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Updated: 3 days 17 hours ago

BridgeGate: Christie's Implausible Deniability and Maddow's Alternate Scandal Theory

Fri, 01/10/2014 - 08:05

[This article now cross-published by Salon...]

Some very good investigative broadcast journalism from MSNBC's Rachel Maddow on Thursday night.

On Thursday morning, New Jersey Governor and, until now, Republican Presidential favorite, Chris Christie gave a two-hour press conference (full transcript here) in which he expressed being "stunned" and "blindsided" Wednesday morning by the blockbuster revelations published that day by Shawn Boburg of the Bergen Record.

The paper's report included email and text messages [PDF] between Christie's Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly and a number of other top appointees conspiring to shut down lanes of the George Washington Bridge leading out of Fort Lee, NJ on the first day of school last September. The messages reveal the staffers appearing to enjoying the pain the shut down was causing the town, joking about the inconvenience to the local children of voters of Christie's gubernatorial opponent in last November's election, and otherwise agreeing not to respond to queries from town officials about the closures.

During the presser, Christie announced he had fired Kelly before it began. He said he had done so because she had previously assured him she knew nothing about the traffic closure that went on for four days in Fort Lee, turning the town into a parking lot and delaying emergency first-responders, among other problems it caused. "I've terminated her employment because she lied to me," he explained on Thursday.

What struck me as odd about his answer to questions about his staff's response to the firing was that he said he hadn't spoken with Kelly since the revelations came out in the paper on Wednesday morning, before she was then fired on Thursday.

"I'm wondering what your staff said to you about why they lied to you. Why would they do that? What was their explanation?," the reporter asked.

"I have --- I have not had any conversation with Bridget Kelly since the email came out," he answered. "And so she was not given the opportunity to explain to me why she lied because it was so obvious that she had. And I'm, quite frankly, not interested in the explanation at the moment."

Not interested in the explanation?...

After his response, I tweeted:

No conversation with his Dep Chief of Staff who lied to him & who he fired? Really? Why? Doesn't want to know more? #PlausableDeniability

— Brad Friedman (@TheBradBlog) January 9, 2014

Christie is a former U.S. Attorney under George W. Bush. He's a prosecutor who knows how to investigate wrong-doing. He claims that what he "read yesterday" (Wednesday) made him "angry". This scandal's been percolating for months. He's belittled it, joked about it, claimed he didn't think it was a "big deal". But on Wednesday, when he read the emails and texts "for the first time", he realized he'd been lied to by several of his top staffers. He was "stunned", but didn't want to speak to the woman, his once-trusted Deputy Chief of Staff, who sent the original email instructing that it was "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee"? Really?

That simply doesn't seem plausible.

It has also become clear that Christie did not discuss the matter with his two top appointees at the NY/NJ Port Authority either, even though he fired them in early December last year as part of damage control at the time, including the one who actually ordered the lanes shut down after responding to Kelly's "Time for some traffic problems" missive with the simple reply: "Got it."

Why doesn't Christie want to speak to those people if, as he claims, he wanted to get "to the bottom of things" and "spent all day yesterday" trying to do it after being "blindsided"?

Answer: It doesn't seem like he really wants to get to the bottom of things at all. It seems he may already know what's at the bottom, or, in the most generous interpretation, doesn't want to know. I suspect it's the former. Either way, his claims today --- despite his repeated apologies, his expressions of regret and sadness, his assertion that it was "heartbreaking to me that I wasn't told the truth" and his willingness to answer questions for two hours --- don't seem particularly plausible, given the extent to which he has clearly gone to not learn the truth when he had the opportunity to do so first hand from some of his very closest staffers.

If his Deputy Chief of Staff was in on the conspiracy, along with his Campaign Manager and his top appointees at the Port Authority and several others, and they all lied to him, as he says, wouldn't he want to find out what else they didn't tell him before cutting them loose? Who else was in on it? For some reason, Chris Christie doesn't appear to want to know.

It makes no sense. Unless he's covering something up. What is he covering up? Maddow may have uncovered a hint tonight.

Until now, the reason suspected for the retaliatory closure of the lanes out of Fort Lee was that it was political payback against their Democratic Mayor who refused to endorse Christie in his re-election bid. But other Democrats had also declined to do so. Both Christie and Fort Lee Mayor Mike Sokolich have claimed to be puzzled by that. Sokolich, while acknowledging that he'd been asked for the endorsement, didn't think he was "that important" that the Governor of NJ would exact that kind of retribution when he chose to endorse the Democrat instead. For his part, Christie said during his presser that he didn't "have any recollection of at any time, anybody in the campaign ever asking me to meet with Mayor Sokolich or call him, which was the typical course that was used when we were attempting to get an endorsement."

It does, after all, seem an incredibly aggressive response to a fairly petty matter, particularly given the landslide re-election victory that Christie believed (correctly) that he would have in November.

"I know who I was pursuing as endorsers. I know who was close and we didn't get. I know who was never close or we were trying to get. And know the people we got. This guy never was on my radar screen. And I think he confirmed that last night by saying he was never really --- he doesn't have any recollection of being even asked for the endorsement. And that's --- you know, that's why I don't get this," Christie said during the marathon press appearance on Thursday.

So, if that's true, what was this all was about? Was it something else? Something other than the Fort Lee Mayor's lack of endorsement? Something that Christie knows about, perhaps? Something that would lead him to not want to have to admit he'd discussed it with Kelly and others before firing them?

Maddow, noticing that Kelly's "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee" email was sent to Christie's Port Authority appointee David Wildstein on August 13, 7:34am, wondered what else happened around that time in NJ that might have spurred Kelly to order the lane closures on the world's busiest bridge first thing in the morning that day?

Here's Maddow's report, finding that the evening before, Christie had unloaded on Democrats in a particularly angry press conference concerning the re-nomination battle of a NJ Supreme Court judge, a battle that had been several years in the making. The woman who headed the state Senate Committee causing embarrassment for Christie at the time was NJ's state Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D), who happens to represent...you guessed it...Fort Lee...

The points raised by Maddow are certain to raise many more questions about this entire fine mess, as if there aren't enough already. But, for now, we'll leave those for another day.

After offering her alternative theory, explained above, Maddow interviewed Weinberg about them. Here's that interview...

I don't claim to be an expert on the man. But, to be frank --- having spent a fair amount of time studying Christie in advance of my 2011 exclusive revealing the secret audio tapes of the secret Koch Brothers summit where Christie was the super-secret keynote speaker --- while he can certainly be thuggish, a blowhard, and somewhat of a bully when he likes, retribution against a Democratic mayor for declining to endorse him in a landslide election seems a bit overboard, even for Christie.

On the other hand, retaliating against the state's Democratic Senate Majority Leader, who he likely saw as causing him no small amount of embarrassment in the NJ Supreme Court matter, does seem more in keeping with his style. Even if he didn't know about it (which is seeming less likely by the hour), his staff surely shared the same frustrations with Senate Democrats that Christie would have (even as he often expertly played Democrats in the state legislature like a fiddle.) Weinberg, for that matter, led the charge in the state Senate after the Secret Koch Tapes story, to pass legislation that would keep Christie from secretly leaving the state again in the future, as he had when he appeared at the Koch Summit in Colorado.

Maddow's alternative theory is smart, good reporting, might make more "sense" out of this entire matter, and is certainly worthy of further inquiry.


Categories: Brad Blog

'Green News Report' - January 9, 2014

Thu, 01/09/2014 - 18:51


 

IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: '60 Minutes' becomes a dirty word - Inside their new hit piece on America's clean energy industry; Don't tell the Fox 'News'-ified CBS News, but clean tech is booming; PLUS: Record drought in California, with no end in sight ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!

Please help us connect the climate change dots over your public airwaves!
PLEASE CLICK HERE TO DONATE!
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Listen online here, or Download MP3 (6 mins)...

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Got comments, tips, love letters, hate mail? Drop us a line at GreenNews@BradBlog.com or right here at the comments link below. All GNRs are always archived at GreenNews.BradBlog.com.

IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Nature Bombshell: Observations point to 10°F warming by 2100; Global warming warning stickers at gas pumps?; Food industry’s secret plan for a GMO (non)-labeling law; Radio Disney's pro-fracking elementary school tour sparks outrage; Mass Extinction: Let's not.; Big Oil moves to overturn oil export ban in U.S.; The endgame of GMO controversy; Record heat wave kills 100k bats in Australia; Senegal siezes Russian factory trawler; Not enough bees for Europe's crops; Hungarian town goes green after massive toxic sludge spill; Rising sea levels threaten L.A. ... PLUS: Stephen Colbert calls out Fox News on climate change: "Well Done. All The Best News Reports End With 'I Don't Know Where We Got This'" ... and much, MUCH more! ...

STORIES DISCUSSED ON TODAY'S 'GREEN NEWS REPORT'...

'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (Stuff we didn't have time for in today's audio report)...

FOR MORE on Climate Science and Climate Change, go to our Green News Report: Essential Background Page

  • Skeptical Science: Database with FULL DEBUNKING of ALL Climate Science Denier Myths
  • Warning: Even in the best-case scenario, climate change will kick our asses (Grist)
  • NASA Video: Warming over the last 130 years, and into the next 100 years:

  • Categories: Brad Blog

    KPFK 'BradCast': Christie's 'BridgeGate'; Foxified CBS News; My Obamacare 'Nightmare'; MORE...

    Thu, 01/09/2014 - 00:32

    And...we were back live this week on the KPFK/Pacifica Radio BradCast for our first show of the new year.

    And it wasn't a moment too soon for today's breaking Chris Christie BridgeGate blockbuster and our coverage of the Fox 'News'-ification of CBS News following yet another failure on Sunday by 60 Minutes.

    Also, the latest breaking news on marriage equality in Utah, my personal Obamacare "nightmare", Desi Doyen with a chilling Green News Report and loads of great callers!

    It's good to be back. Hope you'll agree...

    Download MP3 or listen online below [appx 58 mins]...
    [See post to listen to audio]


    Categories: Brad Blog

    Chris Christie's Bridge Too Far

    Wed, 01/08/2014 - 14:55

    Prepping for today's BradCast on KPFK/Pacifica Radio, and may touch on this story a bit more then, or later as it continues to explode.

    Either way, it's one that, despite being largely ignored by the D.C. media originally, seemed to have legs when it quietly emerged a couple of months back.

    Today's blockbuster by Shawn Boburg in The Record, including tons of documents (emails and texts between the conspirators), almost ensures those legs. The question is now, as it has been from the jump, how NJ Gov. Chris Christie, a 2016 Presidential Republican fave, handles it. Oh, and if criminal charges --- even federal criminal charges, since this ultimately affected interstate commerce --- will emerge.

    To date --- seemingly forgetting the old "it's not the crime, it's the coverup" mantra --- Christie's handled it very poorly. He's spent weeks denying any foreknowledge of the several-days closure of several lanes of the George Washington Bridge (the world's busiest) last September as part of an apparent (now pretty much confirmed) political payback scheme against Democratic Fort Lee, NJ Mayor Mike Sokolich. His response, to date, has largely been to belittle questions and reporters and officials who've asked about it. He may have one more chance to save himself if he acts quickly now and fires a whole bunch of people, and comes clean on everything he knows. But if he knows more than he's letting on so far (as is likely the case), he may be watching 2016 --- where he coulda been a contender --- go down the drain.

    Here's the lede of Boburg's story. And no, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee" --- "Got it", are not lines from The Sopranos. They are actually lines from this actual, now-documented, scandal...

    Private messages between Governor's Christie's deputy chief of staff and two of his top executives at the Port Authority reveal a vindictive effort to create "traffic problems in Fort Lee" by shutting lanes to the George Washington Bridge and apparent pleasure at the resulting gridlock.

    The messages are replete with references and insults to Fort Lee's mayor -who had failed to endorse Christie for re-election -and they chronicle how he tried to reach Port Authority officials in a vain effort to eliminate the paralyzing gridlock that overwhelmed his town of 35,000, which sits in the shadow of the world's busiest bridge.

    The documents obtained by The Record raise serious doubts about months of claims by the Christie administration that the September closures of local access lanes to the George Washington Bridge were part of a traffic study initiated solely by the Port Authority. Instead, they show that one of the governor's top aides was deeply involved in the decision to choke off the borough's access to the bridge, and they provide the strongest indication yet that it was part of a politically-motivated vendetta-a notion that Christie has publicly denied.

    "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," Bridget Anne Kelly, one of three deputies on Christie's senior staff, wrote to David Wildstein, a top Christie executive at the Port Authority, on Aug. 13, about three weeks before the closures. Wildstein, the official who ordered the closures and who resigned last month amid the escalating scandal, wrote back: "Got it."

    Other top Christie associates mentioned in or copied on the email chain -all after the top New York appointee at the authority ordered the lanes reopened -include David Samson, the chairman of the agency; Bill Stepien, Christie's re-election campaign manager and the newly appointed state GOP chairman; and Michael Drewniak, Christie's spokesman.

    Christie has previously said that no one in his staff or campaign was involved in the lane closings and he has dismissed questions about political retribution by joking that he moved the traffic cones himself.

    Full story, documents, etc. at The Record...

    * * *

    UPDATE 1:44pm PT: Christie has released the following written statement this afternoon, , versus the combative on-camera statement he usually enjoys making (via reporter Brett LoGiurato):

    "What I've seen today for the first time is unacceptable. I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn that not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge. One thing is clear: this type of behavior is unacceptable and I will not tolerate it because the people of New Jersey deserve better. This behavior is not representative of me or my Administration in any way, and people will be held responsible for their actions."

    Well, for a start, the behavior would seem to be very representative of his Administration, given the number of top level Administration staffers found to have participated in it, according to the emails and texts released by The Record today. That said, Christie has hit all the necessary points here "seen today for the first time" ... "outraged and deeply saddened" ... "I was misled" ... "without my knowledge" etc.

    Now he better start firing a lot of people, and hope that they don't sing and/or his fingerprints aren't on any more documents to come. These folks are all likely to be under subpoena and/or oath now in both legislative testimony and potentially depositions. Dems are, no doubt, already preparing 2016 ads with shots of the GWB and traffic jams, I suspect...


    Categories: Brad Blog

    What 'Right' to Vote in Iowa?

    Wed, 01/08/2014 - 10:05

    It must be nice to be the king and get to decide who does and doesn't get to vote for (or against) you and your friends, just like the King Governor of Iowa...

    IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) --- Iowa is moving to revise its voter registration application to help clear up widespread confusion over felons' voting rights, according to an administrative rule published Tuesday.

    The change, adopted by a bipartisan commission, would remove a question that some voters have erroneously marked indicating they are felons without the right to vote. Another revision would explain that convicted felons aren't qualified to vote until they have their rights restored by Gov. Terry Branstad. Prospective voters still would have to attest that they are not felons without voting right when signing the application.

    If the changes go into effect, as expected, a new application will be in use starting April 9. The state will gather public comment on the proposed changes through Jan. 28, and a legislative rules committee will review them in February.

    Anyone convicted in Iowa of an "infamous crime" --- including all felonies and some aggravated misdemeanors --- loses their right to vote and hold public office. To get those rights back after they serve their sentences, they have to apply for and obtain clemency from Branstad under an executive order he signed in 2011.
    ...
    Branstad, a Republican, in 2011 signed an order that reinstated the individual application process, making Iowa among the more difficult states for offenders to win back their voting rights. The move rescinded a 2005 executive order signed by former Gov. Tom Vilsack, a Democrat, that automatically restored voting rights to felons once they completed their sentences.

    So Branstad both decided, on his own, that voting would be more difficult for certain selected individuals and he is also the sole decider if those people can vote again. Lovely.

    What right does the government, much less one person, have to take another person's right to vote away?

    To be fair, many other states do very same thing and we're glad that, if the changes go through in Iowa, it'll be slightly easier and less confusing for voters. But why must there even be a fight for the right to vote for those who have already served their time in jail?

    For that matter, why shouldn't someone convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor have the right to vote even while in jail?

    Why shouldn't Nelson Mandela have had the right to vote when he was a political prisoner? Why shouldn't former AL Gov. Don Siegelman, a political prisoner now in the U.S., have the right to vote? Why shouldn't the tens of thousands of people in jail for marijuana convictions --- some of whom are now in jail for something that is now totally legal --- be allowed to vote? Why shouldn't millions of people most directly affected by the specific laws passed by lawmakers elected by their fellow citizens have the right to vote on the people who wrote and passed those very laws?

    Before it was violently crushed by the state, when the Occupy movement was at its peak in late 2011 and appeared to be working on "demands", we offered just one, non-partisan, two-part suggestion for them to put forward:

    Every U.S. citizen 18 years of age or older who wishes to vote, gets to vote. Period. Those votes, on hand-marked paper ballots, will be counted publicly, by hand, on Election Night, at the precinct, in front of all observers and video cameras.

    As to the second part of that suggestion, publicly-counted hand-marked paper ballots, that's already how the Iowa GOP runs their own caucus (and with no Photo ID required, by the way).

    But as to the first part, allowing everyone to vote, that's a different matter, apparently. And it's one they must not have really meant when they adopted the slogan on the Iowa state flag: "Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain." Or, perhaps it just depends on who they mean by "our".

    Occupy may have been crushed by the kings, but the citizens --- all of the citizens --- can and should still have their right to vote them out of office. Our suggestion to Occupy still stands --- for Iowa and for the rest of the nation. You're either for representative democracy or you're against it. We're for it.

    * * *Please help support The BRAD BLOG's fiercely independent, award-winning coverage of your electoral system --- now in our TENTH YEAR! --- as available from no other media outlet in the nation...


    Categories: Brad Blog

    'Green News Report' - January 7, 2014

    Tue, 01/07/2014 - 18:40


     

    IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Baby it's record cold outside (but only in the U.S.); PLUS: It's that time of year again --- deniers pretend snow and cold means no more global warming ... All that and more in our first Green News Report of the year!...

    Please help us connect the climate change dots over your public airwaves!
    PLEASE CLICK HERE TO DONATE!
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    Listen online here, or Download MP3 (6 mins)...

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    Got comments, tips, love letters, hate mail? Drop us a line at GreenNews@BradBlog.com or right here at the comments link below. All GNRs are always archived at GreenNews.BradBlog.com.

    IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): 4 states confirm water pollution from natural gas drilling; Driest year ever in California sparks drought, fire fears; Colorado River drought means painful choices ahead; Toyota introduces hydrogen fuel-cell car; West Coast sardine crash radiates through ecosystem; Exxon faces criminal charges over illegally dumping fracking wastewater; 20 questions on GMOs; US sailors sue TEPCO over Fukushima; Fact vs. fiction on spread of Fukushima radiation ... PLUS: China admits millions of acres too polluted for farming ... and much, MUCH more! ...

    STORIES DISCUSSED ON TODAY'S 'GREEN NEWS REPORT'...

    'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (Stuff we didn't have time for in today's audio report)...

    FOR MORE on Climate Science and Climate Change, go to our Green News Report: Essential Background Page

  • Skeptical Science: Database with FULL DEBUNKING of ALL Climate Science Denier Myths
  • Warning: Even in the best-case scenario, climate change will kick our asses (Grist)
  • NASA Video: Warming over the last 130 years, and into the next 100 years:

  • Categories: Brad Blog

    The Fox 'News'-ification of CBS News and '60 Minutes': 'The Cleantech Crash'

    Mon, 01/06/2014 - 21:11

    The President of CBS News is David Rhodes. He was hired in February 2011. He was formerly the Vice President of News at Fox "News".

    Again, the current President of CBS News was formerly the VP of News at Fox "News".

    According to his bio posted at CBS: "Rhodes began his career as a Production Assistant at the newly-launched Fox News Channel in 1996, where he later became Vice President of News. At the network he managed coverage of three presidential elections, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, hurricanes including Katrina, and was the channel's Assignment Manager on the news desk the morning of September 11, 2001."

    That means, as The Nation's Greg Mitchell pointed out at the height of the recent CBS News/60 Minutes Benghazi report controversy (before CBS was finally forced to retract the entire fake story), that Rhodes "was the guy who worked hand-in-glove on the biased, often propagandistic, Fox 'coverage' of the run-up to the Iraq war, the 2000/2004/2008 elections, the Plame affair, the worst years in Iraq, and all other things Bush and Cheney, and so on."

    Again, the guy who cut his teeth in the news business, beginning as a Production Assistant and working his way up to become VP at Fox "News", is now the President of CBS News.

    That bears both highlighting and repeating as many have been asking, once again, over the past 24 hours, "What's the Matter with 60 Minutes?" after yet another report last night that is being described as a "hit job" by some and, more charitably, as "puzzling" by others --- including by some who were interviewed both on-air and off for the once-great news magazine's bizarre segment titled "The Cleantech Crash"...

    Fail and Unbalanced

    The complete segment, with correspondent Lesley Stahl, is posted at the bottom of this article, so feel free to judge for yourself. But coming on the heels of 60 Minutes' Benghazi hoax debacle last November, a soft-ball, one-sided puff piece on the NSA in December, and a number of other similar missteps, Sunday's piece on the failures --- and largely, only the failures --- of the so-called "cleantech revolution" suggests that while it hasn't yet become Fox "News" proper, the once-venerable news magazine no longer seems to be serving the public interest, but rather...some other interest.

    The general premise of this week's segment was that investment --- both public and private --- in the cleantech sector since Obama has taken office has been nothing but a disaster. While there have certainly been failures in the sector, it was not noted during the segment, as several critics of Sunday's piece have pointed out since, that the U.S. Dept. of Energy's loan program to green startups has a 97% success rate.

    "In July 2012, the former head of the loan guarantee program testified to Congress that funds that went to bankrupt companies represented less than 3 percent of the total Department of Energy portfolio," Media Matters' Shauna Theel notes. "In other words, the program so far has a 97-percent success rate, far better than that of venture capitalists."

    "Clean technology is booming by every key indicator," Climate Progress' Joe Romm said in opening his piece lambasting the 60 Minutes report just after it aired, "but you would never know that from Sunday's absurd 60 Minutes piece touting an imaginary 'Cleantech Crash.'"

    He also notes the 97% success rate cited for the DOE Loan Guarantee Program, "while the companies CBS focuses on such as Solyndra and Abound Solar were just 3 percent of the portfolio."

    "The piece was puzzling for several reasons," Dana Hull, clean tech and energy policy reporter for the San Jose Mercury News' writes, citing the fact that [emphasis hers] "there was absolutely no mention of climate change. None. That's the whole point of cleantech, after all: using the promise of technology and innovation to try to wean our economy off of fossil fuels."

    She continued: "I'm not sure what the 'Cleantech Crash' refers to, exactly: In the past four years, the United States has more than doubled electricity generation from wind and solar, even as we've experienced a boom in domestic oil and natural gas production. Greenhouse gas emissions in the United States are falling. Companies like SolarCity have become the darlings of Wall Street. Venture investment in the sector is down, but strategic partners are swooping in."

    Hull also notes that while nuclear projects received [PDF] "massive DOE loans too", the 60 Minutes report said absolutely nothing about them.

    And, oddly enough, the report focused centrally on Silicon Valley venture capital Vinod Khosla, and his struggling startup named KiOR, which produces biofuel from wood chips. KiOR, however, "wasn't the recipient of a big DOE loan," reports Hull.

    "Let's set aside the question of why 60 Minutes chose to do a hit-job on cleantech, which clearly was unwarranted, after producing widely criticized puff pieces on the NSA and Amazon's wildly impractical delivery drones," Romm wrote in his first piece on this last night. "The key point is that the goal of DOE's investments is not to make money. The goal is to accelerate the drop in price - and increase in deployment - of clean energy in the market, which it clearly has done in industry after industry. A secondary goal was to create jobs in this country, which it also succeeded in doing."

    None of that was cited by 60 Minutes.

    Romm illustrates his point by posting several graphics from a recent Dept. of Energy report titled "Revolution Now: The Future Arrives for Four Clean Energy Technologies" [PDF]. Here are a couple of them...

    He offered similar charts for the deployment and costs of LED lights and for electric vehicles and batteries. The point is, none of this was discussed in the 60 Minutes report, which drew a picture of the clean energy sector as little more than a disastrous boondoggle.

    'Solyndra!'

    "The federal government has allocated a total of $150 billion to cleantech through loans, grants and tax breaks with little to show for it," Stahl says during the report. "The taxpayers have lost a lot of money in the general clean tech area."

    Katie Fehrenbacher, a Silicon Valley tech biz writer at GigaOM, served as a background consultant on the 60 Minutes piece. She wrote last night about what CBS got both right and wrong in their piece, charging "most importantly they're overlapping the [Silicon] Valley story with the government funding story."

    "There was a very real bubble and bust that happened, though there are still firms around that have evolved and are sticking with it," she writes. "The VCs [venture capitalists] did lean on government connections and support at times, and they made a lot of mistakes. ... Unfortunately, playing up the taxpayer-funded government green-flop angle in the piece was both stale and overblown"...

    Beyond the stimulus, solar panels and wind power have reached record levels in the U.S. in the last year and that's also thanks to U.S. government support. Even within the loan program, there were more wins than the 60 Minutes piece let on, like the Ivanpah solar farm that created a lot of jobs outside of Las Vegas. The U.S. government needs to give more support to next-generation energy technologies, not less.

    Part of the problem with the 60 Minutes piece is that it's combining the story of U.S. support for clean power and energy efficiency, with the Silicon Valley story. They're totally separate and different. The subhead of the piece is a prime example of the confusing aligning of those two things:

    "Despite billions invested by the U.S. government in so-called "Cleantech" energy, Washington and Silicon Valley have little to show for it."

    Um, does that include the huge gains in wind farms and solar panel projects in the U.S., or does that just mean that Solyndra didn't work out?

    Deceptive Editing

    "The whole segment is baffling," Climate Progress' Romm writes. "CBS asserts that the key cleantech investor they interview, Vinod Khosla, is 'known as the father of the cleantech revolution.' He ain't, and in fact he's about the last person you'd want to talk to on the subject (see my 2010 post, 'Is anyone more incoherent than Vinod Khosla?')."

    More disturbing than all of that, however, is what another one of the experts interviewed by 60 Minutes for the segment revealed in comments in response to Romm's piece last night, and then in a more complete conversation today with Romm and his colleague Emily Atkin.

    Last night, Robert Rapier, the Chief Technology Officer at startup Merica International, posted a disturbing comment in reply to Romm's piece. Rapier, a chemical engineer who has worked in the petroleum industry and on alternative fuels, is a critic of cleantech investor Khosla. He was interviewed by the show and featured briefly in their report. In his comment responding to Romm's piece, he says that he "pointed out to [Lesley Stahl] that cleantech is alive and well, and that there were a number of successes. I also told her that solar would eventually dominate every other energy source. None of that survived the edits. I think they really wanted my Khosla criticism on camera, and the rest of my views really didn't support the narrative of the overall story."

    He went into more disturbing details today in his interview with Romm and Atkin.

    "The first question Leslie [sic] Stahl asked me - 'Clean Tech is dead. What killed it?' I immediately said, 'Clean tech is not dead.' There are many parts of clean tech that are doing very well - solar power is growing by leaps and bounds, prices are plummeting, wind power is growing exponentially."

    "So she said, 'Clean tech, the story's more complex. There are parts that are doing well, and parts that aren't doing very well.' And I said yes, and she said, 'Let's talk about the parts that aren't doing so well.'"

    He went on to detail some of the other things he told Stahl in the interview, citing, for example, "the explosive growth" in solar power. "The future is solar," he says he told her. "Solar will trump every other energy source."

    "I cited wind, solar power. I told her that there are a lot of successes that you can find. None of that made it through the edits," he tells Climate Progress.

    It's as if CBS News had their mind made up about the story they wanted to tell, and they were simply trying to find people to say what they needed to be said on camera, and would either ignore those who didn't, or edit out the inconvenient quotes.

    'Benghazi!' Redux

    After the disastrous-now-retracted 60 Minutes report on Benghazi, about a man who appears to have completely made up his story about being at the diplomatic compound on the night the 2012 attacks there, blogger Heather Parton, aka "Digby", posted video of Logan at a speaking engagement shortly after the attacks, revealing her hawkish sentiments and calling for the U.S. to "exact revenge".

    During the same speech, Logan added the following (which turned out to be extraordinarily ironic, given what would happen in her Benghazi piece, and now, what Rapier has revealed about 60 Minutes' cleantech piece):

    There is a distinction between investigating something to find out what the real situation is and trying to prove something that you believe is true. And those are two very different things. The second one is the enemy of great journalism. And it's a trap that is very easy to fall into. In fact it was my boss [CBS News Chairman and 60 Minutes Executive Producer] Jeff Fager who kindly reminded me of that fact at a certain point in the process and he was absolutely right about that.

    Fager hired former Fox "News" VP David Rhodes in 2011. They seem to be disastrously failing ever since. Whether Rhodes' influence, or Fager's (who spent nearly a week standing behind the phony Benghazi story) influenced 60 Minutes' horribly unbalanced and misleading cleantech piece is currently unknown. But when the question "What's The Matter With 60 Minutes?" is asked, given the particular Rightwing-ness of their recent monumental failures, the former VP of Fox "News", now President of CBS News must be eyed.

    After all, while Sunday's cleantech piece was raked over the coals by those who actually follow, report on and work in the clean energy field for a living, there were some who don't who celebrated the segment.

    Writing at the far Rightwing loon blog PowerLine, Steven Hayward declared triumphantly today: "'60 Minutes,' not exactly a fan of Power Line's way of thought (heh), did a belated public service last night with a segment on 'The Cleantech Crash,' noting that taxpayers had shelled out billions for stupid 'green' energy boondoggles. ... Of course, we were warning about this all along, but still it is useful when the MSM catches up with common sense."

    And David Rhodes' former Fox "News" fans no doubt erupted in applause and a hearty, self-congratulatory round of happy confirmation bias. Fox "News" accomplished...at CBS News.

    * * *

    UPDATE 1/8/2014: CBS offers this statement to Re/code in response to the broad-based criticism of their terrible segment on cleantech:

    '60 Minutes' has a rich history of reporting about climate change. Last night's story focused on the effectiveness of some of the biggest energy tech efforts to combat it.

    That response might have had held any water, had the segment ever bothered to even mentioned climate change, much less combating it. They didn't. Not even once. It focused only on a few companies which ran into financial hardships and failures in the green energy sector. The unprecedented successes of the renewable energy industry --- worldwide and, yes, here in the U.S. --- over the past several years are not particularly debatable. 60 Minutes focused on none of those successes, offering only a very unbalanced, Fox "News"-like, cherry-picked segment on the failures only.

    * * *

    CBS News 60 Minutes' 1/5/2014 "Cleantech Crash" report, produced by Shachar Bar-on with correspondent Lesley Stahl, follows below. The text transcript is posted here...


    Categories: Brad Blog

    Another Cold Blast of 'Global Warming is a Hoax!' Nonsense to Grip Parts of the Gullible U.S.

    Sun, 01/05/2014 - 21:23

    That's pretty much how it starts every winter now. The sentiment in the toon above is of a piece with Fox News tool Stuart Varney who offered this bit of genius to Fox' easily duped viewers last week...

    The laughably absurd notion that a boat getting stuck in the ice in Antarctica is somehow a sign of "global cooling", as Varney actually argues, out loud, on television, is part of the now-annual "it's cold in winter, so there is no global warming!" nonsense that I suspect we'll be seeing much more of this week, thanks to the fact that it's cold in a large swath of the U.S. suddenly. More on that extreme cold in parts of the U.S., and why it's here --- and not in the Arctic, where it belongs --- in a moment.

    But to help the scientifically-challenged (and, apparently, too many of my trollish Twitter followers) understand how ice in the Antarctic --- where there is ice --- is, in and of itself, a sign of nothing, Varney's televised idiocy notwithstanding, here's how one climate activist explained it in a Letter to the Editor at the Concord Monitor, in response to another LTE written by some dupe named Tom Sellew, who used the Monitor to forward the same, fact-free nonsense as Varney...

    The letter titled "About that warming" (Monitor, Jan. 1) pokes fun at climate researchers being stuck in ice in Antarctica. As NASA can confirm, there is less sea ice globally than 30 years ago; the small increase in overall ice in Antarctica does not compare to the vast losses in the Arctic.

    Researchers at NASA, UCLA, and the University of Colorado have uncovered an increase in the westerly winds surrounding Antarctica, which has the effect of expanding the outer edge of sea ice. Scientific studies have also determined why the winds have accelerated.

    First, global warming has changed temperature differences between the poles and equator, creating stronger winds. Second, ozone absorbs sunlight, and with the human-induced hole in the ozone layer, there's a colder stratosphere over the southern pole, affecting wind patterns, according to University of New Zealand experts.

    As the atmosphere contains 4 percent more water vapor than 30 years ago, increased precipitation is another factor. Science is amazing when we seek to understand it.

    SUSAN SHAMEL

    Hillsboro

    Why the Concord Monitor would run the initial letter in the first place, as absurdly fact-free as it is --- the writer Sellew jokes about "polar bears...clawing their way up the hull of the ship" (pssst...there are no polar bears in Antarctica) --- is a good question, and one that the Monitor should be asking itself, even as it should be recoiling with shame for having done so. While many of my stoogeish Twitter followers don't appear to know the difference between the Arctic and the Antarctic, the Monitor certainly should, and they should be striving to educate and inform their readers, not confuse them with verifiable nonsense like that found in Sellew's initial letter.

    As to the extraordinary cold beginning to blast a large portion of the Midwest this week in the U.S. (accompanied by unusual warmth in places like Alaska and down here in Southern California at the same time), that is another troubling example of the same record-breaking and extreme weather patterns which climate scientists have long predicted would be the result of global climate change. In this case, the cause is a polar vortex blast --- bringing the Arctic air, which usually stays up in the Arctic, down to parts of the Midwest --- as the jet stream dips, actually moves, much farther south than usual.

    A polar vortex is like a hurricane of cold air which (usually) swirls only above the Artic. Here's a short and sweet explainer from Business Insider on Sunday on what a polar vortex is and how the unusual displacement of this one could very well be a result of global (or, in this case, Arctic) warming...

    Polar vortexes, though, are nothing new. They occur seasonally at the North Pole, and their formation resembles that of hurricanes in more tropical regions: fast-moving winds build up around a calm center. Unlike a hurricane, these are frigid polar winds, circling the Arctic at more than 100 miles per hour.

    The spinning winds typically trap this cold air in the Arctic. But the problem comes when the polar vortex weakens or splits apart, essentially flinging these cold wind patterns out of the Arctic and into our backyards. NOAA scientists have suggested that warming temperatures in the Arctic may be responsible for the weakening of the polar vortex. When the vortex weakens, it's more likely to break apart and become a factor in our winter weather.

    A 2009 vortex breakdown drove temperatures in parts of the Midwest down to -22F. Here's a NASA illustration of the polar vortex (left) and it splitting in two (right):

    It won't just feel like Arctic temperatures in parts of the country this week - the weather system is actually Arctic air invading from the north.

    The two graphics above, courtesy of the NASA Earth Observatory, show the polar vortex as it broke down and split apart from January to February 2009. Below is a graphic of the polar vortex breaking down and moving south as we're seeing it (and feeling it!) this weekend...

    ScienceBlog's Greg Laden (via Peter Sinclair's Crock of the Week) explains the above graphic this way:

    In this picture, notice that it is not the case that super cold arctic air has expanded to engulf us in the middle of the US. ... But what this image of temperatures over a large part of the northern hemisphere shows is what is really happening. The cold air in the "Arctic Vortex" which is normally centered on the north pole is offset, displaced, lopsided, etc. It is not the case that "coldness" expands to include more territory ... how would that work in a world that obeys physics? But rather, the cold region on the pole shifts and deforms. So if you go north from the Twin Cities, for example, it gets colder and colder. But then, it gets warmer!

    So, those are the facts. Nonetheless, brace yourself this week both for the cold and for a fresh blast of Climate Change Denialism from the folks who have a corporate/fossil-fueled interest in making sure that you don't have such facts, or from those who are either dumb enough or incurious enough to buy into the denialist bullshit and pass it along.

    For the record, for those who may not have noticed, as Peter Moskowitz at Aljazeera America helpfully summarized today: "The past year only made it into the top ten of the hottest years on record, but November broke all records for that month, and 2012 was the hottest year ever recorded in the U.S."

    Other than that, Mr. Varney, yeah, it's "global cooling". Nice to see that you believe your viewers are too stupid to learn any better. Sadly, they probably are.


    Categories: Brad Blog

    Glenn Greenwald vs. WaPo 'Obama Loyalist' Ruth Marcus on the 'Crimes' of NSA Contractor Edward Snowden and DNI James Clapper [VIDEO]

    Fri, 01/03/2014 - 15:03

    Still on the road (back full time as of next week), but thought this video from yesterday's The Lead with Jake Tapper on CNN was well worth popping here quickly, if you've yet to see it.

    It's a fantastic and very lively debate about Edward Snowden and, perhaps most-interestingly, Obama's Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, between journalist Glenn Greenwald and Washington Post op-ed columnist Ruth Marcus. Greenwald describes Marcus here --- much to her apparent consternation --- as an Obama Administration "loyalist" for, among other things, what he sees as a double-standard for her calls for the prosecution of whistleblower Snowden, versus the seeming free pass she's willing to give to Administration officials such as Clapper who has admitted to misleading Congress with false testimony (aka Lying to Them). That would be a felony crime...if anybody bothered to prosecute it.

    Greenwald is tenacious (as usual) in forcing Marcus to answer his question about whether Clapper should be prosecuted. For her part, she does a decent job of acquitting herself, sort of, even as the entire conversation --- and the two staked-out positions here --- really do help to illustrate, as Greenwald describes it, how "the D.C. media" and "people in Washington continuously make excuses for those in power when they break the law."

    "That's what people in Washington do," he charges. "They would never call on someone like James Clapper, who got caught lying to Congress, which is a felony, to be prosecuted. They only pick on people who embarrass the government and the administration to which they are loyal, like Edward Snowden. It's not about the rule of law."

    "People in Washington who are well-connected to the government like she is, do not believe that the law applies to them. They only believe that the law should be used to punish people and imprison people who don't have power in Washington or who expose the wrongdoing of American political officials," Greenwald argues. I'll let you watch to see how Marcus responds.

    This one is very much worth watching in full. If you prefer, the complete text transcript is posted here...


    Categories: Brad Blog

    Happy 2014 from The BRAD BLOG...

    Wed, 01/01/2014 - 03:00

    We'll start the year with a singular, if dark, note of optimism.

    From all of us here at The BRAD BLOG, and as we head towards our 10th(!) anniversary (on January 24th), our greatest continuing thanks to all of our readers and supporters (and even our detractors), and our very best wishes to you all for a very happy, healthy and peaceful new year.

    It couldn't be much worse than the last one, right? (Don't answer that.)

    As the man in the mask says...the beginning is near...

    -- Brad

    Categories: Brad Blog

    Housekeeping: New 'Green News Report' iTunes and RSS Feed

    Mon, 12/30/2013 - 16:48

    We're still on the road, enjoying a rare bit of family time, but doing some housekeeping in the background.

    As we told listeners of Green News Report before our holiday break, the GNR would be moving to a different server/feed after the first of the year. That feed is now up and good to go! Please adjust accordingly...

    ITUNES: If you were an iTunes subscriber to GNR (and why wouldn't you be?!), please re-subscribe now (its free) at our new iTunes subscription feed address.

    RSS: If you followed the GNR via a straight RSS feed, the new RSS feed address is now here.

    If you listen via TuneIn or via Stitcher or one of our fine radio outlets, you needn't adjust a thing.

    Also, one favor. Since we're moving addresses at iTunes, we've got to start our iTunes ratings/reviews from scratch there. If you've got a quick second to give us a good rating and/or leave a few nice words in an iTunes review, we'd very much appreciate it. That will help more folks learn about and hopefully hear the Green News Report via iTunes!

    Finally, GNR listeners will likely very much appreciate our "Very Special BradCast Holiday Special" if you've yet to give it a listen. You'll hear both Desi and myself (in a number of different roles), and will most certainly appreciate some of the more subversive (and very GNR-related) messages in the last two segments of the special ("Buzz Edsel v. the Sun Stealers" and "Buzz Edsel and the Santa Surprise") in particular

    Thanks! Happy holidays! And we'll be back with new GNRs and more next week!


    Categories: Brad Blog

    TAFTA: 'The Global Corporate Coup', Part Two

    Mon, 12/30/2013 - 11:35

    Don't care for the secretly-negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal? You're not gonna like the Trans-Atlantic 'Free Trade' Agreement (TAFTA) much better.

    Earlier this year, in "Please Don't Notice the Global Corporate Coup", we explained how, via the TPP, giant multinational corporations --- through a secret negotiation process that they, not we, the people, have access to --- were working with the U.S. State Department and it's trade partners to supplant the sovereignty of participating nation-states with a privately-controlled, all encompassing, corporate, global "investor state". That "investor-state" is embodied in the deal through the creation of arbitration tribunals, which are granted the power to negate the effectiveness of laws passed by individual nation-states that are parties to the treaty.

    The Obama Administration has taken extraordinary measures to hide the content of the TPP negotiation texts from the public as negotiations have proceeded in secret, but for the access granted to hundreds of corporate lobbyists. Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL), one of the few members of Congress to acquire access to the secret draft texts described the deal to date as "NAFTA on steroids." Last month, however, WikiLeaks published TPP's 94-page, Intellectual Property (IP) chapter, a chapter that would, according to WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange, permit corporate IP rights to "trample over individual rights and free expression."

    The content of that chapter, according to Public Citizen's Lori Wallach will, among other things, not only extend the length of pharmaceutical patents (thus delaying the availability of more reasonably priced generic versions of the same medicine), but also attempt to expand patents to surgical procedures, both of which will serve to expand corporate profits at the expense of individual patients.

    TPP represents only one-half of this ongoing, attempted, global corporate coup d'état. The second half finds its embodiment in the equally secretive TAFTA, which may prove a greater threat to our nation's sovereignty than the TPP in light of the fact that, as Public Citizen notes, "European-based corporations own more than 24,000 subsidiaries in the United States."

    Like the TPP, they explain, TAFTA is also being secretly negotiated by some 600 U.S. corporate trade advisers and contains many of the very same threats to nation-state sovereignty…

    Both TAFTA and TPP would supplant U.S. sovereignty through the extreme private investor tribunal system in which the "extrajudicial tribunals would be authorized to order taxpayer compensation for public policies that European corporations claim undermine their TAFTA investor rights," according to Public Citizen.

    In essence, those provisions would allow corporations to supplant the basic police powers of nation states. Instead of exercising the power to protect the health and safety of citizens and the environment in which they live, the tribunals would allow for the imposition of monetary damages that make the cost of laws that shield citizens from corporate harm prohibitive.

    The following chart from the May 2013 report [PDF] of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development illustrates how investor-state arbitrations, as filed with the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), have been on a precipitous rise since the passage of NAFTA, exploding to their highest number ever in 2012....

    One classic case entailed a $250 million NAFTA investor arbitration brought by Lone Pine Resources, Inc., a Delaware-based corporation, against Canada in response to a ban on "fracking" adopted by the Province of Quebec. Despite a growing body of scientific evidence about the dangers posed by hydraulic fracturing, and a ban on the practice as democratically enacted by the people, Lone Pine described the ban in their arbitration complaint as "arbitrary, capricious and illegal."

    (In a subsequent article, The BRAD BLOG will address perhaps the most blatant example of this practice, in which an ethically compromised trade tribunal has sought to supersede legal decisions now rendered against the oil giant, Chevron, by the courts of Ecuador, the United States and now Ontario, Canada).

    Via TAFTA, according to Public Citizen, major corporations are not only seeking to prevent reinstatement of significant financial reforms, like the Glass-Steagall Act, but to roll back more modest reforms so as to bring back the "toxic derivatives" that played a central role in the 2008 collapse of the Wall Street casino. So called "free trade", they report, is being used as a cover for rolling back regulations on food, milk and dangerous toys, as well as to blunt the movement for the transparent labeling of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). TAFTA would impose a "ban" on tax credits for alternative energy designed to reduce carbon emissions. It seeks to prevent "Buy Local" policies and to prevent governments from negotiating bulk rates on pharmaceuticals.

    In sum, under the TPP and TAFTA, "free trade" provides but an Orwellian label to mask an effort to ensure that corporate profits will supplant the accountability that, theoretically, accompanies democratic governance.

    * * *

    Previously related coverage at The BRAD BLOG...

    • 8/5/2011: "Next 'Giant Sucking Sound': U.S. Senate Leaders Reach Accord on Three New 'Free Trade' Agreements"

    • 5/30/13: "Please Don't Notice the Global Corporate Coup"

    • 7/1/13: "Rep. Grayson Warns About Details of Classified 'Trans-Pacific Partnership' Agreement"

    * * *Ernest A. Canning has been an active member of the California state bar since 1977. Mr. Canning has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science as well as a juris doctor. He is also a Vietnam vet (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968). Follow him on Twitter: @Cann4ing


    Categories: Brad Blog