjoyed your comment, StevoR.

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  34. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  35. Call me pedantic and hypocritical if you like but, I think that Christie's weight and Palin's cognitive deficiencies matter and matter a lot.

    Christie is not chunky, pudgy, thick, big-boned or pleasingly plump. By my completely non-professional, distant observation based evaluation, he is morbidly obese. If I am correct, then his weight issues qualify as a disease, a serious disease. When one is considering someone for leader of the free world, would one choose a candidate with advanced cancer? ALS? Serious heart disease? If one simply looks at the before and after photos of the last few POTUSs (poti?) and considers the stress level it takes to make such drastic changes in outward appearance, then the idea of installing a known diseased candidate makes even less sense.

    If you are able to avoid letting your good sense be contaminated by your valid distaste for the crude comments about Christie's weight that plenty of us good liberals have made, I really do not see how you can avoid coming to the conclusion that his issues with weight are incredibly relevant. No, that doesn't make our comments less crude or less wrong but, their crudeness and wrongness does not make them less valid statements of concern. It isn't just the issue of who is next in line. It is also the issue of what acts might be undertaken prior to the disease and the ancillary effects rising to level that necessitates and justifies removal from office. Seriously, had we known (well, had we confirmation of) about Reagan's disease grade dementia while he was still POTUS, wouldn't we have raised a righteous and continuous fuss? Now we have a chance to nip a issue that might be comparable, or worse, in the bud. It would be beyond crazy to not do that because unseemly comments have been made about the issue.

    Caribou Barbie is just fucking stupid. Surely there is no need to explain why that is an issue.

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    1. With respect, Reagan's dementia would have to be subject to rigorous medical testing for confirmation, would it not? You would not be justified (or shouldn't be taken seriously) for calling for Reagan to leave politics based solely on a layman's observations ("Did you hear what he just said? Obviously he's got Alzheimer's!").

      Unless you are speaking as someone who has actually performed a physical exam for Christie (of whom I'm not specially enamored), you are engaging in prejudicial thinking based on insufficient evidence. A BMI alone (or an eyeballing of someone's gut or lack thereof) is not a precise diagnostic tool. A statistically significant number of people whose BMIs would meet with your approval, suffer from chronic diseases correlated with obesity, and a significant number of obese people do not. Assuming that you know a person's health based on your observation of their size alone is precisely what prejudicial thinking looks like.

      I won't compare the toxicity of size bigotry with racism or homophobia, but the justifications I keep seeing for it are similarly flimsy in many cases.

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  36. A couple of observations:
    Republicans have always been better at getting elected that they are at governing. Sort of like the dog that finally caught a car.
    The amazing thing about the whole GWB thing and Mr Christie is that he claims to have not learned about it until four days in. Imagine FDR being advised by aides about Pearl Harbor on December 11.
    As far as FOX "news" goes ……… well, it just ain't.

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  37. Christie, corrupting the NY Port Authority: "Politics, as everyone knows, is not a profession for the fastidious. But there are rules even about stretching the rules, a precept that Christie either never bothered to learn or chose to ignore. As a consequence, his political career is now quite possibly in ruins. Unfortunately for anyone who flies out of Newark or Kennedy Airport, or who takes the PATH train or the George Washington Bridge, or who just believes in the 'honorable administration of our nation’s affairs,' so, too, is the Port Authority."—Red Light, Elizabeth Kolbert, The New Yorker.

    This is similar to what Reagan did to the FCC and the NLRB.

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  38. " If you smugly point out the bigotry and personal attacks on President Obama due to his race..." Funny how you like to insert that whenever you can. You use this imagined burgeoning racism as the reason people, who believe in the rule of law, have real problems with Obama's socialist agenda. That's like accusing you of being a bigot because you don't like what Bradley Manning did.

    Also, I don't particularly like FOX news, but to say, "It’s bad enough that the cynical malignant ideologues behind Fox News are actively working to divide the country and drive us to civil war in all but actual practice..." Where do you suppose any semblance of a conservative view is going to come from, the government toadies at CNN looking for a new job in the White House?

    That divide in our nation is being caused by ordinary hard working people in the private sector getting financially squeezed by a government more concerned with legalizing illegal aliens, spying on Americans, increasing food stamp recipients, providing health care insurance for those that can't afford it while making those who have it pay more, gun control, illegal trade agreements like TPP, shutting down coal plants and causing electricity rates to skyrocket…You get the picture. No, wait, I must be a racist.

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    1. Isn't he cute, Ladies and Gentlemen? Let's give him a big hand.

      Thanks for proving my point, Anonymous, you hit every single Fox talking point dead on. Well done.

      Delete
    2. Are they shutting down the coal plants or, simply exposing the non-monetary costs that the plant operators have ignored for scores of years? The particulates they eject into the air that lead to breathing problems and premature death, those that fall to the ground and are taken up in the food and lead to health problems and premature death, or those that seep into the ground water and cause health problems and premature death. Please Mr. Annonymous, tell me how that can be good but exposing the hidden costs, which admittedly leads to the shutdown of the plants, is bad. Oh wait, I remember, the areas around the plant that are most affected by the pollutants are inhabited by poor people mostly. Oddly enough, a lot of the poor seem to be minorities. Humpfff, now why would anyone call you a racist?

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    3. Cafkia, I agree with you completely that there are hidden costs to coal-fired plants. No one risks more than the men and women who work in them. However, there are alternatives to shutting them down. The loss of a coal-fired power plant has an enormous impact on the local economy. Jobs are lost and power rates spike. I am not aware of any energy that is completely clean, all energy production has some impact on the environment. We have the technology to make these plants cleaner and at the same time preserving and creating jobs that our economy sorely needs. A properly retrofitted and maintained power plant emits fewer particulates than a major city's rush hour traffic jam. Most of what you see coming out of the stacks is steam that has been processed through an economizer system. These retrofits should be done every few years; it's expensive but increases efficiency as well. There are thousands of men and women who are highly trained in this work who have been starving for jobs ever since the EPA relaxed regulations under Bush. The worst years of jobs in three generations has finally been picking up under this administration; unfortunately so many have left the trade so they could feed their families during the Bush years. We don't need to close the plants, we need to put people back to work making them cleaner and more efficient.

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  39. Abortion, Abortion, Abortion, Abortion, Abortion, Abortion, Abortion, Abortion, Abortion, Abortion, Abortion, Abortion, Abortion, Abortion, Abortion, Abortion, Abortion, Abortion,

    Laughing! Sorry, after reading the rules, I simply could not stop myself. This is intended to evoke an ever-so-slight grin.

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  40. I recall a wise person once saying, "Any Navy Captain worth his salt understands this one thing above all others: you are personably responsible for everything that happens under your command. Everything. And the conduct of your crew is a direct reflection on you. Period."

    That goes for Christie, and that goes for HRClinton,...and that goes for our present Commander-in-Chief as well. Period.

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  41. Fine essay. Thank you. Just one thing I didn't, and still don't, get. In the note at the bottom you wrote, "Now, I know exactly what kind of shitstorm this essay will attract. " I can't imagine your usual readers engagining in shitstormery. Most will agree with most or all of the essay, a few will engage in civil disagreement, sometimes vigourous—a Good Thing—and a few will take you to task for being a human being who doesn't see things through their eyes (thus proving your point for you). But a shitstorm? Hmmm... I must live a sheltered life.

    Thanks again,
    Mapache

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