Category Archives: AllVoices

Bridgegate vs. Benghazigate 1/15/14

My prediction that Bridgegate would bring down Chris Christie was, in a word, wrong. In my follow-up column, I was equally wrong to assert that Bridgegate, and other allegations of malfeasance by the Christie administration, would prove to be more consequential than Fastandfuriousgate, IRSgate, and a lot of other mostly Forgottengates.

Bridgegate vs. Benghazigate 1/15/14

by H.B. Koplowitz

The right claims the mainstream media have paid more attention to Bridgegate than Obamacaregate, IRSgate, Fastandfuriousgate and Benghazigate. Not true.

The MSM didn’t bash the botched rollout of Obamacare? Really? Who hasn’t heard “if you want to keep your insurance” as often as “time for some traffic problems”?

Fast and Furious? The MSM has covered the ill-conceived “gunwalking” scheme initiated under George W. Bush’s administration and continued under President Barack Obama, the tragic deaths of border agents and the congressional hearings and federal investigation, which basically exonerated Attorney General Eric Holder.

The MSM also covered IRSgate and tea party accusations of political persecution by Obama. Less reported was the fact that progressive groups were also “targeted” by the IRS because a mushrooming number of partisan organizations on both sides were seeking nonpartisan tax breaks they didn’t deserve.

Benghazigate has also been extensively reported on, from the anti-Muslim film to former UN Ambassador Susan Rice’s talk show mishaps to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s humbling appearance before a congressional committee. If, after the fact, the Obama administration publicly minimized the terrorist connections to the attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi for political reasons, so what?

More serious is the allegation that Obama and Clinton didn’t authorize a rescue mission for the same reason. But politics wasn’t the only consideration. There was also the very real possibility that a high-risk rescue operation could turn into another “Blackhawk Down,” with more American deaths and perhaps hostages.

The right claims the MSM wouldn’t be so obsessed with Bridgegate if Christie weren’t a Republican front-runner for president. Duh. Democrat or Republican, it’s called vetting, which should be done sooner rather than later. And so far, the media have found evidence of at least six instances of malfeasance by the Christie administration, not including the ongoing cover-up, that could one day turn into civil lawsuits, criminal indictments and/or articles of impeachment:

– in 2010, Christie’s appointed attorney general, Paula Dow, fired county prosecutors and quashed a 43-count grand jury indictment against Christie supporter and Hunterdon County Sheriff Deborah Trout, who was accused of public corruption;

– in 2012, Christie decided to spend $12 million of state money and inconvenience voters to hold a special election for a vacant Senate seat three weeks before his own election, ensuring popular Democrat Cory Booker wouldn’t be on the same ballot;

– in 2012, the Christie administration slashed Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s request for $100 million in Superstorm Sandy federal relief funds to $300,000, after the Democrat wouldn’t endorse Christie for governor;

– in 2013, as Christie was ramping up his re-election campaign, his administration spent $4.7 million in Superstorm Sandy federal relief funds on tourism ads starring the governor and his family, rejecting a $2 million bid for an ad not featuring the governor;

– in 2013, Christie officials rescinded offers of “new access to state commissioners, who hold the purse strings for many Jersey City services,” after its Democratic mayor, Steve Fulop, declined to endorse Christie; and

– in 2013, Christie’s deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly, told David Wildstein, one of Christie’s appointees to the Port Authority, which oversees the busiest bridge in the world, to cause some traffic problems in Fort Lee, perhaps to punish the town’s Democratic mayor, Mark Sokolich, for not endorsing Christie.

Taken separately, some of these incidents might be written off as hardball politics, dirty but legal tricks, or the power of incumbency. Taken together, they add up to a pattern of abuse of power, of misusing government agencies and public funds for the personal political benefit of one person, Chris Christie.

Bridgegate is less Benghazigate than Watergate, which deservedly got a lot of coverage in its time. Politics aside, Christie has become a celebrity, a caricature, like the bullying “fat ass” Eric Cartman on “South Park.” So here’s another way to evaluate the media coverage: Which deserves more attention, government officials causing a massive traffic jam on the busiest bridge in the world, or a Lindsay Lohan fender-bender? As Christie would be the first to say, what a stupid question.

© 2014-21 H.B. Koplowitz

Chris Christie and Bridgegate 1/10/2014

Closed lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge in 2013. (Marko Georgiev/AP)

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has a new book out and has been making the talk show rounds to rehab his image in apparent preparation for a 2024 run for president. Everyone seems to have forgotten “Bridgegate,” the plot to cause traffic jams at one of the busiest bridges in the world to punish a New Jersey mayor for not endorsing Christie’s 2013 reelection run, which he won in a landslide. Here’s a reminder.

Chris Christie and Bridgegate 1/10/2014

by H.B. Koplowitz

When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said “I am not a bully” during Thursday’s marathon news conference, he seemed to be channeling his inner Nixon. Once upon a time, another chief executive embroiled in a scandal, President Richard M. Nixon, told the American people, “I’m not a crook.” It turns out that Nixon was a crook, so it’s curious why Christie would use the same phrasing.

Parallels abound between what has become known as Bridgegate, and the original gate, the Watergate scandal. Both involve chief executives accused of abuse of power and a cover-up, with the central question being what did they know and when did they know it. If history is repeating itself, Gov. Christie will eventually resign in disgrace.

The Watergate scandal began on June 17, 1972, when five men were caught trying to bug the Democratic headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. Bridgegate began on Sept. 9, 2013, when the Port Authority closed two of three local access lanes to the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee, New Jersey, causing gridlock throughout the city.

President Nixon was going to win re-election in a landslide against Democratic Sen. George McGovern of South Dakota, just as Christie knew he was going to be re-elected handily. But to beef up his presidential credentials, he wanted to “run up the score,” in part by spending $24 million of state money to hold a special election to fill a vacant Senate slot, so popular Democrat Cory Booker wouldn’t be on the same ballot.

In Watergate, the cover-up began with stonewalling, as Nixon spokesman Ron Ziegler tried to laugh off the break-in, calling it a “third-rate burglary.” In Bridgegate, the cover-up began with officials blaming the lane closure on a non-existent traffic study, and the governor laughing off his involvement, quipping he was “working the cones.”

In Watergate, two dogged reporters from the Washington Post, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, followed the money from the burglars to Nixon’s campaign fund, triggering congressional and judicial investigations. In Bridgegate, two dogged reporters from the Bergen Record, John Cichowski and Shawn Boburg, traced the lane closures to a Christie appointee, triggering legislative and judicial investigations.

In Watergate, there were allegations of an enemies list, dirty tricks and a unit within the White House that retaliated against political foes, including the break-in of “Pentagon Papers” leaker Daniel Ellsburg’s psychiatrist’s office. In Bridgegate, there are allegations of operatives in the Governor’s Office who retaliated against political foes, including the 9/11 of political pranks, the week-long traffic snarl in a city whose mayor, Democrat Mark Sokolich, had declined to endorse Republican Christie in his re-election bid.

The Watergate scandal exploded when the existence of a secret taping system in the Oval Office was revealed. Nixon attempted a “limited hang-out,” releasing expurgated transcripts of the tapes, which were damning enough to ramp up the scandal. Bridgegate exploded when the existence of texts and emails between the Port Authority and the Governor’s Office were revealed. Officials released redacted copies of the communications, including one in which Christie’s deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, tells David Wildstein, a high school friend of Christie and appointee to the Port Authority, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” and he replies, “Got it,” ramping up the scandal.

In Watergate, Nixon blamed the wrongdoing on his aides while denying he had personal knowledge. In Bridgegate, Christie did the same.

In Watergate, Nixon fired senior advisers implicated in the scandal, including John Dean, H.R. Halderman, John Ehrlichman and the “big enchilada,” Attorney General John Mitchell. In Bridgegate, Wildstein and another Port Authority Christie appointee implicated in the scandal, Bill Baroni, resigned, and Christie fired Kelly and withdrew his support for two-time campaign manager Bill Stepien to become head of the state Republican Party.

In an effort to derail the Watergate investigation, Nixon fired Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus when they refused to fire independent special prosecutor Archibald Cox, which became known as the Saturday Night Massacre. In Bridgegate, Christie bodaciously nominated his chief of staff, Kevin O’Dowd — Kelly’s former boss — to become the next state attorney general, who would be in charge of any state investigation of the scandal.

In Watergate, Nixon held an emotional news conference during which he said, “I’m not a crook.” In Bridgegate, an “embarrassed and humiliated” Christie told reporters “I am not a bully.”

If history continues to repeat itself, the un-redacted communications will be revealed, and they will include a “smoking gun” implicating the governor. There will be more revelations, more investigations and more hearings, in which former and current Christie aides will be put under oath to either take the Fifth or give self-serving testimony. Some of them will spill the beans and some will go to prison. Impeachment proceedings will crank up, and realizing he lacks the votes to win, Christie will resign, be pardoned by his successor, and New Jersey’s statewide nightmare will finally be over.

H.B. Koplowitz is the author of “Blackspanic College” and “Misadventures in Journalism,” which are available at Amazon and his website,

© 2014-2021 H.B. Koplowitz

Bootleg Beatles, Dylan and Salinger 12/17/13

by H.B. Koplowitz

Thanks to Europe and Internet piracy, rare early works by three cultural icons of the Baby Boomer generation — The Beatles, Bob Dylan and J.D. Salinger — have recently become more available to the public.

On Dec. 17, “The Beatles Bootleg Recordings 1963,” consisting of 59 unreleased Beatles outtakes, demos and BBC sessions, were put on sale at the online iTunes store. Days earlier, 73 studio outtakes and live concert and club performances by Dylan, also from 1963, were discreetly released in Europe, after which pirated versions began showing up online. And just before Thanksgiving, three pre-“The Catcher in the Rye” short stories written in the 1940s by the late reclusive author J.D. Salinger found their way onto the Internet.

The New York Times reported that both the Beatles and Dylan tracks were released by their record companies to stop them from becoming public domain. European Union copyright law protects officially released recordings for 70 years, but only 50 years for unreleased versions.

Bootleg versions of the Beatles cuts have been around for years, but never officially released. They include BBC performances in which John, Paul, George and Ringo banter with the host and take phone requests. Many of the BBC tracks are also on the recent “On Air” two-CD set. All the tracks were made before 1967, when the group went psychedelic with “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Band,” and they reveal more about the musicians’ influences than what they would become, with a lot of American rock ‘n’ roll, blues, country, even The Everly Brothers.

“Beatles Bootleg” is available exclusively at the iTunes store for $40, or $1.30 per song. It was rumored the album would only be offered long enough to establish the release, but Apple has issued a statement saying it will remain for sale indefinitely.

The Dylan songs were all performed before he strapped on an electric guitar at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965, and include multiple versions of protest songs with just him, an acoustic guitar and a harmonica. The Times described the collection as “virtually all unreleased performances of value from 1963,” including outtakes from Dylan’s third album, The Times They Are a-Changin’, and appearances on the Oscar Brand Show, Studs Terkel’s Wax Museum, and at Town Hall, Carnegie Hall and the Gaslight Cafe in Greenwich Village. But Sony Music distributed just 100 copies of Dylan’s 50th Anniversary Collection, on vinyl and in Europe, and it is not for sale on iTunes, Amazon or other music outlets.

According to The Times, Sony tried a similar strategy last year with 86 of Dylan’s unreleased recordings from 1962, distributing 100 four-CD sets outside America, and making no bones about why it was issuing the material, subtitling the bootleg dump The Copyright Extension Collection. However, rippers soon put both sets on the Internet, in uncompressed audio as well as high quality mp3, that can be downloaded for free, albeit illegally, using file-sharing applications such as BitTorrent and Frostwire.

The unauthorized leaking of three short stories by J.D. Salinger is another kettle of bananafish. Two of the stories, “Paula” and “Birthday Boy,” could only be read in person and under strict supervision at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas. The third, “The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls,” is housed in a special reading room at the Firestone Library at Princeton University. According to the social news and entertainment websites BuzzFeed, Reddit and The Daily Beast, Salinger’s will — and his agreement with the research libraries — instructs that the stories not be published until 50 years after his death, at age 91, on Jan. 27, 2010.

However, the day before Thanksgiving, an unidentified person who claimed to have purchased Three Stories for about $110 from a British eBay auction, uploaded 41 scanned images of the paperback book to file-sharing websites. The uploader said the book was printed in London in 1999 and that it was copy number six out of 25 copies. Kenneth Slawenski, author of J.D. Salinger: A Life, who has read the stories in the research libraries, told BuzzFeed the online versions appear to be authentic.

“While I do quibble with the ethics (or lack of ethics) in posting the Salinger stories, they look to be true transcripts of the originals and match my own copies,” Slawenski e-mailed BuzzFeed.

The stories appear to be rough drafts and have typos and uneven formatting, and while light in tone, the plots are gloomy. “Paula” is about an infertile woman who tells her husband she is pregnant. “Birthday Boy” is about a hospitalized alcoholic whose fiancee won’t give him a drink. The most tantalizing of the three is “The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls,” which serves as a prequel to “Catcher in the Rye,” describing the last day of Kenneth Caulfield, whose name was changed to Allie in “Catcher,” and whose death would traumatize his older brother Holden. In setting and theme, “Bowling Balls” is also similar to Salinger’s “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” with Seymour Glass dying at the end instead of Kenneth Caulfield.

Download websites such as MediaFire have since deleted Three Stories, but it can still be downloaded with file-sharing apps.

The exceedingly private and litigious Salinger may be spinning in his grave, and the record companies may be annoyed that their efforts to keep the early Beatles and Dylan rarities out of the public domain have come to naught. But as The Times noted, “Are these releases, by being so severely limited, inadvertently abetting the bootlegging that labels usually try to stop?”

However one feels about the ethical issues, the culture is richer for these seminal works becoming more widely available.