Sanest statement in modern history!


What Bernie Sanders said:
Some should make every one of our childish "journalists" memorize what Bernie Sanders has said.

We read it here at TPM. Matt Shuman did the reporting:
SHUMAN (10/24/16): “Trust me, if they went into our emails—I suppose which may happen, who knows—I’m sure there would be statements that would be less than flattering about, you know, the Clinton staff,” Sanders told the Washington Post on Monday. “That’s what happens in campaigns.”
Duh. And also, Hurrah!

The Washington Post is full of reporters who should be forced to memorize that. (The New York Times is worse.)

You can file Sanders' remarks under "nothingburger, definition of." It's a dish our childish pseudo-reporters simply love to prepare.

Maddow's report about what Kelly said!


Mother Superior knows:
Bridget Kelly is testifying again today. She's doing so as part of a federal trial in which she's charged with criminal conduct in the "Bridgegate" matter.

She's testifying in her own defense. Just that quickly, we've told you things you were never told on last Friday's Maddow Show.

For ourselves, we aren't in favor of throwing everyone in jail. Beyond that, we don't know why Kelly did the things she did, or if she really did anything you actually knew to be wrong.

That said, we are in favor of reasonably honest journalism. By way of contrast, Maddow often seems to like hanging the people she knows to be Bad.

Watching cable last Friday, we saw a lot of bad reporting of Kelly's first day on the stand. Maddow's treatment was the worst we saw. Now that the transcript has been posted, let's run through some of the problems with the way Maddow's viewers got spun.

(In a few cases, we've corrected the transcript through use of the videotape, to which we can't give a link.)

Let's start at the beginning. You can't sensibly evaluate Kelly's testimony if you don't understand a basic fact: Kelly is testifying as part of a federal trial in which she in which she is the defendant. Along with Bill Baroni, she is charged with serious crimes in this ongoing criminal trial.

Maddow's viewers were never told that! Maddow and her journalist guest kept referring to Kelly as "[Christie's] deputy chief of staff."

They didn't even bother saying former deputy chief of staff. Trust us: The majority of Maddow's viewers had no idea, as they watched, that Kelly is on trial, charged with criminal conduct. Almost surely, many viewers received the impression that Kelly was simply a Christie staffer who was giving testimony about Christie's behavior.

They were never told an extremely basic fact—if Kelly's explanations don't wash, she could end up going to jail. Unless we're all living on some alternative planet, this means that Kelly has a large incentive to misremember or lie.

Did Kelly lie or misremember last Friday? We have no way of knowing! But before we look at the things Maddow said, let's get clear about what Kelly is trying to explain in her testimony.

Kelly is trying to explain why she wrote certain emails before, during and after the now-famous "Bridgegate" mess. That includes the famous email from August 2013, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee." It includes some emails she wrote during the September 2013 lane closings, when she seemed to be snarking with "mastermind" David Wildstein about the giant traffic mess.

Those emails make it seem that Kelly was party to Wildstein's nefarious political motives, which made his conduct a crime. (Wildstein has already pleaded guilty to criminal conduct.) Kelly is claiming that she didn't know that Wildstein had a nefarious motive when he engineered the lane closings. She's claiming that she thought the lane closings were part of a legitimate traffic study.

If Bridget Kelly can't sell that story, she may be going to jail. But Maddow's viewers were never told that Kelly is on trial. They were never told that she has an obvious incentive to misremember or lie. Instead, Maddow encouraged sympathy for the poor misused victim of the evil Christie. Here's the way she teased Kelly's testimony in an initial three-minute segment:
MADDOW (10/21/16): [Christie's] deputy chief of staff also testified herself today. She says before she sent that e-mail that said, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," before she sent that e-mail, she testified she got the okay to do so from Governor Christie himself, personally and directly. She ran it by him.

She also testified that she is personally physically afraid of Governor Christie. She broke down in tears on the stand while she recounted him swearing at her and throwing stuff at her.

And that's next.
From that, a viewer might have thought that Kelly "ran [the actual text of the email] by" Christie. Kelly didn't say that. She merely said that she told Christie that a traffic study would be taking place. Maddow tends to play this way when tackling those she dislikes.

More significantly, Maddow started by encouraging sympathy for the tearful "deputy chief of staff." After a commercial break, Maddow returned with WNYC's Andrea Bernstein as her guest.

This is the embarrassing way they began their discussion of Kelly:
MADDOW: There are no cameras in the courtroom, so we count on excellent reporters to read us out on what happened.

Dude, what happened here? Joining us now is Andrea Bernstein for WNYC News. She was there in the room. Andrea, thank you for being here.


MADDOW: I know throwing the water bottle thing isn't necessarily central here. But, what's up with throwing the water bottle?

BERNSTEIN: So, throwing the water bottle was meant to show that Christie, she was afraid of Christie.

MADDOW: This is his deputy chief of staff.

BERNSTEIN: It is his deputy chief of staff, and the incident was at this event, where she had organized some businesses and commissioners and she was briefing him beforehand. She said, "Governor, I think you should welcome everybody, then let the commissioners talk to the businessmen who have just lost everything again for the second time." And he said, "What do you think I am, an F-ing game show host," according to testimony, and threw the bottle. She was just sobbing throughout this.

I mean, she was mostly composed. There were times when she choked up during her testimony. But she was just crying right to the jury when she said this.

MADDOW: She also testified that, before she sent what is the most famous piece of evidence in this scandal, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," that email, she said she ran it by Governor Christie.
If Kelly's defense attorney had actually bribed these "journalists," they couldn't have done a better job reciting his company line.

Maddow started by noting the relative irrelevance of the (alleged) bottle-throwing incident. She then built the whole first part of her discussion around the (alleged) act.

Bernstein referred to the (alleged) incident as if it is known to have happened. But it isn't known to have happened! It represents an allegation by Kelly. (We can't help noting that Bernstein kept forgetting to say "alleged.")

Bernstein then focused on the way Kelly was sobbing and crying as she discussed an (alleged) event whose basic irrelevance Maddow had started by noting. Maddow then seemed to repeat the (inaccurate) claim that Kelly said she that had shown Christie the text of the email which got her charged with a crime.

That's journalism as it's taught in the nation's clown colleges. And as the "journalists" continued, they kept assuming the accuracy of Kelly's various claims:
BERNSTEIN (continuing directly): She did. She said it was a very poor choice of words. That she had been parroting David Wildstein, who was the mastermind behind all of this, and who is cooperating with the prosecutors.

She said—he had raised the idea that he wanted to do a study and it was going to cause big traffic jams and could she tell the governor. She said she was afraid not to, that if there was a problem, it would be blamed on her. She went to the governor that day and said that David Wildstein wanted to do a study in Fort Lee and it was going to cause traffic jams and he said, "OK, fine. What's our relationship with the mayor?" And she said she was embarrassed because she actually didn't know what the relationship at that time was with the mayor of Fort Lee.

MADDOW: So what this means, in terms of sort of culpability on who knew what when, is that Christie knew ahead of time that there were going to be traffic problems in Fort Lee—


MADDOW: That they were man-made traffic problems.

BERNSTEIN: Correct. Which is contra to everything he said.
Hanging judges, please! Might we state the obvious?

Kelly's statements mean that Christie "knew ahead of time" only if her statements are accurate. But there's another obvious possibility, a possibility which was never brooked on this "cable news" program:

Kelly's story may be false! She may have invented this story in an attempt to beat the criminal charges with which she stands accused—criminal charges which never got mentioned in Maddow's eight minutes of discussion.

Did Kelly ever speak with Christie in the way she described? Aside from her testimony, there's no evidence to that effect. Her story may be true, of course. But it could be totally false!

Throughout this segment, Maddow and Bernstein never brooked the possibility that Kelly's testimony was bogus. Here's the problem with that highly selective treatment:

Every part of Kelly's story serves to paint her own conduct is the most favorable light. But since Maddow never told her viewers that Kelly is fighting for her freedom, it may not have occurred to those viewers that Kelly may be choosing to lie about what occurred.

Maddow played the "sobbing frightened woman card" as she went after Christie, painting him as a liar. She forgot to describe the type of conduct Kelly will have to explain.

On Friday, Kelly was trying to explain why she sent that unpleasant-sounding "traffic problems" email. Eventually, she'll also have to explain this unseemly exchange, via today's
SHERMAN AND ARCO (10/24/16): But those are not the only words Kelly needs to explain.

There were the texts she exchanged with Wildstein the week of the lane closures, including one on Sept. 10, 2013—the second day of the massive traffic backups in Fort Lee—after Sokoloich sent a desperate message to Baroni complaining about the situation.

"Presently we have four very busy traffic lanes merging into only one toll booth... The bigger problem is getting kids to school. Help please. It's maddening."

Baroni did not return the message and forwarded it to Wildstein.

"Is it wrong that I am smiling?" Kelly asked Wildstein after he shared it with her.

"No," he responded.

"I feel badly about the kids. I guess," she said.

"They are the children of Buono voters," replied Wildstein, referring to Barbara Buono, then the Democratic nominee challenging Christie in the gubernatorial race. "Bottom line is he didn't say safety."
Wildstein thought that email from the mayor was politically A-OK. The mayor had only mentioned the mmassive inconvenience. He hadn't mentioned the massive safety concerns.

Unlike Maddow, we aren't in favor of throwing all Bad People in jail. We're aren't in favor of sifting the facts to harden a case against the Bad People we oppose—in this case, Christie.

That said, Kelly didn't seem to be sobbing and crying as she discussed these dangerous "traffic problems" with Wildstein in real time. She didn't seem like the fearful wilting flower who sobbed about Christie in court.

In the next few days, Kelly will have to explain her emails. It looks like Maddow will help her. All Maddow has ever seemed to want is a bit of Christie's scalp. It seems she's willing to play her viewers to get it.

Much more was horribly wrong with Maddow's two segments last Friday. This includes her bungled treatment of the testimony of Mike DuHaime, another former Christie staffer.

That said, here's the way Maddow ended her discussion. Finally, at the very end, Bernstein said three magic words:
BERNSTEIN: But [DuHaime's] testimony was eclipsed by the testimony of Bridget Kelly, who has flipped the narrative. And she said, "I was the one without the power here. I was the one who wasn't told this was a retaliatory scheme."

MADDOW: Uh-huh.

BERNSTEIN: "They put me in the position of sending these e-mails and carrying it out, but I didn't know what was going on." And it was the big guys, according to her testimony, the governor, his chief of staff and his campaign manager who were ordering retaliation, and she described in detail a retaliatory scheme against another mayor, the mayor of Jersey City, in which the governor allegedly said he doesn't, he's not entitled to an F-ing meeting. A lot of cursing in the Bridgegate trial.

MADDOW: I'm shocked by—

BERNSTEIN: Shocking.

MADDOW: I'm not shocked by the cursing. I am shocked by the throwing.

BERNSTEIN: If it's true, not only were the governor's top aides involved, but they have participated in a big cover-up of what happened.

MADDOW: And he lied about it directly. Hoo!

Andrea Bernstein, WNYC News senior editor and Bridgegate trial watcher for us this evening. Andrea, thanks for being here.
According to Bernstein, Kelly testified that "the governor was ordering retaliation." In fact, Kelly said no such thing.

Kelly testified that she had been told that the lane closings were an innocent part of a legitimate traffic study. She testified that she approached the governor with that understanding. She described him saying nothing different.

Beyond that, she testified that Christie asked her how relations were with the Fort Lee mayor. She said she told him she didn't know, thereby making herself look innocent of any political retribution.

Of course, this also tends to make Christie look innocent. It we take her story at face value, it sounds like Christie himself didn't know about Wildstein's act of retribution against the Fort Lee mayor. Unless her story is false!

At any rate, Maddow returned to the (alleged) cursing and throwing as she finished her segment. (Once again, she forgot to say "alleged.") "Hoo," she entertainingly said, teaching us to adore her uniqueness more completely and fully. But in the course of that final transaction, Bernstein finally blurted three magic words.

"If it's true," Bernstein finally said, though we'll guarantee that no one noticed. Christie has been contradicted (in one way) if Kelly's claims are true.

This whole bowl of entertaining stew turns on a basic question. Was Bridget Kelly telling the truth last Friday? Were her statements true? Or was she simply making this up, hoping to beat a criminal rap?

Kelly is fighting for her freedom, but Maddow's viewers weren't told that. Mother Superior always knows who the Very Bad People are. She also seems to know what it's good for her own misused children to hear.

Again, our own initial reaction: We've always found it hard to believe that Christie would do something so monumentally stupid.

Such a gigantic risk for so puny a reward? To us, it seems hard to believe that Christie's that dumb. Like Maddow, though, we don't know.

We do know that Kelly's on trial. Maddow's play-toys weren't told.

WHERE THE CHALLENGES ARE: The challenges facing our public schools!


Part 1—Two different types of challenge:
Way back, in early September, we started this series of reports with a back-to-school phone call to C-Span.

The phone call came from a C-Span viewer in Mississippi. He had heard about a magical land, a place which had much better schools.

All across the political spectrum, the caller's beliefs have become quite familiar over the past dozen years. They help define two types of challenge we now face as a people.

The caller started by saying he was "a William F. Buckley conservative." Proceeding from there, he told a familiar tale:
CALLER FROM MISSISSIPPI (9/3/16): I did a quick little research just to find out where in the world is, are schools very successful academically, science, math, reading. And the one that really rose to the top was Finland.

And again, for my conservative brethren, I'm looking over the horizon, you know we go with what works. And I'm just broad-brushing some things here about Finland.

And this is kind of my public school experiences, you feel like you're being warehoused. Finland emphasizes play. It's just interesting that that's part of their, just the way they operate.

They actually don't have very much homework, and it's just— I encourage everybody to just google Finland's education system and look at what works.

And the school day is shorter. And again, I look at— You have young people who have a lot of energy and they're being put in these warehouses for, you know, great lengths of time. And they have energy, and that's where you need dynamic presentation and teaching in the school. And then the kids need to be set free.

But again, our system is oriented this way, where you're holding them for a set number of hours, and it's to make the machine work.

C-SPAN HOST: All right, that's Edwin from Jackson, Missippi. And we did show an article on-air just now, I believe it's from, "Why Are Finland's Schools Successful," that looks a little bit deeper into that issue.
The caller was concerned with the shortcomings of our "system." He'd heard that Finland's "education system" is much better than ours.
In terms of public education, he'd heard that Finland is the place you go to "look at what works."

As the caller spoke, C-Span's producers had indeed showcased that Smithsonian article, "Why Are Finland's Schools Successful?" The report had appeared in September 2011, one in an endless stream of reports about that small country's great schools.

That phone call, and that Smithsonian piece, help define two kinds of challenge we currently face as a nation. We'll consider those interwoven types of challenge in our reports this week.

On the one hand, we confront educational challenges—challenges concerning the operation and performance of our public schools.

In at least one major respect, it's fairly easy to define the general shape of our educational challenge. Over the past fifteen years, Finland's reputation has been based on its students' performances on international tests of reading, science and math.

Test scores can only provide a rough measure of a nation's educational success. But it's fairly easy to describe the way American students, in the aggregate, perform on these international tests, as compared to their peers in the rest of the developed world.

In the aggregate, how do American students perform on international tests? For starters, a trio of Asian nations—South Korea, Japan and Taiwan—outperform the United States by a fairly substantial margin.

That said, these Asian tigers also outperform the rest of the developed world. To the extent that test scores are a measure of educational success, these Asian nations have outperformed the world.

The Asian tigers have been leading the world on international tests. But among the rest of the world's developed nations, American students, in the aggregate, have performed reasonably well.

American performance has been better on one set of international tests, The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), and on its companion program, the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS).

American performance has been less impressive on the second major international battery, the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). But if we consider both international testing programs, American students, in the aggregate, have performed reasonably well when compared to the rest of the world, Asian tigers excepted.

Over the next few days, we'll be taking a few final looks at these international test scores. But to the extent that we value performance on standardized tests, the performance of the Asian tigers may offer us a type of educational challenge.

That said, a second, daunting educational challenge is easily seen in the results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), our most reliable domestic testing program.

What type of challenge appears on the NAEP? Among different parts of our student population, substantial "achievement gaps" appear in the results from these domestic tests. White students tend to score substantially better, in both reading and math, than their black and Hispanic peers. These gaps are smaller than they once were, but they remain quite large.

These substantial achievement gaps can also be seen in American scores on the TIMSS and the PISA. We'll take some final looks at those achievement gaps before the week's reports are finished. But on these results from the most recent PISA reading test, it's easy to spot a daunting educational challenge:
Average scores, reading literacy, 2012 PISA
United States, Asian-American students: 550
Japan: 538
South Korea: 536
Finland: 524
Canada: 523
Taiwan: 523
United States, white students: 519
Poland: 518
Australia: 512
Germany: 508
France: 505
United Kingdom: 499
United States: 498
Italy: 490
Spain: 488
United States, Hispanic students: 476
Russia: 475
United States, black students: 443
According to Amanda Ripley, 39 points on the PISA scale is taken to be the (rough) equivalent of one academic year. For a fuller set of results, click here.

In our view, it's important to keep looking at these "disaggregated" American scores, however unpleasant that assignment may be. In fairness, that's only true if we want to run on a full set of information and facts, rather than on official approved story-lines, scripts and tales.

The large gaps which obtain between different groups of American kids define one of our great ongoing educational challenges. That said, data like these may tend to challenge the general claims which have been relentlessly sold to that C-Span viewer.

On the TIMSS and the PISA, our nation's white students actually score rather well as compared to their peers from the rest of the world. Asian-American students often outperform the rest of the world.

The bulk of our challenge lies in the average scores of our black and Hispanic students. Viewed in this light, our biggest ediucational challenge concerns the large achievement gaps which still exist between our major demographic groups.

There's a good chance that the C-Span caller from Mississippi has heard about our "achievement gaps." He's probably heard that these large gaps have persisted through the years—that our floundering public schools have utterly failed to erase them.

That C-Span caller has heard that line because it offers a gloomy assessment of our "education system." At the start of the current school year, decades of gloomy assessments led him to make his call to C-Span, in which he expressed his own gloomy thoughts about our public schools.

People like the C-Span caller have been assailed in recent decades with deeply gloomy assessments of our public schools. In the past dozen years, the alleged wonders of Finland's schools have frequently been cited in order to heighten that sense of gloom.

Our domestic "achievement gaps" are often cited, heightening the gloom. Our journalists typically disappear one major reason why those achievement gaps persist—the large score gains which have been achieved by all population groups.

It isn't too much to say that people like the C-Span caller have been propagandized. We would say they've been systematically misled about a very basic question:

Where the Test Scores Are.

That C-Span caller has heard certain facts about our test scores, but many other basic facts have routinely been withheld. This helps define a second type of challenge we need to confront as a nation. That second type of challenge is a journalistic challenge. We'll define some constituent parts of that challenge tomorrow.

By the end of the week, we'll be taking a final look at the educational wonders of miraculous Finland. That C-Span caller has been propagandized, and misled, by articles like the one he saw featured on C-Span.

Please come to Boston? "Please stop going to Helsinki," some American singer should cry.

That C-Span caller has been misled by articles like that Smithsonian piece. By the end of the week, we think that point will be clear.

Tomorrow, we'll itemize a basic point about our journalistic challenge. We're going to itemize this point:

Where the con games are.

Tomorrow: Where the sleights-of-hand are

Is Bridget Kelly telling the truth?


Maddow's latest play:
What did Bridget Kelly say yesterday during the "Bridgegate" trial?

If you watched last evening's Maddow Show, you pretty much didn't find out. For the report in the New York Times, you can just click here.

Maddow devoted eight minutes to the topic last night. This morning, the Washington Post gives the topic eight paragraphs, drawn from an AP report.

That said, you learn some essential facts in the Post's first three paragraphs. We refer to some basic facts which weren't spelled out last night:
WASHINGTON POST (10/22/16): New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s former deputy chief of staff testified Friday in her criminal trial that she told him about a traffic study on the George Washington Bridge before sending an email that it was “time for some traffic problems,” which prosecutors say started a political revenge plot.

Bridget Kelly is accused of plotting with two other former Christie allies to close lanes on the bridge that connects New Jersey and New York as revenge against a Democratic mayor who wouldn’t endorse the Republican governor’s reelection effort in 2013.

Kelly maintained Friday that she believed the lane closings to be part of a Port Authority of New York and New Jersey traffic study. She is on trial along with former Port Authority executive Bill Baroni.
We've highlighted some extremely basic facts; another extremely basic fact is found in that third paragraph. Let's get clear on what those facts are, and on the way they should affect our assessments of Kelly's claims.

First, Bridget Kelly was testifying at her own criminal trial. She's a defendant in the trial, charged with criminal conduct. This essential fact was never made clear on last night's Maddow Show.

More specifically, Kelly is accused of plotting to close lanes on the George Washington Bridge as an act of political revenge. Because of that alleged nefarious motive, she faces possible years in prison.

This brings us to something else we learn in the Washington Post. This concerns what Kelly says she told Governor Christie in August 2013, one day before she sent her famous "time for some traffic problems" email.

According to Kelly, she had been told that the lane closings were being planned as part of a legitimate traffic study. She testified that she didn't know that there was a nefarious political motive behind the proposed plan.

She also testified that this is what she told Governor Christie.

According to Kelly, she told Christie about the proposed lane closings weeks before they occurred. But she also testified that he was told that it was a legitimate study with an innocuous purpose. Few people watching Maddow's program would have grasped this fact.

Like you, we have no way of knowing if Kelly's claims are true. It's possible that her claims are all true. It's also possible that she is lying about every point.

That said, viewers of Maddow's program were given a highly selective account of the facts. It isn't clear that a viewer would even have realized that Kelly is the defendant in this trial and might, therefore, have an incentive to lie. On several occasions, Maddow seemed to present Kelly's claims as if they were established facts.

Did Bridget Kelly ever have that conversation with Christie? Like Maddow, we have no idea. It's possible that the conversation occurred, but it's possible that Kelly is lying. Here's the lay of the land:

Kelly is trying to explain, or explain away, a raft of emails she wrote during the course of this episode. On their face, these emails seem to suggest that she knew about the nefarious motives behind the lane closings.

She is being charged with crimes on the basis of those emails. To avoid conviction, she must explain, or explain away, the appearance of guilt those emails seem to convey.

Yesterday, she was explaining why she wrote the famous email which said, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee." She said she made a poor choice of words concerning a traffic study she believed to be legitimate. She said that she had run the proposal by Christie the day before, telling him that it was legitimate. According to Kelly, this explains why she sent that email the next day.

Is that what actually happened? We have no way of knowing! But Maddow's viewers were given little understanding of these basic events. Instead, they heard about Kelly's (unsubstantiated) claim that Christie once angrily threw a water bottle which hit her on the arm. (Shades of endless claims about Hillary Clinton!) They also heard utterly pointless piffle about the way Christie allegedly scattered some f-bombs around. They also heard about the way Kelly sobbed on the stand.

Have you ever heard the term "more prejudicial than probative?" Maddow's selection of facts was a tribute to this propagandistic, Hannityesque approach, an approach in which our corporate TV hosts display their contempt for their viewers.

Alas! As our "liberal" news sites have proliferated and grown, they've increasingly become propaganda organs, along the lines of Fox. Maddow's program has become much sillier, and more propagandistic, in the past several years. All too often, this is what happens when relatively unstable people are afforded vast wealth and fame (and power).

As of now, no transcript of Maddow's program is available. At a later date, when a transcript appears, we may show you some of what her viewers were told. (Beyond Kelly's testimony, there seems to be a substantial point of dispute about what one other witness said.)

That said, the propagandizing of gullible liberals proceeds apace at our pseudo-liberal profit-making sites. Sadly but inevitably, here's how the news report about Kelly's testimony starts at TPM:
KIRKLAND (10/21/16): In bombshell testimony Friday, Bridget Anne Kelly said that she told New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) that access lanes to the George Washington Bridge would be closed for a traffic study a month before the plan actually was carried out in September 2013.

The former deputy chief of staff testified that the governor approved the study, which prosecutors allege actually was cover-up for a revenge plot against a local Democratic mayor.

Christie has long maintained that he knew nothing about the lane closures that brought traffic in the town of Fort Lee, New Jersey to a days-long standstill until he read about them in the press in late September or early October 2013...
Exciting! But, despite that opening clause, Kelly's statements constitute "bombshell testimony" only if they're true. And because she's on trial charged with a crime, Kelly has an obvious incentive to spin, misremember or lie.

Did Governor Christie know about the lane closings in advance? If so, did he know that they were being planned for nefarious reasons, as an act of revenge?

Everything is possible! For ourselves, it has always seemed implausible that Christie would have concocted or approved such a hair-brained, open-air scheme—a hair-brained, open-air scheme which basically destroyed his shot at the White House.

Plainly, Bridgegate "mastermind" David Wildstein is dumb enough to enact such a scheme. It seems to us that Christie isn't, although that could be wrong.

Like you, we have no way to know what actually happened. We do know this:

Bridget Kelly is on trial, charged with serious crimes. The claims she's making may be true. But she also has a major incentive to lie.

Unless you watch the Maddow Show! There, you'll generally hear a reliable tale about matters like this, a tale you will enjoy.

In our view, Maddow has been damaged by the wealth and fame bestowed upon her by the suits. As has been proven again and again, we humans tend to respond to vast wealth and fame in uninspiring ways.

In the course of the past two years, Maddow's program has become increasingly propagandistic and silly. In the course of all that clowning, her ratings have only grown.

The two comedy stylings of Candidate Trump!


Along with the search for equivalence:
As you may know, we never discuss our experience writing award-winning jokes for the Al Smith Dinner.

We could do it. But it would be wrong!

Last night, we saw the field general under whom we marched discussing the quadrennial event on one of these "cable news" programs. We have a lot of respect for that guy, but we never discuss his work.

That said, last night's running of this derby was fascinating in several ways. Let's start with one peculiar manifestation—the two speeches of Candidate Trump.

Clearly, the best joke of the evening was Trump's joke about his wife. It was a very good joke, very well delivered.

Justifiably, it brought down the house. We think it went something like this:
TRUMP (10/20/16): You know, the president told me to stop whining. But I really have to say the media is even more biased this year than ever before. Ever.

You want the proof? Michelle Obama gives a speech and everyone loves it. It's fantastic. They think she's absolutely great.

My wife Melania gives the exact! same! speech! and people get on her case! And I don't get it. I don't know why.
That's as good as jokes get at this dinner, even more so as delivered. It got a huge laugh, which was well deserved. It also signaled the approximate end of Candidate Trump's first speech.

Trump's first speech last night played by the rules. It took up roughly half his time. It was a series of jokes.

His Melania joke was the best of the night. Within moments, though, Trump was delivering this groan-inducing chunk from his second speech:
TRUMP: Hillary is so corrupt, she got kicked off the Watergate commission. How corrupt do you have to be to get kicked off the Watergate commission?

Pretty corrupt.

Hillary is and has been in politics since the '70s. What's her pitch? The economy is busted. The government's corrupt. Washington is failing. "Vote for me. I've been working on these problems for 30 years. I can fix it," she says.


We've learned so much from WikiLeaks. For example, Hillary believes that it's vital to deceive the people by having one public policy and a totally different policy in private.


That's OK. I don't know who they're angry at, Hillary, you or I.

For example, here she is tonight in public, pretending not to hate Catholics.
Wow! Did somebody actually think that those comments would play as jokes? Or were they intended as insults?

Within the context of the Smith Dinner, the "joke" about "pretending not to hate Catholics" was just especially rank. But the groaning started as soon as Trump said, "Hillary is so corrupt..."

Were these remarks intended to play as insults? In fairness, we don't think it's entirely clear. Even a professional comedian may not realize how a "joke" will play until he tries it in public.

That said, it almost seemed that Trump had been given two speeches. Did Conway write the first of the two, with Bannon constructing the second?

The jeering of Trump began as soon as he said, "Hillary is so corrupt." The tone in the room changed instantly. This produced an intriguing challenge for the nation's journalists.

Early this morning, Jim Acosta reported this event for CNN. Acosta bowed low to a great press corps god, the jealous god known as Equivalence:
ACOSTA (10/21/16): Christine and George, it was another reminder of just how vicious this campaign season has become at the Al Smith Dinner here in New York, an occasion where candidates normally delivery light-hearted remarks and some self-deprecating jokes.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, instead, went after each other, drawing groans and boos from the audience. Here's what happened:

TRUMP (videotape): Hillary is so corrupt she got kicked off the Watergate Commission. How corrupt do you have to be to get kicked off the Watergate Commission?

CLINTON (videotape): But Donald really is as healthy as a horse. You know, the one Vladimir Putin rides around on?

ACOSTA: But there was one remarkable moment at the end of the speeches when Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton actually shook hands, something they could not bring themselves to do at their last debate. Christine and George?

HOWELL: Jim Acosta, thank you. So, despite the awkwardness of some of those jokes and what many call the lack of civility through biting attacks, the candidates did have a few moments at that Al Smith dinner.
Acosta bowed to Equivalence, one the corps' greatest gods. That said, was Acosta's implied journalistic judgment right? Did the two candidates behave in roughly equivalent ways?

Someone else at CNN didn't seem to think so. Here was co-anchor Christine Romans, just before throwing to Acosta:
ROMANS (10/21/16): Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton sharing the same stage at a dinner benefiting Catholic Charities. It's supposed to be a good-natured roast but like everything else in this presidential race, it got awkward quickly.

[Co-anchors say good morning]

ROMANS: So, so much for tradition in this down and dirty presidential election. Donald Trump's appearance at last night's Al Smith charity dinner was so incendiary, he actually got booed.

The Al Smith Dnner's always been a good-natured tradition
—a good-natured roast, a break from the ugliness of the campaign trail. It benefits Catholic Charities. White tie, all kinds of famous New Yorkers. Apparently, Trump didn't get the memo.

TRUMP (video): Here she is tonight, in public, pretending not to hate Catholics.

ROMANS: Hillary Clinton—well, she didn't hold back either and she heard a few jeers too. Eighteen days before the election it appears the race is still here stuck in the mud.

We get more from CNN's Jim Acosta.
Romans tilted toward Equivalence at the end, but only a bit of a tad. After that, Acosta appeared and worshiped the god full-bore.

Needless to say, there is no formula which can tell a journalist how to report this event. To what extent did both candidates possibly go over the line? To what extent was it Candidate Trump alone?

No formula can answer that question. In this post, even New York Magazine basically played it safe. (For video of Trump's two speeches, click over to that post.)

Our view? In his report, Acosta presented a pair of jokes as if the two jokes were equivalent. In our view, one of the jokes was an actual joke, the other joke was an insult.

Charley Lanyon performed in a similar way at New York Magazine. In this paragraph, we'd have to say he seemed to bow to Equivalence too:
LANYON (10/20/16): When it was Clinton’s turn to take the dais, it quickly became clear that she wouldn’t be pulling any punches either. She did take a moment to praise Trump spokesperson Kellyanne Conway before acknowledging that because Conway is a contractor, Trump probably won’t pay her.
In our view, that was one of Clinton's best jokes. There's no rule which says you can't make a joke about the other guy.

There was nothing wrong with that joke. Meanwhile, the headline atop Lanyon's piece says this:

"A Night of Laughter, Charity, and Boos: The Candidates Struggle to Remain Civil at the Al Smith Charity Dinner"

Those darn candidates! Those darn candidates, plural!

Equivalence is a powerful god. That said, there are no rules which let us know when his familiar, roaring insistence has been misapplied.

Pierce's Law must be enshrined!


Krauthammer proves its importance:
We've learned a new truth in the past several weeks:

In the future, everything will be hacked!

In the future, everything will be stolen! This helps establish the importance of Pierce's Law, which was adumbrated on October 14:
Pierce's Law: Information doesn't become a bombshell just because you stole it.
This week, we added a corollary: Just because something has been leaked, that doesn't mean it's significant.

Just because something has been hacked, that doesn't mean it's important! The fact it's stolen doesn't mean that it's worth discussing at all.

But alas! Within the minds of the mainstream press, the fact that something has been stolen makes it deeply alluring. We've learned this fact in various ways at the Washington Post this week.

Let's start with this appalling piece by the Post's Dan Zak. It's the giant featured piece on page one of today's Style section. It comes to us straight from the sewer, or from a place next door.

Zak is exploring the stolen emails of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. The Russians stole them, then gave them to Zak. He searched on the key term, "a**holes."

Beneath a giant photograph of the target, Zak starts by quoting emails Podesta sent to his wife. Not seeming to see how awful this is, he's soon selling us this:
ZAK (10/21/16): What happens if you measure a Washington insider not by his résumé but by his inbox? His correspondence reveals what everyone already knows but is shocked to see confirmed: In private, most of us can be pretty bitchy.

“An everyday American pompous law professor,” Podesta wrote about Harvard’s Lawrence Lessig.

“Maybe we can rent the Queen Mary for the next 18 months and fill it with [Hillary’s] brothers and assorted crazy hangers on,” he wrote in May 2015.


“F--- these a--holes,” progressive think tanker Neera Tanden wrote July 31 in an email that appears to be about doubters of Hillary’s health.

“Needy Latinos” was the subject line of an August email from Podesta regarding former Clinton cabinet officials Federico Peña and Bill Richardson.

“What an a--hole,” Podesta wrote about the dentist who killed Cecil the lion.
Yay yay yay yay yay yay yay! To the tiny small brains at the Washington Post, dirty words are fun!

(For a companion item, check this pitiful low-IQ piddle, also from this morning's Post. Thanks to a massive layout, this pitiful piddle dominates the Post's hard-copy op-ed page. This pointless piddle was assembled by Molly Roberts, who graduated from Harvard in June. The Post has her doing this.)

Back to that stolen material! As he presents the two "a**holes" he found, Zak mutters about the important stuff in the leaks—Clinton's "speeches to Wall Street, a campaigner’s disparaging comments about religion, and insinuations that the campaign was getting debate questions in advance."

In this way, Zak pretends that bombshells were found within that stolen material.

Let's start with those speeches to Wall Street. In the dozen excerpts which were first released, only one struck us as strange. That was the excerpt where Clinton seemed to be endorsing "open borders." As part of a secret paid speech!

That comment struck us as peculiar. But uh-oh! Warning! Buzzkill alert! During Wednesday's debate, Clinton said this about that, addressing a worried Chris Wallace:

"Well, if you went on to read the rest of the sentence, I was talking about energy. You know, we trade more energy with our neighbors than we trade with the rest of the world combined. And I do want us to have an electric grid, an energy system that crosses borders."

We went back and read the rest of the sentence, and sure enough! She was talking about energy, although these excerpts were edited in a way which disappeared larger context.

(“My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders, some time in the future with energy that is as green and sustainable as we can get it, powering growth and opportunity for every person in the hemisphere.”)

Do people talk about "open borders" in the context of energy transmission? We have no idea. In this tweet, retweeted by Krugman, Dave Weigel vouches for Clinton, though only in a brief way. Last night, though, we saw Halperin and Heilemann citing this "open borders" remark from the debate as one of Clinton's slippery evasions, full stop.

There was no sign that the boys had bothered to "go back and read the rest of the sentence." But then, what else is new? We're discussing the intellectual practices of a very childish guild.

The guild loves things which are stolen! The love the excitement of the theft, the corresponding illusion of bombshell.

They also love the fruit of FOIA requests. And they love an unexpected release of material, no matter how obscure the material may be. This too conveys the impression of importance, as we learned this week when the Washington Post tried to handle an unexpected release from the FBI of something resembling information.

In fact, the FBI's (irregular) release was extremely murky. It featured a paraphrase written by an unnamed FBI employee—a paraphrase of something (allegedly) said by another unnamed employee.

On Day One, there was no way to interview either employee concerning what had allegedly been said. Meanwhile, a provocative phrase, "quid pro quo," was floating around in quotation marks within the paraphrase of the unnamed employee's remarks, though it wasn't clear who had actually used that term, or if it had ever been said.

In this, the reign of Comey the God, releases from the FBI tend to quite imprecise. In part because this release was so unclear, it was also extremely exciting. The imprecision meant that scribes could imagine the matter as they pleased. At the Post, this meant that a young reporter, atop the front page, imagined that the State Department had "pressured" the FBI regarding a "quid pro quo." Or that two persons had said that it did!

Matt Zapotosky's news reporting was a remarkable mess. In the course of 24 hours, he produced two news report and a taped interview, in the course of which he said everything which could possibly have been said.

First, he reported that someone had said that the FBI had been pressured. In a second news report, he quoted the FBI agent in question saying he hadn't been pressured. Meanwhile, on videotape, Zapotosky was shown saying, in his own voice, that the FBI had been pressured. Kathleen Parker then picked the version she liked and broadcast it to the world.

She had liked the most scandalous version. Ignoring the warning in Pierce's Law, she had spotted a bombshell.

This morning, Charles Krauthammer leaves this bullshit for dead. The passage shown below appears in the Washington Post, written by an experienced scribe who's strongly anti-Clinton.

In an attempt to support the team, Krauthammer is willing to use the term "sensational" to describe the FBI's "disclosure." But as he does, he helps us see that this murky "disclosure" was always a big pile of crap:
KRAUTHAMMER (10/21/16): The most sensational disclosure was the proposed deal between the State Department and the FBI in which the FBI would declassify a Clinton email and State would give the FBI more slots in overseas stations. What made it sensational was the rare appearance in an official account of the phrase “quid pro quo,” which is the currently agreed-upon dividing line between acceptable and unacceptable corruption.

This is nonetheless an odd choice for most egregious offense. First, it occurred several layers removed from the campaign and from Clinton. It involved a career State Department official (he occupied the same position under Condoleezza Rice) covering not just for Clinton but for his own department.

Second, it’s not clear which side originally offered the bargain. Third, nothing tangible was supposed to exchange hands. There was no proposed personal enrichment—a Rolex in return for your soul—which tends to be our standard for punishable misconduct.

And finally, it never actually happened. The FBI turned down the declassification request.
As a team player and a Clinton hater, Krauthammer assumes many facts not in evidence. He even agrees to pretend that the "disclosure" was "sensational."

Then, he lists the reason why it actually wasn't sensational—the reasons, why, truth being told, this "disclosure" was nothing at all.

Pierce's Law warned about that. Pierce's Law warned against assuming that such "disclosures" were sensational bombshells.

But alas! In this case, the disclosure was offered to the small tiny minds of the guild. Zapotosky, Parker and Krauthammer rushed to execute their guild's scandal-based dimwitted culture.

Zak was handed stolen fare; quickly, he searched on "a**hole." Zapotosky wrote every possible version of the FBI's murky non-story. Parker picked and chose the version she liked. Krauthammer used the word "sensational" even as he listed the reasons why it actually wasn't.

Halperin and Heilemann didn't seem to have gone back to read the rest of the sentence.

Meanwhile, Roberts is fresh out of Harvard. It's amazing how quickly these kids today can adapt to pathetic new cultures!